'Everyone can play': Unbeaten Michigan flashes versatility, flexibility
Early-season tournaments can be revealing.
For No. 9 Michigan, last weekend’s Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament at Mohegan Sun Arena uncovered one thing: the team’s versatility and flexibility, particularly on the offensive end.
The Wolverines (5-0) stormed to the tournament title in dominant fashion by dispatching George Washington and Providence by 23 and 19 points, respectively. But the formula used to reach the result showed up quite differently in the box score.
Against George Washington, Michigan lit it up from the beyond the arc. Five Wolverines combined to knock down a season-high 15 3-pointers — with many looks coming in transition and off ball movement — and Michigan finished the game with nearly half of its total field goal attempts (62) coming from 3-point range (30).
Against Providence, Michigan made a more concerted effort to drive into the lane, attack the rim off residual action and run pick-and-roll plays with junior center Jon Teske in its halfcourt offense. It led to the Wolverines finishing with nearly as many 3-point attempts (18) as makes and with more made free throws (14) than total trips to the stripe (11) compared to the George Washington outing.
“Our offense runs inside and out, outside in. We were just playing within the game and we were just flowing,” Teske said after the Providence win. “They found me down low a couple times and we're just really good at moving the ball, sharing the ball. When we do that, a lot of our shots fall.”
According to Michigan coach John Beilein, it’s a mindset his team will always carry into a game and one that will help them adjust and adapt to whatever an opponent may throw the Wolverines’ way.
“We're going to take what people give us,” Beilein said. “Whether it's zone (defense), whether it's man, we've been seeing everything. We're just sort of learning to make the next right play, hit the open man and that's difficult.”
While it hasn’t been a flawless process (i.e. sluggish stretches against Norfolk State and Holy Cross), Beilein added he has been impressed by many how different players have stepped up — in scoring or other areas of the game — in varying moments.
“That's the way our best teams have been built,” Beilein said. “Trey Burke has it one night, Tim Hardaway has it the next night, Glenn Robinson has it the next night. And that's the way we've got to continue to do this.”
Just look at this past weekend. Redshirt junior wing Charles Matthews and sophomore guard Jordan Poole combined for 47 points in the 84-61 rout of George Washington. The duo followed that up with just nine total points in the 66-47 beating of Providence.
Similarly, freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis went from posting a season-low five points against George Washington to a season-high 20 against Providence, while Teske responded from a scoreless outing against the Colonials with a career-high 17-point performance against the Friars.
Different scoring sources but ultimately the same convincing result.
“I mean, everyone can play on our team,” Brazdeikis said. “It's not going to be one person that is going to be the best one on the court every day. It's going to be one day X (Zavier Simpson), one day Jon, one day Charles. It always switches because we can all score the ball. It's just about being effective in other ways and our team is so talented that we all play as team and make sure everyone touches the ball.”
Matthews wrapped up the triumphant weekend trip with 30 total points, followed by Poole (26 points), Brazdeikis (25), Simpson (20), sophomore forward Isaiah Livers (19), Teske (17) and sophomore guard Eli Brooks (eight). No one in Michigan's seven-man rotation took more than 20 shots.
That poses a problem for opponents. While it all starts on defense for Michigan, there are still several options on offense to get the job done. Try to concentrate on taking one Wolverine away, there are two more who can pick up the slack and attack.
“The game continues to change, but everybody plays us differently and that's what the guessing game is in those first four minutes, five minutes. How are they going to play (us), what adjustments are they making?” Beilein said. “Our kids will get more comfortable with that as the year goes on, but they take away one thing then we got to be able to do something else.
“The game plan is to be ready for everything and that can be tough this time of the year, especially for the young guys. But gradually it sort of grows on them and hopefully they can be ready for anything.”
Michigan vs. Chattanooga
Tip-off: 4 p.m. Friday, Crisler Center, Ann Arbor
Records: No. 9 Michigan 5-0, Chattanooga 2-4
Outlook: Michigan starts a six-week stretch with nine of its next 10 games being played at home. … Chattanooga is led by freshman forward Kevin Easley (15 points, six rebounds) and freshman guard Donovann Toatley (10.5 points, 2.8 assists) and enters the matchup on a three-game losing streak. … This is the first meeting between the teams since 1999 and Michigan leads the all-time series 4-0.