Michigan Basketball: 5 Things Wolverines Must Do to Win the Big Ten Title

Zach Dirlam@Zach_DirlamSenior Analyst IIDecember 27, 2012

Michigan Basketball: 5 Things Wolverines Must Do to Win the Big Ten Title

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    After winning the Big Ten title last season, the Michigan Wolverines have started their repeat campaign with a 12-0 record, are ranked No. 2 in the nation and are playing as good as anyone else in the country right now.

    The Wolverines have improved their rebounding woes from a year ago and are one of the best teams in college basketball right now in terms of field goal percentage.

    What are five things Michigan will need to do in order to win the Big Ten for a second straight season, though? 

Tim Hardaway Jr. Must Cut Down His Three-Point Attempts

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    Even though junior shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. is shooting a career-high 47 percent from the field, the Miami, Fla. native needs to cut down on his three-point attempts in order for the Michigan Wolverines to win a second consecutive Big Ten title.

    Hardaway has only shot better than 50 percent from behind the arc twice since Nov. 13, and in one of those games he only attempted two threes. 

    The 6'6", 205-pounder has done a good job of limiting his long-range shots in Michigan's past six games, which is a good sign going forward for the Wolverines.

    Far too often, though, Hardaway will make a three-pointer early in the game and settle for deep jumpers (i.e., vs. Pittsburgh, N.C. State and Binghamton) as opposed to taking far less talented defenders to the basket and getting to the free-throw line or pulling up from inside the arc where he is shooting 56 percent.

    If Hardaway can avoid falling back into bad habits and continues to attack the rim once Big Ten play begins, the Wolverines will be tough to beat.

Michigan Must Continue to Get Easy Baskets

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    Head coach John Beilein's offense does a great job of spreading opposing defenses out and creating open shots, but the Michigan Wolverines have also utilized the extra spacing this season to attack the basket and get easy layups.

    As a result, the Wolverines are shooting 51 percent, which makes them the No. 6 team in the country in field goal percentage.

    Now that Michigan has great size and length with freshmen Glenn Robinson III, Nik Stauskas and junior Tim Hardaway Jr., the Wolverines are no longer reliant on outshooting opponents from the three-point line.

    If Michigan continues to get to the rim and finish its easy attempts, there will not be too many teams in the Big Ten capable of topping the Wolverines.

Trey Burke Needs to Maintain His Hot Start

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    The main reason the Michigan Wolverines have started the 2012-13 season with 12 wins and zero losses is because of how well sophomore point guard Trey Burke has played throughout nonconference play.

    Burke is averaging 17.4 points per game and just over seven assists per contest, in addition to shooting 51 percent from the field.

    The Columbus, Ohio, native is the centerpiece of Michigan's offense and has scored 20 or more points in four games this season, which is the kind of production the Wolverines will need from Burke during Big Ten play.

    Anytime Michigan has struggled in the early portions of a game Burke has always provided the answer, especially against the West Virginia Mountaineers. The 6'0", 190-pounder dropped 27 points on the Mountaineers and made it look like he'd been holding back in some of Michigan's other games.

    Burke is a natural scorer, and if he continues to distribute and score in bunches, the Wolverines will be in the thick of the Big Ten race until the very end.

Nik Stauskas Has to Keep Knocking Down Three-Pointers

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    The Michigan Wolverines have become less dependent on their three-point shooting as a team, but freshman shooting guard Nik Stauskas needs to continue to be a threat from behind the arc in order to keep opposing defenses honest and open up extra space for his teammates to work with.

    Stauskas is shooting just under 56 percent from behind the arc and is the nation's top three-point shooter through Michigan's first 12 games.

    The Mississauga, Ontario, product can do a lot more than shoot the three ball, but his sharpshooting is what the Wolverines need most in order to make a run at a Big Ten championship.

The Wolverines Must Continue to Rebound Well

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    By far the biggest area of improvement for the Michigan Wolverines this season has been rebounding. The Maize and Blue were one of the worst teams in the country on the glass last year, but are now in the top 100 with an average of 38.1 rebounds per game.

    Freshman big man Mitch McGary has more than done his part with 5.8 rebounds per contest, and Glenn Robinson III has utilized his length and athleticism to pull down a team-best 6.2 boards per game.

    Michigan has not faced a team with a strong interior rebounding presence, though, and teams like the Michigan State Spartans, Indiana Hoosiers and Minnesota Golden Gophers will provide the Wolverines with a difficult matchup in the paint.

    The Wolverines have made great strides to improve their rebounding efforts, but the teams in the Big Ten will be a much more accurate barometer for how far Michigan has come.