Beilein's Roundtable: Previewing Northwestern

John Beilein met with the media yesterday to discuss tonight's match up with Northwestern. Michigan's headman broke down the challenges that the Wildcats present, how his team has improved since the last meeting, the health of the team, and more.

Coach Beilein:  "Getting ready for Northwestern is so complex sometimes just because they do so many things and they continue to add to their package as the year goes on because they have this culture of how to play and it is difficult to guard… and then to figure out what they are going to do defensively because what they do defensively is also somewhat untraditional.  Our kids have to be very attuned.  We cannot do a lot as far as just physically just wearing them out, practicing over and over again.  We have some bright young men who can pick things up on the fly a little bit because of the nature of the way Northwestern plays."

Question:  Since their offense and defense is so different than most of what you see, is it kind of an advantage to get them the second time?

Coach Beilein:  "Yeah but they make adjustments.  They did some things to Illinois in their last game that they did not do one time against us.  Their package is so big that Bill (Carmody) will now pick out what they feel they can run against us and explore this the best that they can."

Question:  Is it because they have veterans?

Coach Beilein:  "I think (Michael) Thompson can make that thing go and than (John) Shurna, this is his third year.  It makes a big difference with those guys… and the big kid, he is a seven foot center who got some skill level.  So it does help."

Question:  Despite the differences and challenges, what kind of things do you learn from the first time and that you need to do differently?

Coach Beilein:  "The second time around the league, some teams will change a great deal.  Some people will say this is what we do try and stop it.  So it varies."

Question:  As far as your game plan and what you guys need to do.

Coach Beilein:  "We looked at that game and we felt that we did get some really good looks.  That was one of our missed layups games as well.  Now they were there… their bodies were there and they were doing some things to try and get in our way on layups, but we did not play well.  But it was probably Northwestern had a lot to do with that."

Question:  Did you see a difference with them when Shurna missed a game or so?

Coach Beilein:  "I have not watched every one of their games.  I've watched mostly clips and our last game and bits and pieces, but I cannot tell you how they were with or without him."

Question:  What are you doing right now as a team better than you were back there, or is it tough to generalize like that?

Coach Beilein:  "Like I said, we're not perfect at it.  We're trying to know where our guys are comfortable in scoring the ball and then defensively, we're getting better at playing better position defense… staying attached to our man when we need to be and seeing the floor when we don't need to be attached to our man.  It is really fundamentals but it takes time because it is such a blur.  When you watch Northwestern run those first cuts (Wednesday) night, they are running them like they would run wind sprints.  If everybody could get their team to run their cuts as hard as Northwestern all the scoring everywhere in the country would go up because they run their offense at a high, high speed.  It is exact opposite of what the perception would be that this Princeton offense is one for guys that cannot play or…it is this thing that is a slowdown, it is the exact opposite.  When the 35 second clock wasn't here they did use it as a bit of a slowdown, but right now they speed you up with their offense."

Question:  Are they the most challenging team that you face in the Big Ten?

Coach Beilein:  "They all have different challenges.  Yeah this one is challenging mentally for your guys.  Wwhat you got to say is okay, you got beat backdoor, it is not the end of the world.  They hit a bomb on you, it is not the end of the world… play on and the same thing offensively."

Question:  You talked a little bit about wanting guys that can do a little bit of everything; how many guys do you feel like you have of that right now?

Coach Beilein:  "We're getting closer to that of guys able to play multipositions."

Question:  You were talking about offensively when you're looking for extra scorers and you wanted guys to be able to do different things and you said that you might have a few, but you want all 13 to do at some point.  How many do you have?

Coach Beilein:  "Ideally, I would like all our perimeters to rebound like forwards and pass like point guards and shoot like off guards.  Ideally that is what you want, you just have to have enough size there.  That's what the great players can do, they see every part of the game.  They may not be as quick sometimes but they do see it all.  I think we're developing that.  I don't think we have anybody right now that is the complete package, but that's what we're working towards, to get enough guys that have few weakness.  That they can play to their potentially really and no matter what defense is thrown at them, they will see it and make the right decision."

Question:  Are Tim and Darius (Morris) the closest to that right now?

Coach Beilein:  "I think many of them are approaching that.  I wouldn't say that anybody is…they certainly have shown that they are becoming more versatile in their game.  I think Stu shows that sometimes, Zach shows that many times, Matt Vogrich has showed that on a few occasions.  As they play more basketball, they get better at it."

Question:  Is that the kind of mix you want from Darius, it seemed like he was a little bit more aggressive in trying to go towards the basket and Tim the same sort of way being selective, are they starting to fit into…

Coach Beilein:  "What Darius has done is take the ball to the basket very well and what he continues to learn is that sometimes I just cannot get there and when I can't get there somebody else must be open and that is what he has to continue looking for.  Tim as well, that is a big thing for Tim to be able to do that.  Everybody knows that we are not the quickest team in America.  Those are two of our quicker guys, for them to get in there, we work every day basically on them making a decision once we can get them in there.  We have different ways at creating the leverage to get them in there but then when they get in there they have to try and make the right choices."

Question:  With seven games to go before the Big Ten tournament do you start looking at scenarios for what it might take?

Coach Beilein:  "No not at all.  You know what I'm going to say.  You have to focus so small right now.  I know we have seven days to go.  I know I've looked at the schedule and only three of them are away and you got to try and win every game you can whether it is home or away."

Question:  Against Penn State, Blake (McLimans) for Jordan… is Blake the number two now?

Coach Beilein:  "No, we had both Jon Horford and Colton Christian were sick and were not able to practice the day before and hadn't even eaten until that morning, so Blake came in off the bench.  We'll see how they practice today."

Question:  It seems like in the last couple of games Jordan has been out of foul trouble?

Coach Beilein:  "We've worked very hard on it.  It is so typical that when they get into games and they are so young.  Eso Akunne, he goes into the game the other day and puts his arm around Talor Battle.  It is the easiest call and he is watching it and he has been on film.  Until you are in the heat of the action and you are into it, your inclination is to be, I'm not going to let this guy score.  It is hard to learn how not to foul.  It is hard to learn how to get fouled too.  There are some guys in this league that are tremendous at getting fouled.  They are just great at getting fouled and I think the older they get, the better they are at being able to draw fouls."

Question:  On the same topic, you are not shooting a lot of free throws lately.  Is that in part of function playing games on the road or is there something specific…?

Coach Beilein:  "No, there are a lot of components to getting fouled.  You have to have quickness.  You usually have to have a really commanding inside game, that's always a way to get fouled.  You have to have quickness to take the ball to the basket.  Those are things that I don't think are strengths yet.  I think they will be as we build this team.  I know the two young men that are coming in next year are very good at getting to the basket and getting fouled.  So you just sort of add those pieces together and we all know how successful Manny (Harris) was at getting to the foul line.  We don't get there enough.  I don't think any coach will tell you that his team gets to the foul line enough."

Question:  You were talking about the second time around some teams just say come on and try to stop us.  Other teams like to try and change it up.  What do you feel you guys are?

Coach Beilein:  "We're evolving every day.  As I said, we're trying to figure out what is best for our team against every team that we play.  You are going to see a completely different defense from Northwestern that you saw from Penn State.  You are going to see a completely different one at Indiana.  I don't know who we have after that but we're going to see a completely different defense every day.  I don't think we are in a position as our talent is developing to just say this is what we do.  We have to change what we do to some point but not overcomplicate the game.  That's the tough thing all the time."

Question:  Does your philosophy change each year depending on what you have each year or is that…?

Coach Beilein:  "Hopefully when I'm dead and gone that someone says, he was versatile, he changed his style as things went along.  I pride myself on studying the game and changing as it goes along."

Question:  Is the revenge thing (against Northwestern)?

Coach Beilein:  "I know our kids feel really badly about how it was the second half got to be 25 points or 22 points or something like that.  I know we didn't feel very good about the way we played afterwards.  These kids are smart enough today that they know that.  They know that there are not many games left now and you got to do the best you can certainly if you are going to try and get into the postseason."

Question:  Conceding the narrow focus that you have right now, is there any element of surprise to you that you are somewhat of a position to kind of control things down the stretch here?

Coach Beilein:  "I would like to say that we can always control things.  You aren't as in control as you think.  The balls are going to go in and out.  I mean just look at the game the other day.  We end up hitting some great shots, yet the same shots, they guarded the same ones we had maybe against Ohio State or we had against Kansas that did not go in.  You would like to say that you can control it.  It is not all that easy. It is the bounce of the ball.  They are 19-year-old kids.  I do like the idea that we are just competing with everybody and we have a chance.  Not since the Northwestern game have we been really out of a game with five minutes to go.  We've been in most of those games."

Question:  Was there a particular focus on making sure that you didn't have those same defensive breakdowns against Shurna and some of the open shots that they had in the first one?

Coach Beilein:  "We were working on that one.  We got to work but yesterday had to be a day that we got some recovery in.  Today, we will be working on that a great deal.  But they pass the ball so well.  The residual action is usually one or two passes.  They were like us against Penn State… it was the third pass sometimes, so you did get somebody, or you covered the backdoor cut, or you covered the inside feed and cut off the baseline, and then they found one, and then they found one more.  It is a team that shares the basketball and it is a complement to them.  I love the way we did that against Penn State.  We had some beautiful plays where somebody was open enough to shoot, somebody was more open, and they gave it to somebody wide open.  That's what Northwestern prides themselves in as well."

Question:  Are you healthy right now?

Coach Beilein:  "I think we're pretty healthy.  We got a couple of guys in the training room right now, but I think we are okay.  I think the sick guys are done and let us just hope nobody else has some issue in practice and visits the garbage can."

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