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November 9, 2012Friday night, Michigan basketball fans will get their first real look at the 2012-13 edition of the Wolverines, which has, since Trey Burke announced his intentions to return to Ann Arbor, been surrounded by more hype than the program has seen in nigh on 20 years.
And might now look like anything you've seen in Crisler Arena before. But it's still the same John Beilein system - just faster.
"It's the same offense we've been running," senior captain Josh Bartelstein said. "We always look to attack right away, so our first option is transition. If we can get a shot off that, great. Then we run our offense. When we have so much skill - Trey Burke coming off a ball screen or Tim Hardaway - those guys can make great plays all the time. It's fun to always be on the attack."
Michigan coach John Beilein said that, because of Slippery Rock's talent, he may only go 7-8 deep in the rotation. But in the exhibition season, the Wolverines proved they can play 10 or more with a relatively small drop off in production.
That depth has helped Michigan run the offensive faster - and more aggressively.
"We want to be relentless. If you only get six minutes, make them a relentless six minutes," Bartelstein said. "That way, teams can never get a breath. To me, it's a little bit like a hurry-up offense in football, where the defense can never get set. We want to have so many options that they don't know what hit them.
"I think we have done some experimenting [with the lineup]. We have a lot of options and a lot of talent. We're trying to find different units that are going to work. But our practices are always similar. We do the same stuff no matter if it's the first week or the last week. We go hard every day. There are different aspects, and we have put in some different things for big lineups and small lineups. But we're just trying to see what gives us the best chance to win games."
The depth and diversity of the lineup has also helped from behind the 3-point line. In two exhibition victories, 11 players attempted 3-pointers, and nine different players made at least one.
As a team, the Wolverines shot 41.3 percent behind the arc in those two wins. Of course, two exhibition games are an extremely small sample size compared to an entire season, but the team combined for a .350 3-point shooting percentage last year.
Redshirt junior Jordan Morgan said "the most striking difference" about the team this year, with its newfound depth, has been in practice.
"There is definitely a level of competiveness in practice, and having that level of depth allows us to play a little harder, not to say we weren't playing hard before," he said. "We don't worry about making mistakes as much, knowing that you have a lot of good talent to back you up."
Freshman Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary, Nik Stauskas, Spike Albrecht and Caris LeVert stole the show in the Wolverines' two exhibition wins.
Bartelstein will have a message for them prior to tipoff.
"I will probably tell them what I told them for the first exhibition game: take a second to soak it all in, because they have worked 17, 18 years of their lives to play college basketball," Bartelstein said. "It's a pretty cool thing, so don't take it for granted. Really think about all the time they spent working and all the sacrifices they've made to get here. And have a great time. You're playing college basketball in front of 12,000 people at the University of Michigan. Smile, have fun, relax and just go do what you have been taught to do, and really embrace it."
When asked what freshman has surprised him the most, Bartelstein pointed to Robinson.
He said he knew Robinson would be good, from viewing highlight reels and the like, but his seamless transition into the rigors of college basketball has been impressive.
"He's just so smooth," Bartelstein said. "I joke around with him that he's not even breaking a sweat out there. He is so efficient. When you have guys like him and Mitch that are five-star players, who everyone says are one-and-done, you'd think they'd have big egos. But they come in here wanting to learn and get better. As a captain and leader, you love seeing that. Once they want to learn, you can teach them so much, and they have gotten so much better, because they have embraced it."