Team 102

Beilein, Michigan ‘ready to play’ ahead of Thursday matchup with Montana

“We play Thursday, which I favored,” Beilein said, “because we’re ready to play.”

The names kept coming off the board. Cincinnati to Nashville. Tennessee to Dallas.

When Purdue was announced as a two seed with a coveted spot in Detroit, the crowd assembled at the Junge Family Champions Center to watch the NCAA Tournament Selection Show groaned.

That left only one spot in Detroit left, with two teams that would fit: the Wolverines and Michigan State.

And when the Spartans were announced as a three seed starting out at Little Caesars Arena, much of the room groaned yet again. For the many students in attendance, going to watch their favorite team play in Wichita is a tough deal.

The Michigan men’s basketball team, though, remains unfazed.

Much of that might be due to blissful ignorance. Freshman wing Jordan Poole said that he didn’t know “anything” about Michigan’s potential venue. He only found out today that his team might be headed to San Diego or Dallas. Redshirt sophomore forward Charles Matthews admitted that he too hadn’t paid much attention to the bracket projections.

“I wouldn’t say it was a huge bummer,” Poole said. “We didn’t feel like we were going to get it anyway due to us being so close, but then you see Michigan State getting it. We really didn’t know what to expect, but it’s cool because being able to go out there and play in Wichita, there’s not too many distractions, being able to lock in is going to be big.”

While Matthews told reporters that he was indifferent to where his team ended up, he realized why the full appeal of Detroit when he turned around and heard the crowd’s reaction when Michigan State flashed up on the screen. But he wasn’t too worried about the possibility of there being a lower fan turnout in Wichita.

“I think we’ll be fine,” Matthews said. “Michigan has a great fanbase, as you saw in New York, so I’m sure they’ll come out and support us as well.”

For Michigan coach John Beilein, Sunday afternoon was simply “anticlimactic.”

To him, there’s not much difference between a two, three or four seed — just like there isn’t much difference between a 13, 14 or 15 seed. Beilein was more interested in finding any competitive advantages in the specifics of where his team would play — such as landing a Thursday matchup, which his team did.

“We play Thursday, which I favored,” Beilein said, “because we’re ready to play.”

Other advantages could be gleaned from teams that Beilein is somewhat familiar with. North Carolina, looming as a possible rematch in the Sweet Sixteen, would count as such.

The Montana Grizzlies, Michigan’s first opponent (9:50 p.m., Thursday, TBS), does not.

“This happened a few years ago when we played the South Dakota Jackrabbits,” Beilein said. “We knew very little about them. We sorta had to figure a few things out. I’m much more familiar with some of the other teams that we could’ve played.”

And even then, Beilein said the unfamiliarity “doesn’t mean anything.” He’ll try to get his team as ready as possible, which means the next few days will feature a ramping up of intensity from all parties involved.

“For the players it’s pretty easy right now, these next 24 hours,” Beilein said. “They can bask in the glow of this and then we practice tomorrow. But the assistants will be up very late tonight, the staff members that are cutting video and everything, they’ll be up very late tonight. … Starting earlier in the morning, I’ll have a great cup of coffee and begin looking at Montana.”

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