“Life goes on. Get over it. You’re still young. It’ll get better. Blah, Blah, Blah.”
That quote is attributed to David Levithan’s book Marly’s Ghost, in which a young boy Ben, upon his beloved girlfriend’s death, is visited by the ghost of Valentines Day past, present and future. It’s a crafty remake of A Christmas Carol. Clearly, sarcasm is rampant in this refrain, implying that perhaps the speaker isn’t sold that things will turn around for him simply because youth is on his side.
How does that relate to Michigan Wolverines basketball? Well, in most senses it doesn’t, but perhaps the Wolverines need their own moment of awakening like Ben has, not simply writing some of their bigger losses off due to mere youth and expecting things to turn around on their own. Perhaps they need to be visited by some ghosts of their past to shake things up moving forward and gain a clearer perspective.
Again, it was all aboard the moral victory train Saturday night, when the Wolverines fought valiantly but came up on the short end against the Indiana Hoosiers at Assembly Hall. Sure, there was nothing to be ashamed of, but Michigan kicked away a big chance to shed some demons and labels. Namely, the fact that they can never win on the road in a big game. Recently, freshman and sophomore laden teams at Kentucky and Duke have won critical road games, in the process growing up and taking the next steps.
To put it mildly, Michigan is at a critical juncture. They need to start winning big basketball games on the road. To take the next step, being thought a game opponent is no longer good enough, especially if you’re going to claim to be the number one team in the nation and have dreams of a Final Four or even winning a national title. It’s time the Wolverines got the attitude that they expect to win and dominate instead of just competing and hanging around.
So, let’s haunt them with some visions:
The Ghost Of Wolverine Teams Past, (namely the “Fab Five”): It’s all about the swagger, baby. We didn’t care about going to Assembly Hall against Bob Knight. Jalen wiped his rear end on the court in East Lansing. Fighting for respect because we were young? Hell, people had to respect us first. Number one? That’s right, we were ranked number one. We wore black socks and shoes when nobody else did and started a trend. We were somebody, and everyone else had to deal with it!
The Ghost Of Wolverine Teams Present: Look, we weren’t always the most skilled or highest rated, but we played with passion. We broke the losing streak in East Lansing. We broke the NCAA tournament drought when nobody gave us a chance. We’re making the program become something again, and that counts for something. We’re not cocky, but we’re hard nosed and blue collar. Passion does work.
Ghost Of Wolverine Teams Future: Excuses, excuses. We never took the next step because we remained complacent. Sure, we were number one for a few weeks, but continued to lose when it counted most, never getting over the hump. Instead of making memories, we’re filled with an empty cup of “what if’s” and “what could have been’s.” We might have started something had we just banded together and gotten the job done once. Attitude is everything. We’re upbeat, but we never learned that “it” factor all good teams possess. If only we had in time.
Of course, this isn’t to say Michigan has been going about things the wrong way. Instead, look at this as a type of midseason wake-up call. To find the proper balance the rest of this year, Michigan should take lessons from each of these “ghosts.” They need to have a slight, devil may care attitude like the Fab Five teams possessed while staying humble and hungry like some of the recent groups have. This mix will help the Wolverines survive those tough road atmospheres and the hype surrounding bigger games. They’ll even come out ahead more often than not.
Sometimes, all anybody needs for motivation is a good scare. Just because Michigan is young and learning doesn’t mean things will automatically get better. Lessons from the past, present and future help prove that.
God bless us, everyone.
Player Of The Week: Keith Appling, G, MSU. Once again, Appling closed a team out in strong fashion, His 24 points against Illinois was enough to get the Michigan State Spartans over a tough hump. Not only that, Appling’s clutch scoop and score late in the game iced things. Much like he did against Kansas, the junior stepped up when he was needed the most and made a big play. As he makes more of these moments possible, hopefully, confidence continues to shine through late in games.
Games Of The Week: Ohio State at Michigan, Michigan at Wisconsin. How will the Wolverines fare as their gauntlet intensifies? First is a big date with the Buckeyes, where payback should be in order from this month’s initially awful road performance. The Wolverines will need to be much quicker to outgun Ohio State. Then, Michigan heads to the Kohl Center, where wins are often hard to come by. They’ll need to be ready to play ugly basketball to beat the Badgers, who thrive on slowing games to a snails pace. Michigan will be asked to play two distinctly different styles this week. Can they adapt and stay in the Big Ten hunt?
Stat Of The Week: 18, representing the combined number of points by Mike Bruesewitz, Jared Berggren, Ben Brust and Ryan Evans against Michigan last year. Those paltry totals were terrible, and not likely to be repeated at home. Still, the Wolverines must try and lock down this group of Badgers again. If they’re able to, Michigan will probably score another win over Bo Ryan.
#3 Michigan 20-2 (7-2 Big Ten)
#8 Michigan State 18-4 (7-2 Big Ten)
Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax