February 16, 2022

Good morning,

Sunday night, roughly 20 sportswriters gathered around the front-right desk at 420 Maynard Street, craning their necks upward toward a tiny, decade-old TV screen mounted way too high up the wall. Drinks were consumed (water and pop, obviously), prop bets were lost and hugs were exchanged as Matthew Stafford earned the ring he would never have seen in Detroit. 

Scholars have worked for over a century to understand this phenomenon — to answer why sports are such an integral part of virtually every society on Earth. They look at the history of sport, drawing on ideas of class, power and nationalism as instruments to deduce why the Super Bowl draws tens of millions of viewers every year without fail. In a nutshell, sports help us understand our place in the world and provide a space for conflicts to resolve themselves.

But here, at The Michigan Daily Sports desk, we subscribe to a simpler central theory: 

Sports are fun. 

Every other Wednesday, you’ll find me in your inbox with stories reflecting this mantra, covering all 27 varsity sports at the University of Michigan. Whether you’re looking for the latest on the men’s basketball team’s tournament push or just trying to keep up with the women’s gymnastics team’s historic season (more on that later), the Maynard Street Blitz has everything you need. 

Sports are fun. Here’s the latest on them. 

Tess Crowley/Daily. Buy this photo.

Spencer Raines: At this point, Michigan is what it is

Last Thursday, the Michigan men’s basketball team played its best game all season, sinking 12-of-21 3-pointers en route to an 82-58 upset of No. 3 Purdue. The win seemed to resurrect the Wolverines’ hopes for a deep NCAA Tournament run and could have marked a turning point for the season — if not for an abysmal performance two days later against No. 16 Ohio State, in which Michigan shot just 4-for-17 from deep. 

The Wolverines’ 68-57 loss, according to men’s basketball beat writer Spencer Raines, illustrates the team’s core problem heading into March: inconsistency. Despite sky-high preseason expectations and a few flashes of greatness in the past few weeks, Michigan is simply too volatile to expect any meaningful wins in the postseason.

Kate Hua/Daily. Buy this photo.

Jack Glanville: Michigan is still on track — so long as Leigha Brown is healthy

The Michigan women’s basketball team entered last Thursday’s matchup against Michigan State on an eight-game win streak. A win against the Spartans — followed by another at Northwestern on Sunday — could have helped solidify the Wolverines’ spot atop the Big Ten standings. 

But without senior guard Leigha Brown in the lineup, Michigan’s offense faltered, and the Wolverines fell in both contests. In a column from Monday, basketball beat writer Jack Glanville discusses just how instrumental Brown has been to the team’s season-long success:

“Over the course of the season, every time it felt like Michigan’s lead had been slipping, Brown was the one to come up clutch.”

Bottom line: If Brown returns, the Wolverines should be as dangerous as ever come March.

Dominick Sokotoff/Daily. Buy this photo.

Michigan wins fifth straight ‘Duel in the D,’ 7-3

Amid Olympic absences and hanging questions over an investigation into the program, Michigan remains pretty damn good at hockey. At Little Caesars Arena on Saturday, the Wolverines notched a 7-3 victory over Michigan State, tightening their grip on the “Iron D” trophy for the fifth straight time and completing a weekend sweep of the Spartans. 

Freshman defenseman Luke Hughes led the effort, notching six points and anchoring a defense that stonewalled a physical Michigan State team. Like Mel Pearson-coached teams of years past, Michigan seems to be getting hot at just the right time and should be poised to make some noise in the postseason — barring any fallout from the investigation.

It’s the best time of year for obsessive college sports fans, with the winter season nearing its end and the spring season just getting started. Check out the stories below for the latest on Michigan’s non-revenue teams. 

Softball: Michigan goes 3-2 on opening weekend with inconsistent hitting

Wrestling: Michigan tops Michigan State, 24-13, in final home dual

Men’s lacrosse: Michigan routs Detroit Mercy for second win of season

Men’s tennis: Michigan dominates in singles, finds path to victory over Illinois

Men’s gymnastics: Ohio State upsets Michigan, 403.600-398.100

SportsMonday: Michigan women’s basketball is a title contender, so start treating them like one

Former Managing Sports Editor Kent Schwartz writes about the unjust lack of attention paid to women’s basketball: 

“The curtains covering the upper bowl (of Crisler Center) have only come up twice, both in the 2019-20 season: once for a double-header where the women played after the men on a Saturday, and the other to host Michigan State. The stadium felt hollow in the double-header, and the game against the Spartans is the only time I’ve seen the Crisler Center resemble capacity — 11,068 fans attended that game.

For reference, 12,445 fans watched the men’s basketball team play Southern Utah this past fall.”

The Michigan women’s basketball team currently sits at second in the Big Ten standings, yet it ranks 10th in attendance. While the men’s team limps toward maybe securing a low-seed bid in the NCAA Tournament, ESPN’s latest bracketology has the women slotted as a 2-seed. 

Put simply, the Wolverines are having their best season in program history, but nobody’s watching. As Schwartz says, it’s time for fans to pay attention — and go to the damn games.

In the first period of Saturday’s “Duel in the D” between Michigan and Michigan State, Daily Staff Photographer Dominick Sotokoff captured a backhand goal from freshman forward Mackie Samoskevich.

In each newsletter, I’ll throw in three betting picks from the college sports world. Unfortunately, oddsmakers seem to make college basketball spreads one day in advance, and I write this newsletter on Tuesday night, so any basketball picks will be limited to games played on Wednesday. Whole number odds have 0.5 added because pushes are dumb.

NCAAM — Miami (FL) -2.5 at Louisville (2/16)

Miami is coming off a top 25 road win at Wake Forest and sits firmly on the bubble. Louisville, meanwhile, is on a six-game losing streak and all but eliminated from tournament contention. Give me the ’Canes any day. 

NCAA Hockey — Ohio State at Michigan under 6.5 goals (2/18)

I know, I know. Michigan scored a combined 13 goals on its own in its last two games. Still, Ohio State is much tougher defensively than Michigan State, and with several of the Wolverines’ players still in Beijing for the Olympics, I struggle to see this becoming another goalfest. 

NCAA Hockey — North Dakota +135 at Minnesota Duluth (2/18)

I like the value here. The crowd in Duluth will almost certainly be a factor, but North Dakota has already managed a 7-4 away record this season, despite playing a tough NCHC schedule. Let’s roll with the Fighting Hawks. 

Enjoying reading The Daily’s newsletters? We have four more newsletters — one that comes out daily, another one weekly, one focused on Ann Arbor news and another focused on University faculty affairs — that you can subscribe to here.

© 2021 The Michigan Daily. All Rights Reserved.