Michigan and Texas Tech will battle in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament Thursday, March 28, 2019 in Anaheim, Calif. Let’s meet the Red Raiders.
Marlowe Alter, Detroit Free Press
John Beilein knows the defense he’s about to see Thursday in Anaheim is as good as it gets in college basketball.
But he also knows Michigan played 20 games in the Big Ten this year, winning 15. And along the way, saw plenty of top-level defenses that could defend all five positions in a variety of ways.
Texas Tech enters Thursday’s West Region semifinal game against the Wolverines as the No. 1-rated defensive efficiency unit, per Ken Pomeroy.
Michigan coach John Beilein during the first half against Florida in the NCAA tournament Saturday, March 23, 2019 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo: Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press)
A huge test? Yes. Something shockingly new? No.
“This is a mixture of a very veteran team, probably one of the more veteran teams we’ll see all year long,” Beilein said Tuesday on WTKA-AM in Ann Arbor. “They’ve got that good mixture of guys who have been around and hungry to win. Not coddled guys just trying out for the NBA. They’re trying to win. Had a successful year in a tough Big 12.
“It’ll be interesting to see how we react. Their defense is terrific. In the Big Ten, we see a lot of terrific defenses. So it won’t be a shock to us, won’t be easy either. … We’ll have to play better than we did in games we lost against those really good defenses.”
To Beilein’s point, nine Big Ten teams (including Michigan) posted defensive efficiency numbers ranked inside the top 30.
The Wolverines just got through a round of 32 game against a Florida team that ranked No. 14. Michigan has seen terrific defense all season. Perhaps none as good as Texas Tech, but great defenses all the same.
And, for Beilein, the most important piece will be how his offense reacts.
The Wolverines spoke quite a bit last week about making sure the “my bads” started to disappear on offense. Shot selection. Not valuing each possession throughout a 40 minute game.
During two NCAA tournament games in Iowa, Beilein thought his team responded. And hopes the overall offensive IQ stays on the rise moving forward.
“We don’t want to take people’s swag away from them. We want them to have confidence. You can’t draw up a play for every basket. But there’s a time when you learn, ‘I’ve done this 20 times now and it’s worked twice, the probability isn’t in our favor,’ ” Beilein said. “That’s what a couple of our guys are really learning right now or as a whole as a team. It’s ‘my bad, I wasn’t really sure of that play and I didn’t ask any questions in the huddle.’
“It’s not a game of perfection. But we want to continue to make those steps. … With just a few games left, every possession is important.”
Michigan (30-6) is back in the Sweet 16 for the third straight season, the fifth time in seven years. The Wolverines were scheduled to practice Tuesday in Ann Arbor before departing for Anaheim.
A year ago in Los Angeles, Michigan has virtual home games in Final Four-clinching wins over Texas A&M and Florida State. The university’s large west coast alumni base has provided Michigan with plenty of fan support on the west coast and Beilein anticipates having that again this week.
More: Michigan’s hard-nosed heartbeat carried it to Sweet 16. Final Four, next?
More: Michigan basketball vs. Texas Tech: Scouting report, prediction
Though Beilein said there are times he wishes he could be in two places at once: On the sideline with his team and among local fans in Ann Arbor when the Wolverines have a big March moment.
“When (Isaiah) Livers had that slam the other day I wish I could’ve been at one of the local drinking establishments here just to see the reaction on a play like that,” Beilein said. “I love it when we have a junior or senior come to me, just a student at Michigan, and say ‘I enjoyed March Madness so much in the four years I’ve been here.’
“It means a lot that we’re part of the fabric and the culture of this great university.”
Contact Nick Baumgardner at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickbaumgardner. Read more on the Michigan Wolverines and sign up for our Wolverines newsletter.
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