Your nightmares. (Keith Srakocic/AP via CBCSports)
NHL reporter EJ Hradek just tweeted an awful thing:
Daily's Matt Slovin appears to have confirmed. With him and Merrill leaving that's a top line of…? Bennett-Downing? I don't want to think about it. At least when he's next-Pronger (except not the worst person ever) we can beat our chests and such. Good luck to him. I'm gonna go pout or…oh hey look basketball!
We live in a world that has been largely demystified. We've done a pretty good job of mapping all of the uncharted lands. We have located the Higgs Boson. We have mastered fire and sequenced the human genome. And while there are many things in our world that we do not know, we chalk less and less up to the "unknowable." We give our superheroes gritty reboots to show how they could realistically exist in the world we inhabit. Reality TV has all but replaced the scripted show. Even magic has fallen victim; instead of David Copperfield making the Statue of Liberty disappear, David Blaine sits in a glass box for a week and holds his breath for 15 minutes, as if to say, "we all know the physical parameters of this world, so watch me strain against them." The illusion of the supernatural is gone. We are left with merely the unexpected.
It is no surprise, I suppose, that sports have followed suit. We scoff at announcers and commentators who pretend that a thing called "momentum" exists as a causal force separate from the game itself. These mystics see "Team A is currently playing better than Team B" as a sign that Team A is being pushed forward by an invisible yet irresistible hand. The Skip Baylesses of the world insist there is a "clutch gene" which, based on my limited understanding of genetics, is the only gene that can spontaneously appear and disappear based on one’s athletic performance on a given night. Lebron wasn't clutch until he was. Tom Brady was clutch until he wasn't, then he was again, but now he isn't. NBA players develop reputations based on incredibly small sample sizes of high-variation events, all in the name of the almighty narrative.
We modernists see these explanations for what they are: crutches. It's much easier to attribute success to intangible forces than to either find and analyze the underlying reasons or to acknowledge the role of luck and chance. You’ll never hear a commentator say, “sometimes good players miss makeable shots” or “sometimes an average player can do something great.” That isn’t satisfying, but that’s life. We want more, but sometimes there isn’t more.
So when a game like Friday's Michigan-Kansas comes along, every fiber of my rational brain tries to tell me, "these things happen." There was no voodoo. The space-time continuum did not yield just this once to the will of Trey Burke. He took a series of low-percentage shots, and he made them. I mean, look at those four shots. Trey Burke is a 38% 3-point shooter. The odds of him making three NORMAL triples in a row are about 5%. The odds of making those four shots? A 20-foot hesitation pull-up, two 27-footers, and a 30-footer? No "will to win" or "grit" or any of the hundred other clichés you can come up with can make a player capable of reliably making those shots. He got lucky, I tell myself. It was awesome and amazing and a feat of incredible skill and talent that likely won't be repeated in the near future, but it was a fluke nonetheless. “Sometimes when you’re on” and whatnot.
But I've watched the last few minutes of regulation and the first few minutes of overtime a half-dozen times. Each time I've tried to make myself believe that this is just something that happens sometimes. And each time I have failed. At this point I’m willing to swallow the clichés. Trey Burke wanted it more. He had the will to win. He put the team on his shoulders. He made the damn Statue of Liberty disappear. Don't try to tell me how he did it, or if HE did it or whether it was just one of those things that happen. Just this once I am willing to believe my eyes. Lady Liberty is gone. All that remains is Trey Burke pointing at the empty night sky.
The rote play-by-play of those four minutes hardly does his work justice, but it is illustrative.
- Burke forces a ten-second violation.
- Burke penetrates, draws in Withey and dishes to McGary for an easy lay-in.
- Burke hits a long 3.
- Burke drives for a layup.
- Burke hits The Trey.
- Burke hits a long three.
- Burke hits a long two.
That's 13 points, an assist, and a forced turnover in four minutes. He was good before and after that (he scored 23 in the second half and overtime), but those were really the magical minutes. And from a purely statistical standpoint, they were outstanding. But for those who watched the game, it was simultaneously more impressive and completely unsurprising. There's a reason Josh Bartelstein was celebrating when the ball was still in the air, and it is the same reason you felt so good when it left his hand. You've seen him do ridiculous things all year. You have experienced those moments where you both scoffed at his shot selection and laughed because you knew it would fall. It didn’t matter that he hadn’t shot the ball very well for the first 38 minutes, or that he was taking a contested shot from an improbable distance under impossible circumstances. When he released that ball, I’m willing to bet most of you reacted not with a prayer but with an unspoken “watch this.” Bartelstein knew. Bill Self knew. We knew.
Michigan fans also recognize this feeling because they have experienced its opposite many, many times. In the cold recesses of every Michigan fan's consciousness is that collective moment where Evan Turner and Josh Gasser and Kalin Lucas and Ben Brust hold an arm extended as they send a dagger straight into the souls of those helpless onlookers. There was the moment where you, like the audience in a Greek tragedy, knew the hero's fate before he did. You knew those shots were gonna drop. But for one day, Michigan finally had the deus ex machina on our side. By the time Trey hit that long pull-up two, all of your normal thoughts about ‘good shots’ were replaced by your inner Lou Brown telling Ricky to forget about the curveball and throw him the heater. We hastily scribbled a caveat to the “death to long twos” mandate (and all of the other strictures of proper basketball etiquette) that says, “...unless Trey is doing his thing, in which case, just… just watch this.”
Make no mistake; the game was not a one-man show. Michigan doesn't win that game if Mitch McGary doesn't play the game of his young life despite being punched in the groin for no particular reason. GRIII made an impossible layup from eleven feet under the basket and hit two huge free throws late. Stauskas and Hardaway had solid games. Even Jordan Morgan was there to challenge what would have been a game tying layup at the end of overtime. But that night will rightfully be remembered for Trey Burke. For a few brief minutes he made everyone believe he could do anything. If Michigan needed a four-pointer to tie, he would have made it happen. If the lights went out, he could bring them back up. If that impossibly large scoreboard came crashing down, you get the feeling he would simply shrug and say, "nah, that's cool, I'll carry this too."
Can everyone see this? Good. You’ll like this part (AP)
Brian is right that The Trey is going to be replayed during every NCAA tournament from now to the end of time, and rightfully so. It was one of the most remarkable single moments in recent tournament memory. But my lament is that it will be remembered simply as that moment. Everyone remembers the shots of Christian Laettner and Bryce Drew and Lorenzo Charles, but their shots are remembered in isolation. Trey Burke’s night was more than one glorious bomb. It was an individual effort that both encapsulates his season and made us feel for a brief moment that the gods were on our side.
Michigan fans have been incredibly fortunate to be able to watch Trey Burke do his thing this year, and among the many reasons I am so glad he did what he did against Kansas is that the basketball world got a taste of what we’ve been watching. On the biggest stage, Trey did what we have come to expect. He was unflappable. He was remarkably talented. He was clutch. We may have grown spoiled by this consistent excellence, and it will probably only be after Trey leaves that we will fully appreciate what we all just saw. In the meantime, though, Trey doesn’t seem to be done. He’s got a few more tricks up his sleeve, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to miss them.
Someone just make sure that he returns the statue before he leaves.
It's been a light week for recruiting, which is fine because HAVE WE MENTIONED MICHIGAN IS IN THE FINAL FOUR? Anyway, here's the latest from the recruiting scene.
Succinct, At Least
Earlier this afternoon.
me: ugh you had to post the ferns thing
that's definitely what's leading off my post right now
Brian: if it gets posted twice oh well
me: yeah, I made a different joke, at least.
Brian: just make some snarky comment about how i'm a jerk
me: that can be done.
Brian is a jerk.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT, Michigan commit Michael Ferns posted this picture to his Instagram account today, with the caption "Ummm.. Thanks Coach":
It appears Mississippi State is interested in Ferns, knows he's a fan of Michigan's family atmosphere, and therefore let one of their coaches' six-year-old kids be his primary recruiting contact. The small child that penned the above clearly pictures himself as the future recruiting coordinator at NC State.
Greg Mattison finds this all rather adorable, and will now return to recruiting players the likes of which Mississippi State hasn't seen in ever.
[Hit THE JUMP for spring practice visit reactions and more.]
Also! Of course Mitch McGary is photobombing John Beilein, triumphant.
McGary is Facetiming Zack Novak with part of the net on his head, because of course he is. SUBMITTED: "Big Puppy" is still an appropriate nickname for Mitch McGary even if he is putting in 25 and 14 on Jeff Withey.
Been there. A TWIS-worthy moment from a sideways Kansas fan watching the Burke three:
Prediction of the tournament. Mark Titus, come on down:
5. Bill Self will become so enraged with Elijah Johnson that his toupee will fall off
Self and Johnson have an interesting relationship, and by “interesting,” I mean that before every game, I’m pretty sure Self pulls Johnson aside and gives him the following speech:
“…God as my witness, if the other team’s point guard outplays you tonight, I will end you. Your corpse will spend eternity in the crawl space of my summer home, and when guests ask, ‘What’s that smell?” I’ll tell them it’s the scent of mediocrity."
He also predicted that Tim Hardaway wouldn't wear his hat. No matter: that is creepy. In lots of ways.
Yeah. No. Charles Pierce has an article on Syracuse's 2-3 zone that strikes on a key point:
"Everybody's talking about the 2-3 zone," Thompson said. "That's not a 2-3 zone. The 2-3 zone has been with us since the dawn of time. It's the way it slides and moves out there, like a damn amoeba.
"The only time it's a 2-3 zone is when they're waiting for you to bring the ball to it. Then, it becomes something else."
Watching the IU-Cuse game I was struck by how the conventional wisdom about where you need to attack the 2-3—flashing to the free throw line—didn't seem to apply. Cody Zeller seems built to crush a 2-3 by getting the ball there and passing, shooting, or driving as the defense provides a wrong answer to the threat he provides no matter what they do.
Syracuse just checked him and folded in their "wings" a bit. Those guys are 6'8", so Watford wasn't much threat and they were more than capable of extending out to contest three pointers from the corner. More than that, they just knew what to do to react to Indiana's attempts to beat the zone. By playing this amorphous zone they play on a sort of home court against everyone. They know exactly what they're doing; a lot of opponents don't.
This'll be a test of the Beilein Is A Genius meme. Boeheim is undefeated against him, albeit in talent matchups nowhere near as even as this one.
Not exactly a rock of journalistic credibility. Seriously, New York Times?
Stop listening to NPR! It's just stories about how you shouldn't abuse elderly people!
[Via Reader Brent McIntosh.]
Correct. Reader Stephen Suarez provides a visual representation of Nik Stauskas's decline, fall, and mutation into unstoppable phase beast:
At least they got your/you're right. Michael Ferns instagrammed this Handwritten, Lovingly Crafted Recruiting Letter from Mississippi State:
"Baller" is underlined, FWIW.
I've always wondered what the hell anyone could put in the incessant communication teams have with recruits, and now I know. I am dumber for this knowledge.
I ran out of fouls! I—I had guards with shoulder injuries! We recruited guys who ended up at Iowa State! There was an earthquake! A terrible flood! Blue Devils! IT WASN'T MY FAULT, I SWEAR TO GOD!!! Tom Izzo post-NCAA-exit always sounds like John Belushi trying to prevent Carrie Fisher from flamethrowing him. With Michigan in the Final Four, he's turned it up to 11, to mix 70s movie metaphors.
Tom Izzo doesn't blame the referees.
"It just seemed like that whistle was blowing all the time, and we never got in the flow of the game in that second half,'' Izzo said. "I'm sure they (officials) thought they did a helluva job, or I thought that I did a helluva job.
"I bit everything I could bite a couple of times.''
I wonder why that might be, that Michigan State might get called for a bunch of fouls. I am racking my brain for a potential reason a proud purveyor of "physical defense" might end up flaming out in the NCAA tournament thanks to fouls. I am… nope. Still thinking.
In any case, the free throw disparity was vast.
Duke made 24 of 26 free throws while MSU was 18 of 24 from the free-throw line.
"They killed us on the free-throw line,'' Harris said.
Before the last 1:20—when State started fouling intentionally—FTAs were 24-16 in favor of Michigan State.
Tom Izzo doesn't blame his players, he blames himself for his players.
"I think it got in all of our heads, and that's why I did a poor job, I can't let that happen,'' Izzo said. "We're not gonna win that battle, and I let some of that get to me.''
Have we mentioned that injuries devastated Michigan State to the tune of two games missed by a starter? Duke's Seth Curry hasn't practiced all year; Trey Burke was sick and still shaking off that nasty fall he took against South Dakota State. Izzo takes full responsibility for that, too. Those guys had no right to play that well.
"Make sure you give Bo Ryan his nappy." That's the Big Ten equivalent of the brewing officiating scandal in the Pac-12, in which the director of officials offered bounties for technical fouls on Sean Miller. Joking or not, dude is fired.
Etc.: Five key plays from Florida. Beilein and Boeheim kind of go way back. Surprise: Trey Burke is an All-American to everybody. Final Four refs include a few guys who have done Big Ten games this season, but no one you know. Recommended: this Matt Norlander article at CBS on Michigan's regional triumph. Gregg Doyel writes something nice!
LOL UCLA hired Steve Alford.
Quicknote: If you're thinking about going to the Final Four, you know that MGoTicket Center button we have up all the time? …on the front page? …right under the board?
Pitino! Is no seed safe from your wrath?
Welcome back to the Final Four. It's been awhile: 20 years if you're going by memory, longer if O'Brien* is to be believed. For some reason I can probably pin on puberty and my 2400 baud modem, we missed the opportunity to chart the hell out of it at the time, a chance I will not pass up again. Link to my data.
Sample size and all that, but if you're filling out a bracket of four teams you still favor the 1 seed. A Cinderella run seems to be as likely to end here as anywhere else. I'd venture that Michigan and Syracuse are uncommonly good 4-seeds. M spent time as the AP #1 earlier this season and 'cuse might have if they hadn't lost right when the opportunity presented itself. Twelve teams in 2013 spent at least a week with a Top 3 AP ranking this year, a quick metric of how small a difference there was between the 1s and 4s. You know Michigan's anecdote about the rim at Indiana and the half-court heave in the Trohl Center. Previous years that was 8, 9, 8, 8, 6, 7, 6, 10. I had to go back to 2004 to find similar parity among the top field (that produced a Final Four of a 1-seed, two 2's and a 3).
Distance is No Problem
I plugged a lot of driving directions into Google Maps to get a picture of how distance from the championship site affects outcome but the findings weren't near so dramatic as I'd hypothesized:
If it mattered you'd see a lot more colors clumped toward the bottom. Until you get within 200 miles of home there seemed to be no hometown help; interestingly being a state (200 to 500 miles) away seemed to work as a detriment—realm of the rival fans perhaps?
|Miles from Home||Favored||Even||Dogs||All|
|0 to 200||5-1||4-1||1-0||7-2|
|201 to 500||4-11||4-4||0-7||5-12|
|501 to 1,000||21-20||17-15||4-5||29-24|
(Hover over headers for explanations)
If you live in proximity to a Spartan you probably remember a couple of those well, like Butler playing a virtual home game in 2010 or MSU beating UConn at Ford Field before falling to UNC. Flight miles or time zones traveled didn't affect Final Four results: teams traveled on average 1,027 miles; those that advanced were an 1,001 miles away from home, and the losers were 1,052 miles away.
4-Seeds in the Final Four
'97 Arizona is the only 4-seed to win it all. Tucson Citizen
It's not that big of a deal in this round since Michigan is playing another 4 in Syracuse but I took a look at the history of the seed anyway.
|Team||Final Four Opp.||Result||Site||Distance|
|2013 Michigan||Syracuse (4)||?||Atlanta||709|
|2013 Syracuse||Michigan (4)||?||Atlanta||964|
|2012 Louisville||Kentucky (1)||L 61-69||New Orleans||708|
|2011 Kentucky||UConn||L 55-56||Houston||990|
|2006 LSU||UCLA (2)||L 45-59||Indianapolis||848|
|2005 Louisville||Illinois (1)||L 57-72||St. Louis||260|
|1999 Ohio State||Connecticut (1)||L 58-64||St. Petersburg||1045|
|1997 Arizona||North Carolina (1)||W 66-58||Indianapolis||1728|
|1996 Syracuse||Miss. St. (5)||W 77-69||E. Rutherford||242|
|1995 Okla. St.||UCLA (1)||L 61-74||Seattle||1949|
|1992 Cincinnati||Michigan (6)||L 72-76||Minneapolis||702|
|1990 Arkansas||Duke (3)||L 83-87||Denver||807|
|1990 Georgia Tech||UNLV (1)||L 81-90||Denver||1401|
|1983 Georgia||N.C. State (6)||L 60-67||Albuquerque||1459|
The winner on Saturday will be just the third on this list of 14 to advance to the championships since the tournament went to 40 teams. Ready for the weird: both times it happened they played Rick Pitino's Kentucky teams in the championship ('97 Zona won, '96 Cuse lost). If Louisville beats Wichita State as expected, there'll be another Pitino team waiting.
/searches for "I am constantly frightened by things that involve Pitino" tag, doesn't find one, creates it.
* I don't mean this in the charges shouldn't have been leveled sort of way, but in the wiping records is personal pet peeve of mine sort of way.
The NCAA gave the media a copy of their teleconference interviews with the Final Four coaches. This bears reminding: it was not a dream; we actually have one of those! The master of ceremonies is NCAA media coordinator David Worlock. I've included the Beilein part, with Syracuse's Jim Boeheim after the jump. Bullets:
- Syracuse's zone is like Cheney-era Temple.
- Boeheim helped get B hired at Canisius and WVa.
- Boeheim calls M the best offensive team in the tournament. Aw shucks guy.
- Le Moyne:Syracuse::EMU:Michigan, except Le Moyne isn't D1 and they're even more up in each others' junk, in case you're wondering why Beilein's early career is being brought up a lot.
DAVE WORLOCK: We're joined by Coach Beilein. Would you mind making an opening statement and then we'll take questions from the media.
It was quite a day yesterday, playing a very good Florida team, getting out to such a great start. Hanging on was the biggest thing after we got off to the good start. I really love the way our guys sustained their effort, even though I think both teams showed fatigue in the second half. So good trip back. It was a great trip back. We had a lot of Michigan fans, particularly our students here waiting for us. It's a great day to be a Wolverine.
WORLOCK: We'll go ahead and take questions from the media.
Q. Those of us who know you from the east, I don't want to say [getting to the Final Four] was inevitable [Ed-S: 'I'm not saying but I'm saying…' this is called a "paralipsis."] but we realized how long you've been coaching in four different Division I programs. I'm assuming this doesn't feel like a validation to you because you always knew at every level what you were doing. Is it true or is it a validation?
I said yesterday in the press conference, you know, it's great to be in the Final Four. If we had never made it, it's not the reason that I'm coaching. The reason we're coaching is about the student athletes, the relationships, the overall excitement we have of seeing young men grow in every way.
However, it's terrific to see what this has done for this university, these young men, for all our fans worldwide. So that really brings a great deal of certainly not relief, but appreciation for all of us, for what we've been able to accomplish so far.
We're all just thrilled here. But just like when we went to the Sweet 16, we're ready to move on and concentrate on the next opponent.
Q. There have already been some questions about the past, and I think the word you used was 'nomadic.' Nazareth College, I was told Jeff Van Gundy was on that team. Can you talk about what it was like there and why you left after one year.
Well, you're off by one year. I did not get to coach Jeff, unfortunately. My first game at Nazareth was at Brockport State. Jeff Van Gundy was the starting point guard at Brockport State and his father was the head coach. Interesting sideline. Both teams showed up with gold uniforms. The Brockport State guys had to go back to their rooms to get their new uniforms.
When Jeff's father stepped down as the coach at Brockport the next year, Jeff and his father came to see me at Nazareth. We began the recruiting process. I took the Le Moyne job. Bill Nelson, a great coach at Nazareth and John Hopkins, continued the recruitment. That's how Jeff ended up at Nazareth.
There was an opportunity at Le Moyne where I had a long association with going to camps there. Division II was a great opportunity. We hadn't bought a house yet in Nazareth, had another child being born any day. That was the only time I didn't stay a significant amount of time at a place. I felt bad about it. When I look back at it now, it still was the right move to make.
The late Carmen Basilio.
Q. Did you have much interaction with him?
He would come over to Le Moyne in my earliest days quite often. He was very good friends with my uncle, who was the athletic director. When he came into the offices, we all knew he was there. He was a tremendous athlete, but quite a character as well. He had all our respect, believe me. You might get playful shot to the solar plexus, which was never good (laughter).
Q. On the Syracuse zone, you've seen it a few times, what are the big challenges going against it? I don't know how much you've been able to see from last weekend on them, but if you've seen much of it, is that as well as Syracuse has played in that zone?
Yeah, I didn't watch any of their games at all. I usually wait and do that all by video afterwards. Seeing the Syracuse zone both at Le Moyne, then at West Virginia several times, it's basically the same great defense. The personnel, the names change, the abilities stay the same. One thing I've seen, more times there's more shot blocking, and right now this is a great steal team that gets their hands on things, much like our old 1-3-1 zone used to do. It creates offense with their defense.
With them turning the ball over 15 times a game in the NCAA tournament is remarkable. Think about that. When you turn it over, everybody's in their lanes, guards are out front. It's really hard to stop and play transition defense against a turnover. That's really helped them through this tournament.
Q. Fred looks at this matchup as not a great one for the zone because of the number of shooters you have. Do you feel you match up well with it?
We had a lot of shooters at West Virginia. We had a lot of shooters at Canisius and Richmond, as well. I do like the idea we have at least a week here to try and simulate as much as we can.
But that length is never a good matchup for any team. So we have to get familiar with it and really be on. The big thing is with them, you make tough twos, but when you get an open shot, you got to knock it down. You don't get many of them. You got to be able to do that. We're going to practice all week to make sure we can do that.
Still it's tough. Their offense is no joke, for sure, as well.
Q. Could you go back to your days at Le Moyne, the bus trips to College of St. Rose and St. Michael's. Could you ever have imagined yourself on this stage when you were making those trips?
You upgraded as to bus trips. There wasn't a lot of bus trips. It was more van trips with Coach Beilein in van number one, Mike Rizzi, or Tony, my assistant, in van number two.
No, I thought about that often. I often refer to the times we'd be up playing St. Lawrence or Potsdam or something, playing St. Rose or St. Michael's, being white outs, snowstorms, listening to the Syracuse/Georgetown game. Here we're trying to make it home alive sometimes.
I thought about it often, what it would be like, having confidence maybe I could get here, but knowing it was going to be a long struggle to get to this point. Really been very fortunate. I wouldn't suggest this route I took to anyone. You have to be very lucky to get to this point if the right breaks fall your way. Certainly changed from what Kathleen and I were doing raising four kids just over 20 years ago.
Q. Going back to your Le Moyne days, how helpful was Coach Boeheim in helping Le Moyne emerge or put your program on the map?
I think this happened more than just a few times. Maybe every other season. We'd be playing a game, maybe it would be a big game, Philadelphia Textile, different teams that were our rivals at Le Moyne. I would look up in the stands, never called me for a ticket, maybe called others, but Jim would be in the stands watching a game on occasion. I had a couple clinics at Le Moyne, he helped me, brought his team over. They would practice, we would practice. It would be a clinic that was helpful to our budget.
We interacted. I wouldn't say we were back and forth all the time. Where he was really helpful, as I already mentioned, whenever he would see Kathleen or the kids, whatever, very outgoing and just a good role model for seeing what a coach's wife goes through, what you do with children.
He really helped me get the Canisius job, no question. I was a borderline candidate. He really got me on the board. Ended up getting the job. That was 20 years ago. So I owe him a lot, and admire him a lot, as well.
Q. I think Le Moyne beat Syracuse in 2009. Did you have any close encounters against them in an exhibition game?
No, at that time there wasn't the rule where you would play Division II teams. So it wasn't like that. I think there was just mutual respect. I hope it was. I know it was on my part. I would watch them play, but it wasn't like we went back and forth to practices.
In that era, you couldn't play Division II teams. I guess you could. It would be a real game. We never did that. That's probably good news for us. It would have been difficult. In an exhibition game three or four years ago, Le Moyne did beat them. I'm sure Dolphin fans everywhere loved that one.
Q. Since you got to Michigan, long before it, too, the high bar has been where the Fab Five got to. Everybody was talking about that yesterday as well, 20 years since the Fab Five. Can you talk now what it's been like to coach with that as the shadow bar you were yet to reach until getting to it now, and what this means to Michigan in terms of having a team in the present tense, that if you win on Saturday, you will have gone as far as any of those Fab Five teams did, establishing a new high bar by accomplishing what you did by getting to the Final Four?
I've never looked at it that way, that it was a shadow bar or whatever. I think I know what you mean by that with the Fab Five. It's been about the complete Michigan tradition. 'Cause I go way back to it. I still remember the team that went to Philadelphia in the Final Four.
It was survival now for three or four years. Let's get into the NCAA tournament. We haven't been in there forever, let alone worry about getting into the Final Four. We realized the expectations, getting in the NCAA tournament, after you start to get there, four of the last five years, it's not enough, you have to win and advance.
That just creeps up on you. It's part of the game. To me it's just about continue to grow this program so that we're in position to be in this position. Hopefully one day, He's been in the Final Four so many times, he needs to win it or win it more. It continues on.
But we're all paid really well to do these things. Those are the expectations. We understand it. The Fab Five era is a great, great era here. I think everybody needs to remember there were great coaches on that team. Those five players were tremendous players, but there were great coaches on that team. That wasn't just five guys. If you're in Michigan, it's about the team, the team. I'm guessing there were 10 other guys on that team that were very important in that run as well.
Q. The second team especially, there were five sophomores who had started most of their careers, three of them every single game. Can you compare what your group with three freshmen, a sophomore, a junior as starters, isn't that equally as impressive considering one of your freshman starter hasn't been a starter but for six games?
I wasn't aware of that. That is a remarkable similarity. We had a young man Matt Vogrich who was a starter, was a sixth or seventh man for three of his four years here. Now he's all of a sudden a scout team guy, has stepped back. We had Eso Akunne, a senior could be playing at Division I at a lot of mid majors, here he is running our scout team. There's a lot of sacrifices that era with the Fab Five, I've got to step back for the team. That takes a lot of sacrifice. I'm sure the guys that did that, I'm sure the Fab Five is very appreciative of that during that time, because I know the coaches would be.
Q. You referenced this a little bit earlier, the reception you got back when you got back to campus last night. I'm curious when you found out about how many people had gathered around the arena, what the reaction was like on the bus before you got off and talked to the fans.
We made a call back to security just thinking there may be someone there, not knowing the numbers, make sure that security was there. There could be autograph seekers, things like that. We want to make sure we have some type of control with our enforcement here.
They said, It's much more than that. We're estimating 1,000 people. Looked to me like 90% students who had walked over from the dorms on a Sunday night and wanted to see these guys and congratulate them. It meant a lot to our team. It really meant a lot to our team and our coaching staff. So it was special. I don't think those guys will ever forget that one.
Q. You talked about the zone, but have you ever seen a zone as problematic as Syracuse's zone is, and as successful as this one has been in the tournament?
It certainly withstood the test of time. Jim continues to work at it and tweak it in different ways. The length and some of the slides, I believe, I don't know for a fact, he changes the extension of it at different times of the game, makes adjustments within the game.
No, it reminds me of when people used to play Temple and John Cheney, you were going to go play them, and it was going to be a very unique prep to get ready for them because you can't simulate it in practice, you just can't do it. It's a thing we just got to work at. We'll be as ready as we can be.
Q. Boeheim said after the Elite 8 game he can't stop a team from shooting, but he can dictate which guys are going to shoot on the team. Would you agree with that from what you've seen?
He's had an ability, particularly with our teams, is really make sure some of our best shooters don't get open shots, don't get their traditional shots. So that's our job to try to figure that out, to make sure we can get clean looks, we call them. That's different. But he's a master at keeping the guys who really making those clean looks from getting them.
[Boeheim after the jump]