With the Michigan basketball team’s NCAA tournament hopes clinging to the barest of threads, John Beilein decided against showing his team too much film from its first two games against Illinois.
Instead, he reminded them of the 2011 Big East tournament, when ninth-seeded Connecticut strung together five wins in as many days to claim their conference title before winning six more in the NCAA tournament to win a National Championship.
“Anything can happen in these things,” Beilein said. “It’s difficult to do, but if you get it going a little bit — if you have situations like we saw with Kam the other day, all of a sudden he starts hitting threes like this.
“We’re going to have to have everybody making shots, making plays.”
Michigan also enters its tournament as the No. 9 seed, meeting Illinois in the first round with a matchup against top-seeded Wisconsin looming. Beating the Illini would keep the Wolverines in contention for an NIT at-large bid, while it would take nothing less than winning their four games to secure an NCAA tournament berth.
“We have to go in with a similar mindset that [Connecticut] had,” explained Max Bielfeldt. “They went in and really surprised some people and made a huge run. He thinks if we have a similar mentality, we can pull something off like that.”
While Beilein also cautioned that Michigan can’t look ahead to the Badgers, the Wolverines have rested their most-used players in preparation for the postseason.
“We’re going for it all,” Beilein said. “We’re going for the whole deal right now.”
Chatman, Dawkins to attend ‘Camp Sanderson’
Both freshmen are staying in Ann Arbor to work with strength and conditioning coach Jon Sanderson, whose arduous workout program has had well-document results with several Wolverines over recent years.
Now, Dawkins and Chatman hope it’s their turn to reap the improvements of a summer in the weight room.
“I’ll be here right along with [Chatman],” Dawkins said. “I think most of the freshmen will be. We’ll all be going together, which will be good for our chemistry.”
The forward — who finished with the best effective field goal percentage (63.3%) and true shooting percentage (65.8%) in the conference play among qualified players — hopes Camp Sanderson will help expand his game.
“I just want to really get stronger,” Dawkins said. “The skill comes with time, but I really want to get in the weight room and up my weight.”
Beilein working on inbounding issues
Michigan’s two games against the Illini have gone to overtime, with each team winning at home.
Now that the programs are meeting at a neutral site for the Big Ten tournament, Beilein isn’t anticipating much will change.
“These two teams have been unpredictable because injuries have not allowed them to continue to grow sometimes and they’ve had to take a step backward,” Beilein said. “They’re really hitting their stride pretty well, and we’re going to have to play really well to stay in this game.
“If we do, hopefully we can get this one at the end.”
The Wolverines’ collapse in Champaign was partially a result of their inability to inbound the ball under pressure. Beilein asserted that his team has been working “a lot” on correcting the issue, including practicing with players other than Spike Albrecht throwing the ball in, noting that Sean Lonegan is among the team’s best at throwing a baseball pass.
“To say we have it fixed, you don’t have it fixed until you really have multiple inbounders who can really pass, and experienced players who can do a whole lot of things,” Beilein said.
Walton still doubtful for Big Ten tournament
Derrick Walton remains doubtful for the Big Ten tournament, Beilein announced Tuesday. The sophomore guard, who is suffering from a foot injury, hasn’t returned to practice.
“We try him almost every day, just to do something,” Beilein said. “Jog up and down the court, do some layups, ‘How does it feel?’ That’s about it.”
Initially, the Wolverines had hoped Walton would return to the lineup before the end of the regular season. Walton hasn’t played since Michigan’s overtime loss to Wisconsin on January 24th.