On March 14, I knew what was coming. The
Michigan basketball team wasn’t going getting invited to the
NCAA Tournament, and would have to settle for the NIT.

Sharad Mattu

I thought the NIT be a waste of all our time.

Luckily, I’ve never been so wrong.

Michigan won the whole thing, and in the process put a positive
spin on the entire season.

Sure, the Wolverines got some breaks, but give the team credit.
They bounced back from the disappointment, won three home games and
then went to New York City and won two more games.

And give us, the fans, some credit.

There weren’t many of us at that first-round game, but the
Maize Rage and company were loud. Afterwards, when it was announced
that tickets for the next game would be on sale 30 minutes later, I
raced through the snow on Elbel Field (thankfully I lived just five
minutes away), went to mgoblue.com and clicked refresh over and
over until tickets were available. I did the same thing after the
second game, too, and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t alone.
For those last two games, we pretty much packed Crisler.

The point is, Michigan basketball is BACK, and this needs to be
celebrated. I’m worried that in the six-plus months since,
we’ve all forgotten how caught up we were in this team (let
me say this again: we were actually running home from Crisler to
buy tickets so we could go back there two days later).

The bottom line is, last season ended BIG, and this season needs
to begin BIG. We can’t have a letdown. To accomplish that, I
think I’ve got the perfect idea.

Midnight Madness.

Sadly, many Wolverine fans don’t even know what this is.
There’s a date where college basketball teams can officially
begin practice — this year it’s Oct. 16. At Kansas,
Maryland and many other schools (including Michigan State) the
first practice is held at midnight in an arena packed with fans. In
Kentucky, it’s televised live across the entire state.

During my three years at Michigan, the basketball program has
come a long way. The aftermath of the Fab Five is long forgotten.
And most importantly, thanks to coach Tommy Amaker and his Duke
ties, the students matter.

We got courtside bleacher seats, which are now free (by the way,
I bought season tickets — could you hook me up with some
courtside seats?).

Heck, Amaker even acknowledges the student section before every
game, which is something Lloyd Carr and Red Berenson can’t
say they do.

So Midnight Madness is just the next step.

Another great reason to have this is to get the women’s
basketball team in the spotlight. Last year coach Cheryl Burnett
was looking for all the fan support she could get. Well, there
wouldn’t be a better opportunity than this. She’s got a
young team that may struggle at first, but soon it’ll be
good. They deserve the exposure, sharing Crisler Arena would give
it to them.

Wouldn’t it be fun to see them have a 3-point contest or
mix the teams up and scrimmage for a little while?

 

I believe this can happen, but everyone tells me that two weeks
and two days is too soon. Well, I don’t have the patience to
wait one year, two weeks and two days, so let’s give it a
shot now.

The collaboration that goes into every basketball game by the
Maize Rage — from the weekly meetings to the flyers that tell
us who’s been arrested and who nearly bombed his SATs —
is amazing. Even against a horrible team like Penn State, the fans
show up. For that game someone made a 10-foot poster of the Nittany
Lions’ seven-foot, 200-pound twig, Jan Jagla.

So for the next two weeks, Maize Ragers, let’s direct our
time and energy towards this project.

Trust me, the athletic department won’t make this
happen.

I really believe Amaker and Burnett would want this. But at the
same time, Michigan is always about tradition. It’s why we
may never see a Michigan football night game, and it’s why
this hasn’t happened already (because it should have).

So it’s on us. The question is, how bad do we want it?

I still haven’t found a reason not to have it, and trust
me, I’m looking. I’m not asking them to dunk off
trampolines, so they aren’t any more likely to get injured.
And Coach K at Duke does something along these lines every couple
years (he apparently doesn’t like the term “Midnight
Madness”), so Coach A doesn’t have that excuse.

I’ve also been told that Michigan will hold the Maize and
Blue Scrimmage on Oct. 30, following the football team’s
slaughtering of Michigan State.

But that’s exactly my point. It’s time for the
basketball team to stop piggy-backing off the football team. It
deserves its own day.

The hoops squad deserves all the support the fans are willing to
give it, and the fans deserve this stage to support the team.

 

Sharad Mattu can be reached at
“mailto:smattu@umich.edu”>smattu@umich.edu.

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