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March 11, 2003 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 2003-03-11

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March 11, 2003



Countdown to Chi-town

Bonnies, Bulldogs
are cowardly quitters

'M' singing
tune of its
unsung stars
By Seth Klempner
Daily Sports Writer
Fans at Crisler Arena have grown familiar to see-
ing a 6-foot-10 Mauritanian jump off the bench with
unbridled enthusiasm during each timeout to high
five his teammates. While many fans may not know
who he is, or that Amadou Ba wears the No. 50 or
that Mauritania is in Western Africa, every Wolverine
understands his importance to the team.
At the beginning of each timeout, Ba jumps off the
end of the bench and runs out to midcourt to offer his
teammates words of encouragement. High-fiving the
Wolverines one by one, he is a heartening sight to his
"It is great because you know that he cares so
much about you and the game," senior LaVell Blan-
chard said. "He may not get as much publicity, but he
is one of the most important players on the team."
The sight of players doing this is new to the
Wolverines this year. Under Michigan's previous los-
ing culture, teammates were not typically outwardly
supportive of each other during difficult times. Play-
ers like Ba are something that Michigan coach
Tommy Amaker has been looking for help to improve
the atmosphere and camaraderie among the team.
"It is just something that I can do to motivate and
help my teammates," Ba said. "I feel like that is what
I can bring to the team this year not being able to be
on the court. I am just trying to bring some effort and
enthusiasm to the team."
Ba, who was redshirted this season, is just one of
the players who brings enthusiasm in his limited role
on the team. Players like J.C. Mathis, a junior transfer
from Virginia, is also a key member of the group of
unsung heroes whose contributions can't be meas-
ured on the court.
Mathis is considered one of the most fervent and
animated players on the team. Teammates say, win or
lose, the junior shows up to practice yelling at the top
of his lungs that it's a great day for practice. He has
even been known to yell at other players, forcing
them to raise their level of effort, in an attempt to
make practice as successful as possible.

Tooting my own
Everyone knows that the Fab Five
was the great trendsetter for col-
lege hoops in the 1990s. Guess
what? The Fab Five, it turns out, is also
the trendsetter for college hoops in this
The trend? Self-imposed, preemptive
From Olean, N.Y. to Athens, Ga.,
schools are tucking their tails between
their legs and running away from
impending NCAA sanctions. But
Michigan's sanctions - coming after
years of investigation, and implemented
before the season began - were wiser
and definitely more responsible. The
University of Georgia's self-removal
from the SEC Tournament and NCAA
Tournament consideration, on the eve of
each tournament's commencement, was
o'er hasty, panicked and desperate.
St. Bonaventure's refusal to play its
last two regular season games (after
being suspended from the Atlantic 10
Tournament) was just wicked stupid.
Georgia and St. Bonaventure are not
the only schools finding themselves in
hot water; Fresno State and Villanova
round out the list of recent NCAA trou-
blemakers. But the Bulldogs and Bon-
nies have both shown in the past week
that they are not just cheaters, but cow-
ards and quitters, too.
St. Bonaventure was suspended from
the postseason by the Atlantic-10, and
was forced to forfeit its conference
wins. After hearing this, the Bonnies'
players decided that they would not play
in the team's final two regular season
games, thus wreaking havoc on their
opponents' RPI index ratings. It was
suggested that as a result of the players'
refusal to play, their athletic scholar-
ships be revoked. Already, the school's
board of directors has fired its president
and placed the athletic director and head
coach on leave.
Beyond the tangible repercussions,
the decision to "boycott" the rest of

the season was reactionary and imma-
ture. As many critics have suggested, it
is akin to taking the ball and leaving
the playground in a huff when some-
thing doesn't go your way. The ques-
tion this week has been, "What kind of
program lets its players quit in the face
of adversity?"
As ESPN columnist Tim Keown
points out, the sports universe will for-
give cheating, but we have no sympathy
for quitters.
I especially have no sympathy for a
school president - not coach, not ath-
letic director, but president! - who
plays such a large part in an athletic
scandal. This academic villain allowed a
"student-athlete" admission to the
school with no education to speak of
beyond a welding certificate.
He also personally orchestrated the
hiring of the Bonnies' head coach (who
has a history of wrongdoing) and
allowed his son to serve on the team's
coaching staff and play a hand in the
Last year around this time, I used this
column to condone Georgetown coach
Craig Esherick for declining an invita-
tion to the NIT. He decided that his
players would be better served by stay-
ing on the Potomac during the month of
March and going to class. Is it any won-
der that Georgetown is one of this coun-
try's elite academic institutions, and St.
Bonaventure is nothing more than a sec-
ond-tier basketball school?
Has anyone even heard of St.
Bonaventure outside the discourse of
college hoops? I grew up in upstate
New York, and even I know nothing of
the Bonnies except for their basketball.
If you want your school president to be
a basketball man instead of a biology
man, this is what you get.
Georgia, meanwhile, fired Jim Har-
rick, its head coach, and prohibited
itself from participating in postseason
play. This new trend of sending yourself
to your room before Papa NCAA
comes home and punishes you himself
is a bit disturbing.
I had mixed feelings about Michigan
doing it, but at least that decision was,
made after years of investigation and
consideration. Georgia's self-sanction-
ing comes off as embarrassed and even
insincere, and it does not remove the
school from the inevitable reality of
See HORN, Page 10

Michigan forward Chuck Bailey has been one of the Wolverines who has made an impact off the bench.

While he was embarrassed when confronted, he
says that teammates have called him, "Cal" after the
Baltimore Orioles' star Cal Ripken Jr., ever since he
said he "shows up to work everyday." Blanchard said
that he also calls Mathis "Lunchbox'" but his favorite
nickname is "Soul Train," in honor of the show's host,
Don Cornelius. Blanchard uncovered a team secret by
revealing the origin of J.C - Johnny Cornelius.
Mathis is also known as one of the loudest players
on the team by several accounts. Blanchard went so
far as to say that if Mathis is quiet, there is probably
something wrong with him.
In addition to making teammates laugh with his
antics, the power forward also helps improve their
play After playing two seasons in the ACC, Mathis

knows how to use his body in the post and his experi-
ence to teach the team's freshman big men.
The Brooklyn, N.Y. native, who averaged 4.1
points and 3.1 rebounds at Virginia, is known for his
solid defensive skills and physical style of play.
He helps with "how to defend people in certain
spots," freshman Chris Hunter said. "He is a veteran
in this game, and I just try and learn as much as pos-
sible from him."
The two are part of the Wolverines' blue team,
named because of the jerseys they wear in practice.
They act as a scout squad, whose job it is to execute
opponents' plays in practice. While they may not
receive face time on television, their contributions are
as important to Michigan's turnaround as any other.

Tournament format leaves Big Ten wide-open

By Charles Paradis
Daily Sports Writer
Before Selection Sunday rolls
around, there is one last chance for
bubble teams in the Big Ten to
impress the NCAA Selection Com-
mittee - the conference tourna-
ment. While teams like Wisconsin,
Illinois and Purdue are virtual locks
for the tournament, teams such as
Minnesota and Indiana need a
strong showing in this weekend's
tournament to ensure a spot in the
NCAA Tournament.
With the parity in the league,
almost any team - with the possi-
ble exception of Penn State - has a
chance, however remote, of walking
off with the Big Ten tournament
crown and into the NCAA tourney.
"I think every team that steps on
to the floor is going to think they
can win," Wisconsin coach Bo
Ryan said. "I don't think confi-
dence has ever been a problem with
players in the Big Ten, in believing

that they can get something done."
Ryan has once again coached his
team to a regular season conference
title. This year, the Badgers are the
No. 1 seed, and the biggest concern
for Ryan is keeping his players
motivated throughout the weekend.
"I'm just hoping that our guys
don't lose that edge," Ryan said.
"We are going to play hard and go
out and play as well as we can."
In the short history of the Big Ten
Tournament, no No. I seed has ever
won the conference tournament.
While upsets inevitably happen in a
tournament, Ryan attributes that to
the desire of the underdog to make
it to the NCAA tournament, not to a
higher seeded team slacking off or
holding back for March Madness.
"I think it is because the other
team is going to play better," Ryan
said. "I don't think any team is ever
off its game or going to save any-
thing for the NCAA tournament if
they are the top seed. Every time
they go on the floor they are going

to give everything."
One of the greatest challenges
the tournament poses for any team
is the back-to-back-to-back games
a team - even one with a first
round bye - needs to play to have
a chance of winning the tourna-
ment.This grueling schedule wears
down even the strongest of teams
and makes bench management
even more important. A coach
must find the right balance of min-
utes to play his starters to earn one
win, but not to play them so many
minutes that they cannot play in
the next game. Whether that means
shorter practices or longer minutes
from the players off the bench, a
coach must ensure that his players
are rested enough to compete in
their next game.
"You may cut practices back
coming into the tournament to save
your legs," Illinois coach Bill Self
said. "You have to use your bench
wisely. That's the biggest thing
from a coaching standpoint. You've

got to have enough confidence in
your bench and hope your bench is
deep enough to get three wins in
three days."
The Big Ten Tournament schedue
Ohio State vs. Iowa, 12p.m EST
Minnesota vs. Northwestern, 2:30
Indiana vs. Penn State, 5,05 p.m.
Wisconsin vs. Ohio St1uwa.12 P~m.
Purdue vs. Mvichigan State~, 2:30 pm.:
Illinois vs, Minnesota/NW, 6:40 ptm
.;. hi an vs. h k u mSt ,):10 p intRD Y
Semifinal No. 1 , 140 pm.
Semifinal No. 2, 4:05 pam.
S l NrAY:
Finals, 2:30 p.m

Harrick suspended as
Georgia scandal erupts

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) - Georgia sus-
pended coach Jim Harrick with pay and
withdrew from the
tournaments yester-
day after an internal
showed three play-
ers took a phony .
class taught by an
Harrick's future
is unclear while the Harrick
school and NCAA
look into allegations brought two
weeks ago by a former player.
"The evidence and the findings pre-
sented to us indicated there was aca-
demic fraud," Athletic Director Vince

Dooley said. "There's no evidence at all
that Coach Harrick knew about what
took place."
Georgia, ranked No. 21 in yesterday's
AP Top 25, was a lock to receive a third
straight invitation to the NCAA tour-
ney, which would have been the longest
such streak in school history.
The Bulldogs (11-5 Southeastern
Conference, 19-8 overall) were to play
Arkansas on Thursday in the league
tournament in New Orleans.
The news caps a recent spate of scan-
dals in men's college basketball, includ-
ing: suspensions of 12 players for using
a school access code to make phone
calls at Villanova, forfeits of six wins
and boycotts of two other games at St.
See HARRICK, Page 10

Small school slugger hits
in 59th-straight game

Damian Costantino's name now rep-
resents for college baseball what Joe
DiMaggio's means in the big leagues.
Costantino, who plays for Division
III Salve Regina, broke New York
Yankees third baseman Robin Ventu-
ra's NCAA record for consecutive
games with a hit yesterday, singling
against Mount Union (Ohio) to
extend his run to 59.
Costantino, a 24-year-old outfield-
er from Warwick, R.I., hit an RBI
single over the second base bag with
one out in the third inning.
His teammates rushed the field to
mob him as the play ended.
"As soon as the ball went over
the pitcher's head, I knew it," Con-
stantino said. "There is no emotion
right now. I think the emotion will
come when I tell my dad. It hasn't
sunk in yet."

to 5-1. Mount Union went on to win
the game 13-2.
Costantino had lined out to second
in his first at-bat.
He tied the record the record Sun-
day with hits in both games of a dou-
bleheader against Wesley (Md.)
Ventura, an All-Star who also
played for the New York Mets and
Chicago White Sox, set the old col-
lege mark when he hit in 58 straight
games for Division I Oklahoma State
in 1987.
He didn't even know his record
was in jeopardy until this weekend.
"I know his name now," Ventura
said Sunday. "I don't read a lot of
newspapers now. I hope he does it. I
just know how hard it is."
Costantino almost had his streak
snapped in the first game of Sunday's
doubleheader, striking out in his first

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