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Arena Renovation Puts U-M Women on the Road

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Through the years, when Michigan Stadium was renovated, the football team found itself somewhat displaced. In the past, spring football games were held on the practice field with no public invited, a game was moved to Saline High School, and practices that might have been held at the stadium were not allowed -- except for the Friday walk-through, that is.

Now, for the first time in recent history, the basketball teams are facing a similar issue. It first started with the basketball offices moving to temporary quarters in trailers in the arena parking lot. Now the women's basketball team finds itself unable to host any postseason games because of the renovations to the interior of Crisler Arena that, along with the new Basketball Player Development Center, will modernize Michigan's basketball facilities.

Instead of playing in the home confines of Crisler, the team will board a bus and play Eastern Michigan tomorrow night (Thursday, March 17) at the Convocation Center in Ypsilanti. Tipoff is 7 p.m. for the first-round game of the WNIT postseason tournament.

The coaching staff thinks about the renovation and the building. They understand by forgoing the home games and renovating Crisler now, the quicker the program can move ahead.

The players are a different story. They want to get it done now -- on the court.

This has been truly an up-and-down season for the Michigan women. And, like the men's team, these Wolverines were not expected to do well.

Despite the predictions and some setbacks along the way, U-M defeated four teams in the top 25 this season -- including a regular-sesason sweep of conference tournament champion Ohio State -- and was the No. 3 seed in the Big Ten Tournament after winning 10 league games. Again, like the men's team, they faced Illinois in the first round of the tournament in Indianapolis. Unfortunately, unlike the men's team, the women's team suffered a rough loss.

One game provided a different outcome for two teams so similar. A win provided one with the opportunity to celebrate a NCAA Tournament selection, while the loss left the women's team on the outside looking in during the ESPN Women's NCAA Tournament Selection Show Monday evening.

Tomorrow, these players will be focusing on the first game of the WNIT.

A strong run in the WNIT along with the renovation of Crisler Arena can go a long way in building this program and making this 2011 season the foundation for the future of the women's basketball program at Michigan.

Snow, Snow, Snow

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The snowstorm of the century (according to news reports) has hit the eastern half of the United States, and here in Ann Arbor we are fortunate that we didn't receive the full brunt of the storm. We had the high winds and cold weather, but the snow accumulation was around half a foot, much less that many areas in the storm's path.

Living in Michigan, we are familiar with the inclement weather that plays a role in everyone's life, so we have plans in place for when the weather hits, and today in Ann Arbor those plans worked well.

This is a long way from the days when the athletic department had fewer staff, fewer teams and a smaller budget.

In the mid 1960s, a snowstorm hit Ann Arbor late in the football season. Fritz Crisler and Bump Elliott mobilized the student-athletes to shovel out Michigan Stadium and clean the surrounding area to make sure the game could be played.

In the early 1970s, another winter snowstorm hit and the Indiana-Michigan basketball game at Crisler Arena had to be moved back a day or so. The Hoosiers and coach Bob Knight were in town, but we could not get our fans safely to Crisler.

Today, we have more staff. We also have more teams and more ancillary issues (e.g., television). Fortunately, we do not have any scheduled events for tonight, but that didn't lessen the concerns as the storm approached.

Travel plans for the men's basketball and gymnastics teams plus a real concern for the Penn State women's basketball team to make it here safely from Happy Valley for Thursday night's game at Crisler Arena weighed heavily on our staff.

The men's basketball team was scheduled to bus to Columbus, Ohio, this evening. Instead the team left Tuesday night for tomorrow's televised game at Ohio State (7 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Tomorrow's important women's basketball game at Crisler Arena (7 p.m. ET, BigTenNetwork.com) was also worrisome. Penn State was planning to arrive in Ann Arbor tonight. At the last minute, the PSU administration found a Tuesday evening flight, and the team is now awaiting Thursday night's game in an Ann Arbor hotel.

Fortunately, the "Snowmageddon" turned out to be a minor inconvenience in our area, and both basketball games will be played with few if any problems.

But the plans were in place just in case. And this time, we did not have to marshal any student-athletes to clean any stadiums.

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