The Wolverine

November 2011

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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2011-12 basketball preview W By Michael Spath hen Michigan qualified for the WNIT in 2008, earning a postseason berth for the first time since 2002, the Wolverines rejoiced. In 2010, when they went back to the WNIT, they were a tad disappointed they weren���t in the NCAA Tournament but vowed to make the most of their opportunity, winning four games en route to a berth in the semifinals. A year ago, following a third-place showing in the Big Ten (10-6), a 17-12 regular-season record, and a rank of 53 in the RPI, they were downright annoyed at being shipped back to the they can do this season to guarantee inclusion. ���Win the Big Ten,��� senior point guard Courtney Boylan said. ���Starting our season out, that���s our goal. We were third last year, we were even in first for a few games, and I think we can definitely do it. We return some great players and we have some new freshmen that will contribute.��� A Realistic Ambition Michigan���s 10-6 record in conference action during the 2011 campaign represented its best mark since going 10-6 in 2001 (the last time U-M earned an NCAA bid). The Wolverines finished team, make NCAAs. That���s where the program wants to be.��� There is reason to be optimistic. Michigan returns four of five starters, nine of its top-10 contributors overall, 82.7 percent of its scoring, and welcomes four talented freshmen. Plus, this team is now fully indoctrinated in Borseth���s systems and approach. ���Every year with Coach Borseth, with the exception of year two [1020] where we took a small step back, we���ve gotten better, won more games, been more competitive in the Big Ten,��� Boylan said. ���That���s the sign of a good program ��� getting better every year ��� and this year the next step is attain- Urgent Matters Wolverines Aim To Compete For Big Ten Title, NCAAs Right Now WNIT when they felt deserving of an NCAA invitation. The Maize and Blue have reached year five of the Kevin Borseth era, and while the Michigan athletic administration has not issued a mandate, the players themselves ��� fully aware the men���s team has qualified for a pair of NCAA Tournaments in John Beilein���s four previous seasons ��� have a sense of urgency this year. ���As an athlete, you want to be able to say, ���We���re sick of this, sick of com- three games back of champion Michigan State but just a game behind second-place Penn State. And there were chances to improve upon their record; the Maize and Blue dropped a pair of contests to 4-12 Minnesota among their final eight regular-season games. ���Sometimes in the past when we���ve said we want to win the Big Ten, we really meant we want to do well in the Big Ten,��� junior guard Jenny Ryan said. ���But change a few games, and we were there. ��� Junior forward Rachel Sheffer ���We���re competitive and we want to get to NCAAs. We just know we have to make it this year, and we want that much more to make it this year.��� ing up just short,������ junior forward Rachel Sheffer said. ���Every year we���ve gotten better in the Big Ten. Every year we���ve improved and we���re looking to take another step. We���re competitive and we want to get to NCAAs. We just know we have to make it this year, and we want that much more to make it this year.��� Michigan���s r��sum�� was probably good enough a year ago, and yet U-M was one of the teams on the bubble that had to settle for the WNIT. When they look back at 2011, the Wolverines do not lament over what could, or maybe should, have been, but on what 72��� the wolverine��� ������ November 2011 ���Now it���s a realistic possibility, but we still have to take it one game at a time, and not drop any winnable games ��� not dropping a game to Minnesota when it comes down to the end of the season. ���We���ve always been urgent, but this year it���s more of a demand of ourselves. Before it was, ���We���re building, we���re building, we���re building,��� and after last year, I felt like we were there. ���This year the urgency is finishing the Big Ten season off, demanding from ourselves to be consistent, and establishing a tradition for this program that we���re always going to be a 20-win ing that Big Ten title and moving on to the NCAA Tournament.��� Looking For A Leader Though the majority of Michigan���s team returns intact from last year, the lone senior the Wolverines lost, guard Veronica Hicks, was a key cog. The Chicagoan led U-M in scoring (11.2 points per game) and rebounds (5.5 boards per game) last year, and was second in assists (97) and steals (49). She was also a tremendous leader, and would often step up into the playmaking role when the shot clock wound down. Boylan, classmate Carmen Reynolds and Sheffer each had moments, and games in which they shined offensively, but Hicks was that go-to player for the Maize and Blue, and her struggles down the stretch ��� she shot 35.2 percent from the floor in Michigan���s final 10 games ��� coincided with UM���s 4-6 limp to the finish line. The Wolverines need someone to become that focal-point player that boosts the performance of her teammates. ���We really aren���t a team with a superstar,��� Borseth said. ���The discusA year ago, head coach Kevin Borseth led U-M to a third-place showing in the Big Ten (10-6), a 17-12 regular-season record, and a rank of 53 in the RPI. photo by per kjeldsen

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