Beilein's Roundtable: Previewing Northwestern

Michigan basketball coach John Beilein met with the media today to discuss his team as it prepares for tomorrow's match-up with Northwestern. The Wolverines third-year headman discussed his team's performance against Iowa, the challenge the Wildcats present, the return of assistant Jerry Dunn, and more.

Opening Statement Coach Beilein:  "Okay here we go again.  This is the six of the seven two game turnarounds that we've had during this span and doing that for Northwestern is difficult.  I think we had a good day yesterday for about an hour and now today, we have to try and simulate what they do both offensively and defensively.  If you ask Big Ten coaches many of them would agree with me that this is the most difficult prep of the year, because they play so differently and right now they are playing as well as any Northwestern team that we've faced is playing.  Even though they lost, they have played well."

Question:  How much of the prep is looking at the film of what you guys…?

Coach Beilein:  "That's all we're doing.  We're not looking ahead.  Now we will add in practice today.  Here's what they did against Michigan State, it showed this and did that.  There is so much that I find our guys have a lot more attention when they watch themselves because they can see it happen as opposed to watching Michigan State or Purdue or somebody else."

Question:  Do you have any principles that you guys do that are somewhat similar?

Coach Beilein:  "Offensively we do some similar things.  Defensively, the 1-3-1 is the same, but they are just longer at it and they touch the ball better than we do.  There very long and when you have a 6'8" and (John) Shurna has got very long arms and then (Jeremy) Nash is very good and (Alex) Marcotullio is very good at it.  I think one of the big differences for them is the center.  He's really made a big difference for them.  He really is a smart player, does not turn the ball over.  He hit a big three against us, got to respect him just enough."

Question:  You said distractions was kind of a big issue in the second half….?

Coach Beilein:  "We had 18 turnovers."

Question:  Were you able to see certain things differently…?

Coach Beilein:  "Our frustrations offensively.  They had 40 second half points I think.  Our frustrations offensively, when we went down and guarded them they went seven for 10 from three.  It was almost the exact same as our Penn State game.  I mean they went seven for 10 from in the second half and they got several unguarded threes – we would say you got him and the other guy would say, no you got him, and nobody took him and that happened several times, not several, three or four, if several is the appropriate word.  I think it had a lot to do with we were scoring and we were feeling good and then all of a sudden we started turning it over and we had trouble going from offense to defense."

Question:  Do you think defensively that you guys have come a long way?

Coach Beilein:  "We have, but it's a different animal Mike.  This is just a different animal when you play them.  We have become much better at guarding some of the things that Iowa does, some of the things Wisconsin does.  Guarding this, you have to change a lot of your principles in this particular thing.  I do think we are talking a little bit better, but this is so quick.  They are just really good at it, just really good."

Question:  I know we talked a little bit perhaps after Iowa, that perhaps this is a shot at redemption, is that a good thing to kind of have that perspective, obviously if they keep it in check?

Coach Beilein:  "I think the redemption always is that you win your homes and lose your aways and you win just a couple more aways, you probably have 10 wins, so we have to flip that.  That's what happened with Michigan State and that's happened with Northwestern and those are two we're trying to flip around.  If you can flip them around then you are back on the right track, so that's the opportunity right now."

Question:  So you like hearing them talk like that…?

Coach Beilein:  "Yeah.  I do not know if it is a get back type of game or something like that.  It is more, we have to make up for one that got away but it's not like we owe them one.  No, we owe ourselves one.  It would be good for ourselves for us to come back and play.  We've got to shoot and they are forcing 10 turnovers a game and we gave them 18 in one game.  I watched the game twice and my stomach hurts watching it.  It was one of our poorer performances.  Even when we were scoring early, we were not playing well."

Question:  A lot of people left them for dead after (Kevin) Coble went down; are you somewhat surprised?

Coach Beilein:  "Yeah I think anybody is surprised because of the magnitude of Coble.  I do not think anybody appreciated Shurna and how Nash, who was a kid that we did not guard.  He was basically a nonfactor as a freshman and sophomore.  Michael Thompson was this diminutive point guard as a freshman that he is good and I think one of their weak spots the last couple of years has been at the center position and right now (Luka) Mirkovic is playing very well."

Question:  Did Shurna kind of catch you by surprise too?

Coach Beilein:  "Yeah.  You saw some glimpses last year but everything was so focused on Coble and actually they played a little bit of the same position because they had (Craig) Moore out there and they had Shurna out there was sort of out of place as a true small forward as a freshman because Coble was more of their four man.  Coble got most of the post ups and things like that and now Shurna is doing that.  Then of course (Drew) Crawford is probably the rookie of the year so far or I would say up to this point.  I guess we haven't played against all the freshman, but I do not know a freshman that has done better than he has done.  So that is another big added bonus to what they have.  Anybody who has a freshman who plays and is a consistent double figure scorer is an anomaly most years.  So he's really done a great job with his freshman."

Question:  Is there anything specific Crawford does maybe so well that …?

Coach Beilein:  "Guard him would be one thing.  He took us to the basket.  We did a couple of them you got him, I got him, you got him, where we did not communicate.  He got two baskets where they missed a layup and he outhustled us to the other end of the floor and got the ball and laid it in.  He plays with a real passion.  He plays with a chip on his shoulder and it has made him a great player."

Question:  You brought up Anthony Wright, I think it was on Saturday; what is it that he has done besides the shooting the last few games that's gotten him more in the lineup?

Coach Beilein:  "I think we just needed…there has to be somebody who comes in at the four that will have some consistency to play especially with all the different things that we end up seeing.  He probably knows what we're doing better than a Matt Vogrich and when they have a situation where people have a strong four, it is really hard for us to play Manny (Harris) and Matt Vogrich at the same time.  If Zach is in foul trouble, it is just hard to do that.  So Anthony has got to be the guy there until we can shore up that position."

Question:  I know you guys always emphasis one game at a time, but what is the most important thing that you feel like your players, your team needs to do collectively over this next stretch of three out of four on the road?

Coach Beilein:  "Even though the win helped us a little bit, but we got to continue to get swagger and confidence back.  That was a mini step but we have come close too many times to walk into a gym and say we're going to get this one.  We have to get that and I think a road win coupled with a win over Wisconsin does a lot of that for us.  Then you can see we won't have any two day preps for a long time.  I know you guys probably do not understand this, but it is hard, with young teams it is really, really hard.  I can't recall being in this.  It's got us.  It's stolen some baskets from us in some ways."

Question:  Does the nature of the shrinking schedule with just nine games left kind of alter perhaps that…?

Coach Beilein:  "Yeah.  Hopefully, but we'll go back to work as far as getting back to old school type of practices because we'll have time to do it.  That's really what this team needs.  It really, really needs.  It started a little bit late with one week.  We went into it with the Old Spice Tournament and it never stopped and the chances to get better and realize what our weaknesses are, we haven't really had enough time to really get better at it."

Question:  What do you say to Matt Vogrich to keep his head up and confidence up?

Coach Beilein:  "You're a typical freshman.  That's just what you have to say to virtually 80% of the freshman you have – you're typical.  There is 10-20%.  You look at the West Virginia team right now, De'Sean Butler was the atypical freshman and Wellington Smith and Joe Mazzulla were the typical freshman and they are all very good players right now.  Very rarely does a guy come around that is ready to play or your program is down so much that they have to play, they have to play and sometimes it does not work well.  Sometimes it may destroy the kid's confidence to play as a freshman."

Question:  Coach Dunn is back?

Coach Beilein:  "Coach Dunn is back today."

Question:  What does he bring to you guys that maybe you haven't had since he hasn't been around?

Coach Beilein:  "Well, he's going to take Jeff Meyer's responsibility.  He wants to get back to coaching again, but except for seeing a couple games on TV he has been away from it.  So now he can help us in other ways.  He actually can't talk to us about basketball.  You can only have three guys talking…he can give us generic basketball examples, but he cannot talk to us about basketball.  Because he's not part of the staff – Jeff has assumed his duty."

Question:  Oh for the rest of the year.

Coach Beilein:  "Yeah.  He wants to get back into coaching, but he does not feel right now he can just jump back in.  He hasn't been to practice in a month.  That extra guy whether it is Patrick Beilein or whoever, they cannot do scouting.  They can't work with players.  They can't even talk to players.  He'll assume some of those roles.  He'll be able to do a lot of the things that we've been doing for a month off our plate now, whether it is compliance issues, whether it is gym scheduling.  Stuff that Jeff all did for me and do it professional."

Question:  Will it be permanent?

Coach Beilein:  "We'll revisit at the end of the year like we do every year.  We look at everybody at the end of the year and say okay where do we go from here."

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