How Michigan Won The B1G Conference Title In 2014

Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

Coaching, Chemistry, Competition

The Michigan Wolverines are B1G Conference Champions. How did the team predicted to finish third (or worse) win the B1G outright?

THE SYSTEM, THE COACHING

Losing Mitch McGary should have been the nail in the coffin for this Michigan team. But his injury didn't alter one truth: Beilein is going to run the same offensive/defensive system no matter what. Most offensive plays are going to be initiated from the elbow, giving guards a good angle to improvise or shoot. The matchup zone is not dependent on individual talent, more on responsibilities and working together to stop penetration.

THOSE GUARDS

Caris LeVert took THE LEAP into being an All-B1G type performer. Nik Stauskas used his green light to fire up high percentage threes; he turned into a beast at creating offense in 1-on-1 situations too. The young guards, Walton, Spike, Irvin, all played like veterans, hitting big shots and shooting a high percentage from the three point line.

Such an advantage the Wolverines have with multiple guards always on the floor, all being able to bring the ball up, all being able to shoot at a decently high level. Shut down Stauskas, someone else is going to step up. That's a luxury.

THAT COMPETITION

Last year, many B1G teams took advantage of Michigan's weak interior defense, outrebounding the Wolverines and throwing the ball inside to get points and fouls. This year, those same B1G teams lacked the talent and will to pound the ball inside. Gone were Derrick Nix and Cody Zeller. Adreian Payne missed the first game against Michigan and played ineffectively the second game.

Furthermore, the teams that would have aggressively challenged the Wolverines failed to mount serious challenges. OSU, MSU...Just weren't as good as people believed in the preseason.

UNINJURED MATURITY

Everyone on the Michigan team, it seemed, understood their role. When it became clear GR3 wasn't that great at initiating his own offense, he moved more comfortably to a complimentary role, scoring off rebounds and transition finishes. And after McGary went down, I can't recall an injury scare for the Wolverines main rotation. These players knew their roles and were able to maintain an impressive, uninterrupted chemistry throughout the conference season, note the lack of in-conference slumps.

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