Previewing Michigan vs. Oregon

GBW takes a look at a few keys to the games and the coaches (Kent and Amaker) take time to address media questions.

Key Match-up: Bernard Robinson Jr. vs. Luke Jackson
Jackson is the Ducks’ leading scorer (at 21.1 ppg), rebounder (at 7.3 rpg), and assist man (4at .6 apg). At 6-7 215 lbs. he’s a bit bigger than Robinson and has good inside-out ability. It will be important for UM’s lone senior and best defender to stay out of foul trouble because Jackson will probably have a greater advantage over any other defender.

GBW Key to Winning: Perimeter defense
Michigan has struggled at times during the season in this area. It had gotten better in the postseason, but the Rainbow Warriors had a little more success against the Wolverines in their last contest. Oregon touts three players that shoot over 40% from the 3-point line in Jackson (73-165 44.2%), Andre Joseph (65-145 44.8%) and reserve James Davis (85-203 41.9%). If Michigan cannot limit the efficiency from deep, they will face an uphill battle.

Ernie Kent

On why his team is playing better at this point in the season:

The biggest thing is defensively we’re playing a lot better and I think it’s giving us an opportunity. We’ve always shot the ball pretty well, but were doing a much better job defensively than we did in the middle of the season.

On Michigan:

They are a very very good basketball team. They are a young team that’s coming of age. I think they’re playing their best basketball right now. They are extremely athletic. Tommy has done a great job of coaching them, particularly the young players with the way that they’re playing right now. They’re going to be a tough opponent for us. We realize that.

On how Michigan compares to previous NIT opponents:

They’re different because they’re big, long, and athletic. They’re going to do some things that are going to cause us some problems with the way that they play and some of the things that they do. We’re going to have to neutralize some things. But they do present a whole different set of problems for us. They’re very similar to a combination of UCLA and CAL and those types of programs in our conference…the difference being that they’ve been playing in a tougher Big Ten conference, so they have themselves battle-tested.

On if Bernard Robinson Jr. is similar to Luke Jackson:

He’s like Luke in the fact that he’s the senior and he knows what it takes to get it done. He’s been here before in situations and big games. He plays with a lot of confidence and he’s a very versatile player. So he’s very similar to Luke Jackson with what he means for us and does for us. He does the same for Michigan.

On the exposure Oregon gets in NYC from the billboards they’ve put up and playing in the east:

Mainly we’re given the opportunity for people to look up at some of those billboards and find out who we are and where we’re at. We’re here and we have a chance to play in a great environment. It’s kind of neat after coming here last year and playing Cincinnati over in the Meadowlands. It wasn’t a very good game...but to come here and see Ridnour’s billboard up and now to come back here and play… it is kind of special for us to have our program back here in the east.

On Daniel Horton and what they’ll have to do to stop him:

I can’t tell you what we have to do against him but he is a player, to me, that can really score the basketball. I think he has kind of made the difference for them. He’s starting to shoot better and do some things that’s giving them more weapons. He’s a very good basketball player and is obviously someone that we’re going to have to do our best to contain.

On if Horton will play this game with added incentive because Kent cut him from last year’s USA basketball team:

I think that there are a lot of players out there that have the opportunity to play with USA basketball. I think that what they’ve got to do is look at it as an experience and see that they’re one of the top players in the country and that they had the opportunity to be invited to camp and go through the process. Whether or not he’s going to have a little more incentive is a question that will have to be put to him. He had a great opportunity to be with us and play with us a couple of years ago and did a great job. He just didn’t make our squad last year. So he had one year with us and one year without us.

Tommy Amaker

On the similarities between Bernard Robinson Jr. and Luke Jackson:

We refer to Bernard as ‘Mr. Everything’ for us. At one point he was leading our team in scoring, rebounding, assists, and steals. He’s our 2nd leading scorer now, but still close to being the leading scorer. I think Luke Jackson does that and probably then some for their ball club. So I think that you’re looking at two of the better all-around basketball players in college basketball. And when I say basketball players…what I mean is I don’t think either one of those kids are one-dimensional or pigeon-holed into a position. They are kind of throw-backs to a player that is a very skilled basketball player. They do it all. They play all over. They also both happen to be left-handed which is kind of ironic.

On the toughest losses from the season, and if Michigan State is the one that hurt the most:

It would be hard for me to put it at one. That would be one of the few that I’d have to choose from. That was certainly a loss that we had at home that we thought we played very well in. They came back. It was such a great basketball game. I thought they played tremendously down the stretch. But we had some other losses. We lost to Indiana at home. We lost to Boston University at home. Those were our three home losses during the course of the season. Honestly I’d even have to look at a couple of the losses on the road where we thought we played well and were right there to win the game but couldn’t get it at the end. So I think the State game would be one of a handful that I’d have to deliberate and make a tough choice about.

On if he thinks two more wins would have gotten Michigan into the tournament:

I’ve been asked that and I wish I had the answer. I don’t know. Maybe that wouldn’t even have done it. The fact is that we had a number of good wins that put us in this tournament. To advance and have the chance to play in the semi-finals here is a significant achievement for our program and our team at this time.

On if he looked back at games he coached against Kent when he was at Seton Hall and what Michigan should expect:

I haven’t looked back at that. It was a few years ago with different players and I was at a different school. But I think the thing you know about playing Ernie Kent and his Oregon ballclub is they’re obviously very well coached. They have a team right now that I believe is efficient and is as explosive offensively as any team we’ve seen all year, so we’re very concerned with their offensive power. I think that’s been one of the trademarks of Ernie. He’s been a terrific coach in that regard. He plays a very up-tempo fast paced style of basketball and they shoot it very well.

On what playing in the postseason means to his team:

I think it’s obviously given us a sense of confidence that we’ve been able to advance in the postseason. I think that anytime you make postseason play, it’s a significant achievement. You look around and there are only eight teams left in college basketball right now. We’re one of the fortunate ones to be included in that category. So I think to advance in the postseason bodes well for your program and it certainly bodes well for us because we’re very young. I try not to harp on that (being young). I’m hoping that it will give us a lot of confidence in the future.

More on Luke Jackson:

I’m very impressed with him. I think he’s one of the very best all around players that you’re going to see in college basketball. There’s nothing he can’t do. He plays with a savvy that is beyond his years. I love that about watching basketball players and he’s one of the ones that I’ve seen do that as well as anybody. He’s a big time player. He does it all. He’s a great passer. I think one of the things that you look for in players is can he make others better and he certainly has the ability to raise the level of his teammates by his play…. and not just by his scoring. I think sometimes you see those 40 point games and that’s high production for him which is great, but the impact that I’ve seen him have from watching tape is he can really make other people that much better than they are. I think that’s the mark of a very special player

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