1. Best team
Alex Prosperi: Football
The team didn’t win the Rose Bowl, but it was the best squad to don the maize and blue this year. Although the season ended with downers – a 42-39 loss to Ohio State in a game of undefeated rivals and a 32-18 loss to Southern Cal in the Rose Bowl – the senior-laden defense, complemented by the star-studded offensive attack of Chad Henne, Mike Hart and Mario Manningham, brought more than 109,000 fans to The Big House for every home game. The enthusiasm, excitement and anticipation brought on by 11-0 start makes this Michigan team the best of the year.
Dan Feldman: Women’s cross country
An outright Big Ten Title sets this team apart from women’s track and field, which shared its conference championship. Both finished third at the NCAA Championships.
The Wolverines were led by redshirt sophomore Nicole Edwards, the NCAA Great Lakes Regional Athlete of the Year for women’s cross country.
2. Most disappointing team
The grapplers (2-10) finished with their worst regular-season record since 1924-25. That’s pre-Cliff Keen – the coach and the arena. And their eight-place finish at Big Tens was their lowest ever.
Whatever the excuses – a lack of depth or injuries – this normally solid program went through a disastrous season.
AP: Men’s basketball
This team shouldn’t be called a disappointment, but rather a travesty. The cagers looked great on paper, starting four seniors. The previous season’s NIT championship game appearance seemed like it would be a stepping stone to the NCAA Tournament. Michigan even started 16-4.
But the Wolverines went 4-7 in their final 11 regular-season games. Michigan couldn’t win when it had to, showed a lack of effort, had poor play calling and no consistent floor general. Wolverine coach Tommy Amaker was fired after his team lost in the second round of the NIT. This underachieving squad did one thing right – it put fans out of their misery by ending its season sooner than expected.
3. Top moment
DF: Freshman Alan Oaks’s regional-winning home run
The No. 1 pick in the Major League Baseball draft, David Price, was pitching for the No. 1 team in college baseball, Vanderbilt.
The only No. 1 about Oaks, who was pinch-hitting for Michigan, was the first digit in his .188 batting average.
But a homer to left-center put the Wolverines up for good in the deciding game of the Nashville Regional championship game and Oaks in the same stature as Bucky “Fucking” Dent. Dent, despite not being known as heavy hitter, homered over the Green Monster to help the Yankees win the AL East over the Red Sox in 1978.
AP: sophomore Adam Abraham’s diving catch to rob Ohio State
In the bottom of the ninth with the score tied at four, the Michigan baseball team was in a jam. With a full count and the winning run at third base, Wolverine sophomore pitcher Ben Jenzen was instructed to walk Buckeye Ryan Dew with first base open. But Dew had other plans.
Jenzen left a pitch over the plate and Dew hit a shot to third, which seemed like the winning hit. But sophomore Adam Abraham jumped higher than any baseball player in recent memory and snatched the ball out of mid-air, sending the game into extra innings, where Michigan carried its momentum a win and a eventually a sweep in Columbus.
4. Worst moment
DF: Redshirt freshman Carson Butler’s alleged St. Patrick’s-day assault
With all signs pointing to the upcoming season being Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr’s last, he should be riding off smoothly into the sunset. But off-the-field incident after off-the-field incident in the last year are putting the kibosh on that.
Already off the team for at least spring practice, Carson Butler, along with redshirt freshman cornerback Chris Richards, allegedly beat up another student. Carr responded swiftly, kicking both off the team, even though Butler appeared to be the favorite to start at tight end this year.
AP: men’s basketball team’s collapse vs. Iowa
When there’s a must-win game on Jan. 31, things probably aren’t going well. Nonetheless, the 16-6 squad needed to beat Iowa at Crisler Arena after getting crushed at both No. 2 Wisconsin and No. 23 Indiana and with a trip to No. 3 Ohio State lurking in the near future.
Michigan led 34-23 at halftime and it looked like the weak Iowa squad had no chance at the upset. But Adam Haluska and the Hawkeyes went on an unforeseeable 20-1 run in the second half. Michigan went from shooting 45.2 percent in the first half to a disastrous 29.2 percent in the second. And Iowa went from shooting a dismal 26.7 percent to an inhuman 61.5 percent. The Wolverines showed no sense of urgency and were reluctant to put away the Hawkeyes, which may have cost them a trip to the Big Dance.
5. Best athlete
DF: Graduate student Anna Willard, women’s track and field
Willard made the most of her only year competing for Michigan after coming from Brown for graduate school. The University of Michigan’s 2006-07 Female Athlete of the Year set the NCAA record in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and became the first Wolverine to win three Big Ten outdoor titles (3,000-meter steeplechase, 1,500-meter run and 5,000-meter run).
AP: Sophomore Tatjana Thuener-Rego, women’s gymnastics
With three all-around gymnasts lost to injury, Thuener-Rego had to improve her performance. She did a little more than that. She won 12 individual event medals in 14 meets. She also won five all-around titles, including one at the Northeast Regional, where she also won the floor exercise. The All-Big Ten first team member was the Big Ten runner-up on the uneven bars and the floor exercise.