Hokies will test Wolverines' defensive austerity
Ann Arbor — Michigan coach John Beilein put an onus on revamping the team’s defense in the offseason.
Through six games, the defensive resurgence appears well underway.
After implementing a more aggressive and attacking approach, the Wolverines have limited opponents to 65 points or less in all six games, something they did only 14 times last season.
They have also held opponents to 41 percent shooting and are tied for the eighth in the nation in scoring defense at 57.7 points per game.
While Michigan has been able to contain whatever style of offense thrown its way so far, it will face a stiff test Wednesday against an up-tempo Virginia Tech team that averages roughly 82 points in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
"This is the first game that we're going to play that has some Indiana, Michigan State tendencies to it where that ball is going to come through the basket and be pushed up the floor right down our throat,” Beilein said.
“So if our transition defense is not good, they will get 80 on us. We're going to have to get back, whether it's in victory or defeat at that end — you either scored or you missed — you still have to get back, so that's going to be a challenge for us.”
Michigan has guarded the 3-point line fairly well — holding opponents to 33.7 percent shooting (29-for-86) — but will have its hands full trying to limit open looks in transition for Virginia Tech guards Ahmed Hill (20-for-42), Justin Bibbs (11-for-25) and Seth Allen (7-for-15), who are all shooting over 44 percent from deep.
“Under Coach (Billy) Donlon, we have a different defensive philosophy where we're not giving up as many open shots, so I think all 40 minutes we should be out on shooters and contesting them hard,” senior guard Derrick Walton Jr. said.
“There shouldn't be no clean looks and if there are, that’s something that needs to be adjusted. The philosophy this year has been really good. I think it's going to take away a lot of those open threes."
Not to be outdone, Virginia Tech is allowing opponents to shoot 30.5 percent (40-for-131) from 3-point range, which could pose a problem for a Michigan team that leans on its outside shooting.
So if the 3-pointers aren’t falling — like in the loss to South Carolina — the Wolverines will have to find an answer by getting into the lane and playing out of the post if it wants to earn its second consecutive win in the Challenge.
“It's definitely a goal that we had in the beginning of the season to win this game,” Irvin said. “We're not going to take them lightly. We're going to come out there and play hard.
“The Big Ten has come a long way in the past couple years, so we just want to be able to play our part and get a win in this Big Ten/ACC Challenge."
Virginia Tech at Michigan
Tip-off: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Crisler Center, Ann Arbor
TV/radio: ESPN2/WWJ, WTKA
Records: Virginia Tech 5-1, Michigan 5-1
Outlook: This is the first time Michigan has played Virginia Tech in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. …Michigan is 7-8 in the Challenge and has won its past two at Crisler Center. It beat North Carolina State on the road last year. …Senior F Zach LeDay (16.3 points, 7.7 rebounds) leads Virginia Tech.