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What Else Is Blue Returns as Winter Sports Kick Off

After a long break, many teams kicked off or re-started their seasons this week. Wrestling returns, women’s basketball struggles, tennis and track have their season openers, and more.

Sam Janicki - Michigan Photography

The long winter break is over, and finally teams with winter debuts are getting into the ring, into the water, onto the track, and onto whatever you call a basketball court covered in gymnastics equipment (I think it’s just “floor”). For the first time since early December, we have a full slate of sports starting and re-starting their seasons.

This Week’s One Thing

Wrestling v. #11 Minnesota, Sun Jan. 19, 2p, Crisler Center

Wrestling spends the majority of the rest of the season on the road (they gave up a home meet for the Madison Square Garden meet v. Rutgers), so if you were planning on making it to a wrestling meet this season, this is one of your very few chances. Minnesota is a strong squad, but the highlight will certainly be a matchup between the top two heavyweights in the country, Minnesota’s Gable Stevenson and Michigan’s Mason Parris. Both are undefeated.

Women’s Basketball (11-5, 2-3 B1G)

Last Week: 78-69 L @ OSU, 77-49 L v. #20 Maryland

Upcoming: Thu Jan. 16, 7p v. Wisconsin, Sun Jan 19, 5p ET @ Nebraska, BTN

First, Michigan was on a little skid, dropping two straight big games on the road against ranked opponents before the end of 2019. Since then, the little skid has become an all-out slide, with Michigan having lost four out of their last six games. The OSU loss was disappointing, the game was close for three quarters before the bottom dropped out in the fourth. At home against Maryland, Michigan suffered its first true blowout loss of the season. Maryland controlled from the jump, using their length to play stifling defense.

Last season, Michigan rode a strong showing in the latter half of the season to the Big Ten semifinals and an NCAA Tournament bid. In order to save this season, they will need to have a similar turnaround. I was very optimistic coming into this season, and it is disappointing that the Wolverines do not appear to have taken the hoped step forward during the offseason. While Michigan will return the vast majority of its contributors next year, this wasn’t supposed to be a season where we were talking about next season already in January. With a little win streak, the Wolverines can get us talking about this season.

After going 0-2 last week, this is suddenly a huge week. Michigan should be able to handle a trip to Wisconsin. The Badgers are 9-7 but just 1-4 in Big Ten play. The bigger test will be a game in Lincoln against the 13-3 Cornhuskers. HerHoopStats (women’s Kenpom) has Michigan at 29 and Nebraska at 40. Nebraska beat up on a so-so non-conference schedule and carries losses to MSU and Rutgers. If Michigan is going to fix what ails it, taking a pivotal road win would be a good place to start.

Wrestling (2-2)

Last Week: 21-15 L v. Oregon St, 22-14 W. v. MSU

Upcoming: Fri Jan. 17, 7p v. Maryland (Cliff Keen Arena), Sun Jan. 19, 2p v. Minnesota (Crisler Center)

Michigan wrestling resumed its season after a long winter break, losing a home match to Oregon State. The Wolverines rallied back the next week, comfortably beating MSU at a sold out Cliff Keen. The Wolverines won the first five matches and took a huge lead, with Will Lewan winning the only matchup between ranked individuals. MSU stormed back and was only down by two when the heavyweights came around, but Mason Parris pinned his opponent, maintaining his undefeated record and winning the meet for the Wolverines. Michigan is one spot out of the Top 25 poll.

Michigan will host Maryland before the Minnesota match discussed above. Maryland is 2-7 this season, and should be a great warm up for the difficult Minnesota match on Sunday.

#16 Women’s Gymnastics (1-0)

Last Week: 1st of 3 v. Washington, Texas Women’s University

Upcoming: Sat Jan. 18, 2p ET @ #13 Illinois

Michigan opened its regular season with a triple meet against Washington and Texas Women’s University. The Wolverines trailed going into the final rotation, but just barely beat out Washington to take first place on their home floor. Natalie Wojcik’s 9.900 on beam certainly helped Michigan earn the comeback win. Two freshman made their debuts, with Gabby Wilson getting a 9.900 on vault, and Sierra Brooks a 9.875 on uneven bars, both event-winning scores.

Michigan will now travel to Illinois to open their Big Ten schedule. The Illini are 4-0 this season, with a notable win over Missouri.

#3 Men’s Gymnastics

Upcoming: Sat Jan. 18, 8:45p (ET) @ Windy City Invitational, Chicago, IL

Men’s gymnastics will open it’s season in Chicago, at a meet featuring four other ranked teams. #1 Stanford will be there, as well as conference-mates Illinois, Minnesota, and Iowa. Michigan finished second in this meet last year, and it should be a good measuring stick of where they stand and what they need to improve over the course of the regular season. One interesting wrinkle to the men’s gymnastics season: Crisler Center will host the National Championship. With a positive season, the Wolverines might have a chance to win a big trophy at home.

#14 Women’s Tennis

Upcoming: Fri-Sun Jan 20-22, Michigan Invitational

After a successful fall individual season, Michigan will open its team season this weekend. The Wolverines will play all three days, welcoming TCU, Ohio State, and Tennessee to the U-M Varsity Tennis Center. This will be our first look at Michigan’s potential dual meet lineups and an opportunity to see if doubles pairs changed during the long break. Each team will bring a handful of ranked individuals, with Michigan’s still being Giulia Pairone and Andrea Cerdan. Tennis is always free, and is truly a blast to watch live. While I’d understand waiting for a true dual, I’d highly recommend getting out to the VTC this year.

#17 Men’s Tennis

Last Week: 4-3 L v. #23 NC State

Upcoming: Fri. Jan 17, 8p (ET) @ Washington, Sun Jan 19, 3p (ET) @ Oregon

Michigan opened its season with a heartbreaker at home against NC State. Michigan took the doubles point, and Mattias Siimar won a singles match for Michigan to go up 2-0. Slowly, NC State started picking off Michigan’s top players, with Andrew Fenty and Ondrej Styler going down. With the match tied 3-3, the #5 singles match went into tiebreakers, and the Wolfpack’s Robert Turzak held off Harrison brown to take the match for NC State.

Michigan will now travel to the west coast for a pair of Pac-12 matchups. Washington is 2-0 having swept Seattle twice. The Huskies had a difficult time in Pac-12 play last year, going 2-6. This trip is the back half of a home-and-home, after Washington lost 5-2 in Ann Arbor last February. Oregon fared no better, going 1-7 in Pac-12 play. The trip should be a great opportunity for Michigan to pick up some wins after a disappointing opening night.

#7 Water Polo

Upcoming: UCSB Invitational, Santa Barbara, CA:

Sat Jan. 18, 11:30a (ET) v. #22 Cal St. Northridge, 5p (ET) v. #5 UC-Irvine

Sun Jan. 19, 11:30a (ET) v. #4 Cal, 3:15p (ET) v. #11 UCSB

Water polo will open with four games in two days out in California. Water Polo went 2-3 in the exhibition portion of their schedule, though one loss was to the Canadian National Team. This will be a bruising welcome to the season, with all four opponents ranked. However, Michigan and Cal will be the only teams at the event that made the NCAA Tournament last year.

#3 Men’s Swimming and Diving (4-1, 2-1 B1G)

Last Week: 160-140 v. #5 Indiana

Upcoming: Sat Jan. 18, 2p @ #16 OSU

#5 Women’s Swimming and Diving (4-0, 2-0)

Last Week: 186-114 W v. #15 Indiana

Upcoming: Sat Jan. 18, 2p @ #18 OSU

Michigan Swimming and Diving swept the Hoosiers in their first meet back after the December break. The Wolverines had participated in one individual meet, but in the return to the dual schedule the men avenged a previous loss to IU, while the women simply beat them comfortably. On the men’s side Tommy Cope won three events, while transfer Olivia Carter matched that total on the women’s side. Both teams will now head to Columbus for a dual with Ohio State.

Track and Field

Last Week: Wolverine Invitational, Ann Arbor, MI

This Week: Simmons-Harvey Invitational, Ann Arbor, MI

Michigan opened its season at home, hosting a handful of MAC schools and also, somewhat confusingly, Miami, Florida. On both sides, field events led the day, with Courtney Jacobsen and Briana Nelson trading the school record for the weight throw. Meanwhile John Meyer put together a shot put performance that ranked #14 in the country. Michigan will now host MSU and OSU at the annual Simmons Harley Invitational.