Michigan isn't anticipating Arkansas connecting on its first 11 shots, like the Razorbacks did in a 66-64 win in Fayetteville last year. The Wolverines do know they're going to be sped up and harassed all afternoon.
That's the type of basketball Arkansas (4-3) has employed for a long time, and the 8-0, No. 3-ranked Wolverines will wear the bull's eye in a 12:07 tipoff tomorrow at Crisler Center. The Razorbacks are coming off an 81-78 win over Oklahoma, and are looking to make it two straight against the Wolverines.
U-M head coach John Beilein is wary of the game tempo, and the ferocity with which the visitors approach every contest.
"They bring a quickness and intensity to the game that is tough to match, to simulate in practice," Beilein said. "We've got to be ready to play 40 minutes of basketball. There is going to be no letup. We'll have to take care of the ball, do a lot of good things and make shots."
Beilein indicated the Wolverines employed a number of practice tactics to prep for the smothering style of the Razorbacks, including putting someone back at all times on transition defense. Yesterday, he noted, U-M used a fifth defensive player to trap against four offensive performers on the court.
He added, though, it's Arkansas' length and quickness, rather than its schemes that make the Razorbacks a challenge. After running off to a big lead a year ago, Arkansas had to hold off a furious Michigan rally, which ended with a last-second three-point shot going off the rim in a 66-64 loss.
Beilein took a wait-and-see stance when asked if this year's Michigan team is better prepared to handle Arkansas.
"We're going to find out," he said. "I don't know. Stu Douglass was really good last year as the secondary ball handler against them. He did a great job. We just didn't make any shots. We had some people open. Zack [Novak] hit five shots and nobody else could make a shot.
"I'm not sure, but between Caris [LeVert] and Tim [Hardaway, Jr.] and Nik Stauskas, I think we've got three guys who handle the ball pretty well to help Trey [Burke] and Spike [Albrecht]."
The Razorbacks feature a strong scorer in forward B.J. Young, who is averaging 19.5 points per game and scored 15 against the Wolverines last year. Beilein is also concerned about forward Marshawn Powell, who is averaging 16.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.
"I think Powell is the best power forward we've seen all year, and I think we've seen some pretty good ones, whether from Kansas State or Pitt, North Carolina State," Beilein said. "I think he's as good as anybody we've seen, if not better."
Ball handling will be at a premium for the Wolverines, Beilein stressed. That could mean seeing a little more of Albrecht, even with Burke in the game.
"Spike will give him rest here and there," Beilein noted. "We might even play the two of them together, depending on the pressure and the game and the foul situations. We'd have two ball handlers out there."
Also, with the redshirt recently pulled off LeVert, Beilein is more than ready to use him in a game such as this.
"This team will work very hard to tire us out," Beilein said. "They'll work very hard to make Trey and Spike and Tim handle the ball, and people besides the point guards handle the ball. That's another reason why Caris is in there. We needed one more secondary ball handler in the backcourt.
"I'm looking forward to see what he does. We have a couple of guys who are pretty quick, and he is one who is as quick as their guys, as well."
For all of Arkansas' pressure last year, Beilein felt like the Wolverines handled it reasonable well.
"We did only turn the ball over 10 times last year," he said. "It was at the beginning that we did it. Ten turnovers against them was probably their lowest total of the year. If we get that number again, we have a chance."
• Beilein wants Michigan to work hard today in practice, but have enough left in the tank to give a good effort against the Razorbacks.
"The sweet spot, in a game like this, is how much do you practice today to get ready for their pressure, without wearing your own guys out?" he said. "We could have a heck of a practice today and not have a great energy tomorrow.
"We've got to save some of that energy, but you still have to get the simulation of the game. That's the sweet spot as coaches we have to find out."
• Redshirt freshman Max Bielfeldt, who missed the Western Michigan game with an ankle injury suffered in practice, will not be available against Arkansas, Beilein noted.
"He's walking around," Beilein said. "I don't think he's going to practice today. I do not think he's going to be able to play."
• Beilein indicated he is very pleased by the crowds at Crisler Center, noting his anticipation for a huge home advantage this season.
"It's been great," he said. "It doesn't surprise me, but it thrills me. It really is great to know we have that type of interest. I'm sure it's about people talking about the possibilities with this team. I hope it's a lot that they like the way the team plays, they like the type of young men that represent Michigan, and they can identify with them along the way. That's important, including the students."
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