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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Friday, March 6, 2009 - 7
The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Friday, March 6, 2009 - 7
Importance of Minnesota game not
lost on'M' as Big Dance draws near
By JASON KOHLER
Daily Sports Writer
Manny Harris's television is
almost always set to ESPN.
But when a segment about NCAA
Tournament bubble teams comes on
the screen, the sophomore forward
quickly switches the channel.
"You try not to think about it or
put that much pressure on yourself,
but it's going
to stay in your
head," Harris Michigan at
said. "You just Minnesota
kind of got to
relax and free Matchup: Michi-
your mind. It's gan 18-12; Min-
hard to do." nesota 21-8
It seems When: Satur-
wherever the day 12 P.M.
men's basket- Williams Arena
ball team goes, TV: ESPN
coaches are Live Blog: http://
surrounded by thegame.blogs.
one question: michigandaily.com
Will the Wol-
the NCAA Tournament?
Michigan (8-9 Big Ten, 18-12
overall) is among a handful of teams
fighting for one of 34 at-large bids to
the Big Dance. It could also lock up
an automatic bid by winning next
weekend's Big Ten Tournament.
Fifth-year senior guard C.J.
Lee has noticed more students
approaching him on campus asking
him about the team and its tourna-
According to ESPN, the Wolver-
ines are ranked 47th in RPI and 11th
in strength of schedule.
But most prognosticators have
Michigan out of the tournament.
The Wolverines appear in just 13
brackets on Bracketproject.50webs.
com, which compiles a matrix of 60
Michigan coach John Beil-
ein tries to avoid the media hoopla
heading up to Selection Sunday, but
even he has been monitoring other
bubble team's games.
And Wednesday was a good day
for the Wolverines.Five bubble teams
- Boston College, Florida, Kentucky,
Miami and Virginia Tech - lost.
"When you watch those scores
yesterday, however the scores went
yesterday, I would still say the same
thing in the locker room today,"
Beilein said. "'That was a great day
yesterday for Michigan basketball.
Just keep moving. Just keep getting
The Wolverines have a chance
to impress the NCAA Selection
Committee on Saturday in what
boils down to an elimination game
A win would lock the Wolverines
in as the seventh seed in the Big Ten
Tournament, where they'd likely
play Iowa in the first round. If they
advance to the second round, they
would play No. 19 Purdue or No. 23
A loss won't completely kill the
Wolverines' postseason dreams,
but they will likely need a few wins
in the conference tournament to
improve their chances of making
the Big Dance. A loss to the Golden
Gophers would give Michigan an
No. 8 seed in the conference tour-
nament and a first-round matchup
with Northwestern. If the Wolver-
ines beat the Wildcats, they would
play Big Ten regular season cham-
pion Michigan State.
"It's a regular-season game, but
there's a lot on the line," Lee said.
"That's what you cometo college for,
to play in games like that. We want
to treat every game at this point like
a big game."
Beilein, who usually avoids focus-
ing on the importance of a single
game, admitted that Saturday is a
critical match for the Wolverines.
But he also said he's happy to be
in the hunt to make the tournament.
Last season, Michigan went 10-22
with no shot of any postseason play.
The Wolverines have stressed all
season thatcnothing shortof making
the NCAA Tournament will remove
last year's sour memories.
That's why there is so much more
added pressure on the Wolverines.
"We know where we are, and we
know where we stand," Lee said.
"That's not something to shy away
from or be scared about, so we all
know where we stand and what we
need to do to get to where we want
Sophomore Manny Harris and the Wolverines aren't included in most NCAA
Tournament projections, but a win at Minnesota tomorrow could change that.
WOMEN'S BAeSK E ToBA LrLt
Season ends in disappointing Big Ten Tournament loss
By RYAN KARTJE
Daily Sports Writer
INDIANAPOLIS - In a sea- pressure
son riddled with heartbreak, the enough t
Michigan women's basketball team faced tot
thought its fortunes had finally With
changed. in Bloom
After losing to Indiana in the Wol- ana by 1
verines' last regular-season game, apart do
they led the losing 67
Hoosiers MICHIGAN 50 Just f
by 12 at on INDIANA 68 south of
point dur- pointme
ing the second half of yesterday's 10-20 ov
Big Ten Tournament first-round And t
contest. son for t
But the pressure of the postsea- the seas
son and Indiana's full-court defense streak. I
led to a 68-50 Michigan loss. in 11 of it
"Every time someone has pres- includin
sured us this year, we've struggled," The 1
the michigan daily
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n coach Kevin Borseth said.
really what the problem has
om the get-go. People put
on us, and we're notstrong
to handle that. It really sur-
14 minutes left last Sunday
nington, Michigan led Indi-
14. But the Wolverines fell
own the stretch, eventually
our days later and 50 miles
f their most recent disap-
nt, Michigan (3-15 Big Ten,
erall) blew another lead.
hat's been the story all sea-
the Wolverines, who ended
on on an eight-game losing
Michigan led or was tied late
s 16 losses to Big Ten teams,
g last night's game.
5-loss regular-season con-
ference slate evokes memories of
three seasons ago, when the pro-
gram went 0-16 in Big Ten play.
A year later, Michigan hired
Borseth, who promised he would
establish a tradition of women's bas-
ketballinAnnArbor. The Wolverines
responded with a 19-win season and
a trip to the WNIT quarterfinals.
But this season, Michigan strug-
gled to finish games.
"I don't even know how many
games we were either close or
tied with just a few minutes left in
the game," freshman point guard
Courtney Boylan said. "We just
couldn't close them out. We couldn't
Against Indiana, the Wolverines
dominated the first 25 minutes.
Michigan started the game with a
12-0 run and held the Hoosiers (12-
7, 19-9) scoreless for the first seven
minutes ofthe game. The large Indi-
ana contingent of fans who was only
an hour away from Bloomington
was mostly quiet.
Junior center Krista Phillips pen-
etrated the paint and usedherheight
to score 13 points in the game's first
25 minutes. And senior forward
Carly Benson made three 3-pointers
in the same time frame.
But with the pressure on from the
Indiana press, Benson and Phillips
scored a combined two points in the
game's final 15 minutes.
"We couldn't figure it out," senior
point guard Jessica Minnfield said.
"Our passes were either too short or
too long, and we couldn't even get
the ball on our side of the court. It
At one point, the pressure caused
three consecutive turnovers on the
Wolverines' side of the court and a
momentum swing from which they
"That was the entire game - the
press," Borseth said with his head
in his hands. "It was all about the
With a long offseason ahead,
Borseth will need to retool a frus-
trated team that will lose four
seniors, three of them starters.
"It'sgoing to go in the right direc-
tion," Borseth said. "This might
have been a step backwards. But I
look at where it was two years ago,
and there were a lot of games where
the program never had a chance.
And this season, there weren't many
games that we weren't in.
"It's going to work. It's only a
matter of time before it happens."
The stigma followed the
Michigan women's bas-
ketball team like a dark
cloud every game.
The Wolverines couldn't
close games. After three tough
losses in a
row earlier in JOE
the season - STAPLETON
Michigan On women's
State and basketball
- it became worrisome. Why
couldn't they finish?
It was a self-fulfilling proph-
ecy. Michigan was identified as
a team that struggled down the
stretch, and eventually, it was
how the Wolverines identified
"You try not to think about
it, but you can't help it," senior
forward Carly Benson said. "It's
hard to get over so many things
that didn't go our way all year."
This mentality caused Michi-
gan to break down in close
game after close game this
season, ending with last night's
68-50 loss to Indiana in the first
round of the Big Ten Tourna-
ment in Indianapolis.
The games followed a dis-
tinct blueprint: The Wolverines
would play very well early.
Then, something bad happened
(missed shots piled up, the
other team implemented a full-
court press, etc.), and they got
down on themselves.
"This year, we just couldn't
finish games," junior center
Krista Phillips said. "I think
our biggest goal for next year is
going to be finishing games."
The Wolverines' late-game
problems caused late-season
problems. Michigan ended the
year on an eight-game losing
It started the season 7-4 and
beat two ranked teams in that
span, but they opened Big Ten
season with a 20-point loss
to Ohio State and it didn't get
much better from there.
Michigan had six- and seven-
game losing streaks in confer-
ence play and finished 3-16
against Big Ten teams.
The way the Wolverines fin-
ished their season mirrored the
way they finished games, but
it didn't have to. They had the
players to hang with any team
in the conference. They proved
it by playing so many teams so
And their loss yesterday was
a microcosm of their season.
Their problem was mental.
At times, it was amazing how
quickly they could be taken out
of games mentally. After Indi-
ana implemented its full-court
press early in the second half
and turned Michigan's 12-point
lead into a six-point advantage
of its own, you could almost see
the Wolverines wilt.
At that point, the six-point
deficit might as well have been
And that problem is coach-
able. It's Michigan coach Kevin
Borseth's job to make sure his
team is mentally ready for every
game. This season, there were
times it clearly wasn't.
When asked what he needed
to do to stop his team from get-
ting down on itself, he seemed
like he hadn't given the men-
tal aspect of the game much
"You got to be able to dribble
around somebody," he said.
"This isn't rocket science."
Maybe not. But that wasn't
This wasn't a mentally weak
group, but losing so many times
in so many close games will
make any team question its own
ability. And it's the coach's job
to make sure that doesn't hap-
He knows the Xs and Os as
well as anyone and is a good
recruiter. But if he doesn't
become more aware of his
team's mental state, he can look
forward to more seasons like
The players don't deserve
that, and neither do the fans.
"You have got to be able to
score in this game," Borseth
said. It was his last comment of
the press conference.
That's true. But your athletes
also need to know they can.
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(March 21 to April 19)
Something having to do with group
activities could be confusing today.
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wrong instructions or directions.
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(April 20 to May 20)
Although you're quite ambitious now,
make sure you know what you're going
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judgment. Be careful.
(May 21 to June 20)
Double-check travel plans today.
Don't go out on a limb, especially
regarding arguments about politics, reli-
gion and racial issues. If you're involved
in higher education, make sure your
information is correct and up to date.
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Because you feel sympathetic to oth-
ers, you're willing to share jointly held
resources. You also might want to do
fundraising or work on behalfof charita-
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Relations with partners and close
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sense that someone wants something,
but you're not sure what it is.
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Be extra clear in your actions and your
words with co-workers and superiors at
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Don't overdo things if you're partying
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Conversations with family members
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Misunderstandings can arrive simply
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You're enthusiastic and gung-ho right
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Something secretive or even deceptive
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