Q. Question for Charles, I’m curious, you’ve been around this program for a while and John Beilein used to be like this offensive guru and the past couple of years you guys have been wonderful best defensively-coached teams in college basketball. What’s the difference? I know this is something you went into a lot last year in the Final Four, but what’s the difference?
CHARLES MATTHEWS: I feel like Coach Beilein is still an offensive guru. He has offensive schemes and concepts that we can continue to grow on, and we definitely do focus on the defensive end and it’s a change in personnel as well. It’s always better when you can get players to focus on the defensive end as well.
Q. Did defense have anything to do with you wanting to come here?
IGNAS BRAZDEIKIS: I would say I knew the defense was going to be intense once I got here. And Coach Yak let me know that if you are not ready to play defense you’re not going to play. So I was ready for that environment and toughness on the defensive end. Feel like we have grown a lot defensively and it’s a tribute to the coaches.
Q. Zavier, you’ve become renowned for that sweeping hook shot you have. I’m wondering how that came about and how it’s such a big factor of your offensive arsenal?
ZAVIER SIMPSON: It came about my freshman year in the summer of open gym. I accidentally did it and then I wanted to perfect my craft, having finishes around the big men down there, some big guards and other ways that you have to score that’s not going to be a layup. I did it by accident and started perfecting my craft on it and it became more of my routine and workout off of the court.
Q. Did you pattern it after anybody?
ZAVIER SIMPSON: I didn’t. Obviously there are great sports people who have hooks, but in a way I kind of just wanted to make my own style.
Q. What does Texas Tech do offensively? Everybody is talking about the defensive match-up. But what does Texas Tech do offensively that could cause you guys problems?
ZAVIER SIMPSON: They have some great players on the team. They can really shoot the ball, the 1, 2 and 3 man can really shoot it. They have great player that’s all-around. I feel like the point guard is it extremely talented. He sees the floor well. They play together and a lot of them can score in many different ways.
CHARLES MATTHEWS: They’re a versatile group. They have good size in oppositions, very athletic, able to play above the rim and they present challenges as well. So it will be a fun game.
IGNAS BRAZDEIKIS: They’re a great team. I feel like they do well converting their defense to offense and that’s definitely a strength for them. They’ve got a lot of different threats on the offensive end. It’s definitely going to be a great match-up for us to defend and play our game.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen.
We are joined by Michigan head coach, John Beilein. We will open it up to Coach for an opening statement.
JOHN BEILEIN: We are thrilled to be here, obviously. It looks like a great location, love Michigan. It’s good to be out of a winter setting and have such beautiful weather here. We got a great, incredible opponent that we’re playing against, Texas Tech, great defense, great offense, great players, brilliant coaching staff. It’s going to be really difficult for us to score points. I hope it’s difficult for them to score points.
But both teams have good players and that’s what will end up deciding this game. You’ve got to make open shots if we get any, and then we’ve got to be able to score the ball against a really good defense. Should be a great game. We’re looking forward. So happy to be at this point, but not content just by being here. We would like to continue this ride that we’ve been on here really all season long.
Q. John, how much of a strange feeling of deja vu is this being back in the West Regional and three of the teams that you faced last year are here with you?
JOHN BEILEIN: I think when we heard the news. We knew we were coming out here and when I heard the news who we were playing and it was Texas Tech instead of Texas A&M, but the other two same teams. We just said, follow the same itinerary. I moved the departure up an hour because I felt like we got here a little late last year. I said, whatever we did, let’s do the same thing. So it is unusual to go to the west coast at a similar sight two years in a row, but we don’t travel well. We don’t need to travel well because we have so many alums in California. We took over the Staples Center and I’m sure there will be a lot of alums there tomorrow.
Q. Curious if you see any of yourself in Coach Beard? Sort of a coach who has taken a bit of an unconventional path.
JOHN BEILEIN: I don’t spend a lot of time studying the other coaches. All I know is that he can really coach. He came up at Texas Tech perhaps with Bobby Knight. I was trying to get filled in on that today, a little bit. I was at several head coaching spots before I got a job. I think he’s been a head coach at Junior College, right? And then his position at Arkansas Little Rock and then head coach here. I have a lot of respect for what he’s done and it’s amazing.
Q. John, I was wondering if you got a chance to see Aubrey Dawkins in the Central Florida game? Any potential thoughts on pro potential there?
JOHN BEILEIN: You know, when he came in as a freshman we had a huge attrition year to the NBA. Johnny and I have been friends for a while, both on the NCAA Ethics Coalition, one of the first members. So there I was, Nik Stauskas decided to go. Glen decided to go and now Mitch McGary decides to go and we got three scholarships. So I called Johnny and we got it going and we ended up getting him. He had a terrific first two years of development and he had 30 points one time in a game as a freshman. He just didn’t miss. His injuries have set him back, also the redshirt year and his game has developed and he’s a high wire act like his daddy, and it’s great to see and I texted Aubrey, Tracy and Johnny right after the game and they’ve all gotten back to me. Really everyone, there is a lot of gratitude both ways and happiness both ways.
Q. Coach, we this time last year, saw a team that eventually went to the Final Four. You lose Mo and I think at least from the outside, some of us in the media that were 100% incorrect, it looked like you lost a lot. At what point was it during the summer or the Villanova game where you realized that this group could be special?
JOHN BEILEIN: We lost more than Mo, Duncan Robinson, Muhammad-Ali, Abdur-Rahkman and Jaaron Simmons. We won games all because of those guys several different times. We went in this year thinking we’re young, we don’t have a true fourth year player, we got a couple three-year players who didn’t play much in their first year, whether it was Jon or Charles or Zavier. Let’s just see where we can go. The future is bright because we probably should have everybody back. As a result, we went into it with modest goals other than let’s get better every day and all of the sudden. We had a summer tour, which probably that’s why we’re good because I didn’t make it because I had open heart surgery. So we ended up going to Villanova saying I’m just thinking the last time we played Villanova wasn’t good and all of the sudden we’re up 20 at half and then it’s maybe we got something here and North Carolina and Purdue, all great teams, we played at home. They kept getting better. We have no distractions on this team. We have great young men that love to be coached up. If you’re going to be a good teacher you’ve got to have good students. We have good students.
Q. I’m curious about the path you’ve taken. I know it’s something you’ve talked about at past Final Fours, but what are the pluses and minuses of the nontraditional path?
JOHN BEILEIN: The biggest plus is you get to lose when nobody cares. Seriously, and you just beat yourself up. You not don’t know how many times that at the community college and Nazareth in Le Moyne, really. There wasn’t this, newspapers weren’t hounding you, newspapers and talk radio and a lot of things and you make a lot of mistakes and you really learn on your own. Whereas when you’re an assistant, you’re like, I know this, I would have done that, do you really know? You know it, I got to be better in these areas, a lot of self-examination because you know it’s riding on you. All those first 15 formative years I didn’t have a full-time assistant. When I went to Canisius, I said, what do you guys do? It was painful but so helpful.
Q. It’s been a long time since those younger days, but where have you evolved as a coach? Where do you feel like you’ve grown the most and what did you learn in those formative years?
JOHN BEILEIN: What I learned is you have to continue to change. It is amazing. A couple of things happened this year and I said it took me 44 years to realize that?
Q. Like what?
JOHN BEILEIN: I’m not going to tell you. Things that people do in today’s game, right, that you would never do. There was only one way to play as I started. Then you went to the a John Wooden and Dean Smith and Bobby Knight clinic and that’s what you did and their word was law and then you realized I’ve got to get better players. Then all of the sudden you realize you don’t have better players and if you want to win you better evolve. If you want to win you better evolve. I want to apologize teams to back in the day probably could have been better if I had known what I know now. Same with this team if I was a smarter coach. The geometry is amazing, but you have to receptive to both, keep your fundamentals, right? Important things, communication, stance, great attitudes, having guys that can shoot the ball and pass are all important. But schemes, you better continue to change or you won’t hang around. That computer changed everything. Everybody is on everything. Long answer, good question.
Q. Coach, there’s all this talk about possibly changing the one-and-done rule. We talk about that a lot. Do you think if high school kids could go straight to the pros again could that change the dynamic of how you recruit? The quality?
JOHN BEILEIN: I think it won’t change us very much. It will change some other programs. We’ve never said we’re not going to take a one-and-done guy. But at the same time, we’re going to be very open with a young man that you’re coming — this is a destination. This is not a stopover. If you’re ready to go pro we will drive you to the airport, or if the pros want you we’ll drive you to the airport. Same time, we’re not going to say we can’t win without a one-and-done, I mean, we’ve been doing it. It’s not going to change us great deal and the last thing you want is a kid on your team that wants to be somewhere else. So it’s fine. I’m not going to say they’re bad kids, that’s fine. But Michigan is Michigan and we want the right kid who wants the whole college experience, whether it’s for one, two, three, or four years, but not just as a stopover to play basketball, stop going to class and then win and go. That hasn’t worked for a lot of teams. If you really look at the numbers it does not work very well for winning basketball.
Q. Coach, I know you said you didn’t know much about studying the other coaches, but what have you seen from this Texas Tech defense that may be similar or different to what you guys do?
JOHN BEILEIN: Well, they have more pressure on the ball than we do. They create more steals. They have more steals. They have more turnovers, or they create more turnovers. They’re going to not let you run some things. They switch every screen everywhere, at least what we’ve seen they switch every screen. That’s hard to score against. It’s a really good plan. It’s similar to others that we’ve seen in the past and sometimes we’ve done really well against that and sometimes it’s been a struggle. I hope we can find ways to score some points tomorrow because it is difficult against them and most teams have found that out.