NCAA Selection Committee Surprises No One, Banishes Michigan to NIT for Third Time in Four Years
(March 12, 2007) At a certain point you just go numb.
Numb to the reality of the situation. Numb to your past. Numb to your future. Most importantly, numb to the increasingly futile present.
After watching Michigan brick it's way to a loss against Ohio State last Friday, I turned off the TV and went back to work. Surprisingly, I was incredibly efficient churning out letters, analysis and phone calls. Over the weekend I realized why.
I expected it to happen. I expected Michigan not only to lose to Ohio State, but to miss the NCAA's even if they managed to win the game.
Even though I firmly believed at the start of the season Michigan would make the NCAA tournament and finish no lower than fifth in the conference, by mid season I knew the NCAA's were a pipe dream. Michigan's best showings were in losses. When they won it was uninspiring. When they lost it was always by double digits. A road game was the equivalent of liver to the Fonz. A 4-0 conference start did little to mask the lack of leadership and coaching that were so obvious. At a certain point, you knew the NIT was the only real possibility.
Now Michigan awaits Utah State (23-11) in the NIT. The Aggies beat tournament bound Nevada twice and were considered by many analysts to be a solid at large NCAA bid. Instead, they got a 6 seed in the NIT and receive an all expenses paid trip to Crisler in the middle of winter. Imagine. A team that beat the top seed in their conference, twice. I can't.
Now all that's really left to ponder is whether Amaker will be back next year. Mike Rosenberg of the Free Press doesn't think so. In his column he neatly picks apart any defense the school has in keeping him.
This is true. But again, we're not asking why the Wolverines haven't made the Final Four. We're just wondering why they can't make a 65-team postseason tournament.
* He is a nice man, and he runs a clean program.
True. So what? These are bare minimums. Walter Cronkite is a nice man, and I bet he would run a clean program, but I wouldn't hire him to coach a basketball team either.
* The school president, Mary Sue Coleman, likes Tommy's wife, Stephanie.
OK, so this isn't actually a reason Michigan should keep him. It is a reason Michigan might keep him... First of all, let's be clear about this issue: it's not that the university can't afford to lose Stephanie Pinder-Amaker. No associate dean is irreplaceable. I mean, that's just silly.
Allow me to throw a little more gasoline on the fire. As this is a senior laden team, comprised of players Amaker recruited, sans sanctions, I believe it is a good indicator of his coaching abilities. A quick look at the stats reveals a glaring indictment of his coaching.
Finally, in what Big Ten Wonk considers the most important of underutilized stats, Michigan was 4th in scoring margin (+1.9) in 2003-2004, 10th (-9.0) in 2004-2005, 6th (-0.5) in 2005-2006, and 8th (-0.5) in 2006-2007.
One positive scoring margin in four years. Perhaps the worst Assist/Turnover ratio in the Big Ten over the last four years. A scoring offense that mustered more than a 61 point per game average once in four years. And a team that without Daniel Horton can't pass the ball to a teammate in scoring position. Absolutely no improvement year-to-year.
Fire him now.
Send a card. Send a barbershop quartet. Hire a plane to write it in the sky. Candy gram. A bouquet that spells out "You're Fired" in roses. Do it in person. I don't care.
Fire. Him. Now.
The faithful are tired of looking for improvement when there is none. We're tired of caring so much only to have our hopes crushed. We're tired of losing the best recruits who wear nothing but Maize and Blue and practically throw themselves at the school because Tommy won't even go after them. We're tired of watching the talent that arrives be squandered. We're tired of top recruits saying things like this:
We're tired of losing.
Because at a certain point we're going to be numb to the program. And when that happens, the twenty or so fans that are left will simply leave and never come back. Crisler will change from simply being a tired facility in need of repair and update, it will become a mausoleum. A tomb full of the crushed hopes and dreams of Michigan's players and fans.
I want so badly to feel something for this team other than pity and disgust. I'm tired of anticipating defeat and feeling nothing when it happens. I long for feelings like hope and confidence.
I want this team to feel like Michigan again. I want to look at them a feel proud instead of sad that they wasted all that talent and energy for a coach who could never deliver what he promised.
I want to feel something positive and pride inspiring. More than anything, I just want to feel something other than the way I feel now.