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Burke and Hardaway Champsphoto:  Melanie Maxwell at AnnArbor.com

I was at the 1993 Final Four in New Orleans two decades ago as a U-M student and it was certainly a trip I’ll never forget it.  After we drove down (yep, from Ann Arbor to New Orleans) we went over to pick up our tickets.  

Just a moment after they were in my hands I was offered $3,500 my pair to the semis and finals from a broker holding a bound stack of bills the size of a roll of duct tape (my primo student seats were 18 rows behind the bench).  I remember Mitch Albom happened to be there at that moment and saw us struggling with the dilemma.  He asked us if we were staying out of trouble or something like that.  (None of your business old man!)  For a few different reasons I couldn’t bite on that tasty offer.   File under Cool Story Bro.

The sting of that brutal ending in ‘93 lingers for sure but the whole experience was amazing.  The semifinal game against Kentucky was one of the best I’ve ever seen and the ensuing trip to Bourbon Street and the ensuing sunrise, etc.., were truly epic.  And regarding that sting, I’ve seen enough football nailbiters—both bitter and sweet—to numb the pain of Webber’s untimely timeout.   I still feel like I need to head to Atlanta next week to truly put the 1993 final behind me, or at least that’s what I’m telling the Mrs.  

I might just go so I don’t have to listen to those clowns on CBS misrepresent history and make up stories about recruiting.   Or I might just go to find Tom Crean and tell him about my KickStarter campaign to build a special Rose Parade float in his honor.

I’m guessing most Michigan fans are thrilled but not shocked that this team made it through to the Final Four.  And while anything can happen in the NCAA tournament, had Jordan Morgan’s layup against IU gone in instead of barely rolling off the rim, Michigan would probably have been a 2 seed. 

As far as the outlook, the most encouraging thing here is that they keep winning despite key players having rough games–Burke in the first couple games, Hardaway yesterday, Stauskas until yesterday.   My concern?  In those games down the B1G stretch and for a while against Kansas they looked like the young team that they are—out of synch, tossing the ball away, taking bad shots.  They are still so young, but having McGary’s physical presence underneath (& having the big fella clearly wary of foul trouble) along with Spike giving Burke the occasional blow is so huge.

You going?  Final Four ticket packages here from SeatCrunch.

 

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It’s a beautiful day!   No question the star of the game was this guy, who once again showed poise beyond his years:001-Trey-Burke_thumb[1]

That photo was taken after Burke’s first start of the year in game 2 against Towson.   Back then I wrote this:

Burke is a cool cat for a true freshman by the way.  He admitted he was a little nervous before the game after [getting] the nod for the start, but he certainly wasn’t nervous breaking the game down for the media.

I think that was the last time he was nervous because that’s a cool dude.   He’s cooler than Treezy with shades in the Maize Rage.  And he not only led the team with the ball most notably creating the game winning score, he made several very nice plays on defense.   In the final seconds (after he’d been on the court all but a couple minutes of the game) he had the awareness to help out Novak to stop Green’s drive just past the stripe, and he while he didn’t get the rebound, he turned, got a body on Green and broke up Green’s attempt to tip the ball in. 

Radio >>  As an aside, I had the unique opportunity to listen to a portion of the game on the radio while heading back to the area.  I caught about 10 minutes of the game on WJR with George Blaha Will Tieman on the Spartan Radio network and now I know what play-by-play sounded like in the 1950s in Indiana.   When I got in range of WTKA 1050AM I flipped over to Matt Shepard and David Merritt and what a difference.  And trust me, this isn’t a Green vs. Blue thing.  Each guy is fair albeit with a clear (and understandable) leaning toward the teams they cover, but the difference between the quality of the broadcasts is severe.  Props to Shep for delivering an outstanding call—he’s quick with the info, actually helps you visualize what is going on and, something he’s always done well, brings great energy.

A little show and tell.  I thought I’d share a few thoughts about the media experience covering hoops as I made it to the Towson game Monday.  First, a view from the new media section:001 - Press

The media used to sit in two rows: one midway up the lower bowl (where the students sit today, see the maize rage filling in above) and another just below the concourse in the blue section as well.   The perspective was a bit closer in the Blue section before of course, but the new area is more spacious and a nice angle on the game.  I asked a few media vets what they thought of the new space and they seemed pretty good with it.

Postgame was pretty interesting.  At the end of the game U-M media relations walked around with a short list, asking the press with whom they wanted to speak after the game.  I wanted to ask for Jalen but didn’t.

Most of the media who hang around postgame then head down on the court, through the tunnel and wind down a hallway (not quite the kitchen in Good Fellas) and enter the Junge Center—the building between Crisler and the Big House.   Shortly after the players arrived, spread around the room and took questions for about 10-15 minutes.  A few shots:

001 - Hardaway

Hardaway, above, had a few folks chatting with him but most wanted to chat with freshman Trey Burke, who got his first career start Monday and had a big game:

001 - Trey Burke

Burke is a cool cat for a true freshman by the way.  He admitted he was a little nervous before the game after the nod for the start, but he certainly wasn’t nervous breaking the game down for the media.

Obligatory Zack Novak:

001 - Zach Novak

They don’t give Novak one of those Michigan pull-over tops. (Blood stains).

After the players left Beilein showed up & answered questions for about 15 minutes or so.  There’s a big difference between hoops and football press conferences.   I preface this by saying I know this isn’t a revelation; I’m just offering up my feelings leaving the place.   The questions (and Beilein’s answers) are so much more surgical and specific in a basketball presser, at least this one.

001 - Beehive

Football postgame pressers start with injury updates then broader questions about how units or players performed, and maybe about a controversial call or decision.  There’s rarely something really interesting there unless the postgame midfield handshake got weird.  This press conference jumped into specifics moments of the game [via UM Hoops] and Beilein’s fairly candid read on certain player performances/development, why he did some of the things he did during the game, and what it might mean for the next game.  For instance, Beilein explained why he left Burke for a long time [“I just wanted to see what he’d do without a rest. I thought he did pretty well with it.”] and he shared some insight from a one-on-one film session he had with the frosh and what he’s trying to show him.

The questions were sharper and the whole thing had more of a the feel of a conversation between Beilein and the media. 

UM Hoops coverage:

  • Game 2: Towson at Michigan Recap Nov 15, 2011
  • Video, Notes & Quotes: John Beilein on 64-47 Towson Win Nov 14, 2011
  • Video: Trey Burke, Zack Novak and Tim Hardaway Jr. After Towson Win

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