As impressive as Michigan’s 9 and 0 start to the 2012-13 season is, the more notable nugget is exactly how the Wolverines are getting the job done.
When John Beilein arrived as head coach in Ann Arbor back in 2006, the philosophy centered around working with, finding and tweaking players to fit the particular and unique system employed on both ends of the floor.
Flash-forward to Beilein’s approach and style in 2012, corralling and guiding the #3 team in the nation, and you’ll find that similarities are few and far between. Often thought of as an afterthought at the beginning of his tenure with the Wolverines, Beilein and his coaching staff have this team attacking the boards with vengeance offensively and defensively. Heavy pick and roll action is essentially replacing dribble action for timed, one-handed back door cuts that used to be a staple.
To be recruited by Michigan in the early years under Beilein, possessing a deadly perimeter shot far outweighed the ability to put the ball on the floor. And if a player was tall and could shoot, rebounding was on the backburner as well.
These days, however, fans packing Crisler Center on a game to game basis will look around and see—strong Wolverine rebounding.
“It’s rare for one of our teams to do that,” said Beilein of the Wolverine’s rebounding effort Saturday. “But we’ve sort of seen the trends in the game and our coaching staff decided we got to do a little of this.”
“We’ve got to still be versatile, but in a game like this, which is what we call a no catch game, they’re going to not let you catch the ball. You can’t run five, six passes and get to your play. It’s more of a dribble game. You need guys that are going to get in there and attack the rim without the ball by getting offensive rebounds.”
Michigan finished the day with 18 offensive rebounds, including six from junior Jordan Morgan alone. But the makeover doesn’t stop there. All five starters for the Wolverine’s entered double figures in the scoring column as Michigan did it, not only from the long line, but from the free throw line as well, finishing 15 for 18.
“Look at that depth right there,” said Beilein. “Nik’s not as open as he was earlier in the year. He still makes some good shots. Glenn’s early beginning making shots was huge. That type of versatility we really need to have. We can’t just depend on Tim or Trey or anybody --- we’ve got to depend on all five being at least solid.”
After leading 42-32 at the half, and doing so without bequeathing the lead once, Arkansas clawed their way back into the game forcing the Wolverines to come up with some big plays, and not exactly the type of plays coaches draw up on the sideline.
“We didn’t respond with some pretty play,” said Beilein. “We got just gutty, garbage buckets that made the difference.”
The best of Michigan’s schedule is yet to come with the gauntlet of a loaded Big Ten just a few weeks away, but the non-conference has taught the Wolverines quite a bit. If Indiana’s size proves to be too much, Mitch McGary can be in the game next to Jordan Morgan and not significantly change the overall strategy. When Trey Burke needs a breather against Aaron Kraft’s on the ball defense against Ohio State, Spike Albrecht can come on as a secondary ball handler and be effective. If space is being given on the perimeter, Hardaway Jr. and Stauskas can knock down their fair share of triples.
The Wolverines have yet to face true Top-Ten-type adversity through nine games, but when they do, Beilein, his coaching staff and the team have proven they have more than one way to skin the cat—and as Beilein joked afterwards, they still have 22 miles left to go in the marathon.
Beilein’s 100th win
Beilein was all smiles after defeating Arkansas Saturday afternoon, and took the time to reflect on his career and joke about the significance of his 100th win as the head coach of the Wolverines.
“I’ve been fortunate to be in a lot of good places where if you’re there four or five years you might have the ability to do that,” said Beilein. “I certainly hope this that the next 100 at Michigan are easier than the first 100. Those first three years were a difficult transition for us.”
The ‘opposite of difficult’ is welcoming so many nationally televised games for Michigan and Saturday was no different, except for the fact that Beilein was wired for sound by CBS.
“We have a lot to sell at Michigan, and the way our team operates, the way our coaching staff acts and the culture that we have,” said Beilein. “And so why not let America into that?”
To watch video of Beilein’s post game presser, press play below.