KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The University of Michigan men's basketball team will take on No. 2 seed and seventh-ranked Oklahoma tomorrow (Saturday, March 21) in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The team answered questions from the media this afternoon at the Sprint Center. The contest will begin at 4:50 p.m. CDT and be televised on CBS.
Michigan Head Coach John Beilein
Opening statement... "We are playing a great team tomorrow. I've had a chance to spend most of the morning watching video on Oklahoma. Jeff (Capel) does a great job; both the Griffins (Blake and Taylor) are tremendous players. There's obviously so much made about them, but they're not the only guys there. They have a quality team and quality bench. So really now I understand why they're No. 2 seed."
On U-M's turnaround this season... "Experience is a big thing. Tommy Amaker had a great last season. They won 22 games, just missed the NCAA Tournament. But there were four seniors on that team, and when they were gone, they did most of the scoring. And then starting point guard on that team in December decided it was best he move forward. And so we were basically playing with a team whose leading player averaged three points or four points the year before. We just went through it last year, and now they have another year's experience. The three freshmen -- Stu Douglass, Zack Novak and Laval Lucas-Perry -- each one of them has had at least 19 points in one game. When we have needed them the most, a lot of our big wins have been (in part due to) those guys."
On the short turnaround... "The coaches, we pour ourselves into it for -- virtually, of the 24 hours, 18 hours we pour ourselves into everything that we can know about our opponent. My assistants did all the work as far as the Oklahoma scout ahead of time, and now today, I do a good blend of keeping our team fresh, at the same time, giving them as much knowledge as I can about the opponent. We watched lot of clips of last night to make sure our kids know and understand why you win and also have to understand what can cost you if you don't correct it."
On the possibility of getting U-M into the Sweet 16... "There was a day when Michigan was a fixture in the Sweet 16 and if you can be a fixture in the Sweet 16, you have a great chance to get to the Final Four, where we've been several times. It's just another great step in the right direction."
On trying to slowdown Blake Griffin... "It's really hard. I think you have to play great -- the individual line has got to be very tough and then you have to play great team defense around him. You just start the scoreboard and say, okay, here, start 8-0 Oklahoma. He's already got four offensive rebounds, and then tell Blake he can't go to the boards the rest of the night. He's going to get eight points just because his timing, his instinct for the ball is terrific. You know that's going to happen. He's such a good passer. You don't give him free shots to other people, but you don't allow him to get your big guys in foul trouble or score at will in the post."
Junior Forward DeShawn Sims
On who simulates Blake Griffin in practice... "Eric Puls; he does a great job of playing all the big men, the great big men around the country. It's hard to simulate a player of this talent or any other talent, but we do the best we can and just know the goal in mind is not really trying to equal the potential but just trying to get work done and being able to know the positions, whatever it may be."
On the Big Ten as preparation for playing Blake Griffin... "There are great great players, not maybe with the potential he has, all over the Big Ten. Most of the Big Ten is a big man's game -- not too many guys getting 12-13 rebounds a game in the Big Ten because it's such a physical game. It definitely prepares to us play against guys of his caliber."
On the toughest player he has ever played... "Up until now, of guys that I actually had to guard was Greg Oden my first year I played at Michigan. I have played against guys who have been in the NBA, a number of players. But up until this point, Greg Oden. He didn't score a lot of points, but he definitely controlled the basketball game while I was guarding him."
U-M Sophomore Guard Manny Harris
On the mindset of the team right now... "We feel good. We're enjoying it, every moment of it and we're going to play hard and just try to grind it out and win as many games as possible. At the same time, we're going to have fun -- the team chemistry is good and everyone is happy to be here."
U-M Freshman Guard Zack Novak
On being more settled against Oklahoma with one game already played... "I think definitely it will help a lot. We're a young team and obviously none of us have ever played in the tournament before; that showed the first couple minutes against Clemson. We were a little shaky, but then we relaxed as the game went on. So I don't think we'll have a problem in the next game."
On being able to enjoy the tournament experience... "I think we are enjoying it. It is business, but nothing is guaranteed. It's going to be a once in a lifetime opportunity. I think it's about trying to find a balance, when it's time to get to work, you get to work, but you have to enjoy it because you don't know if it's ever going to be there again."
On playing against larger opponents... "Obviously, a big thing is I have to box out hard every time. They're more athletic than me, they're bigger than me. If I don't use leverage, they're going get the ball almost every time. But it's just really about effort. When you're undersized, you have to put a little bit more into it than they do, and that's about all I can do."
U-M Freshman Guard Stu Douglass
On the short turnaround... "Pretty normal for one-day prep. Film, walking through, the normal preparations. We don't have three days like we did this last game, but the coaching staff prepares us as best they can, and we're confident in that. You know, one day or three days, we're going to be ready."
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