Wolverines adjust to growing pains

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 20, 2013 - 11:50 PM

Michigan’s young lineup faltered down the stretch, but its calm coach helped them quickly refocus.

Michigan forward Glenn Robinson III is one of five true freshmen playing for the Wolverines, who face South Dakota State in their South Regional opener Thursday in Auburn Hills, Mich.

Photo: PAUL SANCYA • Associated Press ,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

As the proverbial dust settled from Michigan’s 68-59 loss to Wisconsin in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament in Chicago, Glenn Robinson III didn’t know what to expect.

For starters, the freshman never had been in that situation before — getting bounced from a late-season tournament — just like his teammates Nik Stauskas and Mitch McGary, two other first-year players who have had a big impact for Michigan.

They had played poorly; they knew that. Now would their coach come in and blow a gasket?

Not this time. Instead, John Beilein — who has coached some dynamic freshmen in the past couple of years and apparently learned all the strategies for doing so — entered the sullen locker room and announced the season wasn’t over.

“Everybody came in here really mad,” Robinson said of the locker room after Michigan struggled in the second half against Wisconsin. “I didn’t know how it was going to go. I didn’t know if he was going to go off on us or something. But I think Coach does a great job of giving those speeches when we need them, and I think [that day] was definitely a time that we needed it.”

The truth is, while Michigan was briefly ranked No. 1 in the nation earlier this year, the fourth-seeded Wolverines are still a young team as they head into the NCAA tournament, where they will face former St. Cloud Tech standout Nate Wolters and South Dakota State in their South Regional opener Thursday in Auburn Hills, Mich.

As such, they’ve gone through ups and downs, shown flaws and had the tendency to get “down on ourselves,” as Robinson put it.

When the Wolverines don’t shoot well from the outside, they struggle, and their defense — never the squad’s biggest strength — has been flimsier than ever in the past couple of weeks. Robinson said sometimes the team is so focused on getting out and running that they don’t finish possessions. It’s all part of the growing pains that come with a youthful bunch.

“We’ve just really got to grow defensively,” Beilein said. “All it takes … is one breakdown here or there and they’re [the opponent] scoring points.”

As important as anything will be the opportunity for the developing squad — which plays five true freshmen and a redshirt freshman, along with a pair of sophomores — to get away from Big Ten competition, a rugged schedule for every team. Similar to the Gophers, Michigan has struggled with slow starts, which the Wolverines often have been able to overcome because of elite talent, but which also have been the early nail in the coffin in several games.

After starting 20-1 overall and 7-1 in the Big Ten, Michigan lost six of its last 12 overall and four of its last five regular-season road games, including a defeat at Penn State, which had gone 0-14 in the league up until that point.

“I think that is something we’re continuing to get better at — just coming out with a lot of intensity,” said Big Ten Player of the Year Trey Burke of the slow starts by Michigan, which led Penn State by only two points at halftime in the first round of the Big Ten tournament before winning 83-66.

Can the Wolverines get it together in time for a no-nonsense matchup with the Jackrabbits? When the tournament bracket came out, they were quickly tabbed a trendy pick to make a run. But even if Michigan makes it past South Dakota State, it would likely get a brutal head-to-head meeting with Virginia Commonwealth immediately afterward.

Right now that talk, along with the recent shortcomings, is only fueling the fire for players and a coach that knows his successful but young team sometimes needs a different kind of prodding.

“I know it’s hard for a coach to keep his composure and talk to the team in that certain way, but that’s what we needed,” Robinson said. “I think he did a great job of showing us that we can still do things this season. That it’s not over, not even close.”

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


San Francisco - M. Bumgarner 7:07 PM
Pittsburgh - E. Volquez
Minnesota 10/2/14 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Seattle 10/6/14 7:30 PM
Washington 6:00 PM
Carolina 6:00 PM
Pittsburgh 6:30 PM
Montreal 7:30 PM
Arizona 8:00 PM
Fla Atlantic 10/2/14 6:00 PM
UCF 10/2/14 6:00 PM
Arizona 10/2/14 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM





question of the day

Poll: Is Paul Molitor the best choice to manage Twins?

Weekly Question


Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters