Dunks and fast breaks excite fans, but Michigan basketball coach Tommy Amaker is more concerned with how to stop those plays than with how to create them.
The adage that defense wins games is a driving force behind Amaker”s philosophy for this year”s Wolverines. Stopping opponents is the team”s priority.
“It”s going to be very important that we become better defensively,” Amakersaid. “I think we have some of the ingredients to do that within our ballclub.”
After spending several years at Seton Hall, Amaker is trying to bring the same defensive mentality that has often characterized the Big East to Michigan. Last season, Michigan allowed an average of 78 points per game.
This year, Amaker wants the Wolverines to be a team known and feared for a stingy defense.
If Michigan can bring a tenacious defense to the court, Amaker thinks the new look could prove beneficial to the players in terms other than the final score.
“I think if we can show that you can become a fairly good defensive team, there are so many things that go into becoming a good defensive team that help you become a team,” Amaker said.
Bernard Robinson is a known commodity on offense he was Michigan”s second-leading scorer last season with 14.4 points per game. But he also was one of the more dangerous Wolverines at the other end of the court.
His 33 steals were seven more than the total of any other Wolverine. Even so, Robinson is ready to put more of an emphasis on defense.
“This year I”m really stressing the defensive end,” Robinson said. “Coachsaid I have a chance to be the best defensive player. He”s built a lot of confidence in me.”
A common belief among the Michigan players and coaches is that once the Wolverines develop a tenacious defense, their offense will naturally follow. By frustrating the other team and creating turnovers, Michigan expects to feed off that energy and find good scoring chances.
“If we can strive to adopt to that philosophy to have that identity, I think our offense will flow. I think we”ll be a team that takes advantage of early opportunities,” Amaker said. “We need to be able to do a couple things. One will be to block out and to rebound the basketball, to give us an opportunity to go down the floor. But we”re going to use the secondary style of break, if we don”t have anything in what we consider a primary break.
“I think that will give us good structure, good balance in being able to move the ball and try to create good opportunities to score.”
If big men Josh Moore and Chris Young are on the court together, Michigan may have the size to compete with tall teams in a half-court defense, which Amaker said he wants to use. But in a small lineup which Michigan will likely have to put on the floor frequently the Wolverines may need to find other ways to defend.
“We”ll have to beat them coming up the floor,” Young said.
Amaker believes that by proving to themselves and to others in the Big Ten that their defense is a forced to be reckoned with, the Wolverines will find a new way to improve in other aspects on and off the court.
“That”s what our goal is, is to have an identity, become a better defensive team where we”re taking more pride in defending people on the other end of the floor,” Amaker said. “I think that will help us in so many areas of our play and our program.”