Don’t Let The Coach Off The Hook
By: Matt Dery
The more I watch it, the more I just do not understand it. How on earth did Michigan lose that game Saturday at Wisconsin? Sure, the kid hit a great shot. Ben Brust deserves a ton of credit for knocking down a 40 footer at the buzzer to send the game into overtime. But John Beilein deserves a ton of blame. That should never have happened and it’s on him as the coach.
Beilein has done a remarkable job at Michigan. He has recruited players to the school that nobody thought would ever even think of going there. His system is fun and it is working, in a conference known more for pushing and shoving than three point artistry and athletic guard play. Michigan is back and Beilein is the man at the steering wheel, but on Saturday he crashed the car.
With two fouls to give in that situation up by 3 and 2.4 seconds left, it was an easy call for Beilein on the bench. Foul. Wisconsin cannot tie the game from the free throw line. Sure, many coaches get scared that if you foul a player in the act of shooting, you could give up a four point play. I get that. But the Badgers had to go the length of the floor and that seemed like impossibility. Foul. Grab a kid the minute he touches the ball. Heck, tell the officials that you are going to foul immediately and put it in their minds to be ready to blow the whistle before any Badger attempts to release a shot. I’ve seen that done before. Coach Beilein did instruct his guys to foul and said so afterwards.
“We were trying to foul. That was the instruction coming out. We had two fouls to give. He turned the corner on Caris (LeVert) and he couldn’t get it done in time.”
Wow. Well that should take Beilein off the hook, right? He told them to foul and they didn’t execute, right? Wrong. It is still on the coach to have the right five guys on the floor to finish the job.
LeVert, who is a good defender, messed up. But maybe he shouldn’t have been on the floor. Maybe he is not ready for a situation like that as a sparingly used freshman. In addition, why was Mitch McGary standing under the Michigan basket and not guarding the inbounder? At first I thought, yes, it is a philosophy not to guard the inbounder and to have five guys against four on the actual floor. I get that.
But the more I watch the replay, the more furious I get at the coaches for having players out of position and basically useless defensively in that situation. Why guard the basket? The Badgers needed three points! Here is Beilein’s explanation on that particular call with McGary:
“Mitch is in the back in case they go over the top; give you one more guy to make sure you can’t get a three. In retrospect, maybe it was a direct pass, having Mitch on the ball but that could put another guy in a 1-on-1 jump ball. They got some long dudes at the other end. … They could run a tip play, catch it, they can win a lot of those jump balls at the other end so we wanted to make sure we had an extra guy back.”
I really don’t get it. The bottom line is Michigan should be tied for first place in the Big Ten at 9-2. Heck, Wisconsin boss Bo Ryan’s decisions on two occasions not to foul also should have cost him the game. He did not exactly win any Coach of the Year trophies on Saturday either.