Amaker Previews Big Ten Tourney

Tommy Amaker met with the media yesterday to discuss the state of his team heading in the Big Ten Tournament and what they'll need to do to be selected for the NCAA tourney.

Four Michigan players received ALL_Big Ten honors yesteday. Bernard Robinson Jr. and Lester Abram were named 3rd team All Big Ten while Courtney Sims and Dion Harris were named to the conference's All Freshman team. For more details including info on other wared winners, click here.

Coach Amaker

On the development of his team:

“I think that when you’re young, you’re always looking for opportunities to grow and develop. I think that throughout the season, we’ve seen that in different pockets on our team. We especially have seen it with our frontline players. I think with Courtney and Brent in particular, you’ve seen how much they’ve grown through the course of the year. As we continually move forward in the conference tournament, I’m hoping you see that with Daniel Horton’s play. He’s just a sophomore, but you’re hoping that you can still point to moments and situations that he can learn from and from grow. As individual players, as they continually do that…I think it’s going to help our team. When Daniel played well at Northwestern, we looked like a different ball club. I think the confidence of our team was raised to a different level when he was playing at a high level. If we can feed off of and build on that, I think we have a chance to continue to grow.”

On how his kids are feeling going into the tourney:

“Kids now have been in a lot of tournaments throughout high school, summers, and certainly in the collegiate ranks. They understand what it is. It’s ‘one and done’ as the terminology goes now. ‘Survive and advance’ is another phrase that we hear a lot. Our kids are excited about it. This is the time of year that you dream about. This is the time of year that you work all summer, preseason, and fall to get to. I don’t think we’ll be feeling pressure…at least I hope we won’t. I think we’ll be excited to play. I just think our kids are going to approach it in that manner and try to control the things that we can control. That’s what I’m more concerned with with our ball club. As long as we keep bringing the effort, execute better, and stay unselfish…I’ll be very pleased with them.”

On Daniel Horton coming out of his slump:

“Hopefully the Northwestern game can be the start of good things to come. I’m hoping that he hasn’t been pressing in the previous games. I’d like to think that he wasn’t. Sometimes you can not play as well, but you don't have to press about it. I don’t think he has done that. I think one of the things we saw was he wasn’t in foul trouble. I think it allowed him to stay aggressive throughout the course of the early part of the game, and he found a nice rhythm. That really helped our team and we got out on the break and scored some easy buckets…and he got some easy buckets early. I think any time you’re a player that’s used to getting the ball in the basket and you can get a couple of lay-ups, it does wonders for your confidence in your game and your scoring. So I think that if we can keep him on the floor and keep him out of foul trouble and allow some things to develop, I’ll like the way Daniel can potentially play for us. “

On playing a full 40 minutes:

“I thought Michigan State beat us. I thought we played very well here, and they knocked us off. Certainly we had a stretch there where they were on a tear and coming back, but I thought we played fairly well during that game. I thought we played fairly well for stretches in other games and still lost. Up in Madison, there were 25-30 minutes of that ball game that we did an outstanding job. Not many teams can say they are playing 40 minutes of their own style of basketball. I think the goal of every coach is to maximize that, and that’s hard. It’s hard to see if you can sustain things. One of our deficiencies this year has been to sustain a certain level of excellence when we’ve played well in stretches. “

On tournament play:

“I think one of the things about the tournament is things can change quickly in that atmosphere…the momentum, the psyche, the confidence of a team. Ohio State played one of their better games in their final game against Illinois. If they’re able to get out of the blocks and play well against IU, they could be a very dangerous team.”

On if he thinks the Big Ten is wide open:

“I think it is. I’m friends with a number of guys around the country, and everyone is saying the same thing about their league tournaments. I think most of them feel that it’s wide open. I think that looking at our tournament specifically, I think all of our coaches feel that everyone is going to have a shot. I think the key is going to be what team can gain that momentum quickly. Can you get off to a good start and have your kids start to believe and play to win and not to lose. That’s what tournament atmosphere is all about and that’s what March Madness is all about.”

On the perception that the Big Ten is down and how that may keep some teams out of the tournament:

“No one on the committee has made that statement, so I don’t pay attention to all of that. I don’t waste time trying to figure out what person has said this and what commentator has said that. They’re not the ones that are going to have the most input on what’s actually going to happen. I think our conference is extremely tough. I think every coach in his own league feels league play is hard. I don’t care what league your in. Especially when you look at the history of this conference. It’s been one of the better conferences in the history of college basketball and we’re very proud of that.”

More on the perception that the Big Ten is down:

“I’ve heard some of the things, but I don’t get into dialogue or debate about it and try to convince people. We are who we are and I think we’re pretty darn good. The history of this conference has been great and I think whatever teams make the NCAA tournament field are going to do great because that’s what history has shown.”

On if he thinks winning two games in the tourney will get Michigan in the tourney:

“Yes, I do. I feel like when you look at our league right now, I think that we have a number of teams other than the top 3 (Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan State) that are going to get consideration for the NCAA tournament. We’ll get a clearer picture after this weekend.”

On if the Big Ten will get more than 3 teams into the Big Dance:

“That would be hard for a conference like the Big Ten, although it has happened before that a conference of our stature has only gotten 3 teams in. I think when you look around at our league and when things shake out this weekend …I think we’ll see more than 3 get bids.”

On if it’s fair for this team to be graded by how they do in the Big Ten Tournament:

“No. I hope that’s not the only way people are going to pass out grades. I think that’s unfair. I think everything has to be taken into account. Certainly the conference tournament play is one of those factors, but it shouldn’t be the only factor.”

On whether people should measure the team’s success by if they make the tournament:

“I don’t necessarily define our program and our team by other people’s definition of success. We will be able to define our own success and our own standards…and obviously making the NCAA tournament would be a monumental step for our program. But that’s not the only we define success.”

On Iowa:

“Obviously they’re a team that has shot the 3-pointer well against us. We have not done a good job defending threes this year in our league. I think this is a ball club that is going to feel very confident. They’ve had a tremendous amount of success in the Big Ten tournament. Horner, to me, has always been the key to their team. We were able to witness that here when he didn’t play as well and we were able to do some good things and win. Then we went to Iowa City and he played his heart out. I thought he was the difference on their team. He always concerns me. He’s tough, relentless, and he’s a heart and soul type of guy. This is a ball club that has been able to do wonders with limited personnel and some distractions with their program and team. I think Steve has them playing very well coming off of a big win at Purdue. So I think it will be a very spirited and competitive game that both teams are anxious to play.”

On whether he was satisfied with the number of post touches versus Northwestern:

“I think Northwestern plays an unconventional style in terms of their match-up defense. We need more post touches out of our post players. They have shown that when we’ve had an inside presence, we’ve been a better team. One of the things that we have to relay to the players is getting post touches doesn’t just mean someone from the outside has to pass it inside. They can get it off of the backboard too. That’s going to be one of the points of emphasis for us. If we can do a decent job on the backboard, that gives of the opportunity for second chances on offense and certainly rebounding the ball defensively on the other end.”

On Daniel not getting All Big Ten honors:

“I think it’s obvious that Daniel didn’t have a year, in my opinion, on the level of the other kids that were deserving of that honor. I think that’s the nature of it. There’s no mystery about it. I thought the kids who were voted in for the teams were very accurate. I think Daniel would be the first to say that those kids had better years. That’s going to happen sometimes and hopefully we can have a better year in the future. I’m sure Daniel will work hard to improve his game. But he’s not concerned with individual honors and our other players aren’t either. We focused on our tournament and Iowa.”

On what Bernard means to the team going into the tournament:

“You need veterans and you need experience. Bernard has that for our team. It’s going to be critical for him to display that and lead the way when it comes to that in this tournament. He stepped up with the big 3 he made for us against Northwestern. Bernard’s leadership and his being a veteran ball player is going to have to pay dividends for us if we’re going to be successful this weekend.”

On whether Dion will start for Lester again:

“We haven’t determined that yet. We’re going to practice here the next three days, but we don’t really determine our line ups until the night before. But that certainly gave us a shot in the arm in Evanston so it’s something that we’ll discuss and see how it plays out the next few days.”

On Lester’s decision to recommend Dion start:

“He was just doing something for his teammate and something for our team. He thought about it and made me aware of it and thought that it was something that could maybe help us. I thought it was an incredible suggestion on his part. “

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