- Chantel Jennings, ESPN Staff Writer
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With the graduation of two players, the transfer of three underclassmen and a recruiting class of five, this might be the biggest personnel transition Michigan basketball coach John Beilein has undergone during his tenure in Ann Arbor.
But that doesn’t mean there’s more pressure on this off-season.
“Is it more important? No,” Beilein said. “But it’ll be important because we’ll find out our team in an earlier stage.”
This year, coaches will be able to have eight hours of contact with their players starting in July, nearly two months earlier than the previous start date in September.
Beilein said this earlier start will aid in getting an quicker feel for the strengths and weaknesses of certain players, and that it will also be a jumpstart for the group to be together.
He expects to work many things in small groups because freshmen will be working on more basic skills (footwork, learning drills, offense and defense) than the more experienced players like Tim Hardaway Jr. or Trey Burke.
Beilein knew Stu Douglass and Zack Novak would graduate, and while he didn’t see the transfers coming, he believes that this off-season will be what Michigan needs to establish another strong team for the upcoming season.
“We didn’t expect that all those transfers. But it happened,” Beilein said. “You move on quickly and we move forward. Just like a guy getting his four foul or his fifth foul, you have to put somebody else in the game.”
CHANGING OF THE GUARDS … AND POSTS
Beilein has long been known for his four-guard offense, but on Thursday he explained that the Wolverines had actually considered a three outside, two inside type option before last season.
“I think we could’ve moved that way if Jon Horford hadn’t gotten hurt this year,” Beilein said. “We talked about being more flexible and in truth, it was difficult to go both ways. The best thing was to play [that] way and adapt within the game itself.”
With Horford sidelined due to injury and just one true big man, Jordan Morgan, picking up most of the minutes, Michigan remained true to Beilein’s outside shooting offense.
However, with Horford nearly cleared and talented big men coming in with the 2012 recruiting class, the Wolverines might try to throw in more sets with two post players in order to mix up their offenses.
“I think we can have game-to-game [personnel plans],” Beilein said. “You’re playing Northwestern then Michigan State then maybe two different lineups you put out there to suit what’s best. I think we’re getting stronger in our flexibility. We pride ourselves on flexibility, but we’re getting stronger with flexibility.”
HERE AND THERE
The Wolverines haven’t closed out their schedule for the 2012-13 season yet and Beilein said there’s an opportunity for a “guarantee game” or the possibility of a home-and-home series with a more marquee opponent. He also said the team will start the season off with a non-Division-I opponent.
With last week’s public announcement of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchups, Beilein said he wasn’t surprised that the Wolverines landed North Carolina State. Coaches were informed which teams would be playing home and away earlier than usual so Beilein was expecting the NC State game.
“North Carolina State is a former national champion,” Beilein said. “They had a tremendous year, went further than us and had a great recruiting class as well.”
Michigan is committed to preseason tournaments over Thanksgiving during the next three to four seasons, though Beilein didn’t say exactly which.
With the possibility on the far horizon of Big Ten football teams facing off against Pac-12 competition every season, the thought of whether that should happen with basketball has also come up.
“If this partnership takes any type of shape where we’re actually in a plan of playing those teams [in football], then I think it’s a real possibility that we’d get something going opposite the ACC/Big Ten Challenge,” Beilein said.
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