February 22, 2013
McCormick on Illini, Final Four
Michigan hosts Illinois on Sunday, and ESPN analyst Tim McCormick has plenty of thoughts on the Illini, as well as on the tournament hopes of the Wolverines and their Big Ten brethren.
On Illinois: "I'm always wary of teams like Illinois. If they're making threes, they just develop a swagger and a confidence and they become so much better on the defensive end. If they get better on the defensive end, all of a sudden their fast break pipes up a little.
"It all is determined by, number one, extending your defense out beyond the three-point line, knowing who their shooters are, not letting Tracy Abrams drive to his right, and if you do those things, you take their swagger away and beat them convincingly."
On Illinois' inconsistency, the Illini having beaten Indiana yet not contending in the Big Ten: "The scouting reports get deep as the season progresses. When Illinois had the bulk of its success, it was in the non-conference.
"They were an unknown quantity. They had a new coach with a different system. It's kind of like when you're a little kid and you have a substitute teacher. You just have more fun. There is not as much structure, and you don't have to be exactly where you were before.
"You take a deep breath and relax. That's what happened. Last year with Bruce Weber, they were so structured, and they didn't like each other, and they didn't have fun. With a new coach that plays a fun, uplifting style of basketball, they definitely had fun at the beginning of the season.
"They played with great freedom. Now all of a sudden, you're in the conference. You don't get to run whatever you want. You don't get open as much. They've been exposed, somewhat."
On whether Indiana wins the Big Ten: "Yes."
On the Big Ten teams with the potential to make the Final Four: "What I look at is, to get to the Final Four, the first key is to be a one or a two seed. Essentially, you're playing in a 16-team tournament. Your first and second games, you're playing teams you should be significantly favored over. I favor the teams that have a chance to be a one or a two seed.
"Number two, I favor teams that can score 80 points with no problem at all. When you get into a tournament setting, if you've got firepower that mid-level teams don't have, eventually you're going to score enough points that you'll eliminate them.
"Number three is obviously being well coached and being able to defend. The three teams I think are like that are, in order, Indiana, Michigan and Michigan State. I put Michigan State third because I'm not sold on their offense yet.
"The teams that are one or two seeds have a really, really good possibility of getting there."
On what Michigan needs to clean up most between now and tournament time: "Defense. Their defense showed slippage during that four-game streak. It's something as simple as keeping your man in front of you. Stay in a stance. Don't let your guy get by you.
"There is just not enough shot-blocking if they get by. With [Mitch] McGary and [Jon] Horford
even Horford is not a super-experienced player back there. Michigan has to be better at on-ball defense."
On Crisler Center, in terms of ranking among intimidating Big Ten venues: "I don't think it's in the top three or four in the Big Ten. There has to be a history of it, and there has not been.
"The Kohl Center, Assembly Hall, probably both Assembly Halls, Breslin, Mackey Arena, Ohio State
they're all proven venues, that people just don't expect to go in and win. It's something where, five years from now, Michigan has a chance to be there."
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