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November 8, 2012Michigan opens its season Friday night against Division II Slippery Rock, and it's not an exhibition - nor will it resemble either of first two practice games, head coach John Beilein predicted after watching The Rock on film.
U-M wasn't tested in wins over Northern Michigan and Saginaw Valley State.
"People that don't know probably don't know what Slippery Rock has become as a team, particularly this year," Beilein said. "This will be an extremely, extremely good Division II team, a team that with some breaks could win a Division II championship. They return four of five starters, and their fifth starter is a very good player, as well.
"They just scrimmaged Navy at Navy and were ahead by 30 in the second half. They are very well coached with all these seniors, many of them transfers from other schools who have a lot of minutes played already. We have our work cut out for us. It's time to play that type of basketball game, but this is not your father's Slipper Rock team."
Beilein proceeded to call the team known as The Rock the "real deal."
"They run action veteran teams run," he said. "Look at the Wisconsin teams that have a lot of veterans out there, very few freshmen. They will run their thing so effectively and efficiently. It's difficult for freshmen who are usually in tape delay a little bit to pick up on it. We'll probably have four freshmen out there a great deal. We'll have to grow up real fast because of who they are and how they play.
"We'll go seven or eight deep, probably. They're good. We're going to play it pretty tight. We could not go to Navy and be up by 30 in the second half right now. I don't know if I've ever had a team go on the road and be up by 30 in the second half. We will probably keep it pretty short."
"Nik is questionable for this game. Jon Horford, we'll try and get him in there," Beilein said. "That's the plan. He's going to go full go today for the first time.
"Nik, it's just a little bit of a sore back. We'll see. Maybe it's just waking up wrong, but there's a little spasm going on."
"Every day now I come in and see what we have, what our administration has supported, and feel very fortunate," he said. "We're living a coach's dream as far as this court, the young men I get to coach every day, now the facilities. It's really special. I do appreciate it every day.
"Tomorrow will be an opening game, and it's exciting for us to have. We'll have a very, very large crowd for an opening game against a Division II opponent."
"I'm not used to it, but I'll accept it; it's okay," he said. "Hopefully we can get those three or four more possessions, and hopefully we don't turn it over because of that to give it up.
"Jordan Morgan has become an expert offensive rebounder. Mitch McGary is just learning from Jordan every day. He's got more size, girth to be able to get in there. He's got a nose for it, as well. Now Jon can do it, but probably not in the same category yet as Mitch. He's a very good defensive rebounder, though Mitch is a very good defensive rebounder."
"He's right there - getting used to being a perimeter four or in a high low game," Beilein said. "The other day his feet were giving him problems, so he could not go in that first half. We're still working on that."
"We have to consider that strongly," Beilein said. "Let's see how we play. He can't go back once he goes into a game. I'd like to see our team a little more before we make any definite decisions there.
"I do not expect him to play. He'll dress. But five minutes to go down or up by 20, he's not going into the game. I don't expect him to be in that early rotation. As long as I can, make a really educated decision, give us some quality time to work with him. It can backfire on you, but you do that because you really think he can be a special player given more time, more weight, all those things."
"I wish I could go back and see those first pictures of him, those first workouts," Beilein said. "He literally could not run a 30-second line drill that everybody has done their whole life, and almost everybody can make it their first time. We now do those back to back to back as part of our conditioning.
"Now he's just a horse. I'm surprised how athletic he's become in two years. It's self-made with Jon Sanderson.
"If Nik's back doesn't come around, we might do it several times," Beilein said. "We'll see what happens, push Tim over to a position he really knows well, especially if we need help scoring the ball. Those two guys are clever, find ways to get their own or find others.
"Trey can do both, and Spike proved he can score, but he's a specialist getting other people the ball, as well."