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March 26, 2008 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 2008-03-26

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Wednesday, March 26, 2008 - 9A

Gotta love the
trash 'stache

Why West Virginia's
Alexander should be
on your list of favorite
Tournament players
It happens to me every year
when the NCAA Tournament rolls
around. There's one person who
just catches my attention for being
far and away the goofiest basketball
player alive.
Last year it was UNLV's Kevin
Kruger.
He admitted to getting Grant
Hill's autograph after his father, Lon
Kruger, had just lost to Hill's Duke
squad in the
1994 Final Four
as the coach of
Florida. He then C) 4C l ct
proudly showed
ittohis dad as DANCE
he emerged from with Mark
the losing locker
room.
For the two
years before that it was West Vir-
ginia's Kevin Pittsnogle, the gangly
farm boy with a ton of tattoos and
the trashiest mustache I've ever
seen.
Well, now that the first weekend
of the 2008 NCAA Tournament is
complete, we have the newest mem-
ber of the "I'm so ridiculous that it's
hilarious" club.
Meet West Virginia's Joe Alex-
ander.
Like his fellow Mountaineer,
Pittsnogle, he's got the trash 'stache
and scraggly chin strap down. He is
missing the tattoos, but I guess we'll
have to let that slide. A couple of
those weird symbols that somehow
mean "god of war" on his shoulder
would have put him over the top in
my book.
But to really make an impact on
me, a goofy NCAA Tournament
phenomenon also has to be good at
playing basketball.
And after watching him dominate
a couple games in the Big East Tour-
nament and then lead his team to
victory over Arizona and Duke this
past weekend, I'm convinced Alex-

ander has a future in the NBA.
He has the perfect complement
of inside and outside moves and can
simply take over games on offense.
To give you a Michigan parallel,
he's exactly the type of player John
Beilein wants sophomore DeShawn
Sims to become.
It wasn't until the second half of
the Duke game Saturday that Alex-
ander had me completely hooked.
Blue Devil freshman Kyle Sin-
gler streaked down the court
for what appeared to be an easy
layup, when out of nowhere came
the unstoppable force that is Joe
Alexander. And instead of walking
away or even posing to the crowd
after his monster block, Alexander
did something
that just made
me tingle with
~13n t 3 excitement.
He turned
FLOOR to Singler, gave
Giannotto him what I'm
officially naming
"The Alexander
Look of Death"
and just started trash talking right
in front of a CBS camera.
And it didn't stop once the game
was over. After cementing his leg-
end with a 73-67 win over Duke,
Alexander was asked about the Blue
Devils' eight McDonald's All Ameri-
cans. His response was to arch his
eyebrows (like The Rock, for all you
pro wrestling fans) and ask back,
"Who?"
Then, when asked to describe a
scream of his duringthe first half
that followed a blocked shot against
Duke's DeMarcus Nelson, Alexan-
der explained himself succinctly.
"I told him he shouldn't shoot
anymore," Alexander said. "He was
actually very nice to me the rest of
the game."
Adding to his on-court antics,
Alexander offered this postgame
nugget to guarantee him a place in
my book of athletes who are truly
absurd but command my admira-
tion.
"We knew that coming in that
they were just goingto stand around
and not rebound," Alexander said.
See DANCE FLOOR, Page 19A

Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez instructs players during spring practice. He confirmed yesterday that junior Justin Boren was nolonger on the team.
Boren bids Blue goodbye
Junior offensive lineman leaves the football team., Rodriguez won't comment

By DAN FELDMAN
Daily Sports Editor
Michigan's offensive line, already an inex-
perienced unit, took a big hit this week.
Junior Justin Boren left the Wolverine
football team Monday, leaving the offensive
line with just one returning starter (redshirt
sophomore Stephen Schilling). Boren was
expected to start at left guard or center. He
started every game last year, splitting time
between the two positions, and earned an
All-Big Ten honorable mention.
Rumors about Boren's departure have
swirled the last couple of days. The first
question Michigan coach Rodriguez faced
yesterday at a press conference was wheth-
er he had any personnel situations to talk
about. In response, he gave a brief rundown
of quarterbacks, running backs, wide receiv-
ers and tight ends.

"I can only talk about
the guys that play for
Michigan."
When asked specifically about attrition,
Rodriguez admitted Boren had left the team,
but didn't offer many details. As expected,
Rodriguez deflected specific questions about
Boren.
"I only talk about the guys that play for
Michigan," Rodriguez said. "I sound like a
broken record there, don't I?"
Boren didn't immediately return an e-mail
seeking comment.
But he spoke to the media after the Wol-
verines' first spring practice March 15. He

said the new coaching staff and its "scream-
ing and yelling" was different thanthe previ-
ous staff, but the team would get used to it.
Boren also spoke about the difficulties of
learning a new system, especially one that
required offensive lineman sprinting to the
line to run a no-huddle offense. He was asked
whether he was still having fun.
"It's still football," Boren said. "Football's
not going to change. It's just going to take a
while to get used to. Get used to the coaches,
get used to the system and get used to the
whole atmosphere."
Another potential explanation may have
been the Wolverines' new and notoriously
strenuous training regimen under Mike Bar-
wis, director of strength and conditioning.
"Coach Barwis, as far as I'm concerned,
is the best in the business," Boren said after
that first practice.
See BOREN, Page 10A

Duo dominates in the paint

Jones and Skrba
provide depth off
the bench for 'M
By ANTHONY OLIVEIRA
Daily Sports Writer
While senior Janelle Coo-
per awed the crowd with her
near-perfect outside shooting
in Michigan's win over Virginia
Commonwealth Monday, there
was a pair of forwards that was
perfect from the inside.
Meet juniors Ashley Jones and
Stephany Skrba.
The two combined to go 5-for-5
from the field in the 75-57 victory.
Nineteen points of those points
came off the bench. And most of
them couldn't have happened at a
better time.
When VCU senior Krystal
Vaughn cut an early 14-point Wol-
verine lead to just five halfway
through the first half, the juniors
scored 12 of the next 19 Michigan
points to help build the lead back

up to 13. The Wolverines didn't let become a frequent contributor.
the lead slip below double-digits And when her name is called, it's
for the rest of the game. usually with Skrba.
"They provide us a great lift off "They kind of feel each other
the bench," out well," Williams said. "AJ
assistant really has a knack to get the ball
coach Mike SKRBA to Stephany, and Stephany kind of
Williams knows it's coming."
said. "Either That "knack" has come from
could proba- Jones's improvement as a passer.
bly be start- Williams said she now does a bet-
ing but they ter job of keeping her eyes up and
give you having two feet on the ground to
suchabonus HEIGHT:6-2 deliver the ball. Jones recorded
coming off POSITION: three assists in Monday's contest.
because Though she works 35-40 min-
they're a Frwatd utes almost every day with coach-
little more HOMETOWN: es in player-maker drills, which
athleticthan TorontoOntario emphasize individual skills, what
the players may be more important to her
they come teammates is the intensity she
in for." brings to the floor.
That's a "One of things I feed off her is
strongstate- her energy," Skrba said. "And she's

RODRIGO GAYA/Daily
Michigan coaches Red Berenson (right) and assistant coach Billy Power look on during Michigan's game at Miami in February.
Coach surprised by success

ment, considering Jones wasn't
even playing substantial minutes
until five weeks ago.
Butsince connectingwith Skrba
for three easy lay-ups in Bloom-
ington on February 17, Jones has

a very emotional player but in a
positive way."
While Jones's emergence has
come from behind the scenes,
Skrba's has been on display since
See JUNIORS, Page 10A

Be
'al
At C(
ber, th
was pit
confere
A lot
The
both
confer
onship
gest su
And th
the on
heads a
1 overa
nament
"No
Red Be
could'v
cess. "
that. I'
I alway
ably be
way. TI
marks.'
Bere

renson has been facet of the game - goalkeeping,
offense, defense and youth - as
I smiles'during uncertainties.
But in the conference play-
dream season off championship last Saturday
against Miami (Ohio), the Wol-
By ANDY REID verines proved yet again that
Daily Sports Writer Berenson had nothing to worry
-- about.
CHA Media Day in Septem- The defense and netminder
e Michigan hockey team Billy Sauer stifled the most potent
cked to finish fourth in the offense in the nation. The offense
ence. took advantage of its chances. And
Lhas changed in 183 days. the team's freshmen played well
Wolverines, winners of beyond their experience.
the regular-season and But none of that's new.
ence tournament champi- Week in and week out, Michi-
s, have been one of the big- gan has brought its A-game to the
irprises in college hockey. ice, and Berenson knows that ded-
te national pundits aren't ication has been the catalyst to the
ily ones scratching their Wolverines' many successes.
it Michigan's run to the No. "We didn't win this first seed
ill seed in the NCAA Tour- necessarily this weekend," Beren-
t. son said. "I told them they won it
way," said Michigan coach in October, November, December.
erenson when asked if he They won it on the road at North-
e predicted his team's suc- ern (Michigan) and Lake State,
I wouldn't have believed Nebraska (Omaha) and Miami.
m always an optimist, and They paid their dues and have
ys think our team is prob- gone through a tough season. I
tter than it is, but there's no can't remember a Michigan team
here were so many question having a tougher schedule. And
" look what they did with it."
nson cited almost every After the Wolverines toppled

Miami in the championship, all of
that hard work finally came full
circle.
Once the team arrived back at
Yost Ice Arena, Berenson pulled
his team in for a speech that
senior alternate captain Chad
Kolarik will remember for a long
time.
"I've never seen him that excit-
ed, that's for sure," Kolarik said.
"He's been all smiles this year. It's
been a lot different than my first
three years here. My freshman
year was pretty good, but we were
expected to do a lot. The past two
years, we let him down."
It was evident by Berenson's
beaming smile after the Wolver-
ines' tournament title that the
coach is proud of this squad's
accomplishments. But he's not
ready to reflect on the season just
yet.
With four games between Mich-
igan and its first national champi-
onship since 1998, Berenson wants
to keep his team focused.
"This has been an amazing sea-
son, really," Berenson said. "But I
don't want to look back and enjoy
it now, because it's not over. We
need to make the most of it now.
This is the best part."

Blue's weakness turned into strength

Michigan's mastery
of pommel horse key
to season's success
By COLT ROSENSWEIG
Daily Sports Writer
It doesn't catch your eye when
you walk in the arena.
The pommel horse, a leathery
rectangle with two protruding
wooden handles, is usually placed
off in a corner. Pommel horse per-
formances don't have the explo-
siveness of the floor exercise or
the drama of high bar. I
Butthe event is oftenthe differ-
ence between a win and a loss.
For the first time in years,
Michigan has a strong pommels
squad, ranked fourth in the coun-
try.

The current incarnation of the
horse team, like most things with
pommel horse, took shape slowly.
Finally, with the postseason loom-
ing, the squad has settled into a
rhythm as comfortable as a good
pommels routine.
"I just know that I feel confi-
dent in all the other guys and their
ability to hit," senior co-captain
Paul Woodward said. "So it takes
pressure off each individual. ...
Instead of worrying about staying
on the horse, you're worried about
trying to make a big score."
To the casual observer, a pom-
mel horse routine seems boring,
even easy. But it takes years for
a gymnast just to learn a simple
circle, where his legs make a full
rotation around his center of grav-
ity. For the length of the routine,
the gymnast supports his entire
body weight on his hands.

And the horse is the most
unforgiving apparatus in the gym,
requiring not just strength but
pinpoint balance, endurance and
steadiness, too.
"You have avery small area and
not a lot of space to move your
hands," sophomore David Chan
said. "If you miss something on
floor or (parallel) bars, you can
save a fall by taking a step. But
if you're off on pommels, there's
nowhereto putyour hand -you're
just going straight to the ground."
Junior Phil Goldberg and fresh-
man Ben Baldus-Strauss have
been providing hit routines to
lead off the rotation, giving their
teammates a boost of momentum
and a little more wiggle room.
"Even if you're the best team,
pommel horse is an area where
you can ruin it just like that,"
See POMMEL, Page 10A

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