March 9, 2014
University of Michigan director of athletics Dave Brandon will regularly offer his view on a variety of topics related to U-M and intercollegiate sports. All his posts, along with links to related content, will be available on his page, mgoblue.com/brandon, and he is also on Twitter at @DaveBrandonAD.
A lot has changed since Michigan last won an outright Big Ten basketball title 28 years ago. Crisler Center has become one of the best collegiate basketball arenas and player development facilities in the country. John Beilein now leads this program and continues to receive well-deserved national recognition for the job he does in recruiting, teaching and coaching the impressive young men who represent Michigan Basketball.
Now, as the 2013-14 Wolverine basketball team finds its place in history and in the hearts of Michigan basketball fans everywhere, we will all long remember Saturday's (March 8) championship celebration and regular-season-ending victory over Indiana.
There was little drama last Tuesday when U-M won the Big Ten title in Champaign, Ill. There was no last-second shot; there was no cutting down the nets. It was just a small group of guys in the locker room celebrating an accomplishment that hadn't been achieved since anyone on the current roster was born!
Behind the planning and precision of Beilein and his staff's game plans, along with the gutsy contributions of unselfish players who understood their roles, the Wolverines have created their own championship legacy.
It was a team that lost two stars who left to play in the NBA (Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr.) and the loss through injury of one of the top players in the conference (Mitch McGary). Now, the pundits wondered how U-M would respond, and many of them didn't give us much of a chance.
This Wolverine team stepped up.
Game after game, Nik Stauskas silenced opposing fans with big time 3s. There was a last-second shot by Glenn Robinson III to win at Purdue, Derrick Walton Jr. driving the lane, and Spike Albrecht providing a spark on both sides of the court.
Then there was the "two-headed monster" called "Morford" that showed what teamwork was all about. Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford did more than just play a role on a championship team. Their selfless play helped this team grow into something bigger and better than anyone could have imagined.
With McGary out, these two student-athletes split time and provided a post presence that allowed the rest of the team to shine.
For Morgan, this season is especially sweet. On senior night one year ago, Morgan's final tip-in attempt at the buzzer didn't fall, and a share of the Big Ten title was lost.
This time on a Saturday night against Indiana, it was a different story. Morgan's double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds) and a win over the Hoosiers was a fitting final act at Crisler.
Now, Morgan has two Big Ten championship rings to go along with what will be four NCAA Tournament appearances. He will likely finish his career with the more games played than any U-M basketball player, he will rank in the program's top 20 for rebounds, and he is the first Michigan basketball student-athlete to be named to the NABC Good Works team for his extracurricular work in community programs, his academic prowess and his on-court play as a consummate team player.
And Morgan has always been there to be depended upon when U-M needed him the most, taking a charge against Syracuse to get U-M to the NCAA championship game in 2013 and grabbing a key rebound and then getting the takeaway after a missed free throw at Purdue just a few weeks ago, enabling Stauskas and GR III to combine on their last-second heroics.
Against Syracuse, Morgan came into the game for the first time when he took that charge. At Purdue, he played 33 minutes and was closing in on a double-double when he grabbed that rebound. Two different games, two different situations, but key plays that helped U-M win -- without making the highlight reel.
But the highlight reel is not why Morgan came to the University of Michigan, and the highlight reel is not going to show why he was so important to Wolverine basketball throughout his career.
He was a man on a mission, and his mission was to improve each and every day -- on and off the court.
He didn't have to return to play this season. He had already earned an undergrad degree in industrial and operations engineering, and at one time, it looked as if he would sit the bench behind McGary and not get much playing time. Instead, he enrolled in graduate school and gave the game of basketball one more shot.
Now, Morgan will receive his second Big Ten championship ring, he will earn his graduate degree in manufacturing, and he will be remembered as the locker room leader and captain of a Michigan basketball team that will certainly be listed among the best in Michigan Basketball history.
Yes, Crisler Center has become the place where yesterday's, today's and tomorrow's Wolverines gather to look to the rafters to find Big Ten championship banners and to remember those championships were earned by student-athletes who worked together as a team to achieve something bigger and better than anyone could have imagined.
Saturday night was a wonderful celebration for this Michigan team, and especially Jordan Morgan.
Good luck at the Big Ten Tournament ... and when everyone's attention turns to March Madness!