If you were ever a kid shooting hoops, at some point you stood alone in your backyard or at the gym or at the playground, drenched in sweat after hours of basketball and thought to yourself "One second on the clock... four guys on him... he pivots... he's in the air... the shot is off ... it's good if it goes... this is for the championship.........."
More often than not you missed that shot. Didn't even come close. It usually clanked off the back rim because you were so tired from playing for 15 straight hours that the shot you'd chucked toward the rim had about as much arc on it as a pancake. But who gives a shit? No one's looking. You gathered up your ball, took a quick look around and did it over and over again until the crowd in your mind finally went wild. Didn't matter if it took you another ten minutes. You weren't going out on a miss. That bad boy, that last shot, was going down before you walked out of that gym, off that playground, or back into the house. And when it finally fell you walked off the court, imaginary championship of the universe trophy held high in one hand while the exhausted other hand feebly held onto a battered old Spaulding than had about as much grip as a bowl of tephlon. But you made that last shot. And you were the champion.
Today is that last shot for Michigan. That last tired shot to clinch the championship of the universe, to slay the demon, to finally, after years of frustration and embarrassment to rise from the ashes of Ed Martin and return to its rightful place in the basketball world. This one is for all the marbles.
People can fret over the bracket projections, the who's in, who's out nonsense that collegiate sports have become. But the facts are simple. Win and you're in. Lose, and it's up to a bunch of men you wouldn't trust to pick out toilet paper to tell you whether you're Dancing or going to Manhattan for the Also-Ran play-off. And no one wants that. No one says "good job" when you hoist an NIT banner. They just glance sideways and pat you fleetingly on the shoulder as the turn to walk away. Lets face it, any kid with an NIT championship but no appearance in the NCAA tournament would trade his NIT ring for a Dance appearance in less time than it takes for me to finish this sentence. And besides. It's an NIT ring. It's made out the same material General Mills uses to make Capt'n Crunch. No one's going to ask you about it and frankly, you're a little embarrassed by it.
That's what's on the line when Michigan tips off against Iowa today. Sure, we're taking artistic license. Sure things may work out on their own. But Michigan is overdue to seize its own destiny rather than having it dictated by a crooked booster, a penalties committee, Brain Elerbe, or the selection committee.
Get out there, boys. Play till that final shot falls, and walk off that court the champions of the universe. Because when that final shot goes down, you will be, at least to us.