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November 08, 2001 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily, 2001-11-08

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THURSDAY
NOVEMBER 8, 2001

11A

Pivotal week
in Big TenF
for second -
place teams
By Ben Ramirez -

JOE
SMITH

New '5/8 rule' is good,
but will it hurt the game

As the Big Ten heads into its final weeks of the
regular season, it lacks a team undefeated in confer-
ence play following Michigan State's upset of now
No. 12 Michigan. This should come as no surprise
to fans who have witnessed the great increase of
parity in the conference over
the past few years. AROUND THE
Despite their loss, the consis-
tently powerful Wolverines are BIG TEN
still in the driver's seat along
with Illinois, which also has one conference loss to
Michigan. Lurking in the shadows are Michigan
State, Ohio State and Purdue, each tied for third
with two losses apiece. At least one of these two-
loss teams will fall this weekend as Purdue heads to
Columbus to take on the Buckeyes in this week's
most important Big Ten matchup.
PENN STATE (2-3 BIG TEN, 3-4 OVERALL) AT No.
14 ILLINolS (4-1, 7-1) 2:30 P.M. ABC: The Illini
square off at home against Penn State coach Joe
Paterno and the rejuvenated Nittany Lions. Illinois
coach Ron Turner's team is coming off a huge road
win over Purdue, while the Lions are riding a three-
game winning streak sparked by Paterno tying the
all-time wins record with an upset at Northwestern.
Though Penn State leads 9-1 in the brief series, it
will be difficult to continue that success. Illinois
quarterback Kurt Kittner - possibly the best quar-
terback in the Big Ten - has led the Illini to a 7-1
record by averaging 267 passing yards per game,
which leads the conference. His favorite target is
sophomore receiver Brandon Lloyd, who has had
five 100-yard games.
After starting 0-4, and being ranked dead last in
scoring, rushing and total defense nationally, Pater-
no's team has found new life. With freshman quar-
terback Zack Mills at the helm, the Nittany Lions
have scored 105 points and gained 1,475 total yards
in the last three games, greatly improving their aver-
ages.
While history and momentum seem to favor the
Nittany Lions, they will struggle against Illinois'
explosive offense and much improved defense.
Expect Penn State's magical streak to end, as the
Illini win the matchup for the first time since 1960.
Illinois 35, Penn State 14
INDIANA (2-3, 2-5) AT No. 23 MICHIGAN STATE (3-
2, 5-2): Cam Cameron's Hoosiers have quietly
become the team nobody wants to play in the Big
Ten. They have lost five games, yet they scored at
will against both perennial heavyweight Wisconsin
and fast-fading Northwestern, beating the Wildcats
56-21 in Bloomington. With Antwaan Randle-El
leading the attack and surprise star Levrion Williams
in the backfield, Indiana can put up enormous num-
bers. But the Badgers and Wildcats have proved to

BRENDAN U0ONELL/Daniy
Purdue and Brandon Hance fell to llinois last week, but can remain in the Big Ten title race with a win over
Ohio State this Saturday in Columbus.

be much weaker than originally expected. The
Hoosiers are plagued by a porous defense that
allows 31.4 points per game-last in the confer-
ence.
Meanwhile, the Spartans are coming off a big
victory over the Wolverines. Explosive running
back T.J. Duckett had a breakout game, rushing for
211 yards and one touchdown, as well as the game
winning receiving touchdown. Duckett's rushing is
complimented by quarterback Jeff Smoker, who has
thrown for over 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns on
the season. On defense, the Spartans are strong at
linebacker with senior Josh Thornhill leading the
way with 79 tackles. Despite an injury-ridden sec-
ondary, Michigan State still managed two intercep-
tions against the Wolverines' normally accurate
quarterback.
While the Spartans could have a slight letdown
after last week's emofional victory, their tough rush-
ing defense should stop Randle-El and Williams in
their tracks and Duckett should have another big
game against the Hoosiers' poor defense. Expect
the Spartans to stay undefeatedat home and gain
bowl eligibility.
Michigan State 41, Indiana 21
No. 24 PURDUE (3-2, 5-2) AT OHIO STATE (3-2,
5-3) 12:10 P.M. ESPN: Ohio State looks to keep
its conference title hopes alive by upending No. 24
Purdue in Columbus. Jim Tressel's Buckeyes can
still win a share of the Big Ten title by winning out,
a daunting task considering their final two games
are against conference co-leaders Illinois and

Michigan.
The series has been dominated by Ohio State
which has won 32 of 45 games. However, Joe
Tiller's Boilermakers won in a thrilling 31-27 come-
back last year in West Lafayette. The Buckeyes are
coming off a tight road win over lowly Minnesota,
while Purdue suffered a crushing loss to Illinois.
The Illini scored 38 unanswered points after going
down 13-0 to win 38-13.
Both teams have strong defenses, led by two of
the Big Ten's best defensive backs in Purdue's Stu-
art Schweigert (10 career interceptions) and Ohio
State's Mike Doss. Throw in two inconsistent quar-
terbacks in Ohio State's Steve Bellisari and Purdue's
Brandon Hance, and you get a close, low-scoring
affair. However, the Buckeyes are 3-1 at home, hav-
ing only given up 18.8 points per game, second in
the Big Ten and 20th nationally. Look for Doss and
Ohio State to stop Tiller's spread offense and win a
close one at home, gaining bowl eligibility just
before facing the gauntlet of the Illini and Wolver-
ines.
Ohio State 21, Purdue 17
IOWA (2-4, 4-4) AT NORTHWESTERN (2-4, 4-4)
12:00 P.M. ESPN-PLUs: Last year when Iowa beat
Northwestern in Iowa City 27-17, it was a huge
upset and it cost the Wildcats a trip to the Rose
Bowl. This year, both teams have four losses and
are struggling to stay in the bowl picture. This was
expected of the Hawkeyes, but many picked North-
western coach Randy Walker's Wildcats to win the
See BIG TEN, Page 13A

hris Webber will always be
known for helping the "Fab-
Five" lead the Wolverines to two
Final Four appearances. And of course,
his timeout in the championship game
nearly a decade ago.
But some people in the NCAA office
remember him for what he didn't do -
graduate. Webber didn't even return to
classes after the heralded championship
game. He decided to enter the NBA
draft and eventually landed with the
Golden State Warriors.
No one could fault Webber complete-
ly, as many players who declare them-
selves eligible for the draft stop going
to class in the middle of the semester.
But it was a start to quite a disturbing
trend.
From 1996-2000, 213 underclass-
men have declared themselves eligible
for the NBA Draft. This youth move-
ment is not only hurting graduation
rates but also basketball programs.
To remedy the situation, on Nov. 1,
the NCAA passed an amendment to the
"5/8 policy" that in theory will change
the way basketball coaches recruit and
the rapidly declining graduation rate.
The "5/8 policy" is a rule that does not
allow a school to offer more than five
scholarships over one season and eight
over two.
In effect, the ruling discourages
coaches from recruiting NBA-caliber
athletes that have no intention of staying
in school and rewards coaches whose
players are "on track to graduate."
But will the limitation of initial
scholarships actually stop college
coaches from chasing those poster boy
prospects like Eddie Griffin and Jason
Richardson? Will a pressure to "win at
all costs" transform into a race to see
which school can graduate the-most
kids?
Highly doubtful. But it's a start.
When you look at the latest figures,
it's hard to see a huge change right
around the corner. According to the
latest NCAA statistics, only 34 per-"
cent of players in the 114 largest bas-
ketball programs have received
diplomas - the lowest in a decade. As
a team, the Wolverines have only gradu-
ated 14 percent.
Here's the solution given by the
NCAA.
Starting this year up until the 2002-03
season, schools will be given a total of

nine initial scholarships to use, with no
more than five in one year. This is one
more than the original "5/8 rule" set in
place, but it will help the coaches tran-
sition to what lies ahead in 2003-04
season.
In the 2003-04 season, if the number
of student-athletes who graduate in any
given year combined with those who
leave an institution early but are "on
track to graduate" within five years
exceeds the number of initial grants
provided, the school can earn one addi-
tional scholarship.
Coaches like Michigan State's Tom
Izzo have said, "Why should we be pun-
ished for having NBA-caliber kids?"
To Percy Bates, who is vice chairman
of the NCAA Management Council and
professor at Michigan's school of Edu-
cation, the answer is simple.
"If the purpose in higher education is
to generate individuals for the NBA,
then that can't be taken away from
him," Bates said, "But if the purpose is
to give a sound education to student-
athletes, then thereshouldn't be any
complaints."
Bates said that a lot of it has to do
with the kind of players that coaches
target in recruiting process.
"It's reasonable when one or two
players leave, but if you bring in five
McDonald's All-Americans that you
know will leave in a year or two, you're
going to wreck your program," Bates
said.
Just look at Michigan State. The
Spartans lost nearly 10 players to the
NBA in the past three years, including
two underclassmen this past summer.
Izzo still needs 13 players, but if he has
another mass exodus, he will only have
five scholarships to replace them with.
Because of the recent departures, Izzo
is now carrying three walk-ons.
Coaches who recruit a rent-a-star'k
like Quentin Richardson, who had no
intention of graduating from DePaul,
will remember that having a great play-
er for one season won't necessarily do
anything for the program.
With this new rule, big-time colleges
can still secure NBA talent. But their
players just have to go to class.

Joe Smith can be reached at
josephms@umich.edu.

Icers run player-only practices in forced break

By Naweed Sikora
Daily Sports Writer

For the first time since November
of 1998, the Michigan hockey team
has a week off. Because it is not
playing, NCAA regulations forbid
Michigan's coaches from even hold-
ing official practices this week.
Consequently, the Wolverines are
practicing this week without their
coaches present. They will also use
the week to relax and catch up on
schoolwork.
"This is an open week for them,"
assistant coach Mel Pearson said.
"We might have some individual
meetings with some of the players if
they want to come in and talk to us
about school or hockey, but they're
pretty much on their own."
Since it was sandwiched in-
between two difficult away series,
this week initially seemed like the
perfect time for an off-week. But
instead, after playing their best
weekend of the season by sweeping
* Alaska-Fairbanks 2-1 and 4-0, the
Wolverines now need to find a way
to keep their new-found momentum
going through the time off.
Several things went right for
Michigan this weekend. Goalie Josh
"Don't let your
HAIR

Blackburn turned in his strongest
weekend of the season, earning his
10th career shutout Saturday night
and stopping 62 of 63 shots on the
whole. For his efforts, U.S. College
Hockey Online named Blackburn
one of its Players of the Week.
"Blackburn made some huge
saves out there and really had a
strongweekend," Michigan coach
Red Berenson said.
Another positive sign for the
Wolverines was their penalty
killing. Michigan killed off all 12 of
the Nanooks' powerplays, while
scoring a shorthanded goal and a
powerplay goal of its own.
"Special teams play made a huge
difference," Berenson said. "The

penalty killing was much better than
what it had been. The team did a
better job of controlling the puck
and clearing it when they got a
chance.
"We ended up being plus-two in
special teams on the weekend,
which made a huge difference."
Both coaches felt that the most
important thing from this weekend's
sweep was the mental boost it gave
the players.
"So much is expected out of this
program to do well," Pearson said.
"The players knew all along that we
were good, but sometimes doubt can
creep in. Red did a great job of let-
ting them know that we do have a
good team here."

"This weekend reassured some of
our young players that we have a
strong team, but the players are also
honest," Berenson said. "They know
that it is early in the season and that
we have a long way to go. The wins
brought us back to .500, but the
team still has to play better."
Michigan was originally scheduled
to host Merrimack College this week-
end, but their games were taken.away
as a penalty when the NCAA ruled
that the Wolverines played one too
many games last season.
With the time off, the coaches
will turn their attention towards
other matters for the time being.
The most pressing concern at the
See BYE, Page 12A

BRENDAN O'DONNELL/Daily
Michigan goalie Josh Blackburn had one of the best weekends of his career,
stopping 62 of 63 shots against Alaska-Fairbanks last weekend.

Ann Arbor Civic Theatre presents
A Midsummer Night's Dream

This Weekend in
. Michigan Athletics

Presented by:

~Al'eritech

I

Volleyball
Alumni Weekend
Friday. November 9
Michigan vs.
#7 Wisconsin
7 p.m.
Saturday, November 10

Women's
Basketball
Get your first look at the
2001-02 Wolverines!
Friday, November 9
Michigan vs.
Latvia RTU Clondica

by William Shakespeare
set in 1930s era New York City

I

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