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MARCH 16, 2000
Out like a lamb
.[..(. .. : ...1 n
Basketball season divided
ito three dferent parts
Illinois coach Lon Kruger said at
the Big Ten Tournament this past
OUTH BEND - One late-
January evening in Iowa City,
LaVell Blanchard floated outside,
received a routine pass and drained a
It gave Michigan a 41-29 lead over
Iowa on the road, and with a 12-3
record entering the game, the
Wolverines had every right to feel good
It would be one
of the last moments
of this season that
they would enjoy.
stormed back to
beat them that
night, and all of a
had lost seven in a
row, it had lost
This basketball season looked up in mid-January, but Gavin Groninger and the rest
of the upstart Wolverines fell back to earth in the season's second half. The
tumultuous campaign ended with a 10-point loss at Notre Dame last night.
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and the 1999-2000 season became one
for the naysayers.
Brian Ellerbe said Monday that the
29-game schedule has taken its toll on
his freshmen. "It's like three different
seasons," he said, comparing the college
game to high school.
In a way, it has been three different
seasons for the Wolverines - only not
in the right order. By winning their first
six games and staying close to Duke,
the Excitement phase kicked into high
gear. Losing seven in a row signalled
the Back-to-Earth phase.
Finishing the season the way
Michigan did, mostly beating the teams
it was supposed to beat and dropping
games to more experienced clubs, rep-
resents the Expected phase.
Had circumstances - both
Crawford-related and others - been
different for the Wolverines, the percep-
tion would be much different right now
Rather than backing into the postsea-
son and backing out, Michigan would
have won a game or two in one of the
two tournaments, been eliminated and
then headed into the offseason with the
theme that it's the team of the future.
Instead, they must shield themselves
from talk that the program is headed
downward and that their coach won't be
around much longer.
The offseason is the best medicine for
this program. Most off-the-court
wounds should heal - although the two
games remaining on Crawford's suspen-
sion will prompt a revival of media
attention come November when the new
season begins. Also, a permanent athlet-
ic director should be in place by the
time Michigan takes the court, and
department stability will be on the way.
The on-court performance will
undoubtedly improve, if for no reason
other than Michigan's promotion to a
sophomore-based team, instead of a
freshman-based team. The Big Ten
loses quite a few talented seniors, and
the Wolverines will benefit from mini-
mal graduation losses.
About the only void Ellerbe needs to
fill is in the post. The Wolverines are a
dominant big man away from returning
to past glories. Unless Ellerbe finds a
reasonable-quality junior-college post
player this year, or 7-foot Tyson
Chandler skips a grade and enrolls at
Michigan in the fall, the Wolverines
will have to survive down low in 2000-
01 with what's currently on the roster.
Nevertheless, this program is not as
far away as some think. Most are just
disillusioned with the fact that, despite
being warned, this group really wasn't
the next Fab Five.
- Chris Duprev can be reached via
e-mail at cduprev aunich.edu.
weekend that normally
only a handful of teams
that have a realistic
chance of winning the
each year, but that this
year, there are about 25
Like every year,
there are favorites.
Some are taking on dif-
ferent identities in this
Most Feared is no
longer North Carolina
- the Tar Heels have
taken on the label of
Most Reviled this sea-
son after stealing a
tournament berth out
from under several
more deserving teams.
Most Respected in this
2000 tournament could
savvy Gonzaga in the first round. If
they do, St. John's will make sure"
that they watch the Sweet Sixteen
Mkahomavs.. Wthop l2A0p m.
Texas vs.Ima St. 1240 p.m.
LSU s. SEMissouri 3:10p.m.
Pu iue vs. Dayton 3:10 p.m.
Arionta vs Jadcan St. 7:40 p.m.
LoAuiSvill4'S. (GnnzaW7:50 p.m.
St. Johns vs. N. Arizona 9:50p.m.
Wisorsinvs. Fresno St. 10-10p.m.
Kenmuk y v, St. Bon.
Iowa St. m Cen. Qmn.
miy w -ms.lon
Utah v. St. Louis
be Arizona. Very few are doubting
the Wildcats despite the absence of
Loren Woods and their reliance on
Better yet, Gonzaga's run to the
Elite Eight last year has revived
hope for all those lower seeds out
there that they, too, can steal a part
of the glory. But it all starts at noon
today, where eight different subre-
gional sites kick off a much antici-
pated round one. The West and
Midwest regions open play today;
the East and South regions do battle
Season's over: No. 7 Louisville.
It's not even guaranteed the
Cardinals will make it past NCAA-
Fighting chance: No. 3
Oklahoma should advance to --a
Sweet Sixteen matchup with St.
John's. The Sooners drew the most
fortunate of No. 6 seeds for its sec-
ond-round game - UCLA, Indiana
or Miami (Fla.) would representa
much larger problem frO
Oklahoma. Perennial tournament
unknown Purdue isn't going to light
the fire anytime soon.
Favorites: No. 1 Arizona, No, 2
St. John's, No. 3 Oklahoma, No 5
Syracuse. Syracuse has more than
its share of seniors that won't want
their final NCAA Tournament run
to be short. Louisiana State is so
See DANCE, Page 13A
2:50 p m.
from the comforts of
Picking No. 9
Fresno State over
No. 8 Wisconsin is a
gimme, so I'll find
another upset in this
No. I I Dayton will
have a Flying
chance of taking out
No. 6 Purdue. The
Boilermakers are on
a slide that started
with their emotion-
sapping loss at
Indiana and contin-
ued through the Big
Dayton has knocked
off Kentucky atid
.Y-. , ..
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