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March 7, 2014

News and Views: Beilein, U-M seek exclamation point

Michigan's players didn't want to celebrate too much after clinching an outright Big Ten title at Illinois Tuesday, knowing they still had one more game on the schedule - a big one, to them, given how Indiana spoiled U-M's shot at a title last year.

The Hoosiers have actually won three straight over Michigan, and the Wolverines are ready to atone. Here's head coach John Beilein in news and views format:

News: Michigan finally had a chance for a "real" practice Thursday for the first time in two weeks after a grueling stretch.

Beilein: "We got to work at being better as a Michigan basketball team. We did a lot of things Indiana also does, so it was crossover with what we have to do better or continue to do well. It was a good practice - weights, film, everything. We'll shorten it up today, because the whole idea is to keep people fresh."

Views: Because now's the chance to add to what's already been a special season. The Wolverines have clinched a Big Ten title outright, but the Hoosiers always play U-M tough, and Michigan is now playing for seeding against a team that shut them down in Bloomington earlier this year.

Guard Yogi Ferrell was lights out last game, and while it's unlikely he'll be that hot again, IU has plenty of players who can get two feet in the paint, Beilein noted. Guard Will Sheehey is playing well, and freshman big man Noah Vonleh is due to return. He's outstanding and will be fresh after missing a few games with injury.

In short, Michigan wants this one badly, but the Wolverines will still have to earn it, even against a struggling IU team.

News: Jordan Morgan, slowed by a back bruise, is fine and will play Saturday.

Beilein: "He practiced yesterday. He was a little slow, he's been in therapy the last couple days - he fell on his back, got a pretty good bruise, but he's a a warrior. Nothing will stop him from playing this last game. Pain would be only thing to keep him out of there.

"Having a senior day is always a special time. The only thing that hurts senior day is a loss. Everybody wants it to be special for him, but also for the team."

Views: Sophomore Glenn Robinson III, for example, said as much, noting he wanted it even more for Indianapolis native and frosh Zak Irvin. IU fans were particularly harsh on him in Bloomington.

Playing in front of a sellout crowd with a championship under their belt will be plenty of motivation, Beilein said, to play well. And again, so is the fact that the Hoosiers have had Michigan's number. Add in the "Crean Factor" (last year's embarrassing outburst directed at U-M assistant Jeff Meyer, which isn't being talked about publicly, but …) and you should have a fired up group.

"I believe last year we were still playing for a championship in the last game," Beilein said. "This is new territory a little bit, to already have clinched a regular season championship, have pretty good odds of getting in the NCAA Tournament, and now you're playing again.

"At the same time, we have Indiana players on our team. They beat us here last year on senior night. They got us pretty good at their place this year. There's a strong sense of urgency right now that this is how they'd like to finish the season by beating a very good Indiana team. We have a little bounce in our step right now, which is always good. We accomplished one goal, so let's not look back, but look for more. They were pretty certain they did not want to celebrate the other night too much, but by winning this game Saturday and looking at more highlights in their season."

News: Michigan is playing well after a 3-3 stretch and poised to finish with a 15-3 Big Ten season.

Beilein: "First of all, 3-3 in this league is not so bad. If you're 0-6, that would be cause for concern. But where did you play, who and when? The schedule changed, as well, and we were fortunate at Purdue. But we really played well in other games and shot the ball particularly well."

Views: The defense has slowly gotten better, too - not great, but good enough. It's the efficient offensive teams that make runs in the tournament, though, and why U-M has a great shot to go far. They'll take the Big Ten Tournament seriously as the No. 1 seed, but they've got eyes on a bigger prize.


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