By Patrick Klein
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Michigan faces off with its perennial rival Ohio State this Saturday in its annual football battle, but if Arizona keeps meeting the Wolverines in basketball tournaments, the Wildcats could be elevated to the level of the hated Buckeyes.
The teams meet for the fifth time in nine years in a tournament tonight in the semifinals of the preseason National Invitation Tournament at New York City's Madison Square Garden.
No. 19 Arizona (2-0) has won the last four meetings with No. 16 Michigan (2-0): 79-64 in the 1987 Great Alaska Shootout, 82-75 in the 1989 Tip Off Classic, 119-95 at Arizona's Fiesta Bowl Classic in 1993 and 78-57 last year at the Great Eight Basketball Festival.
Last year's loss apparently left a bad taste in the mouths of the Wolverines, who have said they are fired up for the game because Arizona Ÿ Reggie Geary in particular Ÿ talked a little too much trash during the win.
Arizona players didn't have too much sympathy for the Wolverines.
"When you get your ass kicked like that, you always remember that," senior Corey Williams said. "We're a classy team. We don't talk to anybody when we win, we don't talk to anybody when we lose. We played well and they got outplayed. If they're bitter, that's something they have to deal with."
Geary brushed off the comments, saying that it was all in the past.
"Anytime you lose a game, there's an excuse for losing, and they're going to make an excuse," Geary said. "Michigan is a new team, with new players looking to prove themselves."
With the Fab Five gone, Michigan is again a team led by underclassmen. Three freshmen and five sophomores dominate a roster that includes only two seniors and no juniors.
Despite the Wolverines' youth, sophomore Miles Simon said he felt Michigan and Arizona are both in the same situation entering the year, even though the Wildcats lost Damon Stoudamire and Ray Owes to graduation and their opponent no longer has team leaders Ray Jackson and Jimmy King.
"Both teams are completely different than last year," Simon said. "Each team has a new core. They lost two seniors and we lost two seniors who were dominate performers on the team. We have five seniors now but they're mostly running with the young guys."
Running with the young guys may not be that bad. Maurice Taylor, a 6-foot-9 forward/center, was the Big Ten's freshman of the year last season and leads the Wolverines with 14.5 points and 8.5 rebounds a game.
Freshman Louis Bullock, a 6-2, 175-pound guard who Arizona head coach Lute Olson called "the best pure shooter on the team," tallies 10.5 points, four rebounds and two assists per game.
Perhaps the most intriguing freshman is Robert Traylor. At 6-9, 290 pounds, he has been dubbed "Tractor" Traylor by the Michigan fans. He brings bulk to the middle along with his 7.5 points and 5.5 rebounds.
"We felt Traylor was one of the best big kids in the country last year," Olson said. "He's ready to play immediately and has established he can run the court well."
With the ankle injury to Joseph Blair, Olson said Ben Davis would move to the center position and Williams would start at the four spot if Blair can't start.
The injury could be key because Olson said he thinks very highly of the Michigan frontcourt, and has said it is better than Arkansas' pair of 6-11 centers, Darnell Robinson and Lee Wilson.
"We're going to have to keep them off the glass. We're going to have to put a body on people, and get up higher than them," Williams said.
This will be the third time Geary has faced the Wolverines, but it will be the first game against them where the 6-2, 187-pound senior will be the starting point guard.
Thus far, Geary has averaged 11.5 points, 9.5 assists and 4.5 rebounds a game.
"I think he's been the most dominating guy on the court the last two games. With him out of the game we're not the same club," Olson said.
"I feel real confortable out there," Geary said. "I learn more each game out there. It's a great team to be a part of, no one worries about anything but getting a 'W.'"
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