Michigan basketball team watches selection show in peace, eyes deep tourney run
This year, there were no nervous moments, no chewed finger nails and no stomach pains.
In fact, the most interesting moment from the Michigan basketball team's "Selection Sunday" get together came from assistant coach Bacari Alexander's son, Mekhi.
"When our name got called, BA's son, Mekhi, snuck his head in (the CBS camera shot)," Michigan senior co-captain Zack Novak said. "So we all kind of lost it at that.
"That was maybe more entertaining than seeing our name come up."
A year ago, the Wolverines anxiously sat on the bubble, wondering whether their resume was enough to earn a spot in the tournament.
The situation was the same two years prior, when Michigan was forced to wait until the closing minutes of the tournament selection show to finally see their name flash up on the screen.
On Sunday, the Wolverines already knew.
Michigan finished the season 24-9, earned a share of its first Big Ten championship in 26 years, held an RPI inside the top 15 and spent the entire season ranked among the top 25.
So, on Sunday, watching the selection show privately with family and friends inside the new William Davidson Player Development Center, it wasn't a matter of if. It was who, when and where.
"We already knew, we had a sense where we'd be, a four seed or a three seed, somewhere in there," Michigan sophomore wing Tim Hardaway Jr. said. "The attitude was kind of different, compared to last year when we were glad to get back after a disappointing season from before.
"This time around, everybody knew what to expect."
And now, what the Wolverines expect is more.
In their past two NCAA Tournament appearances, the Wolverines won a game, but went no further.
Michigan hasn't advanced past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament since the 1994 team, led by Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson fell to Arkansas in the Elite Eight.
The Wolverines dropped first round games in 1995 (to Western Kentucky) and 1996 (to Texas), and, as a No. 3 seed in 1998, were bumped in the second round by No. 6 UCLA.
In 2009 and 2011, Michigan scored tournament-opening wins over Clemson and Tennessee, respectively, but immediately fell to higher-seeded Oklahoma ('09) and Duke ('11).
This time around, Michigan has its highest seed in 14 years and the best tournament positioning of John Beilein's coaching career.
After losing to Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals Saturday, Novak and freshman point guard Trey Burke were very clear about the team's intentions this time around.
They expected to be here, and now, they expect to make some serious noise.
"Our biggest goal was to win the national championship," Burke said. "I know this team is capable of doing it if we execute our principles.
"We can beat any team in the country."
The end goal may be higher, but Beilein says Michigan has to approach this week the same way it did a year ago, and the same way it did in 2009.
One day at a time, one step at a time, one foot at a time.
"We took baby steps to get where we are, it took five years, and we're not going to change that plan," Beilein said. "There will be baby steps along the line, and we'll get some breaks and if we're in this thing every year and continue to improve what we're doing as a program, those baby steps will lead us there.
"But we'll hang in there and stay the course."
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