High hopes for 5th-ranked Michigan
John Beilein is heading into uncharted territory.
For the first time since he began climbing the Division I
coaching ladder, Beilein is entering his sixth season with the same
school. And what a campaign it could be. His Michigan Wolverines
are coming off a Big Ten championship and start 2012-13 ranked
fifth in the country.
”I think anybody building a program has to understand, it is
difficult, because people weren’t stepping back and saying, `Hey,
let’s let Michigan have their turn.’ It’s hard to get there,”
Beilein said. ”If you establish the culture and get the right
breaks here and there, anything can happen.”
The Wolverines are one of three Big Ten teams in the top five.
The No. 5 ranking is Michigan’s highest in the preseason since
1993, when the Wolverines were coming off back-to-back appearances
in the NCAA title game.
After a nine-year run at LeMoyne, Beilein spent five seasons
each at Canisius, Richmond and West Virginia before settling in at
Michigan. Last season was his most successful yet with the
Wolverines. They tied for the Big Ten championship and won 24 games
– although they lost their NCAA tournament opener to Ohio.
Michigan then caught a break in the offseason when point guard
Trey Burke decided to stay for his sophomore season instead of
leaving for the NBA. When Burke arrived last season, the Wolverines
were trying to replace another star point guard after Darius Morris
turned pro. Michigan didn’t miss a beat. Burke was the team’s
leading scorer and provided crucial 3-point shooting in Beilein’s
”Burke was able to step in and fill in so admirably as a
freshman,” Beilein said. ”So having him back has been helpful
because he’s a good player, he is a winner, he’s proved he’s a
winner and having talent is one thing, teaching winning is another
thing. He’s been through a year where he was so helpful in that Big
Ten championship in games both at home and on the road.”
Burke’s role now includes mentoring Michigan’s newcomers. The
freshman class that includes forwards Mitch McGary and Glenn
Robinson III, along with guard Nik Stauskas, has Ann Arbor abuzz.
It will be interesting to see how they meld together with holdovers
Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jordan Morgan.
”I’m just trying to teach the freshmen at a faster pace,”
Burke said. ”When we’re off the court, I’ll show them some film.
I’ll just try to show them little tips and things in the
Beilein’s offense often surrounds a single post player with four
perimeter shooters. Now, the 6-foot-8 Morgan can expect more help
inside. If the 6-10 McGary can contribute right away, the
Wolverines may actually be a threat on the offensive boards, which
isn’t usually a staple of Beilein’s teams.
It’s Beilein’s job to figure out how to use Michigan’s newfound
size while also setting Burke and the outside shooters up to
”We’re basically trying to figure out what’s the best way to
use each guy rather than who are the five that are together,”
Beilein said. ”We are just continuing to experiment with it.”
Perhaps the biggest wild card on Michigan’s roster continues to
be Hardaway, an athletic wing who can drive to the basket and
create problems for opponents with his length. But the 6-6 Hardaway
looked frustrated at times last season, shooting only 42 percent
from the field and 28 percent from 3-point range.
”When he plays the 3 or the 2, how much he has the ball off the
dribble, off the pass, I think he’s growing comfortable no matter
what he’s doing and learning about his strengths,” Beilein said.
”Love coaching him every day, intensity is incredible.”