Spike Albrecht, big man depth has Michigan coach John Beilein sweating foul trouble far less this season
ANN ARBOR -- In a span of four minutes Friday, John Beilein lost his best player and his starting center to foul trouble for the rest of the first half.
In previous years, notably last season, that combination may have ended in disaster for the Michigan basketball team.
But against Kansas State in Madison Square Garden, it resulted in a 14-point win and an NIT Season Tip-Off championship.
"It used to be very concerning when we had foul trouble like that," Beilein said. "(It's) not concerning (as much) now."
When one of Beilein's players picks up two first half fouls, his long-standing personal rule -- one he almost never flinches from -- means that player won't see the floor again until after halftime.
And with six minutes remaining in the first half Friday, both Trey Burke and Jordan Morgan were abiding by that rule.
Morgan has dealt with foul trouble throughout his career, but losing Burke is a different story altogether. On the road at Iowa last season, Beilein chose to sit Burke for a large chunk of the first half with foul trouble, and as a result, the Wolverines lost by 16.
But that team didn't have freshman point guard Spike Albrecht. It didn't have Mitch McGary, and it didn't have a healthy Jon Horford.
"Burke had the two fouls, but we had a lot of confidence in Spike," Beilein said. "And we have a third big guy if we need him, really a fourth (Max Bielfeldt) in emergency. Thank God Jon was there to help us.
"We haven't always had this luxury."
No, he hasn't.
Michigan won a share of the Big Ten championship last season with basically a 6-man rotation. Beilein started Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Stu Douglass, Zack Novak and Morgan for most of the season, with former forward Evan Smotrycz coming off the bench.
He used Matt Vogrich and Blake McLimans from time to time, but never in consistent stretches.
Roughly 12 minutes into Friday's game against Kansas State, a team with NCAA Tournament-ability, Beilein had already played 10 players.
Albrecht finished the game with 3 points and 2 rebounds in 12 minutes, Horford had 6 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists in 17 minutes and McGary had 6 points, 3 rebounds and a block in 14 minutes.
In total, Michigan's bench combined for 27 points and 14 rebounds against Kansas State.
For Michigan, foul trouble is still cause for concern.
But this year, it's not cause for panic.
"I really didn't have any type of concern," Burke said of the team's foul issues Friday. "I continued to clap (on the sideline) and stay encouraging.
"I wasn't concerned, I knew we'd (be fine)."