March 18, 2013
Borton's Blog: On the rebound
Michigan has averaged just 2.9 rebounds per game more than opponents this year, but when the gap flows the other way, it really shows up. That's why the Wolverines still have work to do.
For instance, in the regular-season finale against Indiana, the Wolverines got smoked on the boards, 53-30. Some of that involved the incredible athleticism of Victor Oladipo, the Hoosiers' commitment to an all-out boards crash, etc.
But U-M big man coach Bacari Alexander knows the Wolverines can, and must, get better heading into Big Ten Tournament play.
"It's critical with regards to our team from a rebounding standpoint, we have to make sure we're making hits," he said. "A lot of times with young teams, they tend to ball-stare when the ball is in the air, instead of going to find a body.
"That's a tendency that is normal when you're inexperienced. When you gain experience - and now it's been over 30 games - it's about accountability. If you're not doing that, we can use our bench to correct those blunders."
There's a give-and-take for U-M head coach John Beilein, and there always has been. He insists on limiting turnovers, and knows that can help make up for a rebounding deficit.
Against the Hoosiers in that fateful final regular-season game, for instance, Indiana out-scored Michigan on second-chance points, 17-11. At the same time, the Wolverines piled up a 19-8 advantage on points off turnovers, forcing 14 and committing six.
"If we continue to put bodies on guys versus ball-staring, the rebound disparity will drop," Alexander said. "Now having said that, the way we combat the lack of rebounding is turning our opponents over. A lot of times, when you look at that disparity - points off turnovers that we generate versus rebounding, it negates it."
It's never all one way, of course. The best of both worlds features a strong rebounding team that doesn't turn the ball over much, and that forces opponents to give it away.
That's the ideal, and one the Wolverines are still working toward.
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