March 15, 2005
sports. michigandaily. com
Icers toss razors
aside for playoffs
Amaker & co. have
a ways to go,
By Gabe Edelson
Daily Sports Writer
In a sport as rife with superstition as
hockey - see Milan Gajic's many idio-
syncrasies - it was inevitable that one
of the game's most famous playoff tradi-
tions would make its way to the Michi-
Until their season comes to a close
in the NCAA Tournament, most Michi-
gan players will refrain from shaving in
order to grow playoff beards, goatees,
or - in the case of follicly challenged
freshman Chad Kolarik - long side-
"I'm kind of missing two spots right
here," Kolarik said, pointing to his jaw.
"It doesn't connect, but it's all right. (My
teammates) give it to me, for sure. They
call me Elvis. I've got the chops going."
Gajic, a senior with perhaps the full-
est beard on the team, has no problem
pointing out another example of furry
futility. In this case, the culprit is a
senior alternate captain.
"(Brandon) Rogers is trying," Gajic
said. "But he's got a lot of bald spots all
over the place on his face. It's kind of
The ritual is generally believed to
have started in the early 1980s, when
the NHL's New York Islanders featured
several players who refused to shave in
the postseason. The team ran off four
straight Stanley Cup titles. One promi-
nent member of those Islanders teams
was Bobby Nystrom, the father of Mich-
igan senior captain Eric Nystrom.
The younger Nystrom has become
one of the Wolverines' most outspo-
ken grooming critics. Nystrom com-
pared Kolarik to the X-Men character
Wolverine and explained that Rogers
and freshman Kevin Porter can't grow
more than mustaches. But after some
prodding, Nystrom admits that he was
a baby-faced freshman himself a few
"I think my Under-18 year, all I could
grow was a little chin piece," Nystrom
said. "My freshman year, I couldn't
quite get one (either)."
But with age, Nystrom's ability to
grow facial hair improved. And now, in
his final year in Ann Arbor, the captain
is looking forward to taking advantage
"I'll grow the beard," a well-whis-
kered Nystrom said. "I'm just going to
let it go. Hopefully, we last long enough
that it comes in."
Nystrom pointed out senior Reilly
Olson's bright red beard as one of the
more distinct results of the playoff rou-
tine. But Michigan coach Red Berenson
refuses to put any stock in what he sees
as an ineffective strategy.
"I don't think it means anything,"
Berenson said. "I've seen them do all
kinds of goofy things in the playoffs,
and none of it has worked, in my mind.
Eric Nystrom is carrying on the playoff beard started by his father's Islander teams.
Of late, I haven't seen anything that
made a difference on the ice."
Still, the coach recognizes the intangi-
ble effect of the beard-growing tradition.
"It can be a mental thing," Berenson
said. "It can be a. team-building thing.
You like your team to have their best
chemistry and enthusiasm this time of
year. I can live with it. I know they mean
well. It's not like they're trying to look
as bad as they might look; they're trying
to feel better."
And even though Berenson doesn't
exactly like his players' appearance when
they ignore their razors, he's seen them
make more questionable decisions.
"One year they dyed their hair,"
Berenson said. "That was the worst."
Bie looks to bonus points to solve woes
By Mark Giannotto
Daily Sports Writer
In the past few years, the Michigan wrestling team has
received a less-than-desirable reputation within the college
In three of the past four seasons, the Wolverines have
finished first or second in the Big Ten dual meet season but
then have faltered come tournament time.
Judging from this year's results, it looks to be the same
old tune for Michigan. After capturing a share of the Big
Ten dual-meet title with Illinois, the Wolverines finished
a disappointing third place at the Big Ten Championships
During the regular season, Michigan defeated Minne-
sota and tied Illinois, but it finished behind both teams in
the postseason tournament.
Throughout this season, the team felt it had taken the
necessary steps to avoid the same problems at the season-
ending tournament. The coaching staff decided to change
the practice routine at the start of the season so that the
wrestlers would be peaking at the right time.
After this year's Big Ten Championships, it appears
that the new practice routine was not the solution. Instead,
Michigan's inability to get bonus points in its matches is
the root of the problem.
A team gets bonus points when a wrestler wins by pin,
technical fall or major decision. For a pin, the team receives
two bonus points, while a technical fall or major decision
gets one bonus point. In the tournament format, teams also
receive points for having wrestlers place in the top-eight of
their respective weight classes.
"As soon as Big Tens were over, we got a day off, and we
came back and analyzed (Illinois and Minnesota)," sopho-
more Joshua Weitzel said. "What separated us between
those two was (bonus points). When we get guys on their
back, we have to keep them there."
The coaching staff has taken a new approach in address-
ing the bonus point dilemma. They must walk a fine line
because they do not want to cost one of their wrestlers a
match for the sake of bonus points.
"Coach McFarland talked to us about it this week,"
sophomore Mark Moos said. "He just wants us to pin a
guy if we have them on his back or try to get that extra
point in order to get a major decision,"
Despite the setback at the Big Ten Championships, the
Michigan wrestling team's confidence seems to be unwav-
ering. The Wolverines look to have put the Big Ten Cham-
pionships behind them.
"I think we are definitely going to have a better show-
ing, because half of our team has a real good shot at earn-
ing a lot of points," senior co-captain Ryan Bertin said.
"The Big Tens has given us a little more motivation for the
As a team, the Wolverines have set a goal of placing in
the top-four in the team standings. This goal will be tough
with undefeated Oklahoma State, in addition to Minnesota
and Illinois standing in Michigan's way.
"I think we have the best shot out of anyone to beat
Oklahoma State," sophomore Nick Roy said.
The NCAA Championships begin on Thursday in
St. Louis and go through Saturday night. Eight of the 10
Michigan wrestlers qualified for the tournament.
All across America, college bas-
ketball fans are full of excitement
as the NCAA Tournament gets
underway this week. But in Ann Arbor,
Michigan basketball fans are full of empti-
ness, having almost no positives to take
hold of after the Wolverines' abysmal 13-
When the chapter of Michigan basket-
ball history about this season is written,
a lot of it will chronicle the inordinate
number of games Wolverines missed due
to injuries and suspensions. And it's true
that Michigan would be in a different posi-
tion right now if it was at full strength all
But it would be simple-minded to
believe that the issues facing the Michigan
basketball program rest solely with sanc-
tions and suspensions. There's another
problem that's not simply just going to go
away with time - the program's leader-
When Tommy Amaker was first hired
in 2001, he was the perfect man to re-build
the serious image problem facing Michi-
gan basketball. During his four-year tenure
in Ann Arbor, Amaker has built a rela-
tively clean program and has represented
himself well as the face of Michigan bas-
ketball. That could not be said during the
tenure of his predecessor, Brian Ellerbe.
But the reality is that Amaker and his
staff's on-court coaching abilities are sub-
par at best, and any fan, recruit or admin-
istrator who thinks otherwise is simply
While it's easy to slam the program
after such a dire season, Amaker has done
little over his eight-year head-coaching
career to prove that he is a solid Division I
head basketball coach.
At Seton Hall, Amaker took the Pirates
to a Sweet Sixteen and assembled one of
the best recruiting classes in the nation.
But during the 2000-01 season,just before
Amaker was hired at Michigan, Seton
Hall was a preseason top-10 team and
floundered to a 16-15 record, which led
the Sporting News to say that "of the 319
coaches in college basketball last year, no
performance was as suspect as Amaker's."
At Michigan, it's safe to say that Amak-
er's coaching tactics haven't put his teams
in the best position to win. His teams
run almost no semblance of a structured
offense, something that even his players
will admit. Amaker relies on his players
to create for themselves. While that has
worked at times, it has also led to a chronic
number of droughts when Michigan can't
score for four or five minutes at a time. It
has limited the Wolverines from creating
And it completely ravaged the Wol-
verines this past season when both Lester
Abram and Daniel Horton, Michigan's
two best playmakers, were unavailable.
During their final 13 games, a period
when they won just once, the Wolverines
were in a situation similar to being an
option football team without a fast quar-
terback. But even when the Wolverines
had both of these players last year, the
team still suffered when the guards could
not create. Without a detailed offensive
game plan, the ball movement that you
see by the elite Big Ten teams such as
Illinois and Wisconsin is nonexistent in
There have also been numerous
instances when Michigan has been
in a game only to falter in the wan-
ing moments. It happened during the
season's final two games against Iowa
and Northwestern. It happened against
Arizona and UCLA during the noncon-
ference schedule. Last season, Michigan
had leads against Michigan State and
at Minnesota, to name a couple, that
slipped away as well.
While every team is expected to blow
a game here and there, the Wolverines
have, during Amaker's tenure, lost many
more games in the final minutes than they
have won. Those aforementioned games
also fail to include losses in consecutive
years to Boston University at home and
the failure to ever win a game against Indi-
ana and coach Mike Davis, whose recent
teams have been mostly mediocre. It's
hard to place all that blame on the players,
who have actually, for the most part, con-
sistently played hard and have supported
Amaker during his tenure.
Putting it statistically, Amaker has
been just 64-60 since he has been in Ann
Arbor. Comparatively, Ellerbe was 62-
60. Although it's unfair to compare these
numbers alone, they are something to
Despite the program's leadership flaws,
I'm not suggesting that Tommy Amaker
should be fired immediately, especially
considering that the chances of that hap-
pening are infinitesimal. With all that has
happened to Michigan basketball over
the past four years off the court, Amaker
deserves to come back next year and
coach with a healthy, sanction-free nucleus
of players that he recruited.
Barring any transfers and injuries,
Michigan should be one of the most, if
not the most, talented team in the Big
Ten next year. With Illinois, Michigan
State and Wisconsin losing much of
their cores, Michigan, in theory, has the
potential to contend for the conference
title. But under the current coaching
philosophies, the Wolverines will likely
fight for a double-digit seed in the 2006
With the program's leadership structure,
I'm far from convinced that Michigan bas-
ketball will ever achieve its full potential.
The only way that I see Tommy Amaker
succeeding at Michigan is if he hires assis-
tant coaches that are excellent minds of the
game and are able to handle the majority
of the in-game coaching. This would leave
Amaker to do what he does best, recruit
and be the face of the program. But this is
an unlikely scenario at best.
I feel bad putting such a negative out-
look on the future of the program. Tommy
Amakeris a nice guy, and Iwant him to
succeed at Michigan. I just don't think it's
going to happen.
Bob Hunt covered the Michigan men's
basketball team for the Daily during the
2003-04 season. He can be reached at
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To learn more about
The No. 25 Michigan women's golf
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a three-day tournament at the UNLV
Spring Invitational held in Las Vegas.
The Wolverines are competing against
some of the nation's best. Among the
field's 17 teams are seven of the top-30
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M'No-ri--.-N F.RI AFTIER FIRSTF DAY
Junior Amy Schmucker played well,
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