Ask the Beat: How often will John Beilein utilize a two post offense?

Dylan Burkhardt

Over the coming days and weeks we’ll be debating the 2012-13 Michigan basketball team with a number of people that cover the team daily. In a new feature called Ask the Beat we reached out to Michigan basketball beat writers to answer some of our questions about this year’s team. Rod Beard of the Detroit News, Nick Baumgardner of, Rob and Joe White of iSportsWeb all agreed to join up. Our final question examines how John Beilein could utilize a two post offense.

Previously: Which departure will be missed the most?, Will Michigan be an uptempo team in 2012-13?, Which freshman will have the greatest impact?, What to expect from Tim Hardaway Jr.?, Making sense of preseason expecetations

Will we finally see a two post offense from John Beilein? How many minutes per game will Michigan play Mitch McGary and Jordan Morgan (or two other big men) together at the same time?

Rod Beard (Detroit News): The key to this year’s team will be versatility, which Michigan didn’t necessarily have in previous years. They’ll have the luxury of the two-post offense with rotating McGary, Morgan (and hopefully a healthy Jon Horford) and also the ability to trot out several wings to go with Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. Beilein has said in the past that he wanted to get Morgan and Horford on the court at the same time, but injuries and inconsistency have prevented that. If McGary is half the prospect he is projected to be, he’ll play significant minutes — 15 to 25 — in a double-post. Look for Beilein to mix things up early until he finds the right chemistry between his big men.

Nick Baumgardner ( I think, like always, he’s going to give it a try. And based on the current makeup of the roster, I think he’ll be successful with it, too.

Michigan gave this a shot last season, too, and Evan Smotrycz made it look like things would work out early in the season — but obviously he wore out completely as Big Ten play got going, and Jon Horford’s foot injury further hurt Michigan’s depth up front.

McGary and Morgan are two true post players, while Smotrycz was a four/five that really seemed like he wanted to play the three. I think you see McGary and Morgan starting together right out of the shoot and playing as many minutes together as possible (so long as fouls don’t become an issue).

Speaking of fouls, that could be a serious hitch in this plan — Morgan has well-documented foul trouble history, and McGary’s never played at this level. Could be interesting.

Right now (health permitting), Michigan’s just better suited to do it than they’ve been in the past — with four true posts in McGary, Morgan, Horford and Bielfeldt.

Rob White (iSportsWeb): My guess is that Beilein will use a three-headed big man rotation that will consist of Jordan Morgan, Jon Horford and Mitch McGary. Last year, Morgan averaged 24.4 minutes per game. If anything that number will increase this year. I think Morgan and McGary will be the starters at the 4 and 5 with Horford coming off the bench. McGary could very well end up logging 20-25 minutes per game.

Horford is flying under the radar right now, but I believe he is going to have a breakthrough season. He could play anywhere from 15-20 minutes per game.

Last year the 6-foot-4 Novak averaged 33.7 minutes per game. Many of those minutes were played at the 4. This season those minutes will be filled by Morgan , McGary and Horford so it stands to reason that they will go big a lot more than we’ve seen in the past 4 seasons.

Dylan Burkhardt (UM The Michigan roster has so much size this year that John Beilein is going to have to play two posts at times. With five players 6-foot-7 or taller, they are going to have to share minutes in the front court. McGary can get out and run, has some ball skills and has the tools to develop into a four in Michigan’s offense. A bigger concern might be McGary trying to learn two positions – the four and the five – so early in his college career.

I still expect Beilein to utilize and hone an effective small ball lineup. For as many negatives as there were about Zack Novak playing the four, there were probably just as many games that Michigan won games for that very reason. This year, Michigan will finally have a chance to go big or small based on the opposition. Michigan should have an adequate option whether needing to overpower a smaller opponent with a double-post lineup or match-up with more of a dynamic combo forward like Deshaun Thomas at the four.

Michigan finally has that versatility with so many line up possibilities. I still think Michigan’s most effective frontcourt could feature Tim Hardaway Jr. at the three, Glenn Robinson III at the four and McGary at the five. That team could match-up with just about anyone, the upgrade in athleticism with Robinson as the “small four” is intriguing, and provide a little bit more versatility offensively.

That being said, say McGary and Morgan both play 25 minutes per game. I’d guesstimate that leaves roughly 10 minutes on the floor together and 15 of each big man holding down the middle. Jon Horford is the wrinkle in the equation and depending on his development that 10 minute dual-post number could increase significantly.

This site is supported by donations

Like what you see? Click the button below to donate and access exclusive content.

  • Thomas Beindit

    Hmm GR3 at the 4 would be really interesting. Not sure if it would be more effective than McGary and Morgan sharing the 4 and the 5, but it could be something useful to do against other teams as a different lineup. I still think the McGary and Morgan lineup is the one that’s going to end up being used most of the time.

    • A2JD

      I’d rather see a traditional 2 big line-up and have GR III at the 4 for maybe only 5-8 minutes a game as a change of pace.

  • Mark Worthley

    Isn’t McLimans taller than 6’7″?

    • The five I was referring to were:
      McLimans, Morgan, McGary, Horford and Bielfeldt

  • David

    We could play GR3 at the 4 in games against teams like Northwestern, where we could “out athlete” them and keep him at the 3 and use the McGary/Morgan/Horford/Biefieldt combo at 4/5 in games vs. teams like Minnesota and MSU

    • What teams in the league other than MSU/Minnesota are likely to go with true bigs at the four? OSU has Deshaun Thomas. Indiana has Watford…. who’s probably a problem for bigger and smaller defenders.

  • Dan

    With all the concern of McGary learning to play two positions as a Freshman, is there any concern with GRIII doing the same thing?

    • The general thought is that the three and four positions are very similar offensively in John Beilein’s offense. In the traditional 1 in, 4 out that we’ve seen, they are playing similar roles on opposite wings. The five and the four are a bit more different.

    • Northern Blue

      Smotrycz had to learn both early in his career. I think both Mitch and Glenn will be fine. They are both used to playing team ball, both have solid bball iq, and neither are overly raw.

  • section13row15

    I think Dylan is absolutely right. We should see plenty of GR3 at the 4 this season especially in big 10 play.

  • jblair52

    If the bigs can finish inside where we can utilize them on offense, I’d love to see it quite often. Make smaller 4’s defend the post and have to rebound more.

  • geoffclarke

    For several months (basically since McGary committed), I thought the default lineup would include 3-Hardaway, 4-Robinson, 5-Morgan/McGary, like Dylan is saying, with only about 10 min with a dual-post look. However, with word getting out that Beilein might give a lot of minutes at the 2 to Hardaway (which to me made some sense since before this, I thought the 2 would be our weakest spot), my thought process has changed. I think we could see a 50/50 split between the 2 post offense and Beilein’s usual 1-in, 4-out look.

    I think it might be interesting to see McGary out on the perimeter a little too, feeding passes into Hardaway or Robinson in the post, with Morgan on the weak side a bit out of the lane. In fact, in our big lineup, our two players who most likely demand a double team in the post might just be Hardaway or Robinson.

    Regardless of whether we go big or small, we’ll usually have the advantage over our opponents, so rather than trying to match up with the opponents, make them try to guard us! In the Indiana example, I think McGary might have an easier time defending Watford on the perimeter than Watford would guarding McGary in the post.

    The more I think about it, the more I can’t wait to see how it actually plays out. A lot will depend on if Morgan has developed some post moves (not likely) and how well Stauskas plays at the 2.

  • Quick Darshan

    I think the beat writers are sleeping on Beilfeldt. Also, Morgan only averaged 25 minutes last year? Seemed like more.