Michigan basketball team's practices have been more intense than games, in some instances
ANN ARBOR -- The Michigan basketball team is beating its opponents by an average of 20.4 points per game.
Four times this season, the third-ranked Wolverines have scored wins by 30 points or more.
Michigan has had a few easy-breathing games on its way to the program's first 9-0 start in 24 years. But the days in between those games have been anything but simple, according to players.
"I would say practice is the hardest part about everything," Michigan freshman forward Glenn Robinson III said Monday. "Practices are way harder than the games."
At this point, Michigan coach John Beilein is using a rotation that features nine to 10 players every game.
And, since there's only 40 minutes to spread around, the eternal struggle for playing time on the No. 3 team in America has turned his practices into fierce battle sessions so far this season.
Possibly the most intense, most competitive practices he's ever coached during his 35-year run in college basketball.
"Everybody knows that we're watching everything, because that's how we dole out the minutes," Beilein said. "When you can go with eight that are really competing for playing time, that really makes a difference.
"When you go 5 on 5, you've got four on each side that are really fighting for playing time."
Michigan's talent level doesn't hurt its practice habits, either. The Wolverines have more talent on their roster than at any other point of Beilein's tenure at Michigan, and currently, its two best players have been leading the way when it comes to setting of an example of how to practice.
Of everyone fighting for minutes each day, Beilein says the two players with the least to worry about -- Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. -- seem to go harder than everyone else. Which, naturally, ramps up the intensity of the entire workout.
"It's like Zack (Novak) and Stu (Douglass) all over again," Beilein said. "(Burke and Hardaway) go at each other. When we go 1 on 1, they're going at each other quite a bit. And it's really good.
"And I tell them, you don't have many situations like this, with this type of talent and intensity going at each other every day."
With the Big Ten seeming to stand alone as the top conference in college basketball this season, it stands to reason that the notion of practices being harder than games will go away rather quickly.
But, on Tuesday, Michigan hosts Binghamton. The Wolverines are a 38-point favorite.
There's a good chance that Monday's 5 on 5 scrimmage workout will be a more hotly-contested situation.
"We're tough competitors, and everybody out here wants to win," Robinson said. "To me, practices are tougher (right now)."
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