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The Tree Finally Fell In The Woods

Did you hear it?

That faint thud in the distance was the final, blissful end to the Michigan Men's basketball season.

If you didn't hear it, don't be alarmed. No one else did either. They heard about it from somebody else. When the geniuses at the NIT scheduling office drew up the brackets they forgot there was another tournament on. You know. An important one.

So Michigan's final game, much like its season, was banished to the hinterlands of cable television and public consciousness. It was for the best. As Mark Snyder points out in the Detroit Free Press, the game was a fitting summary of the season.

The end looked much like the middle and the beginning of this season. Michigan grabbing a lead on the road, falling apart and limping to the finish. A final chance to prove mental toughness washed away in a few minutes.

Despite leading by 11 early in the first half Michigan found itself down 8 at the break. Things got worse from there. 8 minutes into the second the Wolverines were down 21. Jerret Smith became, well, Jerret Smith. Dishing 2 assists and committing 6 turnovers. As a team Michigan committed 21 turnovers and only amassed 6 assists. Six. Michigan couldn't play defense either. Florida State shot 59.3% from the field and 50% from three.

What was especially demoralizing after the loss were the words coming from Brent Petway.

"A couple times I thought we weren't playing too hard," senior forward Brent Petway said. "I thought there were some people who weren't giving us their maximum effort, despite people trying to tell others... I can't really express that to you," he said. "When you try to tell people to pick it up, sometimes in people's heads they just don't want to do it. What can you do?"

That statement alone is grounds for firing a head basketball coach. I don't think you'll get much argument from Dion Harris as quoted by Eric Lacy.

"Coach Amaker is going to be all right either way," Harris said. "As seniors, we have to look forward to our futures and see what we can do as far as continuing our careers."

I don't think Amaker will have Lester Abram on speed dial either.

"Turnovers. Too many turnovers on the road. The same story,'' said Abram, who finished with 14 points and six rebounds. "It's the same thing I say to you after every road game... I'm angry, and I don't feel like talking.''

This from three seniors.

Michigan finished the season 3-9 on the road with one win against a team with a winning record. During Amaker's reign of terror Michigan is now 18-44 on the road. In conference play over the last four years Michigan is 28-36 with its best record in conference being 8-8. Michigan has missed the tournament the last two years despite senior laden teams and schedules that would make high school teams jealous.

Finally, after so much disappointment, Amaker's players are speaking up. While they're not speaking out against him, they are grumbling loudly that things should've been different. Leadership should've been provided. Guidance offered. Direction given. Emotion showed.

So now the question becomes whether the 21 point embarrassment at the hands of Florida State was the final tomahawk chop at Amaker's tree trunk? The final two handed axe that sends him crashing back to reality. But shouldn't the mountain of questions raised over the last two years been enough? Weren't two seasons of mind numbing incompetence on the Michigan bench and two seasons of mind blowing collapses enough to finally get him canned? Aren't the indictments being handed out like candy by his players sufficient to make Martin realize that all Amaker is good at is being a nice, quiet guy?

It's funny. Amaker was hired on because he kept his nose clean and wouldn't magnify the waves of scandal that kept rolling up on Michigan's beach. Now, the guy who didn't make waves has generated a Tsunami of animosity from Michigan's fans, alumni and boosters which threatens to take out not just Amaker himself, but the AD who has so staunchly sat beside him. Bill Martin is staring to feel the rumblings under his own feet. And if it's not obvious already, the only way to higher ground is to use Amaker as a step stool towards safety.

Over the last few months Martin has distanced himself from Amaker. Early in the season Martin would quip that Amaker wasn't going anywhere. Now Martin attempts to avoid the subject altogether and when pressed tells reporters he will review everything at the end of the season.

Bill. I've got news for you. The season officially ended when Michigan lost to Illinois in embarrassing fashion this February. But in reality it was over before it began. The schedule was an embarrassment. The players were disinterested and disorganized. The coach was oblivious to the trees crashing down around him. This season never truly existed.

Making matters worse were Amaker's repeated denials of the truth. Like the Iraqi Intelligence Ministry during the fall of Bagdad, Amaker repeated stared into the camera a told anyone would listen or watch that all was well. The infidels are one the run. Our schedule is incredibly hard. We routed them at the airport. I think with an 8-8 record we should be in the tournament.

All as the bombs went off around them.

Last night wasn't as dramatic. It was almost as if nothing happened. No one seems to have heard anything. But in some strange way that might be for the best. Michigan was embarrassed on the road once more, but it's not as though anyone really noticed. The game was viewed by maybe twenty people, not counting the 30 people who actually showed up to watch it live. When the season finally fell after the repeated hammer blows of incompetence, disorganization, and lack of leadership no one was there. No Maize Rage. No boosters. No press. No fans. Just dead silence.

And that may be the loudest noise of all.