Building a Strong Program, Four Minutes at a Time

By Bruce Madej

As the Michigan men's basketball team travels to Indianapolis today, the media and the fans are talking about NCAA Tournament possibilities for the Wolverines--the first time since 1998.

What the players and coaches are talking about is completely different; they are talking about Iowa, Iowa and Iowa. This coaching staff has this team believing in a mindset, in a philosophy and with it has come success.

Even outrebounded 30-13 by a Minnesota team which also shot 55 percent from the floor, John Beilein, his staff and more important the players found a way to win on Saturday afternoon. There was no secret; it was simple, quite simple. Win each four minute battle and never get mentally down.

With the Gophers going inside to score seemingly at will to start the second half, U-M kept 'the positive, yes face' in the huddle and worked on stopping Minnesota in the paint. Changing to a 2-3 zone, they worked on doubling and even tripling down on the Gopher size advantage, forcing them back outside where U-M has the advantage.

Then, of course, Laval Lucas-Perry hits back-to-back-to back three pointers. DeShawn Sims then takes over inside on the offensive end of the floor. And while media and fans want Manny Harris to score more points, one of the leading scorers in the conference showed why he could be the MVP of this league with his impressive play-making skills.

Don't discount the defense of CJ Lee, all of the important five minutes David Merritt played down the stretch, along with the shooting of Stu Douglass and Zach Novak because it was the team, the system and the philosophy of 'playing for one' that allowed U-M to have a 28-13 run over the final 13 minutes to take the win. Not one person.

John Beilein was hired at Michigan to build a program, not win a few big games or have one great season.

The mindset this staff has instilled in this team is to win every four minute battle on the court, stay focused and have fun. This U-M team is doing just that.

Now it is preparing for its next four minute battle, the first four minutes of the tomorrow's game versus Iowa. Then they need to play hard, smart and to the finish and this Wolverine team could win again with this system.

And if that does happen, the media and all the fans can really believe in the Michigan basketball program, not just the season.

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