February 18, 2013

Borton's Blog: Tougher talk

John Beilein thinks of himself and his coaches as teachers. There's always a time when the good instructors need to dial up the decibels, and it's evident that time has come.

Beilein made a few post-game comments following Michigan's tougher-than-expected Sunday sneak past Penn State that, for those listening closely, raised an eyebrow or two.

He's already laid it out there, post-MSU. It's a tough game. Toughen up and get in it, or words to that effect. In the wake of Michigan's showing against Penn State, Beilein revealed a little of what the Wolverines are hearing behind closed doors.

For one, it's fair to foul. Now, Beilein doesn't want players getting sent to the bench on DQs left and right, but he also doesn't want a hands-off approach.

The Wolverines average 12.3 fouls per game. That's nearly four per game fewer than the next closest crew. While cleanliness may be next to Godliness in some quarters, it can get you run over elsewhere.

Hearing the U-M head coach touch on that issue gives a sense that he's pushing more aggression - maybe not the kind that stood his team on its head in East Lansing, but certainly an upgraded version of what the Wolverines have been doing.

Beilein insisted the Wolverines have talked about the fact that this is "big-boy basketball," and they're going to get knocked around some. Defensively, he pointed out, they need to do some more knocking.

"We had a couple of guys averaging one foul a game," Beilein said. "That's either superior defense or … when we lose a game like we lost at Michigan State, and we've got guys with one foul, there's more in you. You've got to give us more."

Later, the head coach broke down walking the line between making sure his team keeps its confidence and delivering the message about what it needs to do differently.

It's clear he's ramping up on certain aspects of in-practice bluntness.

"It's the sweet spot that we really have to be very careful with," Beilein said. "You say, 'This is the 80th practice, and you're still not talking on defense.' Then you have to get after them.

"We pride ourselves on being teachers, but there were some moments these last couple of weeks where we just said, 'Enough is enough. We're going to do this because you won't do that.' You don't want them to lose their confidence, but getting tougher through all these things is important for us."

Getting tougher soon could spell the difference between a Big Ten championship and a near miss, and Michigan's coaching staff obviously senses that fact.

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