The Wolverine

November 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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44 THE WOLVERINE NOVEMBER 2018 2018-19 BASKETBALL PREVIEW blocked shots from weak-side de- fenders, and given Beilein's reticence to see his team in foul trouble, shot blocking just doesn't draw a huge emphasis. The Wolverines were 13th in the 14-team Big Ten last year in average blocks, swatting away 3.1 per game. Don't look for that to take a big jump for 2018-19. "It could end up being that," Yak- lich allowed. "We won't go into the season emphasizing that we want to be a great shot-blocking team. Jon will affect shots under there, but a lot of times, your shot blocking comes from your weak-side defenders. "So, that's something where Charles, and Isaiah, and Brandon Johns, Iggy, those guys are usually the guys that can come out of no- where, from weak side to strong side and protect the rim. Jon just needs to hold his ground and make guys score over the top of him. He's proven to do a good job with that." GROWTH IN STAGES Yaklich smiles when asked at what point he knew Beilein's title-bound team last year "got it" when it came to playing defense. He's heard the question before, and there isn't any particular moment when the light bulb pierced the darkness. There were several, each bringing another level of illumination. Here's how Yaklich laid it out, in terms of Michigan's defensive step- ping stones: • "The second half of UCLA [an overtime win Dec. 9] and then going down to Texas [a road victory Dec. 12]. That was a step." • "Moe being out and us going to Detroit [and beating Detroit Mercy 90-58 on Dec. 16]. We just really played well defensively." • "Going to Iowa and winning at the start of the Big Ten season [75-68 on Jan. 2]." • "Going to Michigan State and winning [82-72 on Jan. 13]." • "At the end of the season, the run of Ohio State, Penn State and Mary- land just put the final screws in, that we're going to be good. The Big Ten Tournament was great." The Wolverines surrendered an average of 62.0 points per game in sweeping that final trio leading up to the Big Ten Tournament, includ- ing the final two on the road. Then after surviving a 71-70 overtime game against Iowa in the tourna- ment opener, Michigan again used strong defensive efforts to capture its second straight league tourney championship. U-M surrendered only 58 in rout- ing Nebraska, then limited both Michigan State (75-64) and Purdue (75-66) in nailing down the title. In the NCAA Tournament, they held three teams to less than 60 and never saw an opponent score more than 72 (in the runaway 99-72 win over Texas A&M) before Villanova's 79-point outburst in the champion- ship game. Yaklich simply saw the Wolverines get better as they went along, which he knows the present team needs to do. "You could see throughout the sea- son, these little things, then you'd see a big thing, a couple little steps, then a big one," he recalled. "Then boom, you're in Madison Square Garden and the whole thing was put together. "Guys were playing at that uncon- sciously competent level, where you just watch film in the hotel room, walk through it in a taped ballroom in the hotel, and take it out to the floor and be able to execute it on the big stage against really good teams." FRESHMEN IN THE MIX Playing freshmen always com- plicates the defensive progress of a team. Getting five of them up to speed — two of which could play significant minutes — means not waiting around to talk about ad- vanced principles. Coming from a setting in which there's only an individual man to guard, it's not hard to see why heads are spinning regarding help defense, playing ball screens, etc. Michigan's freshmen need to quickly race past 100-level instruction. "I think a couple of them are going to be able to do that," Beilein said. "They've just got to understand, it's not just me and this guy I'm guard- ing. We've spent a lot of time guard- ing your man, the ball and then action, earlier this year than ever before. "There's action happening, and I've got my man, I'm off the ball, but what's the action? It's reading the action. We see all kinds of different offenses now. "And rather than wait until three weeks into practice, we throw them into it [immediately]. We'd done shuffles, we'd done shell drills, we'd done so many things because of the extra [NCAA-allowed] practices — let's get right to this stuff, so fresh- men can play earlier." Teske acknowledges it's not going to be an easy process for the rookies. It never is. "I think we'll be solid," Teske Junior center Jon Teske can present oppos- ing teams problems with his 7-1, 260-pound frame. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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