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The opponent’s view: Michigan’s speed might be used to counter Arizona’s length

Passing along a story from the Detroit Free Press, one of our partners under the Gannett umbrella. Top-ranked Arizona plays at Michigan on Saturday, starting at 10 a.m. Tucson time on CBS. For more coverage of the game from the Michigan side, go to the Detroit Free Press.

Arizona's Kaleb Tarczewski will have an intriguing matchup against Michigan's Mitch McGary. Photo by Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona’s Kaleb Tarczewski will have an intriguing matchup against Michigan’s Mitch McGary. Photo by Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

By Mark Snyder
Detroit Free Press Sports Writer

Earlier this week, Michigan coach John Beilein called No. 1 Arizona a team without a weakness entering Crisler Center for today’s game, a noon tip-off on CBS.

Beilein has usually figured out how to scheme against elite teams in the past, but those plans focused on a basketball concept.

But you can’t coach height, as the saying goes.

The Wildcats’ athletic front line of 7-foot Kaleb Tarczewski, 6-9 Aaron Gordon and 6-8 Brandon Ashley are a matchup nightmare as opponents must try to attack a team with extraordinarily long arms.

“They can help and recover so well in those gaps,” Beilein said Friday. “You think you’re open for a three, then all of the sudden. … We’re practicing with these long sticks all day today because they can close back out and get there. They have great length and great quickness and you also have a shot blocker underneath.”

Not only that, but the Wildcats are relentless on the glass, ranking second nationally with a plus-14.3 rebound margin per game.

The game plan with U-M’s likely 6-6 starting forwards alongside 6-10 Mitch McGary probably will be getting out in transition and trying to beat Arizona down court.

“It’s going to be a different look, but obviously they impose some mismatches or advantages in size and we might have some advantages in our speed,” U-M center Jordan Morgan said.

“We thrive when we get in transition, that’s something this team is great at,” Glenn Robinson III said. “Every opportunity we get to bust out in transition, we’re going to take.”

Even that might be a challenge, as Arizona opponents only have eight dunks all season.

The other option would be to bomb away from three-point range, but Arizona is dominant there too, allowing just 27.2% shooting.

Size-wise, Morgan compared the Wildcats to Florida State. Defensively, Beilein suggested Ohio State.

Either way, Michigan will have to play different than any of Arizona’s first 10 opponents to pull off the upset.

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