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Michigan Wolverines Basketball: The ‘Blueprint’ Is Out — Now What?

Michigan looked out of sorts in a loss at Minnesota, missing senior guard Eli Brooks in a 75-57 loss. U-M found out the hard way what it felt like to be the hunted and under-prepared. The Wolverines turned it over 20 times against the Golden Gophers’ pressure defense and never looked comfortable.

Other Big Ten teams will undoubtedly follow the same plan going forward.

“I think much credit goes to Minnesota. They had a plan, they executed the plan and the idea of being a hunted team … we didn’t respond, but all credit goes to Minnesota,” assistant coach Phil Martelli said. “They took us aggressively out of what has really been a beautiful offensive team to watch, so credit to them.”

However …

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Michigan Wolverines head basketball coach Juwan Howard and assistant Phil Martelli.
Michigan Wolverines head basketball coach Juwan Howard and assistant Phil Martelli. (AP Images)

“When the street fight started, we didn’t answer it,” he added.

And now the blueprint is out, and it’s up to the coaches to mix it up and respond. Martelli admitted they didn’t do a good enough job putting their players in position to succeed.

“Juwan’s message in the locker room set the tone going forward. Obviously, no one was pleased," Martelli said. "We weren’t pleased with our performances, our individual performances, and we were not pleased even from the sideline making the necessary adjustments. We owned all that. Then we moved forward.

“Yesterday’s practice was very much a film study in preparation for the Maryland game. Today we spent a lot of time looking at clips of what we could have done better offensively against Minnesota. It’s really interesting, because the players have responded to this idea."

As he’s told his players, guys who have gotten knocked down in the ring have still gotten championship belts, and they were knocked down Saturday, not out. Nobody collected their uniforms after the game, just as nobody handed them championship rings after their blowout of Wisconsin last week.

They were pleased with Sunday and Monday practices, Martelli said, adding the real proof about learning from a loss comes in the following games, starting with a Tuesday night game against Maryland.

“What it does is lays out a roadmap for your coming opponents,” Martelli acknowledged. “When they watch what Minnesota did, they are going to try to emulate that. We then have to emulate that.

“Our offense wasn’t smooth. Was it because of lack of concentration, not smooth because of something Minnesota did? That’s what we have to study, and that’s what players have to now apply going forward. We will see that formula again … the way they came at Hunter [Dickinson].

“We have to address what Minnesota has done, which was lay a road map of if you want to get a piece of Michigan, here’s the way to do it.”

Freshman center Dickinson had five turnovers and was doubled consistently. He went through drills with head coach Juwan Howard in the following days to help him get more comfortable. He was “swinging for the fences” too often rather than trying for singles, Martelli noted.

Senior point guard Mike Smith, too, struggled without having Brooks next to him. He didn’t score for the first time in who knows how long in a collegiate game.

“Not picking at the guy, but just look at that line for Mike Smith. That has to be the first game in college he didn’t score a basket,” Martelli said. “He had 10 assists, but we didn’t look like us offensively, and at the end of the half he played 20 minutes first half.

“So, it was more than just one guy being out of the rotation, because Eli is like a player and a half because of playing two positions.”

Brooks remains a game time decision. With or without him, the Wolverines expect something different from a Maryland team they handled 80-69 in their last meeting.

“We weren’t ahead of ourselves, or full of ourselves [against Minnesota],” Martelli insisted. “We didn’t have a feel for that basketball game.”

They’ll look to get back on track tonight against Maryland, better prepared for what the Terps might throw at them.

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