With 31 seconds left in the game, the Michigan Wolverines had their ticket to the Elite Eight in hand with a commanding 96-72 (yes, 96) lead over Texas A&M. Michigan led from tip to tail, with their biggest advantage ballooning to 29 points with 2:16 left in the first half. John Beilein cleared his bench, giving his walk ons - a group he calls the “Fab Five” - a chance at some playing time in the Sweet 16.
ENTER C.J. BAIRD.
What a moment for @baird_cj. Started as a student manager and turned into a walk-on as a freshman this season. Can now say that he made a three-pointer in the Sweet 16. The bench’s reaction makes it so much better, too. pic.twitter.com/YCOEmA1gUi— Josh Poloha (@JorshP) March 23, 2018
ONE TIME FOR THE WALK-ONS IN THE BACK, C.J.!! Talk about a shot. Here’s a freshman who started the season as a student manager and transitioned to a scout team player. He played all of seven minutes (SEVEN!!!) in two games (TWO!!!) all season, taking just two shots and making one of them. The one he missed? His lone three-point attempt of the season.
Here’s more from Baird on how it felt in the moment.
March Madness is full of all of the best moments in sports, and “unheralded walk-on making a shot on the big stage” is a top-three moment for me, along with buzzer-beaters and the reaction that happened immediately after Baird released the ball.
From left to right, that’s junior Mo Wagner, senior Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, and freshman Isaiah Livers. Wagner and Abdur-Rahkman contributed 21 and 24 points, respectively, in Michigan’s win. At no point were they more excited than that exact moment.
Look at Wagner. He’s celebrating like it went in when Baird releases it. The fact that he even got a shot off has this bench looking like mom just made pizza rolls for you and the boys. That pure excitement and enthusiasm will always smack me straight in the feels.
March Madness, I love you.