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March 09, 2004 - Image 10

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40

Tuesday
March 9, 2004
sports.michigandaily.com
sports@michigandaily.com

PORTS

10

0

Tourney spots up
for grabs in Indy

Chance is there for 'M'

to meet pres

By Daniel Bremmer
Daily Sports Editor
March Madness is nearly in full
swing, so let the speculation begin.
It's almost guaranteed that the Big
Ten will get at least three NCAA Tour-
nament berths from its top three teams:
Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan State.
But beyond that, it's anybody's guess.
"I still think five or six teams is real-
istic (for the Big Ten)," said Purdue
coach Gene Keady, whose team sits at
7-9 in conference games and is seeded
seventh in the Big Ten Tournament.
While Keady's venture looks to be a
MICHIGAN'S NCAA
TOURNAMENT RESUME
Heading into this week's Big Ten Tour-
nament, the Michigan basketball team
sits on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
The following are some of the criteria
the NCAA selection committee will
look at in making its decisions.
RECORD: 8-8 Big Ten, 17-10 overall
RPI RATING: 58
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE: 59
RECORD vS. RPI No, 1-25: 2-2
RECORD Vs. RPI No. 26-50: 0-3
ROAD RECORD: 3-7
What's being said about Michigan's
NCAA Tournament chances:
CBSSPORTSLINE.COM: "Michigan looks like the
Big Ten's best option for a fourth at-large bid."
NBCSPORTS.CoM: "Win or else, Michigan.
Not one game. Every game."
CNNSI.COM: "It takes two (conference touma-
ment wins).".
CLARK KELLOGG, CBS: "Michigan can play
itself back in. They're out, barely."

little unrealistic, Iowa coach Steve
Alford said that he believes a minimum
of four Big Ten teams will be dancing
by week's end.
And since the Iowa-Michigan
matchup will feature the Big Ten Tour-
nament's fourth and fifth seeds, it's like-
ly that the winner of that game would
grab a fourth bid if one were available
for the Big Ten.
The winner of that matchup could
also be a sleeper for the rest of the
tournament.
"We know that we've got to do a
good job of going in there and trying to
take care of business on Friday, because
I think it's a must-win for both teams,"
Alford said.
Ohio State associate head coach Rick
Boyages agreed.
"I think the three top teams are all
more than capable, and then after that
you look at the Iowa-Michigan
matchup, whoever survives that, has a
chance (to win the Big Ten Tourna-
ment)," Boyages said. "I think with
Iowa, depth is a factor, and Iowa very
easily could win against Michigan.
"But from a depth standpoint, to get
to the finals or win the thing, Michigan
may have an edge that way, with the
number of the players they play"
Iowa was the lowest seeded team ever
to win a Big Ten Tournament in 2001,
when they entered as the sixth seed.
Based on his past experience of guid-
ing the Hawkeyes to that 2001 title,
Alford said he believes that the lower-
seeded teams can sneak up on the top
teams in the second round.
"I've always felt like the teams that
play onThursday, have an advantage ...
because they've already played a game
in that city, in that environment," Alford
said. "I think you have a lot of upsets on

A
FOREST CASEY/Daily
Daniel Horton and the rest of the Wolverines still have a chance to dance. A win
against Iowa on Friday could be enough to receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Friday because of that.
"It is the first game for the high seed,
when you got a league that's got a lot of
parity in it. I think those Friday games
become very dangerous."
For Michigan, its first game will
come on Friday, which will also be
Iowa's first game of the tournament.

Michigan coach Tommy Amaker is
looking forward to that extra day off for
his team.
"I think it gives us an added day in
terms of rest and preparation," Amaker
said. "We feel very good about our-
selves to have accomplished that, the
way it fell."

DAN BREMMER
Garden State of Mind
fter winning its appeal of a post-
season ban just before the start
f this season, the Michigan
basketball team had a simple plan: Earn
a berth in the NCAA Tournament. Now,
with two days to go until the Big Ten
Tournament begins, the goal no longer
looks so easy to attain.
With sloppy road losses and inconsis-
tency throughout the season, the Wolver-
ines will now have to win two games in
the Big Ten Tournament (putting them
into the finals) just to be back on the
bubble. Winning three games and taking
home a conference tournament title is
the only way to guarantee a berth.
Quite a change from a few weeks
ago, when people thought the Wolver-
ines would need just one win in the
tournament to solidify their NCAA
resume.
Dropping road games at Minnesota
and Iowa earlier in the season, and los-
ing more recent decisions to Michigan
State and Indiana, criticism has flowed
over the past few weeks. These voices
are quick to point out what's wrong with
the team: Tommy Amaker can't coach.
Daniel Horton was better last year.
Bernard Robinson is more of a role
player than a team leader.
Now, Michigan has a chance to
silence its critics and put its season back
on track.
Winning the tournament and earning
a trip to the Big Dance would be a
chance to prove to critics (and to them-
selves) that the preseason expectations
weren't set too high.
And Michigan may have the right
ingredients to turn some heads in the
Big Ten Tournament.
The Wolverines have enough talent
and depth to make a run. When Horton,
Robinson, Lester Abram, Dion Harris
and Courtney Sims all bring their 'A'
games, Michigan is a tough team to beat.
And when contributors like Brent Pet-
way, Graham Brown and Chris Hunter
are chipping in and offering support,
again, things look extremely bright for
the Wolverines. Since the team winning
the tournament will need to prevail in
three games in three days, Michigan has
the depth that could make such a run
possible.
The Wolverines also enter the tourna-
ment with a little bit of momentum and
confidence, coming off of a win at
Northwestern. The Wildcats are no
longer a JV team - they beat Illinois
and Wisconsin, and had dropped just
one other Big Ten game at home before
Saturday.
-And perhaps the most important
dynamic for Michigan in the tourna-
ment: the Horton factor. After his Big
Ten Freshman of the Year campaign,
Horton has pulled a Houdini act for
much of the Big Ten season in his soph-
omore year, watching points disappear,
while he has settled for long jumpers
game in and game out.

eason goals
But on Saturday at Northwestern,
Horton looked like his old self in the
first half of the game. Possession after
possession, the 6-foot-3 Texan got into
the lane and to the rim for easy looks en
route to 6-for-8 from the floor in the
half, a far cry from his usual 4-for-12 or
3-for-l lines, which had become all
too familiar.
If Horton can piece together a few
games in a row where he returns to last
year's form and busts out - something
which may be overdue now - Michi-
gan has to like its chances.
Michigan will also have to come out
and play intense, urgent basketball -
something which it has failed to do in
its last two games. In its upset of Wis-
consin two weeks ago at home, Michi-
gan played with a determination and
will to win that put it over the top. The
Wolverines wanted the game more than
the Badgers. It showed, on the court,
and on the scoreboard.
Fast forward to Michigan's last two
games, two must-win road contests.
Had Michigan knocked off Indiana at
Assembly Hall and then Northwestern
in Evanston, it would have been in
prime position to win a Big Ten Tourna-
ment game or two and put itself into the
NCAA Tournament.
But Michigan came out flat against
Indiana, and failed to turn it on down
the stretch, when they had chances to
take the game away from the Hoosiers.
The Wolverines also played unin-
spired basketball for much of the North-
western game, and was on the losing
side of the aggression battle. Fortunate-
ly, they stepped up down the stretch and
benefited from key Wildcat misses to
pull off the win.
But playing just a few minutes of
high-intensity basketball won't be
enough to knock off the conference's
elite.
The Big Ten Tournament also gives
Michigan a chance to show the selec-
tion committee that it deserves an at-
large bid into the Big Dance by giving it
the chance to play Big Ten regular sea-
son champion Illinois. Should the
Wolverines get by Iowa on Friday, Illi-
nois would be next. Facing the Illini cer-
tainly wouldn't be a cakewalk for the
Wolverines, but Illinois is not a team
that is out of Michigan's league, as is
proven by their one-point nail-biter win
against Ohio State on Sunday. Besides,
the Illini have already locked up an
NCAA berth and will be playing for
nothing more than seeding in Indi-
anapolis. If the Wolverines come with
the right attack plan, an upset isn't out
of the question.
Michigan needs to put it all together
at the right time, play with determina-
tion and receive a contribution from
Horton and his companions. If they do
this, the Wolverines would sit in a posi-
tion where an NCAA Tournament berth
isn't out of the question. Even if it's not
an easy road at this point, it's still a road
in the right direction.
But if Michigan comes out flat against
Iowa or Illinois, it can kiss its hopes of a
Tourney bid goodbye and will have to
start coping with the fact that it failed to
meet its biggest goal this season.
Daniel Bremmer can be reached at
bremmerd@umich.edu.

Joe Louis feels like a second home for Icers

By Brian Schick
Daily Sports Writer
The Detroit Red Wings currently enjoy the best
home record in the NHL. The Michigan hockey team
hopes that it can also take advantage
of the benefits of Joe Louis Arena as
the team prepares for next week's
Super Six Championship.
The Wolverines are no strangers to X
playing in Hockeytown, as Michigan
played its 100th game at "the Joe"
earlier this season over Thanksgiving weekend. Since
Michigan played its first game in the arena against
Michigan State in 1979, it has played several regular

season games at Joe Louis in preparation for the CCHA
Tournament, which is also played in the arena.
"We've played some great games at Joe Louis and
we've had some great experiences," Michigan coach
Red Berenson said. "For the most part, it's a big-game
environment. You're not going to get anything better
than that."
Berenson always tries to schedule multiple games in
the regular season at Joe Louis to prepare his team for
postseason play. Thus far this season, Michigan has
played three games in Detroit - two in the Great
Lakes Invitational and one this past Saturday (a 1-0
loss) against Michigan State. Since the arena seats
more than 20,000, it can be an intimidating place for a
first-time participant.

"The atmosphere was insane at Joe Louis and the
boys seemed really up for it," said freshman Tim
Cook, who played in the GLI. "It was exactly what it
was built up to be. (Saturday's) game was more excit-
ing than watching a pro game."
But for some of the upperclassmen, it is just another
day at the office.
"After the first few times, it's just another game,"
junior David Moss said. "It's pretty much the same
environment (as any other arena in the CCHA)."
Michigan has fared well at Joe Louis over the years,
totaling a 65-34-2 record, including a 16-8 record in
the CCHA Tournament. But before returning to their
"home away from home," the Wolverines will need to
take care of No. 12 seed Nebraska-Omaha in the first
round of the CCHA Tournament this weekend at Yost
Ice Arena. Earlier this season, Michigan couldn't
sweep the Mavericks in Omaha. They won the Friday
game 2-1, but had to battle back from a 3-1 deficit to
escape with a 3-3 tie the next night.
"I thought Omaha matched up well against us,"
Berenson said. "We felt fortunate to tie the game on
Saturday night. They're a more dangerous team than
their record would indicate. The pressure is on the
first-place team - the last-place team has nothing to
lose, and they're going to play that way."
TURCO RETURNS To YOST: Before Friday night's game
against Nebraska-Omaha, the first 500 fans will
receive a coupon for a Marty Turco bobblehead. An
additional 750 bobbleheads will be available for pur-
chase at the M-Den at Yost Ice Arena. This will be the
first in a series of bobbleheads with a new player to be
released every season.
Turco, currently a member of the NHL's Dallas
Stars, played at Michigan from 1994-98, and won two
national championships. He holds the NHL record for
lowest goals-against average in the modern era at 1.72.
ROoKIES OF THE YEAR: Two members of Michigan's
solid freshman class were named to the CCHA All-
Rookie Team yesterday - center T.J. Hensick and
defenseman Matt Hunwick. There has been a Wolver-
ine on this All-Rookie Team in 12 of the past 18 sea-
sons. Hensick led the team in scoring, while Hunwick
led the team in plus/minus.

GENE KEADY SAYS FIVE OR SIX
BIG TEN TEAMS WILL DANCE.
WE'D LIKE TO BE SMOKING
WHATEVER HE IS.
DAILY SPRTS.

4
I

TONY DING/Daily
Junior David Moss and the Wolverines have already played three games at Joe Louis Arena this season, and
hope to play there again next weekend at the CCHA Super Six Tournament.

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