Chicago Trib Column on Michigan - Illinois game

Submitted by StephenRKass on March 13th, 2015 at 8:25 AM

There was a column in the Chicago Tribune on the game between Michigan and Illinois yesterday. The article really is more about Illinois' failings and failures than about Michigan. But it gave a lot of credit to Michigan and to Beilein. Here are a few snippets (it is paywalled, I believe.)

The Wolverines moved the ball beautifully, the way Beilein teams typically do. While Illinois too often resembled a team in an AAU tournament, Michigan meshed as all five players worked as one.

Unfortunately, it took most of the season, but Beilein really has the team playing well together.

To Groce, the game got away from Illinois during one five-point Michigan possession with 3 minutes, 2 seconds left in the first half, created by freshman Leron Black's loss of composure.

Black made his biggest impact by drawing a technical protesting a foul with the Wolverines leading 29-21. After Michigan guard Spike Albrecht made both free throws, he hit a deep 3-pointer nearly from his hometown of Crown Point, Ind. Illinois never recovered.

"My assistant says, 'That's a hard shot,' and I say, 'No, that's karma,' " Groce said. "Don't get the technical foul. We've got to be more poised than that. They had more energy than we had, which was disappointing."

That speaks to Spike, and to how the team is coached. I don't think I've seen a single Michigan player with that kind of lack of discipline.

Michigan, missing two key players, used an eight-man rotation. But Wolverines coach John Beilein didn't win his eighth straight Big Ten tournament opener because he lacks the ability to adjust.

We all know this, but I consider this year an incredible coaching job by John Beilein.

I'm hoping that one or two potential recruits see what is happening, and choose to commit to Michigan as a result.



March 13th, 2015 at 8:32 AM ^

It still absolutely blows my mind that there are people here, seemingly reasonable, intellegent people here, who were literallly posting that Beilein had "lost it" at the end of the Northwestern game.

I wouldnt trade coach B for ANYBODY.  To me he represents everything good about Michigan and he's one hell of a coach.  But for some reason though he gets way smarter when he's got talented players on the floor.   

Imagine that.


March 13th, 2015 at 8:38 AM ^

Bar none, my favorite coach in any Michigan sport since I've started my serious fandom in the early 2000s.  Harbaugh included.  Beilein is the rare combination of extremely successful, extremely nice, and extremely classy.  Treasure every moment guys--it won't last forever.


March 13th, 2015 at 10:25 AM ^

I will, every now and then, check out the basketball forums of say, Illinois, Minnesota, or even a Purdue - filled with people pinning all their hopes on this never going to be a star guy or that sub with a myriad of holes in his game who is going to turn the team around next season. Illinois posters were pining for Maverick Morgan, who may have been out with a concussion. I don't mean to pick on that guy, but Maverick Morgan is not turning your program around. It reminds me of the trapped beneath a seal of mediocrity desperation of the Amaker days. 

I don't want to go back. 

I can't overstate how much I enjoy a team where guys turn out to be so much better than I could have possibly imagined, and where an overall plan is in place that frequently allows for some wild ass alchemy. And where the kids get everything out of their talents and always get as far with that talent as they can possibly go (including a real shot for those who can at the next level). 

I really think I get the game of college basketball and I have a pretty sharp eye for talent and potential. And with that said, if you had told me Morgan would be what he was last year, or that Max would actually be a functional center in the Big Ten - I never saw it coming, because these guys regularly coax the work out of these kids and break the normal rules of what should be possible. I would have bet against Morgan becoming a key starter, as he was last year, or Max being able to not just cover meaningful minutes in the Big Ten but to go beyond that and provide significant contributions. And I would have been dead wrong. 

I'm with you - I'd like to stay on this ride for as long as possible. I love the way our team is run, the way our kids compete, the way they develop, the knowledge that we're doing this the right way, the way our kids hang together - I love it all. 


March 13th, 2015 at 8:53 AM ^

I wouldn't say that Beilein has "lost it", but I don't think he has ever been a great IN GAME coach. He is an amaizing player developer and recruiter of overlooked talent, but when I think back over the last couple of years, I can't think of a single time where I was like "Wow! That was a well drawn up play". The only one that somewhat comes to mind is the cross court lob to GR3 vs. purdue for the game winner, and to be honest that was kind of ugly... The only in game coaching move he makes is switching from man to zone.

Obviously in retrospect we shouldv'e fouled against Northwestern, I also think he blew it against Illinois (2nd time we played them and went to OT). We had the ball, tied, with no shot clock. We had had a hard time inbounding earlier in the game when they put a 7 footer on Spike, why would you call a timeout to setup a play?


March 13th, 2015 at 9:32 AM ^

His switches to 1-3-1 and other adjustments during the game are a huge part of their success. You may disagree with his rule of benching guys with 2 fouls but an awful lot of coaches believe in it.

He has a young team and he gives them chances to succeed and fail but time after time they make runs in the tournament partly because they have dealt with adversity.


March 13th, 2015 at 10:25 AM ^

I've watched every game for that last five years or so minus maybe a handful. I definitely disagree with auto-bench, gauranteeing your players less playing time means you have to value second half minutes a TON more than first half. In my mind, the first 38 minutes of the game should be valued the same; some players are good at free-throws/inbounding (Spike) or make clutch shots (Irvin) that have more value in the last couple minutes. The only logical argument for auto-bench is for 4s and 5s. Players can attack them specifically at the basket, trying to draw more fouls or knowing their shot is less likely to be contested. With this team, we don't really have a star big man that I feel we would be in trouble if he fouled out.

Beilein has made a stategic move and surprised the other team with a zone/man switch a few times, but usually it's very predictable. We just gave up a 10+ point run, clearly this defense isn't working, let's try a different one.


March 13th, 2015 at 10:37 AM ^

Just to be clear, I am in no way saying Beilein is a bad coach. On the contrary, I actually think he is one of the best coaches in the country. As a basketball coach though, I would say your main effect on a team is the players you recruit and what you establish in practice. Beilein has implented a system that has been very effective and built around the talent he has.

It is just suprising to me the amount of times we've blown games on coaching decisions. I'd rather lose a game on a turnover or missed shot that being outsmarted. Beilein has proven that set plays are not his strength.


March 13th, 2015 at 9:37 AM ^

I can't think of a single time where I was like "Wow! That was a well drawn up play"


Do you think Trey Burke and co just streetballed their way to the championship? There were a lot of plays that were drawn up beautifully. I remember plenty such occassions, especially during that tourney run.


March 13th, 2015 at 10:42 AM ^

I kinda get what you are trying to say, but I think you are either inarticulately saying it or you are missing the forest for the trees.  There are little in-game things that I have questioned from time-to-time-----not putting a man on the inbounder (OSU and Wiscy games), inflexibility of his two-foul-sit rule (numerous examples), struggles inbounding the ball late in the game (Tennessee last year, many times this year).  These complaints, however, are largely the kinds of things every fan complains about when watching a game because we

But Beilein offensive schemes are the envy of the coaching community, he is self-analytical (he flipped his original coaching staff for our current one), he is willing to make adjustments to his personnel (unlike most coaches), he makes players better (again too many examples), he out-prepares most of his opposing coaches, he makes excellent in-game adjustments etc etc etc.

Your mistake started with your initial comment that "I wouldn't say Beilein has 'lost it'".  "Lost it" shouldn't even be part of the discussion.  Not unless one confuses it with crazy brilliant.


March 13th, 2015 at 10:54 AM ^

I would also disagree with his strategy of not scoring in OT... wait, maybe that's on the players lol

I only used the term "lost it" becuase I was replying to a previous person who used it, and I was saying he hasn't. I think for the most part you were agreeing with me. Beilein is a GREAT coach, but is not a god like some people make him out to be. There are some things (even if they are small in comparison) that are flaws in his coaching. These flaws are not new, and have been around for the last couple years. They were just amplified in people's minds recently because we lost a couple games in a short span because of them.


March 13th, 2015 at 11:38 AM ^

Everything you've said is bred from familiarity. If you watch the same team every game, of course, you are going to start to nitpick. But that is a big mistake to make with a coach like Beilein. He is truly an elite coach, and the voice I take most seriously when it comes to that input is that of his peers. Repeatedly, Beilein is one of the first names mentioned by his peers as being one of the best.
Duke fans complain they take too many three's. Syracuse fans complain they don't spend enough time practicing offense. UNC fans complain they don't get enough out of all their highly ranked players. From the outside, all of those complaints sound ridiculous, yet their fans say these very things. Why? They watch every game, and of course you are going to see faults every game. The coaches and players are human.

M go Bru

March 13th, 2015 at 10:19 AM ^

This year seems to be more of an exception to this because of the loss of Walton and Lavert.

Getting a good shot and usually scoring after a timeout helps to break the momentum of the other team. Exactly the reason why you called the timeout to begin with. 


March 13th, 2015 at 10:22 AM ^

I have spoke with two former players that were on the team during the NC game and they both said Beilein can get flustered during the game especially at the end of games.  I think Beilein is a great coach but there might be some truth to his less than stellar in game coaching.


March 13th, 2015 at 11:10 AM ^

That was the one I mentioned in my comment earlier. It is the only time I can remember a positive outcome from an out of bounds play. It wasn't exactly pretty though, I was cringing the entire time watching. The lob pass was almost intercepted, although it was probably a safe bet GRIII would win that jump ball vs anyone in the country. It still scares me that GRIII was the only option on that play, the two screeners and Stauskas never even looked to get open.


March 13th, 2015 at 11:21 AM ^

In eight seasons you have seen one play out of a timeout succeed? I am not a basketbal geniuse but I think Beilein does a pretty good job calling set plays out of timeouts. I could be wrong I haven't looked up the stats on it or anything but as a novice watching the games he seems to do pretty well.


March 13th, 2015 at 3:27 PM ^

Obviously they've scored on plays out of timeouts. I would hope they would be at least as successful at scoring as they are without a timeout. I refering to a truly successful coaching call. Point out that someone is cheating over screens and sending someone on a backdoor cut. Noticing everyone is fronting their man in a press and throwing a deep ball for an easy layup. Something along those lines.


March 13th, 2015 at 2:48 PM ^

In 2012-23, did you watch him SCHOOL the Big Ten, then proceed to SCHOOL Shaka Smart, best Bill Self, SCHOOL Billy Donovan, and then put current Hall of Famer Rick Pitino on the ropes in what could easily have been a Michigan National Championship? These were all teams with equal or better talent. How many times did that team come out and dominate a second half after Beilien pulled out a new offensive wrinkle or other in game adjustment.  It's really hard to argue he's not a good in game coach.  


March 13th, 2015 at 3:33 PM ^

We sent our starting lineup for that year to the NBA... Hard to argue all of those teams had equal or better talent. I would agree that they had better recruits, but Beilein developed our team to be much more talented than the teams you listed.

Also, I would say not coaching your team to not jump at Hancock's pump fakes in the NC was one of the main reasons we lost that game. Although most of those calls were also bullshit. I don't think anyone jumps 5 feet forward at a 45 degrees angle as a part of their natural shooting motion...

Frank Booth

March 13th, 2015 at 9:07 AM ^

I completely agree with you. People need to cut Beilein some slack. The guy lost five of his best players (Stauskas, McGary, Robinson, LeVert, Walton) and has really put himself in a good position for next season.

For me, It's been fun to watch the growth of the freshmen and more notably, Spike Albrecht. I realize Spike is 99% unlikely to get to the NBA, but he is really exciting to watch.


March 13th, 2015 at 2:15 PM ^

Morgan, and even Horford. Give us any one of Morgan, McGary, and Horford, and one of Robinson, LeVert, and Walton, and this year would have been vastly different. It still was very enjoyable. I think what Beilein did with the roster he had was absolutely stupendous, incredible, unbelievable.


March 13th, 2015 at 8:34 AM ^

I don't know if it's just me and my iPhone, but the formatting on that second section is goofy.

I'm not sure if they're playing well enough to knock of Wisconsin but it has sure been fun watching these young guys develop all year long. Pretty frustrating at times but it provides a lot to look forward to next year.

Sent from MGoBlog HD for iPhone & iPad


March 13th, 2015 at 8:48 AM ^

After the game, BTN's Steven Bardo said that Beilein is THEE best offensive coach in the country. Bardo is a former Illinois star. Pretty good praise from a guy that just watched his team get stomped.


March 13th, 2015 at 10:03 AM ^

I listened to the Sirius broadcast, which I believe were the Illinois announcers.  Could be wrong though because I heard the Michigan broadcaters doing the Indiana-Northwestern game.  Maybe they were mixing it up? 

Anyway, the color guys was effusive in his praise of Beilein.  Lots of "that's a Beilein offense for you", "that's the way Beilein always gets his teams to play", etc.  Very nice to hear from a third party.  Said the way Michigan played offensively yesterday, they would have beat almost any B1G team.  Unfortunately I imagine the "almost" applied to Wiscy.  But let's give 'em hell. 

Everyone Murders

March 13th, 2015 at 8:54 AM ^

I particularly appreciate that Beilein has avoided any whinging when the injury bug hit the team hard (on the heels of the NBA departures the team suffered).  /Pours out the top of a 40 oz. [coffee] for McGary/

Compare that to Izzo's incessant excuses and finger-pointing when things get rough in E. Lansing.  It's a night-and-day difference.

Yeah - I'll take Beilein any day over any other current college basketball coach.


March 13th, 2015 at 8:52 AM ^

Man, next year's team is going to be pretty good, as long as the team has that one Big Dog, and there are a few potential breakouts.  And if LeVert comes back...holy crap, UM is going to have a deeeeeep team.  Even if LeVert doesn't, then bringing back all the players who are starting to breakout now (I guess minus Beifeldt), adding back in Walton, and then adding in Duncan Robinson.  Getting Wilson off a RS...What is the rotation going to be like next year?  It will be really interesting.  I'm excited.


March 13th, 2015 at 9:51 AM ^

Except we didnt rest our starters - Spike and Irvin played 38/39 minutes yesterday.  Love me the Beilein but I dont get that if you actually plan to play 3-4 games in this tourney.

As for the rest of the thread considering of our 8 man rotation of 2013-2014 we only played with TWO of them post Walton injury it is asking a ridiculous amount out of coach.  And a lot of games were lost this year in OT when we ran out of gas due to playing 7 man rotations.  That sucked.  And if Chatman had been just a decent freshman we probably have 2-3 more wins in our pocket this year - this was not a year our highest level recruit could come in and whiff.  But it happens and in the end we have Dawkins which I'll consider the "5 star" of this class -- but he just wasn't ready until February to really take that role.

I think one thing most people underestimate is how this team has to go through a total rebuild every damn November.  Teams like MSU - even this year after losing 3 guys- brought back multiple upperclassmen starters and other upperclassmen like a Costello move from backup to starter.  Beilein has had to rebuild completely on the fly and basically moves in freshman directly in the starting lineup or has a lineup generally full of sophomores and freshman.  A team like UK and Duke has to do that too but with a different grade of talent.

Next year will be the first since when - 2011? we wont be starting from scratch.  We've had slow starts the past few years out of necessity - a ton of fresh faces learning roles, many of them freshmen.  Next year the starting lineup will be a bunch of guys who have - you know... started.  We are going to gell very fast and be starting on 2nd base next November rather than at the plate.  And the Big 10 slate won't be new to anyone but Duncan Robinson and whatever other 2015 we bring in.  And those guys will be role players - not necessary starters.


March 13th, 2015 at 9:53 AM ^

As with 95% of the other posters here, I would not trade John Beilein for any other coach in the country, full stop.  If I had to decide between keeping Beilein as coach for another decade or simultaneous sexytimes with Kate Upton and Felicia Day, the answer is Beilein.

Having said that, yes I often hate our extreme aversion to fouling and frequent tendency to get murderized on the offensive boards.  Yes, I'd like to be a lock down defensive unit and hit on some more five-stars.  But with anything in life you take the bad with the good.  If this is Beilein's price of admission, I'll pay it any day of the week and twice on Sundays


March 13th, 2015 at 10:37 AM ^

Goes to Beilein, his staff, and these players. I've actually seen the growth and development of these players especially these last couple weeks.

Should be very good next season.


March 13th, 2015 at 10:47 AM ^

anyone would be disappointed in where Beilein has taken Michigan basketball in his time in Ann Arbor.


btw, all coaches are good in game coaches at this level, they have to be or they aren't coaches at this level.