One of the strategies popular for dealing with disappointment is memory loss.
And a season that finishes with a record of 5-23 should be quickly forgotten.
The Michigan women’s basketball team hopes to make a statement that will help themselves and their fans move forward in an exhibition game tonight at Crisler Arena. They start their year with Athletes in Action – a team comprised mostly of former Division I players that tours the country and plays against many basketball programs.
The Wolverines have kicked off each season under Cheryl Burnett with an exhibition against Athletes in Action, and have come away with wins both years. In Burnett’s debut two years ago, they left with a 78-71 victory and last year they administered a 75-61 drubbing. Although they hope to continue the streak this year, the team will approach the game like a practice.
“We want to make sure and carry over all of our concepts,” Burnett said. “Offensively, defensively, rebounding, and execution – we want to carry all that over from what we’ve done in practice. In my experience, if you don’t emphasize that it’s a carry over, all of a sudden everything is just thrown out the window and the players just compete.”
To reinforce the practice mind set and create a similar environment, the coaches will wear practice sweats and tennis shoes. But Burnett does expect to see some difference between this game and a practice.
“Sometimes, you will find that some players play a little differently in a game-type situation than they do in practice,” Burnett said. “Some will play better and some won’t play as well. We don’t like that to occur because we want our practice environment to bring that out. But sometimes it does tell you a little bit.”
Burnett has stressed to her team throughout the preseason that the five players who work the hardest and play the best defense will start the first exhibition game. Although she has not yet decided on that lineup, the Wolverines will still exhibit non stop defensive pressure and persistent ball-denial and will work on playing hard in the passing lanes as well.
The game will also be a showcase for some possible rule changes. The new rules will include a three-point line that is extended nine inches farther out to 20 feet, 6 inches, and a 10-second backcourt rule, which currently does not exist in any form. Burnett likes both of these experiments because they assist defense – an area the Wolverines hope to become notorious for.
Although the team is approaching the game like a practice, they are still seeking a win and will not be totally satisfied unless they get it. More importantly, they want to make a strong statement about the way they are going to play for the rest of the year.
“Exhibitions to me are statement games,” sophomore forward Ta’Shia Walker said. “They set the tone for the rest of the year. So we need to come in and play hard. If we play hard and we show a lot of potential but we lose by 1 or 2 points, I wouldn’t be that upset. If we come out and win by 20 but we’re lazy and didn’t play good defense and weren’t hitting the shots we needed to hit, we wouldn’t be happy.”
Burnett agrees, but could not bring herself to say that she could possibly be happy with a loss.
“We can get a lot of benefits regardless of how the score turns out,” Burnett said. “But would I be happy if we did not win the game? Probably not.”