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January 31, 2013

Former coach Bill Frieder breaks down the Wolverines

Bill Frieder, a Michigan alumnus, coached the Wolverine basketball team from 1980 to 1989, compiling a 188-90 record and winning two consecutive Big Ten championships in 1985 and '86.

Michigan, which won its first conference title since the Frieder years last season, is traveling to Bloomington, Ind. Saturday to take on the Hoosiers as the No. 1 team in the country.

Frieder will be calling the game as an analyst for the Dial Global Sports Network. TheWolverine.com talked with him over the phone about playing at Indiana, the Wolverines' recent resurgence and his thoughts about the team.

The Wolverine: You've obviously had some big games in Bloomington. What are some of the biggest things you remember about that arena and how tough it can be to play there?

Frieder: "First of all, in my 18 games with [Bob] Knight, seven of them were decided at the buzzer or in overtime. So we had a lot of great games, and it brings back a lot of memories. I have always maintained that if I had to pick one place that is the toughest to play in, it was Bloomington, Ind. It was a very difficult place to play.

"My first game with them in March of 1980, it was won in overtime in Crisler Arena. In my last game in March of 1989, was lost to them at the buzzer. Jay Edwards hit a 50-footer. And we had everything in between. It's a tough place to play, because the crowd is so hostile. It's such a noisy crowd, and they're in the game for the entire time. They also have a lot of tradition there. You look up, and they have those five national championship banners.

"You have to be prepared for no breaks. You're not going to get any breaks at Indiana. The officiating or if there's something to do with the clock, it's going to go against you. You're going to have all the minuses, and what it comes down to is you're going to play very, very well to win."

The Wolverine: What is one game that you played there that sticks out in your mind?

Frieder: "There are two games. When I was an assistant in 1976 - Indiana's undefeated championship season - they won the game on a disputed tip at the buzzer by Kent Benson. My last game there in 1989, Jay Edwards' shot was after the buzzer, I think. They had the manual horns back then. The clock hit zero and the horn would come a second later. If you would have had the monitors in both of those games, Michigan probably would have won them. It's a tough, tough place to play. You're not going to get any breaks."

The Wolverine: In the 1985 and '86 seasons, you both had two great teams. What do you remember about going down there for those Big Ten championship years?

Frieder: "I remember a lot. First of all, in 1985, we beat them at the buzzer. Gary Grant beat them on a buzzer shot. The biggest thing about '86 that I remember is we were tied in the standings going into the last game of the season. We played in Ann Arbor for the Big Ten championship, and we won 80-52, very handily.

"Every game down there was tough. But one of those title years, Gary hit that buzzer shot, so that was most memorable."

The Wolverine: Speaking of Gary Grant, Michigan has a pretty good point guard this year. There has been a lot of debate around here about whether Trey Burke is the best point guard in Michigan history. Do you see any similarities between those two guys?

Frieder: "I do. We can't discount what Gary Grant did. Does he still have records for assists and steals?"

The Wolverine: Yeah, Trey broke his record for assists by a freshman, but Gary has the all-time record for assists (731) and steals (300).

Frieder: "Yeah. Gary was a great player, because for four years, he played both ends of the court hard and never took a possession off. He could penetrate and find open people; he could score; he could get you into the offense out of the defense with steals and tenacious defense. He was a great player. If Trey Burke can do what Gary Grant over the next 20 years, he'll have a great career. I think Gary played in the NBA for probably 12 years.

"But I love Trey Burke. I don't want to take anything away from him. I love watching him play. I write a column every Wednesday for Dial Global Sports [click here for a link to his archives] and Trey Burke, I have already said that he is my player of the year. He is my leading candidate for that.

"I think he's a great player, for the same reasons Gary was. He plays hard, and he has a lot of different ways to get you into a shot. He has a change-of-pace dribble; he can get to the rim; he can penetrate and kick; and he can knock down shots. He is a great player, and I love him.

"I think this team and my '86 team have some general similarities, because we had great guards; we had good depth and guys who could shoot the three; and we had a big front line with Tarpley, Henderson, Wade and Rellford. Michigan has those same qualities now. Generally, there are a lot of comparisons.

"This Michigan team right now - win or lose on Saturday - is still my No. 1 overall seed for the NCAA Tournament. They're the best team in the country right this minute."

The Wolverine: What is the biggest reason you say that?

Frieder: "First off, their record. They have won a lot of quality games already. Number two, they play so well together. They have one of the best field-goal percentages in the country and are shooting over 40 percent from three. Offensively, they have great efficiency, and they play good defense.

"Their big guys and their young kids are getting better and better, too."

The Wolverine: This is a team that has had a level of success that Michigan has rarely seen since you left. How much fun has it been for you to watch?

Frieder: "It's been a lot of fun. When I left Michigan in 1989, I was 47 years old, and half those year had been spent in Ann Arbor, either as a student - I got two degrees there - or as an assistant coach or a head coach. Michigan means a lot to me, and I am so happy for them.

"It was painful to see them go through some of the things they went through. I'm glad to see them back. John Beilein is a friend, and I think he is a quality coach and a quality person. I'm glad to see it is happening."

The Wolverine: What are the biggest keys for this team to win Saturday?

Frieder: "There are a couple main things. Number one, they have got to be prepared for that crowd. They have to keep that hostile crowd out of the game. That means if Indiana gets a spurt, they're going to have to get quick timeouts and try to take that crowd out of the game.

"Number two, they're going to have to control Indiana's guards, because they can really player. They're very good. I think Victor Oladipo has been playing extremely well.

"And they have to control Cody Zeller. Limiting Zeller, the guard and Indiana's spurts. That's the key."

The Wolverine: We have talked so much about how hostile the crowd is, does it help or hurt that all these young guys haven't experienced it yet? They don't have to get all worked up about it before.

Frieder: "When they went down to Ohio State, that was the first time they had ever experienced anything like that, especially the freshmen. It took them a while to adjust to it. Now they're going to go to Indiana, and it's going to be worse than Ohio State. It's going to be another new experience for some of these kids.

"The key is how fast they adjust to it. What I loved to see is not only did they come back at Ohio State, but then they turned right around and went to Minnesota and won. That showed me a lot of maturity.

"But this is on another level. When we beat Indiana in 1985 down there, it was the first time Michigan has won in Bloomington since the Cazzie Russell era, the 1960s. Once we beat them, we beat them 3-of-4 times, '85, '86 and '88. Getting over that hump and winning down there is crucial."

The Wolverine: Speaking of some of the young guys, what are your thoughts on Glenn Robinson III, Nik Stauskas and some of these guys?

Frieder: "I think they're great. Stauskas is a really consistent shooter. He doesn't take bad shots. He waits for his shot and knocks it down. Robinson is a great athlete who really knows how to play the game. He obviously has the genes. I love them. I love their team. It's been a lot of fun to watch. They're going to go deep in the tournament.

"I'm probably not going to cover them in the tournament. I'm probably going to be in the San Jose region, and if they do their job, they're going to be in the Midwest for the tournament."

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