Michigan coach John Beilein pushes away any questions regarding his Wolverines’ #2 ranking. Any mention of the 12-0 start isn’t likely to get much of a response either. Thursday’s 93-54 win over Eastern Michigan doesn’t change Beilein’s approach, despite being off to the best start since 1985-86.
“I really like winning and it beats the alternative,” said Beilein. “But nothing. The 13th game will be 13 non-conference games and that’s all we’re allowed. If we could win them all that would be really good and then we start a whole new season with the conference schedule.”
Michigan’s goal at the beginning of the season wasn’t to start 13-0… which should happen once Central Michigan visits Crisler Center on December 29th. Instead, the Wolverines goal was to start 1-0, and then 1-0, and 1-0 again. The game-by-game, practice by practice, film session by film session approach is working in large part because everyone from Beilein all the way on down to an usher, continues on the same page.
“I don’t think they feel any of that pressure,” said Beilein. “We don’t put them in a cocoon --- we just don’t talk about it. Our mantra everyday is ‘lets just get better.’” Let’s seize the day today and lets just get better.
“When that’s in your staff and in everybody on the team and it’s in your veterans --- the wins --- they will take care of themselves.”
Michigan’s focus and preparation is an awfully impressive gasoline that appears to be revving this 12-win engine. The strategy is simple for Beilein and the Wolverines, who are found relying on the advice of a Michigan coaching legend, albeit, in a far different sport.
“There’s a great quote that Red Berenson has used before,” said Beilein of the Michigan hockey coach. “’Practice like you’re in second place and play like you’re in first place.’ I stole that from Red. It’s perfect for what this team needs to do and when we practice, we practice like we’ve got a chip on our shoulders like we’re trying to get there.”
Michigan will take Friday and Saturday morning to prepare for both Central Michigan and even Northwestern, whom the Wolverines will open up Big Ten play with on January fourth. Players will have four days off for Christmas, which, as Beilein noted, is the most time off in a season one of his teams has ever had.