Transcript: Michigan pre-NCAA tournament press conference

Dylan Burkhardt
on
DSC00667

John Beilein, Zack Novak, Stu Douglass, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke met with the media today before their open practice at Bridgestone Arena. Here’s a transcript of remarks from Michigan players followed by John Beilein.

Q. This could be for anybody up there. They talk about Ohio’s stiff link defense. Talk about what prepared you during the season to get ready for such a defense this year.

STU DOUGLASS: We just played a team like Ohio State, great trapping team just like Ohio. On ball pressure, different stuff like that. We’ve seen it throughout the entire Big Ten season. We made adjustments and we approached it just like normal, really, like we have with any other Big Ten team that applies the same type pressure.

Q. They’re noted for taking away the three. They defended the three well. Is that something they’re doing other just people are not taking as many or putting a lot of pressure on people? Did you see that on film?

ZACK NOVAK: They get in you, they climb up. They’ll let you catch the ball, but afterwards it seems like they try to eat you up. They force a lot of turnovers. You know, I think it will be just a battle of we run good action. They guard the three-point well. You know, I think if we execute, we should be able to get some good looks.

Q. How has this experience been any different? Is it any different from last year’s tournament being here the second time?

TIM HARDAWAY, JR.: Any NCAA Tournament is not the same. It’s our honor and privilege to be here. We take it as we do every game going into, just prepare like it’s our last and try to go out there and give it all we got.

Q. Trey, they’re known for forcing turnovers like Zack mentioned. You guys are known for taking care of the basketball. How does that battle shape up, in your mind?

TREY BURKE: Like Zack said, just execute. You know, we watched a lot of film the last couple of weeks, and we know that they’re good at forcing turnovers. We’re going to try to take care of the ball and run our action. We really — like Coach Beilein said, our assistant coach, he said, take what the defense gives you. We’ll look at whatever type of looks they give us and play from there.

Q. Trey, you said you know DJ a little bit. Can you just talk about what you see from him and what kind of player he is, what you expect?

TREY BURKE: Great player. Similar to Tim Frazier of Penn state. Left-handed shooter. Very quick. You know, he runs their offense. He runs their team. He shoots a lot of their shots late in the shot clock, so I’m going to have my hands full tomorrow guarding him. It should be fun.

Q. Guys, at the Big Ten tournament you got it down early, Minnesota and Ohio State. How much of an emphasis is put on avoiding that against Ohio?

TREY BURKE: You know, it’s been a couple games this year where we started off slow and flat. You know, we’ve kind of made adjustments, that type of play early on in the game and tomorrow, you know, like I said, we have — we haven’t really lost two games all year. We’ll bounce back and come out two times harder.

Q. Guys, how have practices been since the Ohio State game? Do you sense a focus here?

STU DOUGLASS: Definitely been great. We’re making progress with dealing with their pressure. Nothing too special. Nothing out of the ordinary. Just been great focus, but this time we realize with Ohio State game how pressure post-season can be. It’s helped us focus leading up to this game.

Q. Zack was there a balance between getting you guys off your feet a couple days after the Big Ten tournament and going into those practices?

ZACK NOVAK: Definitely. Obviously we had Sunday off, travel day. Monday we got after it pretty well. Yesterday we cut it back a little bit. And obviously today with the weird scheduling, got an hour practice in the morning and half hour one coming up.

You know, it’s not as strenuous as normal. So I think guys had an opportunity to get their legs back under them. You know, the Big Ten season takes a lot out of you. If you can get a couple days that are easier and get your legs back, it will help out a lot.

Q. Tim, how do you guys react from a lot of people picking Ohio as a chic pick in a game like this for an upset?

TIM HARDAWAY, JR.: We’re not going to bypass them, we’re not going to look ahead of them. They’re a very good team. If you get selected to be in this tournament, you’re here for a reason. So we’re just going to go out there and try to play as hard as we can and try to limit their opportunity of trying to win the game.

Q. Any of the players, maybe particularly Trey, talk a little bit about just playing a MAC school, period. Seems a little bit underneath the Big Ten in the lot of ways, lot of comparisons. Some innate rivalries there. Can you maybe address that a little bit?

TREY BURKE: Like Tim said, we’re not going to overlook this team. They won the MAC for a reason. We know how good they can play and how well they’ve been playing lately. Just watching film on them lately, we see, you know, there go-to guys and how good they can be.

We’re going to go out there and have fun. Coming off the tough loss from Ohio State, we always bounce back hard and, you know, I have no — no doubt in my mind that the team will come back three times harder, come beat to our fullest tomorrow.

THE MODERATOR: Any more questions?

Q. For any of you guys. Trey, you just touched on it, what is it about your team that allows you not to let, you know, one game beat you twice? You have come back and not lost more than one game in a row, I guess for lack of a better phrase.

TIM HARDAWAY, JR.: I think it’s just Coach always says moving on to the next play. We do a great job of that. After a loss, we’re a very good team. We really like to learn in the film room and see what mistakes we made and what we can do to prevent that, and I think we just do a great job of just listening and being a team of just going out there and just trying to play hard and execute better the next time we’re out there on the floor. That’s what makes us a good team: This is hard way speaking.

Q. Could Zack and Stu elaborate a little bit on that, if that’s all right.

STU DOUGLASS: We go to the film room and any film session would be a very sobering experience. You’re playing all right and there could be double-digits mistake that you made in the entire game you don’t even realize sometimes. You got to put pride aside and grow up a little bit, just take responsibility for your own actions and move on and ask yourself what are you going to do for this team instead of saying, woe is me, why is Coach picking on me. Maturity and growing up and the experience we had last year has helped us a lot.

ZACK NOVAK: I would credit a lot of that to the leadership from the coaching staff. There’s been a few games this year we played really bad and the film sessions a little bit more lively and spirited, but typically whether it’s win or loss, you know, Coach comes in and the first clips every time are, you know, this is what you did wrong. He calls them “instructional clips.” If we want to be the team that we can be, this is what you’ve got to do.

So I think that consistency that even when you are winning or, you know, losing, you know, we’re just constantly learning and he’s constantly teaching us that, you know, when we do have a loss, we’re able to bounce back quicker, get back into our normal routine, because, you know, it’s not like the world ended. It’s the same thing that we do every time.

Q. Just wondering if you guys fill out a bracket and who you have winning it?

STU DOUGLASS: No. And I hope nobody on our team does.

Q. What’s the reason behind that? Is that just to kind of keep everything in front of you?

STU DOUGLASS: Yeah, exactly. That’s one of them.

A There’s a million reasons why. It’s just bad.

Q. All four of you been well represented by your families all season long. Can each of you comment how much that has meant to you with Zack and Stu, all four years, Tim and Trey, most recently and the support you get from them?

TREY BURKE: It’s meant a lot to me. I’m sure it’s meant a lot to the whole team when each family comes together and supports us, and not only the family, you know, our fans and just all the fans that come out and support us, and you really don’t see how much of an influence that it has and how much it helps us play out there, you know, just to have the type of support and type of fans we have is great.

STU DOUGLASS: Words can’t describe how appreciative I am for my mom and dad and all my extended family come and support me at games. You know, it’s not always easy to show that appreciation, especially after losses or you’re tired after every game, but, you know, I hope they know that how much it means to me and how much it means to these guys and, you know, always making jokes about my mom, how intense she is. It’s pretty funny. She’s become kind of a staple a little bit.

ZACK NOVAK: Nancy does get after it. But, no. I think it’s just — it’s cool. You know, I’m just happy that my parents are both coming down here, and obviously for Stu and I, this is the end of the road, so for them to be able to come watch us, you know, couple last times hopefully, I think it’s special and it’s just a credit to them.

I know for me, without my parents driving me around, you know, all over the Midwest when I was a kid, I wouldn’t be here. I think it’s just fun for them that they get to follow this and be a part of it, and, you know, I think for every family in general. I think the players for the most part, you know, we get along with everybody else’s parents.

Trey’s mom wrote the seniors a nice letter. It’s a close knit, you know, group and, you know, it’s been very fun to be a part of.

TIM HARDAWAY, JR.: Yeah. Like Zack said, Stu and Trey, it’s an honor and a privilege to have my family, you know, to be on this run with me while I’m in college, and, you know, just having my pops, my mom behind me, just having someone to talk to, you know, whether I’m having ups and downs, especially when I’m struggling out there. It helps out a lot.

Just through the fans walking through campus, that’s a big part of why we play is for them and just to hear them, you know, just come to the games and just talk to us while we’re on campus and stuff, it’s an honor and we respect them just like they respect us. So, it helps us out a lot.

THE MODERATOR: Take two more questions.

Q. Stu and Zack, is there a comfort level now having been here, this is your third time now, and what have you learned that kind of applies that you can use in a tournament like this?

STU DOUGLASS: Some of the jitters and excitement, you’re still anxious and anxious for the game to start, but the nervousness has gone down a little bit. I think it was good for us to experience it last year.

I don’t think Trey has to worry about that. He’s experienced a lot this year, nothing really affects him in that sense. So it’s a little different. We kind of know what to expect, and we know that seeding and all that kind of stuff isn’t really a big deal. Anybody can beat anybody at any given night. We haven’t been picked to win the first round since the last two tournament appearances. None of that really makes a difference.

ZACK NOVAK: This time around I would say the only difference is, you know, you’re more accustomed to things like this, the open practice and, you know, just the extra attention surrounding the game. Everybody’s families, coaching staffs and everything traveling with you. It’s a little different, but you kind of know what to expect. It’s not as distracting, but I would say “comfortable” is not a great word. I don’t think anybody, you know, when you get in the post-season play is going to be entirely comfortable.

I think it’s a good thing. You’re supposed to be a little bit nervous. You’re supposed — do that extra film study, practice a little bit harder just because you know it is winner go home, and that’s the type — that’s a part of the year that we’re at. So I think you just have to embrace that and go with it.

THE MODERATOR: Take one more. Anybody? All right. Thank you, guys.

Okay. We will begin with Coach Beilein. Coach, just give an opening statement, then we can open it up for questions.

COACH BEILEIN: The University of Michigan, we’re thrilled to be back into the NCAA Tournament again. We’re really proud of our team this year. Expectations were high going into the season, and we’re able to cap off our regular season with a regular — with a championship for the regular schedule of the league.

Now we’re facing a very good Ohio University team, and we have our work cut out for us. If you watch all these games, you watch the games the next couple days, there’s tremendous talent both in coaching and in student athletes in the tournament and Ohio University is no different.

THE MODERATOR: Questions.

Q. Coach, can you talk about why your team has been able to respond after every loss this season and not get drop two in a row?

COACH BEILEIN: We have some young men that really want to become better players, and they’re very receptive to our coaching staff of learning from their mistakes, and usually your mistakes are going to stand out a little bit more after a loss. So we’ve been able to take defeat and turn it into a great learning experience, whether it’s my assistant coach, whether it’s just them themselves, our entire coaching staff, we hate to lose, but we know there’s a treasure in loss — in your losses if you really look for it, you know, behind the disappointment.

THE MODERATOR: Other questions?

Q. Coach, can you talk about the focus that you’ve seen this week and the attention to detail and leadership from your guys?

COACH BEILEIN: Once again, after our loss in the semifinals Saturday, Sunday we took the day off as we traveled back, but Monday I wanted to go like 45 minutes to an hour. We went a little bit longer than that because our kids were into it. They were ready to roll again. Every practice has been high level, very intense, trying to find ways to make our team better.

Q. Coach, certainly Michigan in a national player again, national name again. It hasn’t been easy. It’s taken a lot work, I would imagine. What’s been the key to getting back to Michigan basketball?

COACH BEILEIN: I wish sometimes when you have these great experiences like that, you don’t know what the keys are. You know why you lose. Sometimes you don’t understand all the times that you win.

I think that we’ve really recruited young men that really are playing at Michigan and it’s a bit — many times for the most point, it’s a destination. They have dreamed of playing in the Big Ten their whole life. They are committed to being great players, and this is partly embraced as part of the journey. And so that’s a big part of it.

We’ve had tremendous support right now from the time I was hired by Bill Martin to Dave Brandon right now, our administration, our president Mary Sue Coleman, tremendous support, and there’s a momentum going right now between our improved facilities and just people waiting for Michigan to rise again that’s refreshing, and it actually provides a lot of inspiration to our players.

Q. Coach, you had some teams through the years that made some NCAA Tournament runs. Everybody is kind of taking their breathe today. This thing really seems to accelerate if you win and even more so in the second week. Could you just talk about the pace of it, and if you do break through the second week, how quick this whole thing happened?

COACH BEILEIN: I know anytime we’ve been able to make runs, there’s a lot of fortuitous bounces in it. It wasn’t some great coaching scheme. You have to just hang in there and hope that your team has just enough to get by because you’re not playing today. If you watch the UNC Asheville-Syracuse game right now, if you’re playing today, you’re playing somebody really good if you’re playing at this time of the year the NCAA Tournament.

You just have to stay with it and hope you’re in position to be in position at the end, that your kids, they’re — they don’t get too high or too low. I guarantee you, if they win and they advance, it’s one of the most memorable experiences any young man could ever go through. And, of course if you lose, the disappointment is as low as you can get because it’s the end of a dream.

I think everybody is in the same boat. All 68 teams are trying to get to that point where it just becomes magical for them, and it’s so much fun if they’re successful in that dream.

Q. Coach, USF is here in Nashville as well. They’re freshman point guard, Anthony Collins, his older brother played for you. Did you know him through J.D. when he played for you and whether you followed his success this year?

COACH BEILEIN: I don’t recall Anthony coming up to visit J.D. But we’ve been well aware because went to the same high school. When I watch him playing, it’s like I’m looking at the same young man.

J.D. was such — J.D. came into West Virginia basically with just to prove a point that he could play big time basketball, and we were looking for players with that type of attitude. And for four years, he started for four years, he did — went to the Elite 8, he went to the Sweet 16. He went to the NIT from a program that needed big time rebuilding.

I see there’s a lot of similarities in the two that they were handed the ball somewhat as a freshman and they play like seniors from the very beginning. I see that in Anthony, and J.D. did it similar, not as fast. His freshman year we were 14 and. We weren’t in the NCAA Tournament. But as time went on, nothing, nothing would get in J.D.’s way to success, both in the classroom and on the basketball court. Very bright young man.

Q. Trey Burke had such a good freshman year. When were you recruiting him, what were the qualities you saw him that made you decide to go after him and what were your expectations for what he could do as a freshman?

COACH BEILEIN: We were well aware of him when he was younger. It was a matter of what were we looking for as far as a point guard, did we need a point guard. Once we determined that over that summer — there’s a thing about a really good point guard, never seems to be guarded even though he’s being guarded. He just is one step ahead all the time.

He had a great demeanor in the game where he never seemed to get too high or too low, as I was speaking about before. Really had a presence in the game and watch him right now he — if you look at him, if he appears to be unflappable, he really is. He just continues to play on through the good and the bad, and we saw a lot of those things.

We like the idea he could also shoot the ball and would be perfect in both our passing offense and many pick and rolls that we run. I think probably the biggest point, too, when it came down to are we going to offer him a scholarship. We looked at what his success in high school, that he was a champion. That’s what we wanted to recruit.

THE MODERATOR: Any other questions?

Q. Coach, offensively what sticks out to you about Ohio and how do you defend them?

COACH BEILEIN: They’re very similar in some ways as D.J. Cooper is a tremendous talent at the point guard and the left handers, it’s just a little bit different where everybody spends their whole time trying to keep people from going right, all of a sudden you got a guy who’s exceptional both ways but really effective going to his left.

It starts there, but I think the rest of the young men, whether it’s the great shooters that they have, their big guys that — they’re two young men with I think maybe 55 and 70 offensive rebounds. Those are big numbers that we see from only the best in the Big Ten.

So, they just can do a lot of different things and, of course, their defense — I don’t know if we played a team that’s forcing 18 turnovers a game. It’s really a concern of ours. We got to value the ball because there’s not much a defense for a turnover and a fast break.

Q. Coach, in your experience, your previous experience in the tournament, how important is it to have guys that have been here before like Stu and Zack and that kind of leadership?

COACH BEILEIN: You know, I’m sure that it’s helpful. I don’t know, because, you know, the team that two years ago that played Clemson did not have any experience and my first West Virginia team did not have any experience. I think it’s helpful in a way that our guys have this part of it is not, you know, too much for them, and when they take the court out there, it’s not — Ohio University has a similar situation where many of their kids went two years ago with a great win over Georgetown.

You know, I’d like to have — if given a choice, I’d like to have it, but I don’t think it’s the end all, be all to guaranteed success.

Q. You’ve talked about going to more ball screen offense the last couple of years. How big an adjustment has that been for you and why do you think we’re seeing so much of it in college basketball these days?

COACH BEILEIN: Keeps growing, John. It’s incredible. Watch Ohio University, what they’re doing with it right now. It’s really good. It’s changing the game. I’ve said to many people, I said where everybody used to try to recruit and recruit and get big guys and get big guys, you need them, but you better — two things with your big guys. Number one, you better be able to defend a ball screen, because a typical guard today, a point guard, might get whacked with a screen 30, 40 times in a game and the big man is being attacked 30, 40 times a game by a guard. And so the defense, critical to get guys that can do that.

If you had a 7-footer in that ball screen and he doesn’t have very good feet, it’s really going to be hard to keep him in the game sometimes, where it used to be the other way around.

So, then I think a point guard situation right now, point guards and your off guards that can get into it really give you great, almost unscoutable plans because one inside out dribble, one crossover, one lift or rise up by the rest of the guys changes in seconds what it used to take three, four passes to do.

I have to show you that, John, on a board and things like that, but believe me, it’s really interesting how we’ve had to change. I’ve talked with several coaches that have been in it. I’m one of the few probably out there that coached before the three-point line, before the shot clock as a head coach, and this has as much impact as those two have had in the game.