Monday night, twenty years later, they played again and … lost … to Louisville 82-76.
As the national championship unspooled Monday night, Louisville and Michigan put on a show, a production worthy of a stage, with acrobatics and dramatic flair, with stars in their usual roles and understudies in starring ones, with bodies that thudded when they hit the floor after so many collisions at the Georgia Dome.
It was Cirque du Soleil for the hoops set.
Louisville pulled from many elements, from its press and its pressure, from its outside marksmanship and its balanced scoring. The Cardinals (35-5) came from behind and seized control as the second half wore on. They ultimately triumphed, 82-76, as those fans danced and waved red towels and finally exhaled.
With that, a college basketball season as chaotic as any in recent memory ended, at once oddly and predictably, in favor of the favorite.
“These are the 13 toughest guys I’ve ever coached,” said Rick Pitino, officially a Hall of Famer now, before he revealed that he promised them he would get a tattoo if they triumphed on Monday night.
Bring on the ink — perhaps “Louisville 4-eva” across the chest.
Read/learn more at NY Times.
Meanwhile, the lightweight drama surrounding former Michigan star Chris Webber and would he attend Monday night’s game came to a head when he was captured by CBS cameras arriving at the Georgia Dome wearing a Michigan beanie.
As we reported, former Fab Five teammate Jalen Rose had made a plea for Webber to show up at the national championship game.
To set the record straight, Webber released a statement via his Twitter account:
“I’m here at the Georgia Dome to show my support for the Michigan men’s basketball team in its quest for a National Championship. I’ve known some of the players on the team since they were kids and I am excited for them and all of the student athletes on the court tonight who are wearing the Michigan uniform. It has been a great season and I wish them all the best.”
Unfortunately for Rose, Webber and the Fab Five crew, even with their presence, as you already know, Michigan still lost to Louisville.