When I was 16 years old I attended John Beilein's basketball camp. At the urging of my high school coach, who was also Beilein's high school coach (there were more than a few years in between us), I had attended to get help with my shot. I don't know if he helped me -- my free throw shooting percentage improved after that summer, but I didn't exactly turn into a devastating perimeter threat -- but I can't honestly blame Beilein for not fixing my stroke; I was likely unfixable.
I like John Beilein. He seems like a nice guy, and my (limited) direct experience with him left a good impression on me. I typically root for Buffalo guys (except Christian Laettner -- I just couldn't ever do it), but I will be rooting against Beilein tomorrow. I can comfort myself with the knowledge that in pulling for Texas I am still on the side of a guy from Buffalo. Assistant coach Rob Lanier is on Rick Barnes' staff -- and is there a better Buffalo hoops name than Lanier?
But none of this will matter Saturday in Milwaukee. What will matter is this -- Michigan is damn good on offense and kind of iffy on D.
Per kenpom.com, the Wolverines have the nation's number three offense and 93rd best defense. What you need to know about the Michigan offense is this:
- Michigan floods the floor with shooters, but none are better than Nik Stauskas. A 6-6 guard with a strong handle, Stauskas is really tough to defend. If you give him even the slightest flash of daylight, he will shoot the ball. A bit more than half of his attempts are from three, and he has hit 45 percent from distance on the year. But if you crowd him, he can put the ball on the floor and draw a foul, or create chances for his teammates. And then after the game his girlfriend will Photoshop images of your head into a bowl of macaroni and cheese.
- Stauskas isn't the only Wolverine who can hoop. Caris LeVert, Glenn Robinson, Derrick Walton, and Spike Albrecht are all perfectly capable of making trouble. All but Robinson shoot close to 40 percent or better from beyond the arc.
- Michigan will run selectively, mostly off of defensive rebounds. Beilein's team has an effective field goal percentage of 64 percent in transition. This is partly because the Wolverines shoot the ball so well from the perimeter and like to take threes in transition, and partly because players like LeVert, Robinson, and Stauskas are unstoppable in the open court. Michigan almost never runs off of a made basket, so the best way to slow down the Wolverine transition game is to score.
- Michigan will move the ball around, but rarely turns the ball over. Low turnover rates have been the hallmark of Beilein's teams for a very long time and this squad is no exception, with a turnover rate in the top 20 nationally.
Stopping the Michigan offense is a pretty daunting task. You probably cannot really stop a player like Nick Stauskas, at least not reliably, so your best play is to force him into situations where he is at least a little less efficient. From my view, that means trying to keep him out of transition, and to limit his looks from three in the half court. Forcing him to put the ball on the floor, rather than giving him clean looks from three is where I would start. Stauskas is perfectly capable of hurting Texas off the bounce, but the pain perhaps will not be as severe if he is allowed to bomb threes all game.
At least as important is that Texas scores well when on offense against Michigan. The Wolverines' interior defense is vulnerable, as indicated by the fact that 237 D-I teams hold opponents to a lower two point field goal percentage. Michigan doesn't have a player who can protect the rim, and Jonathan Holmes and Cameron Ridley will need to take advantage of this as frequently as possible. And the Texas perimeter players will need to attack the basket off the dribble.
Texas is clearly the underdog in this game, but sometimes underdogs win. Keep the faith, and make Stauskas put the ball on the deck, and good things may follow.