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Stadium and Main: Prove me wrong... please.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Prove me wrong... please.

After a nice home win against Purdue, some of you might be tempted to get your hopes up regarding Michigan basketball. I urge you not to. Here's our remaining regular season schedule:
Wed., Jan. 24 at Wisconsin 8:00 p.m. ESPN Full Court
Sat., Jan. 27 at Indiana Noon ESPN
Wed., Jan. 31 Iowa 8:00 p.m. ESPN Full Court
Tue., Feb. 6 at Ohio State 7:00 p.m. ESPN
Sat., Feb. 10 Minnesota 8:00 p.m. ESPN Full Court
Tue., Feb. 13 at Michigan State 9:00 p.m. ESPN
Sat., Feb. 17 Indiana 4:00 p.m. ESPN
Wed., Feb. 21 at Illinois 8:00 p.m. ESPNU
Sat., Feb. 24 at Minnesota 1:32 p.m. ESPN Full Court
Tue., Feb. 27 or Wed., Feb. 28 Michigan State Time/TV TBA
Sat., Mar. 3 Ohio State Time/TV TBA
For the sake of argument, let’s say that Michigan is the 5th-best team in the Big Ten, and that only the top 4 teams in the Big Ten are guaranteed NCAA bids. Both of those statements might be accurate, for all we know, and I think you could make strong arguments to support them. But check this out: In our final 11 games of the regular season, we play Ohio State twice, Michigan State twice, Indiana twice, and Wisconsin once (on the road). 7 of Michigan’s final 11 regular season games are against teams that most neutral observers would say are the “top 4” in the Big Ten.

Fair or not, the “last ten games” statistic has become more prevalent in the NCAA Tournament Committee’s collective mind. And while Michigan certainly choked down the stretch last season, they faced a fairly difficult schedule. Same thing this year. Same result? Unfortunately, I think so. Blame the Big Ten schedule-makers. Blame Amaker. Blame Bill Martin. Blame the facilities. It doesn’t matter. It’s what we’re faced with, and here’s what I think is gonna happen...

I don’t think we’ll beat any of the “top 4” on the road – that’s 4 Big Ten losses right there. And I don’t think we can beat OSU at home – make it 5 losses. Add those to the one loss we already have (at Purdue), and we have 6 “guaranteed” Big Ten losses, in my mind. Call me a pessimist, but I think I’m being realistic. We just don’t beat good teams on the road (plus, OSU has Greg Oden. We have Courtney Sims. ‘Nuff said.).

So let’s look at the 6 other “winnable” games: Needless to say, wins over Iowa and Minnesota at home are critical – lose one of those, and the season might be over. Lose both, and it is. Assuming we can take care of business in those two games, the season comes down to this four-game stretch, in my opinion:
Sat., Feb. 17 Indiana 4:00 p.m. ESPN
Wed., Feb. 21 at Illinois 8:00 p.m. ESPNU
Sat., Feb. 24 at Minnesota 1:32 p.m. ESPN Full Court
Tue., Feb. 27 or Wed., Feb. 28 Michigan State Time/TV TBA
Winning these four games in a row will go a long way to improving our NCAA chances. In fact, we might need to win those games to have any chance at the Tourney. 10-6 in the Big Ten is good enough. 9-7 in the Big Ten, during a year in which the Big Ten is way “down” (in the eyes of the media and the computers), might not do the trick. I don’t want to need two wins in the Big Ten Tournament to "earn" a NCAA Tournament berth. We’ve seen how that goes.

Also of importance: If things go as I expect, we will be without a signature road win this year, which will be a pretty big weakness in a resume that also includes losses to the only three non-conference teams with a pulse that we played (at NC State, a blowout at UCLA, and a mini-blowout at home against Georgetown).

I don’t hate Amaker, but I don’t love him. I don’t know if he’s a good coach. When color commentator and former Michigan player Tim McCormick can consistently and accurately predict your defensive tendencies, you’re probably not a great coach. When I know that you’re going to run a double screen for a Dion Harris three-pointer out of timeout, opposing coaches probably know it, too. People "inside" the Michigan program consistently say that Amaker will be back next year regardless of what happens this season. If so, I suppose life will go on, right? I'm just not going to waste much time or energy hoping that they can secure a Tourney bid. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

4 Comments:

Blogger Gorilla said...

Why must you torment us with the bitter reality we all know to be true?

go blue

2:41 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

It is pain, isn't it? PAIN - Clubber Lang style.

7:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

that iowa loss probably does it. see you in september.

11:50 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

Yep. When's the Spring game... err... practice thingy?

4:10 PM  

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