Beilein's Roundtable (Week 7)

Michigan basketball coach John Beilein met with the media yesterday to discuss his team as it prepares for tonight's match-up with Coppin State. The Wolverines third-year headman discussed his team's performance against Kansas, its shooting woes, defensive improvement, Ben Cronin's health status, and more.

Coach Beilein:  "Tom (Wywrot) told you a little bit about Eric Puls.  I just want to say what a magnificent young man.  The fact that he is paying five years to go to school – the only reason he has to take five years to get his engineering degree is because of practice.  He can't get the classes he needs between two and six because he has got to practice.  I thought it was the right decision for him, although we'll miss him.  He's really been a very, very important member of this team even though it wouldn't show up in the box scores.  What a wonderful kid.  His brother had to make the same decision playing minor league baseball professionally but was also admitted to the business school.  So do you play the minor league season in September and not be able to go to business school or do you quit minor league baseball and go to the business school?.  He made the exact same decision to go to the business school and not continue to play with whatever farm system he was in.  So great kid and it surprised me in effect because of the timing but at the same time, he figures that if he takes these courses now this spring, he can graduate in four years, so I say, we're not paying his way, it is the right thing to do."

Question:  Could he maybe come back next year?

Coach Beilein:  "I do not see it happening.  Until we probably get the practice facility done, it is just really hard for the engineering majors to graduate in four years right now.  For him to be able to practice around our guys schedule more is really going to be important.  We have 15 right now, but it's possible.  Right now, I think an injury or something else could happen but you never know."

Question:  You guys had some great looks in the second half especially against Kansas is it fair to stay that those are shots you have to make?

Coach Beilein:  "I think two things that happened.  We had a couple of really open looks both in the first and second half that we did not make, but when you really get the wide open one that does not go.  I think only one of the wide open when Manny (Harris) was in the left corner was like the only one we made.  Alright we dialed up the play and it worked – nothing.  We need those, but I also thought there was some situations…we still could have won the game despite that.  There are some areas in the defense that we're really addressing right now that we think if it was a month from now, they might be better what they are doing, but we're certainly going to be better at what we're doing.  We found some things that I can't talk about as far as what our biggest needs are defensively and we're addressing them every day.  Hopefully you're going to see them pretty soon."

Question:  Did DeShawn (Sims) really show you something on offense and defense?

Coach Beilein:  "We'll we gave him a lot of help on defense.  The double team in the post was something that hurt us a couple of times but really helped us many times as well.  We just felt with him at 6'7 1/2" and 6'11", he was either going to get into foul trouble number one, which he did anyhow, but he created a little of that himself by just putting his hands in.  Offensively, I think he's starting to understand now how to play against a seven footer.  It is either shoot the jump shot or take it all the way to the basket but do not try pulling up in between against him that's what he wants.  Once he started to take it to the basket.  I do not think he made an outside shot, but next to (Matt) Vogrich, who hasn't made but one shot since the first game, he's our best three point shooter at 34%.  So that says a little bit to the state where we are."

Question:  Is that a slump still or is just something that you are not going to end up shooting as well as you did last year over the course of the season?

Coach Beilein:  "We haven't shot it well in the three years that I've been here.  Our typical team shoots between 35 and 38%.  Now some of that is personnel driven and some of it is for whatever a lack of confidence, trying not to miss instead of trying to make, which I guess would be a lack of confidence.  There is very little that we can do except continue to do what we do and try to get open shots.  Maybe not shoot as many of them if it continues on and on into the next millennium.  It just seems to go on and on."

Question:  Because of things that you talked about discovering in that game do you feel better…?

Coach Beilein:  "I discovered them all along; we're just getting time to address them right now."

Question:  As far as the effort against Kansas do you come out feeling better?

Coach Beilein:  "We're trying to make positives out of it.  I think we really were very solid at times.  They showed that if they trusted each other that they could get good looks and they could defend a great team in an incredible atmosphere.  I was really impressed and been in a lot of places.  That opening segment, Stu (Douglass)…I was trying to get Stu to tell them to make sure that you keep your eyes on me because you won't be able to hear me.  The fact is, he couldn't hear me before the game trying to tell him that he is not going to be able to hear me and he was this (shows with hands) far away.  I had to run out and try to turn him and Laval (Lucas-Perry) caught his attention.  So I think playing in that environment is very much like at Illinois, at Michigan State, at Minnesota, Purdue, all those things that we are going to face, so we'll have been there.  In the Utah game where it wasn't that loud, we had our slump there too, but we're going to learn from it."

Question:  After watching tape of the Kansas game is that the happiest maybe you've been with the 1-3-1 in a while?

Coach Beilein:  "I thought we played very well.  It's a defense that's so crazy, sometimes it will work against the strangest team that you do not think it will work against.  You got to keep it in your package and then bring it out either as a game plan or as a last resort.  We've used it many times as a last resort after maybe we played a team and they destroyed but then there is seven minutes to go and it just changed the flow, it will work."

Question:  Can you talk about Darius (Morris) not starting that game and how he responded?

Coach Beilein:  "Yeah I thought he responded well.  We have to get him one step at a time to improve his play.  Coming out of the preseason he was handling the leadership role the best of anybody coming out of the preseason and then as the season began he experienced the tough spots that every freshman has, his confidence went down so quickly, we said okay time out.  Let's start the way it probably should have been in the beginning and now I think he is really comfortable with his role and we'll try to keep making him more comfortable with it."

Question:  How much of that is just being able to see things unfold from the bench in the beginning?

Coach Beilein:  "That could be too, but I think more see the first nine games.  When he watches tape and he watches the team tape or he comes in and watches tape on his own, he's trying to be a student of the game and that's really important for a guy at his position."

Question:  Do you envision sticking with the lineup that you went with against Kansas?

Coach Beilein:  "Yeah.  We'll stick with that but as you know that's not always been with my deal.  Usually I stick with them through the whole year as much as we can.  There will be other changes as the year goes on.  I do not think we're in that situation right now that it is that solid."

Question:  Ben (Cronin) is still not playing – are you concerned at all that this may be a career threatening thing?

Coach Beilein:  "We certainly hope not.  There is a lot of improvement for him…it is one thing to be seven foot and you are carrying that ball around with you and it is another thing to be seven foot and not be able to have the lift or run that he once had.  We're looking at everything that we can do to help him right now."

Question:  Do you feel like when you put Stu in the starting lineup was it almost like get him into a different mindset as much as Darius in a different mindset as well?

Coach Beilein:  "No.  I think it was to put our best team out on the floor that had been playing well.  If you look at Stu, his assist turnover.  He hasn't shot the ball well but he's one that feeds off confidence.  So if he took that, because I thought he played an exceptional floor game.  He's still not shooting it like he can.  He's been a streaky shooter, we need him to be less streaky and more consistent, maybe this will help him because it will get him in a better flow."

Question:  (Zach) Novak's jumper right now seems to be a little flat?

Coach Beilein:  "Yeah it's flat and we noticed that he was flicking it.  When we watched the game again, it is up and it is back.  It's what they call a cobra.  See how my hand comes back, when you extend you want to extend like that but his finish is like that, so he is flicking it and coming back.  Whether it was he was sick and he was tired and he gives us so much effort every minute.  His eight points…I do not know how the heck he scored eight points.  He scored points just sort of running around in circles trying to get loose stuff.  We're confident that he'll start shooting the way we know he can shoot."

Question:  Not asking you to reveal what you found on tape, but how do you go about addressing it; is it personnel?

Coach Beilein:  "It's part personnel and then it is part lack of experience and what we have to is just find new ways of teaching it.  I'm going to try something new today, as a…alright let's look at this way.  Continue to watch film on it but basically it is being in position.  It's the old concept seeing the ball and seeing the man.  We've worked at it and it's a basic concept, but these particular issues are some guys not guarding two actions.  The action of guarding your man and what's happening with the ball or off the ball.  Guarding two actions and sometimes three actions is really troubling us.  So that's what most of the practice is right now is not just I got to guard my man – no, what is the other action that you got to continue to see that we take for granted with veterans and young kids."

Question:  More on the shooting woes….

Coach Beilein:  "We've had these slumps before, but I think the first year was not a great shooting team I think with the exception of Kelvin Grady.  I think great shooters are 35-40% from three and 50% over.  I do not think any of those first line of guys that we inherited would be put in that category.  I think Kelvin Grady was a very good shooter.  The next year we had freshmen doing it with Laval, Stu and Zach who all shot in the 33 to 35% range.  This year, those two guys are shooting in the 20s.  Manny got off…it was probably injury driven.  He hasn't been able to get the reps that he needs and he was overcompensating.  If you see him kicking his foot way out at times, it was overcompensating for landing on the hamstring, so that might be more injury driven than anything else."

Question:  (Jay) Bilas was saying on the CBS telecast on Saturday, he still believes that you guys are still an NCAA tournament team and that you're going to get into the tournament, the fact that someone see that does that do anything for you guys?

Coach Beilein:  "Yeah.  Luckily we're in a conference where you can win a enough games to have a good enough resume.  If right now in a mid major conference with what we've done in the preseason, you've got to win your tournament, unless you go undefeated in that conference, it is really going to be hard.  We're in a conference where we still have the ability to win on the road and win at home to improve our resume."

Question:  Coppin State, what do you expect to see?

Coach Beilein:  "Fang (Rod Mitchell) has been doing this for so many years and he is such a good coach.  I've played against him one time before, but he will come in here.  This is not just a guarantee game.  If he has to shorten the game…he shortened the game against West Virginia and got into a stall quite a bit.  He'll play zone, he'll play man.  He'll do all kinds of things just to try and stay in the game and as he has proven many times, if he stays in the game, he'll beat you and his team will beat you.  We've had to play pretty well at least one half to beat anybody and I'd like to put two together."

Question:  You have eight days off after that game; what is your plan?

Coach Beilein:  "They're going to have a Christmas holiday season and then we'll have four days of prep after Indiana because after that there is not other breaks.  So those four days against Indiana will not only be prep for Indiana but the whole Big Ten season."

Question:  No pick up ball while there at home or anything like that?

Coach Beilein:  "No.  I will want them to rest at that time.  Maybe one day get into a weight room or do pushups and sit ups and things like that.  That's about it.  We haven't got to that point.  We'll practice the next morning and they'll lift before they go home."

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