Weekly Press Conference -- Coach Amaker and Players

Coach and Player Comments from
U-M Men's Basketball Press Conference

Previewing Michigan's NIT matchup vs. Missouri (March 16)

Michigan Head Coach Tommy Amaker

On the opportunity to face Missouri in the NIT ... "First of all, we're excited to be in the postseason. I think our kids were a little disappointed initially, as most people were, when we didn't get selected in the field of sixty-five. But certainly getting the phone call from the NIT and getting a chance to extend our season, I think it's terrific for our program and another step to where we want to go. Certainly playing Missouri, I think we all know how very good this team was touted to be at the beginning of the year, they hit a stretch there that was tough for them, but I thought they really rallied here late. Quin (Snyder) has done a phenomenal job. I'm very good friends with Quin and happy for how he's been able to turn things around. I wish we were both having a chance to play (different teams) -- I don't know how he feels, but I imagine having a chance to play someone else, both of us could have hopefully extended our seasons in postseason. Obviously that won't be the case after tomorrow night, but that's the way that the draw has been determined, and we'll go on from there. But I'm excited for our team. Certainly to have a chance to play in the postseason is a first for us, and I think our kids are looking forward to it."

On if he gave his team a pep talk after the selection show ... "Not necessarily a pep talk. I thought it was important that we share with them the significance of being in the postseason. I think obviously we were all holding out a little bit of a hope that we'd be selected, we kind of felt it was a long shot, but we were nonetheless a team that was curious, I thought we probably had generated some dialogue, however limited that the dialogue took place, about our program and our team getting in, but I think there was naturally a little disappointment there, but right away we talked about the opportunity that we had in front of us and hopefully to get the phone call because we didn't know right at that moment that we were even going to be in the postseason. I thought we had a good chance, but certainly with the number of teams, you look at this field in the NIT, and this is probably as strong as it's ever been in terms of the names that are in this tournament, so we weren't exactly sure, we wanted to wait and see if we got the call. We did get the call. I told our players if we did get the call, how excited and proud we were going to be to represent our school and to be in postseason play."

On if he's shared the history of Michigan in the NIT ... "Not yet, but obviously you can imagine things have moved pretty fast. They didn't know, we had to give them the phone call, the news, from our staff to let them know. We knew that if we got in there was a chance that we would play tonight, because it starts tonight and you don't know if you're going to get in, you don't know if you're going to play the first night, you didn't know if you were going to be home, so we didn't know. Obviously things have moved pretty quickly. Those kinds of things I think will be interesting tidbits for our team prior to us pitching it up tomorrow night."

On Lester Abram's injury ... "I think right now he's doubtful. We don't have a definite on that yet, but my guess is right now he's doubtful. He's still pretty sore, I think he has some stretched or strained ligaments in the shoulder area, so that's the best I can do in terms of describing it. He's pretty sore and certainly won't practice today. As of now those are the guidelines that I think we've been given, but certainly we're going to continue to do the necessary tests to find out if there's anything else that we can do or needs to be done."

On filling the hole left by Lester Abram ... "We'll try to figure out a way, but Lester, as we all know, is an incredibly consistent and dependable player, maybe our most dependable to be quite honest. I think that's always been the way we've described him, as a consistent and dependable player, he's turned into obviously our leading scorer, so that is a tough task, but we have to find a way. I think that's the nature of sports, dealing with some unknowns at various moments of the season and you can find different ways to have your team rise to the challenge then that's the name of the game."

On playing at home ... "I think anytime, if you get a chance to get a game here for us, we were thrilled about that. We were very fortunate, because they give you the call and tell you whom you're playing, where you're playing, and what time you're playing and hang the phone up. I mean that in a very positive way, it's just the way that this is run, and we're very pleased to have had the chance to get the invitation. So we're obviously even more so to have the chance to get the invitation to play at home. I'm not so thrilled about playing Missouri, but other than that, we're fine."

On Missouri ... "I think first of all, you're looking at a ball club that, I think it's been documented very well over the course of the season, their prospects coming into the year. They are a team that some people thought could be a Final Four team, I think they were ranked as high as somewhere in the top five at various points during the preseason and maybe even at the start of the year, so I think that you don't get those kind of predictions or accolades for nothing. I think when you think of them right away, you think of experience. I think with Arthur Johnson and Rickey Paulding in particular, two local kids who have a chance obviously to come home, so I think those two players, being senior players, are really outstanding players in their program over their careers. With (Arthur) Johnson being an anchor on the inside and Paulding being as explosive and as good a shooter and a streaky player and very athletic player on the outside, so that's not all that they have, but those are the players that jump out at you right away. So obviously we'll have our hands full. They're a team that I think has played their best basketball down the stretch. I think they were really putting a strong push on to make the tournament, obviously they came very close, so I think this is the kind of team that we're going to face that certainly has the potential to do a lot of damage in this tournament. Hopefully we can derail that right away."

On preparing for Missouri ... "It's not like we taped a lot of Missouri games, but you never know, you try to tape games as you go along, catch games on TV. But certainly we've started to watch and break down some of the film. Obviously we've gotten information in terms of stats, things that we can analyze and study from that perspective, a lot of things you do, at times you can call on people that have played them and try to get little tidbits of what other teams have tried to do against them, and their thoughts about the Missouri basketball team, and I'm sure they've done the same thing with opponents that we've played and friends that they have in the business. You just do as much as you can from a coaching standpoint as quickly as you can, but you have one day, but we traveled back and were off yesterday, and we found out late last night, practice today and play tomorrow night. It's not a lot of time obviously, and you have to be very selective I think with what we give our players. We can't force-feed them and overload them within just hours of time to get prepared to play. That's why we're fortunate to be at home."

On the similarities between the Wolverines and Tigers ... "You coach to your personnel and certainly to your personality. I think there are obviously some similarities in things that they're trying to do and what we're trying to do. They've been an outstanding program and I think right now that you're going to see a lot of man-to-man out there, some zone such as what we've done, the change-up, to utilize that. Their front line is very good and in addition to (Rickey) Paulding and (Arthur) Johnson, two kids I've mentioned, they have another senior in Travon Bryant, who's another front line player that's very strong and can step out and shoot it. Their personnel, Quin was very excited about his team, he has been for a while and rightly so. I think he's done a terrific job with the ball club. There are a lot of different things, but some similarities there."

On Missouri head coach Quin Snyder ... "Well, obviously a lot has happened. I think he's guided that program incredibly well, through a lot of turbulent times this season. I think that's the mark of who he is. He has a lot of strength, he's certainly a great leader and obviously an outstanding coach. I admire what he's done, we can talk about things in similar tones in terms of our programs and kinds of distractions, so we've had conversations about that, but certainly he's done an outstanding job. You get going in your own season and you try to chat and talk, but so much is happening with your programs that you don't get as much time as you'd like."

On if he has spoken with Quin Snyder ... "I have not talked to him. I think they come in really late tonight, I think they're trying to get their travel plans organized, but I haven't had a chance to speak to him yet. Probably the first time I'll talk to him is when they come in for the shoot around."

On Missouri playing in the NIT rather than the NCAA Tournament ... "I think that obviously their conference is very tough, and their non-conference schedule that they played, but I think that's what they really wanted going into this year because of the kind of team that they anticipated having, the kind of year that they anticipated having. But I think they're a very experienced ball club. I think they can handle that, obviously there are a lot of other things factored in that maybe they weren't anticipating, but I do think that that's what you want to have happen for a team, a very experienced ball club, that's been to the tournament, that's had some success, and was looking for an outstanding year this year."

On having the chance to play in the postseason ... "I think this is our first time. I don't obviously have the pulse of that, because this is another first for us, uncharted waters for our program in a very positive way. We've been through some uncharted waters in other ways, but this is obviously one of the more positive opportunities -- to play in the postseason. I'll say this, the ban that was lifted was a postseason ban, it wasn't just an NCAA tournament ban, so we're proud of that, we're proud that we are in the postseason and I'm anxious to see how our players are going to perform. We're hoping we're going to put together a nice game for our team and our fans, and hoping that we can hold our home court."

On if his team was disappointed about not being selected to the NCAA Tournament ... "I think that there was disappointment. I think it was natural and normal that we all were a little disappointed because that's why we were gathered there -- to see if there was an opportunity. We kind of knew it was a long shot, but nonetheless we still had a chance, and we wanted to obviously see it and get together for it, and it didn't turn out that way in terms of a positive outcome, but I do think that we are excited to be in the postseason. I think that's a significant goal and step and these players and kids should be proud of that."

On readying his team for the game ... " Like I said, I visited with them a little bit right before and after the selection show and then had our staff got them on the phone to make them aware of the invitation that we had received for the NIT, and now they're all coming in this afternoon to practice. So we're back into a normal Monday, our normal routine, with class and weight training and coming in for an afternoon practice. It will be different because now we have a game on Tuesday night right away, but I think that it probably can give us the boost we need to get ready for our opponent and not think about other things that could have been."

On not making the NCAA Tournament ... "No, I think the only thing that we touched on with our players is that there are a lot of teams that are probably somewhat disappointed that their name wasn't called on that show. I said we're a team that gave great effort, we won 18 games, we were .500 in our league, and those are very positive things and very good steps for us, and we should feel good about that. I said it's good to be disappointed, it's not all bad to have that feeling because you worked hard for something, but we've also seen the people, we only got three bids for our conference, a lot of things have been said, we don't need to jump into any kind of negative dialogue. If we were deserving of being in the tournament, we would have been in the tournament. So right now, we're a team that didn't make that, we can live with that. Is it hard Is it tough Yes. But certainly there's a reason for it. I think we played our role in that reason, so it's time for us to hope that we got something else and we were fortunate. You look around now and it's 40 teams in the NIT and 65 in the NCAA Tournament, and we're one of those teams that still have a chance to have practice today. It's not bad. It's not everything that we wanted, but you know what It's not bad and we're excited that we have a chance to play."

On the Big Ten schools in the NCAA Tournament ... "I'm anxious for our conference to play. I think that having Wisconsin ranked in the top ten and win the conference tournament, coming in second place in the regular season. We all in the league know how good they are. I think Illinois was playing as well as anyone in the nation until they ran into Wisconsin, we certainly saw them first-hand, how dangerous and tough and explosive they are. I think Michigan State is going to be tough, so I think all three of our teams are going to make some headway in the tournament, and I think that's going to bode well for the Big Ten because obviously we've taken a beating from different commentators and writers and people who think our league is suspect and our league is down. I think those three teams will represent us very well."

On Duke in the NCAA ... "Certainly being the No. 1 seed it did surprise me, I think that being in Raleigh, it'll be a tough out for most teams, and it looks like they're going to get some tough draws right away. It's not going to be easy, but they're home in Raleigh and they've earned that, and I think it was a tough loss for them in the ACC Tournament finals, but usually when something like that happens, Coach K has a way of rallying the troops and getting his guys ready to go."

On how he received the news about the NIT invitation ... "The call goes in to the Associate A.D., Warde Manuel. He received the call and gave us the information: our opponent, and the date of the game, indicated that it would be at 9 p.m. and televised on ESPN, and that's pretty much it. They don't tell you how or why they came to their decision, but it's a heck of a game. I'm sure Missouri feels the same way, but we know that they are a team that could maybe go to the Final Four, they're a team that could win this whole tournament, and here we are faced with them in game one."

Senior Bernard Robinson Jr.

On not getting selected into the NCAA Tournament ... "I was disappointed, but Coach (Amaker) had talked with us and told us we still had something to look forward to and to wait for the phone call. So, that is what everyone was doing. Then we got the call, so everyone was pretty excited to be able to still play in the postseason. It was disappointing we didn't make the NCAA Tournament, but we still have some games to play against some pretty good teams. We still have to be prepared and focused on the NIT."

On having a short turnaround to play ... "I think it can be a little easier to come in and play a game right away. It doesn't really give one team an advantage over another. You just continue to have that tournament feel, where sometimes you have to scramble a little bit. But for the most part, it's just about both teams hustling, playing defense and just getting out there and playing. It's just such a great feeling... this tournament feeling."

Sophomore Graham Brown

On playing in the postseason ... "It is just such a great feeling. I mean last year we ended right at the end of the Big Ten Tournament. Now, we get a chance to suit up again and to see what else we can do, get some more wins and continue to keep this program going in the right direction."

On only having one day to prepare ... "You know a little more preparation would be alright, but we are just going to try and do what we can to get a victory. We have to do the best we can to scout them and look at what they do over the next couple of practices. But it goes both ways. They are in the same situation we are in, so I think it is going to be a great basketball game."

Sophomore Daniel Horton

On if there was any shock being selected to play Missouri ... "It really didn't matter to me. It wasn't a surprise really. We were going to play a good team regardless. It really didnt matter I just wanted to get out here and play as soon as possible."

On the team bringing the right emotion into the NIT ... "We are going to have to bring the right attitude. I am sure we will have the right attitude. Like we say, any postseason for this team and this program is a big step forward. We have the opportunity to play in the NIT, which is a great opportunity and honor."

On not getting selected for the NCAA Tournament ... "I was thinking we just didn't make it. I was a little disappointed, but we realized we were going to have a pretty good chance of playing in the NIT, so we just tried to figure out who and when we were going to play."

Sophomore Chris Hunter

On getting a chance to play in the postseason ... "It feels good. Last year around this time we were getting a week off and felt bad not being able to play. This year it just feels great just to be able to play postseason basketball and have an opportunity to win some more games."

On being selected to play Missouri ... "It was kind of shocking. But there is a level of uncertainty with the NIT anyway... not knowing who you are going to play or when you are going to play. I can see why they did it though. It is going to be a great match-up. We know they are a tough and talented team. We just need to make sure we play our game and continue our pressure defense. We want to try and force them to take some bad shots."

Freshman Courtney Sims

On Michigan returning to postseason play ... "It's big. Michigan hasn't gone to the postseason in a long time, so it is a big deal and a big step for the program. We are just excited to get back out onto the court and continue this year."

On his improved play in the last month ... "I'm always looking forward to improving my game. You just always have to continue to improve and getting some more games will help not only myself but this team as well. In the Big Ten Tournament I didn't play well in the first game, but came back in the second game so I just want to be able to keep trying to get better. I just want to be able to go in there and do what I can to help this team win and continue to get better."

Freshman Dion Harris

On playing in the postseason against Missouri ... "It's important for us and this program. I mean last year there was no postseason for us because of the sanctions, so it will help this program take that next step. It is going to be exciting because we will be able to get going in here, in our building, and especially in front of our fans. I think it will be a great basketball game. Missouri is a talented team. I know they are going to be ready to come in here and get a win. We just need to continue to be tough and competitive and we will be up to the challenge."

Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423

»  Learn about Michigan men's basketball season tickets for the 2017-18 season.