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January 29, 2014

News and Views: Beilein ready for Big Ten grind

There's no easy portion of the Big Ten schedule, as evidenced by the night-in, night-out upsets around the league. The Wolverines host Purdue Thursday night (9:00) in what should be a win - but you never know.

There's talent on this Boilermakers squad, head coach John Beilein noted Wednesday, and any Matt Painter coached team will be tough.

"They're always going to be strong, tough, defensive oriented," Beilein said. "The Johnson brothers (Ronnie and Terone), we could not stop them last year. Terone could get anywhere he wanted to, so that's a big challenge to us."

Another - the Boilers are averaging 15 rebounds per game. The Wolverines have struggled on the glass in some of their losses, including an 18-offensive rebound game to Arizona, and Purdue could tighten things up with a similar effort.

"We saw what Michigan State did to us last year up there," Beilein said. "This year they had 10 offensive rebounds, a pretty good number. The ball is not going to bounce your way sometimes.

"But Purdue leads the league in offensive rebounds. That's how they are getting extra possessions. We've been getting a body on people, but it's also the balls below the rim we've got to get to. We've been pretty good, but we can't stop. The games are all so tight that it could be that one rebound where you didn't box out or grab the ball with two hands in a 50-50 situation that makes a difference."

Here's more from Beilein in News and Views format:

News: The Wolverines have no more byes and play every three days for the next two weeks.

Beilein: "We'd rather be winning going into it, so it's good we are feeling that way. At the same time if you follow scores anywhere in the country, things can change so quickly, and will. When you have this many games in a row, you want to be playing well."

They've also dialed it back a bit in practice. Practices are often tougher than games, Beilein noted, but they've taken a step back.

Views: It's also about being able to get through the bad stretches, and there will inevitably be some.

"That's the challenge coaching everywhere, and we'll continue to address that," Beilein said. "You have to trust the character of the kids. They get it and understand, and the losses we had earlier were tools, as well.

"There's sudden change all the time in basketball. Our captains will help with that, and the staff. There were a bunch of teams highly ranked and unblemished before the season. Now they're not even close."

That's one thing Beilein's teams have done extremely well during his time at Michigan, pressing on after losing a few games. They haven't been there yet, still 7-0 in the conference, but there are big tests to come.

News: Glenn Robinson III struggled with his shot at Michigan State and wasn't a factor offensively.

Beilein: We try to do a few different actions for him, Caris LeVert, Nik Stauskas, everyone. He plays really good off residual action, as well, so we'll sort of take what the defenses give him.

"It's not like I'm dialing up every play we run. There's so much residual action, it's great to have someone like Caris Levert do that just like Glenn did last year. Derrick Walton has found himself in those situations, as well. His jump shot on the right side was a residual shot, but that was just spacing. It's good to have guys they can't cheat off of in a game rather than always having to dial somebody up."

Views: Such is the luxury of having four outstanding scorers and a big man who can finish on the floor at the same time. It opens things up tremendously, gives options for the pick and roll that the Wolverines have implemented beautifully.

Robinson III can struggle and Michigan can still be good. There have been times this year when two or three perimeter players have handled the bulk of the scoring.

This isn't a team that "lives and dies by the three," though, and it shouldn't be considered as such. It's versatile and continues to find ways to score against different defensive looks.

News: LeVert has been inconsistent, but he is as valuable as anyone when he's on his game.

Beilein: "He's way out in front of all our guys in steals. He gets his hands on more steals and and has so many deflections. He's probably our best push man in the break and usually guards one of their best offensive players That's all uncharted.

"He makes us better when he's out there - his quickness I think is what separates him."

Views: And he's only scratched the surface of his potential. He'll get better as he develops a better feel for the game.

One thing he's got, too, that you can't teach - brass cajones. He's not afraid to take the big shot, and he showed it in East Lansing. He was outstanding in leading the Wolverines to a huge road win over Michigan State, and U-M will be tough to beat when he plays like that.


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