KANSAS CITY, Mo. —- First the basics. Manny Harris has 14 points and Michigan is up three on Clemson in another possible 7/10 “upset” in K.C.
But that’s not the story here.
Michigan’s decade-plus NCAA tournament drought finally ended tonight. And nothing was going to quash —- or quiet —- the spirit of some students who made the long trip from Ann Arbor.
They rushed into the Sprint Center at the start of the second session of the day, chatting up local beat writers, athletic director Bill Martin, security guards … pretty much anyone who would make their acquaintance.
Some left as early as 3:30 a.m. to make the 700-mile-plus trip to Kansas City, Mo., and they immediately set about taunting first-round opponent Clemson in a mostly empty arena. Perhaps the best insult was to wonder (rather loudly) why the Tigers had a player who looked like Sarah Jessica Parker.
Still, it was mostly a celebration of the Wolverines’ first tournament appearance since 1998. Radio analyst Jimmy King —- a member of the Fab Five, who played for Michigan when some of those in the stands could barely walk —- grinned as he walked past.
“Every time they need you to be louder, I’m gonna point to you,” he said.
Soon enough, the band was playing “Hail to the Victors,” which only cemented this as a year spent in Bizarro World for the Wolverines —- the basketball team was playing well into March while football didn’t reach a bowl game for the first time since the 1970s.
Eventually, amused CBS play-by-play man Tim Brando turned around to the group congregated near midcourt in the seats.
“It’s been 11 years,” Brando exhorted. “Get up.”
Not that they needed encouragement. Michigan was back, ending the absence of the biggest sleeping giant in the land.
—- Patrick Stevens