1/14/2005 - Michigan 74-79 Illinois - 11-3, 1-2 Big Ten
Well, that could have gone much worse. You can say what you want about moral victories not existing--fair warning if you do: you're parroting dull sports press conferences and are therefore being very boring--but when you're Michigan on the road against #6 Illinois and your eleven point halftime deficit turns into a tight game you literally have a shot at winning instead of a 30 point blowout, eh... moral victories here we come. Eschewing moral victories is for teams that have been to the NCAA tournament this millennium.
Unfortunately, if we're going to track losses based on their ethics we have to do the same for the wins, and Michigan's 68-65 win over a Purdue team minus four starters washes away any and all moral superiority gained by Michigan's latest character-building loss. We're back at ground zero, attempting to assess what, exactly, this team is and by extension whether or not Tommy Amaker is ever going to "close the gap," in the parlance of Michigan-Michigan State basketball smack talk. What I am saying is: hold the horses. You can't say something like "if the refs didn't screw us we would have beaten Illinois" without acknowledging that on another night Michigan was three points better than Purdue's second team.
A favorite tactic of sports fans seeking endorphins from their teams is to wildly overrate their prospects based on only the good while dismissing the bad. For an example, see this idiot's Michigan season preview. As a result you can expect to see condemnations of Amaker that all cite this particular game as an example of Michigan's talent, but Michigan is neither the team that nearly beat Illinois or nearly lost to Purdue, or they're both. As Howard King might say, "you can't have one without the other."
Bullets of Power
- Donde esta Lester Abram? Abram managed to get off two shots in 22 minutes. Two years ago he was the best player on the team. His seemingly disinterested performance and his previous statements to the effect that he may not return for a fifth year if his degree is secured are bothersome.
- It would have been nice to see what Graham Brown could have done if he wasn't assaulted by a series of ticky-tack fouls. I'm just sayin'.
- Hey, maybe that Jerrett Smith guy is all right. He still couldn't defend evolution from William Jennings Bryan, but I'll take eight points on four shots and solid ballhandling.
- I may as well throw this in here: Michigan secured a 2006 commitment from Anthony Wright, who is either 6'5" or 6'6", 230 pounds and is labeled a "small/power forward" by Scout... eesh. His profile has this un-tantalizing headline: "Michigan, Wofford watch Wright."