John Beilein addressed the media Thursday ahead of the Wolverines sole exhibition game against Northwood University and provided a preview of what he is expecting out of the Wolverines in their dress rehearsal for the regular season.
1. Defense. Defense. Defense.
Michigan held its annual ?Selfie Night? open practice Monday evening. Beilein described it colorfully as the ?Selfie Night Defensive Massacre.? He continued, ?It was twenty minutes of no defense, and that was the disappointing part? the first time we went in front of a crowd.? The Wolverines were one of the best defensive units in the country last season under assistant Luke Yaklich. The players understood that Monday?s effort will not cut it, and spent the week?s practices working to improve it. ?If we play good defense, we build off that and that leads to offense.? said junior center Jon Teske. ?I think that we gotta show the young guys the ropes on how to play defense and once we get on the same level that some of the older guys do, I think we will be pretty good.? Sophomore guard Eli Brooks was able to identify the immediate problem that ailed the Wolverines: ball screen coverage, ?We were out of position on a lot of ball screens on Selfie Night. Could have been laziness or fatigue, but we worked on it Wednesday and will continue working on it.? concluded Brooks
2. Playing combinations
Beilein said he wanted to use Thursday?s practice to be sure of his starting five and there could be some unique combinations on the floor come Friday night. Freshman Ignas Brazdeikis has been working at both the two, and the four, and will likely see the most minutes out of any freshman, but fans will want to see when and where guard David DeJulius and forward Brandon Johns take the floor. Beilein stressed that Friday?s game would allow for experimentation ?Jordan Poole has never played 32 minutes in a game, so this is a great time to get him 32 minutes (if he plays defense.) Iggy has never played a college game, let?s get him as many minutes as we can. Isaiah Livers has not played 32 minutes in a long time, let?s get him those minutes. That?s what I think this is more about than getting everyone an opportunity? Beilein said. I believe that Michigan will find a way to play most of its players and bench. Last year, every player made at least a spot appearance in the Wolverines exhibition win over Grand Valley State.
3. How the freshmen fare
With a team as young as Michigan?s, Friday night?s game will be necessary for the transition of Michigan?s five freshmen to the atmosphere of a college game and environment. Both Eli Brooks and Jon Teske recalled their first games at Crisler, and had advice for Michigan?s five newest players:
?Just take it in, it?s a cool experience, the first time putting the Block M on your chest and representing Michigan.? – advised Brooks, who played 15 minutes in his first exhibition game last season against Grand Valley State.
?I would say soak it in, every time I run out there I kind of get goosebumps just running out of the tunnel so soak that in, then once the game starts, focus on that. Remember that it is another game, and we have to play good on both sides of the floor? added Teske.
4. Building Momentum for the Regular Season
The Wolverines turn right around and open the regular season on Tuesday, November 6th vs. Norfolk State. Eight days later, they have a national championship game rematch with Villanova with just a game against Holy Cross before that. Friday?s exhibition could provide a springboard for the Wolverines into the regular season, and give them some pep in their collective step before heading to Philadelphia. ?It will be big to get off on the right foot even though it does not count.? said Teske. ?It will be a great experience for all of us to get back to playing.?
It has been over eight months since Michigan last played a game at Crisler Center (a 74-62 win over Ohio State on Senior Day last season.) Factor in the entire summer, the Spain trip (and ten additional practices that came along with it) and all the practices since these players have been chomping at the bit to get on a court and show what they have learned. While there may be some nerves during Friday?s exhibition, the anticipation in the locker room is incredibly high. ?Yeah I think a little bit (of nervousness) I mean it will be a great opportunity for the young guys to get a taste.? said Teske. Brooks flashed a grin when I asked him about anticipation for Friday?s matchup, ?I am extremely ready, it?s gonna be nice playing against people that aren?t on our team and actually in front of thousands of people.?
As for Beilein, this will be his first in-game coaching scenario since his heart procedure back in August; a warm reception surely awaits him Friday evening as he begins year number 12 leading the Wolverines.
BONUS: Beilein hopes to talk to Chris Webber about possible return
Chris Webber will serve as an honorary captain for Saturday?s football game vs. Penn State. Since his NCAA-mandated dissociation with the program ended in 2013, it will be his first trip back to visit the campus he lived and played on for two years from 1991-93. ?I don?t know how much Chris wants me to say, but we hope we can get together this weekend.? replied Beilein when asked about any discussions between him and Webber likely to take place in the coming days. Beilein is very receptive to the idea of bringing the Fab Five star back into the fold. ?The whole idea is we?re one great big family, and let?s get everyone connected again.?
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