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Three Weekends in March: A First-Hand Account of Michigan’s Final Four Run

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The NCAA Championship game may have been played in April, but it’s called March Madness for a reason, and I was a part of this year’s madness. My journey in photos.

Yours truly, keeping an eye on things from behind the bench (Photo courtesy of the University of Michigan).

I was fortunate enough to cover the Michigan basketball team throughout its three-weekend, three-city, NCAA tournament run. It was a run that featured a buzzer-beater for the ages in Wichita, a firing-on-cylinders blowout in Los Angeles, four come-from-behind-wins and a heartbreaking loss in the championship game. Being there every step the way - in Wichita, Los Angeles and San Antonio - and being around the team as much as I was, was an experience that’s difficult to put into words. Since words fail me, below is a collection of photographs taken along the way (all taken by me, unless otherwise noted) that I hope bring that experience to life.

Mo Wagner, all smiles during Michigan’s morning shootaround in Wichita.

Michigan players, moments before taking the court for the tournament opener against Montana.

A pensive Duncan Robinson waiting to take the court.

Some of the sights from the first weekend of the NCAA tourney.

A Jordan Poole fan. By the end of Michigan’s 64-63 victory over Houston, there would be more.

The man of the hour, Jordan Poole, after his buzzer-beating three-pointer saved Michigan’s season.

After the game, Jordan Poole had the honor of penciling Michigan into the Sweet Sixteen in a jubilant Wolverine locker room.

On to Los Angeles. Zavier Simpson, bashful as ever.

Michigan’s Charles Matthews, the West Region’s Most Outstanding Player, was a picture of solitude deep in the bowels of the Staple Center.

Practice before Michigan’s Sweet Sixteen game against Texas A&M.

NBA Hall of Famer Reggie Miller and Michigan’s John Beilein share a laugh during Friday’s shootaround in Los Angeles.

A “Who’s Who” of former NCAA greats. Jimmy Jackson, Reggie Miller and Steve Smith. Not sure why they didn’t ask me to join them.

A happy Michigan locker room. One down (Texas A&M), one to go (Florida State).

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, as cool as ever.

Duncan Robinson talks about battling Texas A&M’s NBA-bound bigs – and living to tell about it.

A final huddle before the West Regional final against Florida State.

It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it.

One of these two is a Heisman Trophy winner and Super Bowl MVP. The other is wearing a pink shirt.

Michigan players celebrate the West Regional championship, and a berth in the Final Four, in front of a home-away-from-home crowd in Los Angeles.

Backstage at the Alamodome. The interview rooms got larger as the tournament progressed.

Michigan’s Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman meets the press in San Antonio.

The road ends here. Courtside at the Final Four in San Antonio.

Michigan fans showed well in San Antonio.

A pensive Charles Matthews after Michigan’s National Semi-Final win over Loyola-Chicago.

Michigan head coach John Beilein addresses the media from the confines of the Michigan locker room.

Jordan Poole’s turn to meet the press.

Zavier Matthews: Ninja point guard.

The calm before the storm. Just hours before the tip off for the national championship.

The TBS crew set up shop courtside.

Just some of the cameras adorning the court at the Final Four.

Who is that guy?

This is it. Final huddle before the NCAA championship game tips off.

It might look festive from the outside, but it was a completely different locker room Monday night than it was during Michigan’s previous five games.

The confetti fell, but not for Michigan.

Epilogue

There is another moment that bears mentioning. A little over an hour after the championship game had ended, Coach Beilein was meeting with the press for a final time outside the Michigan locker room when Villanova’s Jalen Brunson, the national player of the year and one-time Michigan recruit, whizzed by on a golf cart (the preferred method of transportation in the Alamodome). Beilein broke from the huddle of journalists about the same time Brunson asked his driver to stop. The two shared a quick moment together and then Brunson got back into his golf cart and sped off. I didn’t get a picture of the interaction, and I don’t remember anyone being there to do so either, but to see the sportsmanship and mutual respect between the two at a time like that was a really cool moment.