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Beilein prepares UM for waiting game before NCAA Tournament

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Michigan coach John Beilein has been in this situation a couple of times before.

During his stops at Canisius and Richmond, Beilein’s teams had to endure an extended layoff before the NCAA Tournament if they were fortunate enough to win the conference tournament.

Michigan faces a similar scenario this season with the Big Ten tournament taking place a week earlier in New York and ending a full week before Selection Sunday. While there’s still some time before that happens, Beilein already has begun to map out how the Wolverines will spend their time over the break.

“I think what we’ll probably do is make sure we take some time off, whether it’s frame it up like a training camp with these little two- or three-day sessions with a day off,” Beilein said during a Big Ten conference call on Monday. “We definitely have at least a 30-minute live scrimmage with officials somewhere in the middle there to make the difference up. We didn’t hold back a scrimmage, so we can’t scrimmage anybody else.

“We have 17 guys on the roster, so we can have some type of an All-Star game scrimmage just to get people in and have reps and the whole deal. That’s the plan. It is different when you’re used to the other format, but we’ll still find a way while we’re waiting to be selected. We’re not selected yet.”

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When Beilein led Canisius and Richmond to the NCAA Tournament in 1996 and 1998, respectively, he said his teams were “overjoyed” to have more time off because they had to win at least three or four games in a row to finish first in the conference tournament.

But that also meant Beilein had to find creative ways to pass the time.

“I can remember the teams maybe playing Wiffle ball one day. I took the (Richmond) team fishing one time,” Beilein said. “Just anything to change things up. I think the difficult part would be — the difference is those games you finished on Sunday or Monday night and you only had six or seven days to wait.

“This one if you get beat earlier, now you got another three or four days to wait, so that could be a little bit different.”

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Michigan will be the No. 5 seed in this week’s Big Ten tournament at Madison Square Garden and will open play at 2:30 p.m. Thursday against the winner of No. 12 Iowa and No. 13 Illinois.

Depending on how the Wolverines fare in the tournament, they could sit idle for as little as 10 days if they reach the championship game and as long as 15 days if they lose their second-round matchup.

Beilein noted the longer layoff is a sacrifice NCAA Tournament-bound conference teams must make “for the greater good of the league,” but added he isn’t leaning more toward it being an advantage or a disadvantage.

“I can’t say I’m either way. I’m just dealing with it the best I can,” Beilein said. “I’m not going to say I’m in favor or against it. I’m usually always in favor of the cards I’m dealt.”