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Posted on Mon, Dec 21, 2009 : 7:42 p.m.

Now with time, Michigan basketball is putting in some defensive changes

By Michael Rothstein

He’s alluded to seeing what Michigan needs to do to fix its ailing defense throughout the season - a tweak here, a switch there.

Now, finally, with two weeks of one game and a lot of practices, third-year Wolverines coach John Beilein is finally able to implement some of those changes.

Not that he’s telling anyone what they are.

“There’s some areas of the defense we’re really addressing right now,” Beilein said. “If it was a month from now, they might be better at what they’re doing, but we’ll certainly going to be better at what we’re doing.

“We found some things that I can’t talk about as far as our biggest needs are defensively and hopefully you’re going to see them pretty soon.”

Beilein said part of it was trying to teach things differently - including an unspecified approach he said he took during Monday’s practice.

Last week, freshman guard Darius Morris said, he literally put a lid on the basket to focus on defensive rebounding and general defensive principles.

And at least some of the improvement showed against Kansas, especially in the 1-3-1 defense that has struggled throughout the season.

“I thought that we played it very well but it’s a defense that is so crazy, sometimes it will work against the strangest teams that you don’t think it will work against,” Beilein said. “You’ve got to keep it in your package and bring it out as either part of your gameplan or as a last resort.

“We’ve used it many times as a last resort after maybe, we played a team and they destroyed it and then there’s 7 minutes to go and just change the flow, it will work.”

More Concerns for Cronin Beilein was asked straight out if redshirt freshman center Ben Cronin’s nagging hip injury could be career-threatening.

And the coach didn’t dismiss the possibility completely.

“We certainly hope not,” Beilein said. “But there’s a lot of improvement for him, it’s one thing to be 7-foot and you’re carrying that body around with you and it’s another thing to be 7-foot and not be able to have the lift or run that he once had.

“We’re looking at everything we can do to help him now.”

Cronin has played sparingly throughout the season, usually in stretches not lasting more than a couple of minutes.

This and that After Tuesday’s Coppin State game, Michigan will practice and lift Wednesday morning before departing for a short Christmas break that afternoon. The team is due back in Ann Arbor on Sunday, giving the Wolverines four days of practice before the Big Ten opener at Indiana. During the break, Beilein just wants his players to get one lifting session or a push-up/sit-up session in. … Beilein said he studies rebounding and rebounding statistics heavily, looking for trends. … He also said on his radio show that Michigan struggled shooting in practice again Monday. … Beilein said Kansas uber-freshman Xavier Henry is “tremendous.” … Beilein said he feels Michigan needs to go .500 or better in the Big Ten to be a bubble team for the NCAA tournament. … Beilein said he has players sign a contract saying his players will coats, hats, socks, etc. during the winter season. ... Michigan ran through a two-hour practice Monday.

Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan for He can be reached at (734) 623-2558, by e-mail at or follow along on Twitter @mikerothstein.



Mon, Dec 21, 2009 : 10:20 p.m.

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