The University of Michigan, we're very proud to represent the University of Michigan, and I think the university is very proud of these young men, what they've accomplished thus far this year. We have a difficult challenge with Kansas. Bill Self's teams are fundamentally sound offensively and defensively they're as good as we've played all year long, and we've played against some good defensive teams.
We have challenges in front of us. We have to grow very quickly, and we have, particularly over the last month through both the ups and the downs, I've seen considerable growth in this team. We are one of the younger teams in the country. And I love how they've come after it every day with everything they have.
Q. One of the things that Kansas seems to do best in the tournament is to make other teams not play well, seemingly. How do they do it and what do you have to avoid to play closer to your A-game?
COACH BEILEIN: I think it starts with their defense again. It is very good. First of all, you have four seniors out there. They have seen it all. They have been through, they've been to the Final Four's. They've -- looking at Releford and Johnson, and I'm looking at guys, I just saw you two years ago, no, I saw you three years ago. They didn't see any of our guys three years ago. It's really important they've had that continuity. I don't think Withey played very much my first trip to Kansas. That's what makes them. They have continuity with young talented young players all the time. It takes time to learn this defense like they play it. They really play it well.
Q. I imagine a lot of different teams have tried a lot of different ways to slow down Trey Burke. Obviously I don't know who Kansas will put on him, but one possibility is Travis Releford, is Trey seeing someone like that guarding him?
COACH BEILEIN: He has seen everybody. The comparison I make is Victor Oladipo, who is 6-4 and very, very talented defensive player. So people have switched different people on to him. He's talented. He's had some great challenges this year. And has really faired as well as could be expected. He's only a sophomore now. He's 20 years old. He's learning by the moment. But what a competitor. And if he has that type of competition, I think it drives him to be his best.
Q. You mentioned Withey, could you address what you've seen from him of late, the way he's played and how having an anchor like that alters what you can do?
COACH BEILEIN: Being a former coach in the Big East when you were playing against Connecticut centers usually with 130 to 150 block a year guys. And what is deflating -- you run a beautiful play, it couldn't be run better, and he somehow blocks the shot and they're going the other way. It can be very deflating to a team.
I look at the other way, where you're playing really good defense and the ball doesn't bounce or it bounces off someone and they score a basket and that's all it is. You've got to come back and try again. He has the ability with four blocks a game, there's going to be those moments, we've got to fight through those. That's the biggest impact I see.
They've really done a great job of developing his ability to play taller than earlier. He's basically going to put it back in and not bring it back down, if he's in a scoring area. So he's a challenge both ways.
Q. Both teams possess some long wings that like to get out in transition. Can you talk about that matchup for each side and what you're going to do to try to control Kansas?
COACH BEILEIN: They can go small, as well. And this year, we've been able to go big or small, more small than big. But I love having 6-5, 6-6, 6-7 wings that are both a guy that can fly down the court and finish at the rim, but also be able to have a good perimeter game.
And Bill's got three of those guys out there. They're the one, the two and the three man, all have size and length. They all can shoot it. It's what we like to do, actually.
I think what's really lost in this whole thing is their two four men. Those guys are keys to that team. They're selfless and they're long and skilled. Their assist numbers are very complimentary of most people. The four man does a lot of dirty work for the other guys.
Q. It's been a while since a Michigan team has made it this far in the tournament. What does it mean for the program?
COACH BEILEIN: I think there's been a progression in the last few years, and we fought hard to get to this point. I think Tommy Amaker, when he took over, it really was a very difficult situation. It got to a certain point where it set some things on the table for us. With our facilities and recruiting, now we've been able to go another step.
And so it's been a long grind for 16 years to get back to this thing from '94, 18 years, 19 years. It's a long time.
But it did not -- it wasn't like, okay, we finally did -- the direction of this program has been positive. We're selling out every game. We're getting really good recruiting classes that have come back. Next year is going to be very good. I think we were moving in that direction anyhow. This is a little bit of a spike for us or a catalyst for us, perhaps, for the future.
Q. You guys are averaging 75 points a game and shooting 48 percent. A lot of people say the offenses are not doing very well in college basketball. How would you describe the schemes you run and what is your offensive philosophy?
COACH BEILEIN: I guess, first of all, if we play good defense we're a much better offensive team because we can really get up and down the court. When you have a point guard like Trey Burke and you shooters on the wing like we have, Tim Hardaway, Jr. is a tremendous full-court player, as well. So it is really -- when you have that type of personnel, that leads to that.
But here's what I've seen in the last couple of weeks, and we sort of put in this package, and then we tweaked the package all year long. And we found what really is good for this team as they develop. Glenn Robinson has felt much more comfortable in the last couple of weeks with some things we would like him to do.
Gradually we've gotten our timing down a lot. You'd like to have these young guys playing five to ten minutes a game in their sophomore year, they're ready, we couldn't do that.
But I think we drive the ball to the basket well. I think we shoot the ball well. And we do a good job on the offense boards. And those three things have helped us.
And the other thing that's really important tomorrow, don't turn the ball over. We're one of the leaders in the country in getting a shot up every time down the court as much as possible. And that's important against these guys, because they're going to defend you, so yeah, you're going to need to get a lot of shots.
Q. Going back to the question of having not been here in a while. Is it an advantage for Kansas having been here more recently? Can you sort of lean on your own experiences in the Sweet 16 trying to relate it to your players and negate that a bit?
COACH BEILEIN: This team, in Auburn Hills, we only had two guys played significantly in that game ever played in a NCAA game. It was all new to them then. And the next step is new to all our guys. Kansas has been there. I didn't see our kids affected by that. I think we're affected more by the opponent right now than how long it's been or where it's at. I think you're affected more by who you're playing, what's the matchup.
Q. You're here in Dallas with Florida Gulf Coast. What do you think of their run?
COACH BEILEIN: I love these stories. I think it makes this tournament so special. I've known Andy since -- when he was getting an award for being a great foul shooter at Johns Hopkins. His coach, Bill Nelson, was -- when I was at Nazareth, Bill Nelson replaced me. We'd been good friends for a while, he was the Johns Hopkins coach. Somehow when Andy got that award out of college, we met or something at a Final Four.
He and I have stayed in touch on the road. I like to teach shooting. He's not just both a great shooter, but teaches. It's a great story. I don't see it stopping.
There's a lot of room for this in college basketball if you do things the right way and get kids to stick around you can grow a program more than people think you can.
Q. Ben McLemore has had a celebrated shooting form in the tournament.
COACH BEILEIN: Well, all teams will go -- all players will go through tough shooting times. It's a lot about your defense, but sometimes you just make one shot, and you could even play better defense and that ball is going to go in. We see it all the time.
The big thing is he's a heck of a player. We can't give him an open look, because it's obviously the open look for him to be there. But the freshmen will go through this. Our freshmen have gone through this. This team is a lot more than him. They can win, as they've proven without him shooting.
Q. Kansas played last year in a Final Four in a football stadium. Is there any advantage to that and what are some of the things you've talked to your team about playing in Cowboys Stadium?
COACH BEILEIN: I doubt if we'll even address that issue, because I was interested to see how we'd shoot the ball today, just, all right, here we go. We practiced around the corner at Texas-Arlington and then we came over here and shot again. I didn't see any difference. We were practicing in their little practice gym.
There could be differences. I didn't see anything. So we're not going to address it. Why address it?
Q. This is the first time for you in the Sweet 16 since the Fab 5 era. I wonder if you had heard from any of those guys, if they reached out with any of their experiences?
COACH BEILEIN: A lot of our alums, and the whole team, not just those five, but a lot of them. We hear from them all the time. We get great emails. Many of our former alums were in just a month ago, six weeks ago when we rededicated Chrisler. The Championship team, Glen Rice, I've seen Jalen on the road, Jimmy King I saw a little bit ago. We've stayed in contact. That's one of our missions and one of our goals is to try to reconnect all the different eras of Michigan basketball back, and certainly that era is an important one.
Q. Everybody says guard play is the key to this tournament. And with your two guards do you feel that you're in as good a position as anybody to have them control the game?
COACH BEILEIN: I think to win at this level right now -- I mean, everybody has got to play well. But when your two guards have the experience it's really an advantage. I think wherever you are the point guard position, its importance has escalated beyond belief in the last ten years.
So if you do that type of math and you're a point guard, it's really important, and you have a tough game, the other guys have to have really good games. And that's going to happen.
We had that situation in much of the game against South Dakota State and the other guys really stepped up. I'm glad we have our two guys, but I don't think at the end of this game we're going to say we had better guards or our guards didn't play well. No, it's going to be a team thing, no matter what.
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