Another year of wondering, “Where will Michigan State be seeded?” rather than “Where will Michigan be seeded?” has turned me off to Selection Sunday. This was once a day that I looked forward to because it was the day when I got to see who Michigan was playing coupled with all sorts of analysis about the big game. But now, Selection Sunday seems about as important as any other Sunday.
Now for all of you freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors, there was a time when making the field was a given for Michigan. This day wasn’t that long ago, really just one coaching tenure. And it was during this time that the Michigan name meant something.
College basketball fans nationwide went to the local Footlocker to buy a Michigan No. 54 jersey or a pair of Michigan shorts. This was especially true come March.
This was a part of the excitement of coming to a school like Michigan. Michigan stands for excellence in both the classroom and the stadium – or at least some stadiums.
When I was a freshman, Michigan just missed the field of 64 by about 80 teams. “Next year we’re bringing in a top recruiting class, so we’ll be a shoe-in to make the tournament,” I thought. “After all, this is Michigan. It’s only a matter of time before I get to road trip to a tournament game.” I’m sure that there are many others who thought the same thing.
But now that it’s official – I’ll have spent four years here without seeing Michigan play in just one lousy NCAA Tournament game – there’s a feeling of disappointment that I have never felt before, even after all these years. Think about it, over the last four years, the most exciting tournament win Michigan has had came Thursday in the Big Ten Tournament’s play-in game! And that was against Northwestern! Four years!
What makes matters even worse is that there’s no guarantee things will be any different by next year. And to think, when LaVell Blanchard first signed with Michigan, the talk was, “Will he bring Michigan a national title?”
It’s because of this that listening to Dick Vitale yammer about teams deserving a higher seed feels like listening to friends talk about what Christmas presents they got when all I got was some Hanukkah gelt and another dreidel. Sorry Gonzaga, but I don’t feel for you because you just got a Playstation 2.
Meanwhile, one quick look at the bracket shows that the joke’s on us. Think about it. Duke’s the best team in the country. Michigan State’s gone to three straight Final Fours and is preparing for another potential tournament run. Ohio State won a share of the Big Ten title, the Big Ten Tournament title, and now has a very favorable Tournament draw.
Even Michigan castaways Steve Fisher and Brandon Smith are in the NCAA Tournament with San Diego State.
And for the fourth-straight season, I’ll fill out my michigandaily.com/ Pizza House Challenge bracket without so much as seeing Michigan in the bracket. Considering how long it’s been since Michigan last made the NCAA Tournament, you’d think that making the field of 65 was inordinately tough. But it’s not that hard. Aside from rival Northwestern, every other Big Ten school has played in the NCAA Tournament over these last four years. Yup, every single one of them.
Don’t bother counting. I already did. Hell, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan State have even qualified for the Final Four during this stretch. For some reason parity has hit college basketball while disparity has hit Michigan.
Not only has Michigan failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, but during this time, our bubble has popped some time in January, if not earlier.
So with my hopes for one NCAA Tournament berth officially dashed, I only have one question – how’s the hockey team doing this year?
Raphael Goodstein fully expects Duke, Michigan State, Ohio State and San Diego State to reach the Final Four. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.