Many college basketball analysts have lamented what is seen as an over-coaching epidemic after seeing scoring fall to historic lows; according to Ken Pomeroy, scoring this season is at its lowest since 1952. Analysts and coaches have speculated that this is partly due to coaches feeling the need to control everything that happens on the court, with their ultimate fear being a turnover.
While John Beilein despises turnovers and places an emphasis on valuing possessions, that doesn’t mean he wants to expressly dictate the action on the court. In fact, just the opposite. Michigan hasn’t been affected by the offensive ineptitude across college basketball. The Wolverines have scored 315 points on 273 NCAA tournament possessions; an impressive 1.15 points per-possession.
Beilein values what he calls “flow,” or the ability of the players to run the offense themselves. He would like that to encompass the majority of his offense, but with such a young team it is difficult at times for that to happen.
“I would prefer to be all flow if we can. I still think that we call too many plays, but it’s within the action,” Beilein said after Tuesday’s open practice. “You’ll see the same set, but we’re going with a different action. If we can get to a point with a very veteran team, they can run it all themselves. Now with three freshmen out there, we still have to assist a lot of them in what to run and why to run it.
“I like our guys to have some freedom, and I think I’ve done a better job of that over the last 10, 15 years.”
The coach referenced some of his earlier teams at Richmond and West Virginia as having great flow to them, but stressed that it had a lot to do with the experience and type of players he had. At both schools, he had mostly upperclassmen. This season at Michigan, he’s starting three freshmen and a sophomore.
One of the ways to establish a player-run offense is to emphasize the fast break. While principles of how to run the fast break are coached, when they’re on the floor every decision is up to the players. That’s one reason, other than its obvious effectiveness for Michigan, Beilein has placed such importance on it as a weapon.
“We know that with a young team, they do understand fast break, they don’t have to think as much on a fast break, we can play in space on a fast break,” Beilein said.
Syracuse prep includes painful film study
It’s been well-documented already, and will continue to be brought up again and again throughout Michigan’s Final Four match-up with Syracuse: John Beilein has an 0-9 record against Syracuse.
Most of those losses came when Beilein was at the helm of West Virginia. Despite the unpleasant memory of those games, they could provide some valuable insights into how to attack the Orangemen’s vaunted 2-3 zone. Beilein said he will also look at Michigan’s game film from playing Syracuse two years ago.
“I’ll probably look at some old West Virginia video of playing them before,” Beilein said. “There are certain similarities you’ll see, and they’ve probably watched us, as well, from that game two years ago.”
Preparing for the zone has not been easy, as one of the major reasons it’s so effective is the length and athleticism Syracuse has on its roster. Not to say Michigan doesn’t have length and athleticism, but it might not have so much of it on its scout team — no offense intended at Josh Bartelstein, Corey Person and company.
Given all of that, Beilein is taking some creative liberties with the scout team lineup.
One thing’s for certain: Michigan will be shooting deep threes. Beilein knows it, and Michigan players were launching from deep throughout practice and shooting drills on Tuesday.
“We have to be able to shoot from distance,” Beilein said. “Today, when we were mimicking, we had Blake McLimans playing up front in the zone so that Trey could get a sense for Carter-Williams and their other players that are so long,”
John Beilein finally realizes he’s going to the Final Four
Michigan’s coach has an interesting way of making sure he wasn’t dreaming when his team beat Florida to get to the Final Four in Atlanta.
“After a loss, you wake up, and you know something happened, bad. But you’re not sure, for like two or three seconds – and then you realize you lost the game the night before,” Beilein said. “I woke up this morning and said, ‘I feel good.’ And then I said, ‘Are we still going to the Final Four? Is this true?’ And (my wife) said, ‘yes, yes we are.’ There was a moment there when I realized it happened.”
Beilein has found himself loosening up a bit and allowing both himself and his players to enjoy this run. The most visible example of this was the Harlem Shake video the team did on the while traveling back to the Crisler Center.
“It’s tough to do the Harlem Shake sitting down,” Beilein said, laughing. “We had some other people trying to hog the camera, in case you didn’t notice that.
“We had some really great music on the bus. The bus driver had a CD that was very good. I had to cover my ears a couple times because he said he didn’t have an edited version. We had some dancing on the bus, it was wonderful.”