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Duel of the Disappointments: Debating whether Michigan basketball or hockey is more disappointing in 2009-10

Ariel Bond/Daily
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BY NICOLE AUERBACH AND RYAN KARTJE
Daily Sports Editors
Published January 13, 2010

It's been a rough year for Michigan sports fans. With Michigan basketball and hockey digging themselves a hole as far as the NCAA Tournament goes, the Daily asks the question, which team is more disappointing? Read Daily Sports Editors Nicole Auerbach and Ryan Kartje's answers below.

Join Kartje and Auerbach for a live chat at 6 p.m. today to share your thoughts.

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Nicole Auerbach: Basketball is more disappointing

Honestly, I felt claustrophobic.

After the Michigan men’s basketball team upset then-No. 15 Ohio State, the Wolverine Nation started to come crawling back. That was fine. It was good to see some enthusiasm.

But when Michigan pulled off one of the most unexpected and exhilarating comebacks against Penn State a week ago, the rest of the fanbase returned to the bandwagon. Or rather, smushed into the bandwagon.

The excitement reminded me, well, of last year. Students wore basketball jerseys to class, classmates tried to scalp tickets on Facebook for upcoming games and the buzz throughout campus was getting louder and louder.

Wait. This couldn’t be happening.

And then Sunday came along and brought us all back to reality. Welcome to Michigan basketball circa 2009-10.

This is the team that lost to Utah, which lost to a school called Illinois State (Who?). These are the Wolverines who, in front of a hopeful Crisler Arena crowd, were embarrassed by Boston College, a team that lost to Maine … at home (Seriously).

Those losses were head-scratchers, but after a while, we became numb to the pain. A few false glimmers of hope later — aka the Ohio State and Penn State shockers — and we couldn’t quite figure out this bipolar team. That question we didn’t dare ask was on the tip of our tongues.

Are the Wolverines actually good?

It took 40 minutes and a blown 17-point lead against a rather mediocre Northwestern team to answer that question once and for all: No.

In the most soul-crushing, stake-through-the-heart kind of way, the answer was no.

And boy, does that suck.

This was supposed to be the year of Michigan basketball. Remember last season — the first March Madness appearance in 11 years? Well, it wasn’t supposed to be a one-and-done deal.

For the first time in more than a decade, fans on campus finally let themselves believe in the program. Fifteen games, 7 losses and an RPI of 162 later, and we're basically back to square one.

But why? Michigan lost a pair of walk-on guards this offseason. That’s it. The core of the team, and most importantly Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims, remained.

High expectations practically oozed out of Ann Arbor. The accolades poured in even before the Wolverines began their season: A No. 15 ranking. Pre-season All-Big Ten selections. Features in national college basketball magazines.

Student season ticket sales increased 500 percent, ballooning to nearly 2,500 tickets this season. That’s nearly 2,500 disappointed students who planned their winter classes around midweek games. That’s nearly 2,500 people who expected the season to extend deep into March with a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Now, that sentiment seems almost ludicrous. In fact, this season has felt more like a long, drawn-out dream that none of us can wake up from. Did I say dream? I meant nightmare.

Bad losses, a pathetic 29 percent 3-point field goal percentage, poor interior defense … the list of Michigan's on-court problems could go on for days. The trendy excuse is that the team suffers from a lack of leadership. Me? I don’t believe that, and I don’t buy the “maybe the players just don’t care” argument, either. They care, and they’re good guys. They’re as confused as the fans are, and it’s pretty apparent they don’t know how to fix things any more than we do.

I’m hearing that it’s a pretty similar situation next door at Yost. A talented team that — for some reason or another — has fallen out of the national spotlight. Sure, the hockey team’s 19-year NCAA Tournament appearance streak might snap this year. That’s rough.

Even though Hockeytown is just 40 miles from Ann Arbor, the fact is that college hockey isn’t a major sport here on campus, like football and basketball are.