Michigan coach John Beilein is telling you to fear The Rock.
When the fifth-ranked Wolverines open their season tonight against Slippery Rock, Beilein will have prepared his team for “an extremely, extremely talented Division-II team.”
And what exactly does that consist of?
“(Slippery Rock) is a team that, with some breaks, can win a Division-II national championship,” Beilein said. “They return four of their five starters, their fifth player is very good as well. They just scrimmaged Navy — they were ahead 30 in the second half. They’re very well coached.
“We have our work cut out for us. It’s time to play that type of basketball game. … This is not your father’s Slippery Rock. This is an extremely talented basketball team. It’s going to be the real deal.”
But since Beilein tends to hype up every one of Michigan’s opponents, how do you know Slippery Rock is for real?
“We’ve watched them on film a couple times now and they’re a very talented team,” said senior forward Josh Bartelstein. “You think Division-II school, but they have the size like a Division-I team and the strength of a mid-major. We’re preparing like it’s any other game.”
And Michigan has had plenty of time to prepare. After debuting all five freshmen in their two exhibition games, the Wolverines have more talent than they’ve seen in years.
Beilein has finalized his starters for tomorrow’s game, but plans to use a seven- or eight-man rotation. Senior guard Matt Vogrich and freshman forward Glenn Robinson III will fill the spots that have been in question in the preseason, joining returning starters Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jordan Morgan in the starting five.
Beilein is planning on using freshmen Mitch McGary and Spike Albrecht, and hopes to have freshman Nik Stauskas and junior Jon Horford — Stauskas is questionable for tonight’s game with back spasms and Horford is coming off a knee injury.
“We’re going to play it pretty tight,” Beilein said. “We couldn’t go to Navy and be up by 30 in the second half.”
ROLLING DEEP: Since the five freshmen have arrived at Michigan, there’s been a lot of hype surrounding the depth and number of offensive weapons Beilein has coming off the bench.
Albrecht has proven himself a viable backup for Burke at point guard but can also shoot the ball well, McGary is another rebounding option in the post with Morgan and Stauskas is a weapon from deep.
But for Albrecht, it might be hard to find solid minutes since Burke averaged 36 minutes per game last year. If Stauskas doesn’t play, though, Beilein is toying with the idea of playing Burke and Albrecht together. He’s also thought about putting McGary and Morgan in together to attack the boards.
In fact, Beilein has played around with multiple lineups and rotations because of the depth of the team.
“We have so much depth,” said senior guard Josh Bartelstein. “If you’re tired, then give it the fist and we’ll put someone in that can do your job, and when you’re ready to go, you’ll go back in. We don’t need to take plays out anymore because we have so many really good players.
“When you have this type of depth where teams have to scout for every single person, you have to make those six minutes (of playing time) a relentless six minutes.”
FROM PUPIL TO TEACHER: After former Michigan guard Zack Novak broke the news on Twitter, senior guard Josh Bartelstein has been taking a lot of response from being named Michigan’s captain for the season.
“It’s been great getting a lot of e-mails from my grandparents, aunts and uncles,” Bartelstein said. “My mom was probably the happiest.”
Bartelstein has taken the role vacated by Novak and former guard Stu Douglass, to whom he credited for teaching him good leadership skills.
“Last year, we would talk all the time just about different team stuff, living together,” Bartelstein said. “I’ve learned a lot from them. I use things that Zack and Stu used. … I’m just trying to be the best leader I can.”
NOTE: Michigan will hang its 2012 Big Ten Championship banner Nov. 27 before its game against North Carolina State.