From preseason top five to midseason No. 1, Michigan basketball is enjoying the best start in program history at 19-1 overall, including a 6-1 mark in the Big Ten. Lead by steady performances out of veteran guards Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., the Wolverines have plugged in freshmen Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas from the beginning, creating waves of production and check marks in the win column. So for a team receiving player of or freshmen of the week honors seemingly every seven days, how do they get better?
John Beilein said from the beginning of camp until as recently as Tuesday that this whole deal -- the program, the team, players, coaches -- is a process being worked on every single day. And he’s not lying.
Mitch McGary has worked on bad habits, proper footwork, and improved body control in order to mostly-avoid the foul trouble bug in the Big Ten. The results are in his increasing productivity in the rebound and points in the paint categories.
Nik Stauskas could shoot the lights out before he arrived on campus. Now, as teams continue stepping out hard on the perimeter, the Canadian native is using his skill set off the dribble to attack the rim but do so at a slower pace -- making the right play and, at times, seeing the next play develop before the ball is in his hands.
“Nik was not cutting as hard as he needed to cut and after he got open a couple times I said how are you getting open Nik? -- ‘Coach, I’m cutting harder,’” said Beilein. “Those are the type of things you do see. From a coaching standpoint, there’s always something else.”
Sometimes subtle adjustments in strategy, or in this case a player’s game, are the ones that make the biggest impact. For Beilein and Michigan, the repetition keeps getting every player closer and closer to being a finished product.
“It’s like when you see your own child everyday and they look the same,” said Beilein. “But try going away for three weeks and come see the youngster. He’s changed.”
And so have the Wolverines.
“It’s always tough to measure but we do see those ah ha moments with our guys,” said Beilein. “Jon (Horford) missed the lay-up but he kept the ball up. Some of our guys have a tendency to bring the ball down and you bring that down in this league -- it’s nabbed from you. Jon kept it up on what Tim threw the other day. Those are moments where, Mitch will look at me and say ‘I kept it up didn’t I?’ Those moments you see, maybe they’re not doing it yet but they’re understanding what they have to do -- little by little.”
With expectations for the rest of the season now through the roof and, in some fans eyes, already setting up shop in Atlanta, the key to handling the hoopla is moving stead forth in the same direction, focusing and preparing in the same manor that got the team to this point -- the same approach that led this program out of the dark ages and into the light.
Improving day by day.
To watch video of Glenn Robinson III discussing the No. 1 ranking, press play below.