Maybe not. Maybe next season will include sparse crowds and scant media coverage, but something tells me Loyola turned a meaningful corner in March.
SAN ANTONIO (AP) – Staring down a 10-point deficit against an underdog that seemed nothing short of blessed during the madness of March, Moe Wagner and MI clamped down on Loyola-Chicago and ended one of the most memorable NCAA Tournament runs ever.
This is a team that upset Florida in Gainesville in December, and rolls into the Final Four on a 14-game winning streak.
Sorry, America, but the boys in blue have some kind of story brewing themselves.
Moe finished the game with 24 points on 10-16 from the field (including 3-7 behind the arc). “And I like guys like that”. It was Michigan’s biggest deficit in the tournament since trailing 10-0 in its first-round game against Montana.
Maybe it won’t be.
The winners of the games Saturday will meet Monday night for the title. There’s a good reason for it.
See you this time next year?
“I hope he can afford a second pair of glasses”, Wagner quipped, in Michigan’s jubilant post-game celebration.
MI coach John Beilein said the key was Wagner going after the basketball. An email to Beilein soon followed and the rest, well, it could be history. What once seemed an impossibility is now reality – the Wolverines are playing in the National Championship against Villanova on Monday. After struggling against Florida State in the Elite Eight, Wagner had his best game in a MI uniform. How badly did he want this?
Heading into Saturday night, the men’s Final Four record for most three-pointers in a game was 13 (UNLV vs. in in 1987, the first year of the three-point shot). “I didn’t look at it and think what we were doing was wrong”. Jalen Brunson, the AP national player of the year added 18 points, while Omari Spellman and Donte DiVincenzo each had 15.
“It’s incredible”, Wagner said, after the Wolverines completed their stirring comeback.
“I mean, that was obviously pretty cool for me, because I watched this my entire childhood, this Final Four here”.
MI trailed for much of the game.
And Michigan was in real trouble. Not many coaches would have made those types of adjustments at halftime, but Coach B never doubted his team and now they have a shot for a national championship. No, Michigan looked like the minnow in the big pond.
But every time it looked as if Loyola could pull away and really put separation between it and MI, there was Wagner. They were 4 of 23. “We’re playing well at the right time”. Loyola went 7:40 without a field goal, after which UM led only 12-8.
As for the impact this team had on basketball at Loyola, Moser said: “They have so much to be proud of”.
“We saw some great defense here,”. You don’t get there with just luck. Abdur-Rahkman – who finished 2-for-11 – also felt the pressure, forcing up seven errant, unfruitful attempts in the first half. “They rotated so quickly”.
Redshirt sophomore guard Charles Matthews (17 points, five rebounds) began slashing through Ramblers like a Ferrari, and Wagner (10-for-16) shooting kept pouring on the firepower.
The previous knocks against Beilein’s teams, especially regarding defense, simply don’t pertain to the Wolverines.