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Posted on Mon, Jan 24, 2011 : 3:53 p.m.

Forced outside, Michigan basketball team's offensive balance tilts toward the 3-pointer and other notes

By Michael Rothstein

The 3-pointer always is a staple of John Beilein’s two-guard offense, but he expects a balanced offense from the Michigan basketball team.

In a 69-64 loss to Minnesota on Saturday, Michigan launched 35 3-point shots, accounting for 66 percent of its shot selection.


Junior guard Stu Douglass, shown taking a shot against Minnesota on Saturday, has made 38.8 percent of his 3-point shots this season.

Angela J. Cesere |

“The Minnesota game, (it) was fairly obvious it was going to be very difficult for us to score inside, and that had a lot to do with their height,” Beilein said. “We’re 6-8 inside and developing, 6-9. (Ralph) Sampson and (Colton) Iverson and (Trevor) Mbakwe are 6-8, athletic and experienced.

“Sometimes that may be true that we could become very predictable, but at the same time we are going to have a very balanced approach.”

For inside offense, Michigan (11-9 overall, 1-6 in the Big Ten) relies on redshirt freshman forward Jordan Morgan (9.3 points per game) or freshman forward Jon Horford (2.7), and until they can provide more consistency, the Wolverines will rely on their outside shooters.

Five of Michigan’s eight main rotation players have taken more 3-pointers than two-pointers this season. Junior guard Stu Douglass, who has made 38.8 percent of his 3-pointers, is Michigan’s top threat from outside.

The numbers detail how much Michigan has relied on the 3-pointer since Big Ten play started and where the Wolverines are as they enter a game at Michigan State on Thursday (7 p.m., ESPN).

• The Wolverines have made 36.3 percent of 3-pointers (61-of-168) and 49.7 percent of their 2-pointers (94-of-189) this season.

• Which players favor the 3-pointer? Sophomore guard Matt Vogrich (45 3-pointers, 19 2-pointers), freshman forward Evan Smotrycz (72 3-pointers, 43 2-pointers) and sophomore guard Zack Novak (85 3-pointers, 43 2-pointers) are most likely to be beyond the arc if they are putting up a shot.

• Morgan, Horford and sophomore point guard Darius Morris are the only Michigan players with more 2-point attempts than 3-point shots.

Rebuilding in the Big Ten

It’s tough to break through and become a dominant team in the Big Ten, Beilein said.

Michigan State and Wisconsin have been powers over the past decade. Ohio State has made a couple of Final Fours recently. Purdue is consistently near the top of the league.

Yet teams trying to rebuild once-proud programs - Iowa, Indiana and Michigan - struggle.

“That’s one of the biggest challenges facing the teams that are rebuilding, that are trying to rebuild over the past five, six years,” said Beilein, in his fourth season with Michigan. “There are leagues out there that are very cyclical. This is not, over time, proved to be a cyclical league.

“There are teams in the late '90s, early '90s, did a great job of building their programs. For the most part the coaching situations have stayed stable, and they’ve been able to get to the top. And the rest of us are fighting for the sixth or seventh spot.”

Iowa coach Fran McCaffery, in his first year in the league, isn’t paying much attention to it. He’s got enough work to do to fix the Hawkeyes.

“You can’t get consumed with that,” McCaffery said. “What you have to do is focus on your own team and try to get better.”

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



Tue, Jan 25, 2011 : 8:57 p.m.

i didn't think um even attempted to have a balanced game? i thought the plan from the start was to shoot (and make) a bunch of 3s? i feel they are playing the game they want offensively...but playing it poorly. mich should hope for 2 more wins....might only get 1.


Tue, Jan 25, 2011 : 8:22 p.m.

Ex WVU coaches don't fair well at Michigan and should head for the mountains and I don't mean Rockies


Tue, Jan 25, 2011 : 5:29 p.m.

I'm surprised that UM fans aren't calling for Beilein's head. After three years he hasn't fared any better than his former counterpart – Rodriguez. He hasn't recruited any post players with any size that can get the job done down low. His UM teams live and (mostly) die by the three-point shot. If I was the AD I would have fired him on the spot after last year's 2.2 second debacle in the Big Ten Tournament. Why is this guy getting free pass? David Brandon should be getting a search committee together to replace this guy at the end of the season. Beilein should be making a bee line back to West Virginia. I've seen enough. I am officially president of the 'Fire Beilein Campaign.'


Tue, Jan 25, 2011 : 1:23 p.m.

The guards pass everything inside, even when the big man is open. I've watched most of the games, and every other time down there is a big man or a cutter open and waving for the ball, but the guards ignore it. Change that, and you'll change everything. Teams watching the tape know Michigan will not go to the bucket, even if they're open, so that lets them cheat outside and cover the 3 tight. Have your guards drive to bucket and dump off on double team. I think Beilein is a good coach, but he has to prove it here and adjust to his personnel.


Tue, Jan 25, 2011 : 1:35 a.m.

The focus upon the "3" was a huge strategic mistake by the Michigan basketball program, not unlike the football program's focus on the spread offense at the expense of playing defense. Someone forgot to tell Bill Martin that the 3-point line was going to be pushed out 1 foot farther from the basket in 2008. That basically made the John Beilein hire another huge strategic mistake.

1st Down

Tue, Jan 25, 2011 : 12:06 p.m.

Ive never seen a college team try to rely so much on the perimeter shooting... its ridiculous...I called this a few years ago as odd to say the least....once those shooters go cold, or even luke warm...forget it...the game is over vs. a good opponent.


Mon, Jan 24, 2011 : 11:19 p.m.

Isn't this a repeat of the football season? Building hope during a nice preseason run, and then getting walloped by much bigger, stronger, more fundamentally sound Big 10 teams? I'm dubbing this a "Rodruiguez". Example: The team started the season well, but then Rodruiguezed.


Mon, Jan 24, 2011 : 10:18 p.m.

Well, you need someone at the foul line or at least flashing the middle when opponents zone or play "help" defense. It seems M is always playing 5 out which allows a defense to collapse the middle. This ain't rocket science but somehow B*Line is not adjusting. M ends up chucking up 3 balls with nobody in rebounding position.

shane smith

Mon, Jan 24, 2011 : 10:14 p.m.

A couple of comments.One, Beilein whole offense is set up on the 3 if they make it fine,then they get you to play the them for the 3 point shot,when you do that,they srart to back cut you.If the hit them its great,and if not its ugly.2nd point Tom Cream should have never left Marquette.Kids don't care about IU basketball anymore.Bobby Knight was IU basketball,period.How many Coaches they had since he left.Things Change.Michigan Football is not what it used to be either.Things change over night in sports nowadays.Big Ben with the Steelers,last summer he was about to go to jail for having sex with that underage girl.Know he is going to Super Bowl.


Mon, Jan 24, 2011 : 9:50 p.m.

Eh. I'm not sure I'd say Michigan's "forced" outside. They seem to prefer it. The two guys they do mainly seem to rely on to go inside and score--Morgan and Horford--are foul magnets. Morgan also doesn't seem to know how to catch passes, or...well, has forgotten how to against better teams (I do know Morris throws passes a little too hard). Like I said about a day or so ago on another one of these articles, Beilein just is not going to do what it takes to win the Big Ten. And if anything, that's what makes it tough on Michigan. You won't win the league just throwing up 3s, especially with a bunch of guys who can't shoot. Michigan is getting better in terms of players who can shoot. But the other issues get in the way, i.e. size, lack of rebounding, lack of consistency in shooting and shot selection, etc. The one team I can't quite figure out as to why they are still lingering near the bottom of the Big Ten is Indiana, and, from the little that I've seen, Indiana fans are starting to get impatient.

1st Down

Tue, Jan 25, 2011 : 12:04 p.m.

+1 In the Coach B years, they have never really gotten much from inside the paint...either offensively or defensively.... I dont get it....recruit a couple of adequate big men...but like you said, it seems to be the way of Coach B's system.... its a finesse system, analogous to the system that the the other coach that we had from WVU ran... finesse and style, no muscle and grit.