It wasn’t pretty, and it rarely looked like the kind of offense that John Beilein had become famous for, but none of that matters to the program that Michigan has grown into.
Led by the likes of Zavier Simpson, Charles Matthews and Ignas Brazdeikis, the Wolverines have grown into a program that prides themselves on their defense, on the simple fact that they are going to make running offense against them a thoroughly miserable experience.
And Florida got the full Michigan experience on Saturday evening.
The No. 2-seed Wolverines, behind 19 points from Jordan Poole and nine points, nine boards and nine assists from Zavier Simpson, knocked off No. 10-seed Florida, 64-49, to advance out of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament for the third straight year and for the fifth time in the past seven seasons.
The transformation has been incredible to watch in real time.
John Beilein is, simply put, one of the brightest offensive minds that we have seen come through the college ranks. He was one of the first high-major coaches to fully embrace the ideals of small-ball and the advantages that come from thinking about efficiency, the three-pointer and pulling big men away from the rim. Remember Kevin Pittsnoggle?
This version of the Wolverines is nothing like those West Virginia teams.
Hell, this group is nothing like the team that Beilein took to the title game in 2013.
And all you really have to do is to look at this box score to figure it out.
Michigan shot 42 percent from the floor, 7-for-21 from three and scored all of 64 points and they never seemed to be out of control in this one. Florida is not exactly one of Billy Donovan’s teams this year, but this is still a pretty good team that couldn’t muster more than 49 points on 34.5 percent shooting. They grabbed just five offensive rebounds. They shot just two free throws. They scored just 49 points on 58 possessions (.844 points-per-possession) while committing just nine turnovers.
That’s what Michigan does.
They don’t foul, they don’t really gamble for turnovers, they’re not a great shot-blocking team. What they are is a team that executes scouting report defense better than just about anyone else in college basketball.
The credit goes to John Beilein, who has completed transformed what he is as a head coach, and I do not know if there are many, if any, coaches that can say they’ve done the same. Maybe Bob Huggins, turning West Virginia into Press Virginia, but I can’t really think of an example beyond that.
This is what I mean.
Beilein took West Virginia to the Elite 8 and Michigan to the 2013 title game playing beautiful, free-flowing offense at the expense of their defense. Last year, he took the Wolverines back to the title game playing exactly the opposite way — winning with defense even if it means that they’re going to have to win games in the 50s and 60s.
He reinvented himself in his mid-60s after spending a decade at the same job.
I hope that I can do the same one day.