Team 102

How Michigan built an elite defense: Part I — Contest every shot

Michigan played defense in 2017-18.

John Beilein has been coaching for four decades, but the Wolverines managed to break every defensive stereotype that has followed him throughout his career.

Michigan won five NCAA Tournament games despite playing only one great offensive game. The famous NCAA Tournament teams of Beilein’s past are remembered for their offensive shootouts in the NCAA Tournament. His latest team made it to the season’s final night with a collection of rock fights.

Just how good was Michigan defensively in 2017-18? What made the Wolverines so effective? This is part one of our five-part dissection of the Wolverine defense in 2017-18, examining what made it so effective and what could be in store for the future. Today, we start with the foundation: contesting every shot. 

Contest every shot

The plan to fix Michigan’s defense was in the works before Luke Yaklich had even been offered a job at Michigan. After having an initial conversation with John Beilein, Yaklich spent an evening on his laptop. He wanted to show Beilein how interested he was in the job, so he put together a report to email to the head coach.

“At that point I decided I was going to do a little bit more and show coach that I was interested,” Yaklich recalled on the Create Your Shot podcast. “So I went through Synergy, I went through TeamRankings.com, KenPom and I put together…

“I probably took 15-20 defensive categories and looked at the Big Ten stats and really just extrapolated some numbers out and then at the end of it gave some ideas for how I would improve, or how I think we could improve, those specific defensive numbers that particularly over a three-year period weren’t good.”

Spoiler alert: Yaklich got the job. He served as Michigan’s “defensive coordinator” for the 2017-18 season and began to implement his ideas one defensive drill at a time.

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