Monday, March 13, 2006

Three Letter Tournament. Four Letter Word(s).

Dancing With Myself... Michigan Left Out Of The NCAA Tournament

Jay Bilas at ESPN did everything he could. Really. He tried to ask the ugliest girl in the room to dance because he felt it was the right thing to do. He pounded on Joe Lunardi and Digger Phelps saying Michigan should be in over any school from the SouthEastNorthern MidMissouriIowaBibleBelt ConferenceAlliance. For two days he spent every waking moment telling everyone how good Michigan had been over the course of the season. How you had to look at their 3 wins over top 25 opponents. How you had to look at the fact Michigan played in the nation's toughest conference. How their body of work meant more than their losing 7 of 9 to close the season.

Thank you Jay Bilas for looking past the buck teeth, the bow legs, and the large hump on Michigan's back that grew larger with every loss. Thank you for overlooking Michigan's faults and championing our cause.

And thank you Tournament Selection Committee for ignoring him.

Don't get me wrong. I'm steamed Michigan didn't make the tournament. UAB? Are you kidding me? 24 wins don't count when you play nursing colleges and the Academy for the Disabled a dozen times. However, its was impossible for the Committe to ignore the collosal collapse that ended Michigan's season. 2 and 7 in their last nine. A losing record against their own conference. 3-8 against the RPI top 50. Michigan's final game of the season against Minnesota showcased every reason to feed them to the NIT.
  1. Horrendous coaching (With 3 minutes left, trailing by a half dozen, Michigan went to a zone defense. A zone f-ing defense!?!? No no. You keep the ball. The Minnesota players were so shocked they weren't getting pressured they almost bounced the ball off their feet.);
  2. Lack of production from anyone down low (Paging Courtney Sims. Your bus is leaving.);
  3. A total inability to hold onto the damn ball (21 turnovers. Twenty. One. But hey. Its down from the 24 they had against Indiana);
  4. Terrible shooting (37% from the floor, 18% from three against a horrible Minnesota defense);
  5. A total inability to play like a team when it matters (Down 10 in the second half to a team they'd beaten by 22); and
  6. Finally, the fact that this was Michigan's 3rd straight must win game, and they lost it.
This is not a team that belongs in the NCAA tournament. Many people, like Jay Bilas, have tried to build up the team. Say its not Tommy's fault. Say it was the injuries. Say the moon wasn't properly aligned. Say our hair wasn't done right and we should've schedule that humpectomy months ago. Say we should be in.

Oh no. We shouldn't. And if you're looking for blame, I'm laying it on Amaker. I ignored the warning signs and the calls for his head over the past month. No more. When your team coughs up the ball 21 times which turn into 20 Minnesota points, you take the blame.

Before Thursday I wasn't quite ready to call for a coaching change, but now I'm happy to pick up a torch. Amaker's been given a week a piece to prepare for his last two opponents and has failed, in spectacular fashion, to get his team ready to play. In both games, must win games, Michigan came out sluggish, inept, and totally unable to play the team oriented basketball that made them successful earlier in the year.

His failure to play Lester Abram against Indiana only magnified his coaching inneptitude. When a player hasn't played in over two months, he needs as much game time as possible. Abram was obviously winded, slow, and out of synch. Even five minutes against Indiana would have given him some measure, some yardstick, to prepare him for the Big Ten Tournament. Instead, we saw a tired shadow of Lester careening toward the basket, out of control, out of breath, and out of the game. He fouled out by charging over a game ready defender on the possession that ended the season, scoring only 2 points in the game.

If Amaker didn't have talent on his team, perhaps I'd sing a different tune. But, there is. Further, with no true talent in the pipeline, our best player graduating, and a proven inability to make critical adjustments during a game, the fat lady is singing. Loudly. It's time for Tommy to pack up his turtleneck, blazer, and high top fade, and call in a career at Michigan. If he doesn't resign, Martin needs to step in a make the change. When the Tribune runs a photo of your team, in basketball rich Chicago with the tag line, "Michigan misses its 8th straight tournament", something's gotta be done. NIT's don't cut it at Michigan.

Seeming to know the inevitable was coming, Michigan refused to allow cameras in the clubhouse yesterday as the team awaited its fate. There were some surprises. There were some snubs. However, Michigan wasn't one of them.

Now selection sunday is over. We sit alone. Waiting for a dance partner. Since no one's asking, we might as well boogey alone.

Michigan's a #1 Seed... in the NIT

I can't express how little I give a shit about being a one seed in the NIT. It's like being the prettiest girl wearing head gear and a full body cast. It's like being the coolest person at a Star Trek convention. It's like finally making the junior varsity basketball team, as a Senior. No matter what happens, no matter how well you do, you're still a loser.

I'll still follow the team. I'll still report on the games. But you can't make me think its an accomplishment.

Michigan's next game is Thursday against either UTEP or Lipscomb. Once I know who they're playing I'll give a write up and some analysis. Might even take a look at the whole NIT field if I'm feeling ambitious. We'll see.

If you'll excuse me I've go a beauty contest to judge at the American Unibrow Fellowship.

The Season of Illusion. A Homeric Look Back.

No. The Odyssey Homeric. Specifically the Island of Sirens. Bear with me. For those of you who don't remember The Odyssey, the Island of Sirens was populated by man-eating monsters who fed on the flesh of sailors dumb enough to get near them. How? Illusion. Though hideous monsters, their voices were supposedly so sweet and melodious that simply hearing their song brought you under their trance. Once under their spell, sailors would guide their ships into the Island where the monsters would devoure them one at a time. Despite the fact they were watching their friends being eaten before their eys, they continued to listen, believing everything was all right. Then a sense of gloom would befall them. And about two seconds later the Sirens would rip them apart, eat them alive, and use their bones as toothpicks.

That pretty much sums up the whole damn season. A giant illusion used to draw us in, make us believe, and then break us in half to suck out our spirits. On February 1, 2006, Michigan stood at a sweet sounding mark of 16-3. Music to everyone's ears. We all began to believe that this incredible start wasn't a mirage. And we were all drawn under the sweet illusion of Tournament seedings and Big Ten contention. We all were guilty of steering the ship into the Isle of Sims at some point this season. We told friends "Michigan looks good." We bragged "16-3 baby!" We pulled right up to the monster, smeared ourselves in barbque sauce, put on a sign that said "Eat Me From The Inside Out", and then stared in bewilderment as the demon known as Michigan Basketball devoured our bodies heart first.

It wasn't as if we hadn't seen the warning signs. Blown out by Iowa. Its okay, Joe Lunardi says we're still a lock at a 5 seed (devours your freshman year roommate). We lost three straight. Things are fine, everyone's hurt, imagine how good we'll be when everyone's healthy (eats your family). We needed to beat Ohio State or Indiana to lock up a dance invite and didn't. No worries, Indiana's got a worse record and their going, plus Lester Abram's almost back, really, and Dion Harris can't miss EVERY shot he takes (inhales your flag football team and best friend). For Christsakes! We just lost to Minnesota. F-ing Minnesota! We're not gonna... Wait a second you're gonna ea... Ha Ha! You lunch now Sucka! (eats you, soul first).

Fooled. Suckered. Eaten. All of us in the Michigan blogosphere have tried to chronical the season as best we can. We'll continue to do so with what remains of the second season because we're still under the spell. But as I sail away from the Isle of Sims, missing my torso, though my heart won't admit it, I know I've been fooled.


At 3:36 PM, Blogger Johnny said...

Top-notch work, Dave. Us Michigan fans will be damned if we only let the football team ruin four months of our lives a year!

At 7:24 AM, Anonymous Jeff said...

Nice work. Found you by linking over from mgoblog. I like your analysis and don't get me wrong, I am 100% on the Amaker Must Go bandwagon. Turnovers, lack of improvement for the players over the course of their career, lack of improvement from season start to finish. This team is just flat out ugly when they play bad. I would put them on par with the Detroit Lions. Have 2 teams ever looked so bad when they lose?

But I don't agree 100% with your comments. Didn't Michigan jump out to 10-0 and 5-0 leads against IU and Minny? Therefore I don't agree they came out sluggish. Rather, I feel this teams biggest problem is how soft it is (and pin that on Amaker). Any time their opponent offers the slightest resistance, UM folds easily.

I also don't agree with the no talent in the pipeline comment. I do believe Sims, Morris, and Wright fall short of replacing Hunter, Brown, and Horton. But if UM can pick up one more player then they should be right back in the thick of another NIT bid. The year after that we have Legion and Grady coming (not a bad start). I am more concerned about how Amaker has recruited rather than a lack of talent. To only get one player in a class is inexcusable (the Coleman class). And last year to get 3 projects (Price, Sheppard, and Smith) is also inexcusable. Amaker has put us in a position with no point guard for the next several years. I don't know if Grady can be an elite (or even solid) point guard at the B10 level but I for sure know Smith cannot. We are in dire straits at that position for the forseeable future, and this team will suffer because of it.

At 7:57 AM, Blogger Maize n Brew Dave said...

Jeff- Thanks for the props, glad you like the site.

With regard to the sluggish comments, while Michigan did grab early leads against IU and Minnesota, the offense was totally out of synch in both games. Bad passes, turnovers, horrible shot selection. I think the leads were deceptive because the other teams in those games started even slower. During the IU game, Michigan had a 10 point lead for four minutes, but nobody scored during that four minute stretch. Horton was the reason for the lead in the IU game by himself, with 6 of the first 10 points. While Horton was good against IU, the rest of the team was not. In watching or listening to those games Michigan grabbed leads in spite of the way it was playing.

With regard to the talent comments, the next two to three years look bad. The talent in the pipeline comment was more a recruiting statement than anything. I agree with you that the kids on the bench do have some talent. But that talent, as you alluded to, is only enough for NIT bids. I don't feel that's good enough for a school of Michigan's marquee. Michigan should be competing for NCAA tournament bids every year.

The pipeline comment refers to the fact that there are no top names even looking at Michigan. It also refers to the fact that Amaker seems to have zero ability to relate to high school students who aren't exactly like him. So far he's only been able recruit kids that would go to Michigan even if it was in the center of a volcano. The pipeline is empty, at least to me, until he shows an ability to grab solid players from other good schools and get those super juniors and sophmores to consider Michigan out of the gates. That'll give us a buzz and will certainly reopen the talent pipeline.

At 8:02 AM, Blogger Maize n Brew Dave said...

Sorry. Left out the fact that super prep Patrick Beverly of Chicago is looking at Michigan. Hoever, until he signs I'm still not ready to back off my comments.

We'll see if Tommy can pull a rabbit out of his hat.

At 10:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have a lot in common.
1. I am Irish (mostly)
2. Big Michigan fan (2000 alum)
3. Live in Chicago (bucktown)
4. Have the same feelings about he horrific display of D1 college basketball.

I too agree that Amaker must go. He has yet to prove that he can coach, and has only mildly proved that he can recruit. Don't get me wrong, he is a class act, but as a stauch Michigan fan, I only accept the best. As judge Smails said, "I demand satisfaction."

We lucky Michigan fans have witnessed some of the finest sporting teams and players a university has put out. We are hitting a lull in our history where both our football and basketball teams have learn to be proactive, not reactive. I am glad that the football team did something, although I think most would say that they did not do enough, the basketball has slept in ineptitude for a long time now using "injuries" and "sanctions" as there crutch. Many not so premier programs endure the same events and still survive (see OSU and Ill)

Living in Chicago is tough for a Michigan fan. Despite a very large fan and alum base here, the city is very "anti-Michigan". In the fall I hear it from ND fans about our poor football team and in the winter I hear from Illinois fans about b-ball. In fact, lately Illinois fans even wonder if we have a team. We have not only become a joke program in the nation, but also a joke in the Big Ten, the Midwest, the state of Michigan, and most horrifically, to our fan base in AA. IF nothing is done about it, we will become also-rans. Martin better get his head out of his ass and rely to the Michigan fan base that he doesn't approve of our b-ball team and he is going to do something about it.
Damn that was long

C-dub in Chi-town


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