The Wolverine

November 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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NOVEMBER 2018 THE WOLVERINE 43 2018-19 BASKETBALL PREVIEW in the Big Ten and No. 8 in the nation. The Wolverines hadn't paced their conference in stinginess versus the score since 1964, when a Cazzie Rus- sell-led squad allowed 75.5 per game on the way to the Final Four. Nation- ally, U-M checked in third overall in's defensive efficiency ratings (90.5). In each of the past two years, Beilein leaned on a designated defen- sive specialist to tighten down that end of the court. Two years ago, it was Billy Donlon, and last year, Luke Yaklich moved in to mentor Michi- gan's ball stoppers. With plenty of scoring heading out the door after a run to the Final Four, defense will again draw plenty of emphasis. Yaklich and the Wolver- ines embrace the challenge. "I think we'll be really good on defense," junior point guard Zavier Simpson said. "We just learn every single day. We get the Coach Luke as- pects of the game, and we just learn." VERSATILITY ON DEFENSE For Yaklich, defending starts out front, with slowing the other team's point guard. That's good news for him, since his best two on-ball de- fenders — Simpson, known by his nickname of "X," and Matthews — are back and ready to once again head up a tough-minded crew. Beyond them, Yaklich likes the op- tions the Wolverines enjoy when it comes to slowing down opponents. "Any time you're able to defend the point guard position well, it's good," he stressed. "Obviously, X and [sophomore guard] Eli [Brooks] have proven to be really good de- fenders at that position. You start there, and you look at what's your versatility from the two, three and four positions? "We have a lot of versatility there. Charles had a great year defensively last year. [Sophomore guard] Jor- dan Poole is growing every day and wants to be a good defender. Iggy [freshman forward Ignas Brazdei- kis] has picked up on schemes very quickly. "We've got [sophomore forward] Isaiah Livers, who got a ton of ex- perience, learning from Duncan Robinson last year, being in those situations. There's a lot of versatility there. [Freshman forward] Brandon Johns is growing as well. The ability for the two, three and four to really grow into being strong defenders, it's exciting." Junior center Jon Teske leads the way at the five, and his size (7-1, 260) alone adds an imposing presence to the defense. Beilein likes his mobility for someone that size, and with 6-10 redshirt sophomore forward Austin Davis also available, U-M isn't short on length under the basket. "Jon Teske is a different type of player than Moe was," Yaklich as- sured. "His big thing is, obviously, being big. Both he and Austin affect shots under there. The thing about Jon that is underrated is, he moves his feet really well. "For big guys, that usually means being a good ball-screen defender and getting off the ball screens and back into your next job on defense. That encapsulates it all. There are a lot of areas to improve. "The tools are there. The mental tenacity is there. The grit will grow throughout the year, just like it did last year." "I'm just trying to react quicker, seeing things," Teske noted. "As a center, you're the back line of de- fense. You see everything. You've got to talk. "That's one of the things I've been trying to do, be more vocal on the court. See things, react quicker, get to the ball, and wall up on the ball and rebound." Having someone 7-1 on the back line doesn't automatically turn the Wolverines into a shot-blocking squad, Yaklich cautioned. For one thing, they're more likely to see THE BIG D The Wolverines Take Pride In Their Defensive Emphasis

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