Michigan head basketball coach Juwan Howard met with the media today ahead of the men’s basketball team’s Sweet 16 game against Villanova. However, before Howard dove into the upcoming game, he was asked about what it means to have both the men’s and women’s teams in the Sweet 16 for the second straight year.
“I think it’s wonderful for the University of Michigan, being the fine institution that it is, to have two basketball programs, the men’s and women’s, to represent the school, represent what the school is all about with the winning tradition on and off the floor.”
He continued on crediting the women’s head coach Kim Aricom, saying “I give Kim and her staff an amazing credit as far as what they have developed with that culture and finding fine young women that are talented in many ways and play basketball the winning way.”
Lastly, he heaped praise on Athletic Director Warde Manuel during this answer and later on when he was asked about how this program has reached five straight Sweet 16s:
“Well, it starts with the leadership up top. I touched on it, and I know he doesn’t want the credit, he’s not the one that’s going to stick his chest out and beat his chest and say, ‘Hey, it’s about me, me, me, I, I, I,’ but it says a lot about the leadership who hired the people, and that’s Warde Manuel, our AD. He does a fantastic job in identifying who are the right coaches that he wants to lead our men and women programs and in different levels of sports. So with five straight Sweet 16 appearances, it’s not easy. It takes a lot of effort. It takes a lot of being uncomfortable.”
Highlights from Howard regarding the matchup with Villanova:
On DeVante Jones’ availability:
“He practiced today and yesterday, so right now he’s looking good. He’s improved a lot with his health. We will know more tomorrow morning as far as how he feels when it comes to recovery as he wakes up. But I keep my fingers crossed, and we’re praying that he will be available for tomorrow.”
On the elevated defensive play:
“Well, what we’ve done well is mental stability. Give our guys credit. There have been times in the first half when we’ve been down. There have been times in the first half when we’ve turned over the basketball because we try to make the right play. But to be able to know and understand that it’s a 40-minute game, trusting the process but being dialed in when a team makes a run, staying mentally stable, that’s where you have leaders on the floor — a guy like Eli Brooks, Hunter Dickinson, putting the guys together on their back and sharing with them about we’ve got to stay locked in and focused. Our time will come, but keep trusting, keep getting stops. Those are the types of conversations they have in the huddles, and that’s why we have the carryover the way we do by being able to finish ball games. The game is built on 40 minutes, and until that buzzer sounds, we’re going to keep competing from start to finish.”
On Big East Player of the Year Villanova guard Colin Gillespie:
“When they say you’ve been there forever, that means you’re doing something right. What I say about that is a young man who has bought into the culture at Villanova, has trusted the process and had success while doing it. Year after year, he’s improved and added something new to his game. With the injury, the tough injury that he suffered, but to be able to bounce back, that’s not easy. I haven’t experienced that injury personally myself, but I’ve had friends and also teammates that have. That says a lot about his mental toughness. Now this year he’s led this team, and now they’re at the Sweet 16. It doesn’t surprise me. He’s had an All-American season. He’s going to be playing basketball, I see, for the near future, whether it’s on the NBA level or wherever else. But he’s going to have a lot of success because the kid’s a competitor, he knows how to play, and he plays winning basketball.”
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Michigan Wolverines are currently a five-point underdog against the Villanova Wildcats, with the over/under set at 135 points.