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Monday, March 13, 2006

The Best of Times? No, the Worst of Times

Another disappointing basketball season is winding to its conclusion in Ann Arbor. I don't think being a number one seed in the NIT was on the pre-season list of goals for Tommy Amaker's guys. This marks the eighth straight season that the Wolverines failed to make the NCAA tourney. But in all of those previous years the football team made up for the basketball team's failures. In every year since Michigan's last tourney, the football team played in a New Year's Day bowl. That is until this year.

As a matter of fact, the previous three times the Wolverine football team didn't play in a New Year's Bowl (1984, 1994, 1995), the hoops team made up for it by at least making the NCAA tournament. In the worst football season in Ann Arbor in the past 37 years ('84), the basketball team softened the blow by going 26-4 overall and won the Big Ten with a 16-2 conference record. Sure, Roy Tarpley was probably scoring more with Ann Arbor dealers than he was on the court, but the Wolverines at least had some major athletic success despite a horrible football season.

So that brings us to this past year. The gridiorn Wolverines had their worst year since '84, a season that was made even more frustrating due to a ridiculously high pre-season ranking, and a mind-boggling knack to blow late leads. But unlike '84, this year's Wolverine hoopsters weren't able to make it easy to rationalize that maybe we're a basketball school after all.

This is shaping up as the worst year for Michigan athletics since 1979-80 when the football team, despite Anthony Carter, could do no better than 8-4 and lost in the Gator Bowl. Meanwhile the basketball team was merely 17-13 and didn't qualify for the NCAA tourney.

So it appears 2005-06 will be a year to live in infamy in Ann Arbor. Unless it's the start of a trend. Even the usual powerhouse hockey team has struggled this year. And we're not even going to talk about women's basketball (one Big Ten win in two years). We're stuck rationalizing that we're a softball school. That phrase is so wrong on so many levels.


BaggyPantsDevil said...

Yep, things have definitely gotten bad athletically at Michigan. I can remember when schools were either good at football or basketball, but Michigan was one of the few good at both.

But, don't forget the Beer Pong Championship. It may be preferable to have Michigan known as a Beer Pong school.

The King said...

We still got softball, and our wrestling team is strong once again this year. Hockey is a dog, and our baseball team's one season return to the big leagues is a long distant memory. So yeah, I guess it's not that great. Our gymnasstics programs are both solid, though. I think the jury's still out.

Then again, I'm probably the only one that watches all of the above UM sports.

As far as big revenue sports go, yeah, our culture of mediocrity is getting to be a total joke.