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ur, three, two, one,
Szero. As the last few
seconds ticked off the
clock that Monday night back in
April, so did the dream of a
national championship season
for the Michigan Wolverines and
their five freshman starters.
The Wolverines had per-
formed better than the 20-point
defeat they received at the
hands of Duke would lead one to
believe, yet their storybook
season had taken a turn for the
worse. The Fab Five would not
win the NCAA title, preventing
them from winning the four
titles they all felt so confidently
could be obtained at Michigan.
As Michigan returned to Ann
Arbor, the sadness was lessened
by simple arithmetic - the five
freshmen still had three years to
hang a NCAA title banner in
Crisler. The logic was that while
four championships might have
been unrealistic, one or two or
even three could be attainable.
After all, the five starters were
only freshmen and next year's
team returned nine players who
had started for the Wolverines
at some point in their careers.
Next year is now this year,
Don't let expectations
run away With ou
and the logic still holds true - Four is no easy accomplishment. another solid basketball team.
or does it? While the Blue Devils have Instead, the Blue Devils had
While Michigan can boast participated in five consecutive more luck than the name
arguably the most talented team Final Fours and six in the last Krzyzewski has consonants and
in the country, the pressure seven seasons, they are the are considered a modern day
surrounding exception rather than the rule. dynasty.
Ryan the Wolverines Only one other team has made This isn't the first time
Herrington to return to the back-to-back appearances Michigan has found itself in this
Final Four - during the same time period. situation. Following the Wolver-
let alone win And even UNLV got a little help ines' national championship
the title - is from the NCAA when it allowed season in 1989, expectations
y tremendous. the Runnin' Rebels to defend were running high for Michigan
Simply making their crown in 1991. to repeat in 1990. Just as this
it back to the The Wolverines face a year's squad has most of its key
NCAA tourna- dilemma. Is it reasonable to ingredients returning from last
ment for a expect them to return to the season, the 1990 Wolverines had
second con- Final Four? And if they don't four of their five starters back to
-T secutive year live up to this expectation, will defend their crown, three of
- atrwill not do. the season have been a failure? whom were in their senior
Even winning Duke has defied the Final season. It seemed almost a
the Big Ten championship - a Four odds with superb talent, certainty that Michigan would
feat that no Wolverine ballclub but also with some help from the find its way back to the finals.
has done since 1986 - might be basketball gods. If it were not for Yet, as we now know, that
anticlimactic if Michigan does a couple of last second prayers was not the case. Someone forgot
not return to the promised land made by Christian Laettner in to tell Loyola Marymount how
of New Orleans. two of the last three tourna- good Michigan was. The Lions
Yet, getting back to the Final ments, Duke would simply be ended the Wolverines' dreams of
repeating with a 149-115
blowout. So much for certainty.
As much as last season's
tournament run was sweet given
the fact that no team led by five
freshman starters had ever gone
so far, the Wolverines have
made it very difficult on them-
selves for the next few years.
The room for error has been cut
to a minimum. The question is
no longer whether Michigan will
win a national title but when
and how many.
Michigan coach Steve Fisher
was recently asked whether it
was a blessing that his team
didn't win the national champi-
onship last season in that it will
help motivate the players this
year to return to the Final Four.
Fisher gave the reporter a very
"I don't think it's ever a
blessing if you lose, especially at
that stage," Fisher said. "We
may never get back there."
We may never get back there.
Take those words to heart. The
fact that Michigan is the pre-
season favorite of a couple of
absolutely nothing. The best
team does not always win the
one, including the Blue Devils
themselves, fully expected the
championship the following
year. The burden of expecta-
tions, pressure and bad luck,
however, prevented Duke from
returning to the Final Four until
Banks and his crew were long
"We were very lucky the year
before," Foster remembers. "All
the breaks went our way, no
injuries. Then the next year we
had injuries, and little problems
cropped up and became bigger
But while there are no teams
that can stop Michigan, there
haps all of the preseason hype
takes place in Bloomington.
"You have to be very good,"
Foster warns, "and you have to
be not just lucky, but very
Team strife. So far, the
senior class has dealt with its
unique situation with great
aplomb. Pelinka, Riley, Talley
and Voskuil have all acknowl-
edged and accepted their roles
as key reserves instead of
However, all four, to some
degree or another, have ex-
pressed a desire to play profes-
sional basketball. Certainly they
Basketball Times 1
A MICHIGAN TRADITION
This may be Fisher's
toughest task this season:
Finding enough time for nine or
more very talented basketball
players. If it isn't, then maybe
handling the "E-word" will be.
Expectations. The Wolver-
ines aren't worried about them
for the moment, but the season
has not begun. Fisher remem-
bers a quote from Ohio State
star Jimmy Jackson after the
Buckeyes' loss to Michigan in
the regional final ended the
dreams of the senior-laden team.
"He made a comment that it
was as if Michigan was playing
with the five seniors and Ohio
State was playing a little
scared," Fisher says. "Maybe
that comes with expectations."
But while there are some
things that may pull this team
down, at the very least, it won't
On the balance of "Reasons
Why Michigan Can and Will
Win vs. Reasons Why It Can't
and Won't," the side weighted
with reasons why Michigan can
is awfully heavy and convincing.
Family. As Webber says, his
fellow 13 Wolverines are not
teammates, but brothers. It is
not the Michigan basketball
team, but the Michigan basket-
"As long as they remain
friends, and keep that sense of
family and sense of team unity,
they'll be fine," Hunter said.
And in this family, the elders
say they are willing to sacrifice
for the good of the clan. Each
has stated something to that
effect, and must be taken at his
The success of the season
may very well ride on whether
or not the Wolverines can
remain family. To a man, the
Wolverines think they will.
Confidence. What makes
this team different is that it is
supremely confident in itself.
These Wolverines do not take
their cue from every other team
around and dismiss their
chances and play up everyone
else's. Not a chance. From
Webber to walk-on Sean Dob-
bins, there is an air of confi-
dence, even of arrogance, that is
"I don't think there's that
much pressure on us," Pelinka
says, apparently ignoring the
fact that an entire campus is
saving money for a plane ticket
"If I didn't think we could win
a national championship, I
wouldn't play," Webber said at
last season's outset.
"We're on a mission," Howard
"What innocent braggadocio,"
many people said. Fans and
writers alike took a, "Well, we
won't let them in on the secret
that freshmen don't win the
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CHAMPION REVERSE WEAVE - T-SHIRTS - SHORTS - HATS
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perhaps lurk out there a handful
of factors that just may.
Injury. It is the first reason
Foster, now head coach at
Northwestern, gives for explain-
ing why Duke didn't return to
the Final Four in 1979. His
point guard, Bob Bender,
contracted appendicitis the week
before the NCAA tournament
began. With their deep roster,
the Wolverines have an advan-
tage that Duke didn't, but if
Webber breaks an ankle, what
would Fisher rather have: a
healthy ankle or depth?
Bad luck. Something else
Michigan has no control over.
Bad luck can come in the form of
an injury or a bad call, or maybe
"Crazy things happen in the
tournament," Fisher says, "both
for you and the kind against
Most of the crazy things that
happened were for Fisher and
his team. Michigan played No.
14 seed East Tennessee State
instead of third-seeded Arizona
in its second-round NCAA game.
At the tail end of regulation in
the regional final overtime win
over Ohio State, Buckeye Chris
Jent's desperation shot failed to
go in. If the basket goes, or if the
Wolverines face Arizona, per-
Street & Smith's
Dick Vitale's Annual
know that the best way to be
noticed is to be on the court,
playing significant minutes at
This season is different from
last in that no member of last
year's senior class - Hunter,
Kirk Taylor, Chris Seter, and
Chip Armer - had designs on
playing professionally and may
have more willingly accepted
their fate. This year, each will be
playing in some part for his
livelihood. Furthermore, who
wants to spend his senior year
watching from the bench?
They will not begrudge their
younger teammates for their
playing time. They have exhib-
Sophomore Chris Webber, a preseason all
a Big Ten and NCAA Title to his long list of
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'We'd like to hang a Big Ten banner. We'd be
the first since '86. And we'd like to get back to
the Final Four, too.'
- Steve Fisher
711 N. UNIVERSITY
ited far too much class for that
to be a possibility. And, as
Fisher points out, "this group of
kids really likes being together."
But it could happen that the
seniors' frustrations, not with
the team, players or coaches, but
with themselves and their
playing time, could spill out onto
to New Orleans.
"We don't get stressed, or
uptight, or put pressure on
ourselves to get things done,"
Voskuil adds. "It just happens."
Ask Webber about what sort
of odds he would set on
Michigan's chances to make the
Final Four, and he responds,
"What'sreal good odds?"
NCAA title - let's let them find
out for themselves" attitude.
And then they waited.
After the Wolverines stunned
Ohio State and the nearly
20,000 Buckeye fans in Rupp
Arena to reach the Final Four,
Rose made the definitive state-
ment about his team.
"It's been a reality from the
beginning," Rose chided the
press. "Now it's a reality to you."
Call it confidence, character,
or family. There is something
very different about this team.
This club listens to no opinions