March is, as you may have noticed, a busy month.
The madness of the men’s basketball postseason arrives and steals the headlines. This year is no exception — a bubble team, Michigan wasn’t even certain to get into the NCAA Tournament and made headlines for doing just that.
But beyond the men’s basketball team, March heralds postseason runs for some of Michigan’s best programs — teams that get swept under the rug by the popularity of men’s basketball. This weekend was no exception, and those who missed out by only paying attention to men’s basketball are worse for it.
Take the most recent program to bring home a national championship, the women’s gymnastics team. After winning it all last season, the Wolverines may be even better this year. Saturday’s Big Ten Championship proved that, returning the Big Ten crown back to Michigan before it enters the NCAA Tournament ranked No. 3 in the country.
“This one definitely meant a little bit more to us, to me and my team,” senior Abby Heiskell said. “Because last year we didn’t win, and, you know, we ended up winning the national championship, but there’s always a little bit of bitter taste in our mouth from not being able to take home the championship title, so this one definitely meant a lot to us.”
There were two more Big Ten championships won this weekend, though. The men’s gymnastics team clinched a share of the regular season title with a victory over Penn State before a two week break and a chance at its second-straight Big Ten meet championship.
The No. 4 hockey team traveled to Minneapolis and won the Big Ten Tournament, quieting a record crowd baying for Minnesota’s first tournament championship since 2015. The win secured the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament this coming weekend.
Oh, and a Michigan athlete won a national championship this week. Graduate student Nick Suriano won the 125-pound wrestling national championship in Detroit. As a whole, the Wolverines, which won the Big Ten Championships last week, came second in the country this week.
There are countless sports where Michigan dominates. Time after time, fans of the Wolverines are missing out purely because they don’t broaden their horizons, choosing to focus specifically on men’s basketball and football.
Perhaps it’s just a byproduct of my former position as Managing Sports Editor — when I read stories and paid attention to teams outside the spotlight on a daily basis — that I feel there’s a disconnect between the average Michigan fan and the athletic programs in Ann Arbor. Perhaps I just don’t understand how people aren’t fans of sports in general, but fans of specific sports and specific genders playing that sport.
It’s frustrating when, hosting the NCAA Tournament for the first time in its history, on a Saturday in the middle of the afternoon, the women’s basketball team drew a crowd of just over half the Crisler Center’s capacity.
The difference in attention that men’s basketball and football get compared to other programs at Michigan only hurts those who are fans of the school.
As March crawls along, the madness isn’t reserved specifically for men’s basketball, regardless of what the trademark said up until the NCAA came to grips with institutional sexism. The championship tournaments for various sports will unfold, only the elite moving on.
Throughout those tournaments, the Wolverines will be among them. The women’s gymnastics team will almost surely outperform the men’s basketball team. Same with men’s gymnastics and hockey.
Take some time off from watching men’s basketball to pay attention to the other sports. You won’t regret it.