The day before the national title, a lack of tweets

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By Everett Cook, Daily Sports Editor
Published April 7, 2013

ATLANTA — After the Michigan men’s basketball suffered a devastating loss to Penn State in late February, the team had a players-only meeting. It was a gut-check of a loss, one that made the public question the validity of the Wolverines’ perceived talent.

Many things were discussed in that meeting, but after there was one noticeable difference in Michigan’s day-to-day activities after that, at least online.

Two senior guards, Josh Bartelstein and Corey Person, enacted a Twitter ban on the team. Since that point six weeks ago, no Wolverine has sent out a single tweet, although the team continues to post pictures on Instagram.

As with any team that makes the National Championship game, there are tons of factors for success, but for Michigan, staying off of social network sites has been crucial.

“With that Twitter ban, you aren’t focused about what people are saying and are more so focused on the role that you need to do for each game,” Person said. “You’re able to focus on basketball more than everything else. The ban might not have happened without the loss to Penn State. That’s why that game — it hurt a lot at the time, but it could have been one of the best things to happen to us this year.”

Across the bench in Monday’s national championship game will be Louisville, who also has enacted a Twitter ban.

In a social media culture so engrained with instant, widespread communication, the two remaining teams left in college basketball both try to limit that sort of interaction.

“We stay away from social media,” said Louisville guard Peyton Siva. “We don’t Twitter, we do Instagram, but that’s only because Coach (Pitino) doesn’t know what that is yet. We stay away from a lot of outside things.”

Even before the Twitter ban was enacted, the most well-known Michigan tweeter might not have been a player, but an assistant coach, Bacari Alexander, who has tweeted almost 18,000 times to his nearly 10,000 followers.

But even Alexander, known for his ridiculous catchphrases and fan interaction, thought the ban was a good idea, though it’s worth noting Alexander still tweets.

“A lot of times you just have to cut down the noise and compartmentalize your focus towards each task at hand,” Alexander said. “From the Penn State game to today, it’s something our players have committed to, and they’ve even held me accountable sometimes, saying, ‘Stop tweeting so much, Coach.’ ”

The reasoning behind Person and Bartelstein’s ban was simple: their teammates, including many of the freshmen, were distracted by Twitter, specifically by what the public was saying. It’s one thing to tell an 18-year old not to be affected by negative comments on the Internet, but it’s another thing completely to make sure that doesn’t happen by enacting a ban.

“People don’t think it affects you, but when you read something about how Josh Bartelstein sucks, it does affect you, even though it shouldn’t,” Bartelstein said. “Who cares what that guy is saying? But it’s natural human behavior to not want people to say bad things about you.

“I just thought that making the sacrifice for six weeks could make a big difference, and sure enough, we’re playing in the championship.”

There will be a lack of tweets before the game, but not after. Siva, a senior, joked that after Monday’s game, nobody could control his tweeting anymore.

And with a laugh, Bartelstein said that he was OK with tweets after the game, so long as they were following a win and not a loss.

For at least another day, the Twitter ban lives on.