Here’s the full transcript of Michigan’s press conference this afternoon discussing the upcoming game with Duke. John Beilein, Stu Douglass, Darius Morris and Zack Novak were all on the podium. We should have video posted later tonight. Audio from the Michigan players and also Coach Beilein are posted on MGoBlue.com. (Photo: MGoBlue)
Q. For Stu, how much of the Duke game did you guys get to watch and could you give me your impressions?
STU DOUGLASS: Started out pretty quick. We watched a lot of film. Coach gave us a great game plan. Broke down a lot of stuff. Great team, lot of size. Lot of different ways — they can run their offense and defense. Lot of different, you know, matchups for us. It will be a good game.
Q. Zack, you guys have been in a number of big games. Does that lessen the enormity of the situation here?
ZACK NOVAK: The teams we’ve played have prepared us for this challenge. Duke is a great team, obviously. They’ve got a lot of really talented players, and they do a real good job running their system, but I think that the games that we’ve played up to this point have prepared us and I think we’re ready.
Q. If I could get each of you three to please comment on this question, starting with Darius. To what degree do you guys embrace kind of the underdog role? I know I’ve heard the words “chip on our shoulder” and “not satisfied” come out of your mouth a lot in the last week or two. How much does that come into play in a game like this where almost everybody has Duke advancing?
DARIUS MORRIS: You know, that’s like the story of our season, you know. Came in, preseason projections weren’t in our favor, had us at the bottom of the Big Ten. And I think individually everybody, you know, kind of throughout their basketball career has been an underdog, you know, if you look at the players and where they was ranked at as far as coming in high school. We’ve all embraced that chip, you know, that we play with on our shoulder. And I think it definitely helps us out there is the reason why we fight so hard just to prove everybody wrong.
ZACK NOVAK: Kind of going off what Darius said, individually we just got a group of guys, you know, that just for whatever reason coming up like kind of fulfilled that underdog role. You look at a kid like Tim Hardaway. He had two big time offers. Look how well he’s playing. One of the best freshman in the country. Jordan Morgan, the same thing. All your young guys, pretty much everybody has kind of had that coming up, and then this season, you know, we were young coming in. So obviously, I think it was warranted that people really didn’t have high expectations for us because no one knew what to think but, you know, I use to it fuel you a little bit, but, at the same time, you don’t pay attention to it because you just believe in yourself, and if you believe in yourself good things can happen.
STU DOUGLASS: I think we definitely love it. We embrace it completely. I think if you don’t embrace it — if we hadn’t embraced it this year, we wouldn’t be where we are. Kind of been an advantage since I’ve gotten the other teams, special teams at Michigan for the last three years, when we played like an underdog, you know, embraced that role, that title, we’ve been successful.
Q. For each of you three, how much zone defense did you play in high school, and when you came here, how difficult was it to learn the 1-3-1.
STU DOUGLASS: It takes some time from an individual standpoint when you get a new team. Me and Zack, we learn the positions, but, you know, Zack is learning a new position this year in the 1-3-1. So it just changes from year to year.
Coach definitely comes in and first few weeks prepares all the players. And so it’s not something, you know — I don’t know. We don’t worry about it. Coach always prepares for that.
ZACK NOVAK: Yeah. In high school I played both 1-3-1 and 2-3. I had a little bit of experience with it but, you know, it’s just coach does a really good job teaching it, and I think it’s a good tool for us to have in our back pocket, just throw out there. I think it’s changed the momentum of a number of games since I’ve been here, I know.
DARIUS MORRIS: In high school, as far as my high school team, just played a lot of man, in AAU, 2-3 You know Coach, the zone, the way he coaches it is kind of different and special. Honestly, it took me like a whole year before I was able to really adapt to it and know, you know, where everybody else is supposed to be at, and now it’s just like it flows a lot better than compared to last year, more consistently, and he does a great job of teaching both the 1-3-1 and the 2-3 kind of zone with the man principle.
Q. Given how far you’ve come and that everyone is going to be back next year presumably, how important is this game tomorrow in the run that you guys have made in the last part of the season toward building a foundation for next year as well?
STU DOUGLASS: Experience is huge. Get a taste of it. Whether we win tomorrow or not, the experience is there and we got a taste of the NCAA Tournament and what it’s like. It will definitely make us hungry for next year.
Q. I know that you guys have had to answer this before, but now that the matchup is a reality, how much fire has the Fab Five documentary added to this matchup and perhaps animosity between the schools? Maybe, Zack, you could start.
ZACK NOVAK: That was something that happened 20 years ago. It was a great rivalry. We played them a couple times in the last three, four, years. Personally our class has split with them one and one. Right now we’re just thinking about present day, Duke versus present day Michigan. All the other stuff is just really off to the side.
Q. Can you guys talk about what the advantages of the 1-3-1 zone are, and do you see opposing offenses struggling because they don’t see it so much?
DARIUS MORRIS: I say it kind of throws them off, especially since we haven’t been playing it that much. So when we throw it out there, it’s just a change of pace. You know, we slow it up and make the guards really have to make decisions on the fly, and, you know, they don’t know when it’s really coming because we don’t even know when it’s coming.
You know, it switches up the game and changes up the pace. Even and if it’s effective, we’ll definitely use it more throughout the game.
STU DOUGLASS: The same thing as Darius said. Kind of change up the pace, different look. Sometimes coaches have quick hitters, the first couple plays they can run against it and with success. After that, we can kind of work and adjust to how they run it and it can be effective at times.
Q. I wanted to ask about that. Darius you said you don’t use it that much. Came out yesterday first time seeing you personally expecting you to be 1-3-1. You played most of the first half in man. How often do you use the 1-3-1 these days?
DARIUS MORRIS: This season, you know, we really, you know, put a focus on the preseason to really just play a lot of man-to-man defense and guard-to-guard and we really just embraced that challenge and it worked out for us. We always practice the zone, but, you know, coaches really lean towards playing that man-to-man. But he’s known for his famous 1-3-1 zone. So that’s probably why a lot of people expect it if you haven’t been following us.
We definitely switched it up this year, but, you know, it’s also a great tool for coach to have in his back pocket to always be able to go to that with the previous success he’s had with it.
Q. Darius, I think it was a pass from you to Stu behind your back in yesterday’s game. Could you talk about that play. First, how you did it and, Stu, whether you were surprised it got to you.
DARIUS MORRIS: You know, we were in our 2-3. They made a pass. I jumped in the passing lane and just 2-on-1 break coach always teaches to get wide, and the guy was a little bit in front of me. I saw Stu traveling, so the way to get it there was throw a behind the back pass.
Stu topped it off with great finish. Dunked it really hard. We see him do that in practice, you know, when he dunks with two hands, but to do it on this stage, you know, with a defender and reach, it’s impressive.
STU DOUGLASS: Getting use to playing with Darius, got to expect a pass at all times when you’re open. Like he said, the guy is in front of him. Didn’t think he had a angle for a layup play. So I was expecting a pass. And he threw a great pass and just finished it.
THE MODERATOR: Any other questions? Okay. Thanks guys. See you tomorrow.
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: As opposed to when you’re playing in the your Big Ten Tournaments and your Christmas Tournaments, it’s good to just have one day to try to rest a little bit and get — try to give your team all the challenges they’re going to face tomorrow against a great Duke team.
So, we’ve been busy since — coaches have been busy since the moment our game was over and had a good workout and now back to more film and, you know, segment our day so that we can just give ours kids little bits of time, little pieces that they can put together. But a great team and really going to be a huge challenge for us because of both their experience and their size.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Coach, the players mentioned that they’ve sort of embraced the underdog, chip-on-the-shoulder approach all season and that they think it’s worked to their favor. Is this something as a coach that you’ve tried to foster or nurture or just kind of let go its own way in?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: I don’t think we have done a great deal of fostering. I think that was just natural, you know. I’m not with them, there’s information obviously overload out there, there’s so many different publications and comments about predictions before the year, and we were probably not predicted to be sitting here right now.
So we just — I think that they probably realize that, and then we’re just trying to build a program. We just want to build this Michigan program so that it is back where we all want it to be and its a lasting and consistent program like you see in the Dukes and the Michigan States and Wisconsin, Ohio State, they’re all back here every year. That’s where we want to be, and that’s why I came to Michigan.
Q. How do you prepare for this Duke team at this time in particular when their rotation is somewhat in flux with Kyrie Irving’s return yesterday after three and a half months?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: He’s so talented and Nolan is so talented and when they play them both at the same time, there’s not — Mike does an incredible job of, you know, running great sets, great schemes, but also talks advantage of his players talents.
We have to go way back to watch Irving’s tapes from earlier, and we’ve seen a couple of those. At this time, there’s very little you can do. Listen, all these guys are really great players. They’ve got great experience, great quickness, and we respect it and so we just do the best we can of being fundamentally sound.
Q. Without giving us your whole game plan, can you talk about the effectiveness of the 1-3-1 and when you turn to it, when you don’t?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: I’d be giving away all our secrets if we ended up doing that. It is — it’s a unique defense that we used when I was at Richmond, believe it or not, and at West Virginia. It’s been very effective sometimes. However, we practice it often; we use it rarely. But when we do use it and it’s effective, we’ll stay with it.
Q. You talked about how much you prepared for rebounding against Tennessee and how important that, was and clearly it was very successful. Does that same preparation help you with Duke’s size, or is that a whole different animal?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: It was the first comments that we made today at practice when we were just practicing. We took a shot. Three guys didn’t block out. The scout team grabbed the rebound and coach was concerned with that. It’s the same thing. You just took a Tennessee team that is a ferocious rebounding team and gave them six offensive rebounds. Now all of a sudden, we stop doing that.
This is a bigger challenge. This is longer, again, more experienced players. Just really a challenge to keep them from having the easy points and second opportunities.
Q. When you recruit a kid out of high school, when you use, 2-3 zone and a 1-3-1, do you look at a guy that might play some zone in high school or do you feel you can teach it to anyone?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: Has no bearing at all really. We’re looking at whether guys are basketball players. My thought is, I shared with people the other day, we think they’re offensively, they feel the game really well, then they feel it defensively.
Whether you’re zone, whether you’re man. If they’re — some guys that you can attain that through a lot of work. Some never really do it. There are always — the game never slows down for them. We tend to recruit basketball players that can play both ways. Obviously quickness and length are a big part of it as well.
Q. John, year before last, you guys played Duke twice in about a ten-day period. First game in New York they won pretty handily, second one you won pretty handily. Was there a tactical reason those games were so different? Did you change something or find something or just one game —
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: I must have missed that game in Ann Arbor we won handily. That wasn’t handily. The big thing is we were home. Like when you go to Cameron, you go to Chrysler, there’s an advantage for the home team and there’s a disadvantage, and so we were very fortunate. We made a lot of tough shots in that game. Duke missed a lot of easy outside shots in that game. So everything fell our way during that game at home. That’s why we won.
Q. You talked about the challenge, but after having played four games against other number one seeds in this tournament, do you feel like this team is prepared for that type of challenge?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: You know, their length, while it will be troublesome, will not be unique to us. Particularly Kansas, as far as length, was extremely impressive, a combination of length and quickness. Ohio State doesn’t play — they don’t play as big as far as having the length, the 6-9s all over the place, the Morris twins.
They play more — they play a predominant game with a single post. So that is different challenges. They have a tremendous outside shooting team. Duke probably is a blend of those two.
THE MODERATOR: Any other questions?
Q. You mentioned Cameron. What do you remember about your first visit there and your first game at Canisius?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: It’s a great story, actually, and I’ve shared it before. It was my first Division I game as a Division I coach at Duke. The only guy missing off the starting five, Cherokee Parks was starting at center. We walked into the shoot around. It was like a weekday game. We walked into the shoot around and there was Krzyzewskiville was set up. I go, “Damn.” I said, “They’re set-up in Krzyewskiville to play Canisius?” I asked somebody, “You’re set up, camping out for the Canisius games?”
He said, “Heck, no, we play Michigan this weekend.”
And so how ironic is that right now. That was our first game, and coach was very good to me. We were like — I think we’re done 32-24. Coach K called a time out, and I said, “Boy, I think we got a pretty good team here, we can hang with Duke, it’s 32-24.”
The next thing I knew it was 62-26. I think they went on a 30-2 run against our Canisius team, and then coach went zone, and I just said “Thank you so much.” Got back into a soft zone and let us at least come out of there with some dig in it.
Q. I wanted to ask you about you keep talking about the length. It seems like they’re getting more contribution from their big guys in recent games. When you look at recent tapes, are they handling the Plumlee brothers differently?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: No, I’m thinking defensively the length. That’s what I’m talking about. They’re going to encourage you to take the ball to the basket, speed you up, make sure that you are out of control, and then they got these arms and legs and size and Kelly blocks shots as well.
Singler is long. Sometimes he’s playing a 3-man at 6-8. There’s not many 3-men at 6-8 out there. And then you’re passing against that length on a ball pickup. They’re all over you and denying passes and they have — they’re at 6-10, 6-8, they’re denying passes. You have to be very concise with what you’re trying to do.
Q. Coach, yesterday Coach Krzyzewski was talking about you guys and saying that your depth is something that really helps you guys, and obviously he has more depth now with Irving getting back in the lineup in the backcourt. Could you assess how —
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: We had great depth yesterday. That has not been consistent because we’re so young. We’re coming off and we look at the bench and all right, and which freshman are we going to put in right now? That’s our depth. Which freshman are we going to put in?
And Matt Vogrich is a sophomore. He’s a 19-year-old sophomore. Part of the thing that we just — we look to and we’re developing those young men. There’s talent that comes in that’s ready to go, and then there’s talent that just develops in time. I know Coach K has had several guys like that as well, and we love our team and they’ll be times we will go there. We’re not nine, ten, 11 deep right now as consistent play.
Q. You guys won yesterday without shooting — without making a single free throw first time in tournament history. You also won by 30.
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: How about that?
Q. That’s bizarre. What happened? Have you ever had a game like that?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: We get to the foul line, sometimes we get to the foul line but we didn’t in that game. I wouldn’t say we’re going to the foul line a lot. We’re probably in lower in Division I. People say we shoot too many jump shots or do this or that. We have a developing inside game. So that’s one way you get to the foul line. But it’s happened to us before where we haven’t shot. We’ve shot single digit foul shots on many of our games.
Q. Coach, the controversial comments aside, talking to some guys in the locker room, they said watching that documentary was the first time for a lot of them they had been exposed to the history of the program. What do you hope they took from watching that together and what do you hope they take into it into this game?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: I think there’s a great chapter in Michigan history and Duke history with those rivalries during that era. And then recently we’ve had a couple very good games, and now this is just another chapter. Duke certainly has many rivals, and when we have played, it’s been intense and lot of emotion involved in it.
Q. Wondering if could you talk about turnovers, and you don’t turn it over very much against a team that likes to pressure the ball, get out under the fast break, how important it is to not turn it over?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: Against them it was very much like at Tennessee. We cannot guard them in transition defense caused by a turnover. Shouldn’t say we cannot. Very difficult to guard transition defense. You can do something about missing a shot. You can send nobody to the backboard, have five guys back, but a turnover is such sudden change that it’s very difficult, especially when the other team is as quick as they are in the backcourt, as long as they are.
So it’s a key to tomorrow’s game. There’s no question about it. I’m sure Coach Krzyzewski is saying the same thing to his. We’ve got to turn the team over. It’s something we work at hard. They work at turning people over. I think we both work in not turning people over or not turning ours over, let’s say. So that will be a big battle tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: Any other questions? Okay. Thanks coach. We’ll talk to you tomorrow.