Michigan head coach John Beilein's teams haven't historically put a premium on rebounding. That's changed with an influx of size and talent, and it's paying off in the early going this year.
U-M's success on the glass was one of the reasons the Wolverines were able to win the Preseason NIT. Michigan beat Pitt and Kansas State to take home the trophy.
"We proved we could rebound with two rebounding teams," Beilein said. "We weren't playing good spread offenses with four perimeter guys, either. We were playing against two teams that had two guys on the block that were there to do a lot of things, one of them rebound. When you outrebound a Pitt and Kansas State, it showed with effort we could continue to do that. If you don't go in there and box out, you can't rebound with anybody.
"The other thing that helps you rebound is if you're keeping people from penetration. You don't get caught in rotations with the wrong guys rebounding or in poor position."
The young Wolverines continue to progress on offense, as well.
"Given our offensive efficiency percentage - it's probably a little inflated, but I think it has to do with our defense," Beilein said. "Glenn Robinson has done a great job doing what Zack Novak used to do defensively, being so solid either on or off the ball. That's made us not have to make up for typical freshman errors. That really has been very helpful. He and Jordan Morgan have really helped us defensively many times this year.
"The number of points we score per possession - I think we're leading the Big Ten. If you score over a point a possession, you're really pleased with that. We're scoring over that. Two things are happening; we have low turnovers and extra possessions from offensive rebounding and shooting the ball at a pretty good clip. It's not sensational, but one we're happy with. If you get a few offensive rebounds and stickbacks, that's a pretty good percentage booster."
N.C. State a banner affair
Michigan's ACC/Big Ten Challenge game with N.C. State Tuesday night is a sellout, and also a chance for the crowd to see the unveiling of the 2011-12 Big Ten Championship banner. It's Michigan's first since 1986.
"We wanted to do it at a time we were 100 percent sure to take some planning and have the big crowd," Beilein said. "We scheduled it on this date. But I don't know if you can get any more pumped up for our games than our guys have been for games. It's part of it whether we're on the road or at home. There's a feeling before that game, a great feeling you have to be able to handle and still have a level head when you start the game.
"When you look at the long time it took to raise a banner, it's a pretty good feeling - our coaching staff, those guys on that team were all part of that. It's a good thing."
Even if he won't take much time to appreciate it.
"Probably not," he said with a laugh. "I will enjoy looking at it maybe another day. It is a great thing. We worked really long and hard for that. You could have great teams, have national champions and not put that banner up. That's one we're always going to strive for."
The opponent, a ranked N.C. State team, should make the night that much better.
"It's exciting to have an opponent like N.C. State coming in tomorrow," Beilein added. "They've got some great players. We've been watching video of them since our game on Friday. They really have so much talent, and I think it will be an exciting atmosphere here. Hopefully we'll pack the place, do our part in the ACC/Big Ten challenge to help the Big Ten win again."
Tim Hardaway Jr. is fine to play after suffering a hit to the head against Kansas State.
"He practiced all out yesterday," Beilein said.
Beilein said the Wolverines hope to play through freshman big man Mitch McGary more and more as the season progresses.
"Like an elephant, you want to take it one bite at a time, getting him ready for all the things in college he has to be able do both offensively and defensively," Beilein said. "He's got enough to think about on defense, and he can do that. He can guard and help in defensive rotations, all those things, the more he knows. We're trying to matriculate him into the offense little by little."
Beilein continues to put in extra time with his freshman.
"I worked with him extra yesterday, and we do work a lot with him extra," he said. "He had a play where he got an offensive rebound and kept his elbows high, put it in. We worked so hard on that, the whole video room cheered when that happened.
"He can play so big when he plays big, and he did it in the game. His work is paying off. We're working on all the perimeter stuff daily, both inside and outside, but walk before you run. You do addition and subtraction before the multiplication."
Beilein plans to stick with Matt Vogrich in the starting lineup even after freshman Nik Stauskas' big week that earned him Big Ten frosh of the week honors.
"We haven't got off to any bad starts. We're starting games fairly well," he said. "We're not going to change that. Once again, that's never been that important to me as much as minutes, and that we always have enough guys on the floor that can score at one time. That's the biggest thing as opposed to people starting."
Color Beilein unimpressed with Michigan's No. 3 national ranking.
"I don't feel anything about it," he said. "It's so premature, why even pay attention to them? I realize it sells, people want to be able to talk about, it creates buzz. I get all that - but to do it in November, it's probably meaningless."
It will be more pertinent in March, he noted, but he also understands opponents like to play against ranked teams.
"We're not perfect, but our guys are pretty grounded," he said. "When we play our scout team every day, it either beats us or gives us a pretty good game. It grounds us going into those games. Guys realize small the window is between success and defeat."
Freshman Caris LeVert is one on the scout team who gives the starters fits.
"He's really playing well," Beilein said. "That makes a difference on our scout team on defense. On offense he gets where he wants to get to, but he really can play defense. For example, it was great for this week playing point guard on defense. Their point guard is about 6-4, so that helps Trey play against length and guard length."
LeVert still remains a redshirt candidate, but he's one of the reasons the scout team has been so good.
"Every day it's a war out there, whether they're going against the scout team, have Caris at the point and Eso Akunne at the two," Beilein said. "Corey Person can play excellent defense, really understands what we're doing. Max Bielfeldt and Blake McLimans, that's a pretty good scout team. Then maize and blue, first five against second, that's spirited, too. It doesn't bring up confidence a great deal because we're not blowing anybody out in practice.
"It's a good problem to have, but figuring it all out - Jon Horford hadn't played enough those first couple games, then all of a sudden he's out there because he's in foul trouble. You can play three centers if you need to. You can play big or small. If you're only five or six deep, maybe you zone or different things. Now we can get different rotations, different players."
Back-up point guard Spike Albrecht continues to impress. He more than held his own in New York in spelling Burke.
"We hear the opposing coach as soon as goes into the game say, 'pressure him,'" Beilein said. "I'm sure he won't go through the game without turnovers, but he plays pretty good against pressure. He's urely going to have issues at times with length, people with more and more speed, but he embraces the game. He showed a lot in the Garden, what he did when Trey had the second foul, at the end of the game when Timmy went out and we needed a couple people in there. He handled it well."