The Wolverine

February 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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40 THE WOLVERINE FEBRUARY 2021 F ormer Michigan basketball coach John Beilein's abrupt departure two years ago set the stage for Juwan Howard's head coaching debut, and the transition has gone as smoothly as anyone could have hoped. The blend of the old and the new — and Howard's ability to not only preserve the culture, but also build upon it — had the Wolverines rolling approach- ing the midway point of the Big Ten schedule. U-M stood 8-1 in Big Ten play as of Jan. 26, with impressive blow- out wins over Wisconsin, Maryland (twice), Minnesota and Purdue, and several players were handling the scoring load. "We had some teams where we needed a guy to have a good game every time or we were in trouble. They don't need that," Beilein said in an exclusive interview with The Wol- verine. "They've got scorers. They've got two wings that are 6-7 and 6-9 in Isaiah Livers and Franz Wagner. Those are two NBA wings, now, and then you've got a big center. Those are like the teams we had with Nik [Stauskas], Glenn [Robinson III] and Mitch [McGary]. "That's got some stuff to it. Those are good players, and Chaundee Brown is a guy who will get interest in the NBA because he's a 'three-and- D' guy. So … they're a true team." That's a testament to Howard, the veteran coach added, noting he saw great potential early on, even in the non-conference portion of the schedule. Other than sleepwalking through an overtime game with Oak- land, the Wolverines were dialed in every night on both ends of the floor. "When they put it on Central Flor- ida, who I thought was pretty good, I said, 'Holy cow! This team could be really, really good,'" Beilein said. "I just said, 'Don't sleep on them,' be- cause I didn't want to put any pres- sure on Juwan." He's been impressed with how well it's come together on both ends. "You can see in their schemes, they run five out and our four slide over and over and over again," he con- tinued "Then he's got those pro sets, but it's not like he came in and said, 'Oh, we've got to change everything … we're just going to play high ball screen all the time or we're going to spread you and run pro sets …' "He has essentially four guards out there all the time … nobody is pigeonholed as one, two, three, four. They are all defensively, but then they switch defensively, too. They can switch that one-through-four ball screen and do it easily." That takes works and dedication, Beilein noted, and it starts at the top. To say he's been impressed with Howard and his staff is an under- statement, and while he's doing his best as a Big Ten analyst to not show his bias, it's clear he likes what he's seen. "They're just good," he said. "They've got all these guys that are just interchangeable parts, a dream type of passing team and then they're unselfish, too. That's what makes it all work." — Chris Balas THREE-POINT DEFENSE TAKES HUGE STEP FORWARD IN NEW YEAR On New Year's Day, following an 11-point win at Maryland, U-M's de- fense ranked 62nd in the country on Bart Torvik's T-rank, an advanced analytics site that tracks college bas- ketball efficiency. The Wolverines, who allowed Maryland to shoot threes at a 59.1 percent clip (13 of 22), were allow- ing opponents through eight games to shoot just 37.7 percent overall but 37.0 percent from beyond the arc. The two-point defense was a strong-suit (38.2 percent at that point), but de- fending the long ball was an area of concern, especially considering U-M hadn't yet played a ranked oppo- nent and did not face a high-major team in non-conference play (first five games). T-rank had U-M's two- point defense ranked third nation- ally, while the three-point defense was 269th in the sport (out of 357 teams). After allowing six of their first MICHIGAN BASKETBALL John Beilein Is Impressed With Juwan Howard And The Wolverines Beilein called Michigan a "true team" and was impressed by the squad's 13-1 start, as well as Howard's coaching. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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