|Michigan lost a school-record 22 games, but Beilein upbeat|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 15 March 2008 10:41|
``We had so many significant gains,'' Beilein told The Associated Press by phone Friday night after the season ended with a 51-34 loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten tournament. ``I remain very upbeat about the future.''
Athletic director Bill Martin stressed that rebuilding takes time.
``I knew this was going to take a few years,'' he told the AP. ``But I feel confident in the program's direction because John Beilein is a very sound teacher, a great bench coach and the kids have really taken to him. I'm very pleased with him and the progress he's made.''
The Wolverines have failed to earn a bid to the NCAA tournament in a decade and their last Big Ten title was in 1986.
This season, Michigan's bottom line shows just 10 wins and 22 losses - two more than the school's previous high during the 1959-60 season.
``We did a good job of not quitting and letting those losses become contagious,'' DeShawn Sims said. ``And every game we went out trying to fight and trying to get better every day.''
Players such as Ekpe Udoh quietly provided hope. As a freshman last year under Tommy Amaker, Udoh was a defensive specialist.
With Beilein, he struggled to find a niche. But toward the end of the season he had enough confidence to take and make jump shots - even 3-pointers - while maintaining his rebounding and shot-blocking.
``How a player develops, like Ekpe did, is way underrated when compared to what the kid was rated as a recruit,'' Beilein said.
Freshman Manny Harris stuck with Beilein and Michigan after Amaker was fired. He averaged a team-high 16 points and was a consensus All-Big Ten second team. Sims scored 12 points a game after averaging just 3.4 as a freshman.
Purdue coach Matt Painter said last week the duo of Harris and Sims gives Michigan a better chance to turn things around.
Beilein plans to hold his last team meeting Sunday night, when his players will watch the NCAA tournament selection show.
``I grew up on an apple farm and we got pruned many times this year so the apples will grow bigger and better every year,'' Beilein said. ``So we've gone through that process and we embraced it as much as we could, as hard as it was. Now we just move forward with a similar plan, with a few additions and a great group of young men.''