Hundreds of fans greet Final Four bound Michigan basketball team at Crisler Center
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It was well worth the wait.
Approximately 350 people had to wait a couple of more hours than anticipated to welcome the Michigan men's basketball team back to the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor Sunday night.
The team had just returned from Arlington, Texas, where earlier in the day the Wolverines beat Florida to advance to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament.
Though temperatures were low the entire evening and a light drizzle started to fall, it did not deter the crowd, nor did a slight delay in the festivities. The team originally announced via Twitter it would be arriving at 9:30 p.m., but didn't pull in until 11:30 p.m. The crowd only grew larger during the delay.
After all, what's two hours, compared to the two decades it's been since the program's last Final Four trip?
“We did not expect this at all,” Michigan coach John Beilein said over a megaphone. “We heard that people might be here, but this is amazing. It goes to show what great students we have; what great men and women you are.”
Watch the team get off of the bus with the South Regional Championship trophy:
Once the players and coaches got off the bus, Beilein read through the whole roster, starting with the seniors and ending with the five freshmen who have had a tremendous impact on the program. He took extra time to praise Max Bielfeldt as a standout performer in practice.
One of the loudest cheers came for another player that doesn't get nearly as much playing time as the starters, but who has given the Wolverines a spark off the bench of late.
“We have, after today, the most eligible bachelor on campus here, Spike Albrecht!” Beilein said as players lifted the freshman, who is generously listed as 5-foot-11 on MIchigan's roster, onto their shoulders.
Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com
“I know you all see that we love playing for each other,” senior captain Josh Bartelstein said. “But we love playing for this school, playing for Michigan, and playing for you guys!”
While Tim Hardaway Jr. said he was at a loss for words, Mitch McGary could hardly contain his excitement. The freshman had a piece of the net the team cut down to celebrate the South Regional championship tied to his hat, and his unbridled joy was evident throughout the event.
He wasn't given the megaphone, but he didn't need one as he shouted out to the crowd that he had goosebumps.
Beilein continued his work as emcee throughout the rally. He introduced sophomore point guard Trey Burke as “someone who hit a pretty good shot against Kansas.” Before leading everyone in singing "The Victors", Beilein told the crowd that the first time he ever heard Michigan’s fight song was at a Final Four “years ago” with his wife.
While the crowd was mostly students, there was also some Ann Arbor residents scattered amongst it, including a number of middle school and elementary school aged children.
Will Foster, 9, said it was his dad’s idea to come out to the rally and that it was definitely past his bedtime. While some of the college students might have classes or exams Monday morning, the timing was perfect for the younger attendees at the rally as Ann Arbor Public Schools are on spring break this week.
The Wolverines will play Syracuse in the second semifinal game at 8:49 p.m. Saturday night in Atlanta. If they win, they will play the winner of Louisville-Wichita State on Monday night.
Beilein said he hoped that a large fan contingent will travel to help the team with its “unfinished business,” and he cautioned the crowd against over-celebrating after the rally.
“I want everyone to behave tonight,” he said.
Ben Freed covers business for AnnArbor.com. You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Reach out to Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2