Michigan head basketball coach John Beilein met with the media a day before his crew tries to go 4-0 in the Big Ten, with Penn State coming into town. Here are Beilein's comments and TheWolverine.com's take.
News: Beilein continues to stress that sophomore forward Glenn Robinson maintain aggressiveness, and perhaps even more so in the absence of Mitch McGary.
Beilein: "We tweak so many things every week, on how we can get him into spaces that he really flourishes in. We encourage his teammates to do that, and we encourage him.
"He's got to look for these opportunities, where he has got to be more aggressive. It's got to be every day
every day there is some type of emphasis on finding more finding more opportunities for him."
Views: It's always a delicate balance, because Robinson is certainly not at his best when he's trying to force things, but needs to step forward as a force on a McGary-less Michigan team. Robinson found a very nice balance at Nebraska, scoring an extremely efficient 19 points on 9-for-12 shooting.
He can get more than a dozen shots per game, and probably should, but if he goes 9-for-18 with an extra six iffy attempts, it actually hurts more than helps. He'll take games like the win over the Cornhuskers and see what he did very well.
Just as importantly, Michigan's coaches can show him how and where he scored, and the other chances he might have exploited. He's been asked to play a (literally) bigger role, with McGary out and Nik Stauskas at the three. That can't hinder Robinson's production or mindset, and Michigan is working to ensure it doesn't.
News: Michigan may have a flashback to late last season when Penn State comes to town. The Nittany Lions knocked off the Wolverines down the stretch in the Big Ten race last year.
Beilein: "We just did not execute offensively or defensively, including as a coaching staff, in the game at Penn State. We're a lot better since then. I think Pat Chambers has a much better team, right now, than he had last year.
"They have two transfers in there, right now, that just became eligible. They're both really high-level players. They have a rhythm going about them now. If they beat us, it won't be because we looked past them."
Views: That loss hurt then, but it could help a little now. On the surface, it's Penn State basketball, Michigan coming home off a very close road win, and many could be thinking about a breather. U-M coaches will combat that with the bitter memories of that game last spring.
They'll do something else as well. They can point to the fact that the Nittany Lions - even though 0-4 in the Big Ten - led Michigan State by seven at the half. They can remind the Wolverines that guards D.J. Newbill (17.3 scoring average) and Tim Frazier (16.6) make up one of the better backcourts in the country.
Oh, and did we mention that loss last spring
News: Michigan has obviously started well in a vulnerable Big Ten schedule early, and pulled out some close ones. That might build confidence among the Wolverines, but Beilein doesn't trust it.
Beilein: "We could be 1-2 and be the exact same team. Somebody misses a foul shot, that ball gets tipped in at Nebraska, and we're still the same team. But we've got a little more bounce in our step.
"The biggest reality, and we learned it the good way, is the detail we [need] in last-second situations, valuing every possession. They understand it now. It is a possession-by-possession game, and you can't take possessions off, offensively or defensively, with bad turnovers, poor stance or not talking
"My expectations are, we're going to play hard and we're going to play smart, and that results in winning. But sometimes, that may fool you. You expect to win, and maybe there's a gap in there somewhere. You get behind by too much early, because you expect to be great at the end, and you can't recover. Our expectation is to play hard and play smart, every practice, every game."
Views: In other words, Beilein doesn't want to count on the bounce of the ball down the stretch determining how his team views itself. He's given that same speech after difficult losses, noting "We're the same team," etc.
But he'd much rather the Wolverines learn through winning. And it says here that in those Minnesota or Nebraska moments, when a team with key younger players pulls them out, produce a good feeling about game-end situations.
News: Beilein noted the benefits from last year's difficult loss at Penn State involves more than the psychological approach for the coming one.
Beilein: "Little things will matter in a game. We shot poorly from the foul line. We had some sloppy turnovers against their press. It's just a sense of valuing that you can lose any game. If you run into a guy who is going to go 6-for-10 from three
we didn't look past that.
"He just got open and we didn't defend it well. But some of the action they ran, we didn't even have in the scouting report. It was something new, or we missed it.
"You still can stop that. If you maybe pay more attention to your foul shooting in practice, had fewer turnovers. We gave them the ball or took really bad shots two or three times. You lose that game, and all of that stuff comes back in. You say, 'Okay. We couldn't stop the 6-for-10, but we could have done this, this and this.' And that's what you learn.
Views: The question is, does each new team have to relearn it? Michigan's only "bad" loss this year involved Charlotte, and fatigue and injuries both came into play there. The Penn State game at home will be a good test in those areas.
News: Newbill and Frazier give the Nittany Lions a legitimate shot in games, Penn State having dropped their last two by three points apiece to Minnesota and Indiana.
Beilein: "The only benefit from an injury is, Tim got to sit back and watch for a year. He's got Trey Burke numbers now. He's already over 100 assists, he's so quick. His first couple of years in the Big Ten we didn't guard him, because they had [Talor] Battle and these other guys. Now he shoots it in.
"Newbill is incredible. Last year, people didn't guard him to shoot, now he's shooting 42 percent. Both of them get to the foul line. Newbill had a tremendous game against us as a point guard at Penn State last year.
"Now you've got a fourth- and fifth-year guys out there, with a lot of experience."
Views: Despite their efforts, the Nittany Lions lost their only Big Ten road game thus far by 20, 75-55 at Illinois. They lost by only nine at Pittsburgh, 78-69, but barring the aforementioned slipups, this should be the game that makes Michigan 4-0.
And it needs to be. With games at Wisconsin, home versus Iowa and at Michigan State following closely behind, a 5-2 start for this Michigan team would be very solid.
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