Thursday, February 11, 2010

Losing faith

One of the things this blog has bemoaned for much of the basketball season is Beilein's refusal to play the 1-3-1 zone. It struggled in the nonconference schedule, so much so that Beilein has almost completely gotten away from it in favor of mostly man-to-man defense and for a time, the putrid 2-3 zone whose gaping holes more or less lost two games for the Wolverines this year. But this underlies something that I couldn't quite put my finger on until I talked with Andrew Kahn on The Sports Journalists, and he said that it appears that Beilein has completely lost faith in his system.

Though we don't talk about it on the above podcast, we talked a little bit about how Beilein has basically abandoned his system in favor of trying to Make Things Work, which has explicitly not happened. The abandonment of the 1-3-1 is the most obvious example. After the loss to Michigan State, MGoBlog had a good point about the 1-3-1 and why it probably wasn't the best idea to run it for the last play of the game:

When Beilein went into the 1-3-1 on the last possession I thought that was a mistake. The 1-3-1 is an extremely high pressure defense that offers up a lot of easy two-point looks. You're up one and playing a team that doesn't have a lot of shooters or take a lot of threes. If you're going to go into a zone it should be a post-packing one that tends to allow open looks from three, like the 2-3 Michigan has played infrequently.

Aside from the 2-3 zone comment, this was basically my thoughts exactly. The problem is, Beilein has been struggling so hard to make things work that every time the 1-3-1 gives up a good look, he goes away from it. For example, Michigan ran the 1-3-1 in a win against Indiana on the first possession of the game. Indiana got an open 3 and hit it--it would end up being their only 3-pointer made the entire game. From that point on, Beilein never used the 1-3-1 again, playing strictly man-to-man. And while it may be difficult to fault him when Michigan won resoundingly and Indiana didn't hit another three the entire game, it does speak to the overall problem.

After the game, I mentioned this but couldn't really come to the conclusion above:

Beilein didn't once use the 2-3 zone, likely because of how poor it's been for the team this year, but he also didn't really use the 1-3-1, which is starting to worry me a little bit. IICR, they used the 1-3-1 on only one possession early in the game. It produced a good three point look for Indiana--that ended up being their only three point basket of the game--and Beilein never went back to it. It's not necessarily that Michigan can't guard man-to-man, but Beilein refusing to give different looks on defense just furthers my point that he's been mostly absent in games. Toward the end of the blowout, why didn't Michigan get a little more practice in the 1-3-1 if they're struggling with it? I just don't get it.

But at this point, I'm not even so bothered by the fact that he doesn't use the 1-3-1 and give teams different looks as I am the fact that he's completely lost faith in his systems. I suppose having a 3-point shooting team that can't hit 3-pointers can do that to you--the 11 attempted 3-pointers in the game against Wisconsin may be another indication that he's moving away from his traditional system--but in general, I'm just bothered by Beilein abandoning his schemes. It wouldn't be such a problem if he was fixing things and the team was actually winning. But he's not and they aren't, and all these tweaks feel more like panicked makeshift solutions rather than long-term remedies to the team's myriad problems.


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