ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- John Beilein knows the last two games haven’t been good.
Both were major upsets in the college basketball world and the type of games -- or letdowns -- that ordinarily happen no more than once a season to big time programs.
But Beilein also knows it’s not time to panic.
“What’s the date today?” Beilein asked Tuesday night. “This is me, this is the way it is all year long. There’s no panic button. It is Dec. 9, and it’s a long way. When the season’s over that’s when you sort of put a summary of it.
“We’re just going to get better. You’re not playing a game every week, you’re playing 30 some games and there’s a roller coaster that you go through. You have more seasons like that than you have the last couple seasons and we’ve had roller coasters the last couple years too.”
A year ago at this time, Michigan was holding on for dear life after dropping a game to Charlotte in the final of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
The same Michigan team that won the Big Ten conference regular season championship by three full games. The same group of Wolverines that lost arguably their best player in Mitch McGary for the entire season. And the same team that was a fantastic shot away from heading to a second consecutive Final Four.
Beilein and his coaching staff didn’t panic then and it’s not time to panic now.
However, there is certainly reason to sound the subtlest of alarms and begin facing some sort of a reality with this Michigan team whether it’s deserved or not.
Tim Hardaway Jr. went from three-star to three-year player and first round pick in the NBA draft.
Trey Burke transformed from a late addition behind fellow point guard Carlton Brundidge in the 2011 class to National Player of the Year and a top 10 NBA draft pick of the Utah Jazz (and did so in two years).
Nik Stauskas was just a shooter his freshman year, then exploding for 17.5 points per game as a complete player in 2013-14, becoming Big Ten Player of the Year and yet again a first round NBA draft pick, actually selected No. 8 overall by the Sacramento Kings.
Noticing a trend here?
Factor in Glenn Robinson III’s departure to be a secound round NBA pick after just two seasons and Michigan is relying on several players that aren’t even supposed to be in Ann Arbor right now.
The only player with one and done type pro potential to recently sign with the program was McGary, who by the way, also left after two seasons and several injuries.
So where does this leave Michigan?
The Wolverines are dealing with the losses and dealing with the fact that Aubrey Dawkins and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman aren’t ready to play significant minutes.
Mark Donnal and Ricky Doyle weren’t meant to be the only players in the Michigan frontcourt with the size and versatility to play the five, lacking the requisite experience to be plus players inside just yet.
As good as Spike Albrecht has been at assimilating himself into a very specific role throughout his two and a half seasons with the Wolverines, the junior point guard isn’t meant to play 28 minutes a game, which is what he’s averaging right now.
That’s just where this team is right now.
Derrick Walton Jr., Caris LeVert and Zak Irvin were and are ready to take that next leap and become the next players in line to develop at a rapid rate, the only problem being the depth around the trio is lacking.
Beilein is in the position he is for a reason and because of that he has great perspective on this team and what it was before, what it is now, and of course what it will be come March.
‘No excuses, play like a champion,’ as Vince Vaughn famously said in the 2005 comedy Wedding Crashers.
And Michigan is striving to do just that even with a couple bumps in the road, bumps that Beilein has driven over on multiple occasions throughout his career.
“They’re coachable and I don’t mean we have to be hard on them,” Beilein said. “They’re hurting right now and then we just continue to be resilient. I was just telling Spike, it is, and I don’t want to use this excuse a lot, it is really hard, usually when you lose a lot of guys they’re seniors.
“And you lose them but you’ve got guys behind them. You lose three sophomores like we just did and it is hard to just say ok let’s just keep it rolling. And so it’s part of this process, you’re rebuilding a little bit part two.”