March 16, 2014
COACH IZZO: I'm really proud of three sets of people: These players have done an unbelievable job fighting through the things, adversity, and things they had to do. My assistant coaches, they had to do the same thing because it was a tough year on all of us. And the preparation they did in the last couple nights, the assistant coaches and the scout team guys, I think these guys would agree were unbelievable. And this year I have to give a lot of credit to our trainer, Q, and our team doctors and acupuncturists, and everyone else that took care of these guys because it's been that kind of year.
We beat two really good teams. I think Michigan and Wisconsin have proved throughout the year that they deserved to be in consideration for a 1 seed, and I think they were. And they fell a little bit, but they're two very, very good teams. But I think we proved that when we get everything back, we're a very, very good team, too, and one that can play. Unlike some of the teams I've had, they can play on the offensive end, they can play on the defensive end, and I thought these two guys did a lot of both today.
Q. Adreian, what was it like celebrating that with Lacy up on the podium, having her and holding the trophy and holding her there?
ADREIAN PAYNE: Her and her family drove down, and just to have them supporting me like that, it was great.
Q. Branden, yesterday you spoke with eagerness about getting your shot at Michigan. There was a stretch in the second half where, I think, you got two offensive boards, you got a defensive board, you got a lay up, you got a dunk, you fed Payne on a dunk:
BRANDEN DAWSON: Yeah, it all starts with my teammates and Coach Izzo. I was ready to play against those guys, and being a guy from Indiana, coming in my first year I wasn't familiar with the whole Michigan and Michigan State rivalry. But once it grew on me, then I started to come in, and my teammates pushed me. I just felt good out there, and we played great.
Q. How tough was it to get through not being what you guys thought you could be? By that, I mean your buddy there, Payne, he missed seven, eight games; whatever you missed, nine. I mean, that wears on the mind. How tough was that getting through that?
BRANDEN DAWSON: It was definitely tough, and the main thing with us and with our great coach, we just never gave up as a team. We just kept fighting, we just kept pushing each other as a team.
I prayed on it every night. When I was out those nine games, I prayed every night. It feels great to have our rhythm and our chemistry back and just to see us playing good as a team.
Q. Branden, what's it say about yourself to miss the games that you did and then come back and get most outstanding player?
BRANDEN DAWSON: Well, like I said, it all started with my teammates. My coaches have worked, the conditioning coach, and when the team was practicing, I was down on the other end doing drills on the floor, defensive drills, I was running on the treadmill and doing those little things. Coach said if you want to come back, you have to keep working hard, and I was on the bike when the team was practicing. It feels great being out here with my teammates and winning a Big Ten Championship being that I missed it with the ACL injury.
Q. How tough was it, Coach? Were you pulling your hair out or wondering if this team would be deprived of being able to show its potential?
COACH IZZO: That's a very good choice of words. You don't get many teams that are talented, have inside outside, have some toughness, are together, have great chemistry. I said three times in my career I thought we were good enough to get to a Final Four: In 2000, when we went to one in '99, 2001 still might have been a better team, when we went back to the Final Four. And a couple of the other ones, I thought you had a chance, but I thought this team was the next in line to have a legitimate chance because there's so many things that you have to do to get there.
It was the most difficult year of my whole career here just because you fight making excuses, you fight the realization, you fight players being down about it. There was a lot more talking, you know. I've got a minor in psychology, a major in medicine, and a two year degree in basketball coaching this year, so it was a little reversed than other years.
Q. Tom, is there kind of a common thread to all of the Michigan State teams that have made deep runs into the tournament?
COACH IZZO: You know, I think there is, and I think that was the hardest thing as I was talking to the guys today before the game. Steve and Greg from CBS, the one thing that I said, we kind of didn't have an identity this year. We've always had an identity of our toughness, of our defense, of our rebounding. We were third in the league in rebounding, which for us is probably the worst we've been in a lot of years. And we really weren't as good defensively down the stretch. Our running game wasn't as good because we didn't rebound as good to get the running game going.
I think the problem we had is we had no real identity. Who was our go to guy? Was it [Keith] Appling? Was it [Gary] Harris? Was it [Adreian] Payne? Every time we found one, something went wrong with him. That's what made it difficult.
But I think the blueprint that we talked about when we got them all back two weeks ago is: We've got to shore up our defense, we've got to get our running game going, and we've got to be a little tougher. So we did practice hard. We did go two a day some. A little odd, I had my equipment man, who's a marathon runner, chewing me out for it. But I thought I had to do what I had to do to bring back an identity.
I think you saw some of that identity today and the common bond between this team and most others, we're pretty good defensively, we're a pretty good rebounding team. It's hard to believe -- it would be a hell of a trivia question -- I think we shot more threes and almost the same percentage as Michigan for the year, and their identity is they're a very good three point shooting team.
So I think we've been able to do it inside, we've been able to do it outside. We've run the ball. And I think we were able to play teams that want to go up and down, and we've been able to play teams that want to play smash mouth.
You have a Wisconsin team one day, a Michigan team the next. That proves my point.
Q. After the Northwestern blowout, I asked you if you thought that -- since you got everybody healthy, if you had seen a positive, consistent progression, or was it like the stock market, up and down. Now after these next two wins, now can we say the stock market is up?
COACH IZZO: The market is up, yeah. The market is up. That's what every coach works for is consistency. I'm not sure I'd call three games consistency, but we played pretty well against Iowa. We played decent against Ohio State. If you look at the last five out of six, I think we've made some serious strides, even though sometimes it showed, sometimes it didn't.
You know, players need to feel good, coaches need to feel good. There's no better way to feel good than to play against the best and compete.
Don't kid yourself; Wisconsin and Michigan are two great teams. I thought both of them were worthy of being a No. 1 seed. Sometimes you've got to win at the end, and that changes, at least like it did for us a couple years ago. We were probably a 2 seed and we won it and became a 1. I think if Michigan would have won they would have been a 1 seed, deservedly so. I think if Wisconsin would have won, they would have been a 1 seed, and deservedly so. Michigan State won, and we probably got what we deserved, even though we didn't play with our full deck. We lost some games, that's the way it is.
But who cares now? It's a whole new ballgame.
Q. With the adversity your team faced this season, did you ever have any doubts about them overcoming it? How did you convince them to stay the course?
COACH IZZO: That's a good word, a good phrase, stay the course. We used that. My football coach Mark Dantonio used that with me a lot. Convinced them that -- some days I was convincing myself to stay the course. Yeah, I was worried about running out of time if you want the truth. I didn't know how long it would take, if it was real.
The fans, you put the jerseys back on and you're 100 percent. We're still not where we need to be if we're going to make a deep run. We still have moments where we're fouling too much or we're doing this or that. But, today, we shot uncharacteristically poor from the three, so we've got some work to do the next couple days.
But I think my staff did a good job convincing me when I was down, and I guess I did a good job of convincing them, and then we had some selling to do to our players. You know, it's disappointing when you have a goal of winning the Big Ten Championship and you don't get it done. So their daubers were down, and we picked it up the best we could.
Q. You've talked about how Indianapolis has been good to you and to Michigan State. Do you kind of wish that you were in the Midwest so that you could come back to Indianapolis, and what is it about Indianapolis that you guys just play so well?
COACH IZZO: Well, I don't know. Maybe it's Gary Harris. Indiana has been good to me in recruiting.
I think the biggest thing is it's a basketball state. It's a basketball city. The way these arenas are set up in the downtown area, Final Fours, I mean, it's -- they should be in the rotation on a quite frequent basis.
But this year was special. How many times does a football and basketball team both win their conference championship to start with, and then to do it in the same city? And I got to enjoy his, he got to enjoy mine. Give Mark Hollis credit, too, my AD. He didn't get to be here with me to celebrate it because he's on that selection committee, but he did a heck of a job. And so I think Indy has been very good.
I enjoyed my time here when we played here in Regionals and Final Fours. I enjoyed the Big Ten Tournaments. I really enjoyed our football championship game here. My whole team did. And I do need to give thanks to Mark Dantonio because he's been a big help as I went through the year.
He'd stop by, I'd get a text, I'd get a call, even though he was out recruiting. Because sometimes coaches understand what coaches go through when other people don't. It's been great.
Q. All your Final Four teams that you've coached, have you seen any sort of correlation between what those teams did in the conference tournament, and is there a common thread or is there usually no correlation between how you do in the conference tournament versus how you do in the big dance?
COACH IZZO: Yeah, the Spartans have been a little bit strange in that area. We've lost the first game and gotten to a Final Four. We've won the championship and gotten to a Final Four. We're diversified, we can do it a lot of different ways.
But I don't think that's been a common thread. It's what that team needs at that time. I said here, the biggest thing we needed was to play three games. We needed more and more games together. We just -- I mean, [Keith] Appling getting some lobs today, we just couldn't do that in practice. We're starting to feel the rhythm again together, and so the more games you play, the better it is.
Other years -- I've never wanted to lose right away, but a few teams worn out or something -- and it's not going to change your seeding much. You look at it differently. This year it was very important that we moved on, and what does that mean, I don't know. I don't worry about what the Big Ten Tournament does. I look at the season, our nonconference schedule. Our conference schedule, I thought, was brutal like everybody else's in this league.
We will be very well prepared for the NCAA Tournament. Whether that gets us to where I want to go, I don't know, but I can't think of a conference that could prepare you more than this one has done. The Big Ten is -- we didn't get a 1 seed, and I'm sure people will wonder about that. We had two teams that deserved it, and so did the teams that got it. I'm not politicking here; it's over. And I'm not upset about it. They could have won their way in. We did that once. We lost our way in once.
But with a bunch of 2 and 3 and 4, and what did we get, 6 teams in, happy for Nebraska. Did Minnesota get in? Sad for Minnesota, but I mean, the league just beat the daylights out of each other, and now with new coaches we've got different styles. Some press, some play zone, some this, some that. I think that prepares you for the NCAA Tournament as much as anything we could do.
Appreciate it, thanks a lot.
MICHIGANCOACH BEILEIN: We got beat today by a really good team. They were exceptional in everything, in everything that they did. Their defense was really good, their steals in the first half, and their offensive rebounding, just took possessions from us. All that being said, a couple breaks go our way, we would have liked it to be three or four at half. Unfortunately it wasn't.
And the second half -- the key part of the game, I think, was the second half. We came out, I thought we had a couple really good looks, and then we -- and didn't convert, and they did. And all of a sudden it's 15, and now you're fighting back the whole way.
Huge congratulations to Michigan State. They deserve it. They were better than us today, and we move forward and look forward to the NCAAs.
Q. Jordan, the early foul trouble, how frustrating was that and how do you think that affected the rest of the game?
JORDAN MORGAN: I mean, it's tough. It seemed like all our big guys were kind of in foul trouble. And they definitely exposed that, not necessarily just imposed on us but kind of on the glass, and kind of a certain physicality down there. So that was tough for us to kind of work through and try to stay in the game through that.
Q. Glenn, the match up with Branden Dawson, getting him back on the floor, what was that like being able to battle with him?
GLENN ROBINSON III: I mean, I've played against Branden many times. He's a great player, especially for them to have him back, he did a lot for their team. We knew his big thing was offensive rebounding, and we had to keep him off the glass. We needed to do a better job at that. But he really gave them a spark on offense and defense, I thought. He played well, and as far as attacking him, I just tried to get downhill a couple times. I didn't finish a lot, but I just did what I could.
Q. I was just wondering, in general, how much better is this Michigan State team than the one you saw during the regular season?
COACH BEILEIN: Two things are happening: Number one, they're getting healthy, right, and number two, you get those guys back and they're healthy, that doesn't mean you're immediately better the next day. That means it takes time to get timing down, to get guys ready. There's a lot of work that goes into this thing.
So those things, I think, have been happening over the last two or three weeks where they've had ups and downs as they got healthy. But their timing in this tournament, you can see by the gravity of their wins. Wisconsin is a pretty good team, and they did the same thing to Wisconsin they did to us.
Q. Max was forced to give you a lot of minutes tonight. You actually put him in over Horford in that first half. What did you get out of him today?
COACH BEILEIN: Well, [Jon] Horford was in foul trouble, and we thought we could just hang in there a little bit and keep it under double digits at halftime, which we were on the verge of doing. And Max [Bielfeldt] is really good in practice every day. We can't stop his three point shooting. In practice, he's done some really good things. So I thought he carried himself really well.
Q. Can you just talk about the struggle to get inside the three point line, the three point arch, to get some inside shooting the first half?
COACH BEILEIN: Well, first of all, they're a very long team. They're very experienced. It takes -- when we have breakdowns, it's usually youth breakdowns defensively. You didn't see many freshmen out there today, and really just a couple sophomores. They really do a great job of protecting the paint. You're not getting in there. And if you get in there, you've got to finish through physical contact, and they were better than us today.
But their defense is as good as anybody in the country. We just played three teams, back to back to back, that are really good defensive teams. We had to make tough shots really and come out the second half -- like I say, we had really good looks. Caris LeVert had a couple threes he's been making every day didn't go in.
Q. In an hour or so, people will know where they're going for the tournament. I want to ask you whether you care about seeding, but how helpful is it that you've got a game Thursday or Friday and you can turn your channels toward that?
COACH BEILEIN: Yeah, I've never seen so much wasted energy on who is seeded where. I mean, it is incredible. If you asked 99 percent of the -- maybe I'm just stupid, but tell me the difference between a 14, 15, 16 seed or a 1, 2 and 3. We're talking about the 12 teams, the last 12 in and the first 12 in, playing them anywhere it doesn't make a difference.
I don't care where we're seeded. I don't care where we play. I'm just really happy to be in the NCAA Tournament, and I trust those guys over in that hotel room with anything. They work at this thing, and I trust them with anything.
When Michigan's number comes up, we're happy if they're sending us anywhere and what we're seeded.
Q. You alluded to facing such great defenses this weekend. Can you talk about how that prepares you for next week and going forward?
COACH BEILEIN: Hopefully, we don't see too many people like we did. But we just saw three of the best, really. Illinois was -- their synergy tells us their ball screen defense is the best in the Big Ten, and we were able to score enough points.
Ohio State, all year long, they were in the 38th, 39th percentile as far as defensive field goal percentage. And the only thing that was holding Michigan State back was having another upper classman out there, either a senior or junior. Like Jordan Morgan for us, that's a huge thing to have guys that not only know their position, they know how to get other people in their position, and [Adreian] Payne and [Branden] Dawson and [Keith] Appling, they do that so well, and [Gary] Harris is a great, great defender. It's just getting them all together because we can usually pick on one guy. There's nobody to pick on that team.