Like John Thompson III, John Beilein was hired to great fanfare with the hopes that he could bring a floundering program back to its 1980s championship form. Much like Thompson, he inherited a young team, and even the upperclassmen that were still around were going to have to learn a new system unlike anything they had done before.

As Beilein takes over at Michigan, Wolverine fans hope that his unorthodox strategy will rejuvenate a team that once dominated college basketball, winning the national title in 1989, but that has not been to the NCAA Tournament since 1998. Thursday night’s game versus No. 5 Georgetown (1-0) will be the first real test to see if Beilein’s system has taken hold, when ichigan (2-0) plays its first game against an opponent of consequence on the road.

Beilein’s offense is known for the importance that it places on running, cutting and taking shots from three-point territory. Beilein-coached teams begin offensive sets with four players outside the three-point line and one at the high post in an attempt to set up cuts to the basket or open threes. On defense, he utilizes the rare 1-3-1 zone, which is effective for jamming up opponents inside.

Luckily for the Hoyas, they’ve seen Beilein’s system before. Beilein coached Big East opponent West Virginia from 2002 to 2007, and last year he led the Mountaineers to the NIT championship.

Beilein and Thompson were unavailable for comment.

Beilein’s team at Michigan is largely inexperienced, as it lost four of its starters from last year’s 22-13 (8-8 Big Ten) team. The Wolverines’ lone returning starter, junior guard Jerret Smith, has not seen any playing time yet after injuring his ankle in practice last week. Even if he is healthy by Thursday he will have to serve a one-game suspension that Beilein gave him for missing class.

Freshman Kelvin Grady has started in Smith’s place and has exceeded expectations. According to the Michigan Daily, Grady said that he was behind the other players in learning Beilein’s offense during the beginning of practice, but in his first two games he has averaged 10.5 points, two rebounds and three assists. He has also made 5-of-8 three-pointers so far.

Michigan also has the Big Ten player of the week in sophomore forward DeShawn Sims, who put up a career-best 23 points against Radford and followed that up with 17 against Brown.

Grady and Sims are flanked by fellow freshman guard Manny Harris, a four-star recruit who has made an immediate impact, scoring 22 points against Brown and 13 against Radford to start the season.

The key for Georgetown will be guarding Michigan on the perimeter. In Saturday’s game, Georgetown allowed William & Mary several open threes early on in the game, as the Tribe made five of their first eight attempts beyond the arc.

The Wolverines, who are 19-for-47 (40.4 percent) from beyond the arc so far, have demonstrated that they take – and make – three-pointers whenever they get the opportunity. It’s one of Beilein’s many new changes for Michigan, which attempted only 495 threes last year, about half of the 989 that his former West Virginia team attempted.

The effectiveness of the 1-3-1 zone will depend on whether the Hoyas will be able to evade the Wolverines’ traps and get the ball to senior center Roy Hibbert. The turning point of Georgetown’s game against William & Mary came when the Hoyas were able to put the ball in Hibbert’s hands instead of settling for threes, but the 1-3-1 defense tries to trap big men and force teams to earn their points on jump shots. Though guards Jonathan Wallace and Jessie Sapp combined to sink 7-of-14 three-pointers against William & Mary, Georgetown will need a better showing from its reserves, who only scored two of the Hoyas’ 68 points Saturday, to get around Michigan’s pressure-packed defense.

The Hoyas and the Wolverines face off Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Verizon Center. The game will be broadcast online in certain regions on ESPN360 and on SportsTalk 980 radio.

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