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Posted on Tue, May 29, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Go big or go small? With more depth and flexibility, Michigan basketball could do both next season

By Nick Baumgardner

A year ago, John Beilein's club was almost there.

With a three-man post rotation and experienced depth in the backcourt, Beilein thought the Michigan basketball team could pose major matchup problems for opponents throughout the Big Ten season.

However, an injury to Jon Horford's foot basically killed that idea before it ever got started and the Wolverines once again navigated through perhaps the most physical league in America with a four-guard offense.

But in 2012-13 -- with the addition of Mitch McGary, the development of Jordan Morgan and the improved health of Horford -- Beilein hopes his roster will be able to go big, go small and go in between, at the drop of a hat.

"We've talked about being flexible," Beilein told reporters earlier this month. "We could have moved that way (last year) if Jon Horford hadn't gotten hurt, but we talk about being more flexible and, in truth, it was very difficult to go both ways.

"The best thing was to play (small) and adapt within the game itself. Now, I think it can be game to game."


The return of Jon Horford, above, plus the addition of Mitch McGary, will give the Michigan basketball team considerably more depth and flexibility in the frontcourt in 2012-13.

Angela J. Cesere |

Michigan will only lose one real post producer from a year ago, that being former forward Evan Smotrycz -- who transferred to Maryland, and never really seemed comfortable playing inside in the first place.

Next year's big man rotation of Morgan (6-foot-8, 250), McGary (6-foot-10, 260), Horford (6-foot-10, 250), and possibly Max Bielfeldt (6-foot-7, 240), will give Beilein four post players who prefer to work inside-out, and not the other way around. Add in versatile forward Blake McLimans (6-foot-10, 240), and Beilein might have more size than he knows what to do with.

There are obviously still question marks up front, and plenty of Michigan's lineup flexibility will rely on how quickly McGary adapts and how much Horford improves, but the basic idea is simple.

When the Wolverines -- a team that somehow won a share of the Big Ten title with a negative rebounding margin -- go toe-to-toe with traditional low-post heavyweights Michigan State or Ohio State, they shouldn't be at such a disadvantage.

"You're playing Northwestern or you're playing Michigan State, maybe (there are) two different lineups you can put out there to suit what's best to win," Beilein said. "We're getting stronger in our flexibility, and we pride ourselves (in our) flexibility."

The Wolverines will have plenty of size up front in 2012-13, but that doesn't mean they'll be void of Beilein's trademark versatility on the wing and in the backcourt.

Incoming freshmen Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III could each play three different spots on the court, while Tim Hardaway Jr. should be able to play both the off-guard and small forward position.

In certain instances, Michigan could roll out a traditional five-man lineup looking something like this: Trey Burke (PG), Hardaway Jr. (SG), Robinson (SF), McGary (PF) and Morgan (C) -- a lineup with an average size of 6-foot-6, 216 pounds.

Last season, Michigan finished the year with a starting lineup of Burke, Stu Douglass, Hardaway, Zack Novak and Morgan -- averaging 6-foot-4, 208 pounds.

If Beilein wants to go quicker, he could do that, too. The only difference this year, though, would be that his lineup would still have plenty of height -- possibly replacing Douglass with 6-foot-6 Stauskas or the 6-foot-4 Matt Vogrich, and replacing Novak with the 6-foot-7 Robinson.

Big, small, quick or tough?

If Beilein has his way, he'll be able to take his pick.

Every, single night.

"I'll have to watch them more, and obviously the freshmen are really key," Beilein says. "We'll have to watch and see what they can handle.

"(But) that's our hope. That we can really take a lot of different shapes."

Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan basketball for He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.

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Fri, Jun 1, 2012 : 1:34 a.m.

I said this alot on here,and will say it again.Coach B will win some games,and never get you in trouble.He just wont dominate The Big 10 like Michigan State does.Coach is one of The Best to make almost everyone drink his Koolaid.


Tue, May 29, 2012 : 8:22 p.m.

No question Michigan needs a much bigger lineup than previous years. They've been pushed around inside by almost every team. Also, other teams can cheat on defense inside because we haven't had a credible inside scorer. This next season that should end with the availability of a lot more big bodies inside, plus some good outside shooters (Burke, Hardaway, Stauskas, and Robinson III). As an inside player, Smotrycz won't be missed. He obviously did not like playing in the paint.


Tue, May 29, 2012 : 7:49 p.m.

Go Big? Go small? Either way, it seems every March, they just GO HOME (sometimes they go home because of the REAL Ohio)- LOL!


Tue, May 29, 2012 : 4:16 p.m.

You can't win consistently without a big guy who can rebound well and defend the basket. A team that focuses on 3 pointers really screws up offensive rebounding with long caroms off the hoop, but good rebounding is key on defense too. I like Jordan Morgan, I think he played well last year and I hope Michigan can get at least one other big guy underneath with him.

Nick Baumgardner

Tue, May 29, 2012 : 4:28 p.m.

The interesting part to me, Mick, is that Beilein should still have the ability to go "small" without really being small -- if that makes sense. Even when they play teams like Northwestern, groups Beilein tends to go small against, they should still be able to have a rebounding/size edge -- no matter what. Beilein's never really had this much raw size to work with before, not here, not anywhere. It should be interesting. Nick


Tue, May 29, 2012 : 12:40 p.m.

I've been a Beilein supporter all along. I know there are some who question whether his system can win on a consistent basis or if it is too "gimmicky" the RichRods spread. Well, he will finally have the players he needs with the skill sets and talent to execute his system. The only question marks will be intangibles like team chemistry, work ethic and of course the always unpredictable nature of injuries to key players at the worst possible time. I would think the pressure is on coach B to produce with this squad in the next two years. I have full confidence that he and this group of players are not only up for the challenge but are salivating at the chance to take Michigan Basketball back to the top where it belongs. BG1 title this year...NC the next. GO BLUE!!! GO BLUE