10 - Tuesday, December 12, 2006
With cupcakes behind them,
seniors still have much to prove
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Daniel Levy on
Nowadays it's all about what's new, hip
and in style. We will do anything to look
younger and stay fresh on the scene.
Even in the sports world, youth steals
the show. Professional teams are reluctant
to trade away young talent. Lots of atten-
tion is paid to players still in high school,
who experts predict to be the next great
so-and-so. And, of course, there's a certain
announcer losing his voice every night rav-
ing about "diaper dandies."
But while youth may be the current
trend, Michigan coach Tommy Amaker is
hoping his team has an edge based on its
experience. The Wolverines' starting lineup
through 11 games looks like this:
Dion Harris. Senior.
Lester Abram. Senior.
Courtney Sims. Senior.
Brent Petway. Senior.
Ron Coleman. Junior.
Heading into this season, Amaker said
numerous times his team will go just as far
as the seniors take it. It's a valid statement,
considering half of Michigan's normal rota-
tion consists of seniors.
Switching to point guard because of the
graduation of Daniel Horton, Harris leads
the team in assists and sports an assist-to-
turnover ratio of more than 2:1.
Harris is also second on the team in
scoring at 14.5 points per game, with Sims
holding onto a slight edge (15.1). Petway and
Abram are fourth and fifth, respectively.
The rebounding numbers also lend sup-
port to the leadership of the seniors. Petway
(8.0 rebounds per game) and Sims (7.1) con-
trol the boards for the Wolverines.
And then there's Michigan's record (10-
1), which suggests Amaker and his crew are
in good shape. But a glance at the schedule
illuminates a different image. None of the
Wolverines' 10 wins has been very impres-
sive, at least consideringthe opponent. They
have played some very good games, locking
down opposing offenses and sharing the
ball to find easy buckets. But it's hard to
gauge what that production means when it
comes against the likes of Wofford, Dela-
ware State and Central Connecticut State
- teams Michigan is supposed to beat.
More telling has been how the team, and
seniors in particular, has responded during
Michigan's toughest situations. It's easy to
focus on the Wolverines' lone loss of the sea-
son - a 74-67 defeat at North Carolina State
that wasn't as close as the score indicates
- and say the seniors let the team down.
And you'd be right. After jumping out to
an early 12-point lead, Michigan allowed
a Wolfpack team playing without its best
player, and with just five scholarship play-
ers total, to go on a 51-18 run to put the
game out of reach. Harris shot 4-of-14 from
downtown and committed three turnovers.
Abram chipped in just three points. Pet-
way and Sims were outrebounded by the
Wolfpack's big men. The Wolverines fought
hard down the stretch, but shouldn't have
needed a furious comeback attempt in the
Even scarier for Michigan is its road win
at Miami (Ohio). Harris was the only senior
who played well, notching 20 points. And
the team allowed the RedHawks to trim
an 18-point lead down to two. If it wasn't
for freshman Ekpe Udoh stepping up with
five straight points to spark a 9-0 run in
the second half, the Wolverines probably
never would have snapped out of their funk.
Instead of a gritty 62-56 win, fans would
be talking about how Michigan let another
chance slip away.
That has seemingly been the theme for
the Michigan basketball program in recent
years - something of which this current
group of seniors has . been a large part.
They've almost learned how to lose instead
of to win.
Last season, the Wolverines failed to
make the NCAA Tournament after starting
off 16-3. Who really knows if this group of
seniors can get it done?
Maybe the infusion of new blood in
Udoh and DeShawn Sims - the prize of the
recruiting class whose progress has been
slowed due to the loss of his brother - will
challenge the seniors for minutes and pro-
vide the spark to snap them out of their los-
ing routine, as was the case against Miami.
Or maybe this class is destined to always
come up a little short, in which case the fin-
ger should be pointed at Amaker even more
so than the players.
However it's going to work out, the chai-
Seniorcaptain Lester Abram will lead an experienced Michigan tearn nto a tough nonconference stretch.
lenge starts now. Those two games will be looked upon seri-
No longer will we have to judge whether ously by the Tournament selection com-
or not a blowout of a bad team is something mittee come March, potentially sealing the
worth getting excited about. Wolverines' fate either way.
After hosting Northern Illinois Saturday, After that, the Big Ten season begins.And
Michigan will fly cross-country to take on the only way this Michigan team will sur-
No. 1 UCLA on Dec. 23. A week later the vive it is if its seniors step up in the biggest
Wolverines host Georgetown - a big name moments. They willget plenty of opportuni-
school that started the season ranked No. 8 ties. But as was the case last year, the ques-
in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today Polls. tion is: Can they finally come through?