ANAHEIM, California – In a year so promising and extraordinary, there was always something about Michigan's basketball team.
This team defended everyone. But the attack, especially against teams like Texas Tech, just could not keep up.
It was the story in three brutal defeats against Michigan State this season. In the end, it was the final chapter of the 2018-1919 season in Michigan.
The Wolverines won 30 games this year, after beating off with an offensive collapse during a 63-44 loss to Texas Tech in the Sweet 16. This Michigan team is considered the best club by John Beilein in the Going books that gets by without any banners.
To be clear, Michigan have lost three games against MSU and one against Texas Tech. These are two outstanding basketball teams, two of the best in the country. Compared to all others are the Wolverines 30-3.
More: Michigan's historically-poor Sweet-16 loss to Texas Tech: Through the numbers
Michigan striker Ignas Brazdeikis (13) is battling for a rebound against Texas Tech striker Deshawn Corprew (3) and striker Taliq Owens (11) during the opening half of Sweet 16 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, Thursday, March 28, 2019. (Photo: Junfu Han, Detroit Free Press)
But in the offseason they will finish 30-7 with some emptiness. Because this is how college basketball works on the big stage: they will ultimately be judged in March. 30 consecutive seasons is a great thing, something that has never been seen in Ann Arbor a decade ago.
But Beilein raised the bar here. And if you do not quite reach it, it stings.
The Wolverines failed to finish the regular season Big Ten title. They could not quite finish the Big Ten tournament title. And on Thursday night in Anaheim they were overtaken by all the shortcomings of this team. Two victories are about to return to the Final Four.
For Michigan Basketball, this is mostly new territory.
The Wolverines spent so many years with Beilein to establish themselves as a top program. Coming to the NCAA tournament was a reason to celebrate not too long ago. Five sweet 16-year-olds and two trips to the national title game in seven years later, the March hit feels normal.
But to make you feel close to ending your final goal – make no mistake The ultimate goal was to return to the national title game and win it – but it's still no bittersweet if you're proud to get ahead.
These losses are only bitter. And they will undoubtedly serve as fuel as Beilein goes into another off-season likely to be accompanied by change and development.
Some Wolverines will be thinking about the NBA in the coming weeks. Charles Matthews has one more year left to qualify. However, he decided to complete his senior year this year after testing NBA waters last spring. Thursday could have been his last college game.
Charles Matthews may have played his last game for the Wolverines. (Photo: Sean M. Haffey, Getty Images)
Ignas Brazdeikis, the team's top scorer and the Big Ten freshman of the year, will also have to make a decision. And Jordan Poole, who – like any other subclass in the squad – has the opportunity this summer to train for professional teams if he wants.
Regardless, Michigan will enter a low season where offensive improvement must be the top priority. This team never had the typical Michigan shooting range. Duncan Robinson, Moritz Wagner and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, three players who have been able to defeat drought periods with one big shot, have never been completely replaced.
These droughts surfaced when opponents forced Michigan into one-on-one interviews. The Wolverines were never a good basketball team. When the teams were athletic enough to change everything, Michigan struggled without Wagner's pick-and-pop game or Abdur-Rahkman's ability to knock out only one bucket. Texas Tech's was just a little bit better. If Michigan faced a defensive challenge this year, it could not score enough.
These are the frustrating news.
The good news?
John Beilein is still John Beilein. And his program is still considered one of the best and most consistent in America.
Michigan will lose parts in this off-season as every year. Beilein was able to make corrections several times with specialist knowledge. Michigan went through much worse and won championships.
This program has been constantly evolving.
The quotas indicate that this will be the case again.
Contact Nick Baumgardner at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @nickbaumgardner. Read more about the Michigan Wolverines and subscribe to our Wolverines newsletter.