In 2007, John Beilein took over a sputtering Michigan basketball program 21 years removed from its most recent Big Ten title. Eight seasons later, Beilein's built a nationally prominent program that's raised two Big Ten championship banners, reached back-to-back Elite Eights, participated in a national championship game, and coached a Naismith Player of the Year in Trey Burke under his watch. Yet, it very well may be an exhibition game against little Le Moyne College from Syracuse that stands out as his proudest moment. At least that's how it appeared when I watched the post-game exchange between Beilein and Le Moyne's head coach -- his son, Patrick Beilein -- after Michigan cruised to a 74-52 win over the Dolphins in the exhibition.
As for how the actual game went, the Wolverines disposed of the Division II opponent as expected. After looking a bit out of sorts in the beginning, Michigan got into a rhythm, scoring in transition and hammering the Dolphins on the glass. This propelled Michigan to a 15-0 run in the first half that gave the Wolverines a 19-5 lead that they'd never relinquish.
We saw positive signs from the team's new additions as well. Duncan Robinson showed a ton of promise in dropping 15 points, DJ Wilson displayed that oft-discussed athleticism, and Moritz Wagner altered some shots and even hit a three late. Michigan mostly scored at will and displayed a definite physical advantage. Perhaps the most important takeaways from this were that Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton, and Spike Albrecht looked just like their pre-injury selves. This is especially true for LeVert, Michigan's projected lottery pick, who tallied 22 points (with four three-pointers), four rebounds, and three assists.
It wasn't all gravy, though. Mark Donnal struggled some with Le Moyne's undersized forwards, Robinson was wobbly on the defensive end, and Wilson looked out of place at the four from time to time. In the second half, Aubrey Dawkins limped off the floor with a bum ankle, though it didn't appear to be serious. But in a contest such as tonight's, "no news is good news."
It’s tough to gather much from games like these. They don’t count towards a team’s record, it’s early in the season, and the level of competition isn’t anywhere near what Michigan will see every week come conference play. They’re coached as such, which is why we see teams tinker with combinations and going much deeper into the bench than normal.
For most fans, contests like we saw tonight are quickly forgotten and dismissed as little more than a glorified practice. But for John Beilein and his son, Patrick, that couldn’t be further from the truth.