GoBlueWolverine's Andre Barthwell on beating the Syracuse zone, the mood of the Michigan players,…
Hardaway focused on just one game (w/video)
And nor should he, considering the Orange (30-9), are playing their best basketball of the season in Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim's infamous 2-3 zone defense.
But when the Wolverines (30-7) take the court in Atlanta this Saturday, it will be the second time they will have gone against a predominate 2-3 zone defense this season. The first, was a 93-54 blowout victory over Eastern Michigan, who happens to be coached by a former Boeheim assistant, Rob Murphy.
EMU is no Syracuse—And Hardaway Jr. admits he hasn't seen a zone defense that is athletic and as big as that can compare with the Orange. Although, Hardaway Jr. said most teams don't stay in the zone too long anyways, because of Michigan's three-point shooters on the outside.
"We haven't seen that many, cause a lot teams when they go to zone, they kind of go out of it cause we have a lot of shooters," Hardaway Jr. explained. "Especially, Nik Stuaskas, who really shoots the ball very well out of zone. They really get out of it. So not that much."
If Michigan were to win against the Orange Saturday, its next opponent would be Louisville or Wichita State in the national championship game on Monday. However, Hardaway Jr. said the team is strictly focused on playing Syracuse first.
"We practice for our next opponent," Hardaway Jr. said. "We practice for the things that we get better at and mistakes that we made the previous games. Coach (John) Beilein played against Syracuse before, being with West Virginia in the Big East. So he knows what it takes to play against these guys and he does a great job of preparing us the he can."
With the Maize and Blue making its first appearance in the Final Four in 20 years, Hardaway Jr. says there is no pressure on the team going forward.
"I don't feel pressure at all," Hardaway Jr. said. "I kind of feel like an underdog. Syracuse has been in this situation before. They know what it takes to win and win a national championship. So we feel like underdogs. We feel like we have a chip on out shoulder. We feel like we have something to prove.
"We knew there was going to be doubters out there…I think a lot of people thought we were going to lose to VCU first. We hear all the hoopla and the points in the paint, and we hear about our defense is suspect or not. So, we just want to prove everybody wrong and play to the best of our abilities."
Hardaway Jr. said he knew this year's team had the talent to make a run in the NCAA tournament.
"I expected with this group of guys, cause everybody on this team has such positive energy and positive vibe about them that the sky is the limit for us," Hardaway Jr. said."We can do whatever we can to get to where we want to get to. The group of guys that we have and the young talent that we have—the sky is the limit."
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