January 24th, 2017 at 1:11 PM ^

He's basically saying that, no matter how much he coaches them, a zone won't get executed it properly. 

i get that, no matter how much you coach them, some players aren't good at certain things and that, as a coach, you don't want to have players doing things that they are not good at.

What was troubling was that it seemed to me that he was saying that it's not just that they CAN'T do it but that they WON'T do it.  Did anyone else get that out of his comments?


January 24th, 2017 at 2:01 PM ^

is not generally a good defense.  It can force a lot of turnovers if the other team isn't ready but it give up a TON of threes and layups (not good!).  It got torched in the B1G ten by good coaches in his early years so he scrapped it and went man-to-man.  That's why they won't do it.  It's not a consistently effective defense.  

It was never good at WVU either, but he ran it because he recriuted even worse athletes than he does here at Michigan, and if you have players that can't guard the ball man-to-man, you try a gimmick defense that can create a lot of turnovers without requiring you to defend the ball if teams aren't ready.  And even with great offenses his WVU teams never finished better than a game over .500 in the Big East.

A 2-3 is much better suited for this current team since we again have guys that can't guard the dribble, but we actually have excellent length.  The problem is that I don't think they realized just how bad our guards were defensively (and how lost Wagner gets) so after practicing man-to-man all year, it's really hard to switch your primary defense.  Like he said, it takes a lot of practice to be good at a certain defense. Your assignments have to become instinct which takes a lot of time.  Hard to play a lot of different defenses and be good at any of them.

Two positives: 1) this defense isn't as bad as it played for that early B1G stretch.  Some of that was bad luck 2) There have probably been some transition costs of bringing in Donlon to run the pack-line.  We talk about it in football but if you change a defense, it's going to take some time to adjust.


January 24th, 2017 at 2:17 PM ^

I'd like to see them run a 3-2 zone. That way you get three guys out on the perimeter where we've had trouble defending the three, and two (potential) shot-blockers down low in Wagner and Wilson. Yes, that opens up the free throw line area, but Wilson is athletic enough to challenge if the ball gets there and you'll still have Wagner down low.


January 24th, 2017 at 2:56 PM ^

your logic makes some sense with Wilson and Wagner. We don't have the quintessential rim protector to play the middle so being able to have them both down low makes some sense, but there's a reason no one run a 3-2 and it's this: three guys on the perimeter is actually less than you get with a 2-3 since the 2-3 essentially has two guys up top and two in the corners.  You really expose yourself to corner threes in a 3-2 (or end up with too many along the baseline and not enough up top), which is not good in today's basketball.  And if the low men have to get out to the corner, it opens up cutters to the middle. It's a confusing defense for the two down low and requires a lot of practice and communication.

The 2-3 is generally just a much better defense especially because there's flexibility with the backside baseline guy to help down low, play the FT line, etc. while the ball is on the other side of the court but still allows time to recover on a skip pass to the corner.

Regardless, we aren't going to see a lot of zone this year.  The perimeter guys just need to keep up the intensity as much as possible and the bigs need to help and rotate.


January 24th, 2017 at 4:57 PM ^

I agree with you in general. When I coached a 2-3 in a youth league, I'd put the big guy in the middle. When I coached a 3-2, I put my most athletic player in the middle because I wanted him to be able to slide down into more of a 2-1-2 look, but still be able to challenge the top of the key 3. In  that league, they forced you to play man-to-man in the first month of the season. We lost to a team by 18 points the first time we played them. Later in the year, you could play zone. I went with the 3-2, instilled it in 2 practices, and we won by 2 points.

I wanted that guy in the middle to be hyper-aggressive. Unfortunately, Michigan doesn't really have anybody in the top 8 rotation players who fits that bill.

If you flex the two outside guys of the 3 in the 2-3 out wide to the corners, I think that opens up the low post too much. Guys pump fake and drive and then you're in trouble because it's 2 against one near the hoop. If you play a matchup 2-3, it looks an awful lot like a match-up 3-2, except you have the 2 bigs down low. I don't want DJ 19 feet from the basket on defense.



January 24th, 2017 at 7:26 PM ^

in youth leagues and men's rec leagues because you don't typically have great ball handling/where-with-all to get out of traps and you don't have great three point shooting.  And with limited practice, it's hard to get on the same page to beat the zone. You can't just give it to your best player to go one-on-one which can be a solution against man-to-man if you have a guy that can break it down on the dribble.

But high level college teams typically do well against zones because they just pass and shoot out of them too easily.  They have plenty of practice time to work on beating the zone.  This is why so few college teams run zone defenses.

There just is no comparison between youth leagues and high level D1 college ball.

To your point about the 2-3, yes, against any defense, if you pump fake and drive past a guy (which is a failure on his part), you'll have a 5 on 4 advantage that the defense will have to react to. In man, you have to rotate and help.  In 2-3, the other three guys on the perimeter will have to help out on anyone else in the paint, since the guy in the middle has to take ball.  Against a 3-2, if there are two guys waiting for the dribbler, there is someone open on the perimeter for a three.

Steve in PA

January 24th, 2017 at 5:56 PM ^

1-3-1 is what gave JB his early success at Michigan.  He would have never hung with Duke or other quality teams with the athletes on those teams.  1-3-1 teams don't get many rebounds (like Michigan gets them anyway) but does cause turnovers and is effective against guard oriented teams.

I don't think you can be a one trick pony in the bigtime unless you are Syracuse and dirty as hell.  Shaka smart is finding that out now at Texas.  I may also be biased because 1-3-1 zone trap is the first zone I teach at youth level and once mastered it becomes our base defense instead of m2m.


January 24th, 2017 at 11:27 PM ^

the whole youth bball thing?  See my post above about why zones work a lot better at the youth level compared to college or even high HS levels.  It's just not comparable.

As for the 1-3-1 being the source of early success, he made the tourney once in three years while running it.  That year M was in the bottom half of the conference in defensive efficiency. That side of the ball was not the source of success.  

They won a couple big games, yes, but that's the whole point about the 1-3-1.  It can create enough turnovers and is gimmicky enough that if you can catch a team off-guard and beat anybody.  Also, those were non-conference opponents (Duke and UCLA) that probably spent a lot less time preparing for Michigan than conference foes that play twice a year. B1G ten coaches, with the time and incentive to prepare for it, destroyed the 1-3-1.  That is why it was scrapped.  Beilein is a smart guy. He didn't switch for no reason.


January 24th, 2017 at 1:01 PM ^

that's just Beilein strategy. people have botched about it for years, he's not going to change. he would rather give up the rebound to ensure his defense is set at the other end to prevent easy run outs. it is what it is. like Boeheim playing 2-3 zone or Iowa football playing cover 2 defense.


January 24th, 2017 at 2:23 PM ^

Wilson and Wagner will go for boards this year.  Without a rebounding four the past two years we didn't do that as much and basically gave up offensive rebounding to get back and prevent fast breaks.

This is actually a trend all over basketball and probably a smart one overall.  The chance of getting an offensive rebound by having your wing players crash is only slightly higher than if they don't so getting them back on defense is in most cases a positive overall effect on the plus/minus with the proliferation of the fast break three.


January 24th, 2017 at 12:31 PM ^

can teach poor defensive players how to play a zone more effectively than they would play man, but not on the fly and not as a "sometimes" type of thing.  If the players on the team had been playing and practicing exclusively zone, it is possible they would be better at it than man to man, but it is too late now.  The decision was made this off season was to make play better man to man, not to switch to zone, so that is what we have gone with.  However, after watching the man to man defense this year after the "crack down" this off-season, I seriously don't see how zone could not be better than what we have seen by and large.


January 24th, 2017 at 4:05 PM ^

Man-to-man basically requires your guards and wings to be able to defend the dribble decently well enough not to get left in the dust nearly every play.  Because even the best help defense with big shot blockers can be broken down by dribble penetration and finding the open man when help comes.

If a team can't guard the ball but is long and knows where to be in a zone, you can be more successful than trying to stick with guys in man.  This current team actually is built a bit like that.  But as Beilien says, they would have had to be doing it in training camp for guys to be good enough at it.  They overestimated our guards ability to guard.


January 24th, 2017 at 12:02 PM ^

“There’s a certain kind of player that feels what’s behind him, like a quarterback who goes back in the pocket and feels what is coming,” Beilein said. “But for some reason, if you have two or three guys that do not feel that -- you cannot recruit that, it just happens. Or you work religiously at it every day, every day. Then you end up playing it."

I actually think that's an interesting observation coming from Beilein, comparing this to pocket awareness. I never really thought about it quite like that. Zone defense in general seems to require that level of awareness, and it does require you to focus on who is in your area and where the ball is - if you are only really good at one of those, man-to-man might be the way to go. I could be wrong. 


January 24th, 2017 at 1:48 PM ^

He was asked why he didn't play some zone when the man to man defense was abysmal and he said it was either uncorrectable (which is clearly untrue) or too much work ("Or you work religiously at it every day, every day." that's a quote from the coach in question). You are free to keep making excuses for the coach of the basketball team, I would prefer not to.


January 24th, 2017 at 2:14 PM ^

is a lot not to like about these quotes from Beilein, however, that is a slight but meaningful mischaracterization of what he said.  What he says in the article is that you either go full zone or you don't, it is not something that you "have in the bag" to break out when you typically play man to man because playing zone takes work, exclusively, with regard to zone defensive principles.  He is saying that he made the determination that the 1-3-1 he played at WV is not suitable to the competition he is playing now, so he by and large scrapped it, and that it is not wise to play a defense they don't often practice, particularly when it doesn't look like he has personnel that is all that conducive to playing it in the first place.

His statement is bolstered by the fact that it is very unusual for a team to play zone like 40% of the time.  Playing zone defesne and playing man to man defense are very different skills and schemes.  Either teams play zone or they don't, but very few play it sometimes.



January 24th, 2017 at 2:48 PM ^

You make a good point and may be correct that there are legitamate reasons to not spend time on zone defense, but it doesn't change the fact that he effectively said its too much work. If we are going to appraoch the basketball program as if we are a mid-major (recruiting, system) , as if the University of Michigan is the 'little engine that could' when it comes to basketball, then I would like to see some 'little engine that could' type of effort. Not the coach answering a legitimate schematic question, with oh wah thats too hard.


January 24th, 2017 at 2:59 PM ^

do believe they have limitations on how long they can spend meeting and practicing, as well.  I understand your point, but I am just saying that he does have to prioritize, and if he can see after a short time that they are going to suck hard at zone, it probably is not particularly wise to go down that road, at least not right now.  As Rich Rodriguez so wisely once said, "I mean, there is only so much hours in the day."


January 24th, 2017 at 3:05 PM ^

you have to have worked at it from day one at the start of training camp.  You can't just switch midseason, practice it for two days, and then roll with it on Thursday.  That's what he's saying.

Where the coaches may have gone wrong is believing their guards could defend the dribble in man-to-man.  That's been the biggest problem and Donlon has harped on it.  One could argue that they should have practiced the zone religiously from day one.  But I go back to NYC and they played great defense there.  Really played great defense through the Texas game and then it fell apart somehow.  I still think there's a good man defense in there with effort and focus and it certainly resurfaced a bit the last two games.

One key is keeping DJ out of foul trouble so Robinson doesn't have to come in and play the four.  That is a massive defensive downgrade.

uncle leo

January 24th, 2017 at 12:58 PM ^

Speaks to a coach that may just not be connecting anymore with the team/program.

"They’re playing hard but they’ll just do something that doesn’t make sense. We try to correct it, but if they do it again, you just hope. It’s almost uncorrectable.”

The "You just hope" terrifies me. It's not in the same category of Bobby Williams "I don't know" when he was asked if he lost the team, but damnit I hate hearing that stuff out of the supposed leader of the program. It all but sounds like he's given up on this team doing anything on defense.


January 24th, 2017 at 1:07 PM ^

it comes down to whether the players want to do it or not.  That could have to do with Beilein not connecting with players anymore, or it just may have to do with the players themselves and their engrained will and work ethic.  I will say that it looks like Beilein is at least getting a high level of effort from Wilson, Wagner,and Robinson, regardles of what other limitations they have.  I think it boils down to the Seniors. 

It has never looked like Beilein was connecting with Walton and Irvin after their freshman year.  Like he says, it looks like they try to get on the same page, sporatically, but it has never really took hold.  It is feasible that it is a program problem but it is possible that it is an issue with his ability to connect with those players, specifically.


uncle leo

January 24th, 2017 at 1:14 PM ^

Beilein doesn't have enough high-level recruits coming in to suddenly flip the switch of this program. I think there would be a TON more optimism around here if after this season, we could put to Rivals and say Yeah, this team sucks right now but they have some big time names coming in and can help immediately. 

There's none of that right now. And the biggest recruit this season (Simpson) has really looked out of place. He averaged 27 PPG in high school, and I have NO clue how he did that. He can't shoot, he can't drive, he's short. I don't know how he dominated that much, even at H.S.


January 24th, 2017 at 1:33 PM ^

Winston is playing more, but he looks lost a lot.  Darius Morris struggled year one and he blossomed into a Butterfly.  Trey Burke was good his freshman year, but blew up year two.  Hopefully this is the typical growing pain of a 1st year PG in Beilein's system.

uncle leo

January 24th, 2017 at 1:54 PM ^

A couple of outbursts that shows his ability. Morris had the same thing here and there. Burke was already damn good his first season.

Simpson has shown none of that. Not to mention, he's not playing nearly as much as Winston. If he had been thrown to the fire and learned on the fly I'd agree with this sentiment. As it stands, I have no clue what he'll do to have an immense jump from Y1 to Y2. 


January 24th, 2017 at 3:45 PM ^

I am also disappointed in his on-court performance, but he only gets a scattered amount of minutes each game.  I believe that with more experience he'll improve.  We may not reap any rewards until next season, but he won't show us much if he's still playing 5-6 minutes a game.


January 24th, 2017 at 1:36 PM ^

know if you can say that.  He is not getting Duke classes but Poole and Livers are not chopped Liver (I kill me).  DeJulius can start to build some depth at point as well.  We are still in on Mamba also.  We can't dismiss Simpson or Watson yet either, we just haven't seen enough.  Additionally, Wilson is a four year player and I have not seen anything from Wagner that tells me he will jump early.  All of those incoming recruits are 4 star guys.  We are not going to be loaded with talent but the cupboard is not going to be empty.

uncle leo

January 24th, 2017 at 1:44 PM ^

The current 34th ranked class from 247 just won't do enough. If you want to really turn this into a good program, you need to pull in top 10, even top 5 classes on occasion. Beilein had such a tremendous opportunity to do that after 2013 and 2014 and it just hasn't happened. The fact that teams like Florida State, Colorado, Arkansas, and Western Kentucky (?!) are above Michigan shouldn't be happening. This is a program that SHOULD be able to constantly finish at the bear minimum top 15-20 in recruiting.

And this isn't directed to you, but we've been hearing about how Beilein's been in on guys his entire time at Michigan. Other than a few, he has rarely been able to close in on the players he pursues. 

As things stand, why would a recruit come here? This program is stale, the atmosphere at Crisler is dull and the program isn't competing with the better teams in the conference as currently constructed. 


January 24th, 2017 at 1:49 PM ^

that Poole and Livers appear to be pretty good players, there lies the other big problem.  The player development isn't here the way it once was.  While Wagner and DJ have shown flashes, nobody on this team has shown a decent off-season jump in ability.  Forgive me for being constantly pessimistic about this team, but the fact that Watson and Teske have not been able to get minutes on this sqaud does not give me much hope for their futures!