The Michigan men’s basketball team has had a whale of a two weeks, and these hectic times aren’t over just yet. The Wolverines beat Oklahoma State in an offense-packed thriller in the NCAA tournament’s first round on Friday, and they followed it up by beating No. 2 Louisville to punch a Sweet 16 ticket.
Since March 5, the Wolverines are on a six-game winning streak — their last regular season game, four in the Big Ten tournament, and now this one. They have the look of March Madness’ hottest team. But how they’ve gotten here is just as interesting as their record itself, so let’s go through a timeline of UM’s last 10 days.
March 8: Michigan’s team plane slid off the runway.
The Wolverines were taking off from Ypsilanti, Mich., on a Wednesday. Their planned destination was Washington, D.C., the site of the Big Ten tournament. But high winds in the area caused serious problems for the team plane. The Wolverines’ takeoff to D.C. was aborted, and the entire scene looked mortifying.
Michigan's basketball team plane involved in an accident. Everyone is okay, no injuries.— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) March 8, 2017
Viewer emailed us this photo from airport. pic.twitter.com/cT6ExEyp4Q
This was a harrowing accident. MLive.com’s Brendan F. Quinn reported:
There was a ravine ahead. The plane stopped just short of it. There was a jolt. Those on the plane described waiting for the plane to stop; "it felt like forever," Michigan strength and conditioning coach Jon Sanderson said.
One witness said the ravine was 100 yards away. Another witness said it was 300 yards. Either way, it was there. The plane stopped short.
"That pilot undoubtedly saved our lives," said one witness, who requested to not be quoted directly. "He knew something wasn't right."
There were screams and tears. Multiple people had bumps and bruises. Derrick Walton Jr., it's been learned, sustained a cut that would require stitches.
Thankfully, no one sustained serious physical injuries.
“Everybody is pretty shook up. There’s only minor injuries,” head coach John Beilein told the Detroit Free Press. “The big thing to know is we have no major injuries. We do have some minor injuries, but nothing appears to be major. Everybody’s good. It could have been much worse."
March 9, in the morning: Michigan finally flew to D.C.
The Wolverines still had a Big Ten tournament to play in. The team landed in the D.C. area shortly before 9 a.m. ET.
Touchdown in nation's capital!— Michigan Basketball (@umichbball) March 9, 2017
Now let's get to business! #GoBlue 〽 pic.twitter.com/Dd1mrTi6U7
March 9, a few hours later: Michigan had a game to play.
The team’s first-round game against Illinois had been scheduled for noon. The game tipped not much later than that: at 12:28 p.m., not four hours after UM landed.
Michigan’s game uniforms were stuck in the cargo hold of the aircraft and, therefore, left behind for investigators in Michigan. So the team wore practice jerseys and shorts.
Flying on the day of a game isn’t unheard of in college basketball, but it typically only happens under unexpected circumstances. Illinois, like every other team in the Big Ten tournament, had gotten to D.C. at least a day before its first game. That’s the standard operating procedure, but Michigan’s situation wasn’t standard.
Michigan beat Illinois that afternoon, 75-55. The Wolverines had a quote printed out and taped on a locker room wall of an Illinois center calling them a “white-collar team.”
In the Michigan locker room at Verizon Center pic.twitter.com/rXegDYqeek— Brendan F. Quinn (@BFQuinn) March 9, 2017
Maverick Morgan, who gave that quote earlier in the season, scored four points and had two rebounds and five turnovers in 27 minutes.
March 10-12: Michigan kept winning and won the Big Ten tournament.
UM’s quarterfinal game against Purdue was a thriller, with Michigan coming back in the last minute to force overtime against the Big Ten’s No. 1 seed.
Then Michigan won against Minnesota in the semifinals, and against Wisconsin in the championship game. The Wolverines won four games in four days, with three of their wins coming against teams that had a bye on the day the Wolverines played Illinois.
Michigan found out on that Sunday night, March 12, that it was a No. 7 seed in the Big Dance. The Wolverines were only a few days removed from being a bubble team.
Friday: Michigan beat Oklahoma State in one of the games of the year.
Sunday: Michigan beat Louisville in another one of the games of the year.
The final score was 73-69. Michigan’s still dancing.