ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan head coach John Beilein met with media on Tuesday prior to the team flying to Kansas City, Mo., for its Midwest Regional semifinal against No. 3-seed Oregon on Thursday night. Michigan (26-11) is the No. 7 seed but has reached its first Sweet 16 since 2014 with wins against No. 10 Oklahoma State and No. 2 Louisville in Indianapolis last weekend.
Oregon (31-5) earned its seeding after tying Arizona for the Pac-12 regular-season title and then finishing second to the Wildcats in the conference tournament. The Ducks are playing without 6-foot-10 senior forward Chris Boucher, who suffered a torn ACL in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals against Cal two weekends ago.
They still average nearly 79.4 points per game while giving up just 65.6 points per contest. They also have four other players averaging double figures in scoring, led by Dillon Brooks at 16.4 points. Forward Jordan Bell is averaging 10.8 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, with nearly one-third of his rebounds (97 of 300) coming on the offensive end.
Here are some of the highlights of Beilein’s news conference
- “It was a great weekend for us. We just continue to have a stronger and stronger bond amongst all of us.”
- Beilein said the team will be flying out to Kansas City late Tuesday afternoon. After getting back from Indianapolis on Sunday night, Beilein gave the players the day off from practice. They only watched highlights of their 73-69 win against the Cardinals in the second round.
- Beilein is pleased with how the team is pushing the ball forward on fast-break opportunities with long passes instead of always dribbling it up the court. “We’re getting some baskets on chancey passes but I want them to throw those. I want them to try and get those easy baskets because it’s so hard to score in the half court.”
- Recalling his first time talking about sophomore Moritz Wagner, he said one minute Wagner will look like a star, a can’t-miss player, then look like someone who makes him wonder how he could’ve gotten a scholarship the next. “You’re seeing more of the first than you are the second.”
- The Big Ten’s success in the NCAA Tournament, with Michigan, Purdue and Wisconsin still playing, after the conference took criticism in the regular season is something he likes seeing. “It’s apples and apples early in the year but those apples could turn. It’s apples and oranges later on because teams get better. They just get better.”
- Oregon will be a mixture of Oklahoma State and Louisville. “The best thing you can do to get ready for a team is play a team that’s like that.”
- Oregon coach Dana Altman has used the same up-tempo style offense Oklahoma State used in the first round Friday, a game won by Michigan, 92-91.
- Junior forward D.J. Wilson is being more productive inside because he’s trusting the progress he’s made. “I think he understands that he can do it. I think he always wanted to do it but now he understands that he can do it.”
- This current run of seven straight wins, and 12 wins in 14 games, is all about development and recognition. The plane accident is a nice storyline but it’s not why the team is playing well. “I can’t emphasize enough that there’s been so many events.”
- Oregon’s loss of Boucher not only hurts the Ducks defensively but he is also a player capable of stretching defenses with the outside shot. Beilein called Bell, who has 64 assists, “a problem. He’s a real problem for us because he’s a really good offensive rebounder and they can play through him so much.”