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November 20, 2012Michigan head coach John Beilein and his staff spent the week looking for the holes in their No. 4 ranked team's game after an impressive 3-0 start. The Wolverines weren't tested in three games, but that figures to change when they head to New York for the Preseason NIT semifinal with Pitt Wednesday.
Even areas in which they were playing pretty well received attention, Beilein said.
"We got a little rest, and now we begin going for one of the better championships in all the preseason exempted tournaments, the Preseason NIT," he said. "We really have a very good Pitt team that last year got a lot of experience for a lot of players. All of them are back. They have one or two freshmen playing any type of minutes, but everybody else is very veteran. Jamie Dixon is a terrific coach. We've had really good games with him in the past. His record speaks for itself, and Pitt's success the last 10 years."
There's room for his team's improvement, Beilein said.
"We have to communicate better, talk better. There were a lot of open shots we gave up that people just didn't make, just being a step late," he said. "The normal timing and communication - the same thing with our offense. We have to cut harder, run faster, some things as coaches we make sure they do.
"When you're getting different action like that, especially in back to back games, there are little things we can learn a lot from. It might be as simple as having your hands up when you're closing up to picking your foot up when you're trying to shuffle, or it could be something schematic."
They've also been preparing for situations they haven't seen yet. They haven't been down late in a game; nor have they faced a ton of press. They've been in transition so much that they also haven't faced an aggressive half court defense like Pitt's.
"We're getting there, doing a good job of the progression we've done teaching them, trying to simplify some things, but to be honest they've handled everything we've thrown at them so far," Beilein said. "We have done drills being down with 10, six, five, four, three, two and one seconds to go. We've had situations up late fouling, or with a foul to give - typical late game situations or end of first half.
"We do that all year long, but not the amount of time we have in the last couple days. Many of our kids recall some of the different press entries we have. The freshmen, it's all new to them."
The last week has been spent as a two-day prep for a game.
"We had yesterday off, but we pushed them really hard Saturday," Beilein said Monday. "We had enough hours left that we could lift weights, scrimmage about 40 minutes Saturday amongst ourselves, when Pitt was plying at the same time, get our heart rates really up like a game situation. I don't think you want to have too long off. With a week off, we wanted to make sure Saturday was game-like."
"We have this fitness test we do with people, and he made it. He is getting there, but again, the fitness test is not a basketball test," Beilein said. "There is only one thing like that where you are sprinting and sprinting, boxing out, being physical in the post and then running. We didn't do that part. But he's certainly making the right progression where he can play in there effectively for five or six minutes at a times.
"I think it's unrealistic in today's game to have a big man not get a rest somewhere along the line after five or six minutes unless he's an incredible, incredible warrior and experienced player who knows how to save his energy."
"I don't know about that. We expect to go in there and play really hard," he said. "That's all we're talking about. We're not talking about expecting to win. That would never come out of my mouth."
Pitt's struggles against Oakland - they trailed big before rallying for an overtime win - aren't indicative of the Panthers' ability, he added.
"Oakland played an excellent game," Beilein said. "I watched the game. Oakland played excellent, did some things I'm sure Pitt adjusted to.
"Oakland has proven going on the road with their style of play can be difficult for big teams to defend, where the four man might get exposed at different times. The four man made some big plays for Pitt down the stretch."
Beilein expects to use the same starting lineup of Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway, Matt Vogrich, Glenn Robinson and Jordan Morgan against Pitt.
"If they believe Maryland is the right fit, I'm all for it," he said. "The East Coast market is something that will help the success of our channel. The footprint has gotten bigger."
It could help recruiting in that area, as well, he added.
"You have to lay these out almost like a football schedule four or five years in advance," Beilein said. "Only one Big Ten team can go to all these tournaments, so we try to do a lot of research on the tournaments to find anybody who has been to a Puerto Rico tournament, what's it like, how do you treat it.
"This was done a couple years ago. We like to pick the four or five best and just keep cycling those, but we have no control over the competition. Preseason NIT and Maui, and at one time Alaska were the marquee initial tournaments, now there are so many going on. But the Preseason NIT, Madison Square Garden, New York had a lot of appeal for us."