With the 2010s coming to a close, it's time to take a look back at the biggest Michigan sports stories of the decade. Part II looks at our picks for the top five. If you missed Part 1, click here.
5. The run to Omaha
Erik Bakich's team captured the imagination of the Michigan fanbase, as well as the college baseball world, with its improbable run to the final game of the College World Series. It was the school's first 50-win season since 1987, and first trip to Omaha since 1984, when names like Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Barry Larkin wore the maize-and-blue. A Big Ten team hadn't even made it to the CWS since 2013, and no Big Ten program had played for the title since 1966! Michigan beat No. 1 seed UCLA on its own field to even advance to the CWS, and ended up with the most players (5) on the all-tournament team. It's rare for Michigan, given its overall presence and prestige, to be considered the plucky underdog in any situation. But considering the historical precedents the Wolverines had to overcome, this was it.
4. The miracle weekend
On March 8th, a tragedy almost occurred that would've been the biggest Michigan sports story of the decade, for all of the wrong and saddest reasons. On their way to the Big Ten Tournament, the team's plane dangerously slid off its Willow Run Airport runway. Thankfully, despite the damage to the plane, nobody on board was harmed. However, the resulting delay meant Michigan didn't arrive at the arena for its opening round game until 90 minutes before tip-off. Most of the team's luggage was still in Michigan, so the Wolverines were relegated to playing Illinois with their mesh practice jerseys. Michigan dominated that game to vault John Beilein past Johnny Orr as the winningest hoops coach in school history. But it wasn't done. Playing relaxed with a new focus after such a scare, the Wolverines pulled off three more upsets: Purdue in overtime in the quarterfinals, Minnesota in the semifinals, and then Wisconsin in the finals to win its first Big Ten Tournament since the very first one in 1998. Michigan became the lowest seed (No. 8) to ever win it. And Derrick Walton, Jr. was the catalyst, winning tournament MVP.
3. The march to Atlanta
The 2012-13 Michigan basketball season was already a success. Tying the best start in school history, being ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll for the first time since the Fab Five, and Trey Burke the national player of the year. Still, the talented Wolverines were a missed tip in the season-finale against Indiana away from winning a Big Ten title, and then bounced unceremoniously out of the conference tournament by Wisconsin. Michigan looked like it might be out of gas. Throw in it was the youngest team in the field, and four seeds don't traditionally make a lot of noise in the NCAA Tournament. But a surprising rout of VCU in the second round sent the Wolverines to their first Sweet 16 in 20 years. That set the stage for perhaps the greatest single shot in Michigan basketball history (until Jordan Poole) -- Burke's deep three in the final seconds to send the regional semifinal against top-seeded Kansas to overtime. Michigan had the momentum from there and pulled the upset. Then came another rout against Florida in the Elite Eight, and Michigan was off to its first Final Four since Chris Webber called that infamous timeout. The Wolverines solved Syracuse's vaunted zone in the national semifinals, and if not for one of the worst calls in recent championship history (Burke's block was clean), might've ended up winning it all. Instead, the Wolverines narrowly lost to a Louisville team literally recruited by strippers and hos, who ended up having to vacate the title. A sign of the times in the cesspool that is college basketball.
2. Hiring Harbaugh
All of the NFL talking heads, including Michigan alum Adam Schefter, said it was never going to happen. There was no way Jim Harbaugh, and his historically great win percentage in professional football, was going to leave the NFL to return home to his alma mater. They were all wrong, and Harbaugh wasn't just a prodigal son returning, he was destined to be a Mosaic deliverer. Leading Michigan out of the wilderness of the past decade, and back into the Big Ten's promised land that is the program's birthright. While he frustratingly hasn't fully delivered on that hype/potential, there's no doubt by any other categorical measure the program is much better off now than it was before he arrived. For example, Michigan has already been ranked in the AP Top 10 more times in Harbaugh's five years than it was total the decade before he arrived.
1. The Game. 2016.
This will be a controversial choice, for sure, but let's face it. At Michigan, football is king. And no moment better symbolizes the decade than this one does. Michigan was so close to fulfilling all of that Harbaugh hype in just his second season, but in the end proved once more that football is a game of inches ("J.T. was short"). This game is so transcendent that it's often given its own significance when discussing the full context of Harbaugh's tenure. It's the ultimate what-if? What if the Wolverines had won this game, the Big Ten title, and made it to the College Football Playoff? How different would the last three seasons have been? What would the narrative be? What would the landscape of Big Ten football look like? Between some curious coaching decisions, a Heisman finalist missing a tackle, and some of the most one-sided officiating I've ever witnessed, this game remains so painful I can't watch it to this day. Furthermore, this game is sort of indicative of this entire decade. Michigan came oh so close to winning multiple championships in several sports. Hockey lost a 4-3 heart breaker in the Frozen Four in 2018, and lost in overtime in the 2011 national championship. Baseball got to the final game of the College World Series in 2019. Basketball got to Championship Monday in the NCAA Tournament twice, too.
What are your thoughts on our picks? Let us know in the comments section.