SPRING INTO ACTION
The Michigan football team begins spring practice with
JIM WEBER: Im not wony-
ing about the Michigan hockey
team and neither should you.
ALSO ON PAGE 3B
THE SPORTSMONDAY COLUMN
ORTS I AY
March 15, 2004
a!be W YIhrb iu 1
Without Abram, cagers bounced
E By Dan Rosen
Daily Sports Editor
It's a moot point. No one will ever know if Michigan
could have earned an invitation to the NCAA Tournament
with a win over Illinois on Saturday, as many people
Michigan dropped a 74-60 decision to the Fighting Illini
in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament. The team was
not invited to the Big Dance and will play Missouri in the
NIT tomorrow night. G
"I thought that if they win (against
us), they're a definite," said Illinois
coach Bruce Weber of Michigan's aspirations to make the
Both teams were missing key contributors. Forward
Roger Powell was out for Illinois. Michigan was without its
leading scorer from the regular season, Lester Abram, who
injured his left shoulder on a drive to the hoop in Friday's
win over Iowa and was unable to play.
"The decision was made right at game time," said
Michigan coach Tommy Amaker of Abram. "We knew
throughout the evening yesterday and then certainly
into this morning that he was in a lot of pain. It was
very sore, and he was having trouble lifting his arm
above his head."
The 6-foot-6 Powell, who was third on the team in scoring
with 11.5 points per game, suffered a concussion against
Indiana on Friday.
Illinois came out flying from the opening tip, building a
15-5 lead. Guard Dee Brown repeatedly led the Fighting Illi-
ni down the floor in transition. Within the game's first five
minutes, the "One Man Fast Break," as he has been nick-
named in Champaign, scored seven points, grabbed two
steals and dished out an assist.
"They try to get you to turn the ball over," Michigan
guard Horton said. "And it worked at the beginning of
Illinois committed just six turnovers, nine less than the
Wolverines. Two of those Illinois turnovers came late in the
game, after the outcome was already decided. Illinois also
had 22 assists. Its starting backcourt of Brown and Deron
Williams combined for 12 dishes and no turnovers.
The lead ballooned to 14 before the Wolverines got going
late in the first half. 6-foot-li forward Chris Hunter buried
a 3-pointer to make it an eight-point game at the break.
The Michigan onslaught continued at the start of the second
See ILLINI, Page 5B
Missed opportunities spell N-I-T
Garden State of Mind
INDIANAPOLIS - Since missed
opportunities were the theme of this
season for the Michigan basketball
team, why should Selection Sunday be
Heading into the 2003-04 campaign,
the post-season ban was lifted, and
Michigan should've done more to earn
an NCAA Tournament berth. Everyone
wanted to see the Wolverines go danc-
ing, and the bid was theirs for the taking.
But Michigan, more or less, played
its way out of the tournament from the
inside, first dropping a game at home to
a scrub Boston University team, and
then falling to a pathetic Minnesota
team. When given a chance to play its
way back in, Michigan lost to Illinois,
basically with a bid on the line.
And the way that the team managed
to slip out of the Tournament is alarm-
ing. While the team has shown an
increased chemistry and cohesiveness
since the beginning of the season, and
players' roles are becoming more clear,
these aspects were only part of the prob-
lem for the Wolverines. There are still
tons of questions that will need to be
answered as Michigan hits the NIT and
enters next year.
The most alarming of these ques-
tions: Why can't the team take advan-
tage of its opportunities?
The improbable overturning of the
postseason ban by the NCAA early this
year opened the door, but the Wolver-
ines moonwalked away from the Tour-
nament during the season instead of
striding forward through that door.
Michigan needed a win at Min-
nesota - not because of tournament
implications, but just to avoid the
humiliation of losing to a then-win-
less Big Ten team - but came up
empty and embarrassed.
Michigan needed to win at Indiana
against a team that, late in the season,
had no chance at the NCAA Tourna-
ment. The Hoosiers generously gave the
Wolverines every chance to capitalize,
even missing clutch free throws down
the stretch to give Michigan chances to
tie the game. Bracey Wright might as
well have shot the ball in the wrong bas-
ket - Michigan probably would've just
declined the points.
And the final straw was Saturday's
more forgivable, but still painful loss to
Illinois. There wasn't much to play for
from the Illini's perspective. They had
already wrapped up the outright title
and tourney bid.
On the other end of the court was a
Michigan team playing for an NCAA
bid, but the Wolverines came out flat,
were whipped in the beginning of the
game and spent the rest of the contest
playing catchup. They did a commend-
able job fighting their way back, but it
was too big a hole to dig out of.
See BREMMER, Page 5B
BLOCK 'M' BATHLE
Up next for the Michigan basketball team:
Missouri. The Wolverines will face off
against the Tigers tomorrow night at 9 p.m.
at Crisler Arena. The matchup will pit
Michigan coach Tommy Amaker against
Missouri's Quin Snyder - two former Duke
teammates and assistant coaches. If Michigan wins, its second-round
game site will be determined by home attendance at first round sites.
Fill out your NCAA Tournament bracket for the
Michigandaily.com/Papa John's Challenge.
Michigan freshman Courtney Sims (44) is fouled by Illinois' James Augustine during the Big Ten Tournament semifinals on
Saturday. Sims put up 10 points and grabbed 12 boards in Michigan's 74-60 loss.
M' proves 'Super'
after huge third
M MEN'S TRACK AND FIELD
'M' distance medley
sets new world record
By Michael Nisson
Daily Sports Writer
As the Michigan hockey team
took a celebratory lap around the
ice following its 5-2 victory over
Nebraska-Omaha last night, one
would have thought the team had
just won the oeaas
ment. In reality, MICHIGAN 5
the Wolverines had merely sur-
vived round one of the CCHA
The 5-2 victory, coupled with the
Wolverines' 2-0 win on Friday,
gave the Wolverines (18-8-2
CCHA, 25-12-2 overall) their sec-
ond and deciding win in the best-
of-three series against the
Mavericks (5-20-4, 8-26-5). It also
ended Nebraska-Omaha's season.
seemed as if Nebraska-Omaha was
poised to punch a ticket to Joe
Louis Arena for the CCHA Super
Six next weekend.
Then Michigan struck gold.
The Wolverines scored three
goals in a span of 2:43 and left the
Mavericks in their collective dust,
wondering what could have been.
Junior forward Dwight Helminen
started the barrage of goals at the
6:55 mark of the third period. After
Michigan freshman Mike Brown
ripped a shot and hit the post, the
puck seemed to be lodged under
Nebraska-Omaha goalie Chris
Holt's arm. Helminen charged at
the net and pried the puck out of
Holt's grasp, sending it into the
back of the net.
Following the goal, Michigan
kept the pressure on the Mavericks
By Phil Kofahl
Daily Sports Writer"
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - When
sophomore Nick Willis blew by
Arkansas's Mike Taylor with 200
meters to go in the distance medley
relay, he hushed the Arkansas crowd.
And the Michigan faithful in atten-
dance let everyone know who was
the national champion.
In a world-record time of 9:27.77,
the distance medley relay destroyed
the world-class field at the Randall
Tyson Fieldhouse, guiding Michigan
to a fifth-place finish at the NCAA
Junior Nate Brannen gave the
Wolverines the lead during his 1,200-
meter leg of the race, handing off to
junior DarNell Talbert with a 15-
meter lead. Talbert held his own dur-
ino the 400-meter lea hut allowedp
sat on the heels of the Razorbacks'
final runner for 1,400 meters, run-
ning completely relaxed.
When the bell rang for the final
lap, Willis took off. He flew past the
Blue faithful on the backstretch and
pointed the baton in their direction
to thank them, before taking home
the title and running a victory lap
"It's what we came here to do - it
was our focus the entire season." Eller-
ton said. "I just kept us in the race, and
Willis finished the job for us."
The parents, athletes and coaches
who were there could not hold back
when their men came to the stands to
thank them. Talbert's mother, father
and brother smothered him, crying
tears of happiness and pride. It was
Warren Talbert's first time seeing his
son race while wearing a Michigan
uniform and the experience 1left him