Q. What was your guys’ first reaction to seeing Montana again in the Selection Show and you guys had just got done playing and your first thoughts?
IGNAS BRAZDEIKIS: I wasn’t here last year, but this is really exciting for me. Any team we would have played I would have been just as excited for anyone else. We are not going to take anyone for granted. We’re going to be ready to go and I’m just excited for this opportunity.
CHARLES MATTHEWS: It was a coincidence that we ended up playing the same team we played last year. They are a really talented team and we are excited to play them tomorrow.
ZAVIER SIMPSON: Yeah, extremely talented team. Excited to have the opportunity to play.
Q. Coming off the loss with Michigan State this past week is there any areas that you guys are looking forward to being able to work on in this game on Thursday?
IGNAS BRAZDEIKIS: I feel like we got a lot better as a team in the Big Ten tournament. It didn’t go the way we wanted it to, but I feel like we learned a lot of different things and now I feel like we’re moving the ball really well. We are locked in on the defense end and I feel like we’re getting better and better and you will see the best of us in this tournament.
CHARLES MATTHEWS: Our approach right now is really just taking it with a clean slate, try to forget about that loss. We understand that we wanted to win that game, but we can’t let that lose us another game in this tournament. We gotta be fresh minded and take on the next task.
ZAVIER SIMPSON: Our focus is Montana. We’re just trying to get better every single day.
Q. Based off the run from last year what’s the biggest take away that you guys take from that three-week experience to try to make sure that y’all are in the right frame of mind yourselves and passing that on to someone like Iggy?
CHARLES MATTHEWS: You’ve got to take one game at a time. That’s one thing I noticed from last year. You’ve got to have a little bit of luck and we had a crazy shot to continue our run. But staying in the moment and having the most fun and enjoying each and every night. Those are the teams that have the most success around this time.
ZAVIER SIMPSON: I would just tell the young guys to enjoy every moment, practice, the media, everything leading up to it because it goes by quick and last year we were so focused on winning this, I don’t think we got a chance to enjoy being in the NCAA tournament, which is unfortunate for every team.
Q. Charles, you were on you a great scoring run before you hurt your ankle and you tried to get back in the groove with the Big Ten tournament. Talk about that?
CHARLES MATTHEWS: It’s a process. I understand injuries are part of the game. Like I said, there is no pressure on me, though. I have so many great teammates around me where I can ease myself back into the game, back into the flow of things. But I’m confident in my abilities. I know I will be back to where I was before, prior to this injury and right now I’m trying to help the team win, whatever role is needed.
Q. Charles, at Kentucky you were playing 10 minutes a game and now you’re playing 30 minutes a game for a really good team. Is this what you envisioned when you transferred to Michigan?
CHARLES MATTHEWS: That was the goal, but I knew I was about to put the work in and earn my coaching staff to trust me to be out there for that amount of time. Right now it’s not so much about Kentucky. I’ve been gone from there forever. Now it’s just trying to get back to the icing on the cake right now.
Q. Charles, last year against Montana you had 20 points and 11 rebounds. Do you approach this rematch similarly knowing it’s a similar group with not Montana or is it different for you this time?
CHARLES MATTHEWS: Honestly, I just play to win every game I play. I never go into there with the mindset I’ve got to get X amount of points, X amount of rebounds, X amount of assists. It never really mattered to me, throughout the game I heat up, do what I need to do for the team. Last year we had some early foul troubles and I knew I needed to do more on the offensive end and rebound as well.
Q. Do you guys know anything about the state of Montana at all?
IGNAS BRAZDEIKIS: I’m from Canada, so I definitely don’t know too much about Montana. Pass it on to Charles.
CHARLES MATTHEWS: It’s on the west coast.
ZAVIER SIMPSON: I don’t.
Q. Montana runs a pretty heavy guard off and they’re shorter than you guys. Is that going to change the way you play? Is there anything that you are excited to change when you face them Thursday?
IGNAS BRAZDEIKIS: We always have a specific game plan for each team we play. So depending on what they have, we kind of adjust our offense, defense. But every single game we play hard, you know? We never let down for anyone. We don’t tape anyone for granted, so we’re going to come into this game like it’s the national championship game, and that’s the mindset we’ve got to have. I feel like if we have that mindset we will be fine.
CHARLES MATTHEWS: We don’t take anyone for granted, but they are a smaller team and that produces strengths for them as well, and that helps to create for themselves and others. So I feel like we’re going to respond to it.
ZAVIER SIMPSON: They’re going to present challenges, great guard play, great team and coaching staff. So I’m excited for the game, and we just have to do our best to contain them.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, gentlemen.
We would like to welcome Michigan head coach, John Beilein. Coach, welcome to Des Moines.
JOHN BEILEIN: Thank you very much, Mike. We’re thrilled to be here. I just told our AD I love being in these venues where it means a lot to Des Moines to have a tournament like this and so much interest coming into this area. My first time coming here. Looks like a wonderful place to live. Looks like we’re going to have great excitement here and you can guarantee Michigan is excited to be part of this round of 64 by the time we play.
Q. John, the players will know that it’s Montana again, everybody has probably asked and talked about that already, but from the coach’s perspective you have to balance the confidence that you have in your guys with the fear of any complacency that they might have in a first-round game. Do you have any extra worries that you have to guard against knowing that this is the same way, the road that went so well last year is starting again? How do you make sure that that deja vu factor doesn’t make your players complacent?
JOHN BEILEIN: I hope it doesn’t go the way it did last year. They were ahead of us 10-nothing to the start the game, and they have a lot of guys back. I don’t know if Akoh is going to play. I know he might. We have three guys that played any minutes in this type of game at all. We are a little brand new to playing in this type of game. They know Montana is even better than they were last year, and like you say, we were up by 3 at half and very fortunate to win by 13 points.
So it wasn’t a 30, 40-point game. They’re a good team. Every team playing in the tournament is a champion and the way they have played without their big guy out is really going to present problems for a lot of high major teams because they’re going to spread you out with all guards and that can work really well.
Q. John, the 10-0 run that Montana started with last year, do you think that works to your advantage knowing that these guys like Zavier and Charles won’t take them lightly this time around?
JOHN BEILEIN: They know that and we’ve been really good so far this year. You go into your games early. You have your games where you’ve beat the team already, right? And we’ve been able to really respond. We usually respond pretty well after losses, too, and we had a tough one Sunday. We’ve been really good at that. I hope that trend continues. But I think our kids are sometimes unique to other teams. I think they get all that part, right, that we don’t look past anybody, that we are ready to play every day.
Q. Coach, last year Montana was the only team in the tournament that had the same starting lineup for every game. This year they have had to evolve in and out with Akoh being out. What would you say is the difference from last year to this year?
JOHN BEILEIN: I think having Dorsey and the other transfer, Manuel, that’s the difference this year, between Oguine and Rorie, those two guys are like Big Ten, Pac 10 guards, and now you ad the shooters around them and everything has changed. So this is a legitimate team that can have a Cinderella run. They’re terrific. They have a terrific coach, four out of the first five years they’ve been in the NCAA Tournament. This is a traditional NCAA team and we’re going to have to play well. There is not a team in the country that can go out and have a bad game and win. It’s not going to happen.
Q. Coach, you’ve been in this tournament representing a smaller school before. So the newness, people were bummed that it was Michigan again, because you guys are really good. So maybe the perspective of a smaller school getting to the tournament. Your thoughts on having it be a repeat match-up?
JOHN BEILEIN: Knowing how hard it is to win those three or four games in a row and get to the tournament. I don’t think people really care. For me, you know, whether it was Canisius or Richmond. We made the tournament. We were just darn happy to be there. I remember this bold statement we played Utah with Rick Majerus and Doleac and Keith Van Horn. They had like four pro’s on the team and I said, that’s a great match-up for us. We lost 70-40 or something. You’re just excited to get here and everything is positive from this point on. I don’t think anybody is saying, oh, it’s Michigan. They’re saying, oh, it’s Michigan, a great opportunity for us to have a great win.
Q. The Montana Grizzlies are a heavily defense program and you guys are one of the top defense programs in the nation. What are the advantages of having a first-game match-up with two heavily defense teams?
JOHN BEILEIN: That’s one constant you have in basketball is to have a good defensive team. There have been times we have had a great defensive team. We’re going to have to be great defensively against them. This is one of the most efficient offensive teams in the country and a leader in a lot of different categories. So the ability to shoot the 3-ball is a great disadvantage for us. They’re a downhill team and their fast break is tremendous. It’s going to be a big challenge for us.
Q. John, I want to ask you about the merits and pitfalls of winning a conference tournament. You won the conference tournament last year, got all the way to the finals and this year trying to go as far as you can without winning the conference tournament. I’m wondering if losing in the conference tournament can scare your team in a productive way so they’re not too confident going into this venue?
JOHN BEILEIN: As long as I’ve been coaching and I have been coaching a long time and I’ve had a lot of wins and a whole lot of losses and after a loss, every time there seems to be a bounce in our team. You’ve got to go through a painful 24 hours. There have been a few times I lost in a championship game. West Virginia was one of them, and we had to turn around and play right away and because of the Big Ten schedule and the travel and the amount of time we’re playing I think we’re pretty resilient to that. But it is three games in three days and I know a Hall of Fame coach who said, if you’re going to lose in the tournament, lose on Friday, not Saturday or Sunday. Well, we messed that up. We had Monday off and we’ve tried to stay fresh. So it’s all part of it. Our kids are resilient, I think. Montana has one more day of rest, I believe. But this is the time of year you can’t worry about being tired or anything. We’ve got to manage that and just go play. But hopefully we will have the same edge, right, that we have had in the last couple of years in the first rounds after winning. I think we will have more of an edge, hopefully.