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March 17, 2004 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 2004-03-17

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12 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, March 17, 2004

NCAA snub
doesn't stop
Blue faithful
By Daniel Bremmer
and Chris Burke
Daily Sports Editors
Crisler Arena was far from sold out for last night's
game between Michigan and Missouri, but you would-
n't have known it from the decibel level.
The 5,507 fans who were present in
13,751-seat Crisler Arena showed no
disappointment that the Wolverines
failed to make the NCAA Tourna-
ment, creating a spectacular atmos-
phere for the first-round NIT contest.
"That's the best I've ever heard the
crowd," Michigan senior Bernard Robinson said. "It
was a very big part of our winning the ballgame."
Senior captain Colin Dill agreed with Robinson: "In
my four years, I've never heard our fans like that. That
was great. For a gym that was half-full, to have that
kind of noise was great."
With just two days between the announcement of
the NIT brackets and last night's game, the Michigan
Athletic Department released all tickets at a discount-
ed price. The result was a lower bowl unusually full of
"I thought our students led the way and we're very
grateful for that," Michigan coach Tommy Amaker
said. "We had a lot of people up out of their seats."
BIG BOY: Missouri center Arthur Johnson is listed at
255 pounds on Missouri's press release. On the Tigers'
website, Johnson is listed at 268.
After banging in the paint all game long against the
Missouri senior, Michigan freshman Courtney Sims
thinks Johnson is more like 275.
Johnson, a Detroit native, fought for position inside,
leading to easy looks at the basket all night long. The
senior connected on 10-for-18 from the floor for 26
points and grabbed 10 boards.
"He's not just a big player - he's very skilled," the
6-foot-11, 230-pound Sims said. "He's probably the
best post player I've played against this year."
Amaker said that his team allowed Johnson to
catch the ball too close to the basket, which led to

Women's basketball coach Cheryl Burnett, far left, takes in the action last night with football coach Uoyd Carr and
Athletic Director Bill Martin.

many easy buckets.
"We didn't do a good enough job of trying to keep
him out of getting that deep (in the lane)," Amaker
said. "When he caught it, he was right into his move.
He didn't have to back down that much."
Despite taking a pounding in the middle, the youthful
Michigan frontcourt picked up some tips from Johnson.
"It was a great learning experience for us, showing
us the capabilities that these (post) guys have," sopho-
more Graham Brown said. "Some of those moves we
can even learn from.:
BREAK IT DOWN: Since yesterday's game against Mis-
souri was the first his team had ever played in the post-
season, Amaker devised a way to try and keep the
Wolverines focused on just one game at a time.
In each Michigan locker is a small, four-team por-
tion of the NIT bracket, featuring Michigan, Missouri,
Oklahoma and Louisiana State.
"Sometimes you get into tournament atmosphere,
and everyone's talking about brackets, and everybody
gets so broad and global, and you forget about what's
right in front of you," Amaker said. "We have a chance
to win our mini-tournament if we can win against our
next opponent."

Michigan seems to have responded to the mini-
"I think that's the perfect attitude that we need to
have coming into this -just take every game (one) at
a time," sophomore Chris Hunter said. "When you
think about it small like that, I think it makes the task a
little bit easier."
NOTEs: With last night's loss, Missouri fell to 2-2
against Big Ten teams this season. The Tigers
knocked off Iowa and Indiana, but lost to Illinois dur-
ing the regular season ... Last night's crowd featured
several recognizable faces: Detroit Pistons coach
Larry Brown and general manager Joe Dumars,
ESPN broadcaster Mike Tirico and former Michigan
basketball star and current ESPN color commentator
Tim McCormick. Tirico was seen cheering for
Michigan on several occasions, while Brown joined
in the "Go ... Blue" call-and-response chant ... A
less-known (but possibly more important) person in
attendance was Brandon Wright, a 6-foot-9, 200-lb.
power forward from Brentwood, Tn. Wright, a mem-
ber of the high school class of 2006, is a Michigan
recruiting target and is ranked one of the top five
players in that class.

Media to blamefor Big
Ten getting the big shaft
has been known for anything, it's
finishing strong. Last season, with
five teams in the Big Dance, and no
team seeded above No. 4, the con-
ference went 8-5 - each team won
at least one game. Wisconsin made
the Sweet 16 and Michigan State
KYLE O'NEILL ;reached the Elite Eight. The
.c 'Atlantic 10 last year? One-and-
The Daily Jamtor rthree with better-seeded teams than
the Big Ten. Conference USA went
'm sorry, this is going to sould 4-3, but Marquette had the confer-
like a contradiction, bst I rea4y ence's only wins.
hate the media right now. Never In 2002, Illinois and Indiana each
have I seen a more unjust trashing reached the Sweet 16. The Hoosiers
of anything than the Big Ten this . went on to be the tourney's runners
basketball season. Not since the up. Where were the mid-majors?
unjust preseason trashing of Big Well, No. 1 Cincinnati was osted
'[en~football two seasonsago ias in the second r dtIy U
there been anything close. Other than Kent State's Cinderella
Now, I'm going to sound a little run to the Elite Eight, none made a
biased, as this conference has splash on the scene.
always been close to me, but it In 2001, three Big Ten teams
seems as though this "Big Ten as the made the Sweet 16, more than any
nation's whipping boy" theme has conference except the Pac 10.
been around much longer than Michigan State made the Final Four
expected. for the fourth straight season too.
Take, for instance, the 2002 sea- In 2000, three teams made the
son in football. Before it even Elite Eight and two made the Final
began, Big Ten fans were told by Four (the Spartans were your cham
the media not to hold their breath as pions that year too). In 1999, two
other conferences would dominate teams made the Final Four. The last
play throughout the entire season. A time Michigan made the tourney in
5-2 bowl record and a natipnal 1998 was also the Big Tens last
championship ri$ by.O jtate rough yea d-enlyr twoea iin$g
told all doubters'whereto stick it. the Swee 16 and'no team advance
But it started even earlier. There further than that.
was 1997, when Charles Woodson What I'm trying to get at is that,
and Michigan were the unwanted no matter the situation, the Big Ten
visitors in Peyton Manning's Heis- has been among the best in the
man run and Nebraska's gift of a postseason. And now, because of
championship to retiring coach Tom some slipups back in November and
Osborne. The Heisman debate is December, the entire conference is
one that will never end, but the split to suffer when it is traditionally hit-
national championship is almost ting its stride.
unforgivable. The fact that Michi- Where's the love that this confer-
gan won, and that they were voted ence deserves?
out of the top spot after winning, is Don't think that the national
sick. The fact that either two coach- media perception of the Big Ten
es voted Michigan third or one didn't hurt the conference during
voted it fourth is pointing to an all- selection time. How else could 19-
out conspiracy theory. 11 Maryland get a No. 4 seed over
The question I have is: Why do Wisconsin or Illinois? Both teams
all this for Tom Osborne and not for had half the losses that the Terps
Joe Paterno and his squad three did, but still found themselves
years earlier? Penn State deserved a below the ACC Tournament Cham-
claim of the national title that pion. Talk about kicking a dog
Nebraska got all of in 1994 for while it's down. If the slightest bit
going undefeated, but the Nittany of respect can't be given to the top
Lions were told the Big Ten was too teams, it's no wonder that Michigan
weak for any thoughts like that. or any other Big Ten team stood
No offense (not that this would absolutely no chance of cracking
offend anyone here, anyway), but into the field of 65.
the Big 12 has been the most over- I can understand the media's love
rated football conference for years, for the mid-major conferences and
yet no one will ever say it. When distaste for the Big Ten. Smaller con-
teams are winning by 50-some ferences are filled with great under-
points on a regular basis, it doesn't dog stories and have many great
equal good teams in a conference. personalities. The Big Ten wins when
Why else did Oklahoma lose to no one expects them to and ruins
Louisiana State? The Sooners had- someone else's great run (yeah, that
n't seen a good defense all season. was No. 6 seed Purdue ending Gon-
But was there ever a national outcry zaga's run in 1999). Mid-majors get
that the Big 12 might be in a down some pretty nice wins in the pre-con-
year? Not that I saw. ference season, which apparently sets
For years, Big Ten football, them for the rest of the season, and
despite its success, has been forced one or two of the teams usually
to survive in a negative environ- makes a Cinderella run. The Big Ten
ment because of a media world that wins when it matters.
wishes to pick on parity, while So, to the media that have dogged
praising d minance in an unbeliev- the Big Ten: When low-seeded Wiscon-
ably weakconference, (cough) sin, Michigan State and Illinois all
Florida State (cough). advance further than your beloved mid-
Now I see the same thing happen- majors, and when Iowa and Michigan
ing in basketball. Was it a down make the semis of the NIT (despite
year for the Big Ten? In terms of Michigan's gauntlet of a draw), just eat
what happened before the confer- some crow and keep your mouths shut
ence season began, yes it was. next season when you'll undoubtedly
Dominant powers like Michigan want to praise the Big Ten.
State and Illinois were unable to

come up with multiple or - in
State's case - any quality wins, Kyle O'Neill insists he isn't biased
and this left the Big Ten wide open and can be reached at
for criticism. But if this conference kylero@umich.edu


Shrink allows players to keep minds on ice

By Michael Nisson
Daily Sports Writer
For those of you who have qualms
about seeing a shrink to deal with your
problems, it might comfort you to
know that even some of the toughest
people on campus see one every week.
Those tough guys are the players on
the Michigan hockey team. Every
Tuesday throughout the season - in
addition to practicing and lifting
weights - the players gather together
with sports psychologist Hugh Bray to
talk about what's on their minds.
Bray, a 1980 Michigan graduate who
received his doctorate in psychology
from St. Louis University in 1986, has
had a plethora of experience in helping
hockey players at all levels. He was for-

merly the team psychologist for the
NHL's Detroit Red Wings and St. Louis
Blues, and also worked with the 1992
U.S. Olympic hockey team.
The topics discussed vary from team
to team, but they generally follow a
similar pattern. Bray's major task at the
beginning of the season is to help with
what he refers to as "team-building"
and helping the freshmen get acclimat-
ed to the college hockey atmosphere. It
differs greatly from the topics dis-
cussed at a time such as now, when the
team is in the hunt for several postsea-
son titles.
"As things get more important
toward the end of the year, (we)
focus on parking distractions ... and
being able to relax," Bray said. "A lot
of the teams are looking for that con-

fidence (that helps them in) getting
rid of any doubts that are there.
(They focus on) what they need to do
to be able to perform at the level
they're really capable of."
Bray's meetings with the team usu-
ally don't involve the coaches. When
Bray began working with the hockey
program, coach Red Berenson had lots
of interest in what Bray was doing
with the team, and spoke to Bray
almost daily.
While Red and Bray continue to talk
about the team, they don't speak as
often. Bray says that this pattern is typi-
cal for any team that he works with.
"Coaches are somewhat suspicious
(of sports psychologists) because the
team relationship is so important,"
Bray said. "After a while, coaches just

step back because (they realize) that
I'm not there as an individual to dis-
rupt coach-player communication.
(They see) that I'm there to almost
encourage that, and to have the team
work better together."
In addition to initial skepticism on
the part of coaches, the players them-
selves are often unsure about talking to
a psychologist. Bray admits he has seen
this skepticism from some college ath-
letes, but most take his advice to heart.
"With the pros, they're much more
involved with what they're doing and
they're less willing to make changes,"
Bray said. "With the college guys, they
seem to be very open and flexible and
adaptable to change. (They) always
seem to be willing to try something
that we've talked about."

Ulrich catches on to team after second try

By Megan Kolodgy
Daily Sports Writer

Last year, then-freshman Alan Ulrich attempted
to walk on to the baseball team. Like many others,
he didn't make the cut.
So why is he on the Wolverines'
roster as a sophomore?.
Ulrich spent the summer fine-
tuning his game and returned to
open tryouts to give his dream of
playing Division I ball a second
"I just went in there thinking I'd give it my best
shot," Ulrich said. "There's no harm in trying."
This time around, the catcher had more luck.
Former starting catcher Jake Fox, the team's
MVP last season and an All-Big Ten first team
pick, left school after being drafted by the Chicago
Cubs as a junior. Another catcher, Alex Coleman,
This left a gap that Ulrich was eager to fill.
"We really needed someone to help us in our
bullpen," coach Rich Maloney said. "Because of
the weather, we have to carry more pitchers
because our season's condensed, and we need a lot
of help grooming our pitchers. Alan was able to

receive pretty well."
Although Ulrich has not seen any game action
yet this season, he performs his role with vim,
something his coach appreciates.
"What he brings to the team is hard work ethic,
and a love for the team," Maloney said.
Maloney added that an attitude like Ulrich's is
not the norm for everyone who walks on to a
"There are some people who - basically -
demand a big role, and sometimes that conflicts
with what's best for the team," Maloney said.
"Alan's known his role at the beginning. He's
accepted it, worked hard at it and I'd even say he's
excelled at it."
Although Ulrich received offers to play at other
schools at which he may very well have had a more
visible role, he does not regret his choice to come
to the University.
"I just thought a degree from the University of
Michigan would be a good thing to have," Ulrich said.
Despite his dedication to academics, Ulrich is
happy for the chance to give the books a rest on
occasion, and don the maize and blue. On occasion,
the fact that he is finally able to contribute to the
Wolverines' cause catches up with him.
"Every once in awhile, as I'm walking into the

lockerroom, I'm like, 'Wow,' " Ulrich said.
That's not to say that the experience has always
been a walk in the park. The transition from student
to student-athlete has been difficult for him. Due to
the chilly conditions in the Midwest, the baseball
team is forced to play in warmer regions. Two
weeks ago, Ulrich and the Wolverines traveled to
Duke, and this weekend, they will trek- to
Louisiana. The schedule has taken its toll on the
"It's definitely challenging balancing school and
sports," Ulrich said. "It took me a long time to get
used to being tired all the time - mentally and
physically tired. So it's been a learning experience.
I've definitely learned to manage my time better."
Whatever this season and his career as a Wolver-
ine hold for Ulrich, both he and Maloney feel that
the choice to place him on the roster was a good
one, even though it took awhile for him to get there.
"He's a good kid and a hard worker, and he's glad
and willing to do anything to be on the team, and
so we're glad to give him that opportunity," Mal-
oney said.
BE LIKE MIKE: Junior Michael Penn was named
co-winner of the Big Ten Pitcher-of-the-Week
Award after a four-hit shutout of Youngstown State
last weekend in a 4-0 win.

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