Notebook: Michigan looks to get Nik Stauskas back on track


Michigan 71, Nebraska 70 - #13Indiana’s ability to take Nik Stauskas out of the game during Sunday’s loss to the Hoosiers has been covered ad nauseam. Now that we know how Indiana went about guarding Stauskas, the natural question is, how does Michigan prevent something like this from happening again?

John Beilein said little about implementing any specific strategy to make sure his star sophomore can get open for more than six shots on a given night. However, the coach did say responsibility lies not just on Stauskas, the coaches, or his teammates, but on a combination of everyone involved. This is the same thing Beilein said when Glenn Robinson III was having trouble getting involved earlier in the season.

“There were opportunities for him to get the ball, we just didn’t throw it to him,” Beilein said. “And there were opportunities for our coaching staff, or he could have tried harder to get the ball and he didn’t do it. We don’t want him taking six shots per game.”

As for combating the specific brand of no-catch defense employed by both Indiana and Duke this season, Beilein said it’s something his team works on in their preparation.

“We prepare for it almost every game,” Beilein said. “But it’s a forty minute game and you have to just keep flowing from it, like I said. There are times when we all need to do a better job.”

The necessity of Stauskas’s production for the Wolverines is illustrated rather sharply in this graph.


When Caris LeVert’s usage is up, Michigan tends to lose. When Stauskas’s usage is up, Michigan wins. This isn’t an indictment on LeVert — it just means that usually, when Stauskas isn’t producing, he’s the go-to guy. Unfortunately, when Stauskas isn’t producing, Michigan normally loses. Michigan’s big men also have a much higher usage rate in wins, another data-point connected to Stauskas’s production as he sets up a majority of both players’ offensive looks.

Beilein recognizes that this naturally leads to opposing teams making Stauskas their number one defensive priority.

“He’s a focal part of our offense, but I believe he understands now that he’s a focal part of people’s defense,” Beilein said. “And so that’s what you get. When I look back at his career here, there was Tim and Trey. Even when he was at St. Mark’s, there was (Arizona center Kaleb) Tarczewski and (Chicago Bulls forward) Erik Murphy. Now, there’s Nik Stauskas. His name is out there and he’s a marked man.”

Michigan preparing for another tough test against Nebraska

The last time Michigan played Nebraska, the game came down to a final missed couple of shots for the Cornhuskers in a tight 71-70 victory for the Wolverines.

At the time, it was a bit worrisome that Michigan almost got beat, regardless of being on the road, by one of the Big Ten’s bottom-dwelling teams from last season. But looking back, that win just keeps looking better and better.

The Wolverines are the only team to have beaten Nebraska in Lincoln this season. Some of the Huskers’ more recent victims include Ohio State, Minnesota and Indiana.

“They’ve always been talented. Now I see a newer chemistry with them. They’re playing as well as anyone in the league right now,” Beilein said. “(Terran) Petteway might become the best player in the league. And then (Ray) Gallegos, the way he can shoot, this is a tremendous basketball team. We were very fortunate to have gotten that win there, and we played really well. We’re going to have to do the same thing again: play really well.”

Nebraska’s secret to success this year compared to last? Get better players. The Huskers have added a wealth of transfers, which include Petteway and Michigan native Walter Pitchford. Now that this new collective has some games under its belt, the team is gaining chemistry.

“You get them together and they have all this talent, but we know that talent is never enough,” Beilein said. “You have to have chemistry, you have to have timing, you have to have a lot of great things. Each game that they play, this great talent that (Nebraska coach) Tim (Miles) has brought in is getting more comfortable with what he and his staff are trying to do. That’s been a big difference for them.”

Beilein hopes to strike psychological balance with team after first Big Ten loss

John Beilein was his usual Zen-like self on Tuesday when talking about Michigan’s tough loss to Indiana, emphasizing staying in the moment rather than looking back or looking ahead.

“You just try to get ready for the next game and do the best you can to forget about the past, forget about the next day, concentrate on that next game and try to get that W because that’s the only thing you can control,” Beilein said. “Whether it’s a losing streak, whether it’s a winning streak, doesn’t make a difference.”

However, the coach conceded that some of his 19 and 20-year-old charges may not have the same approach, which means you can never be sure how they’ll respond. But he’ll do what he can to keep them balanced following their first Big Ten loss.

“That’s the beauty of coaching 19-year-old kids,” Beilein said. “You try to hit them between the eyes a little bit with, okay, here’s what happened, here’s what we’re going to do about it, let’s go. And at the same time, you have to make sure you pat them on the back and give them a good source of confidence.”

  • KDP

    They couldve and shouldve posted Stauskas up more in the game and try to get yogi in some foul trouble and take advantage of Stauskas height and athletic ability.

    • guestavo

      Stauskas has never executed a post move in his life.

      • Daoofgeek

        He wouldn’t have to actually try posting with his back to the basket but that would’ve allowed them an easier time of getting him the ball. Once he got the ball, then he could’ve faced up, shot over Yogi, used his dribble to set up the offense or pass out of it when IU went to help, which they most certainly would have.

  • Cory

    Does Ohio State put Craft on Stauskas?

    • guestavo

      Probably but as long as he doesn’t hit 7 3s, their offense should be horrible and we should be able to score enough points to win.

      • Mattski

        Looks like they may be righting the ship a little. I don’t expect an easy time in Columbus.

        • guestavo

          ehhh Iowa 1-6 against Kenpom top 20 teams and shot 3-20 on mostly good looks from 3. OSU will have to beat UM or MSU to prove their worth.

          • Chezaroo

            I still maintain they try to play way to many people, to the detriment of a defined rotation, and their best players. The depth they claim to have certainly doesn’t show up in the win column against good teams.

          • Mattski

            Could pay off down the line.

        • jakelam2116

          Agree. OSU should be favored in that game in Columbus. When was the last time Michigan won there?

  • Wayman Britt

    I see the athletic teams in the Big Ten (OSU, MSU, UW) all denying, face guarding and over playing Nik, so GR3 and the centers are going to have to step up their offense game/

    • guestavo

      We already faced two of those teams and are 2-0.

    • Joel B

      UW is not athletic. I’d swap them out for Iowa.

  • Mattski

    Makes you wonder whether we should have been running more stuff for other guys. Wonder what the internal workings are with GRIII, for example, whether they’ve been trying out stuff in practice or whether he’s been allowed to drift. Seemed like he stepped up in the first few games after McGary’s operation was announced. . .

    • geoffclarke

      I think a few things need to happen. (1) Stauskas needs to get the ball more than he did against IU, period, one way or another. I’m sure they’ll figure out how to do that. Even if he has the best defender in the league on him, he still generally makes very good decisions, probably best on the team, except maybe Albrecht. (2) Other guys have to get more confidence. (3) Other guys have to keep their heads up and pass well. I would expect that Walton, Robinson, and LeVert, especially, will be practicing on creating passing lanes and executing passes among themselves and the bigs, Morgan and Horford, maybe practicing more ball screens without Stauskas. (4) Guys have to move and cut and screen off the ball with a sense of urgency. Even Stauskas and even if he doesn’t get the ball. You have to get the defenders moving and guessing.