(language ahead might get slightly salty)
Let's start with this:
I'm going to revel in this one. This team has earned that. They took it directly at their tormentor and whipped him at his own game. They played with confidence and swagger as if they didn't know or care that this was a big deal for their fans. They didn't just want this game, they played like it was theirs all along and the Spartans were just in the way of the inevitable. There is fire in this team, and it shown brightly on Saturday.
Dave says it well. I don't quite understand how this team went from 1-6 in conference and, even after a few wins, spawned brief hope and talk of improbable postseason chances, to a team filled with confidence and swagger not seen 'round these parts since we had five guys that were pretty fabulous.
This team is 8-3 in their past few games and probably could have been 10-1 (or at least 9-2 without the Great Backboard of Hatred). Michigan had a great win that solidifed their chances to go to The Dance, and they're one or two BTT wins away from being as close to a mortal lock as a team can be. This wasn't the year this was supposed to happen, not by a long shot. I remember giving my friends shit for choosing basketball season tickets over hockey (why not both, anyway?) because I didn't think the team had a prayer. But so much has changed. Wins, sure. But what I like most is the attitude.
Hello Mediocrity, a very good Michigan blog, puts our newfound swagger in perspective of the rivalry:
Sparty has been vocal about their dominance, often times feeling the need to run up the score in the final minutes of games. So as the clock ticked down and Morris finished off the sweep, his words were meant as a statement that Michigan basketball is back, and that this is a legitimate rivalry again.
I'd underline it if I knew how. This is a Spartan team that's no stranger to running up the score or throwing down dunks at the end of blowouts, a team that relishes destroying MIchigan. This Michigan team, though, responded by sweeping the Spartans this year and letting their play (and Morris after the sweep) do the talking. The Spartans were so bothered by Michigan getting back to being Michigan, so bothered by the thought that this was again a rivalry and not a walkover, that Tom Izzo did some bitching and Kalin Lucas thought it prudent to chuck a ball at D-Mo.
I have nothing but respect for Tom Izzo's record, and he's a hell of a coach. But the man certainly relishes sticking it to Michigan, beating them by 50 and calling for alley-oops and 3-pointers at the end of blowouts. I'm not saying this is wrong, just that he needs to shut up when someone goes for a layup to ice a game that was, you know, still in single digits.
This post really isn't about the game though. It's about how much I loved the swagger at the end of the game, how Michigan was on the cusp of a make-or-break game and responded not only by winning, but by showing that they knew they could win. Too long has Michigan been a doormat of the Big Ten, and while I'm hesitant to call this game a coming-out-party (oh, wait, except for THJ's 20 points and stellar play from D-Mo and Novak) it's just so refreshing to see Michigan back up their wins with some bravado. Morris echoed essentially what I was screaming at my TV while watching the end of the game.
Crisler isn't just where Michigan shows up once a week and plays basketball anymore. It's now their court. Their very good home record this year belies the fact that this young team has finally taken ownership of their home building. Every other team in the country, State especially, should be put on notice: you come to Crisler, you have to deal with a fired-up bunch of Wolverines who're going to do their damnedest to prevent you from coming away with anything more than a loss. It's been too long since last I felt like Michigan had a Ray Lewis-esque passion for defending their home turf. Maybe they have all along, but after what Darius Morris said, there can be no doubt.
Twenty short years ago, Michigan basketball revolutionized the sport by bringing in five guys who wore long shorts, black socks, and didn't give a shit about anything. I'm not saying this bunch is anywhere near these guys, but these young Wolverines are finally doing the Fab Five proud in that they're talking the talk. I still think this year is a rebuilding year for Michigan, and it'll be a bit of time before they can walk the walk like years past, but I'm damn proud that they've got some swagger in their step now.