things go poorly
Sponsor note! If you're coming into town with a big group for, say, the Notre Dame game, your options are limited. You can drive a while, you can pay out the nose, or you can rent a whole dang house for about what it would cost for four to six hotel rooms at Gameday Housing. Hotel rooms don't come with yards to tailgate in and aren't within walking distance of the stadium, and they're all booked anyway.
Roy Manning is with it. Vine is the greatest.
Connolly on M. SBN's resident numbers-massager Bill Connolly has dropped ten items about Michigan's upcoming season. A Connolly post is always worth your time; he's very good at explaining what his numbers mean and is happy to deviate from them if he feels they're not capturing something. Michigan's not looking too good right now because of recent program history and that ugly recruiting gap that's coming home to roost right about now, but Connolly's like "eh":
That the Wolverines held steady at 20th overall last year is a positive sign, and I do think that there is some addition-by-subtraction going on in substituting a little explosiveness for a lot of efficiency on offense. They are still a few ifs away from a truly elite season, but I like their chances of getting to 10 wins overall, much more than the numbers do, anyway.
An interesting bit on the receivers:
Roy Roundtree and the receiver Devin Gardner combined for a rather awful 49 percent catch rate. Roundtree was all-or-nothing for his entire career, and Gardner was far too raw to make a significantly positive impact, and while the big-play ability could be missed (the two combined to average 18.0 yards per catch last year), the explosiveness-for-efficiency tradeoff could be welcome. Big plays are still a grave necessity, but Michigan still has Jeremy Gallon (16.9 yards per catch, 62 percent catch rate) and Drew Dileo (16.6, 67 percent) for that. To be sure, there will be bombs. They're built into the system. But Roundtree's and Gardner's catch rates were just too low; that Michigan ranked 21st in overall Success Rate+ despite the low completion rates is an incredibly encouraging sign of what may be to come.
Throw it to Dileo. Whole thing recommended.
(Not our) Kickstarter update. Pahokee and Michigan alums Martavious Odoms and Vincent Smith are featured in the Palm Beach Post:
Odoms met with Roger Horne, the director of food security initiatives at nonprofit Urban GreenWorks, and studied GreenWorks’ five urban gardens in Miami. Urban GreenWorks sells some of its urban-garden products to local vendors, something H.O.P.E. would like to do, too.
They’re hoping to build the garden just off 4th Street in Pahokee, between Barfield Highway and Lake Avenue.
“We want it to be in a place where people can see it,” Smith said.
(The article is a little old but I hadn't seen it yet.)
(Not our) walk-on down. Michigan State loses wide receiver AJ Troup for the season. While Troup didn't play last year, he was getting some hype as a potentially useful piece in State's Burbridge-and-the-handsless receiving corps after a 46-yard touchdown in the spring game.
Nope not getting excited. Nope. Okay a little. Jerry Meyer on WI PF Kevon Looney:
"Some pretty reliable local word in Milwaukee is Duke or Michigan for Kevon Looney,"247sports.com's Jerry Meyer tweeted last week. "Just what I'm hearing."
If Glenn Robinson blows up like he says he will that'll help quite a bit, as the guy wants to be in the NBA and likely will be sooner rather than later.
In other basketball recruiting news that I'll probably repeat in a week or two when there's enough stuff in the slow-moving barge to assemble into a post, California wing Kameron Chatman says he will "probably" return to Ann Arbor for an official visit.
Six more years. John Beilein says he wants to be around for a while longer:
"My plan was to at least coach six more years," he said. "So that the 2015 class, that's the class we're recruiting now -- along with the 2014s -- I wanted to coach all those guys.
"That was sort of the plan we put in mind. Obviously you had to dot some 'I's' and cross some 'T's' and there was no rush, but I was really pleased we were able to work it out."
He'll be 66 when his new contract extension expires, FWIW, and will evaluate his status then. If Alexander and/or Jordan are still around then I'd expect an internal transition.
Saban talks actual football on ESPN. Nick Saban breaks down a few plays from the title game blowout for ESPN, and Smart Football translates. Instructive for Michigan fans since Michigan is moving to an Alabama-style offense.
This in particular reminded me of something Michigan got caught in:
S: “We picked up on the fact that they weren’t real sound in coverage here. Their inside linebacker has to flow over and take the tight-end but he actually has a run/pass conflict when we fake the ball at him.” — Translation: Notre Dame has eight defenders lined up with their hand in the ground on the goal line, with only three players at the second level, including Manti Te’o, the “inside linebacker” Saban refers to. At its simplest, the purpose of the play was to pull Te’o up with a run fake and then throw behind him. Saban makes clear that it was the coverage scheme that was an issue as much with Te’o's play here — it’s just a tough assignment — and he says that when they face play-action teams they try not to put their linebackers in positions like this. He then gets a little more specific about specifically how they attacked Te’o.
Michigan put itself in the same situation against Air Force by using Jordan Kovacs as a single high safety who both had to cover one of AF's wing backs out of the backfield and clean up the pitch man on the option.
As soon as Kovacs started getting aggressive enough to beat the wingback to the outside and clean up before the play picked up ten yards, Air Force burned him over the top and would have had a 62-yard touchdown except the receiver fell down after about 30. Option football is mean, and Michigan probably shouldn't sign up to play an option team right after Alabama again, not that they'll play Alabama on purpose any time in the near future.
Paging Tom Rinaldi. Kid who named his tumor "Michigan" 1) needs a snappier name and 2) will be going to the Michigan-OSU game thanks to Brady Hoke, who hopes to make him miserable at it. Uncomfortable thought about that South Park episode in which Stan coaches a youth hockey team happening… now. Okay, now it's over.
Tweaking Ohio. Dropping the "State" from "Ohio State" makes a move to Florida:
Then, after Muschamp referred to Ohio State as “Ohio,” Muschamp deadpanned: “I’ve always been a Brady Hoke fan.”
If "Ohio" becomes, like, a nationwide thing people use to tweak The Ohio State University I think we need a parade for Hoke.
The worst scouting report ever. I don't know who Aaron Schatz is talking about here, but it's not Mike Martin:
Martin, a third-round pick in the 2012 draft, led all Titans defensive tackles last year with 8.5 hurries. That's surprising considering he's more of a classic nose tackle rather than a penetrating three-technique. Scouts considered Martin a blue-collar grinder whose best strength was his solid base. But in his first year in Tennessee, he was faster than advertised and showed a variety of pass-rush moves. Martin was considered a possible first-round pick until he really struggled during his senior year at Michigan. That was partly due to a scheme change, although oddly, the new scheme he struggled in was actually more similar to what he's playing now in Tennessee. He should be in line for a jump in playing time despite the signing of Sammie Lee Hill.
All of those bolded things are the opposite of true. The third bolded thing may be accurate if you only look at stats… for a nose tackle, which… who does that? And wait a minute right here.
Wait a minute.
This is a NOSE TACKLE who finished fourth on his team in tackles with 64. That is an incredible stat. He did this on a defense that had no high draft picks and completed an insane one-year turnaround. Nothing about this makes sense.
no tackles for this
This is the worst paragraph ever written. Not this one. That one. In the block quote. That one that asserts Mike Martin is a blue-collar guy whose main strength is holding up offensive linemen and that he was not an all-crushing force of nature as a senior who was hurt in the NFL draft by the fact that Michigan played him out of position out of necessity. "Really struggled." Okay guy.
Etc.: NCAA is trying to prevent for-profit schools from joining it, which makes my irony meters tingle all over. Wetzel on Buckeye arrest blitz. Bob Stoops encourages Oklahoma fans to tweet recruits. DO NOT TWEET RECRUITS. Shouldn't it be "Division Zero"?
Bulking up. Glenn Robinson III posts his offseason workout results to the internet. He is a cyborg:
Not bad for under two months. Now, about creating those shots…
In similar news for the ladies, boy does Michigan like taking pictures of itself without a shirt on. Dennis Norfleet may have an eight-pack.
But he has eyebrows and can play basketball. NBADraft.net has joined Chad Ford in projecting Trey Burke to the Pistons; Hardaway also slips into the first round at #29.
There's another interesting name right after Hardaway's: Glen Rice Jr. You may remember Michigan passing over Rice when he was a recruit despite their apparent desire to lock down any NBA kids, Michigan alum or no, they can find. Despite Rice rounding into a potential first-rounder, that seems to have been the right call since for whatever mildly unsavory reason, Rice spent last year tearing up the D-League instead of helping Georgia Tech not be horrible.
Anyway: that rumor out there about how the Pistons would rather grab Cody Zeller than Trey Burke when they've got Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond is so insane that it must be a smokescreen, but Joe Dumars is both the guy who put together the most unlikely championship team in… almost ever, I bet and the one who thought spending most of his cap space on a six-foot shooting guard and a guy without eyebrows was a good idea, traded Chauncey Billups for the ghost of Iverson and then couldn't even tank properly. I'm about fed up with Dumars at this point, and passing on Trey Burke (at eight!) is dead-to-me time.
What would happen if Trey Burke went up against NBA-level defenses? If only there was some way to tell… some way to tell… some way to tell…
5/10 from 2, 4/11 from 3, 10 assists versus Kansas
Dumars is eyeing this kid from Uzbekistan I bet.
Cry me a river of blood and transfers. Your unpaid student-athletes are leaving for better opportunities elsewhere in spite of the fact that you give them no money. You have done the same time and again to arrive where you are, the head coach of a basketball program. This is your hot take on that:
“It’s a bad rule,” Self says.
“It’s totally unfair to programs where they’ve worked with kids for four years,” Weber says.
Yes, that is the Bill Self at Kansas who just took grad transfer Tarik Black from Memphis, and Bruce Weber, the Kansas State coach who took Sam Maniscalco from Bradley. I'd like to say this is a surprising lack of self-awareness, but it's more required than surprised these days.
Elsewhere in the article, 16 players transferring up is an epidemic, with a transfer from Tulsa to Missouri highlighted as a negative ("I felt terrible for Danny [Manning]" says SIU coach Barry Hinson) after Tulsa fired its head coach. These days new head coaches feel free to cut loose anyone who doesn't fit their systems and these guys still have the gall to complain when players go where they know they're actually wanted. The article does, to its credit, suggest that actually offering those now-legal four-year scholarships would go a ways towards making the complaints something other than laughable.
Until then, lol. How many transfers of the 400+ this year were by choice of the coach, not the player? When that number is less than 16, call me.
Hello California. The Big Ten has called a press conference today with reps from the Holiday and Hunger bowls, which undoubtedly means they'll be affiliating with those folks. The Holiday is slated to get the third pick of teams left over from the big bowls (ie, 4th or 5th, mostly 5th); Hunger will be deposited into the Congrats On Going 6-6 range.
The Holiday is slated to be another one of those annoying play-up blows where the Pac-12 will send its second pick to the thing, not the third. That plus road game is not a good recipe for bowl success even if you aren't an epic pile of ever-growing suck. Remember that one time an Iowa team that went 2-6 in the Big Ten played Texas in Texas? Yeah. That's somewhat mitigated by the Big Ten having a stupid number of teams soon. Silver linings woo.
One hundred and forty two. Beilein talks retirement?
The soon-to-be seventh-year Michigan coach said Thursday he's got an idea of how many more years he'd like to coach before retiring, but isn't ready to announce those numbers publicly just yet.
"I have some numbers out there in my mind," said Beilein, who will turn 61 in February.
Prior to last season, Beilein said he still hadn't given retirement much thought, explaining how he'd just know when it was time to step away from the game. The 2013 season will be his 36th year as a head college basketball coach.
I suppose this is an inevitable thing. Guy will do so at Michigan, that's for sure, and hopefully not for another six or seven years.
Inflation. Lawyers Guns and Money takes a look at inflation-adjusted Michigan ticket prices over time, finding that things bounced around in a narrow range from 27 dollars (2012) to 47 for an entire century before the recent explosion to approximately 130 dollars, depending on how much of your PSL you're writing off.
Also included: why amateurism was basically fine in 1981 and is ludicrous now.
(3) Salary of Michigan’s head football coach, in 2012 dollars:
2012: $3.25 million
That is all you need to know. Related: 16 million of projects for field hockey, softball, and baseball approved.
We're past the point of coherent thought. Let's watch some pictures move instead.
[Hit THE JUMP for the best gifs from the Syracuse game, including a complete Oliver Stone-style breakdown of Otto The Orange's tragic demise.]
Hi. This is just going to be a Final Four linkdump. Otherwise it will be 3000 words.
Well, yeah. Burke won the Wooden award.
AN OPEN LETTER TO CHRIS WEBBER. You are the last person I want to think about right now. Literally the very last person.
Practice. They had it.
Burke. Kind of good. His top seven moments. Here's #6:
No. 6 -- 75 assists vs. 12 turnovers in 11 games
From Nov. 27 to Jan. 9, Trey Burke was as close to perfect as a point guard can get.
Burke put up a staggering 75 assists vs. 12 turnovers during an 11-game stretch, guiding Michigan to victories in every one of those contests.
During that run, Burke averaged 18.1 points, 6.8 assists and 1.09 turnovers per game.
Staggering numbers from a remarkably consistent player.
Subj: Recommended strategy. TO: THAT BOEHEIM GUY. TOP SECKRIT. Penn State provides its guide to beating Michigan:
Step 6: Be down by a ton of points in the second half. Trust me.
I know, I know, it sounds crazy, but this is all about the element of surprise. PSU was down 66-51 with around ten minutes to go and came back to win by six. This is probably the only way to beat Michigan, and since your team is a heck of a lot better than Penn State, you could probably get away with a 30-35 point deficit late in the game. At worst, your team loses all hope, doesn't make a comeback and is super motivated for next year. A win/win, really.
So good luck, coach. Just know that should you fail to heed my advice and fall to Michigan, we'll have transitive bragging rights over you for quite some time.
Spike arrives. Can't… cope… with… infinite… Beilein… quotes… SPOCK
Beilein wanted to thank the fans for their support, for waiting in the cold, for acknowledging again that Michigan wasn't just a football school.
He also wanted to acknowledge the team, though, rattling off the players' names, class by class. And when he got to his fabulous freshmen, he started with the one name he knew would get the biggest cheer.
"How about this?" Beilein yelled, as his face broke into a big grin. "The most eligible bachelor on campus right now: Spike Albrecht!"
"Not only is Spike a rock star," roommate Nik Stauskas divulged, "Spike is a lady's man."
Wojo on shake. And such:
Yes, John Beilein did the "Harlem Shake," sort of. This is Michigan's first Final Four dance in 20 years and Beilein's first, and to appreciate how the Wolverines ended up here, you have to appreciate how the mild-mannered 60-year-old coach connected with one of the youngest teams in the country.
This is a tale that only happens in college, where players are talented enough to pull off great things, but raw enough to recognize the need for guidance. Beilein is meticulous, nearly to a fault, he admits. But this season, and especially during this NCAA Tournament run, the strangest thing happened. Just when the Wolverines could have tightened up, their coach loosened up, and this is how they ride.
Dear NBA draft speculation, please wait like four days. Goofy haircut guys trading off of Forbes's name—barrier to entry: email us and be willing to write for free—NBA draft Burke Hardaway whatever don't care let's talk next week. Right?
Do I think Burke will be back next season? What about Glenn Robinson III? Is Tim Hardaway Jr. ready to play in the NBA? Has Mitch McGary’s rise made him a legit pro prospect?
Will this team’s run help recruiting? Will the team have enough talent left to do this again next season? Has Michigan surpassed Michigan State on the hardwood?
In other words: “What’s next?”
Well, to be frank, what’s next is what’s right in front of you.
YEAH OKAY. Wrong Lil don't care:
"This has been crazy," Burke's father, Benji described. "People tweeting, Facebooking and talking about him -- Jalen Rose, Charles Barkley, Bob Knight, Kenny Smith, Greg Anthony.
Wait, what? Lil Wayne?
"It's been like 'wow,' " Benji added with a laugh. "He's known all over."
Scouting Michigan. Eamonn Brennan talks to an OSU assistant about how to deal with Michigan's offense. This is what I am saying about horrible one-dribble-inside-the-line jumpers:
[Hardaway] is excellent on catch-and-shoots (1.227 PPP), but his efficiency drops precipitously once he is forced to put the ball on the floor. Once Hardaway takes a dribble, his points per trip drop to just 0.711. Fly by on closeouts if that's what it takes, but make Hardaway do more than stand with his finger in the wind on the perimeter -- especially in the open floor.
(You guys who use Synergy numbers need to learn about significant digits man. 1.2 and 0.7.) Boals goes on to talk threes and Michigan's defense and the like; highly recommended even if he thinks it's "weird" Michigan emphasizes limiting opponent transition opportunities, which I think the entire universe does.
The Orange weren't exactly the fastest team in the country this season -- they ranked No. 244 in Pomeroy's adjusted tempo -- but you really do not want to see them on the break. According to Synergy scouting data, Syracuse averaged 1.12 points per trip in transition this season, disproportionately more than in the half court.
I like the idea of transition-dependent offenses against Michigan.
You are a nut. Bacari Alexander:
So here it came, just as Alexander was wrapping up. A can of Pringles? Morgan guessed it immediately — "I knew exactly what he was doing," he said — but most of his teammates were stumped. Alexander said he'd put on the glove "just for effect." ("You know, 'What is he about to do? Is he about to smack somebody?' " he joked.) As for the chips, he'd spotted one of the team managers eating them earlier in the day, "and I just had an 'A-ha!' moment."
Ask Alexander about Mitch McGary's breakfast habits and he'll tell you he "has benefited from his enthusiasm and his consistency and really his unwavering pursuit of excellence."
Etc.: Rothstein details how Beilein got here and Tim Hardaway's lost friends. Card Chronicle asks Jay Bilas why he is so hood. Burke slideshow. Beard on Burke. Aw dang I missed one of the Syracuse zone posts. Beilein still in disbelief. Zones. Beilein was in Saving Private Ryan. Close enough!
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.
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]