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October 29, 2013What can you tell about a 117-44 blowout over an overmatched opponent?
Plenty, if you know what to look for.
Michigan showed signs in its win over local Concordia that it still has the hunger after a run to the NCAA title game last year.
The Wolverines defended like it was the Final Four, showing the 'want to.' They shared the ball, racking up 26 assists and passing up good shots for better looks.
There was no selfishness - only a sense of togetherness on a group with NBA talent playing without one of its best players in sophomore forward Mitch McGary.
"It's the core values, unity," head coach John Beilein said. "We talk about that and our 26 assists, which was incredible. We missed some shots, too. That's a great selling point. You score over 100, and I can think of only two or three shots where I thought, 'we can get better than that.' We were patient with our shots. Guys did a good job seeing each other.
"Like most teams, we're going to feed off really good defense. We had some moments there we played good defense and we could get out in transition."
Glenn Robinson III, Jordan Mordan and Jon Horford set the example, and the others followed their lead. Sophomore Caris LeVert (16 points) showed why many think he can be a special defender, notching several steals and starting the break, while Nik Stauskas was much improved.
The quickness and length on display was startling at times, even against a smaller, overmatched group. Rarely was anyone out of position.
"The quickness on defense we have - Concordia is not like the competition we're going to see later on, but watching the defense and the gaps and all that looked really good," Beilein said.
"We also really passed the ball well one through five, and we are cutting harder than any team this point in the year I've coached. That opens the floor up. When guys are really cutting hard - that's not easy to do. Sometimes you're playing so many minutes it's hard to cut like that, but we had really good action today that can get you in open space, and we might run the floor as well if not better than teams of the past."
There are no egos, either - nobody looking to 'get theirs' when the game is out of hand. They're having fun playing together, LeVert noted, and it's fun to watch.
"We see it in practice," Beilein said. "You don't see any type of that hype coming into practice. They really practice hard. That's the character.
"[Freshmen] Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton look at Nik and Caris and say, 'that's the way we do it.' It's been a secret here for years if it's football or what Zack Novak and Stu Douglass brought to the team, and Tim Hardaway and Trey Burke picked up on. It's very addictive. Once you see it works, you just keep doing it."
It's changed the culture, and it's one of the reasons the program continues its ascent.
• Robinson looked NBA ready with his array of triples, finishes and assists on the way to 33 points and four assists.
"We're trying to put him in so many situations where he's just playing ball, but make the court big for him so he can really use his athleticism," Beilein said. "He really is comfortable. You'll see him on both sides of the floor, in the middle, all over the place and we all have known he's been able to shoot it.
"There are about 25 shots Tim and Trey were taking that are out there for other people right now. Glenn did a great job last year realizing these are great players, and there are going to be many opportunities for him now like that."
• LeVert is an early candidate for most improved player. He was outstanding on both ends of the floor.
"He's got a gear some people don't have," Beilein said. "We want him to do as much as he can to push the ball on the court when he gets a rebound. He's bulked up. If he can crash as an off guard, take the ball up the floor, that really helps us.
"When you don't have a lot of weight, it's not fun to go to the basket and be a physical presence. I think he feels better that way, and then LaVall [Jordan] is a champ at teaching seeing the floor, attacking with speed and balance. It says something when you're facing an exhibition opponent trying to trap you and you only have six turnovers."
• Michigan won't always shoot that well, but Beilein was encouraged by what he saw.
"We go so hard, two hours, and usually scrimmage at the end of 90 minutes of hard work, so we were a little fresher today," he said. "We've shot okay. We're still missing some of those things from Tim and Trey, for sure. That's the process of getting them to make them out there."
With one exception.
"Nik is still Nik, for sure," Beilein said with a grin.
Stauskas finished 7-for-8 from the floor, 2-for-3 from long range.