Number 1 was no surprise: TERRORIZE THEM W/PRESSURE.
Rams coach Shaka Smart thrives on a pressing scheme known as Havoc, which throttled Akron 88--42. Michigan had another plan.
Early in the week, Wolverines assistant coach LaVall Jordan had looked up the Rams' stats. Jordan knew that they thrive on forcing turnovers, but when he saw that they force 20 per game, he laughed. The number is preposterously high. But within an hour of studying stats and film, Jordan understood the risk that Smart's system entails: "They have to turn you over. If they don't, you shoot too well."
In a film session on Friday, Beilein told his team how to attack the diamond-formation press: Get the ball to Burke, run downcourt and "set the table," then attack for quick shots. Jordan told the team, "Their opponents shoot 45%. In their wins, they force 22 [turnovers]. In their losses, only 12.5."
Saturday, vs. VCU
Beilein walked into the team's game-day breakfast and announced the first play to his assistants—"Stauskas, get him some space, see what we can do"—as he poured himself coffee. The coaches had prepared for VCU in one day and on very little sleep. A hotel employee was amused by how much the staff's coffee intake increased each day. But Beilein seemed confident for a reason.
Within the program there was a clear sense that the matchup was good for Michigan. The Wolverines are vulnerable against tough, disciplined teams that rebound well, post up and force them to work in the half-court. Against running teams like VCU, the Wolverines' athleticism and skill level take over, and their youth is not exposed.
Beilein understood how good VCU is, but he did not want his team spooked by talking too much about their press. He has seen, with his own 1-3-1 zone, how the mere idea of it can rattle an opponent. "We're not giving in to this crap with their Havoc," Beilein said in his pregame speech. "We're not giving in to that!"
On that first play Beilein wanted, Stauskas drove and got fouled. He hit both free throws. On the next play Burke picked a Ram's pocket and led a fast break. Then the lefthanded McGary, who can throw a 40-yard spiral with his right hand, whipped a pass to Robinson for a layup. The 6'10", 250-pound McGary also posted up and dunked, leaped over Rams for rebounds and set a screen on guard Briante Weber that was so brutal, he is lucky nobody called 911. Weber crumpled to the floor.
Michigan led 38--23 at the break. In the locker room Hardaway warned his teammates, "We've been up 15 before. We know what happens." Some Wolverines said they needed to respond when VCU went on a run. Burke cut them off.