While it took a few years to put his program in place and recruit his players, John Beilein has led a resurgence at Michigan. Beilein’s young Wolverines have already spent some time as the number one team in the polls this season and they took another huge step Tuesday night. It was John Beilein’s 60th birthday and he couldn’t have asked for a better present from his team. In a tough, physical, well-played game, his Wolverines beat Ohio State 76-74 in overtime for the 21st win of the season, already just three behind the number of wins Michigan compiled a season ago. The team is young, but led by Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan is showing everyone in the college basketball world that they belong back near the top of the polls.
John Beilein joined WDFN in Detroit with Matt Shepherd to talk about whether he appreciates how good of a game Michigan and Ohio State played the other night, on the toughness that Tim Hardaway Jr. continues to display, if he thinks his team is battle tested enough, on the matchup between Trey Burke and Aaron Craft and whether the schedule that Michigan has played this season prepares them for the NCAA Tournament.
Whether he appreciates how good of a game it was between Michigan and Ohio State Tuesday night:
“I do. I think our last two games, one was a loss and one was a win, feel very fortunate to be out there coaching in that environment. Both places you can’t really hear and I sort of block out the noise but I have no control sometimes because nobody can hear you. It’s great. College basketball is such a strength for the NCAA and such a strength everywhere that it’s just great being a part of it, especially the highest level.”
On Tim Hardaway Jr. showing toughness:
“I think anyone that judges freshmen and sophomores primarily and says I don’t think they’re tough enough. Just put yourself back to being a freshman in college, there’s a lot of things that you still need to learn and sometimes it’s not a lack of toughness, it’s a lack of knowledge and knowing what it takes to be tough. I think there’s a maturation point with every player, including Tim that they learn all those different hats that I talked about that define toughness in college basketball.”
If he thinks his team is battle tested enough:
“We’re young, we’re really young and that’s experience just watching, last night watching the improvement of a couple of sophomores for Ohio and both those guys hardly got in a game last year, three or four minutes and they had to learn all those things, three of our guys are learning at the pace of 30 or 25 minutes per game and there are times when they won’t be tough because they’re still learning it. Toughness is setting a good, solid screen. Toughness is running the floor when you’re really tired and changing the math. Fatigue makes cowards of us all. You have to learn to push through that. I believe we are on our way to improve in every area and the mental and physical toughness is a part of it, but it’s not just some innate quality, it’s a learned mentality. It takes time with some players and more with others.”
On the matchup between Trey Burke and Aaron Craft:
“The way they went at it, I don’t know how they keep playing. They are, the stops and starts of a point guard are like running sprints. all day long and there were times when both of them sucked it up and they were going to create a turnover and create havoc no matter how tired they were. There’s a lot of toughness in those two, that’s for sure.”
Whether this schedule helps prepare Michigan for an NCAA Tournament run:
“Oh absolutely. They’re not defining moments now, they’re just educational components to getting yourself ready. We’re playing not only highly talented teams but really well coached teams everywhere. You look at the four teams that we’re playing in a row between Indiana, last night, Wisconsin and Michigan State, all those coaches have been around a great deal and everybody in that group, Bo Ryan has as many wins as anybody but three coaches that have been to the Final Four and won National Championships so that’s quite a run to go through, but it’s going to make us better if we look at it the right way. We would like to get some victories at the same time. We got one and we have two more opportunities.”