LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — If there’s one thing Michigan coach John Beilein must stress to his team coming back from the Old Spice Classic, it’s what he emphasized to the media after all three games of the tournament: Quickness.
Why was it so easy for Creighton to get to the lane against Michigan’s perimeter players?
“They’re just so quick at all their positions,” Beilein said Thursday. “We don’t see that quickness in our scout team, and they’re just really, really good at getting to the basket.”
Why could Marquette drive the lane with alarming ease and finish with 10 more points than the Wolverines in the paint?
“That was as quick a team as I can recall,” Beilein said Friday. “Stopping them from getting in the lane is really hard when they’re so quick at so many positions.”
And while it didn’t come up in the press conference after Sunday’s game against Alabama, the Crimson Tide employed a similar strategy as Marquette, using quick guards to get by Michigan’s perimeter defense for easy baskets down low.
That speed allowed them to get 30 points in the paint, including the game-winning, put-back dunk off a missed layup.
And it doesn’t appear that Michigan’s inability to stop quick, penetrating guards is easily fixable.
Against Marquette, Beilein said his team “dialed up everything we could do,” but couldn’t come up with and answer to slow the Golden Eagles down.
Freshman Darius Morris is definitely speedy, but he’s also still inexperienced. Redshirt sophomore Laval Lucas-Perry, even with his slimmed-down physique, seems to be a step behind most guards.
Junior Manny Harris is quick, but he uses up a lot of energy being the go-to guy on offense. And sophomore Zack Novak seems to be perpetually out of position, since he’s so much smaller than the forwards he matches up with and, at the same time, so much slower than the guards.
Against Alabama, Beilein saw his guards’ indecision on offense affect the perimeter defense.
One thing Beilein may want to consider is staying with the 1-3-1 trap he likes to run as a way of keeping teams off balance.
While running the trap in the first half against Alabama, the Wolverines forced 12 Crimson Tide turnovers, many of which spurred opportunities in transition — Michigan notched 10 fast break points in the first half.
If Michigan does not improve its defense, Beilein says the challenge going forward is simple.
“The reality hits you right in the face — how perfect we have to play in order to beat teams like this,” he said.