The Wolverine

August 2015 Issue

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 175 of 177

O n the surface, Michigan's fin- ish among the top-20 athletic departments in the country this year (No. 19 in the Directors' Cup rankings) appears a lofty accomplish- ment. However, the Wolverines have established a higher standard; over the past 18 years, dating back to 1997-98, U-M has fin- ished top-six nationally 12 times. The overall perfor- mance in 2014-15 is the worst Michigan has fared since placing 25th in 2009-10, and is the third-lowest outcome for the Maize and Blue ever (24th in 2005-06). The difference be- tween middling and outstanding, by U-M expectations, are rather slim and could have been achieved if the Big 3 of football, basketball and ice hockey would have succeeded at their normal pace. Simply appearing in a bowl game would have earned 25 points, while qualifying for NCAA Tournaments in men's hoops and hockey would have brought another 50 combined points, moving the Wolverines up to 12th. All three programs should rebound in 2015-16. Jim Harbaugh has proven an over- achiever during three previous stops, giving fans hope the Maize and Blue will win 8-10 contests. Handicapped by injuries to Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton in 2014- 15, the basketball team welcomes the return of LeVert for his se- nior season, and has a burgeoning crop of sophomores capable of guiding the Wolverines to the NCAA Sweet 16. Hockey, perhaps, faces the stiffest chal- lenge. With the gradua- tion of senior Zach Hy- man and the early exits of Andrew Copp and Dylan Larkin, Michi- gan said goodbye to 51 goals and 78 assists, and will once again be counting on a heavy contribution from its six-man freshman class. If heralded defenseman Zach We- renski returns for his sophomore year (and he is expected to), and senior Steve Racine builds off his strong fin- ish in net — providing a level of con- sistency at goal U-M has not had for three seasons — the Maize and Blue should compete for an NCAA berth. While the Big 3 certainly occupy the spotlight, a number of other programs MAIZE N' VIEW   MICHAEL SPATH Time To Bounce Back The Wolverines are expected to at least get back to the post- season in year one under Jim Harbaugh. They could be just one of several U-M squads that rebound in 2015-16. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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