Season recaps continue today with Michigan and Ohio State...
Ann Arbor continues its experiment of importing coaches from West Virginia. They got a down payment on the results they were hoping for from the basketball program in Year 2 of John Beilen's reign. They can only hope similar improvement comes from Rich Rodriguez's football team.
The Michigan football season started off with a close loss at home to Utah and decisive road defeat at Notre Dame. In retrospect, that first loss looks almost pretty good, in light of the Utes going undefeated and then beating Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. But considering that hapless Syracuse was able to win in South Bend, losing there by 18 points looks even worse now than it did at the time.
Big Ten play was an unmitigated disaster whose only high point was playing a quarter-plus of outstanding football against Wisconsin. A rally from 19-0 down to win 27-25 was the greatest comeback in the history of Michigan Stadium. And fans had to make that memory last, because there would be only one more win the rest of the way. The year ended with a five-touchdown thumping in Columbus, marking the fifth straight year UM has lost to its archrival.
The basketball team played very well in December, beating UCLA and splitting two games with Duke (one in a preseason tournament, the other regularly scheduled). They also threw a near-miss in at Maryland. Later on in February, they played a respectable game at Connecticuit. They saved their best work for outside the family. Big Ten games were a so-so 9-9, with a win at Minnesota being the main highlight. But the non-conference effort was enough to get them back in the NCAA Tournament and they continued their success with a win over Clemson in the first round. Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims were exciting talents all year long in what was a fun year to be a Wolverine basketball fan.
Jim Tressel's football program entered the year the undisputed kings of the Big Ten, but a laughingstock nationally, because of the results from the previous two BCS National Championship games. A road trip to USC did not help the latter problem, as the Buckeyes took a 35-3 beating. They played pretty consistently in conference play and pounded an improving Michigan State team on the road. But a hard-fought home loss to Penn State in prime-time cost them their status in league play, though they did rebound to claim a share of the championship. The season ended with a heartbreaking Fiesta Bowl loss to Texas, 24-21, on a Longhorn touchdown with less than thirty seconds left. But in the spirited effort against a team many believed was the best in the country, Tressel started the difficult process of reclaiming national respect for his team--and by extension the rest of the Big Ten.
The basketball team made a return to the NCAA Tournament this year, and was highlighted by the outstanding play of forward Evan Turner. A consistent double-double threat who also had a respectable assist total for an inside player, Turner led the team to a 10-8 conference mark and to the finals of the league tournament. A loss to Siena in the NCAA was a bitter pill to swallow. The game was played in Dayton and some bad three-point defense down the stretch took away a win that seemed to be in hand. But Thad Matta showed his program had made it back from the rapid losses of Mike Conley and Greg Oden following the 2007 season.