ARLINGTON, Texas -- A popular word uttered throughout the Michigan locker room after NCAA tournament wins over South Dakota State and VCU was "fun." A fun time playing, more fun dunking, and most importantly, the fun had while celebrating.
As if a meeting with Big 12 champion and the No. 1 seeded Kansas Jayhawks isn't exciting enough, Michigan will do so inside Cowboy Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on an elevated floor, in front of 42,000 fans, in primetime, on a Friday night.
But hey, this is what the Wolverines were planning on anyway.
"At the beginning of the season our goal was to get here and we're here right now," said guard Tim Hardaway Jr. "Coach Beilein and the staff did a great job of preparing the team, getting this type of team here and just making everybody go out there and work. This team just buys into whatever coach Beilein says and it got us this far so, why stop?"
In awe of the sight lines, atmosphere, and overall make-up of 'Jerry's world,' -- and who wouldn't be at first glance -- the Michigan basketball coaches leaned on some advice from the Michigan football staff who found themselves inside the massive arena last fall.
"We were advised by some of our friends that it would be good, before we get into a practice, give them 10 minutes to just check it out -- check the scoreboards out, look a the suites -- so we did that," said Michigan assistant Jeff Meyer. "We just let them have 10 minutes of just kind of checking the place out.
"Our kids are in a good frame of mind right now, they're focused, but they're also enjoying the moment, which we want them to do."
The hoopsters are obviously hoping for different results than the Michigan football team experienced back in September. Fortunately for them they don't seem bothered by the much debated, new age way of playing basketball inside an area meant for football.
"It's big out there," said Hardaway Jr. "It's very difficult to shoot with the crowd that far behind the basket but we played on an elevated court before at Minnesota so we're kind of used to that."
"At first it was a little bit different," said freshman Nik Stauskas, "because of the depth perception. But after a couple minutes we were all fine."
By the time the ball is tipped Friday at 7:37pm/CT, the Wolverines will have familiarized themselves in their surroundings as much as possible. And while Kansas will come in as the team that's 'been here before,' the Wolverines don't plan on acting as if they haven't.
"We have some young men," said John Beilein, "especially these freshmen -- and then Tim and Trey -- they really thrive in these situations."
"I think these last two games we've really come together well and we're showing people that we're peaking right now," added Stauskas.