March 5, 2012
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- After clinching a share of the Big Ten regular-season title yesterday (Sunday, March 4), University of Michigan men's basketball head coach John Beilein and select players addressed the media on Monday (March 5).
Going into the final day of Big Ten play on Sunday, two things needed to happen for Michigan to earn a share of the Big Ten regular-season title -- the Wolverines had to beat Penn State on the road and Ohio State needed to defeat Michigan State at home on the Spartans' senior night. By 6:30 p.m. that evening, both of those boxes had been checked and Michigan had won its first conference title since the 1985-86 season. The Wolverines, who also share the crown with Michigan State and Ohio State, earned the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, to be held March 8-11 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind.
Michigan earned a bye in the opening round of the tournament for the second straight year and will play the winner of No. 7 seed Northwestern and No. 10 seed Minnesota (Thursday, March 8, 5:30 p.m., ESPN) on Friday (March 9) at 6:30 p.m. The game will be aired live on the Big Ten Network. [ Big Ten Tournament Ticket Information ]
The Wolverines have faced Northwestern twice this season, defeating the Wildcats each time in overtime, and also downed Minnesota early in Big Ten play at Crisler Center. Coach Beilein spoke about the challenges that come with preparing the Wolverines for two very different opponents, as U-M will not know which team it will face in the quarterfinals until late Thursday night.
Michigan Head Coach John Beilein
Opening statement ... "It was a great day yesterday for our entire team -- it was magical in the way it all sort of worked out -- and we're very excited about being Big Ten champions because we've talked about it so much. Now we move on to the (Big Ten) Tournament, and there is another championship involved in every tournament you play in. From the world I came from at low-majors, winning the tournament was the only way you got to the NCAAs. It is really important that we go in with that mindset right now that this is another step. If you want to really have a great season, go win a Big Ten Tournament championship because you don't have to share that with anyone."
On playing in the Big Ten Tournament as a conference champion ... "I don't think it's different. I think just because of the importance of Big Ten championships at Michigan, I think that's where it's important. Now we're a No. 2 seed going into a tournament, and we're certainly going to have a battle when we play either Northwestern or Minnesota."
On preparing for both possible opponents for Friday's game ... "We're allowed to go down and watch the preceding game, and so two of our guys will go down and watch the game before. Northwestern is still fresh in our minds; Minnesota seems like it was a year ago, so that's where I'm going first in my scouting. I just finished my assessment of yesterday's game that we'll show to the team, but we'll go Minnesota and Northwestern back-and-forth in practice. Then we'll know by 7:30 on Thursday night who we're playing, and use that time to really hone in on who we're playing."
On the embracing the chaos of yesterday ... "It's been fun -- you have to embrace it. It's really part of the job that we continue to sell our brand of who Michigan is. I like the opportunity to talk about the University of Michigan and our basketball program, and we're just trying to do the right things every day. We play for the love of Michigan and all our fans, and are really thankful that it's worked out this year as good as could be expected."
On honing Evan Smotrycz's consistency down the stretch ... "First thing I want to get him is rest, that's the most important thing he needs after yesterday's performance. He put in a lot of time, and because he's only been playing in half of his games, he probably was struggling at times yesterday because of the amount of time he played. So get him rest, and then in the following two days, get him a lot of rest. He's worked more on his shooting from game action, don't just sit there and shoot 100 threes, doing it out of the action that we run for him, and that's really been helpful."
On the emergence of Colton Christian ... "In practice he has showed he deserved a shot. He's rebounded the ball well and he's shooting better in practice, so that's why we decided to go with him. His rebounding is his strength, so if we feel we need it we go with him. He's a multi-dimensional defender as well -- he can guard on the perimeter and in the post."
Contact: Tom Wywrot, Whitney Dixon (734) 763-4423