The Wolverine

November 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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NOVEMBER 2018 THE WOLVERINE 45 2018-19 BASKETBALL PREVIEW noted. "It might take a little bit of time, with a couple of freshmen. But we've got a lot of returners from last year with Coach Yak, and we kind of know what to expect and what he wants. "We've got to show the freshmen the ropes. They've got to get on the same page as we are, and I think we'll be just as good as we were last year." "All five of our freshmen are pretty good," Matthews added. "I expect big things from them. I expect them to be huge contributors this year to the team." The mentoring process will prove crucial, like it did last year. Yaklich watched Robinson guide Livers, Wagner work with Teske and Mu- hammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman show Poole the ropes. "A lot of their wisdom, and not only their IQ but their daily prac- tice habits, rubbed off on those other three," Yaklich said. "That will allow them to continue to grow." It should also allow them to pass it on to this year's rookies. UNCONSCIOUSLY COMPETENT Yaklich sounds strikingly like Jim Harbaugh when he talks about the means toward the end. "It's a process," Yaklich said. "I'm a big one-percent guy. You get one percent better every day, and in 100 days, you're a brand new defensive player. That puts us somewhere in the middle of December. "Middle of December, you'll be in a position where you have seen a lot of stuff. Once you've seen a lot of stuff and your instincts get there, you become unconsciously competent on the floor. You do not have to think. You're reacting on feel, and seeing plays a step or two ahead of time." Yaklich talks about learning the language of defense, to be able to communicate what's happening in an increasingly quicker fashion as it makes sense. It's reacting to the language, talking about it in the mo- ment and using it before something happens. "It's just fun to look at it every day, figure out what you need to do next, and what we're not doing well enough," he said. "You just slowly start piecing it together, and chisel- ing away on what is the best way this team needs to play, to make the most effective use of our individual defensive talent, but put all of that together into a scheme that allows us to play best as a team. "That's the fun part of putting that side together. The big piece of that whole puzzle is getting players to understand the strengths and weak- nesses of their teammates on defense. It's fun." ❏ Assistant coach Luke Yaklich is in charge of the U-M defense, and in his first year helped the Wolverines lead the Big Ten in scoring defense for the first time since 1964 (63.3 points per game allowed). PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL Michigan Defense: By The Numbers 1 Michigan's rank among Big Ten teams in defense against the score in 2017- 18. It marked the first time in John Beilein's 11-year tenure in Ann Arbor that his team topped the conference in defensive prowess. 2 The Wolverines' 2017-18 rank in defensive rebounding percentage in the Big Ten, at .747. Only Ohio State (.748) produced a better defensive rebounding performance in the conference last season. +3.7 Michigan's league-leading turnover margin in the Big Ten last sea- son. Beilein teams always maintain low turnover totals on offense, but the Wolverines boosted their turnovers gained to an average of 12.9 per game last year, their best effort in eight seasons. 32.8 The Wolverines' defensive percentage against opponents' three- point efforts last season. That marked U-M's best mark since it defended the three at 32.5 and 31.8 in reaching the NCAA title game and the Elite Eight in 2013 and 2014, respectively. 42.6 U-M's defensive performance versus opponents' overall field goal attempts last season. That effort represented Michigan's best since the 2012-13 crew limited opponents to 42.2 percent on the way to the national championship game. 54 Years since Michigan led the Big Ten in defense against the score. U-M's Final Four squad from 1964 marked the last group of Wolverines to hold up that well on the shut-down end of the court. 62.0 Michigan's defensive average against the score over the course of its six-game NCAA Tournament run. The Wolverines — against foes solid enough to make the tournament, and some good enough to advance to the Sweet 16 and Final Four — beat even their overall season average (63.3) against the score at the most important time. 63.3 Opponents' scoring average versus the Wolverines in 2017-18. The remainder of the top five in the Big Ten sifted out as follows: Rut- gers (64.8), Michigan State (64.9), Purdue (65.7) and Wisconsin (66.0). At the other end of the scale, Iowa allowed a Big Ten-worst 78.7 points per game. — John Borton

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