Transcript: John Beilein, Michigan players preview Tennessee

Dylan Burkhardt

Michigan 79, Texas 65-12
Dustin Johnston

John Beilein, Glenn Robinson III, Nik Stauskas, and Jordan Morgan were on the podium this afternoon to preview Friday’s matchup with Tennessee. Read the full transcript of the press conference below.

Q.  Nik, can you talk about the changes that you made in the offseason to become I guess the player that you are right now?
NIK STAUSKAS:  I think the biggest adjustments I made were in the weight room.  Just trying to put on some size and getting more explosive.  And I think that’s helped me throughout the year, just being more confident, going to the basket and finishing over bigger defenders.

Q.  Glenn, could you tell us a little bit about your relationship over the years with Cuonzo Martin, given that he and your dad were so tight from back in the day?
GLENN ROBINSON:  They were teammates at Purdue.  They were actually roommates.  He’s a great family friend.  I know my mom and my grandma are all close with him and his family.
So we had a relationship throughout the years.  He recruited me.  Great guy.  And it’s just funny how things work out and now we’re playing him in the Sweet 16.

Q.  Jordan, how much do you embrace, kind of like Texas, when you hear the other team has a big physical advantage especially up front?
JORDAN MORGAN:  Well, I mean it’s kind of just like it’s a challenge.  They’re obviously very good down, like down low, and they’ve got a lot of size and great rebounders.  That’s kind of just what this is all about, is stepping up and trying to face those challenges, succeed or not.
It’s just an opportunity to prove yourself as a player and as a team.

Q.  Jordan, you guys, you’re going to be one of the guys banging against those two bigs down low.  Safe to say they played as much of a Big Ten style as some of the teams you saw in your conference?
JORDAN MORGAN:  I think they are a pretty good comparison what we would see in the Big Ten with their physicality in the paint and on top of that they’ve got really good scorers on the perimeter.  That’s pretty much what we see in the Big Ten.
So it’s going to be one of those type of, one of those type of games, and we’ve been through a lot of battles with teams in the Big Ten, so we look forward to going out there and playing again.

Q.  Nik, I know you’re very proud of your freshman year with Michigan.  But the last two games in the Final Four, did that serve as motivation for you moving forward as well?
NIK STAUSKAS:  No doubt.  No doubt.  You know, not only losing the Championship game, but just the fact that I didn’t play well personally those two games, it motivated me going into the summer, just gave me a little bit extra motivation to work harder on the court and in the weight room.
So all throughout that summer I kind of had a bad taste in my mouth just from those last two games and it kept me going.

Q.  Jordan, how much was last year’s experience helped this team at this stage in the tournament?
JORDAN MORGAN:  I think if you look at our team, we’re very young.  And I think that between last year’s tournament run and this year’s non‑conference schedule and Big Ten run, I think it’s really helped our team to mature quickly, and we play mostly freshmen and sophomores, with the exception of me and Jon Horford only upperclassmen on the team.
It’s prepared us for some of the situations we faced, close games, being down.  I don’t know how many times we’ve come back from being down and winning games.
But those situations don’t necessarily faze us as much as you would expect it to faze a young team.

Q.  You guys are No. 2 seed.  You’re supposed to be here.  When you looked at the bracket, you’re surprised to see an 11 seed like Tennessee who you’re playing, did you ever give that any thought?  Any of the guys.
GLENN ROBINSON:  I think we take any team right now during the tournament, if they made it here, then they’re a great team.
So I think we do a great job not looking at any numbers or anything like that, just going out and playing as hard as we can, because every team from now on, I believe, is going to be a close game.  It’s going to be a very interesting game no matter what.
NIK STAUSKAS:  Yeah, just piggybacking off of what Glenn said, every team in the Sweet 16, they’re here obviously for a reason.  They’re very talented.
If you look at Tennessee’s lineups they have, they have a lot of talented players with size and length.  So they’re going to be no joke, we’ve gotta take them very seriously.

Q.  Nik, looks like you’ll be facing Josh Richardson, a big wing.  What are the challenges with that and what do you have to do to be effective tomorrow?
NIK STAUSKAS:  From what I’ve seen on film and what I’ve heard, he’s a really good defender.  But that’s nothing new.  I’ve been facing really good defenders all year long throughout the Big Ten season.
I think I’ve done a good job of adjusting to different ways that teams have been playing me.  My teammates and coaches have done a great job of helping me adjust to those kind of things.  I’m sure tomorrow will be just another adjustment that I have to make.

Q.  Jordan, correct me if I’m wrong, but you’re the only guy up there who played against Tennessee last time in the tournament.  I guess when you get a chance to scout them and look at them, how are they different from the team you guys beat by 30 last time you saw them in the tournament?
JORDAN MORGAN:  I think just their style of play is different with the different coach.  You kind of look at some of the pieces that they have.  They have McRae is kind of similar to probably Scott, Houseman and they were pretty big down low.  Tobias Harris gave us trouble in the first half of that game.  They have a lot of size in the front court.
As far as the pieces go, I think they’re similar, I think they just have a different coach and different style of play and I think they’re much more motivated to play this time.  They’ve been playing really well lately.

Q.  Nik, sorry I’m all over you, but you had a reputation last year as a spot‑up shooter, correct me if I’m wrong, and that’s changed this year.  Did you always know that you had it in you to create your own offense, or is that something that you wanted to prove to the world coming into this season?
NIK STAUSKAS:  You know, I think I had‑‑ I showed signs of it last year, but that wasn’t really my role on the team with the guys that we had with Tre and Tim leading that team.
So I worked on those things in the offseason.  My ball handling and things like that.
But I think the main thing that’s changed is just my role on the team and what the coaches have asked me to do.  So I think that’s been the main difference in my game.

Q.  This is for Glenn, you’re a native of Indiana.  I was wondering, what did Coach Beilein to do to recruit you and convince you to go out of state, instead of Michigan or Purdue?
GLENN ROBINSON:  Michigan recruited me harder than Purdue and Indiana.  They believed in me and the rest of these guys up here, these two harder than any other school, I believe.
So at one time they believed in all of us more than we believed in ourselves at times.  They seen the potential we all had.  I thought they did a great job.  I love the coaching staff and my teammates.
THE MODERATOR:  Anything additional?

Q.  Nik, yesterday there was a ruling in Chicago that the Northwestern football players could form a union.  Just wondering if that’s something that you’ve ever thought about, any reaction to the news yesterday?
NIK STAUSKAS:  I didn’t even hear of that.  I don’t even know what that’s about.  So I can’t really comment on that.
THE MODERATOR:  Anybody else want to try that, Glenn or Jordan?
JORDAN MORGAN:  As far as forming a union, I’m not really sure what implications that has on how that affects student‑athletes really.  I haven’t really done a lot of looking into it.
GLENN ROBINSON:  I’m the same way, I don’t know too much about it.  So I can’t speak to that.  So…

Q.  There’s a belief that Tennessee’s athleticism and length can give your team trouble especially around the perimeter.  Have you faced a team similar to that throughout the season and are you prepared for I guess a little bit more difficult time from outside, I guess would be Nik and Glenn?
GLENN ROBINSON:  You know, you talked about the perimeter.  We had facing teams that had a little bit of length, especially in the Big Ten on the perimeter.  Also they have a bunch of big guys who can get work done inside.  So we faced that.  A lot of people said the same thing about Texas.
I think that it will just come down to will, just like the same game as last time.  You know, will, how bad do we want it.
We have to go out there with the right mindset and I think we prepared well and I think the coaches did a great job on the scout.
NIK STAUSKAS:  I think the length they have is very unique, and it’s going to pose some problems.  But at the same time, I feel the way we’ve been able to run our offense throughout this whole season, you know, really our success is just based off of how we’re playing that specific day.
Obviously they can do some things to maybe blow a few plays up, but I feel like if we play our basketball and stick to our main concepts we’ll be all right.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you guys.  We’ll see you tomorrow.
We’re joined by Coach Beilein.  Raise your hand and we’ll get a microphone to you.

Q.  Very much off the topic of this game.  The ruling yesterday with regard to the Northwestern football players being able to unionize, what do you think that portends about the future of college sports, and how do you think the locker room dynamic of the teams you coach in college would be altered if players could actually unionize?
COACH BEILEIN:  I’ve thought very little about this, as you can imagine, this is probably not the right forum for me to answer that, because I have heard a little bit about it.
We’re a big proponent of student‑athlete welfare, and I think anything that there can be more discussion is healthy for everyone.

Q.  Coach, as you looked across the bracket of who might be here, is Tennessee in any way a surprise, or just what do you think about Tennessee coming out of Raleigh?
COACH BEILEIN:  I’m not a big bracket guy.  I look at who we’re going to play and I knew that if we won that we would be playing Texas or Arizona State.  And that’s all I knew.  And we had to get out of that game and I figured out who we’d play.
But I’ve been watching Cuonzo and this team develop over these years and it’s really, it’s got such great experience on it, it’s something that is frankly so important to the success right now.
I looked at our game with Tennessee four years ago and to see if anybody was around, and it’s such a great, strong statement for who they are that McRae played one or two minutes in that game and Maymon played one or two minutes in that game and that was a 30‑point game.
So it shows these kids have worked their tails off to get to this point, and that’s really a credit to Cuonzo and their whole basketball program.

Q.  Can you just talk about what last year’s experience, how that if at all helps this team at this stage in the NCAA Tournament?
COACH BEILEIN:  Here’s what I’ve seen, just speaking from experience of being in this, is that there’s so many new things that come into your life, things like this, that can be not only distracting, but maybe just a little awesome for young men to be involved with.  And you just talked with Jordan Morgan and Glenn Robinson.  They have done this before.  So I think that that part allows them to just focus on the game.
This is not something that they’re dreading, all the media attention.  They’ve been through it.  They survived it.  And now they just go play basketball.  I think that helps a lot.  Getting used to the ten‑minute walk from your locker room to the floor can be something kids aren’t used to.
So they’re used to that.  That’s about the only thing I think that’s really helpful right now.

Q.  Coach, I guess two questions in one.  How has Nik Stauskas grown as a player from last year to now; and the second question in there is as a leader as well?
COACH BEILEIN:  I get that question a lot.  I think people may be surprised, because we saw so many things last year that as a freshman and playing alongside Tim Hardaway and Trey Burke, he didn’t have the same opportunities he had this year.  And we would have been crazy to say, All right, Nik’s our guy.  Our guys were Tim Hardaway and Trey Burke last year.
Now when we came in this year, Nik knew at the end of the year when both of them went pro, Nik, we have 80 more minutes, we have 25 more shots a game at least, who’s going to get those?  And we gotta have guys who are going to be leaders and defenders, who’s going to do that?  You obviously have a lot of talent.
Now, he spent his summer getting ready for this opportunity, and when given that opportunity he’s made the most of it.

Q.  Coach, so much is made out of the matchups, who is matching up with who.  Nik said something like it’s more about how you guys are running your actions, how you guys are performing.  Do you look at it that way?  Does your team look at it that way, maybe not getting bogged down in the matchups so much?
COACH BEILEIN:  I think there’s sometimes that matchups are really important.  And sometimes I don’t think they mean a darn thing.
So there’s going to be times in this game where it’s going to be a one‑on‑one situation and who’s playing who and how well they can guard the other guy.  There’s tremendous matchups in just in rebounding, et cetera.
But the actions they do, the actions we do, they negate a lot of those matchups.  Because both teams basically are trying to create leverage for their players, where a matchup is now a guy’s one step behind.
So that’s with basketball.  It’s not, Hey, this is going to be a one‑on‑one.  No, we’re trying to get leverage.  Cuonzo is trying to get leverage for his team.  So it’s not one‑on‑one, it’s one on half of one and everybody’s gotta rotate.

Q.  Somewhat off topic, but can you talk about how much you interact with Coach Kim Barnes and the women’s team, how much you’re talking strategy with her and what information you share with one another?
COACH BEILEIN:  With every women’s coach that I’ve been involved with, I think there’s healthy dialogue.  But I think she has great staff.  We have a very good staff‑‑ we have a tremendous staff.
And I think we both get into our own little programs too much.  I wouldn’t say that there’s a lot of dialogue.  I have watched a few of her games, probably more of them I watch on TV because we’re either traveling or getting reports.  We do root for each other really hard.
I think after the seasons are over we may talk more about strategy and recruiting.  But during the season, a few questions here and there, back and forth, but not a lot.

Q.  A lot has been I guess made early in the tournament about sort of the way the end of games are getting stretched out, in particular by video replay, just referees consistently trying to get to the monitor to make sure they’re getting things right on the game clock or different calls and things like that.  As video replay has expanded in college basketball what are your thoughts on kind of the balance between not breaking up the end of the game that slowly, but also making sure that you’re using it to get calls right, get situations right?
COACH BEILEIN:  Of course, when you’re coaching the game goes so fast, I’m not sitting there like a fan.  The whole idea is get the call right.  And if they can get the call right‑‑ in these games, with what’s at stake, it’s really important that we get that call right at the end.
So I think this has been another great move by our rules committee to make sure that in the end of games nobody’s looking at that monitor or the replay the next day or that night and saying that was our ball.  So I’m all for that.
Particularly, I’ve lost twice players in key games because of inadvertent elbow that was, had they had the monitor, they probably would have realized it probably wasn’t intentional.  But it looked intentional the first time.  So I think it’s all good.
And a few minutes here and there, it still makes the game better.

Q.  Coach, you have quite a few players who are from Indiana on your team.  I was wondering when you’re recruiting players, does the process of how you convince a player to come from their home state to Ann Arbor does it change at all from how you recruit a player from Michigan?
COACH BEILEIN:  That’s a good question.  I don’t think so.  I think we’re recruiting, Michigan fortunately is a national university, but we’d be crazy not to recruit the footprint of the Big Ten.
And Indianapolis is only four hours from Ann Arbor.  So this whole state is close to us.  I mean, we could go to the UP in Michigan and that’s maybe parts of the UP are six hours away.
So we are going to go wherever we can get to in a timely fashion where they like Big Ten basketball, but I don’t think we say, Hey, you get to go play against your home state.  I think that’s probably they may, but we don’t use it in recruiting.
We just say, This is who we are, this is our style, you fit our style, how would you like to come to Michigan.
Offer scholarships very rarely, very rarely.  We’re offering only to those that we really feel fit our program and that they really like Michigan as well.

Q.  Coach, about a month or so ago when Tennessee was struggling there was some unrest amongst their fan base about the job Cuonzo is doing and if they could get to this point.  Could you talk about the value of those first few years when you take over a program and maybe a program having patience to allow you to get your guys in the right spot and succeed?
COACH BEILEIN:  It’s incredible.  When the sky starts falling, we hear this all the time, you lose a couple of games on the road and tough games and the sky is falling.
It’s happened to me several times in my career and that’s just where you hang on tight as a coach and you just gotta just eliminate those distractions.  And fortunately, many of us, and I would say the majority of us, have administrations that they understand this game.  They understand the ups and downs of 19‑ and 20‑year‑old men and women, and they give you encouragement during that time when all the fans want immediate change just for the sake of change.
And it’s a sad statement when administration does not support people in those first few years.  It is really important.  In my third year we had a very difficult year after an NCAA Tournament.
And between Bill Martin, my new AD Dave Brandon, it was nothing but positive.  And it led us to be where we are today.
I would urge every administration should take that stance if the coach is doing everything that he can, and most are, to keep that program moving in a positive direction.

Q.  Coach, sorry we’re just getting in I’m sure you talked about Tennessee, but talk about the matchup, if you will, tomorrow night, specifically the defense that they have been playing to get to this point?
COACH BEILEIN:  Their defense is terrific.  Not surprised at all.  I do not know Cuonzo very much.  I do know he played with Glenn Robinson, Sr. or Glenn Robinson, Jr., rather, and knowing that he comes from the Gene Keady, Matt Painter type of background, I watched his teams they’re going to guard.
I don’t know, as they build this program they’re going to build it off their defense.  It is very, very good.  You look at their 40 percent field goal defense percentage, it’s terrific.
But I like also what he’s done offensively, is that there’s great diversity to their game.  There’s a great mixture of inside/outside.  And because sometimes your offense is your defense, because you’re scoring buckets like they do, you can set your D.

Q.  Just following up on the video replay, how much in those minutes can you use it like a timeout because you’ve got‑‑ how much can you use it as a timeout when you know the situation is under review in terms of where the ball might be taken out, how much time is left on the clock, that kind of thing?  How different is it, I guess, to group your guys up when there’s details of the game still being arranged to figure it out?
COACH BEILEIN:  Well, it can be a great advantage to a team.  I remember the Kansas game last year when Trey Burke hit the 3 late in that game, there was a good‑‑ it wasn’t to our advantage, but there was a good two‑, three‑minute delay where Bill Self was out of timeouts for his group.  That’s the residual effect on it.
The bottom line is get the clock right.  But if coaches get to coach their team more during that time, that’s a good thing.