Wolverines switching to a nine-man rotation

Geoff Robinson
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — After Friday's loss to Xavier, Michigan coach John Beilein stressed that it was time to do away with the constant substitutions and whittle the rotation down to nine as his team heads to the Bahamas this week to take part in the Battle 4 Atlantis.

Michigan is going to play three games in three days, so there's going to be spells where some of the guys deep on the bench come in for a few minutes at a time. But Beilein doesn't foresee those minutes adding up like they did in the team's first three games.

"The whole idea is to go there and play nine," Beilein said. "We'll get rest where we can get it, but we need to get more reps for people and continue to rotate nine guys."

Twelve Wolverines saw court time against Xavier, and part of that could be attributed to the foul trouble that plagued Michigan in the first half. But some of that comes with guys who are still trying to get back into game shape.

Senior guard Spike Albrecht (hip) and junior guard Zak Irvin (back) are still trying to work out the kinks.

For Irvin, who saw 22 minutes against Xavier, the recovery has been a little quicker.

"(Irvin's) just getting back into that groove," Beilein said. "Spike has issues we're trying to work through. One day he might be 100 percent again. We don't know that answer yet."

When Albrecht will be the presence this team needs off the bench isn't clear to anyone yet, but he'll almost assuredly be in the nine-man rotation this week.

Of the 12 guys who played against Xavier, redshirt freshman D.J. Wilson seems to be on the outside looking in when it comes to the nine-man rotation, but where the other two cuts come from are anyone's guess.

"We're trying to figure that out," Beilein said. "We've got to look at this thing so when we get into the Big Ten season, we have a plan of attack."

Challenges await

Typically a team from a power conference would have a game or two to recover from an early-season defeat against a quality opponent, but that won't be the case for the Wolverines as they take part in a tournament that features some pretty heavy hitters.

Conneticut is up first for Michigan in the opening round, with possible matchups looming against Syracuse, Gonzaga, Texas or Washington.

"Our schedule is going to test us," Beilein said. "We have really important challenges ahead, and we're going to do everything we can to be up for that challenge and play better basketball."

Time to attack

Michigan shot 26 3-pointers against Xavier, and while that number isn't astronomical given the history of Beilein's teams, the coach would still like to see more dribble-drives to the hoop.

"(Caris) LeVert is doing an excellent job of it," Beilein said. "(Derrick) Walton is learning what he has to do to attack on offense, and Irvin is just getting back into the groove of attacking the rim."

With newcomer Duncan Robinson becoming a weapon from beyond the arc, driving to the rim will be an asset to the entire offense.

"We have to do that because we have to play downhill basketball and get to the foul line," Beilein said. "They better be looking for (Robinson) if he's open, that's for sure."

Geoff Robinson is a freelance writer.

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