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April 3, 2013

Hoops Notebook: Last practice at Crisler

Michigan captain Josh Bartelstein ended U-M's last Crisler Center practice of the season with a dunk - just to prove he could - to a rousing cheer from his teammates. The Wolverines are now off to Atlanta for the Final Four, where they'll attempt to capture the second national championship in school history.

Tuesday was a rest day, Wednesday a day to start practicing for Syracuse's stifling, 2-3 zone. The Wolverines haven't seen much zone at all this year given how well they shoot the ball, but the Orange will give them plenty to work on.

"We tried to put as much of the package in as we could, now we'll clean it up on film," head coach John Beilein said. "We want the best practice to be Thursday in Atlanta down at the Georgia Dome."

Beilein is still on a high following Michigan's Final Four clinching win over Florida. He woke up Tuesday knowing something good had happened, but it took him a few seconds to remember just what.

"After a loss you wake up and you know something bad happened, but you're not sure what for two or three seconds. Then you realized you lost the game the night before," he said. "I woke up this morning and I said, 'I feel good.' And I said, 'are we still going to the Final Four? Is this true?' My wife said, 'yes we are.' There was a moment there I realized it happened."

He'll be sitting in one of the best seats in the house Saturday night - and maybe Monday - because of it.

"I'm happy I have a better seat than I normally have for the Final Four because we're usually getting farther and farther away [from the court]," he said.

Notebook

  • Michigan celebrated its Final Four berth with vigor, including the Harlem Shake on the plane. Even Beilein participated.

    "It's tough to do the Harlem Shake sitting down," he said with a grin. "I'm just happy this could happen at this university again, with these kids and this coaching staff. I feel good for my family.

    "This is special to be here. There are times I wish I could be beamed into a restaurant, watch everybody watching Trey [Burke's] shot [to beat Kansas] go in. I would probably be cheering there with them. I wish I could see their families, my family - there's a lot for them to see, so that is good."

  • The reaction to Bartelstein's dunk was indicative of how tight the team has become, Beilein said.

    "He's a captain, and he was the first one. We've added three since the season started," Beilein said. "Josh has been injured his whole time here, but he's really a good player, never been able to play like that. I don't think anybody knew he could dunk."

    The scout team players - Blake McClimans, Matt Vogrich, Corey Person and Eso Akunne in addition to Bartelstein - will be tough to replace next year, Beilein said.

    "That's one of my biggest concerns for next year," he said. "What will we do without those five guys?"

  • McClimans and reserve big man Jon Horford will spend a lot of time on the perimeter in practice the next few days, mimicking Syracuse's length.

    "We'll have to be able to shoot from distance," Beilein said. "You want Trey and the others to get a sense of how their players are so long. They are flying all over the place."

  • Beilein admitted he'd bring out video from his West Virginia teams playing Syracuse to see if he could glean more about the Orange. He's 0-9 against Jim Boeheim, 0-1 at Michigan.

    "There are certain similarities you'll see," he said. "They probably have watched us as well from the game two years ago."

    There's a completely different flow now than his WVU teams displayed, he said.

    "There's no Kevin Pittsnogle on this team," he said. "This is more like Richmond. Not just us, but everybody is using ball screens maybe fifty to one hundred percent more than they did."

  • Michigan's seven losses helped build the character needed to get them to the Final Four, Beilein said. They hurt at the time, he admitted.

    "You're hurting inside, but saying this adversity is going to make us better," he said. "But you're hurting after you or lose on a halfcourt shot or go to MSU and get drilled, but that toughens up this team, makes them look at things they don't do well and get better."

  • Freshman big man Mitch McGary confirmed he would be back for his sophomore year. He has never considered leaving after his first season.


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