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March 15, 2012 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2012-03-15

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8A - Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

8A - Thursday, March 15, 2012 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

Wolverines have done their job

Three-hundred and sixty
one days ago when Mich-
igan got bounced by Duke
in the third round of the NCAA
Tournament, fans were alright
with that.
Sure, it
would've
been nice
to knock off
a top seed,
but it was
understood
that there
was progressNEAL
made in the ROTHSCHILD
program.
The team
had bounced back from a year in
which stars Manny Harris and
DeShawn Sims couldn't bring
the team to the Big Dance, and
Michigan had outperformed
expectations.
The 2010-11 Wolverines were
expected to lurk in the depths of
the Big Ten standings, but they
instead got hot in the second
half and tied for fourth. This got
them into the NCAA Tourna-
ment, where they defiled Tennes-
see before the Blue Devils got by
them. So, naturally, in the name
of progress, Michigan would take
it a step further and make the
Sweet 16 this year, right?
Well, maybe right. But it's not
so simple. The NCAA Tourna-
ment is a strange beast.
March Madness is fun and
all, but it's not the best way to
find out who the best team is.
So much about the tournament
comes down to matchups and
officiating and lucky breaks that
it takes more than just a good
team to survive and advance.
Virginia Commonwealth made
the Final Four last year as an
11-seed. And not only were the
Rams an 11-seed, but they had to
win a play-in game to even earn
the right to take on the six-seed
in the second round.
Which do you trust more to
tell you which teams are good, a
30-plus game schedule or a six-
game tournament?
I say these things not to slam

SOFTBALL
Michigan heads to
California to end
tournament season

Michigan coach John Beilein has led Michigan toa second-consecutive berth in the NCAA Tournament.

the NCAA Tournament - it's
the best thing going in sports -
but because Michigan will get
wrongly criticized if it fails to
make the Sweet 16, and espe-
cially if it fails to make the third
round.
Michigan coach John Beilein
has already done his job this year.
He did more than bring Michi-
gan back to the tournament. He
won a Big Ten Championship and
brought the team to its highest
(non-vacated) NCAA Tourna-
ment seed since Trey Burke was
an infant. But beyond any of
these 2011-12 accomplishments,
he brought an air of permanence
to Michigan basketball. By land-
ing then-No. 2 recruit Mitch
McGary, Beilein established that
this was a school whose success
wasn't going to ebb and flow.
It would remain constant, year
after year.
No coach in today's college
basketball climate can enter a
season with the sole intent of
winning a national champion-
ship. The best that they can do is
be in the mix every year, so when
things break right, that team will
be in position to take advantage.

The only way to win the lot-
tery is to have a ticket. And the
more lottery tickets you have, the
more likely you are to get lucky.
This year, Beilein made strides
in building Michigan into a
machine that can eventually pro-
duce its own lottery tickets. Once
a school gets to that point, it's
only a matter of time before the
lottery bell chimes. I'll pretend
that's a real thing. Take Kansas,
who hadn't won a championship
since 1988 despite consistently
being a top seed in the NCAA
Tournament. No one doubted
that this was a top program and
things eventually turned out
right when Bill Self took the Jay-
hawks to a title in 2008.
Michigan may not get to the
point where it's a perennial top
seed, but even if it's in the three-
to-ten seed range for enough
years, things tend to work out.
One year, the Wolverines will
make the Elite Eight, and maybe
the Final Four. Maybe even the
National Championship.
On Friday, Michigan will face
Ohio and the pressure will be on.
The Wolverines are favored to
win, and there will be backlash

if they don't. There will be back-
lash if they don't win the game
after.
But the truth is, the NCAA
Tournament doesn't care.
Michigan may lose to Ohio, but it
doesn't mean that the Wolverines
weren't good enough to make the
Elite Eight if they were put on a
different side of the bracket. So
much is left up to chance.
The Harvard College Sports
Analysis Collective determined
that the Bobcats had a 55-per-
cent chance of knocking off the
Wolverines. How does that make
sense when it's Michigan seeded
nine spots higher?
It doesn't, and so it shouldn't
make sense that the NCAA Tour-
nament would decide the best
team. And so it also makes no
sense to judge Michigan based
on its March performance - no
matter how big the stage is.
Beilein has handled what is con-
trollable, and that's been to bring
Michigan to a position where it
can contend in March for years
to come.
- Rothschild can be reached
at nealroth@umich.edu

By DANIEL FELDMAN
Daily Sports Writer
After playing in Louisiana,
Kentucky and Florida during
the early regular season this
year, the Michigan softball team
will travel to California for one
last tournament before Big Ten
play begins.
The 19th-ranked Wolverines
will be competing in their sixth
tournament of the season on
Thursday.
The team will travel to Ful-
lerton, Calif. to play in the Judi
Garman Classic for the seventh-
straight year.
Michigan (16-7) has posted
a 4-1 record in each of the last
four years at this tournament
and a 21-9 mark all-time.
Coming off of a disappointing
1-2 performance at the Red and
Black Tournament in Louisville,
Kent., the Wolverines are look-
ing to bounce back.
Just as it has in other tour-
naments, Michigan will play at
least one top-25 team. After los-
ing 2-1 last week to then-No. 16
Louisville, the Wolverines will
play No. 7 Oklahoma, No. 5 Ari-
zona State, and No. 24 DePaul,
in addition to unranked Notre
Dame and Virginia.
Arizona State (25-2) stands as
the highest-ranked foe Michi-
gan will have played this season.
A reason for the Sun Devils' suc-
cess has been senior shortshop
Katelyn Boyd, who is the reign-
ing Pac-12 Player of the Week,
in part because of her current
16-game hitting streak.
This weekend's tournament
marks the first time this season
that the Wolverines will play a
top-10 opponent and more than
two ranked teams in one tour-
nament.

The Wolverines will start off
against Notre Dame and senior
infielder Dani Miller during
their first game on Thursday.
The last time Michigan played
the Fighting Irish was in the
2011 NCAA Regional, when the
Wolverines scored six runs in
the last two innings to defeat
Notre Dame, 9-8.
Such an offensive outburst
would bode well for Michigan,
as they haven't had as many
"quality at-bats" recently as
Michigan coach Carol Hutchins
would like.
The Wolverines are 13-0 in
games where they have record-
ed more hits than their opposi-
tion and 3-7 when they haven't.
An additional means of moti-
vation for the Wolverines comes
with Virginia.
They will play the Cavaliers
for the second time this season,
having defeated them 7-i at the
Citrus Classic in Kissimmee,
Fla. Michigan freshman pitcher
Haylie Wagner led the way with
a one-hitter during that match-
up.
Wagner will aim to have such
a performance again, after suf-
fering her second loss of the sea-
son last week against Louisville.
After Michigan completes
this tournament, it will return
to Ann Arbor for its first home
games, taking on Penn State in
a three-game series on March
24-25.
This will also mark the Wol-
verines' first action in Big Ten
play.
Though this is Michigan's
last regular-season tournament,
it still has four non-conference
games left against Mid-Amer-
ican Conference opponents
scattered throughout the end of
March and beginning of May.

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