Fran McCaffery is impressed by his teams next opponent, Michigan. In fact, McCaffery says the Wolverines are the most impressive team he has seen on film this year. In his Friday teleconference, McCaffery talks about the game this Sunday and the play of Wolverine point guard Trey Burke, plus he updates the health of forward Melsahn Basabe.
Q: Last year Trey Burke got off to kind of a slow start in the game and you guys got control of that game. How is he different this year?
McCAFFERY: He has improved a little bit. I thought he was great last year. Obviously this is his team and he has terrific players around him. He has shown an amazing ability to engineer victory every time out. There are some games where he shoots more than others and other games where he passes it off more. He know what he needs to do depending upon what kind of a game they are in. Typically he gets off to great starts, but last year he just got into foul trouble. He played well, but he got into foul trouble. He has it going right now.
Q: You were really high on Trey Burke even before he took the floor at Michigan. Is he the player you thought he would be?
McCAFFERY: It was strange because we had just got the job and we go on the road and I didn't even realize that he had committed to Penn State. The word was he had opened up his recruiting, so everyone was going to go take a look at him. We were one of the schools looking at him, as were a lot of other schools. I was kind of surprised. I thought he would be pretty good, but to me, he was elite at that time. When I watched him play in competitive situations, he was always the best guard on the floor. He had the ability to run an offense, make plays in transition and in the half court, and he was a tremendous scorer. Those guys are hard to find. You have scorers and you have playmakers. When you have a guy who is exceptional in both areas, that changes everything when you are preparing to play that team. That is what I saw in him. I saw a guy who was going to be a superstar. I remember how disappointed a lot of people seemed to be about Michigan when Darius Morris left and how that was going to impact their team. I knew last year it wasn't going to impact them at all and they were going to be just fine, which they were and they are even better this year.
Q: Has Burke exceed you expectations are did you see this coming?
McCAFFERY: I thought he was a star, yeah. His numbers right now are borderline ridiculous from three, from the foul line, turnovers, and he steals the ball. Across the board, his numbers are phenomenal. Not that I was every trying to predict his numbers down the road, but I knew that kid would be an all league player. I knew he would be and NBA player and that's what he will be.
Q: As you watch Michigan, how much of a challenge are they going to be defensively?
McCAFFERY: It's funny because they may be better defensively. They really defend. I have been impressed with them and how they guard. Obviously they have tremendous weapons offensively. Rarely do you have a point guard that great and shoots the three and then you have three other three point shooters in the starting lineup and a fifth year senior who is finishing everything around the basket. They also have very effective players coming off the bench. The guys coming off the bench are young, but they are really good. It is a very difficult team to prepare for on both sides.
Q: Indiana on Monday and Michigan on Sunday. There might not be a more difficult week for a team in the country. How do you approach it?
McCAFFERY: No different than I approach any other two games. We just lock in on in this case, it's unique because we play Monday and Sunday, as opposed to Monday and Wednesday or Monday and Thursday. We got a lift in and we gave them a little bit of rest. We did a lot of shooting and then the last two days we just worked on ourselves. Then today and tomorrow we will prepare for Michigan. It is no different than preparing for our previous two games when we played South Carolina State and Coppin State. We lock into what we need to do better and then we lock into what we think we need to do to beat that team. In my estimation, there is no other way to do it.
Q: How has Melsahn Basabe been the past few days and do you expect him to play on Sunday?
McCAFFERY: He's fine. That is the other advantage of going Monday and Sunday, we were able to give him a couple of days. Yesterday he went through half the practice. We will see how he is doing today, but he looked good yesterday.
Q: What do you want your young guys to take away from Monday as they move forward?
McCAFFERY: What we have to be able to do after we broke the film down is show them the things that we didn't do, the things we should have done, and understand how we can make those changes individually and collectively. I was really impressed with our ability to consistently stay in the game when we were struggling on offense in the first half. We probably made more mistakes than we would normally make and you have to give Indiana some credit there. It was frustrating because we had a number of opportunities to take the lead and we would make a mistake. When we were making mistakes, they were kind of aggressive mistakes when we were attacking. I am obviously more comfortable with those types of mistakes. You have to eliminate those if you are going to beat the 5th ranked team in the county and that is what we have to understand. As we move forward, we are going to play other ranked opponents and other teams that are really good, so we have to take those mistakes out of our game and improve game by game. When that happens we are going to get more and more confidence. When you have a young team, confidence is important. What affects confidence in mistakes. Fortunately we have a pretty resilient group.
Q: By playing up tempo and aggressive, which is your strength, are you playing into Michigan's hand and strength because they like to get up and go too?
McCAFFERY: I don't know if that would concern me. Obviously you have to be careful, especially when you are on their floor, to push the tempo to where they are forced to run and not us. A lot of times just because you run doesn't mean you are going to shoot it quick. You have to be able to attack their defense early because their half court defense is that good. They lock in. They put pressure on the ball. They get in the passing lanes. They fight in the post. They do a really nice job on ball screens. It's a challenge to know and understand when to go really fast and when not to shoot the ball really quick even when you are pushing it. We are always going to be in attack mode, but you have to be intelligent about when to shoot it, who's shooting it, and keeping them on defense a little bit because teams that want to run, if they can play defense for ten seconds or less, it makes their transition game that much better.
Q: In ten games this year, Michigan has shot 50% or better from the floor. What is it about their offense? Is it the way Burke distributes? The way they can shoot the ball?
McCAFFERY: They have four guards out there and they can all make plays. What has impressed me about them is they are an unselfish team. They move the ball. They share the ball. They always have multiple guys in double figures. There is no selfishness that I can see. You have a number of guys that can go off the dribble and throw the ball to the open man. What are going to have is fewer turnovers and fewer mistakes and they will be shooting open shots. Like I said, you have four drivers, four ball handlers, and four really good three point shooters around a traditional center who is really playing the best basketball of his career. He is a guy that no one is taking about that maybe everyone should be talking about in Morgan. Mitch McGary is playing extremely well and he is coming off the bench behind Morgan. They have two guys that they can go one behind the other or they can go two posts and rotate their perimeter guys. It is a challenge pretty much any way you look at it.
Q: You have talked about Woodbury as kind of a running big man. Do you think going up against a guy like Cody Zeller that it sort of clicks in for him that this is the way it is and this is where I want to be?
McCAFFERY: You have to let experience take its course. I think that was you are referring to. You can't rush that. You just have to go through it. That was his first Big Ten game. That was his first game against a first team All American. He will learn from that and benefit from that tremendously. Now he has to go on the road and do it in an environment where it isn't going to be easy. That will be his second time through. What we have to do is keep coaching him up, working with him, and getting him to understand that. I think he is, by nature, a confident person. But, he also recognizes that he has things to learn and he is willing to learn and willing to listen. Most importantly, he is willing to work.
Q: What has impressed you most about Nick Stauskas and what about going up against a guy that can shoot the three like he can?
McCAFFERY: The thing about him is he's a player. He shoots it well, but he puts it on the deck and he drives it around people. It's funny because when you hear people talk about him, he has gotten stereotyped in my opinion. That kid is a player, that is what he is. I don't know what he did last night, but going into the game he was #1 in the country in three point shooting. A lot of really good three point shooters, if you chase them off the line, you can neutralize them. It will not neutralize his effectiveness. You have to stay locked in on this guy and guard him like the complete player that he is. What makes it more difficult is who he is playing with. That is what taxes your defense in a big way because everyone that has the ball can shoot, can go off the dribble and make a play.
Q: Is this the best team that your club has faced so far?
McCAFFERY: They appear to be on film. I wouldn't be able to answer that question until seeing them in person.
...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now for a FREE Trial