John Beilein sees the train coming — and it’s massive.
The Michigan basketball coach looks at Tennessee, the Wolverines’ Sweet 16 opponent Friday in Indianapolis (7:15 p.m. EDT, CBS), and doesn’t see a No. 11 seed.
“This is a team that we see quite often and is a difficult matchup for us because they have great quickness on the perimeter, and they play with a classic two big guys on the blocks that just beat us up,” Beilein said on “Mike and Mike” on Monday morning on ESPN Radio. “When we lost Mitch McGary earlier in the year, that no longer became an option for us, playing with two bigs. We’ve just been playing with one, so it is going to be difficult. They will probably win the rebounding battle; we’ve got to win the possession battle. It’s similar to what we saw at Texas, but Texas had a younger team than Tennessee. Tennessee is mostly juniors and seniors. They’re a talented team that has a lot of experience.”
Beilein said he watched the Volunteers’ third-round win over Mercer on Sunday and then watched it again Monday morning.
Of course, after the Wolverines won their first two NCAA tournament games by 17 points over Wofford and 14 over Texas, he’s not conceding anything.
“We’re playing pretty well. I think we’ve won 9 of our last 10, with the only loss being to Michigan State, who is also peaking at the right time,” Beilein said. “Like most of my teams in the past, we’ve got to the stretch the floor and make outside shots, we’ve got to drive it when we need to drive it, and we’ve got to play great defense, which is getting better. We have one senior that plays and one junior that plays, and they split time. Anytime you have a young team, defense is the hardest thing to understand.”
Michigan held its opponents to just 36 percent shooting in its first two NCAA games.
The scene: Beilein is focused on Michigan-Tennessee but understands the looming chaos surrounding the other Sweet 16 matchup in Indy: Louisville vs. Kentucky.
“How about those four brands being in there at the same time?” he said. “Then in Indianapolis? I don’t know the geography as well, but I think both Louisville and Lexington is only a two-hour drive from there. The Michigan brand is so strong and now we have Tennessee. Everybody is so excited in Tennessee because they have done a great job of turning that program around.
“I’m glad we’re the first game. It will be filled for our (game), but I know there will be a lot of people in their seats as we finish awaiting that next game, which the whole state of Kentucky will be entrenched in.”