Beilein's Roundtable: Previewing MSU

John Beilein met with the media yesterday to discuss tonight's match up with arch rival, Michigan State. Michigan's headman broke down the challenges that the Spartans present, his team's confidence level, in-state recruiting, and more.

Coach Beilein:  "The beat goes on.  We go to Michigan State tomorrow.  We will practice in here and we're going to go up and do it old school.  We're going to go up tomorrow and play the game, leave here at four o'clock get there at 5:30 or something like that, like it is the school next door.  I think our kids are real comfortable with that in practicing here.  A big task with them playing in Breslin and it has been a problem for Michigan teams for a while, I believe.  I think we have a member of our staff here, Travis Conlan who might have the last win there.  So we just go up and do what we can do and try and hang around in the game long enough to win it."

Question:  How do you balance on trying to work on fundamentals without killing the confidence?

Coach Beilein:  "It is funny you should say that.  We just went back to just about what we did the first week or practice.  Yesterday was a little bit more Michigan State, but still about getting better.  Today obviously is much more about the opponent, but it is hard to balance because we need to get better.  Everybody else is getting better.  Like I said that's one other thing, our kids are getting better.  You may not see it but Michigan State is practicing this week as well.  They are getting better.  Everybody still practices and gets better, so you just trying to, but it is hard.  It is difficulty.  Our kids the last two days have been terrific, absolutely terrific.  Obviously, we were very disappointed with Minnesota with the outcome.  We know that we are better than that and hopefully it is a little bit of a boost for us, from the fact that we learned so much from that game just about playing at our best when we need to play our best."

Question:  The roster really only has two guys really who are from the state of Michigan, do you think those guys say anything to these guys and people maybe don't understand the rivalry as much because of that?

Coach Beilein:  "I think once they walk into that building they'll know it.  I think they understand it just from being here and there are several of are kids that are Big Ten kids, they may be from Indiana, but they know the Big Ten.  I think from being around the University of Michigan long enough, they know that Michigan State is a great rival of ours but just embrace it and do the best you can."

Question:  Is that just an accident of recruiting that there are very few Michigan guys; you found the guys you like and that…?

Coach Beilein:  "We've offered scholarships to quite a few Michigan guys over the years.  Michigan State got a few of them and other ones have chosen elsewhere.  We've tried to do that and other times it might have been the right kid but the wrong position.  Maybe we didn't need that position that particular year.  We're trying.  We've seen so many kids in Michigan play and sometimes it is the right fit and sometimes it might not be the right fit.  There are great players in Michigan, I do know that and we'll continue to try to pursue them."

Question:  Draymond Green is one of them.  Can you talk about if he has developed into the player that you thought he would be?

Coach Beilein:  "Yeah.  When we were first recruiting him earlier, when I first got here, it was his ability to pass, shoot and do everything.  He dreamed of going to Michigan State his whole life and when Chris Joseph left and a scholarship opened, that is where he chose.  He has had a tremendous career.  He is a very good player and I think Tom (Izzo) loves every day that he gets to coach Draymond Green."

Question:  You said that maybe the people are not seeing the improvements, but what specifically are you seeing that is an improvement?

Coach Beilein:  "Every day, we have a better awareness about what it takes to compete, how you have to think in the Big Ten and how much you have to think in college basketball, we see it every day.  You just wouldn't see it because all of a sudden, they're guarding Jared Sullinger or their guarding (Ralph) Sampson or they're trying to guard the Northwestern offense.  There is a lot of processing going on that is getting better and better, especially Tim (Hardaway) and Evan (Smotrycz).  I see it every day, something new that, ‘ah-ha moment'.  Okay, I got that now but then there is something next.  You just played Minnesota and you played Northwestern and now you got Michigan State, okay what do I have to learn about that."

Question:  Does Korie Lucious leave change anything?

Coach Beilein:  "No I don't think so.  I don't know what the situation is, but I would assume there is a rhyme and reason for everything."

Question:  In terms of their personnel, how do you prepare for them (minus Luscious)

Coach Beilein:  "Certainly Lucious has a great assist-to-turnover ratio.  He has not shot the ball great this year.  (Keith) Appling has taken a lot of his time as it is.  He is still playing a lot of time but Appling would just play, somebody else would play.  Usually that is the effect…there are many times in these situations and I don't know the particulars but another kid getting the opportunity to play more minutes ends up being very positive for a team."

Question:  You talked about this the other day to build confidence in your big men because they are just not ready to handle the inside play and maybe that's what dictated that Minnesota strategy of shooting more from the outside.  How do you get that confidence in them where…?

Coach Beilein:  "You try to do that in practice.  They're developing players.  They are developing their talent.  You just see every day you are working with them and they are going up against each other.  Going up against in practice another 18 or 19-year-old isn't like going against Sampson, or Sullinger at 18 years old is not like every other 18-year-old or they are playing against (Luka) Mirkovic from Northwestern, they are going to learn more in games, but there is only so much…they got to get older.  They got to get through this season.  They got to work in the summer.  They've got to do a lot of things to really see all this blossom, but it is hitting them right in the face how difficult this is to score, rebound and do all the things at this level."

Question:  When looking at the schedule does someone say, you can try a little bit more down low against this team?

Coach Beilein:  "The zone was really the issue with Minnesota.  They were really going to have trouble guarding on the perimeter because of their size that we were going to stretch them and then they went to the zone.  Like I said, we have not seen a zone in a month.  We did not execute out of it, where they would play it some but not very much.  We did not execute the way we have to against the zone.  We do not anticipate seeing any versus Michigan State.  They have not played a lick of it except for out-of-bounds all year long.  They may, but a big zone like that is going to take away a lot of your inside game anyway so why even go there, why do it, because there is so many people there."

Question:  You have talked a lot about your defense struggles, but is there anything that you see beyond the youth that is maybe the main reason why you guys have really struggled defensively in the Big Ten?

Coach Beilein:  "Our quickness is not great and that's obviously and we knew that.  We are doing everything we can to change that in recruiting and everything.  Quickness is not great, so we have to make up for that quickness by gapping a little bit more, by double-teaming sometimes by just…anybody that looks at our team knows that we are not real quick and we know that and we are addressing that with Carlton (Brundrige) and Trey Burke, so they are going to help a great deal, but they are not going to help us this year.  We got to find other ways right now and you're not as strong.  You're not as tall, you just got to keep working at it. You find ways to make up for that difference just by your instincts, anticipation skills, improve with defense, the more you see it, the more you anticipate and you are ready for things.  Defense is not reactionary.  Defense should be your anticipating things and you got to see it enough to see it.  The next time we play Northwestern we will be anticipating things, not me, we do it, the players will and it will be more of a habit now.   Northwestern will counter.  We'll anticipate things against Michigan State and they'll counter and that's part of the process and that's all part of youth as well."

Question:  Looking at the point per game, you guys are giving up more than point a possession. 

Coach Beilein:  "Yeah people are shooting like 52%."

Question:  Again is that just a matter of that or is it a matter of…?

Coach Beilein:  "When you are young and the other team has more developed talent than your young developing talent, it is not about schemes.  It is about a good player who is beating a player who is younger.  It is about a stronger player or a taller player scoring over somebody.  It is not a schematic thing.  It is just part of the thing.  A rookie team in the NBA, put them against the NBA All Star team, seem how they would do, it is very similar."

Question:  I was going to ask you about Carlton and Trey and how much you have been following them?

Coach Beilein:  "Jeff (Meyer) has seen Trey.  I'm going to see Trey next week as a matter of fact.  I saw Carlton last night and we love what they are going to bring because quickness is obviously an issue.  Manny (Harris) being here right now would add some quickness.  We didn't plan the Laval Lucas-Perry departure.  It happens.  You lose two pretty quick players, now you got to make up for it and it is coming in.  Help is on the way in the quickness area."

Question:  With Michigan State struggling this season, does that change the mental approach at all especially for the players?

Coach Beilein:  "Are they not the 25th ranked team in the country?   That is not struggling.  They've played an incredible schedule.  They've lost on the road, a couple of their losses at Illinois, at Penn State and at Purdue.  They've lost to Syracuse.  They've been playing an incredible schedule.  I think we have played six top 25 teams and they've played eight right now.  That is not struggling.  They're going to make the NCAA tournament.  They're a heck of a team.  They have a head of a coach and they're not struggling.  These are part of the things that you go through.  You can't win every game and you just keep getting better and better and many times teams that face this adversity get better from it."

Question:  Going into those games, you talked specifically about physical play and it really was something.  Is that something that you need to do more against Michigan State?

Coach Beilein:  "It is hard to simulate what they do, they do it so well and so we are trying to be ready for it as much as we can both the environment and the physical play and keep playing on, playing through because it is part of basketball and we have to understand that.  The bodies are young and it is a little bit tougher, but we will just have to respond to it."

Question:  You said last week that (Blake) McLimans had a pretty good week of practice.  Have you seen anything week that makes you…?

Coach Beilein:  "We've been mixing Blake in there.  We've been mixing Jon (Horford) in there and we've been mixing Colton Christian in there.  We've been doing a lot of things…we've been in foul trouble so much, in between Evan playing the five, Blake, Jon.  There has not been a consistent pattern and it has not been consistent in practice as well.  We're trying everything we can just to see who is going to help us the most each game.  It will go game to game."

Question:  From a consistency perspective with what you're trying to do down low, is there one guy that is (able to help pit Jordan Morgan)?

Coach Beilein:  "Coming off the bench?"

Question:  Yes.

Coach Beilein:  "I wouldn't say right now.  I would say we are trying to figure out who can really help us besides Jordan (Morgan) because it has been very up and down both in practice and in games.  So we just go and we gradually, but when they get into games it is different.  They are playing against four other freshman in practice, now they are playing some of the likes that we are playing in the post, whether it is JaJuan (Johnson) or Jared, whether it is Draymond Green or anybody that they're playing, Delvon Roe, this weekend.  It is hard to simulate in practice what we see.  So we just put them in there and it is growth, growth, every day."

Question:  How hard is it to keep the confidence of your young guys from sinking when they are not getting results in the game?

Coach Beilein:  "The results on the scoreboard are not there.  The results are happening when you see Tim Hardaway do a couple of things that he did.  He really had great shot selection the other day.  He had 20 points against a pretty good Minnesota team that is 15-4.  Those are the type of things.  Those are the small victories that you look for to get them.  You try to show them as many tapes as they have of what they are doing.  Like I said, the scoreboard has not been good, but the growth is happening every single day and I don't know when we see it on the scoreboard enough, but the object is to get to that point.  You just can't say, oh okay we lost a game.   We can't do it.  No, you are just getting better every day and then when you get to that point where you are getting closer and closer against these teams, you get a couple and then all of sudden it all comes back.  Just like your success is very fleeting with defeat, when you are down on your game, a win changes everything."

Question: After the Northwestern loss, you talked to your team about the NCAA tournament.  Is this what you do a lot or did you do that purposely?

Coach Beilein:  "No I said one day you will go to the NCAA tournament.  I didn't say when.  I said one day this team will go to the NCAA tournament and I feel that very strongly.  I think the headlines may have given you the illusion that I was predicting right now that we were going to turn it on, but that is neither here nor there.  This team is very good and they are going to go to the NCAA tournament one day.  That is what we all believe.  I shouldn't be coaching if I didn't believe that in my heart that we could do that.  So we just work towards that every day.  We say NCAA every day.  We've said it every day that I've coached that we're going to the NCAA tournament and every team that we've ever had basically during that time, they would go to the NCAA tournament.  That's the bottom line goal is to get there and this team, that's what we believe in, we stress it every day, let us go.  Whether it is all of a sudden you go on a run, you win the Big Ten Tournament or you end up getting into a position where you've improved so it is next year that is what it is.  So it is not like, we're never going to lose a game and we are going to the NCAA tournament, it is you look at the big picture.  You always try to focus small and dream big. We're going back to the NCAA tournament and that is what we believe every day."

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