Head Coach Tommy Amaker
On playing Michigan State ... "I think I have some sense of the significance and the importance of this game. I feel like our kids have a better appreciation given the fact that I am new to this. It is our next game and it is a road game in the league. We have not fared as well on the road and we are looking to do better in that category. It just so happens that it is in East Lansing."
On taking it as just another game or seeing it as more important because of the rivalry ... "I think it is important from the perspective that we acknowledge it the way it is. It is a big game for our programs and both schools, and anything that we compete in against each other seems to be a big game and a big challenge. I do want our kids to see that we always prepare the same ways for our opponents. But we also acknowledge to them that we understand that in their minds and in other people's minds that are around them that they are going to hear more about how important it is for us to do well, to win, or whatever else they may say to our kids. How we go about preparation is always going to be the same. That is the way it should be. We want our kids to see that every opponent that we go against we respect and we are going to treat with the same kind of preparation."
On how long it will take to be competitive with Michigan State ... "We have not fared as well recently. That is obvious when you look at the scores. I am hoping that we can do better. It has not been much of a rivalry as of late. For us to do better I think will add to the possibility of this becoming the rivalry that everybody wants it to be."
On the game plan ... "I think when you look at their team Marcus Taylor is a key. He has shown to be one of the better guards in the conference. His ability to make things happen for them, his ballhandling, his experience despite being only a sophomore, and his scoring ability are all factors. Then you look at their front line. Even though they have been depleted somewhat with injuries, that is a concern for us because of our lack of depth up front. With only one player that we have with their size that concerns us. We have been able to mix and match things before and make things interesting and give us a chance to win and be competitive. Those are the same kind of ideals for going into the game tomorrow."
On the role freshmen will play in the game ... "I think their freshmen have played very well for them. They have matured quite nicely for Coach (Tom) Izzo. I cannot speak for him but from the outside looking in they have done a nice job with their numbers and how they have played and carried themselves. I think that has to do with the fact that they have learned quickly and have had to learn from their mistakes in the fire. I have a lot or respect for those kids. They are big-time players and not only have they done well, but they have also fit in nicely into the program there. I said at the beginning of the year that I think State has a program. Regardless of players leaving, the program is in place and that can carry you through in times like these. These young kids have bought into that and they are a part of this Michigan State program and that speaks so well of Tom Izzo."
On foul trouble playing a factor ... "It could be a key factor which team is able to stay out of foul trouble on the front line. It will be very interesting to see how that develops. That could be one of the bigger factors in the game."
On getting U-M's program to Michigan State's level ... "We talked about two thing at the very beginning -- gaining respect and credibility. I think that is the first step along our journey to get to a certain level. We do not need to compare ourselves to anybody. We are going to be who we are and we are proud of that and comfortable with that. I think our name and program stands on its own merit. We have not been as successful in recent years but I think that gaining the credibility and respect is key. I hope that we have done that on the court, off the court and with recruiting, all the way around with our program. Those are the main things we are trying to establish right now."
On challenging the team's toughness ... "I think that has been a fair analysis of our team at times. We have not shown a lot of grittiness and toughness at times. That is not just our players but all of us are responsible for that. That is something that we have lacked at times to dig out some ball games. Maybe with some more toughness and grittiness we could have done that. I think our kids are responding and learning and trying. That is going to be necessary for us to get better in the future. We are going to need some more of that as we pitch it up tomorrow night."
On how important this game is for gaining credibility and respect ... "I think it is obvious that if we can win this game, that will happen. Anytime you win on the road in your league you start to gain credibility and respect. It shows a lot about your team and your program. We have had some nice wins and have done certain things to start gaining credibility and respect. Having an opportunity such as tomorrow night, if we happen to win that will be a huge statement for our team and program."
On the difference between a rivalry game and a non-rivalry game ... "I think it is different from the standpoint that there is so much interest around the players. I am sure that everywhere the players go they hear more comments and there is more of a sense of urgency about the game from the kids' perspective. The interest in terms of media and everything else gives it a heightened interest. That makes it a much more important game in the eyes of many people. As we prepare in our season we recognize the importance of the game but the season does not end or begin or anything like that with this one game. As coaches we have to give it the proper balance and perspective."
On a sense of urgency from the seniors ... "I think our seniors have shown that throughout the season in a variety of different ways. They have tried to explain what it is like to participate in a game like this and I think they have done a good job. I have been pleased with how our seniors have responded and the leadership they have displayed."
On the emphasis on having a good start ... "How well either team can get off to a start is going to be a factor. The energy in that building is going to be a factor. If we can get off to a good start to get confidence going and to play well on the road early gives us a better chance for success."
On the environment in the Breslin Center ... "I am curious. I have been in some interesting places as a player and a coach. I am anxious to see what the atmosphere will be like. I anticipate that I have seen some that may be comparable to it."
Senior Center Chris Young
On the sense of urgency ... "With both schools being so close to my home I am definitely feeling it. I feel like we have to get it done in practice the next couple of days and we have to go up there and get something done up there."
On if this is Michigan's best chance to win in recent years ... "I think so and that is purely based on where our team is going. That has nothing to do with them or what injuries they may have or if they are in a slump or anything like that. It just has to do with our team."
On whether this game is of greater significance ... "I think it is, but you can never put that much weight on just one game. It is a big game but it is not the kind of game where if we win it can turn the season around and if we lose we could drop all the rest of our games. It is not that type of a game, but it is big, especially for the seniors."
Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423