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Michigan basketball continuing defensive dominance from last year heading into Villanova

On the other hand, the shooting woes persist.

Holy Cross v Michigan Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

John Beilein is building a defensive reputation in Ann Arbor.

Two years ago, he hired Billy Donlon, who elevated the defense to No. 69 nationally in efficiency, per Ken Pomeroy. It had finished No. 89, No. 100 and No. 92 in the three years prior.

Donlon left for Northwestern, so Luke Yaklich joined the staff from Illinois State. The de-facto defensive coordinator transformed the defense into the No. 3 unit in the country.

In the two season-opening victories, the Wolverines are proving themselves to be stoppers once again.

Norfolk State and Holy Cross combined to score 81 points, averaging .61 points per possession. Opponents are shooting just under 34 percent in effective field goal percentage, 15 points below the national average.

In the early stages of the new season, Yaklich has this team in the top-5 in defensive efficiency once again. Where is it coming from?

That’s one place. The Maize and Blue are swatting 20 percent of opposing shots, fueled mostly by Jon Teske and Isaiah Livers.

The 7-foot Teske collected nine against the Spartans (of the Norfolk variety) and Crusaders, while Livers chipped in four. This provides lineup flexibility, particularly heading into Wednesday’s showdown with Villanova’s five-out attack.

Yaklich is continuing to emphasize running shooters off the 3-point line. Last year, the defense only ceded 30 percent of shot attempts from behind the arc (No. 6 in the country). Through two games, that mark is all the way down to 23.4 percent (No. 9 nationally).

So Michigan is preventing deep looks, and contesting everything at the net. Everything’s peachy for Beilein and company?

Not quite. The offense is still suffering shooting woes.

In the Big Ten Tournament Championship last spring against Purdue, the Wolverines poured in 1.17 points a possession on 62 percent on twos and 35 percent on threes. In seven of eight games since then, the offense has cleared 1.01 points a possession only once (vs. Texas A&M).

These are the numbers:

  • Montana State: 61 points (.92 per possession), 5-of-16 from three
  • Houston: 63 points (.98 per), 8-of-30

Obligatory Jordan Poole video time.

  • Texas A&M: 99 points (1.38 per), 14-of-24

Obligatory 3-point barrage video.

  • Florida State: 58 points (.91 per), 4-of-22
  • Loyola-Chicago: 69 points (1.01 per), 7-of-28
  • Villanova: 62 points (.93 per), 3-of-23
  • Norfolk State: 63 points (.91 per), 6-of-26
  • Holy Cross: 56 points (.89 per), 3-of-19

With Jordan Poole starting off 0-for-6 from beyond, and few other gunners on the roster, it may look more like Bo Ryan’s Wisconsin this winter in Ann Arbor.