ANN ARBOR — John Beilein loves watching film of his team’s games and practices. Like many coaches, he worries about the next opponent’s defensive strategy and whether he’s adequately prepared his team. If only there were more time, he’s often thought.
Michigan’s recent schedule has the basketball coach reassessing that opinion.
“There have been times I was envious of hockey and football: ‘Hey, listen, you’ve got a whole week to prepare every time. You get yourself into a rhythm,'” Beilein said after Michigan’s latest game, a win over Western Michigan on Saturday. “What I discovered this week is that’s not a very comfortable rhythm for basketball players to play once a week. So I felt that was hard.”
Michigan’s game against WMU was its first in a full week. The Wolverines started slow, scoring just 13 points in the first 13 minutes and falling behind by eight before a late first-half surge propelled them to a 70-62 win.
Michigan will go another week before playing Air Force on Saturday, then not play again until the following Sunday, Dec. 30.
“I tried to gauge it so we’d get rested and we’d get into a normal two-day prep,” Beilein said after the Western Michigan game. “We have to examine that and see if we pushed the right buttons.”
Players wear sensors that monitor their workload in practices and games, which help the Michigan staff “push the right buttons,” as Beilein said. But even if the players are getting an adequate amount of reps without wearing themselves out, there’s no substitute for actual games.
“Going from game to game to game, you catch a rhythm,” sophomore guard Jordan Poole said. “When you’re not playing for a week, it’s definitely different. I personally don’t like it. But I feel like we’re going to have to find a way to get over it.”
Because of final exams and the holidays, most schools are playing fewer games, relative to the rest of the season, this time of year.
Western Michigan had also not played in a week before facing Michigan. Air Force will be two weeks removed from its last game when it tips at Crisler Center on Saturday. Michigan’s opponent after that, Binghamton, will have one extra day of rest compared to Michigan.
In other words, there can’t be any excuses for the Wolverines, since their opponents are dealing with the same issue.
After Michigan wraps its nonconference schedule with Binghamton, the games become much more frequent. Michigan resumes Big Ten play with Penn State on Jan. 3, the first of 18 games through the regular season finale on March 9.
For the most part, that means two games a week. Beilein won’t have as much time to prepare, but after this current stretch, that will be fine by him.