Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Friday, March 10, 2006

NIT-picking?

I've barely written about the Michigan basketball team this season (and have been rather out of touch with the sport overall), so to jump up and down in outrage or to call for Tommy Amaker's job after the Wolverines' loss to Minnesota in the first round of the Big Ten tournament, when I haven't watched many of their games, rings false to me.

I was hoping to point you toward several blogs that could provide what I can't, but it appears that the Go Blue blogosphere mostly feels the same way about Michigan hoops that the general majority of Michigan fans do. Football? HELL YES! Basketball? Eh. And that shouldn't be a surprise. Sports blogs reflect the fanbase, right? These are the Michigan blogs that stepped for us all today:

▪▪ MGoBlog has a live blog of the game's radio broadcast. (Why I love the idea of someone live-blogging from the radio isn't quite clear to me.) Brian sums up the season nicely:

This probably excises Michigan from the tourney. They played a paper soft non-conference schedule. They're 18-10 against a crap schedule, finished the year 2-7, and just lost to a team that couldn't find its ass with both hands in the halfcourt.

▪▪ Ronald Bellamy's Underachieving All-Stars recaps what the so-called experts are saying about Michigan's NCAA tournament chances, and promises "anguish and scathing tirades" later.

▪▪ Michigan Sports Center has an excellent game summary. He watched so the rest of us didn't have to.

▪▪ Westsider Rider laments the opportunity Michigan squandered, with the rest of the college basketball landscape doing its best to allow the Wolverines into the tournament. Kenny also tries to look at this through maize-and-blue glasses:

Maybe this senior class will be able to say they won 2 NIT championships.

▪▪ Lester Abram told the Detroit News' Jim Spadafore that selfish play cost his team the game. (Abram's ankle injury might have cost Michigan its season.)

▪▪ Mark Snyder's game story in the Detroit Free Press has a lead that might explain just why this team has been so frustrating.

There were no tears in the Michigan basketball team's locker room late Thursday.

No one was weeping. No one was furious. Everyone was simply quiet.

The team looked like it did on the court for the previous two hours: passive and resigned to its fate.

I can't really say what should happen to Tommy Amaker if Michigan is relegated to the NIT again this year. As I said, I haven't watched the games. I can't point out any clear reasons as to why they're not succeeding. I don't know if Amaker's coaching is costing them wins.

What I do know is that this was a baffling team. After beating Illinois, a tournament bid seemed assured. Maybe the players felt the same way, and just coasted through the rest of the schedule. Unfortunately, with three straight losses to close out the season - the last two of which were to teams they should've beaten, in games they needed to win - Michigan likely cost itself a spot in the 64-team pool.

What I do know is that Amaker has had to clean up a huge mess in the basketball program, dealing with matters that many coaches would've run away from, screaming in horror. He's had a lot of support and patience from an athletic department that knew what it was asking Amaker to do. Maybe this was a much bigger project than we realized. Or maybe it's an insurmountable task for Amaker.

But how much time should Amaker be given? Five years is five years. He's had time to bring in his own players, and this senior class should've progressed to the point of an upper-tier finish in the conference and an invitation to the NCAA tournament. Yet that senior class seemed to reach a plateau, in terms of achievement. His players haven't gotten better in four years under his tutelage, which to me, might be the most damning indictment you can throw at a college basketball coach.

Amaker is probably the beneficiary of a school and fanbase that regards its basketball program with second-string interest. But Michigan fans aren't ones to let their expectations lower as the years go on. And college basketball - especially when your team plays in the Big Ten conference - isn't a sport that will allow Amaker to continue to hover under the radar. Not at this time of the year.

(Photo by Dale G. Young/ The Detroit News)

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3 Comments:

  • At March 10, 2006 7:33 PM, Blogger Kenny said…

    Ian,

    I meant the 2 NIT championships as more of a sarcastic remark considering how this season started and how much talent there is on this team. An NIT championship is definitely not acceptable and barring a miracle entry into the tourney followed by a miracle run to the sweet 16 I consider this season, not quite a failure, but very, very bad.

     
  • At March 10, 2006 8:15 PM, Blogger Ian C. said…

    Oh, I definitely detected the sarcasm. Though I can see that maybe that didn't come across in my prefacing remarks.

     
  • At March 11, 2006 1:37 PM, Blogger Sean said…

    Thanks for putting the link to my article in there.

    I don't know if we're gonna get in the tourney or not, but I'd boycott the NIT if that came to Ann Arbor.

     

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