Tennessee took care of business on Thursday afternoon, quickly disposing of Longwood in impressive fashion. They now move on to the round of 32, where they will face the 11th-seeded Michigan Wolverines.
A preseason top five team, Michigan struggled out of the gates and never really found any consistency throughout the season. Still, this is a roster that can hang with anyone, and they should provide Tennessee with a test on Saturday evening.
Ahead of the matchup, Michigan head coach Juwan Howard met with the media to talk Tennessee.
Q. It’s been a while from a win streak, obviously you’ve had moments in games where you played good, you struggled. In your opinion how close are you guys to putting all the pieces together and just really gearing up for something special here?
COACH HOWARD: We understand we’re going to be playing a really good team tomorrow. This team has size. They have shooting. They have great coaching, experienced coaching. Our kids just try to be ready from start to finish, play a competitive game, because that’s the type of game we expect them to play. Play Michigan basketball.
Q. Juwan, seems like DeVanté Jones is ready to come back, is that true and will he go into the starting lineup?
COACH HOWARD: DeVanté was out there for more than practice, got out there, got a little lather and it’s a game-time decision. I will be on my knees tonight praying he will hopefully be ready to go tomorrow because we’re going to need all hands on deck.
Q. Coach, congratulations on the win yesterday. What does Tennessee look like — I know you guys play in the Big Ten, do they look different than you have seen during the season?
COACH HOWARD: Well, they’re a very good team. What I’ve seen is I mentioned earlier, they have great size, good inside play, protectors, they have shooting from all over the floor, whether they’re perimeter or primary ball handler or from Chandler or Zeigler, they also have wings and they have a great coach. He’s had a lot of success in college basketball over his years in different programs.
They play in a tough conference which is the SEC. They face teams like Kentucky and many others so I’m expecting it’s going to be a very competitive game tomorrow, but yes in the Big Ten we have had a lot of competitive teams that we have faced that are pretty good, too, it would be nothing new to us when it comes to facing size and facing shooting. At the end of the day, we’ve just got to make sure when we get out there, it’s still basketball. It’s still basketball. The ball is still orange, and it’s still round.
Q. Juwan, I think Villanova is the only team this year that played Tennessee and had fewer than 10 turnovers in a game. What is it they do so well to force opponents to make mistakes?
COACH HOWARD: Defensively they throw a lot of coverages at you, sometimes they will throw two to the ball and blitz, sometimes they will have a soft blitz. There are moments when they put bigs in the drop coverage. They also will switch, 1-5 depending on line-ups they have in there, I’ve also saw some zone they have played. With those different types of coverages, at times they can either speed you up and cause confusion out there on the floor, some will get you out of the timing of your sets, some of the scoring opportunities that you want to score, whether it’s inside or outside. But the key with us, we can’t overthink it.
Just be patient, make simple plays and not try to make the whole run of plays.
Q. You talked Kennedy Chandler. What have you seen he’s been able to do this season as he’s grown over the course of the last three months?
COACH HOWARD: Yes, Kennedy is a special, special player, one of the best point guards in college basketball, in my opinion. The way he’s able to make immediate impact right out of high school into the college level, that’s impressive. But it also says a lot about the coaching staff and his development and putting him into positions to help lead the team to where they are today. Looked at his shooting, his shooting has gotten better. He shoots 40+ percent from three. He’s always known as a playmaker, a guy that can get downhill and can make plays for others. But no one talked about his shooting, and you’ve just seen how he’s worked on it and that’s one of his strengths.
He’s a high IQ player, he has the same face. I call it the Kawhi Leonard or the Tim Duncan face. He never seems to get rattled or frustrated, from what I’ve noticed. I’ve been impressed with how he’s mentally stable when things are going good or bad.
Q. When you are look at Santiago Vescovi on film, what makes him difficult to guard before he even get a shot off, in terms of the way he moves and gets around the court?
COACH HOWARD: You said it. He moves great without the basketball. His feet is always moving. Kind of reminds me of a guy like JJ Reddick, also Duncan Robinson, Clay Thompson, Ray Allen, Reggie Miller. That’s pretty special, because obviously he has to have great conditioning, and you can see that he worked on it. But then to be able to read how the defense is playing and whether they’re locking and trailing, how to curl it, or if a guy shoots the gap how to step back and shoot the jumper.
Also being able to make a pass and then go back and follow it by setting up your defense by getting them off your body. That’s elite level, but it also says he’s a high IQ player that knows how to play basketball. I’ve been impressed watching him on film. He’s a tough guard.