While it might not be the most accurate description of the current Michigan Wolverines squad, Louisville head coach Rick Pitino certainly had high praise for his second round foe after his victory over Jacksonville State on Friday.
When asked to preview U-M, Pitino saw a Wolverines team that shot the lights out in the second and even went as far as comparing the Wolverines to the Golden State Warriors. While some players were taking the comparison and making jokes, it mostly went in one ear and out the other. Besides, March is for concentrating and not becoming distracted.
Perhaps it was mind games by Pitino, trying to inflate the ego of his opponent to the point where they might take the Cardinals lightly. Don't try to convince head coach John Beilein of that, as he wanted no part of the Warriors comparison.
"First of all, it's a huge exaggeration," Beilein told the media on Saturday. "I would not put us in that ballpark in any way. But the style sometimes would be we resemble each other. Here's what I love about this, there's not too many people that are coaching as head coaches right now that were head coaches before the shot clock, before the 3-point line. I'm one of those guys. As you watch the evolution of the game, you just embrace it. It's incredible how the game keeps changing. Those that have made the rules 99 percent of the time, they've made great adjustments, and everybody keeps adjusting to it."
The game has changed, was something Oklahoma State Brad Underwood said after the game on Friday. Perhaps, in a sense, it has. Centers are becoming more athletic and are now starting to shoot from longer distances. While Beilein is certainly not a pioneer of this type of strategy, smart head coaches learn to adapt and, at times, copy each other.
That's what Beilein sees in the Big Ten.
"We copy the heck out of each other," Beilein said. "So I think that if you watch the Big Ten, we're going to have a similar style because I don't sit at home and say Louisville's playing tomorrow, let's watch the Syracuse game. We don't have time to leisurely watch games that you don't -- aren't bearing on your life. I think that, obviously, the computers and the synergy and all these things have had a huge influence on people finding new ways to win besides the three-out, two-in game that we saw in the '70s. It's probably more like the games in the '60s right now with Rudy T. and Calvin Murphy and Bob Lanier and Pete Maravich than it is to what we saw in some periods of the 44-42 game earlier on."
Beilein has been around the game of basketball for quite some time and at every stop he's learned that he needs to adapt in order to keep his teams winning games. Beilein, arguably, had to go through his most intense evolution this season. Having to adapt with what he is, it's been one of the major reasons this Wolverines team is in the tournament right now.
Instead of making his players run plays, he's now searching for players that can make plays on their own. Something that's a bit of an adjustment for him, but nothing he cannot handle.
"With the 30-second shot clock, as we continue to evolve as a program, that's a big focus to make sure we both recruit and teach guys to be players more than run plays," Beilein said. "Remember, no shot clock for Coach B when he first started, and then 45 seconds, then 35 seconds, then 30 seconds. You keep evolving. The more it evolves into the NBA type of game, the more that there's five seconds to go, seven seconds, what are you going to do? You ain't running another play. You've got to be able to have a player make a play. That's where we've evolved more and more. I saw a young man awhile ago that played for Pete Carril back before the shot clock. I said you could control the ball for three or four minutes until you got your shot. It's so far from there right now. We've evolved, and we got to evolve more."