Michigan seniors hoping for change

first_imgJEFF SCHORFHEIDE/Herald photoThe seniors of the University of Michigan men’s basketball team are no strangers to fast starts.Over the course of their careers, Courtney Sims, Dion Harris, Lester Abram and Brent Petway have seen plenty of pretty records in January. The problem is they haven’t seen many at all come March and April.Take last season, when the Wolverines watched a 16-3 start lead to a 2-7 finish down the stretch.There was also 2005-06, when Michigan was red hot at 12-5 and a perfect 3-0 in conference play. Injuries, however, led to the Wolverines going on to lose 10 straight games and 13 of 14 overall.Even in 2004-05, the freshman year for Sims, Harris and Petway, the group watched a 10-2 start lead to a 7-8 finish, though the team did rebound and go on to win the National Invitation Tournament that season.But since winning the NIT their freshman year, the careers of the four Michigan seniors have basically been drenched in disappointment, having never reached the NCAA Tournament, despite it seemingly being a lock at midseason on several occasions. That is the single goal surrounding Michigan this season: to reach the Big Dance for the first time since 1998.”I’m pretty sure that with the recruiting class they had as freshmen, that they are getting tired of hearing they can’t make the tournament,” Wisconsin guard Kammron Taylor said. “They always get close, but they always come up short. Every team they play they are going all-out.”Maybe that’s why this year’s edition of the fast-starting Wolverines are flying under the radar despite a glistening 16-4 (4-1 Big Ten) record, with three of those losses coming against teams in the RPI’s top 50.How under the radar are they? They are only receiving two total votes in the polls. “They are going to come in here hungry,” UW senior forward Alando Tucker said.”They’ve got a chip on their shoulder.”It all adds up to a very dangerous home game for No. 2-ranked Wisconsin (19-1, 5-0 Big Ten), who represent the perfect marquee win for Michigan to add to their NCAA Tournament résumé.”We know that they are thinking that if they come in here and beat us, it is the perfect game to put on their résumé to get them to the tournament,” Tucker said. “They are definitely a dangerous team. They can put up some numbers.”And as UW’s senior forward Jason Chappell pointed out, there might be some extra motivation for this team, as Michigan’s seniors have never made it to the NCAA tournament.”It’s definitely a feeling of the need to do it now,” Chappell said. “So they are definitely probably playing with a little more motivation.”Unlike many of the teams in the Big Ten, Michigan comes in with a wealth of experience, with Sims, Harris, Abram and Petway all starting as three-time letter winners.”You can’t teach experience and leadership, and they have plenty,” junior forward Brian Butch said.The seniors are the Wolverines’ top four scorers with Harris (13.4) and Sims (12.0) leading the balanced Michigan attack, which at its finest is one that utilizes a frenetic pace to take advantage of the team’s considerable athleticism.”They bring a lot of athleticism, and this year they bring leadership,” Tucker said. “Harris can really light it up at times, and Sims is really also good defensively and alters a lot of shots.”There are also early indications that this is a different Michigan team — one that won’t fade down the stretch as past Wolverine squads have.One example came last week as Michigan picked up a 26-point victory against Purdue, only seven days after falling to the Boilermakers by 14.”Purdue went into Michigan with some confidence, feeling that … if they do certain things, they’re going to be competitive, which they are,” Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said. “And then Michigan just kind of took them out of it. That just shows how far Michigan’s come this year.”As usual, the Badgers have the bull’s-eye on their jerseys, but that is nothing new and thus, the Badgers are more concerned with themselves than their opponent.”We know what Michigan is going to offer and bring to the table,” Butch said. “It’s up to us to go out there and match their intensity.”last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *