Behind the Scenes with the Wolverines: NCAA National Championship

April 8, 2013

Follow the University of Michigan men's basketball team throughout its trip in Atlanta, Ga., for the national championship game against Louisville at the Georgia Dome.

Monday, April 8 :: Pregame Hype, Anticipation Builds

The team arrived at the locker room around 7:50 p.m. The players departed the locker room around 8 p.m. to get onto the floor and get warmed up for the game. They returned at 8:33 for a pregame talk with the coaches. John Beilein talked about the game plan and brought a lot of his discussion into perspective as he talked about how the team had grown up all season and had prepared each and every moment for this game. Each guy was going to play hard and take it to Louisville. "We are physical," he said. "This is Big Ten basketball. This is our identity. We play with poise and play with confidence. We do those things today, we are going to have one great celebration." At the top of the board it said JUST BE MICHIGAN. LaVall Jordan talked about the process the team went through this season using the team theme of "WE ON" and how that TEAM spirit of When Everyone Operates n' Sync will propel them through tonight's game. Bacari Alexander told a bedtime story, "Once upon a time there was a pack of Wolverines that got hungry ... it started by eating a Jack Rabbit, then a Ram, then a Jayhawk and a Gator on their way to the Final Four. We got thirsty so the Wolverine drank some Oranges and said, "Stay thirsty my friend. And tonight it's time to eat again, this time we go hunt a Cardinal. If we get the job done, we will cage a Cardinal. Let's go eat!" And with that the players and coaches huddled together and headed back onto the floor for their regular warmup routine.

Monday, April 8 :: The Bus Ride
The ride to the stadium was very quiet as the players prepared for the game of their career. John Beilein walked from the front to the back of the bus and asked the guys, "Everyone fine? We ready? Let's go!" U-M director of athletics Dave Brandon talked to Beilein on the bus ride about a text he received from Cazzie Russell, saying he wanted to sit on the bench and do whatever he could to help tonight. The players were listening to their pregame music, mostly rap, and were mentally preparing for the game ahead. The ride took the Wolverines and their police escort 12 minutes to arrive at the loading dock.
Michigan Men's Basketball
Monday, April 8 :: Departing for the Dome
After a break of 90-plus minutes, the Wolverines began to trickle downstairs for the 20-minute ride to the Georgia Dome. Jordan Morgan arrived first at 7:17 p.m. followed closely by Josh Bartelstein. A pack of players, including Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Corey Person, Eso Akunne, Nik Stauskas and Max Bielfeldt were next on the scene at 7:21 p.m. Coach John Beilein and his wife, Kathleen, came downstairs to big cheers from the crowd at 7:23 p.m. Each of the player slapped hands with the coaches and support staff members' kids. The final player, Jon Horford, picked up Jon Jon, son of strength coach Jon Sanderson over his head. Jon Jon has sported a blue Mohawk throughout the tournament and was decked out in the full maize uniform for the championship game. All of the bags were checked at the hotel so that the Wolverines could head right into the dome upon arrival.
Monday, April 8 :: Film Study
Michigan Men's Basketball
John Beilein and U-M director of athletics Dave Brandon talked on the way to the film room. Beilein said, "I slept well for a few hours last night. We are ready for this game." Film started promptly at 5:11 p.m. with Beilein and assistant LaVall Jordan showing what each Louisville player likes to do offensively. They finished with the fast facts keys for the game. Each player read one of the fast facts to his teammates and coaches. Jon Horford ended the film session with, "It's Monday night and WE ON!" Jordan Morgan said a prayer that led the team into pregame meal at 5:30 p.m. As everyone left the room, Bacari Alexander said to the coaches, "Great job guys! The hay is in the barn. Let's go eat!" The players, coaches, managers and support staff ate dinner before departing individually to get ready for the game. John left at 5:57 p.m. to spend time with his family and get dressed for the game. The players retreated to their room to go through their pregame routine and don the maize uniform they've worn the past three games.
Michigan Men's Basketball
Monday, April 8 :: Final Walk Through
The final walk through took place in the ballroom. The practice began promptly at 4:46 p.m. with John Beilein and assistant LaVall Jordan going over the offensive sets and the calls. The coaches then addressed the defensive formations that the Wolverines would deploy against the Cardinals. They mentioned how important that communication will be on switching screens and what each Louisville player will try and do from different spots on the floor. The assistants talked about the defensive sets that Michigan could use depending upon the situation and time frame. The walk through concluded with the maize team running the offensive set for Louisville and there inbound plays. The team headed from walk through to the film room at 5:09 p.m.
Monday, April 8 :: Shoot around at the Dome
The team headed to the Georgia Dome for a shoot around led by assistant Jeff Meyer. The Wolverines spent about an hour on the court, getting some shots to further familiarize themselves with the rims. The team left quickly and returned to the hotel for a light snack before some free time. All of the players except the seniors scheduled classes for the next semester.
Michigan Men's Basketball
Monday, April 8 :: Film Preparation
The team met and watched film for about 42 minutes, starting at 10 a.m. Coach John Beilein said to his assistants after the walk through, "Let's work the plan. We have a great plan and we are going to work it. Great job." Bacari Alexander and Beilein stayed behind to watch more film while the players went for a shoot around and assistant LaVall Jordan and Trey Burke briefly attended the Cousy Award Banquet.
Monday, April 8 :: Breakfast, Film and Walk Through
Michigan woke up and had a team breakfast at 9 a.m. They went from the breakfast room to film. The film session lasted about 25 minutes and was followed by a walk through for about 18 minutes. The players then headed to their rooms for practice gear and shoes for a shoot around.
Michigan Men's Basketball
Sunday, April 7 :: NABC Guardians of the Game Awards Show
Trey Burke and the coaching staff headed to the NABC banquet where he was presented the Naismith Player of the Year Award and the NABC Division I Player of the Year. Coach John Beilein and Rick Pitino participated in a question and answer session about their matchup in the national title game and their overall season. Trey thanked his family, teammates, coaches and the former Michigan players and alums who supported him throughout the season. The contingent was unable to stay through the conclusion of the event as Trey needed to meet his teammates at dinner, and the coaches had to continue work on their game plan for the Louisville Cardinals.
Michigan Men's Basketball
Michigan Men's Basketball
Sunday, April 7 :: Practicing in the Dome
Michigan continued to prepare for the National Championship Game with Louisville during its 3:30 p.m. practice at the dome. The coaches ran the players through offensive and defensive sets they could expect from the Cardinals and worked on their defensive game plan for the title game. The Wolverines kept their normal routine for one-day prep and worked through different game scenarios. They finished by shooting free throws for the final 10 minutes of the session. There were four players at each basket rotating around in circle as they shot free throws. The seniors christened the court with three-point baskets, including a long stretch of shots from two of the Wolverines' five seniors. The team joked about the buckets missed by the senior but Eso Akunne ended the program's final practice for the season with a three-pointer from the right side of the court and saluted the basket after the follow-through. The Wolverines finished practice just before 5:05 p.m. and headed back to the locker room to change and depart for the hotel.
Michigan Men's Basketball
Sunday, April 7 :: Another Series of Interviews
The 15 student-athletes associated with the program would devote most of the early afternoon for media interviews. The five starters spent went to a press conference with Coach John Beilein for 30 minutes then headed into breakout rooms where they talked with media for an additional 30 minutes. The Wolverines were peppered with questions about the matchup against Louisville and their relationship with players on the Louisville team. Nik Stauskas and Russ Smith went to the same prep school and Tim Hardaway Jr. and Wayne Blackshear played on the same AAU team. The remaining players and the assistant coaches talked with the media during the open locker room prior to practice.
Michigan Men's Basketball
Michigan Men's Basketball
Sunday, April 7 :: Beilein's Busy Day
Coach John Beilein got up at 5:45 a.m. and to watch film of Louisville. He went to mass and immediately went into the breakfast room to meet with his assistants. John and the coaches talked about key concepts and strategies for beating the Cardinals before eating a quick breakfast before pouring himself into more video before the team film session at 11a.m. He spent a few minutes with his family and grandkids before departing for the Georgia Dome. John's first media opportunity of the day was a joint interview with Rick Pitino and Greg Gumbel at 1 p.m. They talked for about 12 minutes before the interview ended and he headed to a joint press conference with his five starters. The group answered questions for about 30 minutes regarding the upcoming championship game, the players on his team and the opportunity against Louisville. John went through a gauntlet of interviews with CBS, Dial Global, ESPN and NCAA Digital before returning to the locker room at 3:30 p.m. to prepare for the team's closed practice. He ran the team through paces on the court from 3:35 to 5:05 p.m. before getting his first few minutes of downtime. John dressed in coat and tie and talked with his coaches about game prep while waiting for Trey Burke to get ready in preparation for the NABC Awards Show at 6 p.m. After an appearance with Rick Pitino during the show, John and the assistant coaches returned to the hotel for more film study.
Sunday, April 7 :: Morning Meetings
Coach John Beilein and members of the team attended mass with Father Chaz at 9 a.m. He came into the breakfast room after mass and made a cup of coffee with cream and sugar. John walked over to the table where his assistant coaches were watching film of Louisville. He spent about 20 minutes talking with his aids about what they saw on film and the game plan the Wolverines would employ against Louisville. Two tables away was Eso Akunne eating breakfast before his teammates arrived on the scene. A few minutes later he was joined by Josh Bartelstein and then a group of players arrived for their morning nourishment. John grabbed breakfast and headed to his room to watch film before returning to meet with the players.
Michigan Men's Basketball
Sunday, April 7 :: A Long Night
The assistant coaches began the process of preparing for the Louisville Cardinals immediate after returning to the hotel following the thrilling win over Syracuse. The team was greeted at the hotel by a large crowd at 1:57 a.m. but the coaches had different plans while the players were showered with cheers and shouts from the large crowd. Coach John Beilein and his staff met throughout most of the night putting together a game plan for the national championship game with Louisville. Video coordinator Peter Kahler got one hour of sleep while the assistants were working on less than two hours of rest.

» Previous Behind the Scenes: Final Four | South Regional

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