Practice has been different for Michigan in the days leading up to their top-ten matchup with the 9th ranked Gophers of Minnesota (15-2). Losing isn’t exactly some new novelty invented in the past week -- but the young, supremely talented Wolverines certainly aren’t looking to make it a hobby of theirs.
Accustomed to winning after starting the season 16-0, Michigan took to the William Davidson Player Development Center knowing it was time to prepare for another fight.
“After a loss, whatever team I’ve ever been with, there’s a, not a striking difference, but there’s a difference -- a hit home type attitude,” said coach John Beilein. “But I love the way we responded yesterday in practice. There was no finger pointing. It was all about, ‘Alright, now we know some things, we’ll get better’.”
Beilein, who spent a few minutes leading up to Wednesday’s practice chatting on the phone with former Michigan great Cazzie Russell, knows that when he and his Wolverines leave the house that was built by his phone-a-friend to head to Minnesota or Michigan State or Indiana -- it’s going to be loud and hostile.
But Beilein believes more goes into road difficulty than just a decibel level.
“It’s about the quickness and the intensity and the speed that some of the teams in the Big Ten have,” said Beilein. “And Minnesota is no different. I don’t think we saw that on the road at Northwestern. So yes, is it a combination of being on the road and having 18,000 haters -- yeah, that’s an element.”
Not helping Michigan’s cause is the perfect 10-0 mark Minnesota has put up at home this season. But for the Wolverines, learning from the mistake of speeding up the game on the road at Columbus Sunday should come in very handy tonight night at 7pm/EST from the Barn.
What to expect
o A strong performance out of Michigan sophomore Trey Burke appears to be in the cards—last year against the Gophers, Burke was as dynamic as ever. In the first game against Minnesota, Burke went for 27 points in 38 minutes, knocking down a couple three’s but doing most of his damage at the free throw line where he shot 9 for 11. In game two, an overtime win, Burke upped himself with 30 points, playing the entire 45 minutes, shooting 11-14 from the field. If Burke is allowed to utilize the pick and roll game to his advantage and finds himself in the paint early, it could be a long night for Minnesota once again.
o The rebounding battle will be one of the uphill-variety as the Gophers come into tonight’s game averaging 14.2 offensive rebounds per game through four games in conference. The only problem for Minnesota is they’re also giving up 12.8 offensive rebounds per game. Athleticism and speed is everything for Minnesota, lead by highflying forward Rodney Williams who leads the team in dunks on the year with 37. Forward Trevor Mbakwe is another menace for Minnesota inside, pulling in 11 rebounds per game in Big Ten play while averaging over 2 blocks per game in conference as well. Michigan center Jordan Morgan and forward Glenn Robinson III will need to control the glass, with help from Mitch McGary off the bench, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea for the guards to get involved with the defensive rebounding too.
o The Minnesotan dialect will help make freshman shooting guard Nik Stauskas feel right at home, hopefully bringing back the knock down three-point shooting for Michigan. Okay, maybe the accents won’t have anything to do with it, but since Indiana’s Jordan Hulls shot 4-7 from the long line against Minnesota, expect the Gophers to get lost enough defensively for Stauskas to get some good looks -- ones that he hasn’t seen in quite a while.
To watch video of John Beilein from yesterday, press play below.