With the passing of my final Selection Sunday as a Michigan student, it’s official that I’ll leave the University without ever experiencing Maize and Blue madness.
Hurtful? Yes. Depressing? Yes. Completely the opposite of what I expected at the onset of the Big Ten season? Yes. … (Don’t hold your breath waiting for that reassuring “No” that usually follows a series of sentences structured in this fashion — the Wolverines prevailed in one out of their last 14 games).
Following Michigan’s season-ending loss to Northwestern in the first round of the Big Ten Tourney on Thursday, it truly became open season on bitching, moaning and general campus-wide distress over the fact that the Wolverines’ dancing shoes will spend a seventh straight year in the closet.
I’ll admit that following Michigan’s final loss, I took part in the lambasting of what my friend calls “Tommy’s Point-A-Minute Team” (apologies to Fielding Yost and his legendary 1901-05 gridiron squads). I was upset. Upset that I’d have to watch another Selection Sunday with completely calmed nerves. Upset that during the opening round of the tournament, Ann Arbor would be overrun with thoughts of what could have been and not what could be. And upset that the lone significance of March in Ann Arbor would be that the month possesses a day in which the temperature rises above North Face temperatures (I hope).
But for me, Thursday’s displeasure lasted just a touch over 24 hours.
During my final weekend as a student in the comfy confines of Yost Ice Arena, the basketball team’s woes quickly became an afterthought in my newly optimistic mind. And I’d advise that you all follow suit.
The Michigan hockey team never receives the credit it deserves. Outside of the 6,637 fanatics (Michigan’s best overall fan base) that pack into Yost every home game, there are few Maize and Blue enthusiasts who live and die for hockey the same way they do for football and basketball. For a University that prides itself on being “the leaders and best,” this is very odd. Because although many times its achievements go vastly underappreciated, year-in and year-out the hockey team contends for the national title.
And this year’s team is no different.
In fact, this year’s installment may be the best squad since 1998, when the Wolverines won their second national championship in three years. Michigan took the CCHA regular-season crown this year with a 23-3-2 conference mark — its best record since the 1993-94 campaign. And having just swept Notre Dame last weekend in the first round of the CCHA Tournament, the fourth-ranked Wolverines (28-7-2) share an identical record, and the nation’s highest total of wins, with top-ranked Colorado College. Michigan will enter the Super 6 riding a nine-game winning streak, during which it has averaged 5.66 goals per game.
As the Wolverines head into the Joe (and eventually on to the NCAA Tournament), this team has the makings of something special. While the team boasts some immensely talented underclassmen, the most telling sign that this team is ready to make a run at the title is its unparalleled experience. The team boasts 10 seniors and gives significant playing time to eight.
If Michigan wins the CCHA Tournament, it will almost assuredly earn a No. 1 seed in the Grand Rapids region of the 16-team NCAA Tournament. But regardless of how the Wolverines fare this weekend, they’ll be dancing in late March.
“It’s not the right dance, though.”
Yeah, I know what you’re saying. I would be lying if I claimed that I enjoy the NCAA hockey tournament as much as its basketball brother. But the fact remains that Michigan is playing in the former, not the latter.
There’s no point to sit around and mope about the beleaguered Crisler crew — that ghastly season is over. So go ahead and inherit a few likable teams in basketball’s field of 65 as yours (personally, I’ve become a diehard fan of UAB and its “fastest 40 minutes in basketball”) and move on with your life.
But don’t let discontentment from a bad basketball season force the Icers to fly under the Ann Arbor radar all the way to a national title. The Frozen Four takes place in Columbus on April 7-9, a few days after the NCAA Basketball tournament final. And with the NHL lockout, you better believe that this season’s Frozen Four will be more hyped than ever by hockey heads and ESPN execs alike.
Get past the failures of Tommy’s Point-A-Minute Team and start giving the Icers the time of day.
Gennaro Filice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.