Nah-nah-nah-nah, nah-nah-nah-nah, hey, hey, hey, goodbye.” The embarrassing chants of the Colorado State student section resonated through Moby Arena in Monday night”s overtime victory over Michigan. It was Colorado State”s first win against the Wolverines in three meetings.
Colorado State was 1-7 in the Mountain West Conference, but a win over mighty Michigan made the Rams” season. This sounds all too familiar for another underachieving season in Michigan basketball.
“This is the type of game you want to put behind you,” Michigan assistant coach Chuck Swenson said.
The same could be said about last night”s lackadaisical effort against the Boilermakers, a 79-43 shellacking by a team that has struggled all year long and was in 10th place in the Big Ten going into last night”s game.
Michigan”s dismal 43 points was a season low.
Actually, it was another low point in a season full of them.
The Wolverines have simply had far too many games they”d like to put behind them this year. In coach Tommy Amaker”s first campaign, Michigan has already suffered losses against Bowling Green and Western Michigan of the Mid American Conference and West Coast Conference”s San Francisco.
Michigan doesn”t discriminate against Big Ten teams either, as it lost to Northwestern at home for the second straight season. Those pesky back cuts struck again.
Michigan has always seemed to find a way to make another team”s season.
Too bad the Wolverines can”t salvage their own.
At 10-13, to end the season with a .500 record and qualify for the NIT, Michigan must win its final four games or win three of its last four and win two games in the Big Ten Tournament.
But beating the Big Ten”s top two teams (Indiana and Ohio State) and passing road tests at Wisconsin and Iowa is as likely as former booster Ed Martin taking over as Michigan”s athletic director.
Remember, this is a team that found itself down 51-19 at one point last night against the struggling Boilermakers, and the Wolverines” biggest win this season was at home against Minnesota.
Amaker never promised an NIT bid or a .500 record. But he did promise improvement. And 23 games into this season, things haven”t changed not even from last season”s 10-18 debacle.
Last year”s team beat the Wagners, Towsons, and Western Michigans of college basketball, while playing a much tougher schedule than this year”s team. Last season, the Wolverines played four teams ranked in the top 20, and battled a much tougher Big Ten schedule playing Michigan State, Iowa and Indiana twice. This year”s team played just two nonconference teams in the top 25, including an overrated Boston College team. Plus, the Wolverines purposely put off taking part in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge until Amaker could get the program off the ground.
Yes, excitement is filling Crisler Arena with Amaker”s arrival, and Michigan is in a much better shape recruiting-wise within the state.
But if you look at the play on the floor, it looks like instead of building up, the Wolverines have fallen flat on their face.
Granted, Purdue was Michigan”s fourth game in seven nights. But when the Wolverines needed to answer the bell and put their pride on the line in a last-ditch effort to make the postseason, Michigan gave its worst effort yet.
The Wolverines shot 21 percent from the floor (6-28) and committed 12 turnovers in the first half. Four of Michigan”s six first-half field goals were from 3-point range.
And the 3-point shots kept on coming reminiscent of last year”s offense under Brian Ellerbe: Pass the ball aimlessly around the perimeter, sit around, wait until the shot clock runs down to three seconds then flip up an errant shot.
The effort may be there, but the results sure aren”t. In fact, Michigan holds nearly identical marks in scoring defense, field goal percentage defense and defensive rebounding as it did last season. The Wolverines seem just as susceptible to back-door cuts, missed box outs and lack of ball movement as they did earlier in the season.
After 23 games, that”s not improvement, that”s regression.
Joe Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org