Wolverines relying on balanced offensive approach
When he took inventory of his team and looked at the Big Ten battles ahead in the 2011-12 season, head coach John Beilein made the determination that the Wolverines were much better when they did not rely on "the guy."
True, every team covets that great scorer or that individual player who can take over the moment and light up the place with a 30-point explosion, but over the long haul a singular star can also be a drag on a team's development.
The Michigan team Beilein will take into the Big Ten for an 18-game, January to March grind better resembles a collection of efficient and effective interchangeable parts than it does a group with a designated star and a gathering of followers.
"I do like the idea that we're getting points from everyone," Beilein said as Michigan neared the conclusion of its pre-Big Ten schedule. "I think we have almost five players in double figures right now, and those are pretty good teams we've played and when you can put those numbers up of that quality (that's a positive)."
Few would question that sophomore guard Tim Hardaway Jr. is the most dangerous player on the Michigan roster, but the Wolverines have settled into an approach where the son of the former NBA great does not have to carry the load every night. Senior Zack Novak is a tremendous shooter who can light things up from outside, or tangle near the basket.
Point guard Trey Burke, a true freshman, has been a very pleasant surprise with his calm demeanor and ability to score the basketball while also handling the pressure of the position. F Evan Smotrycz has improved as a shooter and gives teams fits when they fail to challenge his range. Forward Jordan Morgan is a non-flashy workhorse inside who is near the top of the Big Ten in shooting percentage.
Guard Stu Douglass, a senior who has been a starter earlier in his career, has settled into a sixth man role without any of the sulking or histrionics that sometimes accompany such a move. He is a dangerous long-range scorer and another set of experience hands on the basketball. Sophomore F Jon Horford is stronger, in better shape, and more in tune with the challenges of playing physical every night.
"We're sharing a lot of the action and I think that's important," Beilein said about the Wolverines' two months of pre-Big Ten basketball.
--Freshman PG Trey Burke has displayed the savvy skills of a Big Ten veteran while directing the offense through the first portion of the schedule. The Columbus, Ohio, product who played on the same high school team as Ohio State All-American Jared Sullinger, had 20 points in a 90-80 win over Oakland, but also added nine assists, two rebounds, a steal and a blocked shot. As the Wolverines headed into Big Ten play, Burke was averaging around 12 points, three rebounds and five assists per game.
--G Tim Hardaway Jr. has struggled at times in the early portion of the 2011-12 season, and his coach John Beilein thinks Hardaway's issues might be connected with the emphasis the sophomore has placed on becoming a great defensive player. "I think foul trouble is still the thing that he's sorting through because he's trying to develop his defense to become a real defensive stopper," Beilein said. "Sometimes you take on that challenge and it can get you on the bench if you aren't experienced about how you do it. So the big thing for Tim right now is staying on the court."
--G/F Zack Novak has often played out of position at 6-foot-4, but the senior has worked tirelessly to develop a pump fake that gets him some room, and the skill to knock down those jump shots. "That's something he's worked really hard on and that's something the coaches believed would be an important part of his next step," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "He's such a good shooter, that with that pump fake, people are going to want him to bounce it. That will be the scouting report -- make him bounce the ball. Well, if you can bounce it and pull up in one move, that's a pretty good play."
BY THE NUMBERS: 135 -- The Michigan record for consecutive games played is 135, set by Glen Rice (1986-90). Senior G Stu Douglass had 114 straight appearances as the Wolverines inched closer to the start of the Big Ten portion of the 2011-12 schedule. If he stays healthy, Douglass should set the record in the Big Ten tournament or in any post-season action that follows.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's going to get himself open with being more patient. He's worked a lot individually just on his technique -- making sure his follow through is clean and direct. He's worked hard to get his balance and his footwork always the same on every shot. Sometimes younger kids will come in and either they're hot or they're not. They don't know that mechanically they're may be a reason for that." -- Michigan coach John Beilein, on the improved scoring of F Evan Smotrycz.
FUTURES MARKET: The Wolverines continue to build through strong recruiting, and the insiders in Ann Arbor are especially excited about 6-foot-6 F Nik Stauskas from nearby Ontario. Stauskas averaged 20.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists while helping his St. Mark's team to a 26-2 record and a perfect conference mark. Stauskas has the versatility to play a couple of different positions, good shooting range and strong ball-handling skills.
THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
--vs. Penn State, Dec. 29
KEY MATCHUPS: The Wolverines will try and reign in junior G Tim Frazier, one of the fastest and quickest players in the Big Ten and possessing a team-best 34-inch vertical leap. Frazier is scoring about 17 points per game in the pre-conference portion of the schedule. It is vital for Michigan G Tim Hardaway Jr. to defend Frazier while staying on the floor and out of foul trouble.
--vs. Minnesota, Jan. 1
KEY MATCHUPS: Senior F/C Ralph Sampson III has emerged into a more dominant presence in the middle since the Gophers lost F Trevor Mbakwe to a season-ending injury. Michigan F Jordan Morgan most likely draws the assignment on Sampson, whose length is problematic. By forcing Minnesota to score away from the basket, the Wolverines improve their options in this Big Ten battle.
--Freshman F Sai Tummala made the Michigan team as a walk-on and will likely redshirt this season. Tummala is an extremely athletic player who was also a standout volleyball player in high school in Arizona.
--Sophomore F Evan Smotrycz had two double-doubles in the pre-conference portion of the schedule, with 20 points and 10 rebounds against Bradley after he scored 17 and had 11 boards against Alabama A&M.
The TSX Files: U-M Hoops - Balanced Approach
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