Blue looks to
By Chris Burke
Daily Sports Editor
If you said before the Big Ten conference season began that
Northwestern would finish ahead
of Michigan, you probably would
have been shot some very strange
But that's exactly the situation
heading into tomorrow's regular
season finale in Evanston. Michi-
gan (7-8 Big Ten, 16-10 overall)
has struggled through an unex-
pectedly tough Big Ten campaign,
and as a result of the Wolverines'
loss at Indiana on Wednesday,
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their NCAA Tournament hopes are quickly fading.
Northwestern, meanwhile, has been one of the Big Ten's
most pleasant surprises. In a year when the conference as a
whole has struggled, the Wildcats (8-7, 13-13) have taken
advantage. A win over Michigan would guarantee Northwest-
ern a record no worse than .500 and quite possibly award it an
National Invitational Tournament bid. The Wildcats have been
to the postseason just three times in their history - the last
being a trip to the NIT in 1999 - and have never been to the
Working in Northwestern's favor tomorrow is the fact that
Michigan has had an incredibly difficult time on the road this
season. Wednesday's 61-56 loss to the Hoosiers dropped the
Wolverines to 1-6 away from Crisler Arena in conference play.
"Every game that we lost this year, I felt like it was up to
us," Michigan senior Bernard Robinson said. "It was up to us
to determine how that ballgame comes out"
Back on Jan. 7, the Wolverines started their Big Ten season
on a positive note, routing the Wildcats 78-54 at Crisler Arena.
In that game, Michigan exploited its athletic advantage
over Northwestern, running the floor early and often. Guard
Lester Abram posted 27 points, and Robinson added 18 as the
Wolverines were consistently able to create open looks.
But offensive success has often been hard to come by for
the Wolverines on the road, and such problems definitely sur-
faced in Bloomington. Robinson was the poster boy for
Michigan's struggles in Assembly Hall as he hit for a mere
two points on 1-for-9 shooting.
"We're going to need (Robinson) and it wasn't there
Michigan senior Bernard Robinson and the Wolverines will look
to keep their slim NCAA Tournament hopes alive tomorrow.
(Wednesday)," Amaker said. "We couldn't find a way through
it without him, and I thought that it really showed. I'm not
blaming him - please don't take that the wrong way. I'm just
saying that he's been our most consistent and our best player
and certainly, when we're on the road in a tough game, we're
going to need Bernard Robinson."
Northwestern might not be the best team for Michigan to
rediscover its offense against. The Wildcats have given their
opponents fits this season with their slow-paced, "Princeton"
offense and solid defense.
Northwestern has also been successful in establishing itself
inside and out. On the perimeter, the Wildcats are led by
unsung senior Jitim Young, who posts nearly 18 points a
game. On the interior, forward Vedran Vukusic has found his
stroke en route to averaging 14 points a contest.
So while the Wildcats are brimming with confidence com-
ing off a win over Iowa on Wednesday, the Wolverines will
desperately need to find their edge if they are to keep their
slim NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
"I'm not down," Abram said after Michigan's loss to Indi-
ana. "I'm going to still keep playing and try to win the game
Outdoor season comes a step closer
By Matt Venegoni
Daily Sports Writer
Spring is in the air, even if the Michigan weather does not
always show it.
For the Michigan women's track team, spring means that the
outdoor season is just around the corner. With a second-place
finish in the Big Ten Championships this year, the Wolverines
look as if they will have all the pieces needed to capture their
fourth straight Big Ten outdoor title. But, before that challenge
begins, the team has some indoor-season ends to tie up.
Those ends include the non-scoring Alex Wilson Invita-
tional. Competing this weekend is a decision that is left up
to the athletes, but many will participate. This is the last
chance to qualify individually for the NCAA Champi-
onships or to obtain personal records. For some, this week-
end will be a nice rest before the NCAAs, March 12 and 13.
"We're sending a few girls to a meet at Notre Dame, but
basically we're training through it," junior Lindsey Gallo said.
Although some team members will not compete this
weekend, it is still an important weekend for the eight ath-
letes who are going to the Invitational.
"Overall the Invitational is optional to the girls, but we
are allowing those who are close to qualifying to compete,"
Michigan coach James Henry said.
One group that will not be running is the distance medley
relay of Gallo, sophomore Katie Erdman, senior Carly
Knazze and junior Theresa Feldkamp. The group already
qualified for the NCAA championships held in Fayetteville,
Ark., and holds the fifth-fastest national time in the distance
medley relay, as well as the fastest time in the conference. In
2003 NCAA meet, Gallo and Erdman ran the same event
and placed 10th.
"Last year it was disappointing to only come in 10th and
miss being All-American," Gallo said. "So this year we are
focused on improving our place and being All-American in the
(distance medley relay). I think we all feel very confident."
The quartet seems to be peaking at the right time as it
took first in the Big Ten championships. Erdman and Gallo
will run individually at the NCAA meet. This is a testament
to the relay's wide-ranging talents. However, the group
thinks it has much more room to improve.
"None of us have really been pushed to our max yet, so
we have a lot more room to improve," Feldkamp said. "It
will be exciting to see who comes out on top."
The experience Erdman and Gallo gained at last year's
NCAA meet could be an advantage for the medley relay, as
two of its runners won't be as surprised and distracted by
participating for the first time.
"It's so difficult to even qualify for the nationals that just
being there shows that you are an elite athlete," Henry said.
"But I do think that the distance medley relay has a great
shot at medaling."
After the Alex Wilson Invitational and the NCAA meet,
spring will have officially sprung, and the outdoor season
Junior Lindsey Gallo and her distance medley team have
already qualified for the NCAA Championships.
0 WATER POLO
'M' ready to take on rival Indiana
By Harold Fogel
Daily Sports Writer
Like most of the student body, the
Michigan women's water polo team
spent its Spring Break in the sunshine.
But, instead of relaxing on the beaches
of Mexico, the squad was hard at work
in the pools out West, taking on some
of the best teams in the country.
As has been the case in past visits
to California, the road trip proved to
be another learning experience for
the Wolverines. Even though the
team dropped four of six games,
several positives came out of the
visit. Michigan faced great teams,
including No. 1 Southern Cal. So
while the losses may have hurt
Michigan's overall record, they
should prove to be extremely valu-
able in the long run.
"We have to keep playing teams that
make us play better," coach Matt
Anderson said. "It is one thing to win
a game you should win, and another
thing to play a team that will make
you better. That is how you learn.
"We played very well, just not quite
well enough. We had a really good
showing, except for the losses. To lose
three games by a total of five goals
shows we can be competitive with the
best teams in the country."
Michigan looks to take this learning
experience with it in a trip to Bloom-
ington tomorrow for the first Colle-
giate Water Polo Association
Divisional Weekend of the season.
Not only is this weekend's tournament
a chance for the Wolverines to get
back on the winning track, but the
results of this tournament will deter-
mine the seeding for the Divisional
Championship in April. Michigan will
also be putting its perfect conference
record on the line. The team is 24-0 in
divisional play since the program
began in 2001.
The featured matchup of the tourna-
ment is Michigan's showdown against
Despite the fact that the Hoosiers have
not beaten Michigan in 14 contests,
the games are always close and
intense. Of those 14 games, five have
gone into overtime and 10 have been
decided by two goals or fewer. At the
season-opening Michigan Invite, the
Wolverines won 4-2. As always, the
game was fierce and physical, display-
ing the intense rivalry.
"(Indiana coach) Barry (King) and I
remain good friends," Anderson said.
"Before the game, we wish each other
good luck and we are good friends
after the game, too. However, during
the game we are not friends."
The Wolverines will also face
Slippery Rock tomorrow. Michigan's
all-time record is 6-0 against Slip-
pery Rock, including an 18-3 victory
in last season's Divisional Champi-
onship. The Wolverines will then
meet a similar-looking foe in the
Grove City Lady Wolverines.
Michigan is also undefeated against
its biggest rival,
No. 9 Indiana.
Continued from Page 8
contenders to take the crown.
For heavyweight Greg Wagner (29-6 overall), a No. 2 seed,
this weekend is a chance for him to conquer his toughest
nhela .n r.I a cn hie ~t. .far
that notion to bed.
"No way," the coach said. "Not with how competitive the
Big Ten is and with the NCAAs coming up. Regardless of
what happens this weekend, we are going to keep our heads
up and go into the NCAAs strong."
Wagner agreed: "It would be a big disappointment to have