November 7, 2013

News and Views: Beilein talks Wolverines, opener

Michigan head coach John Beilein spoke to the media the day before his team takes the court for the 2013-14 season. Here are the facts coming out of that discussion, Beilein's comments, and TheWolverine.com's take.

News: Michigan will raise the Final Four banner prior to its opener with UMass-Lowell.

Beilein: "I know it's going to be a great day. We're also going to hand out the Final Four rings, the Michigan version of them. We're excited about that. Our kids should be excited about that.

"It's great for our young guys to look up, the ones that weren't part of that last year and see it as well. There was a lot of work that went into that particular banner that's going up.

"We'll have a few of the guys back, not all of them from last year. We'll have a couple of managers and three or four of the other guys. It's going to be a good day."

Views: It's been a lot of work, all right. Beilein was talking about last year, but the Wolverines hadn't been to a Final Four since the spring of 1993, and there's no banner recognizing that trip.

This one's here to stay, and will hang as both a relief and point of pride for longsuffering Michigan basketball fans. A couple of the Wolverines said they'll have mixed feelings about it because of the second half against Louisville, and that's okay too.

There is tremendous pride in what they got done. The next time around, they want to finish, and it never hurts to feel that drive as well.

News: Sophomore forward Mitch McGary will not play in the opening game, and Beilein would not give a timetable on his potential return.

Beilein: "We do have an idea of a timeline, if it keeps progressing as positively as it is, but we're just not going to share that right now. Time will tell."

Views: There's no reason whatsoever to rush this one. Michigan will hold up fine in the non-conference without McGary. If it takes a week, two weeks, or a month, one of the keys to the season is making sure he's where he needs to be when he comes back.

This team is going to win a lot of games. But for it to be where it wants to be next March - fighting once again to advance through the NCAA Tournament - McGary needs to play a major role.

News: Both of the true freshmen figuring to play substantial minutes - forward Zak Irvin and point guard Derrick Walton - enjoyed strong moments in the exhibition season.

Beilein: "That's one of the things the exhibition games bring. Some of those jitters will be gone. With the exception of the banner going up and the rings, it will be very similar. We're going to have a sellout crowd again.

"I just like the way both of them have performed. They've come off the bench and hit shots like Zak did the other day, and Derrick as well. That's really been good for us."

Views If a team is going to lose a top point guard and strong perimeter shooter, it couldn't ask much more out of replacement parts. That doesn't imply any comparisons to Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr., except that Walton and Irvin are very good at what they do.

Walton will quickly become a crowd and teammate favorite, with his ability to handle the ball, distribute, and inject tenacity at the defensive end. He'll experience some growing pains, but he'll also enjoy a luxury Burke did not - someone like sophomore Spike Albrecht to help guide the ship.

Irvin can be a lights-out shooter, someone who should provide what Hardaway did - instant offense. The frosh will both learn a lot through the Big Ten season, but by tournament time, they'll be as hardened as last year's freshmen.

News: Glenn Robinson III went 9-for-10 at the free throw line in the exhibition games, while Nik Stauskas went 12-for-12 and Jordan Morgan 7-for-8.

Beilein: "[Glenn] has really worked hard in that particular area. Making it when the lights are on is different. Getting out there in that situation is good for him and good for all of us.

"We're hoping everyone is improving their foul shooting. Spike was sensational last year. He only missed one. It's getting there. Trey and Tim led us last year, and we've still got to get there.

"If you're shooting five a game, that's a pretty big number. It's important that we continue to stress that. If Glenn, at the end of the year, has 150 foul shots, that's a heck of a year."

Views: Michigan has a huge opportunity here, if games are indeed called tighter. Beilein's crew don't put opposing teams at the line a lot, but certainly could get there even more with a tighter whistle.

It falls to players like Robinson, Stauskas, Albrecht, Walton and McGary, when he's back, to be aggressive enough toward the basket in creating those opportunities. Once there, they have a chance to be one of the better teams in the Big Ten at gaining separation at the line.

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