Michigan v. Minnesota
I'm sure when the the basketball schedule was presented to Amaker, he circled a couple of games as "wins", "losses", or "winnable". After dropping two "winnables" and turning a "win" into a loss, another of the pre-season "wins" walks into town. And that pre-season "win" walks into town red-hot.
While I fervently believe there are no guarantees in college basketball, and every game is up for grabs (standard disclaimer), you have games you should, nay, must win in order to be invited to dance in March. Unfortunately, Michigan will get Minnesota at its hottest having won 3 of their last four, including wins over Indiana and Michigan State (who incidently just lost to a white-hot Iowa). To make matters worse Chris Burke at The Diag reports that Michigan will likely be without its best defender in Lester Arbam, team Prozak Dion Harris, and Jarret Smith.
Even so, this is a game Michigan has to win because their last four games are mercilous. At Michigan State, Illinois at home, at Ohio State and Indiana at home. Jim Spadafore of the Detroit News says Michigan needs at least three more wins to make the tournament. I'm inclined to agree with him, and quite frankly I'm nervous. Of the four remaining after tonight, Indiana and Michigan State seem to be our best shots at wins.
The key will be improvement on defense. After the Ohio State game, they showed they could score in bunches. Now its time to show they can improve on the other side of the ball. The story's out on Michigan's defense. Literally. The Detroit Free Press ran an article on it today. So if the rest of the world knows it, so does Amaker. Hopefully that's a good thing and they worked on it in practice this week. We'll see how it pans out.
Update: The Diag is reporting that Smith is questionable to play tonight and at worst, Harris will be back for Michigan State. Harris, if he feels better, could play tonight. Yippee! Abrams however, is still out.
In With the New
Michigan officially hired two new coordinators to man the spots left open by Malone and Herrrrrmannnnn's depatures. Lloyd announced the hiring of Ron Lee and Steve Szabo yesterday. Thanks to The Diag for breaking the story and M Go Blog for the background.
Steve Szabo spent 7 years as Jacksonville's linebacker's coach and has 25 years of college coaching on his resume. He was formerly with the Buffalo Bills as their cornerbacks coach before being let go in the great purge that saw 5 other coaches from the staff get the axe. Based on the limited info I've got on the guy, this could be pretty sweet. Brian at M Go Blog is worried that the crotchety old geezer (he's 65) won't be able to relate to the kids with their all their hibbidy-hoppidy-flipidy-dibbidy, but I'll disagree with that. Any time you can walk into a recruit's living room and say "I coached in the NFL, I know the NFL, and I'll get you there" you've got something. Besides, if we need someone to close the deal, English can always make a visit. We also get to say "Steve Szabo Sztrong Szafety Blitz!" and that can't be bad...
Ron Lee left Wisconsin to join Michigan's staff. At Wisconsin, Lee spent two years as their CB's coach, and prior to that as the defensive coordinator for San Jose State. He also spent eight years at Collorado State coaching, but I'm not sure what. Biggest bonus, he was a grad assistant at Miami during 1989-1990. Nothing says recruiting like a history of coke orgies. In all seriousness, having two years of Wisconsin under your belt is nothing to sneeze at. Should be a good hire.
In Other News
American Ted Ligety won the gold in the Men's Downhill Combined yesterday in Torino. He literally came out of nowhere to win the medal. The 21 year old out of Park City capitalized on all the favorites' mistakes and took home the gold with two outstanding runs. Bode Miller, again, failed to medal and was DQ'd for missing/stradling a gate during the first slalom run. No word yet on his BAC during the event. To his credit, Miller continues to support his teammates and remain unfazed by the media circus that's going around him. When Jay Mariotti is taking pot shots at you, you know you're doing something right. I'm hoping he wins one just to shut jackasses like Mariotti up.
Good news on the Women's side, American Lindsey Kildow raced in the women's downhill yesterday, finishing eighth. To even make it up on the mountain after suffering a horrifying crash at 50 mph two days ago certifies her as a grade-A badass. Kudos to her, and hopefully she'll recover enough to take home a medal in her remaining 4 events.