January 17, 2013
Borton's Blog: Board of review
There are all sorts of match-ups to examine when Michigan tries to dodge the two-game slide tonight in Minnesota, but one facet of the game looms especially large.
This might be the night that John Beilein comes away especially grateful for Michigan's new-look capabilities on the boards. He's spent half a dozen years here mildly downplaying rebounding, perhaps in part because he didn't have many big-time rebounders.
The mantra went something like this: rebounding isn't the crucial factor, and can be offset by low turnovers, etc. That may be true, but it's not a bad piece of the puzzle on top of not having your ball handling disappear like a non-existent girlfriend.
Michigan experienced the rebounding boost a few times this year, including when Nebraska slowed the game to a crawl and got the Wolverines to uncharacteristically misfire. U-M hit 38.9 percent from the field against the Cornhuskers, 17.6 percent (3-for-17) from three-point range and still won by 15 at home, 62-47.
That's because Beilein's crew pounded the glass for a 47-30 rebounding advantage, including 16 offensive rebounds, and shucked the Cornhuskers on second-chance points, 19-2. Michigan has now out-rebounded the opposition or played to a boards standoff in 15 of 17 games.
That part of the game might count double tonight.
Minnesota is the best offensive rebounding team in the league. The Gophers have cleared 274 offensive boards, 33 more than the next-closest team. They've snagged 48 percent of their rebounds at the scoring end.
That represents extra opportunities, and it's part of the reason why Tubby Smith's team stands third in the Big Ten in scoring average, at 76.3 per game.
Michigan, on the other hand, remains the stingiest team in the conference in terms of letting offensive rebounds get away. U-M's defensive rebounding percentage stands at 75.8, the Wolverines allowing just 146 offensive rebounds through 17 games. The Gophers, by contrast, have given up a Big Ten-worst 225 on the offensive glass.
It may not make all the difference, but if top-20 Big Ten rebounders such as freshmen Mitch McGary (5.9) and Glenn Robinson III (5.8) hold strong on the glass, and if redshirt junior forward Jordan Morgan (5.5) and junior guard Tim Hardway (5.4) collect and protect as well, it achieves two important goals.
First, as noted, Minnesota doesn't get second cracks at easy baskets. Second, the Wolverines can more easily create transition points, including getting freshman sniper Nik Stauskas involved in fast-break scoring opportunities.
That's something sophomore guard Trey Burke stressed as important - finding Stauskas in transition situations, to ease the pressure on him from defenses never leaving him in half-court sets.
One of Michigan's weaknesses has become a strength, and there's no better time than in Williams Arena to underscore that new-found advantage.
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