Nov. 7, 2013
By Jenny Herstein, U-M Public & Media Relations
On Friday night (Nov. 8), the University of Michigan men's basketball team will run out of the tunnel to the tune of The Victors. As the fans rise from their seats to applaud the new squad, above their heads will hang a new banner, adorned with the block M, the words Final Four, and the year 2013.
Among those stepping onto the court will be some players who have never seen the bright lights and boisterous crowds of the Final Four. And their teammates, who were in last year's national title game, must begin once more with a new team; one that has yet to suffer the bitterness of defeat or the grandeur of a major victory. But there will also be others who have been to the Final Four who will watch from the stands -- their time as Michigan basketball players now a mere memory.
One such Wolverine is former Michigan basketball captain, Josh Bartelstein, who will be at Crisler Center on Friday night to watch as the 2013 Final Four banner is raised before Michigan takes on UMass-Lowell in its first game of the regular season.
"I think it's definitely bittersweet," Bartelstein said. "Seeing the guys again and being in the locker room and not being a part of it is going to be hard. But that's what happens in college basketball. Guys move on."
While Michigan's historic run to the national title game ended last year after the loss to Louisville, and some players graduated or moved on to the NBA, the banner will forever remind Michigan fans of the contributions made by Bartelstein and his teammates.
"That banner will always be there, and no one can ever take it away from me," Bartelstein said. "The minute you walk in at Michigan, you see the row of banners hanging and you imagine hanging your own. Honestly, I think I'm going to get the chills Friday night. I think of all that went into it; all the coaches, all my teammates, the support staff. It's a surreal feeling. Last year was a dream come true."
The banner is the second to be raised in Crisler Center in the past two years. Last season, before Michigan played North Carolina State, a banner was raised in honor of U-M's 2011-12 Big Ten regular-season title.
"It's not just the team that is back, it's the program that is back," Bartelstein said. "The program is sustainable, and that's one of the things that I'm most proud of leading. You're not just going to have good teams and bad teams, but there are people in athletics. The character, the values and the talented players are all there. Every year they're going to be competing for a Big Ten championship."
With the banner honoring the 2012-13 teams' accomplishments being raised on the same night as the first game of Michigan's 2013-14 season, the raising of the banner will serve not only as a reminder of the past but also as a challenge to the new team.
"The sky's the limit now," Bartelstein said. "They're young but they have great leaders and players. Jordan (Morgan) and Jon (Horford), Mitch (McGary) and Glenn (Robinson III) are really talented."
But the captain of last season's team is careful to note the importance of approaching the season one step at a time.
"Only four teams get to the Final Four and you have to have a little bit of luck," Bartelstein said. "You can't look that far in advance because it's such a long season. If you do that, you'll probably skip steps along the way."
The first of those small steps is the game against UMass-Lowell, a team in its first season as a Division I program, but returns an experienced squad that contains all but one of its starters from a season ago.
But while Bartelstein is cautious in his optimism about the season, he is firm in one belief.
"This program is there," he said. "It's going to be there for a long time."
"People always talk about how the University of Michigan is the best school in the country. Well guess what? The basketball program is top now also."
The 2013-14 Wolverines may still be untested -- they have not yet played their first regular-season game, let alone made their contribution to the history of Michigan basketball. But the raising of the banner on Friday night will serve as a reminder that already each player has achieved something of worth by stepping onto the court of Crisler Center in their University's colors with Michigan proudly displayed across their chests.
They are Michigan Wolverines. Above and beyond anything else, the new banner is a testament to the fact that this itself is once again a mark of excellence.