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Growth of freshmen isn't worrying UM's Beilein

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

New York — Three games into the season, Michigan coach John Beilein is not worried about the progress of his six freshmen — at least not yet.

After all, during his 37 years of coaching, Beilein has seen so many players develop at different paces, and some in recent years have become All-Americans after inauspicious starts.

For example, Trey Burke's first game as a freshman in 2011-12 saw him shoot 1-for-7 and finish with three points and four rebounds.

"We forget about when Trey Burke played (one of his first games) against Western Illinois, he was outplayed 100 percent by the fifth-year guy," Beilein said last weekend.

Burke was guarding Ceola Clark, who had 21 points and was 4-for-9 on 3-pointers. That left Beilein wondering how soon things would start clicking for Burke ahead of a loaded field in the Maui Invitational the following week.

"We won by four points, and on the plane for Hawaii, I said this is going to be a tough year with a freshman point guard," Beilein said.

Burke responded with 17 points and nine assists against Duke, setting aside any worries Beilein had.

Against Detroit last week, Beilein used his more experienced players the majority of the second half after his freshmen struggled.

But in two games in New York, beginning Monday against Oregon, Beilein might not have much of a choice.

"I'm sure there will be moments where we have to (use the freshmen)," he said. "You have to get a trust level both ways that they are getting some of the things. It's really hard to because there's a tape-delay process. There are so many things going on ...

"As a result, there are going to be moments where we find out we're more ready than we would be if we didn't address these issues in practice the way we do."

Slam dunks

Beilein's teams have been known for tossing in zone defenses — the 2-3 and 1-3-1 have been his signatures — to throw off opponents. But given the inexperience of the freshmen, he's hesitant to implement them.

"We've been very focused on man-to-man and we continue to work on that as much as we can," Beilein said. "As the season evolves, we'll be able to work more on zone."

... Beilein and Oregon coach Dana Altman have crossed paths before, but mostly in the stands and not on the court.

As coaches tend to network during the Final Four, they get to know each other a little better and share stories about the profession. For Beilein and Altman, they've been sitting next to each other at the Final Four.

"(His last name) is an A and I'm a B, so we sat next to each other at the Final Four for many years," Beilein said.

Michigan vs Villanova

Tip-off: 10 Tuesday, Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.

TV/radio: ESPNU or ESPN2/WWJ

Outlook: Michigan faces its first ranked team in the second game of the championship round of the Legends Classic.