John Beilein, Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III had the honors of taking the podium on Wednesday afternoon to preview Michigan’s Thursday evening match-up against South Dakota State. Read comments from Michigan’s head coach and the three players below.
Q. Yeah Trey, Mark talk about the match up with Nate Wolters of South Dakota State. Certainly a lot has been made of that in the national media?
TREY BURKE: A lot has been made of it. I know that’s something I’m trying not to focus on as far as a one-on-one match up. I obviously know he’s a really good player. I think 30 percent of their offense runs through him. It’s just my job to try to slow him down and make things tough for him.
Q. Let’s talk about this first experience in the tournament for you and what you’re looking forward to the most?
GLENN ROBINSON III: Just coming into it, I’ve just been excited the whole week and I thought that myself and the team did a great job preparing for it and you know I’ve just heard a lot of things about the tournament. Like I said, it’s my first time so I’m just excited to get out there playing and get going.
Q. For Tim, you guys have a lot of NBA legacies on your team. Is that a coincidence or do you think there’s something about guys who’ve been brought up in basketball like that that appeals to the program?
TIM HARDAWAY, JR.: I don’t think there’s no coincidence. We were brought here for a reason. Coach does a great job of recruiting. It just happened. We weren’t planning on doing this or it wasn’t planned on happening. I mean it was a blessing, you know, for all of us to be on the same team and we’re riding with it.
Q. Talk about the 13 seed and the perils of potentially playing a team where you’re so highly ranked against them.
GLENN ROBINSON III: You know, we just got to go out and just continue to compete the way that we have been and practice the same way. You know and just as long as we keep doing the same things, I’ll be — I think that we’ll be all right no matter who we play or what the seeds are, anything like that.
Q. Last year you guys get in the tournament, you blink and it’s gone. What do you learn from last year that you can take forward, what did that experience teach you?
TREY BURKE: No room in the margin this late in the season. It’s our jobs as captains to let everybody know, specifically the freshman that tomorrow could be our last game if we don’t come out and execute the way we know we can. So just come out with the amount of intensity that we’re down from the beginning of the game and I think that will take care of itself.
Q. Tim, you guys have had some trouble lately with slow starts. Are you concerned at all about that going into tomorrow?
TIM HARDAWAY, JR.: I’m not concerned with it at all. I know that our team is a great team. You know, we have had those slow starts here and there, but we know what we’re all capable of doing and we just want to make sure that we go out there and stick with our game plan and play Michigan basketball.
Q. What have you all seen of South Dakota State on film besides Nate Wolters? I mean, it seems like they play pretty similar style to you guys. Do you see a lot of similarities?
TIM HARDAWAY, JR.: Just watching film and just studying their action, you know, there’s a lot of ball screens involved with Nate, and they’re big, pick and pock big. And you know that 17-footer looks like it’s money every time he shoots it. So we just got to do the job of just contesting, just doing great job on our defensive switches our defensive principles, whatever our coaches want us to do.
Just try to go out there and try to play our hardest.
Q. You and Wolters were both at the Kevin Durant camp. Did you play on the same team? Play against him? What did you learn from that?
TIM HARDAWAY, JR.: Just his work ethic. He has incredible work ethic. He plays very, very hard. Doesn’t take any possessions off, and you can tell that he loves the game of basketball. He really gets his teammates involved. That’s what he’s out there doing right now is showing everybody. So it’s not going to be an easy task guarding him. It’s going to be tough.
We’re just going to do our best to contain him as much as possible and just try to go out and try to get a victory.
Q. I think your fans were sweating out whether or not you were going to be here playing in Auburn Hills. I see you smiling up there, Tim. What did it mean when you guys found out that you would just be able to hop on a bus and go play?
TREY BURKE: It means a lot being able to play in front of our fans here in Auburn Hills. You know it’s not too far from our campus. It means a lot. I know we have a lot of support tomorrow and it may feel like a home game hopefully depending on how many fans come out.
It’s just our job to just do what we need to do and they will be the fans. You know, our fans have been great all year. They’ve been great at lifting us up, you know, when we need, you know, some type of motivation and when we go on runs, you know, we definitely hear them.
Like I said, it’s definitely a plus for us being here in Auburn Hills.
Q. Along that line but kind of not a game related question, but on the eve of getting this tournament started, some of you, futures to be determined. Do you strike a balance of savoring the moment and enjoying being here verses focusing on the game?
GLENN ROBINSON III: I think there’s just one thing that you got to do is just stay in the moment at all times. I think our coaching staff does a great job of expressing that.
We’re not looking ahead into the future. We’re taking it day by day, game by game, and I think that’s something that we need to continue to do.
Trey, you were talking about the fans and how you’re going to have a lot of your fans here. It might be like a home game. Are you expecting a lot of first-time South Dakota State fans wearing green and white tomorrow?
TREY BURKE: Yes, definitely. I think there will be South Dakota State fans here. It’s the NCAA tournament. So I’m sure that their fans will come out and support them as much as possible. So like I say, I’m looking forward to it and hopefully we will have more fans than them. I’m pretty sure we will since we’re here in Michigan, but they are a really good team and they know how to get wins. We still have to do what we need to do.
MODERATOR: Thank you student-athletes.
Coach Beilein, we’d like you to make an opening statement.
COACH BEILEIN: We’re thrilled. I hope our team will show you that but we’re thrilled to be in this situation to be playing close to home, playing a team of the caliber of South Dakota State who we can seek and play with anybody in the country.
It’s NCAA time. It’s a great time of the year for all of us, and we’re excited. We’ve had some good practices. Got a little bit of rest. That’s the only good part of being beat earlier in the Big Ten tournament. We got an extra day just to regroup. Hopefully we’re fresh enough to come out and play our best.
Q. How important is the transition game in a game like this both of your team’s a little bit uptempo offensively, but both offense and defense in transition, that’s got to be tough?
COACH BEILEIN: I think what both teams have is terrific point guards, and you get the ball into those two young men’s hands and anything can happen. I mean, the way the game is being played now there’s things happening in transition that it’s just hard to practice for.
Some of it’s spontaneity, some of it’s planned, and there’s quick adjustments that both defenses have to make, and I expect we see a little bit of that.
In order to run, people got to make stops. We have to make stops. They have to make stops. But when both teams are running, they’re really good.
Q. John, what’s it like to be playing so close to home?
COACH BEILEIN: I just mentioned that because the only time I’ve really played close to home when we were at Richmond and we went to DC to play South Carolina.
So that was good for our fans. It’s really good for our fans to be close by here. I’m sure we’re going to have a good crowd of Michigan fans.
It is good. The travel’s easier, the whole thing, but once the ball goes up, it won’t mean anything. We got to play really good basketball. And once again, we’re playing a team of juniors and seniors that can beat anybody because of how well they play the game, how well they’ve been coached. Terrific basketball team.
But we’re excited that we’re this close to home. I think you’ll feel that tomorrow.
Q. Talk about the pitfalls of — do you feel like the two guards are kind of going to offset each other?
COACH BEILEIN: You look at the assist numbers on both young men, assist turnover numbers, they’re very much the same, and I think that it depends how you guard them, the areas they get to, but there’s residual effect off of what both of them do all the time.
So while some people may be looking at a matchup of those two, both of them get their teammates open. Those guys making those shots will probably determine as much of that matchup between those two really fine players.
Q. You’ve got a lot of guys with rich basketball backgrounds with Glenn and Jon and those guys. Is that coincidence they all ended up with you?
COACH BEILEIN: Yeah, it’s purely coincidence, but we really feel good about it because, you know, their dads do know basketball.
To allow their sons to go to Michigan, I know they felt very — they valued the education of Michigan. They knew — you know, they’d all been through this. They’re educated men. They decided Michigan was a good place for their son to go to. They also liked the coaching staff and our basketball program.
In all three of those situations, it wasn’t where we are now that they decided to do that; it was when we were first rebuilding the program. So we really — we think that’s always been a feather in our cap to have families. It’s not just the dad involved with all these. There’s a strong mother involved with every single one of these young men, and they’ve had a big part to do with their success as well.
Q. Interested in your assessment of heading into the tournament now that you’re out of conference play obviously.
How do you think overall the conference will represent in the upcoming tournament?
COACH BEILEIN: Well, Tom Izzo and I were just talking about that. It was a war this year that I — you know, he’s been in the conference longer than I have been in, but it reminded me of the best years in the Big East and the best years here, that there were so many teams that were not rebuilding.
They were lock loaded and that were really playing well.
So time will tell how we all do, I got to think we’re going to be very successful based on the way we did in December outside our conference. But you know who will know what the tools of the season would be on us in March because it was — there was one time where we played five of our away games, five of those away games were all nationally ranked teams. Now we had home games in between, but five away games in a row against nationally ranked teams. That’s quite a challenge.
Q. What concerned you the most in particular about this South Dakota State team you play tomorrow?
COACH BEILEIN: They’re like an amoeba with their offense. They can do so many different things without — that you can’t really organize for.
And then with the point guard, he just finds people that are open. I mean, you can’t really set down things with them. They are in motion, in motion, and then they’re hitting with these quick striking things which we’re saying they can’t have planned that. That is just players playing, and that’s always difficult for most teams to guard when, you know, there’s always — we say this all the time so my guys hear it. There’s a time to run a play and there’s a time to be a player. They do that mix really well.
Q. You’ve got the two bigs. Have you played another team where you think it’s kind of similar?
COACH BEILEIN: I just mentioned that before. I don’t think we’ve seen a big — a team in a Big Ten that has those two shooters that can shoot like that.
That’s really a challenge all the time. So you’ve got to try and find ways to defend that. It’s difficult to defend that, but that’s a great formula for, you know, a high-powered offense.
So we’ve been practicing, practicing, finding different ways. We got hopes that they’re going to miss. They’re going to get open shots sometimes. They’re going to get open shots. We got to hope that they’re going to miss some of those. But they’re not going to miss them all and we’re going to have to play just good enough so we can — don’t give them the second shots, don’t give them easy runouts. When we haven’t turned the ball over, and we’ve rebounded the ball really well, we’ve been able to play very, very good defense. But when we give people baskets through turnovers for poor communication, which is common when you have a roster like ours, people could score on you easily.