Michigan’s John Beilein spoke on the Big Ten coaches teleconference Monday morning to preview his team’s upcoming game against Nebraska. He also touched on recent changes to college basketball since athletes began unionizing last year, and he finished with a story about how Canisius College made the NCAA tournament despite losing its best player.
Opening statement: “We had a great game Saturday with Wisconsin. Boy, they have just a terrific team. We had some chances that maybe if we played a bit better, we could’ve won, but at the same time, we got beat by a terrific team. Now we move on, got another experienced and veteran team coming in here in Nebraska. They’re coming off a great win over Michigan State. So we have our hands full, and the beat goes on.”
On Nebraska winning four of five: “I wouldn’t have watched them earlier to know what they’re doing lately [to be better]. What I do see is a terrific defensive team that is as good as anyone we’ve played. We just went from the frying pan to the fire here with Wisconsin and now Nebraska. Just two teams that really are hard to score on. They play a very patient game. They’re going to try and get the best shot they can on offensive, but defensively, just scoring — which is a challenge for us no matter who we’re playing — is really going to be hard against Nebraska.”
On dealing with injuries: “We embrace this next man up, because we have so many guys who are waiting for opportunities to play, and they’re all getting them. Sometimes it works out really well in a game or two for them, and then they may not play as well. But they all know they’re going to get another opportunity. We’re sort of redeveloping the team and the program again, and I feel good about the direction we’re going despite the losses we’ve had.”
On Derrick Walton’s improvements this year: “He was very fortunate last year to have guys like Jordan Morgan around him, Jon Horford around him. And then Glenn Robinson, Nik [Stauskas], even though they were sophomores, they had had a heck of a freshman year. He had some good guidance then. He has Spike Albrecht helping him also. He’s had a very solid sophomore year. He’s only 19 years old, so I believe his ceiling is much higher than even where he is right now.”
On changes since collegiate athletes began unionizing: “The meal thing is really great for our men and women, wherever they’re student-athletes. We can do so much with them around meals, and we’re not worrying about how many times they’ve been fed.
“The recruiting things with not having to chart phone calls and being able to text young men has been really easy. It was the worst thing ever when you’d make a phone call four times to a kid and he was never home or pick up, and you’d have to chart every single one and how long you were on and what date it was. It was mindless to have to do those things.
“The NCAA has shown over time a commitment to change. Sometimes it’s slower than other times, but the commitment to change has been very good.”
On keeping team afloat offensively: “It’s all good because it makes me look back at what we have to do to improve. I have had this before at Canisius College. We ended up going to the NCAA tournament but ended up losing arguably the Player of the Year in the conference twice down the stretch. He [Darrel Barley] got hurt when we had a two- or three-game lead with four games to go. We didn’t win it. Then he got healthy and then he got hurt before the tournament, and we ended up winning it. It’s amazing the outliers that can step up in these situations, and we talk about it all the time.”