QUESTION #1: Coach, what have you seen as the biggest turnaround for Michigan so far this year coming off of a disappointing last year for them?
BO RYAN: "I was talking to one of my guys and looking at the difference in, say, Devin Harris from his first year to his second year, looking at Manny Harris from his first year to his second year, looking at some of their players along those lines of how improved they were, and how they understand what's going on a lot better. It's just, in the real world when you look at people from one year to the next, what do you see? So with Michigan you see they're a little stronger, they have a little more depth, a little better understanding of reads. So they're a better team, and they've proven that."
QUESTION #2: Do you feel you have a bit of a target on your backs coming in as the defending Big Ten champs?
RYAN: "Yeah, I think that always happens, whether it was us this year or somebody in the past, like in Ohio State when we came in second two years ago, and then Ohio State won. And of course, they lost some pretty good players, too. So when we were playing Ohio State, I can remember a little more of a buzz or sense that with the way the people handled the game or when we would look at tapes.
So, yeah, I mean that always happens. No matter what conference you're in what, what league, the team that won it the year before is, creates a lot more interest at the institution where you're playing next. That's why it's tough. It's hard. Ohio State found that out last year."
QUESTION #3: Do you pick it up a little bit, maybe in practice or with what you say or what you try to get across to your players when you move to the Big Ten season?
RYAN: "No, because I think then you're cheating the young men that you're working with. That would be like a math teacher saying ‘the first couple weeks we're going to do this. But now there's a test Friday, here we go. I'm going to give you more homework.' I mean, I think it's a daily process, and these guys know how competitive the coaches are, and as coaches, we know how competitive our players are. There's not a lot of mind games that you can play where you take it easy and then, boom, then you rev it up, and then, okay, you settle down a little bit, then you rev it up again. I don't think you can do that.
I think the habits that we're trying to teach these young men are the ones that they're hopefully taking to their professions when they're finished playing basketball. Do I want our players to go out into the business world or teaching or wherever they go and only go hard certain times of the year? No. The answer is we don't change. We're trying to do same things. The players know that conference season is starting, but they didn't save anything to play well for the conference season. That's not something that I've seen in the teams that I've coached.
QUESTION #4: Coach, your players were visibly pretty upset about the loss against Texas. Did you sense that at all when they came back from break or is it right back to work?
RYAN: "You know, it's how the theory goes: Never get used to disappointment, because then it's not real. Our guys played very hard against Texas, and we came up short, and you're disappointed, absolutely. But we've got more to go. Did we learn from it? That's what you find out as you keep going through the season. It might not be in the next game, but down the road here we're still trying to just get better. And we're more concerned with what we're doing about getting better than a lot of times what you worry about with the other team. Needless to say, we've got things that we're doing to prepare for Michigan, but we're also trying to get some things done where we're just playing better no matter who we're playing. And we've got a lot of work to do."
QUESTION #5: Do you enjoy starting the conference season on the road, or do you not care either way?
RYAN: "Well, there are some years where you might say, boy, it would be great if we could start at home, but we have no control over that. And the fact that we're starting at the same place two years in a row, I don't know how that's done. I've never figured out scheduling. I just know that we fought for trying to make sure a team doesn't play four away games in a row, and we got that accomplished. Again, because your sports are played during the week. And four games, and I know it's break right now, but not everybody's on break. A lot of times schools are on quarters and trimesters, and it doesn't always work that way. But I think you've got to play them anyhow, so it happens we start on the road again."
QUESTION #6: It appears that Big 10 basketball could be better this season than maybe the past few years, or is that not something that you would agree with?
RYAN: "Well, I don't know. People talk about that stuff all the time. You know, you say punching bag. This is Midwest, hardworking people, strong work ethic, don't pound our chests a lot here in the Midwest. I've lived here longer now, so I say us in the Midwest. You've going to get darts thrown at you from the Coasts, from other parts of the country where people are going to, you know, try to say that this is down, that's down. You know, they've been doing that for how long? And then the ACC had a down cycle for a while, the Pac-10 here.
So it's just conversation, and we still lead the nation in attendance, the Big Ten. People still want to see the basketball programs in the Big Ten. So I think basketball's in pretty good shape in the Midwest, and we don't have to take a backseat to anyone. But the more you talk about it, then the more it sounds like, well, why do you have to defend it, just play. So that's what we're going to try to do, and that's what our teams did in the nonconference season.
For us to finally get an ACC/Big Ten win on the road at Virginia Tech, for people who aren't real knowledgeable about the game or know how tough it is to win in that thing and all that, they don't understand that that's a good win for us, and there were even better wins, I guess, by some of the other teams. But again, maybe that's just some pettiness on people's parts, and they don't want to give you credit when something good happens. But you're not going to change that."
QUESTION #7: What makes a guy like Joe Krabbenhoft a good leader? What have you seen from him in that regard?
RYAN: "Well, the one thing we do know is he's not going to be an option quarterback. See, you know me. I don't criticize my players, but I can have some fun. Joe is such a competitive guy. Would he love to have that handoff back? But that's Joe. He comes to practice the next time we get on the floor, and he's just diving for loose balls, you know. But again, he won't be running any plays for the Vikings in the backfield. But where would we be without him, without his energy, without his toughness? He's as tough as they get. I'm just glad he's with us."
QUESTION #8: Can you address how you teach limiting turnovers and turnovers at specific times?
RYAN: "Just by coming to practice every day with a good work ethic, and stay true to the game, respect the game. The game is, you know, don't turn it over, get good shots, defensively don't give up easy ones. All of those are the same things we say every day. It's not going to change."
QUESTION #9: Do you have to break down the belief and get to it in practice somehow differently than maybe having the fans?
RYAN: "No. You know, it's all in the players. You know, when they do well or when they do poorly, it's, you know, they're held accountable. They understand. You know, so many games that we've won because the other team made a turnover at a tough spot. Sometimes it goes in cycles.
Sometimes the other team being a little bit better, physically quicker, that type of thing, sometimes you just got to play almost a perfect game to beat certain teams. And our teams have done that, played to the point where we gave ourselves the best opportunity to be successful, because we had to. Because if we didn't, then we're going to be on the right-hand side a lot. But every team's different, every personality of a team changes every year.
You look at trying to be consistent just in the Big Ten, and you look at people go from second to sixth to third to eighth to first to sixth, things like that. It's hard. And all part of that is valuing the ball. Everybody values it, but sometimes it's a little bit tougher, for especially younger players who maybe physically aren't strong enough, aren't ready for that next step. But you never know, it could be next week, could be this week, could be next month. We'll keep teaching them."