Michigan basketball not focused on Final Four hype, program's next step is more of the same
ANN ARBOR -- The day Trey Burke announced he'd be returning to Michigan for his sophomore season, he made one thing very clear.
"We have a great shot to compete for another Big Ten championship and to compete for a national championship," the Michigan basketball point guard said at the time. "I feel like we have unfinished business."
Since that time, pollsters and prognosticators have taken Burke's statement and ran with it. Michigan has been ranked as the No. 5 team in America by both ESPN and CBS.
Other outlets have also speculated that the Wolverines could be a Final Four contender in 2012-13, and one magazine, Lindy's Sports, says they will be -- pegging Michigan at No. 3 overall.
John Beilein's answer to all the hype at this point is simple: It's unwarranted, and it's not what his team will be focusing on entering the fall.
And he doesn't exactly believe it'll be difficult to temper all that talk once the bright lights come on.
"You'll put your little carrots and little reminders in there of what it was like to lose to Oklahoma three years ago, Duke two years ago and Ohio last year," Beilein said recently in an interview with MLive.com. "That feeling. That's why we'll continue to focus on (the little things) all season.
"Reality will hit them."
Beilein says he's aware of the expectations most pundits have for his program, and where prognosticators believe the Wolverines should finish this season.
But at the same time, he says he puts as much stock into those expectations as he did two years ago "when everybody picked us to finish 11th in the Big Ten."
Making a deep NCAA Tournament run is always the goal for every program heading into the fall, but Beilein says, in order for his program to truly take its next step -- it has to continue doing more of what it started last year.
"We want to continue to be in that Big Ten championship hunt," he said. "It's one thing to do it once, we hadn't done it since 1986. But to be in that hunt every year is another thing. That's the big goal. If you can really, really concentrate on that, then you'll have gone through some wars that should allow you in the NCAA Tournament to advance and play for a while.
"But you have to survive the Big Ten schedule first, and survive it with a real positive record."
Beilein compares this team's preseason expectations to that of 2005-06 West Virginia squad. A group that had made a run to the Elite Eight the previous spring, and brought virtually everyone back the next season -- only to come up just shy of repeating its 2004-05 performance with a loss in the Sweet 16.
But that team entered the season ranked No. 14 nationally -- not No. 5.
Even so, the sixth-year Michigan coach says the plan for handling hype will remain the same.
The NCAA Tournament starts in March.
There's no sense in discussing it until then.
"I probably don't talk about that until March," he says. "I think last year we were in the position, and it's rarely happened for me, where you're in during February and you know it. Then you're just working and improving every day. But we had the Big Ten championship as a goal to keep us going.
"And that's what we'll do again."