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March 05, 2002 - Image 9

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SPORTS

michigandaily.com/sports
sportsdesk@umich.edu

TUESDAY
MARCH 5, 2002

9

Big Ten co-champs need to impress at Tourney

By David Horn
Daily Sports Editor

How much does the Big Ten Tour-
nament matter? As the conference's
fifth postseason tournament begins in
two days at the
Conseco Field- BASKETBALL
house in Indi Notebook
anap ol s
coaches, players
and members of the NCAA selection
committee are aware that what tran-
spires at the Big Ten Tournament will
have more impact on the NCAA Tour,
nament than ever before.
"I think this year there's more to
play for," Illinois coach Bill Self said.
"This year will be totally different.
We need to keep the momentum
going. Last year there was more to
lose; this year there's more to gain."
Late surges have put teams like
Self's Illinois squad and Michigan
State back on track after sub-par
starts, and the result is a four-way tie
atop the Big Ten standings between
Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio
State, with the Spartans just a game
behind them all. The last time there
was a four-way tie in the Big Ten was
in 1926, when Iowa, Indiana, Purdue
and Michigan shared the honor.
That makes the job of the NCAA
selection committee a bit more diffi-
cult than it would have been had
Michigan State and Illinois - regular
season co-champions last season -
trailed off midseason and then never
returned. Now it looks like there are
five Big Ten teams assured of a bid to
the Big Dance, and possibly a sixth -
Minnesota - should it advance far in
Indianapolis.
The Big Ten hasn't seen this sort of
parity in years, certainly not since the
conference began its postseason tour-
nament in 1998. Four regular season
co-champions now have to represent

themselves particularly well in the
Big Ten Tournament to assure them-
selves a top-four seed in the NCAA
Tournament.
"Depending on how things play out
in other leagues, I think we should be
a five or better now, with maybe a
chance to be a two. You'd probably
have to run the table to do that
though," said Self of his own team's
status, which mirrors that of the Illi-
ni's Big Ten peers.
There is also the always important
matter of bragging rights.
"We've got to determine who the
best team is," Self said.
ON THE MARK: Michigan State guard
Marcus Taylor was named this week's
Big Ten Player of the Week after his
32 and 34 point performances against
Ohio State and Iowa, respectively. He
shot a combined 8-of-12 from behind
the 3-point line in the two games and
managed to climb five spots to the top
of the conference leaderboard for
scoring. He became just the second
player ever to lead the Big Ten in
scoring (17.7 points per game) and
assists (5.0 assists per game). The
first was Iowa's Andre Woolridge in
1997.
His play is the primary reason why
the Spartans have won five straight
games to put themselves in position
for a return trip to the NCAA Tourna-
ment.
"When your best players play well,
that makes a big difference," Michi-
gan State coach Tom Izzo said of Tay-
lor's impact.
WHO GETS A VOTE?: Don't count
Michigan out of the NCAA Tourna-
ment just yet. Michigan (5-11 Big
Ten, 10-17 overall) somehow earned
eight votes in this week's AP poll.
That places the Wolverines ahead of
such expected Tournament partici-
pants as N.C. State, Memphis and
Missouri.

ARUN
GOPAL

Boston Colleges' hint
at rash o f NCAA upsets

Michigan State guard Marcus Taylor earned Big Ten Player of the Week honors for
the first time in his career by averaging 33 points per game last week.
confidence on
t
current streak
By J. Brady McCollough
Daily Sports Writer

s many of you know, we are
currently in the middle of the
greatest week of the year -
Championship Week. For seven days,
we're transfixed - well, at least I'm
transfixed - by ESPN, ESPN2 and
CBS as they televise tournament cham-
pionship games of conferences that
most people have never heard of (hon-
estly, who knew that the Atlantic Sun
was a D-I basketball league until last
Saturday?).
From the Ohio Valley to the Sun
Belt, college basketball fans around the
country become acquainted with teams
trying to fulfill a dream. The champion
of each conference tournament earns
an automatic bid to the NCAA Tourna-
ment, but for these smaller leagues, the
conference tournaments are especially
important. Unlike the ACC or the Big
Ten, which annually send multiple
schools to the NCAAs, the Big South
isn't going to get an at-large bid any-
time soon. The only way for a school
like Winthrop to get into the Big Dance
is to win the Big South tourney (which
the Eagles did, for the fourth straight
season).
In most years, teams like Winthrop
are nothing more than first-round fod-
der for bigger schools. The euphoria of
making the NCAA Tournament is
replaced with a sense of doom on
Selection Sunday, when some team like
Coppin State finds out that it is the No.
16 seed in the East Region and has to
play Duke in the first round.
But, with Selection Sunday less than
a week away, I'm here to tell these
small schools that this year could be
different. There's always an upset or
two on the opening weekend, but this
season's NCAA Tournament, which
begins next Thursday, has the potential
for a ton of early-round surprises.
The reason for this is simple: I can't
remember another season when there
were so many highly ranked teams who
came out of nowhere to have great
years. I'm talking about teams like
Marquette, Pittsburgh, Oregon and
Gonzaga, which might be the most
overranked team since the inception of
basketball polls. All of these schools
have surpassed everyone's expectations
but their own, and - with the excep-
tion of Gonzaga's Dan Dickau - none
of them have any players that anybody
has heard of.
I'll collectively term these teams
"Boston Colleges", in deference to last
year's Boston College squad. Prior to
the start of last season, everyone
thought Boston College was going to
be horrible, and with good reason -
the Eagles had been one of the worst
teams in the Big East for a few years,
and there wasn't any reason to expect a
change.

The rest is history. Boston College
went on an amazing run, winning both
the Big East regular-season and tourna-
ment titles and cracking the top 10. All
the while, nobody could figure out why
the Eagles were good, and everyone
was waiting for them to screw up. To
top it off, even though Boston College
was winning for five months, nobody
could name any of its players, besides
maybe star guard Troy Bell.
The thing about the NCAA Tourna-
ment is that teams like that are usually
exposed right away. For some reason,
the magic these teams have during the
season vanishes once the Big Dance
starts. Boston College, which was the
No. 3 seed in the East Region, barely
survived the first round before losing in
Round 2 to Southern Cal. In the
process, the Eagles earned a place
alongside the likes of the 1995-96 Pur-
due team, which may have been the
worst No. 1 seed ever (remember when
the Boilermakers almost lost to No. 16
Western Carolina?), the 1998-99
Auburn team, which might have been
the second-worst No. 1 seed ever and
South Carolina, which got two straight
top-three seeds in the late-'90s and
promptly lost to Coppin State and
Richmond is consecutive first rounds.
There are usually one or two teams
like that in a bracket. This year, there's
a chance that all of the No. 2 seeds and
some of the No. 3 seeds will be
"Boston Colleges." Currently, Gonza-
ga, Pittsburgh, Alabama (another team
that could be a "Boston College") and
Oregon are ranked sixth through ninth
in the AP poll, and Marquette is ranked
13th. Two more potential "Boston Col-
leges" - Georgia and Western Ken-
tucky- are ranked No. 17 and No. 18.
Many of these schools will end up
with top-three seeds in the NCAA>,
Tournament. A top-three seed in the
NCAAs usually has the advantage of
intimidation - the smaller schools are
often happy just to be on the same
court. But, a "Boston College" doesn't
scare anybody. A team playing Pitts-
burgh or Oregon in the first round
won't be intimidated and will go in
thinking it has a good chance to win,
which is an ideal formula for upsets.
So, I encourage the Winthrops, Flori-
da Atlantics and Davidsons of Champi-
onship Week to keep their chins up.
Sure, they could end up facing Kansas
in Round One, but who knows? They
could catch a break and earn a No. 15
seed, and this year, that means they'll
have a good shot of seeing the second
round.
Arun Gopal still regrets picking Boston
College to reach the Elite Eight last year
He can be reached at agopal@umich.edu.

Michigan forward Mike Cammalleri couldn't
help but laugh when asked about Mark Mink, his
roommate during his freshman year.
Mink, who has played ice hockey his entire
life, has become progressively more enamored
with field hockey in his time at Michigan. His
"passion and love" for the non-ice variety of the
game can't be questioned.
"He really likes field hockey. It's his favorite
sport," Cammalleri said. "He likes it so much that
sofhetimes we call him a jersey-chaser, because
he's always trying to watch the games."
In addition to his tireless devotion to the field
hockey team, Mink has been chasing plenty of
CCHA jerseys - right into the boards. The jun-
ior has been one of the Wolverines' most consis-
tent workers night in and night out, especially
during their current nine-game CCHA winning
streak.
"He's really stepped it up, especially in the last
couple of weeks, and we needed that," junior
John Shouneyia said. "If we're going to stay hot,
the best players are going to have to keep it up.
We're going to need his success to continue."
Michigan coach Red Berenson said at the
beginning of the season that he and his staff were
expecting Mink to be a big factor on the team's
second line and were hoping he would contribute
15 to 20 goals this season.
But points have not been forthcoming for the
Livonia native, who had just two goals and six
assists on the season going into the Wolverines'
game with Ohio State on Feb. 23.
"It's been frustrating for us and him all year
that he hasn't had a better season," Berenson
said. "And it hasn't been a lack of trying."
Said Mink: "When you're not scoring or con-
tributing offensively, you've got to do the little
things out there. Whether it's a big hit or a good
shift down low cycling the puck, it's going to
wear out the other team's defense."

- TOM FELDKAMP/Daily
After bouncing around between various lines, forward Mark Mink has found his place on the Wolverines. This
past Saturday against Western Michigan, Mink tallied the game-winning assist.

Mink has been a line foster child for most of
the season, alternating between the first, second
and fourth lines as the coaches have tried to find
the right combination for him to excel. but
against Western Michigan, he finally found a
home, paired with Shouneyia - his long-time
teammate - and freshman Eric Nystrom.
Mink found his scoring touch, tallying a goal.
on Friday and the game-winning assist Saturday
on a pass to Shouneyia. He has scored four points
(2-2-4) in his last three games, and considers
himself "on a roll."
"It was a good feeling," Mink said. " I've been

struggling most of the season, but I'm really
starting to get my confidence back."
"He's had a chance to step up and play a bigger
role, and he's done that," Berenson said. "He's
giving us his absolute best effort, and he's getting
rewarded for it."
Shouneyia, who has played with Mink since
they were in junior leagues together, knows his
friend well and believes in what he can do with
some confidence to fuel his performance.
"I know he's capable," Shouneyia said. "He's
taken it upon himself to turn things around and
re-boost his own confidence."

Icers dye hair to get
psyched for playoffs

choosing a concentration? *
The LS&A
Concentration & Advising

By Naweed Sikora
Daily Sports Writer
How can you tell that the Michigan
hockey team has begun preparing for

In addition to the hair, the players
have also started to grow beards.
"We all want to have a little some-
thing there, except (Jed Ortmeyer)
because he can't grow anything,"

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t m I Au

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