... "I thought it was really imperative for us to have a good performance and a win last night (against IUPU-Fort Wayne) to prepare us for our challenge this weekend. I think we realize how big a challenge we have in front of us. It's a great opportunity for our program and us, to host the defending national champions and have an opportunity to have our program on display for a national audience, along with all the other things that come with that certainly on a personal level for me. Nonetheless this is about our team growing, our team competing and going against the very best. We look forward it. Now, I may not have that feeling come four o'clock Saturday afternoon but when you get the chance to go against the very best you do all you can to prepare for that and to put ourselves in a position to be competitive and to win."
On Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski ... "First of all, I think he's close to all his players and that goes without saying ... the loyalty that he's shown to all of his guys, the way that he's conducted not only his program but himself. You talk about great leaders and to me he is a great leader. The first sign of a great leader is the way they lead themselves and to me he's done that throughout every aspect of his life. I think he's close with all of his former guys, if you look at his staff now all of his assistants are his former players. I think he's always shown that loyalty to all his guys whether they've become his assistants or whether they're coaches he's worked with and have worked for him. Maybe there's a little something more for the guys who helped generate it, to help jump-start it, but I don't know if that's the feeling behind things. I don't see myself any different from any other of his former players. He's got a long list of guys that have done a lot that I'm sure he's very proud of and I hope he feels that way about me."
On playing against his former coach ... "Scary. But it's an honor also."
On his personal feelings playing his alma mater and former coach ... "Well, I never envisioned something like this ever happening. I'm not sure how I'm going to feel when the time draws a little closer, but certainly I have a lot of feelings towards Coach K, his staff, and the program. I've spent a lot of time there and I'm very proud of my tenure there. I know there will be some mixed emotions for me, being on the other bench and competing against a place I have a lot of special feelings for."
On his last talk with Coach Krzyzewski ... "I haven't talked to him in a few weeks now since the season has gotten under way, but we do talk. I know that the last time I talked to him was a little bit ago at his induction to the College Basketball Hall of Fame. That was a great evening and honor for him, and I was really happy and proud to have the chance to be there to witness that. Since the seasons have unfolded, especially with their season starting up in Maui, they've been very busy and so have we."
On Coach K avoiding playing former players and assistants ... "I'll defer to his feelings on that. Certainly, we're a program who's trying to grow and get started ... rebuild. It's great for our school and it's great for our program when we can have a home game with a team and a program like Duke. The other thing that he's mentioned more recently, is that it's more difficult in a tournament to meet when a team will end its season given the outcome of a game against one of his former guys. Obviously it's hard, I haven't had a way to think in the way he does. He's done so much in the game and meant so much to so many different people, including myself. For me to think about all those other things is difficult, we're just trying to focus on how we're feeling today, what the injury report looks like, getting ready for practice this afternoon. Our perspective is probably different than his perspective, given he has a little bit more of a global view given the status of who he is and what he's done -- that's how he's probably supposed to look at things."
On discussing and meeting with Coach K about the game ... "I avoid them. (Laughs) There are so many other things at times to discuss. The series has been a great series and over the years the teams have been great teams, great environments on both campuses."
On Duke ... "I'm sure all of you have had a chance to get a look at them at some point. I mean, they don't appear to have too many weaknesses ... the old saying you have to pick your poison. They are dangerous in transition. Everything starts with their defensive pressure. This is a team that puts pressure on you at both ends of the floor ... I mean they attack you at both ends. They attack you defensively. They attack you offensively. Then they have the skilled players that can certainly make those kind of plays. I think they are a team who arguably has one the best guard combinations in the country with (Jason) Williams and (Chris) Duhon. That is a major concern. Then you look at (Carlos) Boozer on the inside, who is a force there and anchors the middle for them. Then having mentioned those names, then there is (Mike) Dunleavy, who, maybe, is playing the best basketball of all those guys. It's a very talented team. They space well on offense and they stretch you because of the three-point shot. They have a great inside player in Boozer. It is very difficult to set the tone with their backcourt with how they pressure the ball and defend the backcourt and certainly how they attack you offensively. There aren't a lot of things you can exploit. We need to play, probably, a perfect game. We certainly need them to be off their game to be very honest about it."
On if a loss like last season's could happen again ... "I would hope that we wouldn't get in a situation like that. I think the thing with us -- and we've mentioned on many occasions about passion and patience -- if that were to ever happen to us, one thing I think our kids have done is we've been passionate and we have been prepared. It was a very unfortunate circumstance on our side last year."
On what a win over Duke would mean to the Michigan program ... "We all recognize the significance it would mean. I think that goes without saying. It's hard to think of so many big-picture things at this moment in time but I think it certainly would be as significant as any win we could have."
Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423