It would be stating the obvious to say that many things have changed for the Michigan basketball team in the wake of the self-imposed sanctions. But amid some of those changes, many things have remained the same, including the dedication of this year’s freshman class to the program.
“Everything is pretty much all over, and we are coming in here as freshmen and even though we are not involved we still have to pay,” freshman Graham Brown said. “We are just here to play because we are proud to be here at Michigan and are looking forward to playing winning Michigan basketball.”
The news of the sanctions hit the team hard. But like their senior captains, the freshmen recognized the need to move forward. Some of the Wolverines’ goals have been put out of reach, like postseason play, but there is still much that can be accomplished with the right mindset.
“Everybody was down and sad at first, but once we thought about it, there is nothing that we could do,” freshman Daniel Horton said. “We have to think about what we can do, which is still win games and possibly the Big Ten Tournament.”
One of the objectives still within reach for Michigan is to improve on last season’s 11-18 record. The Wolverines finished in a three-way tie for eighth last year in conference play, with a 5-11 Big Ten record. While the sanctions may have unjustly affected the current players, they will not prevent Michigan from rebuilding.
“There are a lot of things that go on during life that you think are not fair, but you have to roll with it, which is what we are going to have to do now,” Horton said. “We need to make it through this year and win some games to show people that we are back, which is one of the goals we want to accomplish.”
Normally the winner of the Big Ten Tournament would receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, but with the sanctions levied against the program the Wolverines can still try to win the Big Ten Tournament even if they will not earn a trip to the Big Dance in the process.
The current sanctions may not be the only ones the Wolverines will face this season. The NCAA could still levy its own penalties on Michigan. The one-year ban on postseason play hurts the seniors the most, but the NCAA could choose to extend the ban for another year or two, which could affect future recruiting efforts. Loss of scholarships or recruiting visits and other possible sanctions the NCAA could hand down, would have even more adverse effects on attracting talent.
“As far as the NCAA possibly making that more years, we are kind of worried about that,” Horton said. “We just have to concentrate on what is going on right now and that is practice.”
Just like everyone else, the Wolverines will continue to don their practice jerseys and work hard in the gym for three hours a day in preparation for the upcoming season. Just like everyone else, they will start their season soon and they will try to put together a season to be proud of, even if that does not include a trip to the postseason.
“You come here to look forward to being in the NCAA Tournament as a little kid, but you just come out here and try to win some games,” Brown said. “You just have to play your heart out every day.”