What impresses you about Michigan? "Their spacing is tremendous because they move the ball extremely well. [Jordan] Morgan and [Jon] Horford are doing a phenomenal job getting people open, rolling to the rim and posting strong. Their strength game in their roles is incredible. Everybody else that they put on the floor can shoot threes or get all the way to the rim. I think that's what makes them so good. When you put everybody out there, they get a lot of recognition for how well they shoot the ball, and rightfully so. But they do a great job of also getting to the basket. They are very much like Wisconsin in that way, in that they don't really put anybody out there that can't score. They don't put anybody out there that really can't shoot, in exception maybe where their big guys aren't looking for shots as much, but they do such a good job of creating shots for others with their screening and their rolling and their ability to rebound the ball.
"So, no question they are a high-powered offensive machine. They are a tremendous help defensive team. They've got very good one-on-one defenders, but their help defense is very good. You can see their experience of their front line, really almost like captaining the defense, so to speak, with what they do, and everybody kind of fills in accordingly and the help defense is outstanding. You can't stand around, you have to be in movement, and they are an incredible challenge."
How important is it for other guys around Derrick Walton to perform? "Your assists are always going to be really high when you have shot makers. I mean look at ours the last couple of years. They do a great job; the fact that [Nic] Stauskas averages, I believe, about five assists is really important. He is tremendous off the dribble. There is no question his three-point shooting is high level. With the exception of Trey Burke last year, we game planned for Nic just outside of him. We felt he was an incredible force last year, even as a freshman, because of his ability to shoot the ball, his high confidence level and his ability to drive the ball. He's one of the best players in the country.
"Bottom line is, [Caris] LeVert understands what he's doing. He's tremendous with the ball. Walton is a one-man press break with tremendous speed, shooting the ball very well as of late. Spike Albrecht obviously is a blur as well. He is always in constant movement and motion and he's got deep, deep range. They don't put a guard on the court that can't make threes from range, and they don't put a guard out on the court that can't get to the rim. I think when you have that, you're going to have a lot of assists."
Is there another dimension to Nic Stauskas this year from last year: "He's just better. The one-on-one ability - he was really a pretty good driver by Big Ten season last year. I remember when we played them a year ago, we were very conscious of his driving. He's one of those guys that he's added the pull-up. I'm not sure what he didn't have before that, but he can score at the rim, he can score in the mid-range, and he can score from three, and he can score from three off of the catch and shoot, the drive and kick and he can shoot off of the dribble. He's just a tremendous offensive player and a very good defensive player. They're a very good defensive team. So, one thing you could always see in him, even last year, was the tremendous confidence level that he played with. Obviously from everything we've read, he has a tremendous work ethic. I have great respect for that and they just continue to improve."
Do you see anything different in last 10 games for Michigan versus earlier in the season? "Their spacing is outstanding. I think their inside players are doing exactly what they need to do for that team to have that kind of spacing, to have that kind of shooting. I'm not sure what their reasons are. I mean obviously Mitch McGary isn't in the line up anymore and he's a force in nature in his own right. But these guys do a great job of getting each other open.
"So I think they've just been shooting the ball extremely well all year. They've been in a lot of close games, and they've been very successful in those close games. I think, like anybody else, when you watch the early season games, they're much better defensively than what they were."
Talk about Walton's recent offensive success: "He is surrounded by other great shooters, and I think everybody's shooting is going to go up when the ball is in constant movement like it is for them. When you have the ability to space and defensively, you can't come off your man. They're very good at creating drive-and-kick situations. Their middle drive game has always been one of the staples of their program and so he is the beneficiary of that.
"I would say his footwork is really good. Maybe that's a big improvement level. His confidence level is high. I think when you're surrounded by guys that are as good as those guys are, you can't help but be better. He's a big part of their success, there's no doubt about that. His speed is incredible."