January 8, 2013

Beilein: Quick study is required

At 15-0, even John Beilein finds it a little hard to nitpick about his team's overall results. He does like how it has adjusted to different looks so far, and knows there are more to come.

Beilein expressed some concern today about his team playing a third game in a week, against a Nebraska squad that clearly differs in approach from what the Wolverines have seen thus far. He noted the Cornhuskers are 0-2 to Michigan's 2-0 in the Big Ten, but pointed to Nebraska's opponents.

"It's another challenge," Beilein said. "It's very different. We went from a Northwestern challenge, which is extremely unique, to the way Iowa played us -- they came out pressing us right away. Now we're going to go against almost like a Wisconsin-type, as far as what they do defensively - very containing. They're going to make us make tough twos, get out on us pretty good.

"I'm sure when they're in high school and prep school, they're not seeing this type of diversity. This is the most diversity I've seen in this league since I've been here. We've got to adjust again to a different team."

Despite Nebraska's 9-6 overall record and no league wins, Beilein takes nothing for granted.

"This team is playing pretty well," he said. "They've lost their first two games in the league, one at Ohio State, where probably a lot of teams are going to have a lot of problems. Wisconsin was a very close game.

"They can score the ball. They've got three guys really scoring the ball well. They're looking to shorten games, stay in a game. They can beat you if you are not on your game."

Beilein does appreciate the way his team adjusted to the different preparation styles for Northwestern and Iowa. It changes again, and the head coach noted some are ahead of others in getting what's being thrown at them.

It's always difficult, he cautioned.

"Truthfully, you never get there," Beilein said. "The NBA still doesn't get there. You just keep working and trying to minimize your mistakes."

Sophomore point guard Trey Burke remains at the forefront of those grasping the applications required on a game-to-game basis, Beilein noted. He's taken a huge leap forward after a year-plus on the job.

"That's very natural," Beilein said. "The difference is, last year he had Stu [Douglass] and Zack [Novak] pulling him along like crazy, and that really helped. Now, he's not only focusing on what he can do better, he's pulling guys with him. That's all good, because that adds to our chemistry."

At 15-0, Beilein knows others are talking about his team - even more than they did before the season. He assured that nearly every day, he or one of his assistants conducts a "mini culture growth project" with U-M's players, designed to help shut out distractions and focus on the here and now.

"Today, we're talking a lot about trust," he said. "They've established a great trust with their coaching staff. Their grades have been good. They've attended study halls. They've attended class. They work hard in practice.

"It goes both ways - just continue to trust us about the importance of training table, getting enough sleep, all of those things."


• Beilein takes in stride suggestions that freshman forward Glenn Robinson isn't forcing his game. Robinson recorded a double-double against Iowa, with 20 points and 10 rebounds, but did not appear to be looking to rack up numbers.

"That's the way he's been since the day he got here," Beilein said. "There were some scrimmages early in the year where he might not take a shot. He just waits for the game to come to him and picks his spots.

"There have been times we wanted him to be more [assertive], but lately, he's picked his options very well, of what is best for him. He's a team guy, 100 percent. Not that guys that may be a little thirsty aren't team guys. He just really understands his role on the team and plays it extremely well."

• Freshman Mitch McGary hit a 12-footer against Iowa, showing more versatility in his game. Beilein stressed the importance of that growth in a game setting.

"It's a matter of just repetition, over and over again," Beilein said. "He can make those shots, but can you make them at game speed and can you make them when somebody is guarding you? You have to practice that religiously to do that.

"Like most big men, they're down there practicing all of their inside moves and all these things. They don't get enough of the little 10-, 15-footer, that is essential to helping you beat some types of defenses, when they really are collapsing on you, or they're doubling. You may be more open at 10 [feet] than you are at two, no matter what plays you run.

"That's an important element of most teams. We'll continue to work on it every day. Then he's got to work on his own as well."

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