I was widely ridiculed for projecting Michigan to get to 21 wins. One person even said the prediction put my credibility in doubt. I cited as one of my reasons why I thought they could get to 21 wins was because of what a tremendous coach John Beilein is. The guy is a proven winner and teacher. His players actually improve each year and they develop as players both mentally and physically.
Take DeShawn Sims for example. He has developed his game by leaps and bounds since John Beilein took over at Michigan. Coach Beilein has described Sims as a warrior and commented on how hard he has worked. Sims took over the game in the win against Duke and scored 28 points and hauled down 12 boards. He helped lead Michigan to its biggest win in at least the last 10 years.
Listen to what Sims has to say about his coach, who by the way many said when Beilein was hired that Sims would not “fit his system”, “Coach Beilein believed in me. He’s building a foundation and I’m glad I’m a part of it. He puts the c, the o, the a, the c and the h in coach. And he coaches you on an interpersonal level. It’s amazing. I’m a better player than I’ve ever been and I know more than I’ve ever known.”
I remember earlier this season John Beilein said, “You can win against anybody if you just believe in what you do”. I have said it before and will say it again, this team believes. They believe in what they are doing, they believe in their coach and they believe in each other.
So here we are 8 games into the season. Michigan is 6-2 and they have defeated the #4 ranked team in the country twice (UCLA and Duke). The loses were to Duke at a neutral site and one at Maryland. Sure this is the same team that was down 20 at the half, at home, against Savannah State. But they came back to win that game in overtime. Michigan has displayed some real mental toughness in the early part of the season. The players have played with desire and have been executing the offense and defense.
We know all about Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims. These guys are playing so well that people are wondering aloud if they will jump to the NBA after the season. I have heard Hubert Davis and Jay Bilas mention that on the air.
The emergence of Zack Novak has been really impressive. Besides Michigan his only other major offer was from Valparaiso. Some even wondered if he was athletic enough to play in the Big Ten. But there he was playing against Duke knocking down 4 clutch triples, including back to back bombs midway through the second half to tie the game and give Michigan a lead they would never surrender. This is the same guy who made a game saving steal with 3 seconds left against Savannah State and almost converted it into a game winning dunk at the buzzer. He has played with toughness and determination.
How about the development of Kelvin Grady? He has made great strides in his game and is becoming a real floor General. His speed was a definite factor in the Duke game. Against the aggressive and long Duke defense Grady played 28 minutes and scored 9 points, dished out 4 assists, and turned the ball over zero times.
Did anybody notice that Jevohn Shepherd not only started the Duke game but he was on the court for the final minutes of the game? Shepherd even dribbled out the clock after Duke decided to stop fouling. This is the same Jevohn Shepherd who struggled to find his role on the team, who in seasons past seemed to be a turnover waiting to happen. Now as the lone senior on this team he is making valuable contributions that are helping this team win. Is there anybody out there who still wants to question what John Beilein is doing?