The moment we’ve all been dreading is almost here. Tonight, Louisville and Michigan will face off in the National Championship game, and while many of you have convinced yourselves to root for the Cards as a matter of state pride, there are those of us who just can’t do that. With that in mind, let’s get to know our adopted team, the Michigan Wolverines.
The University of Michigan is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which was founded in 1824 and named after the founders’ wives. Aside from University of Michigan students, about 114,000 people call Ann Arbor home, which means that the entire population of the city could comfortably sit inside massive Michigan Stadium. As you would expect, almost everything in “Tree Town” centers around the school. Forbes ranks Ann Arbor as the 67th Best Place in the US for Business and Careers, which means that a large chunk of the city lives and dies by college kids eating, drinking, and making irresponsible purchases with their parents’ credit card. The upside to Ann Arbor? Lots of trees, bars, and an average of only 11 days a year when the temperature is higher than 90 degrees. The downside? For 190 days of the year, it’s below freezing, and they average 40 inches of snow. Invest in a nice peacoat.
Notable Alumni/People of Interest loosely associated with the school:
Selma Blair — forever remembered for her kiss with Sarah Michelle Gellar in “Cruel Intentions”
James Earl Jones — single-handedly the most comforting and intimidating voice in the world
Mike Wallace — Late “60 Minutes” anchor
Tom Brady — New England Patriots QB who is universally unlikeable due to the fact he has everything in life, including a rather odd dog collar.
Chiara Levin — Former Danvillian and Michigan alum. If you know, you know.
Dance Team/Cheerleading Team Scouting Report:
That’s a lot of odd poses and very pointed toes.
Michigan is one of the rare schools without a mascot. Yes, their nickname is the “Wolverines,” but sadly, there is no cuddly costumed creature to roam around games and spread cheer. Why? Here’s a brief history.
Wolverines do exist outside of X-Men. They are a member of the weasel family, and are also known by the names glutton, carcajou, skunk bear, or quickhatch.
In 1927, Michigan attempted to bring two live wolverines, Biff and Bennie, to games, but after the animals became too ferocious (one of them reportedly snapped the bars of his cage in two with his teeth), Michigan officials refused to carry their cage into the stadium. The animals were quickly moved to local zoos.
In the 1960’s and 70’s, Whiskey and Brandy, two small dogs, became the team’s unofficial mascots after performing halftime shows. After the dogs grew old and retired, students lobbied for “Willy the Wolverine,” a costumed mascot that stuck around until 1992, despite criticism from notable alums, like the NFL Network’s Rich Eisen, who was at the time the sports editor of “The Michigan Daily”:
“What can be more annoying than watching some overgrown ball of fuzz named Willy run around Michigan Stadium, acting like a buffoon?…in Michigan Stadium, for crying out loud. Where Bo works. Just say no to Willy.”
Interestingly, one of Willie’s creators went on to found Groupon, so I’d say he’s faring well, for at least 60% off.
Michigan has one NCAA Championship from 1989, but they are most famous for the Fab Five, the 1991 recruiting class of five freshman starters: Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson. They went to the championship game in 1992 and 1993, falling short to Duke and North Carolina, respectively. Both second-place finishes would be vacated because of the Ed Martin scandal, but the Fab Five changed the culture of college basketball, which is best summed up by ESPN’s film on the subject. View clips of it here.
Yesterday, Jalen Rose made a plea on Bill Simmons’ podcast for the Fab Five to reunite at tonight’s game. Maybe if they do, the CBS cameras will cut away from Kevin Ware for at least fifteen seconds.
Coach: John Beilein
This is Beilien first Final Four. He’s in his sixth season at Michigan, with a career record of 673-402. He previously coached West Virginia and the University of Richmond. He’s been candid about the fact that he’s facing Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino, whose instructional coaching tapes he bought back in the day. He’s humble, honest and admittedly a little bit in awe of what’s in front of him right now:
“When I came out last night, I gave the speech – 10-foot baskets, 94-foot court. You don’t need to look up in the stands and see what’s there. Then I gave in, took a little peek. I might have said something I shouldn’t say on TV, like ‘Holy Cow.'”
He’s got my vote.
Trey Burke — Burke is the consensus national player of the year, picking up the Naismith award last night. He’ll have to be all that and more tonight against Russ Smith and Peyton Siva.
Tim Hardaway Jr. — Tim is the son of former NBA All-Star Tim Hardaway (Sr.). According to Jalen Rose, Tim Jr. has been wearing a “Free Fab Five” shirt around campus for years.
Glenn Robinson III — Glenn the third is another son of a former NBA player, Glenn Robinson, Jr. Fun fact: the 6’6″ 210 lbs. small forward only weighed three pounds when he was born.
I will cheer for the Wolverines with every fiber of my being tonight, but sadly, a national championship just seems to be in Louisville’s cards this year (sic). Feel free to use that, Jim Nantz.
Cards win 79-71. The city of Louisville will be forced to play everyone’s favorite game “Gunshot or Firework,” while Lexington takes two sleeping pills and dreams of next year’s title run.