In sports, it’s pretty easy to ask what if? What if Trey Burke didn’t get called for that fifth foul? What if Chris Webber hadn’t called that timeout?
Those are probably questions that Michigan basketball fans have been asking themselves for years, especially on Monday night as we get set to crown a national champion in college hoops.
It’s been 32 years since the Wolverines won that crown, which they did back in 1989 with Glen Rice, Rumeal Robinson and others.
For a long time this season, it felt like Michigan basketball could have a realistic chance of winning the NCAA Tournament again. It has reached the final game four times since 1992 but hasn’t been able to win that last game.
The loss in 2013 was painful because that Michigan team felt like a championship team. It had a double-digit lead, which is probably another reason why that game haunts me.
But in 2021, outside of all those misses down the stretch against UCLA, the thing that makes me ask what if is Isaiah Livers and his injury.
I just keep thinking, what if Livers hadn’t gotten hurt?
Would we be preparing for Michigan basketball to play Baylor tonight? Would the Wolverines have been able to beat UCLA?
It’s hard to say definitively one way or the other. As far as the Bruins, they wouldn’t have been able to defend Michigan the way they did if Livers was on the floor.
Down the stretch against Wisconsin and Ohio State, he played a big role and U-M could have attempted to run the offense through him when Hunter Dickinson and Franz Wagner struggled.
That doesn’t mean that Livers wouldn’t have been off that night shooting, so we can’t say the Wolverines would have won. But still, it’s hard not to think they at least reach the Final Four.
Truth be told, the Wolverines were pretty tough when healthy all year. Eli Brooks missed big chunks of games against Minnesota and Michigan State, and Livers was out against Ohio State in the tournament and UCLA.
Of course, other teams like Illinois found a way to win without their best player and Michigan found a way to win three games without Livers. It nearly reached the Final Four without him.
It just would have been fun to see what they could have done with him. At the very least, then we wouldn’t have this what-if hanging over our heads.
Because whenever I look back at the 2021 NCAA Tournament, I’ll probably always wonder, what if Isaiah Livers had been healthy?