Michigan has played very good rebounding teams before, but they haven’t yet faced a team that rebounds quite like Minnesota.
The Golden Gophers make their living on the offensive glass, evidenced by their NCAA-best offensive rebounding percentage of 48 percent. Minnesota has athletes — lots of them — and they know how to crash the boards.
“We’ve had these situations before, with Kansas State and Pitt, and some other teams that were really getting high numbers of rebounds,” Beilein said while addressing media on Wednesday. “I think this is probably the most difficult out of all those challenges because they’re getting such a high percentage of second-chance opportunities.”
Beilein said he had his team working with the “bubble” on the rim in practice to work on boxing out. However, Michigan should be plenty prepared for this sort of challenge already. The Wolverines haven’t been known for their rebounding prowess in years past, but this season they are more than holding their own, especially on the defensive glass.
Michigan ranks second in the country in defensive rebounding percentage of 72 percent. The Wolverines have been a great defensive rebounding team thus far, and Minnesota will provide them with by far their toughest test.
“Our kids know it, we know it, they know they’re one of the best at keeping people (from getting offensive rebounds), too,” Beilein said. “They’re aware of that and we’re really proud of that. Let’s keep that percentage where it’s been for us.”
One major obstacle to keeping that percentage for this game will be the elder Gopher, Trevor Mbakwe. The high-flying sixth-year senior has been a beast on the offensive glass and his offensive rebounding percentage is at 17 percent is ranked ninth in the country.
Beilein said keeping track of where Mbakwe is on the court at all times will be key in containing his production.
“Mbakwe causes the problems just because he’s a tremendous rebounder, shot-blocker, dunker, the whole deal. He doesn’t need much space – he operates really well in small spaces,” Beilein said. “As a result, you have to have a body on him in order to compete with him. So that will be difficult.”
Burke, Albrecht can play together
With the offense stagnating and Trey Burke frustrated by the constant on-ball pressure of Ohio State’s Aaron Craft, John Beilein sent backup point guard Spike Albrecht in to rest his star.
Albrecht rose to the occasion, scoring seven points in 11 minutes and providing Michigan with the offensive spark it needed to make a comeback before the first half came to a close.
“I just try to come in with a lot of energy, play hard,” Albrecht said. “It’s kind of easy, because you get to sit there and watch the game, see what we’re doing right or wrong, and just kind of go from there.”
In the second half, Michigan ran some action that saw Burke and Albrecht in the game together. It was an attempt to run Burke off the ball and open some opportunities up for him without Craft in his back pocket.
“Obviously we’re a little bit shorter, but I think having me and him out there at the same time, we both see the court really well,” Albrecht said. “He can play off the ball a bit, because they were kind of all over him during that Ohio State game, so I can help set him up a little bit.”
Beilein said Michigan fans could see more of the two-point-guard attack.
“I just think when we saw that kind of pressure, particularly from Aaron Craft, and then when they put Shannon Scott in there, now they’ve got double trouble,” Beilein said. “We thought we needed two point guards out there. We may use it again. Certainly the way Spike played out there, it merits more consideration.”
Practice more intense after Michigan’s first loss
After going 16-0 to start this season, this year’s Michigan team didn’t have any experience coming back to practice after a disappointing loss.
Tuesday’s practice was a first for the Wolverines, and the difference in intensity was evident.
“I think the level of intensity is higher when we lose. Obviously, I think around this point last year we had six losses, so after every loss we would come in to practice after watching film and we’d just come into practice with a better mindset, I think,” Burke said. “A loss humbles teams and allows them to make adjustments and get better. Our practice yesterday was similar to that.”
Beilein said the difference in practices after losses and after wins has held true wherever he’s been, but doesn’t see it as a bad thing.
“After a loss, every team that I’ve ever been with, there’s a not striking difference, but there’s a difference,” Beilein said. “I loved the way we responded in practice. There was no finger-pointing, it was all about, alright, now we know some things and we’ll get better.”