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November 14, 1996 - Image 22

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The Michigan Daily, 1996-11-14

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4B - The Michigan Daily - Tipoff '96 - Thursday, November 14, 1996

0

9

COLUMN

BIG TEN PREVIEWS The Michigan Daily -Tipoff '96-
'Cats try to claw out o

It's been long enough; Fisher's tfne to win is now

Unfortunately for Steve Fisher, time does-
n't stand still. His prize recruits can't
hang around Ann Arbor for 10 years. In
fact, they have a difficult enough time just stay-
ing for four.
And this year's version of the Wolverines is no
different.
There's no guarantee that junior Maurice Taylor
vill return for his senior year. Thoughts of enter-
ng the NBA Draft entered his mind last spring.
And what if someone like Maceo Baston or
Louis Bullock has a super-
star year? The trend in col-
lege basketball these days
is that once a player has
even an OK season, it's
reason enough to consider
jumping ship for the NBA.
College basketball is a
completely different game AN
than it was when Fisher GOLDENBACH
took over the Michigan
basketball program in The Bronx
1989. It is now all about Bomber
short-term projects.
Mediocre teams can't
expect to get top recruits to come aboard and sac-
rifice a year or two playing until the team can
build up a solid foundation and become a force.
Sometimes a year or two is all that some of the
top players spend in college.
With that in mind, there is a distinct possibility
hat Michigan may be a completely different
eam next year.
Which is part of the reason why the pressure is
>n Fisher to win this year.

reason to raise a banner in Crisler Arena. And to
be fair to Fisher, a Big Ten title is a good place
to start.
It hasn't taken the other members of the Big
Ten coaching elite this long to win their first
conference championship.
Indiana's Bobby Knight needed just two sea-
sons to turn the Hoosiers from a sub-.500 club to
conference champs in 1973. He has since gone
on to win 10 more titles in his 25 years in
Bloomington.
Gene Keady, the master of winning with sub-
par talent, brought Purdue a Big Ten title in his
fourth season on the bench. Five more have fol-
lowed in his 16-year career.
Randy Ayers took over the Ohio State program
in 1989, following an eighth-place finish and a
6-12 conference record. Three years later, St.
John Arena had not one, but two conference title
banners hanging in its rafters.
It's not as if Fisher had a struggling program
to rebuild, like Knight and Ayers did, when he
began running the show seven years ago. He had
a national champion and one of the country's
most powerful and resource-laden athletic
departments at his disposal.
It's not that Fisher is in jeopardy of losing his
job, nor is he anywhere close to being on the hot
seat. It would take a collapse comparable to that
of the crumbling of the UNLV basketball pro-
gram to bring that about.
However, Fisher does realize that the team's
success hinges greatly on him.
"I anointed myself captain last spring,' he said.
"Until somebody else wrestles the leadership-
captaincy reins away from me, I'm the captain."
But unquestionably, there is pressure on the rest
of the Wolverines to win this year. They are head
and shoulders above the rest of the Big Ten, in
terms of talent, even with the loss of Albert White.
And this year, they can't use the lack-of-expe-
rience excuse. The core of this team is sopho-
mores and juniors who have experienced the
rigor of a Big Ten campaign.
The last two seasons have resulted in 24 regu-
lar-season losses for the Wolverines, much of
them due to the players' learning the ropes of the
college game.
Now it's time for what remains of both the
not-so-Fab Five class of 1994 and the trio of
McDonald's All-Americans of 1995 to show
what made them such desirable talents.
"We have the experience and maturity," Baston

said. "We know what we have to do to win. If we
play hard, and we play our best, the Big Ten
should be ours."
If this group plays just close to its potential,
the Final Four is not an unreasonable goal.
"I put the pressure on myself to perform,"
Fisher said, "and I don't feel any more pressure
this season than others."

However, Fisher agrees that time is beginning
to run out on this current group of players. He
says that this year his team must "play with
some form of desperation, but still have some.
control."
Fisher needs to coach the same way.
-Alan Goldenbach can be reached
over email at agold@umich.edu.

Sophs must lead Buckeyes

By WXl McCahill
Maybe the best thing that can be said
about this season's Northwestern
Wildcats is that they only have to wear
purple shorts, not the full-length pants
their colleagues on the football field
play in. And that's really about the only
comparison one can make between the
two squads.
Somehow, though, Northwestern
coach Ricky Byrdsong remains opti-
mistic. Not only does his team have a
chance to break out of the Big Ten cel-
lar, but he even thinks it has a chance to
be competitive.
"We're going all-out (this season),"
Byrdsong said. "We will leave nothing
to be desired."
There are two players who must per-
form for Byrdsong if the Wildcats are
improve upon their 2-16 Big Ten record
of last season. One is a proven star. The
other is full of unrealized potential.
Enter Geno Carlisle, the only
Wildcat who seems to have any claws
and an All-Big Ten player last season
with a 20 points-per-game average.
For 6-foot-10 senior center Evan
Eschmeyer to finally live up to his
potential, he must stay away from the
foot problems that have plagued his
Northwestern career to date.
If Eschmeyer stays healthy, he will
take some of the heat off of Carlisle.
The man in charge of getting the
ball to Carlisle and Eschmeyer will be
6-foot-3 senior guard Jevon Johnson.
Johnson led the team in assists last
season and can make his presence felt

on defense.
Prowling the paint around
Eschmeyer willtbe 6-foot-10 sopho-
more Joe Harmsen and 6-4 Joe Branch.
Byrdsong says he rededicated him-

In his seven-plus years as head coach, Fisher
tas shown that he can recruit like few other
:oaches in the nation. Three times, he has been
Lble to bring the nation's No. 1 recruiting class to
Ann Arbor.
The talent levels of his teams were so high,
that a case could be made that Michigan put
forth teams better than the NBA's Los Angeles
Clippers.
But with the exception of 1989's national
:hampionship team, the foundation of which was
.he work of Bill Frieder, Fisher hasn't a champi-
onship of any kind to show for himself.
No NCAA titles.
No conference titles.
Thankfully, no NIT titles.
It's been long enough. Michigan needs some

By Will McCahill
If Ohio State were any good, it would
be the Nebraska of college hoops.
Not just in terms of wins, however -
we're speaking of legal troubles.
After having three of his players dis-
missed from the team prior to the 1994-
95 season, Randy Ayers saw two more
fall by the wayside this summer after a
run-in with the law.
The dismissals took a good-sized bite
out of the sophomore class that is expect-
ed to be the backbone of this season's
Ohio State squad. And the team cannot
afford to get any weaker: Ohio State fin-
ished 10th in the Big Ten last season with
a 3-15 record (10-17 overall).
Ayers hopes his team's improved
strength will help offset any sophomore
slump that may be in the offing.
"We're a lot stronger this year," Ayers
said. "I think we can move some people
around this year where we couldn't do
that last year.,
The repository of this new-found
strength figures to be on the frontline.
The star of the sophomore class is 6-foot-
9 forward Jermaine Tate, who averaged
11 points per game while playing in all
27 of Ohio State's games. Junior college
transfer Ed Jenkins was expected to
throw his 6-9, 270-pound frame into the
fray at center, but he will be ineligible
until the end of the first semester.
Freshman Sean Tucker will, at 6-7, have
to make some noise down low if the
Buckeyes are to compete with the con-
ference's bigger teams.
Sophomore Shaun Stonerook will
move out of the paint into his natural
swingman spot, where he will be expect-
ed to improve on the 8.4 points-per-game
average he earned in his debut season.
Fellow sophomore Jason Singleton is
also expected to alternate between the
front- and backcourts.
On most teams, the key player is the
point guard, and Ohio State is no excep-
tion. Sophomore Damon Stringer was
erratic last season, with a turnover-to-
assist ratio of nearly one to one. He did,
however, throw in more than II points
per game. Like every other returnee from
last season's squad, he will have to
become more consistent to keep the
Buckeyes at arm's length from the cellar

door.
"Last year, (Stringer's) quickness and
lack of experience got him into trouble a
lot of times," Ayers said. "But I think he's
settled down."
Others expected to see time in the
backcourt include 6-foot-3 sophomore
NeShaun Coleman and 6-4 frosh Trent
Jackson.
Last season's Ohio State squad was the
only team in the Big Ten to have no play-
ers on any postseason conference honor
roll. If that doesn't change, Ayers may
wish he and the team hadn't come back
from a summer jaunt in South Africa.
And that's if he's lucky - he may well
be looking for a new job.

Tear This

'~4

s

After seven years as Michigan coach, Steve Fisher been able to bring in some of the top players in the
nation. However, he's still waiting for his first Big Ten title. This year's team should be able to give it to him.

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