John Beilein, Jordan Morgan, Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton were on the podium Friday afternoon to preview Michigan’s upcoming match-up with Texas. Read their presser comments in the transcript below.
Q. Jordan, what do you think when you look at the challenges that Texas presents inside with Ridley and Holmes?
JORDAN MORGAN: I think it’s just the whole front line in general, a lot of length. Something we’re not necessarily used to seeing. I think there’s some size in the Big Ten, but, you know, especially at the power forward position, you see a lot of teams that we played against kind of go smaller. So it will present some challenges for us, especially boxing out. I think they average 15 rebounds a game. It will be a big focus to try to keep them off the glass.
Q. Jordan, could you just talk about just the bulk and the size of Ridley and have you played against any guy like him this year and the problems that presents for you?
JORDAN MORGAN: Yeah. He’s really long. So, I mean, we’ve had some players, you know, close, but I don’t know, AJ Hammons, Adreian Payne, and those players with a lot of length down there, but I don’t know if it’s the same. I haven’t really stood next to him, so I don’t really know.
Q. For Caris or Derrick, when it comes to their backcourt, basically the same question. What do you see when you look at their players that you guys might be lined up against in the backcourt?
CARIS LEVERT: Two guards, they pass the ball really well and attack well in transition. They shoot the ball pretty well. That will be a good matchup for Derrick and I going forward.
THE MODERATOR: Derrick, take a whack at that as well.
DERRICK WALTON, JR.: Like Caris said, they really got a good backcourt, so me and Caris are up for the challenge.
Q. Jordan, all season long, everywhere we went, we had to hear coaches and players talk about, oh, how great the Big 12 is, you know, No. 1 RPI, all that type of stuff. Tell us a little bit about what your take is on Big Ten basketball. I’d like to hear from your guys about how good y’all feel y’all do?
JORDAN MORGAN: We feel it’s the best league in the country. When you look at top to bottom, there’s no team — when you’re playing in the Big Ten Conference, there’s no game you can take easily from top to tomorrow. You see teams win night in and night out. There’s no game you take for granted. We lost of at Indiana, who finished eighth in the league. And you just see teams like Illinois finished ninth, win at Michigan State. There’s no games you can take for granted. This is a fight all year long. I mean, that’s the nature of it.
Q. One of the most memorable matchups between Michigan and Texas in any sport was the 2005 Rose Bowl. Do you guys have any memories of that game and what that matchup was like?
CARIS LEVERT: Was that Vince Young? Vince Young is one of my favorite players. I remember that pretty well.
JORDAN MORGAN: I’ve been a big Michigan football fan growing up, and so I remember that as well.
Q. Caris and Derrick again, Jordan talked about the importance of rebounding. Obviously they have a lot of length and size. How important is it for you guys to come and crash back for all the tipped balls and all the scrambles that come when you have that many long players inside?
CARIS LEVERT: It will be really important for us. Jordan, John, Glenn, and Zak will be tied up all night boxing out the bigs, our 4s and 5s. Me and Derrick need to get a lot of rebounds.
DERRICK WALTON, JR.: Jordan has a big task on his hand boxing out a guy with that size and length. It’s going to be point of focus for us guards to go in there and clean up the rebounds.
Q. Just for anyone, is it a little bit weird to have another Big Ten team here and you don’t get to play them in the building? Do you run into those guys? Do you know them? Is it kind of strange for that?
JORDAN MORGAN: We stay in the same hotel, so we see them almost every day. But actually last year when we played in the first two rounds last year, we played at The Palace and Michigan State was there as well. So it’s something we kind of get used to.
Q. Derrick, when you see Texas beat Arizona State 87-85, is that the kind of uptempo game that the guards that you dream about and hope it is tomorrow?
DERRICK WALTON, JR.: Texas doing a great job of playing up and down the floor. Like I said, we’re up for the challenge and going to try to limit them to no points in transition as much as possible. That’s kind of it.
Q. Do you want that kind of game?
DERRICK WALTON, JR.: I guess so. You could say that.
THE MODERATOR: Other questions for the student-athletes?
Q. People have said yesterday and the first day of play, March Madness did not disappoint with the upsets and whatnot. As y’all are here as a 2 seed and you see the higher seeds falling one by one, how is that affecting your confidence and is it even in your consciousness at all?
CARIS LEVERT: We’re trying to go out there every night and play to win and play not to lose. We’re just happy to be here. We’re really excited and trying to win the whole thing.
THE MODERATOR: Jordan, Caris, Derrick, thank you. Next up will be John Beilein, Michigan coach. Please welcome Michigan coach, John Beilein, and we’ll take your questions in a moment. Coach, first of all, facing a Texas team off a very emotional buzzer-beating win last night, your comments on that.
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: I was watching the game back in the room. I watched the first half and had no idea who we were going to play. I’m more familiar with Arizona State because they have a former Big Ten player in there, a couple kids we recruited. I had seen the big kid play during this summer in World University games and learning about Texas all the way.
So, I didn’t know what to really feel until I watched video on Texas today, and they are very talented team. You can see why they were able to beat — Big 12 is a very strong conference this year. You can see why they had success.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach. Questions, please.
Q. John, how concerned are you about their size inside?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: Well, it is good size. They always have two and sometimes three big guys there. So, since Mitch McGary was hurt way back when, we have been playing really with big 6-6 three different positions, a six-foot guard and then one 6-8 big man or maybe a 6-9. So they are going to out man us at one of those positions.
We’ve seen this a few times this year. I don’t think we’ve seen the talent at the four and the five that we’re going to see in this particular game.
So, concerned about it because the ball needs to bounce our way. We got to box out and really do a good job, but I mean it. Sometimes you win games, that ball goes off the rim and you are boxing out hard. With the ball straight up over the rim, they’ll be getting a lot of those no matter what we do. So you got to be in position to be in position, but offensive put-backs are a concern.
Q. After your experience after the game last night, walking back to the hotel, I’m wondering when you got back to the hotel did you play around with the GPS on the Smart Phone or have someone show you that?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: No, because I still didn’t have my phone. It was good. Jason helped me out yesterday when I got lot of going to three, four blocks. But I’m going blame the police officer with me, but thank you.
Q. You told me you enjoy walking to the hotel after a game. What does that do for you?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: I just need fresh air after a game. You know, we spend the whole day in the hotel, we spend the whole day in an auditorium. I did go out once. There’s something about — I wouldn’t probably — I’d walk back either way. There’s something about after a game going outside, even if it’s cold and it’s five, six blocks away, and I don’t — really not bothered at all. Good for me to go out and walk and get fresh air.
Q. John, did seeing Texas hit a buzzer-beater bring back any bad memories for you?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: The one in Atlanta?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: There was two buzzer-beaters that year. It was the one where I think LaMarcus Aldridge blocked Mike Gansey shot in Kansas City that was — but that Tucker or something scored at the other end. Then later on in the year, Pittsnogle hits a three and within five seconds at the buzzer a half court shot.
So, yeah, Texas deserved those wins. They had a really talented team. Rick has been a friend of mine for a long time. We’d like that ball to bounce a little bit differently tomorrow.
Q. John, some of these upsets around the NCAA Tournament are matchups between high profile teams with players that are likely to stay one year or two tops versus smaller schools that have four-year players.
As a coach of a major program, how do you balance the pursuit of those one-and-dones, so to speak, with the value of having players that are going stay three, four years in your system?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: Well, it’s ironic you ask that, because we have lost three in the last couple of years. I think a big difference is that that wasn’t — I don’t think that was the plan with any of them coming in, that they be gone in one, two years. Maybe it was their plan, but it was probably not what others thought would happen. The young men that we calls “pros at the prom.” You know, in high school you could tell they’re going to be in the NBA.
So, it’s happened to us. You just got to keep going. And attrition is part of college basketball, whether it’s that way, whether it’s transfers. You just got to continue to recruit like you’re going to need players the next year.
And, for example, Wofford team, how would you like the see them in two years after they guys have all been together?
There’s a distinct advantage, believe it nor not, to some people of the smaller league that guys are coming there, yeah, they think they’re going to be in the NBA but after four years. Those teams play with juniors and seniors are really difficult to play against.
Q. Lots of talk obviously about Texas’s size. I’m wondering how much more importance that puts your guys shooting from the perimeter because of that and more specifically how important it is that Nik Stauskas try to get his stroke going early tomorrow?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: I think anybody that we play really, that we have to spread them out and we need to make shots from the outside. So, whether they’re bigger — you take their perimeter players, they play small with the one, two and three a lot of their minutes.
So, they’re still going to be into some guys. But it is important that we can stretch people, we can penetrate. Love the way Glenn Robinson shot the ball yesterday because he is a good shooter and his numbers may not reflect that. He can shoot.
So it’s important that we just hit outside shots, but we have to have a mixture. You just can’t go into this game and say, okay, we’re only going to shoot from the outside. You certainly have to drive the ball as well, throw the ball inside.
Q. Coach, I apologize if this is a repeat, just got here. When a team like Mercer beats Duke today, does that allow you to hammer home to your team that on any given day that can happen? Because you always point out that the number to the left of you does not matter at all.
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: Oh, yeah. The whole time going into this game — I’m watching the NIT game where Princeton beats Tulane, where BU is beating Illinois the whole game. There was another shocker right now — Robert Morris went to St. John’s. Those are similar to these NCAA games.
So, our kids were well aware of that going into our Wofford game, that it is — that anybody can beat anybody. They made a couple 3s last night and it would have been a much tighter game.
So the Mercer, while the brands are certainly different, the Mercer and Duke — you look at all the really good coaches out there, certainly Coach K is one and Coach Boeheim and Coach Self. They’ve lost to Bucknell, lost to Lehigh, lost to Vermont, lost to Richmond. They have lost those games because on any given day, those schools can beat these schools and — the larger school. That’s why everybody loves March.
Q. John, you brought up Mitch McGary earlier. What’s his status and also what does he bring for you? I know he’s on the bench all the time. You see him there. Is he able to do anything physically yet? And then also what does he do for your team just being around him?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: He’s been terrific for our basketball team. We brought him — we just wanted him to concentrate on his rehab after his surgery. And so he basically was on a rehab schedule that was involved in our — during our practice time. So that way he could attend study halls and do everything.
He’s been involved very little until the last couple of weeks. Last three weeks he’s been very involved in practice, just from a standpoint he takes some charts, he watches it. He’s made some suggestions to me in games about the big men and what he’s seeing. He’s helping us maybe a little bit as assistant coach, maybe as an honorary captain in games just to make — keep the team charged up.
If anybody watched him last year, he’s got a lot of enthusiasm both on the court and on the bench. So he’s been helpful.
Q. Coach, at this point in the season, you could say a freshman is really no longer a freshman anymore, but what do you make of the matchup you’ve got between the two freshman points guards?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: I didn’t see Isaiah play in AAU or high school. I saw Derrick play a lot. Just watching Isaiah right now, you can see he’s another great freshman point guard. These two young men will have great college careers.
When a coach gives the ball the a freshman and gives them that trust, forget about how they play in games, they must see things in practice, the intangibles that lead to success. They must be young men that go to class. They must be young men that have good work habits, that earn that. No coach is going to ever give that ball to a guy who hasn’t earned it.
And those two young men, that will be a great battle tomorrow because they’re really quality young point guards.
Q. Coach, these guys average 15 offensive rebounds a game. Have you seen your group come along in ways that have gotten better against giving them up this year?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: Yeah. Once again it will depend sometimes where the ball bounces a little bit. I think we went and played Minnesota, it was getting 16 at one time. I think Purdue was getting 15 a game at one time.
So, we have seen those type of teams. It’s just — I don’t know if we have seen a big guy get three and a half a game. That’s a rare number. And then Holmes is getting two and a half a game or something like that. They’re just really good at it. And we got to put a body on people and the ball, depends where that ball bounces, because they are — we’re a good rebounding team and they’re a great rebounding team.
THE MODERATOR: Anything else for Coach? Thank you and good luck.
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: Thank you.