Michigan's John Beilein Previews Matchup vs. North Carolina (w/video)

Michigan's John Beilein Previews Matchup vs. North Carolina (w/video)

Basketball

Michigan's John Beilein Previews Matchup vs. North Carolina (w/video)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Last year, when unranked Michigan took on No. 13 North Carolina in Chapel Hill as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, the game got away from the Wolverines in a hurry, as the maize and blue lost 86-71.

That game saw Michigan and UNC both start out hot, but as the Wolverines cooled off, the Tar Heels piled it on near the end of the first half and beginning in the second.

Now, a rematch has been set, with No. 11 UNC coming to Crisler Center to take on No. 7 Michigan. It wasn’t part of the non-conference schedule that was set as a home-and-home, as the game wasn’t announced until May of this year.

The Wolverines enter this game undefeated while the Tar Heels have but one loss — to No. 17 Texas. Michigan head coach John Beilein is elated for the rematch, and excited to see where his team is early this year compared to last year.

“You see so few home and homes that happen anymore, and this is a great one,” Beilein said. “Turned out to be a home and home for us – and we didn’t schedule it. Excited to have a chance to play against a great North Carolina team.

“Roy Williams is a personal friend of mine, and I have so much respect for him. They’ve just reloaded, incredibly. They have tremendous players. They really put it on us last year. It was almost the same script as the Villanova championship game. Last five minutes of the first half, first five minutes of the second half, everything imploded on us. All of a sudden, we’re looking at it down by 20. It even got worse than that. We’re gonna have to play better than we did last year. I don’t know how rested we were last year, and they weren’t either. They were coming from the West Coast, we were coming from Hawaii. But we did not play well, and credit North Carolina for that.

“Late game. I don’t think any of us love it. But that’s the way it is right now, especially if you’re a brand like Michigan – Duke and Indiana tonight, 9:30 – coast-to-coast, people love watching games like this. They’re excited about practicing today and getting ready for this game tomorrow.”

One of the biggest challenges in this game is how fast North Carolina, under head coach Roy Williams plays. Michigan, of course, wants to slow things down and play a defensive brand of basketball, but UNC likes to get out, run, shoot and score quickly.

As far as pace of play is concerned, North Carolina is 12th in the nation, averaging 80.7 possessions per game. Michigan, on the other hand, is 330th in the county at 67.

The Tar Heels, as well, are the second-best team in the country at scoring, averaging 96.6 points-per-game. The Wolverines defense plans to have a say in that, especially considering that the maize and blue scores 70.8 on average. And while UNC is near the very top in the country at scoring, the Wolverines are the best defensive team in the nation thus far in 2018-19, allowing but 48.3 points-per-game.

Beilein says that UNC’s ability to run and gun isn’t unique to this year or last. Looking back at head coach Roy Williams’ tenure both in Chapel Hill as well as in Lawrence, Kansas, it’s something of his M.O.

“When I think about Coach Williams’ teams at Kansas, it’s like, when they’re running, they’re running downhill,” Beilein said. “It’s like a freight train coming at you. They’re bigs running to the rim. (Not) fouling. Guys are in running lanes. Guys always got a deep outlet. Terrific point guard. So it’s really hard to do that.

“We have to make sure we get back and set our defense as much as we can. The Carolina break, the Kansas break – whatever we call it – it’s smooth, so fast and it caught us. They caught us with a lob to start the game last year. Muhammad and Duncan stood there paralyzed as to what was happening. We had been over it, but maybe not over it enough. It comes quicker than you think.

“And then their motion offense is really underestimated. There’s a lot of great screen action in it. We didn’t guard that well last year. But it is tough the control the pace on this team. They’re going to force their pace and we’re gonna have to adapt at times.”

And adapt is something that the Wolverines have the capability of doing.

Should Michigan have to play North Carolina’s game, while it might not be ideal, the maize and blue have the capability of running and scoring as well.

But, the plan is, to let the defense reign supreme on Wednesday night.

“I think we have flexibility to play a lot of different ways,” Beilein said. “We’ve still gotta stop people and we still have to be able to score points. But, being flexible is good.”

Michigan and North Carolina are set to tip-off at 9PM EST at Crisler Center on Wednesday night. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.

Follow @WolverinesWire / @IsaiahHole

Latest

More WolverinesWire
Home