There's something special about this team. There's something about them that has allowed them to make it this far in the NCAA Tournament and is the reason why they will play for a national championship against Louisville on Monday. There's something that they did and were able to do that allowed them to defeat a very good Syracuse team even without great production from their star point guard. It's not just luck. It's not just determination.
I can't quite put my finger on it.
Oh wait, yes I can.
Michigan is more than just Trey Burke. I don't know how they did it. I don't know how Michigan possibly won this game without Trey Burke being Trey Burke. My mind cannot fathom this strange and foreign concept of "other Michigan players" on the team. I don't understand. This is not possible. Michigan does not win games without Trey Burke winning them for us, because he is our entire team. Our entire offense is based around him. We have no other weapons. Without him, we are nothing. We are nothing without Trey Burke. I refuse to believe that we just won a Final Four game against Syracuse without Trey Burke putting up an ungodly amount of points. It did not happen. We did not actually win. This has all been a dream. We lost because Burke did not have a good game.
Okay, let's be serious now. What's with all the hand-wringing over Burke's lack of production? Why are so many people saying that if Burke does not have a stellar game on Monday then we have no chance (NO CHANCE!!) against Louisville?
Trey Burke is an outstanding player. Though he is only a sophomore and this will likely be his last season as a Michigan Wolverine, he has achieved an insane amount of accolades. He was named the Associated Press Player of the Year and the Big Ten Basketball Player of the Year. He has won the John R. Wooden award and the Oscar Robertson award for Most Outstanding Player in College Basketball. He will likely win the Naismith.
He is so dangerous and so fun to watch because he has shown the ability to take a game over at any time. Burke was pretty much single-handedly responsible for keeping the Kansas game alive in what will most likely by remembered as Michigan's most defining moment in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Burke leads the team in offensive production, in points per game, in games played, and in pretty much everything besides free throws and three-pointers. So it makes sense to think of him as a leader for this team and how, when he's not playing at his best, it feels like something is missing... to a degree.
But Trey Burke is not this entire team. Three players besides Burke are All-Big Ten. Tim Hardaway Jr. is a First-team All-Big Ten player as selected by the coaches. Glenn Robinson III is on the All-Big Ten Freshmen team. Jordan Morgan is on the All-Big Ten defensive team. Nik Stauskas has also had a major impact. His 6-for-6 three-pointers were key in Michigan's victory over Florida. Jordan Morgan's defensive play was instrumental for securing the lead in the final seconds against Syracuse. Last but not least, Mitch McGary has been absolutely huge in this Tournament run and everyone watching knows it.
This is not the first time Trey Burke had an off game. Anyone remember the opening game of the NCAA Tournament against South Dakota State? Tim Hardaway Jr. took control and gained serious confidence which helped the team make up for Burke's shortcomings. Burke had a similarly off game because Syracuse made stopping him a priority and because their defense is difficult to work around, but Michigan found a way.
They did so because of the talent and work of Hardaway, McGary, Caris LeVert, Spike Albrecht, Jordan Morgan, and Jon Horford, who all made clutch plays and showed that John Beilein's team has more weapons at their disposal than simply its First-team All-American point guard.
"We're not a one-man team," Hardaway said in the post-game press conference, and they proved it against Syracuse.
A note to all Michigan fans who doubted and continue to doubt this team. Go home. Seriously, go home. No one wants to hear what you have to say in a time that is supposed to be nothing but good news and positivity for the program. I was absolutely blown away by the amount of negativity coming from fellow Michigan fans whether it was in bars or on Facebook where it seemed like these people were just looking for any type of reason to think that we were going to lose. Whether it was prompted by Mitch McGary's missing of two free throws near the end of the game or Trey Burke's lack of awesomeness, it was like these Michigan "fans" were looking for any excuse to get sad drunk when in fact they probably wanted to high-five Buckeyes and Spartans and dance on the tables after Michigan somehow choked away the game against Syracuse. You people seriously need to go home and shut the hell up. I loathe and despise every last one of you.
For crying out loud, we just made it to the national championship game. Can't you just be happy for the team? I understand the anxiety over having the game coming down to the wire when all week long we've talked ourselves into thinking that all Michigan had to do was take care of business and they'd win with no problem, but seriously, you give Michigan fans a bad name. You're sending a message that you don't really, truly believe in your team. Anything can happen in March Madness (hence the name). I personally wasn't surprised when the game turned out to be as close as it was. Final Four games are supposed to be close. That's the whole point of the Tournament. That Michigan held on during the final minutes should not take anything away from this win, no matter how much certain negative nancies may want otherwise. Whatever. Haters gonna hate, I suppose.
Even if Michigan loses the game on Monday against Louisville, we should still be happy that we made it this far. Michigan hasn't been to a Final Four in decades. We are not used to this. We are not making runs at the national championship every year. Sure, we would like to, but other teams have pissed away opportunities worse than we have, and for some people to think that if one player doesn't become the living avatar of Michael Jordan during the game we'll be absolutely screwed is short-sighted. It is not fair to him or his fellow players, who have worked their butts off to get where they are today.
We don't root for one player. We root for a team. Will I be disappointed if Michigan loses to Louisville on Monday? Sure. Will be negative about it? No. Not if they play well. The only rational reason to be negative about a team playing in the Final Four and eventually the national championship would be if they were getting embarrassed or blown out, but certainly not because the game is close. But, you know what? We're in the national championship, so you can just...
Deal with it.
Bonus! Sparty grumbles. MGoBlog celebration. Syracuse game/schadenfreude thread. ESPN post-game Rapid Reaction. Michigan athletic department late newsbreak about hey whoa we're going to a national championship in Men's Basketball? Someone in the athletic department thinks Gymnastics is the bigger news: seriously, that's the "Skip" page that shows up when you log into mgoblue.com right now. CBS post-game.