Split, shared, sliced or diced? Who cares? For Michigan basketball team, a banner's a banner
It wasn't outright. It was earned in front of a television set. And it was shared with the school's two most hated rivals.
But, who cares?
For the Michigan basketball team, a banner's a banner, and the program's first Big Ten championship in 26 years — split, shared, sliced or diced — still tasted good for the 13th-ranked Wolverines on Sunday.
"Being at Michigan over five years and just watching the champions that have played at this university, swimming championships, football championships (and so on)," Michigan coach John Beilein said Sunday night. "I know how much it's valued here.
"It's really one of the main ways we measure success (here), is Big Ten championships."
Angela J. Cesere | AnnArbor.com
Michigan entered the 2011-12 season with plenty of returning scorers, but three of them were sophomores.
The Wolverines also weren’t sure who would run the offense, as their record-breaking point guard from a year before was prepping for an NBA career, while a freshman from Columbus entered the program with a “ready or not” attitude.
Michigan sweated its way into the NCAA tournament a year ago, and did the same two years prior — the team’s only two tourney appearances in more than a decade.
And then there was the 26-year-old elephant in the room.
Not one player — not Rumeal Robinson, not Jalen Rose or Chris Webber, not Robert Traylor or Tommy Amaker — standing on a Michigan sideline had earned a Big Ten championship since 1986.
But prior to his team’s first practice this season, before Trey Burke turned into a Freshman of the Year candidate, before Evan Smotrycz, Tim Hardaway Jr. or Jordan Morgan had shown they weren’t rookies any longer, Beilein knew he had a shot.
Before that first wind sprint, first layup drill and first team scrimmage, the message was clear.
“Big Ten champions.”
“If I didn’t think (we were capable) I wouldn’t have talked about it every day in practice,” Beilein said. “We start every practice, end every meeting, with the goal of being champions.
“I expect us to strive toward that every day, and to see these young men have this goal come to fruition, is so rewarding for everyone.”
When Beilein got to Michigan prior to the 2007-08 campaign, Michigan teams had spent more than a decade dealing with vanishing banners, erased eras and painful sanctions.
Wolverine squads also sat and watched rival Michigan State catapult itself into a national power, with Ohio State following behind, as the two programs have combined for 13 Big Ten regular season championships and eight Final Four trips since 1998.
But on Sunday, standing inside a brand new film room that’s housed in a $23.2 million crown jewel of a practice facility, Michigan basketball officially re-joined the party.
“It’s a highlight in the journey, and hopefully it’s not the highlight, we want more,” Beilein said. “But it is a great highlight during this journey at Michigan.
“For this staff. This team.”
They had to share it, they needed major help from Ohio State and one big collapse from Michigan State.
But no one really cared in the end.
Next fall, they’ll raise a banner into the rafters at Crisler Center, filling a space next to the 1986 championship flag that’s been empty for 26 years.
Michigan belongs again.
And this time, no one can take that away.
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