NEW YORK — For much of Michigan men’s basketball coach John Beilein’s postgame press conference, he looked down at the stat sheet in front of him.
After No. 19 Michigan (4-1) lost a heartbreaking, down-to-the-wire game to No. 14 Villanova in front of an electric Barclays Center crowd, Beilein remained calm. As he has said before, it’s better to lose a game as hard-fought as this 60-55 affair earlier in the season that later, in March.
The result of the game represented a teaching moment for Beilein, the late start time — 10:15 p.m. on the East Coast — but his more important lesson came after the game — more than six hours after tip off.
Regardless of the result, arriving home at 4:22 a.m. wasn’t good for his players. And he believes they are students first and athletes second. To make them play an already late game even later wasn’t OK.
Albrecht and his teammates have class early in the morning.
“I love ESPN, guys,” Beilein said. “I love it. But when they told me that game was being moved back 15 minutes, something’s wrong. We have a whole bunch of guys with eight and nine o’clock classes tomorrow morning, and we move that game to 10:15, so that a football game can be finished. And let the football game finish. Let us start our game. But this is way out of whack when we move a game 15 minutes — it’s already at the wrong time, 10 p.m. on the East Coast, and now move it 15 more minutes.
“I love ESPN. They’re so good for us. But they got that one wrong. We can’t do that to our student-athletes. Tell Spike Albrecht when he goes to his nine o’clock class today that it was more important we started that on time, at 10 o’clock, rather than that. This is wrong and we’re going to fix it.”
He later echoed his sentiments in a tweet sent during the wee hours of the morning: “Just landed in Ypsilanti , Michigan. It is 4:22 am. 30 minutes to get our guys to the dorm No college BB game should ever start after 9pm.”
The lessons from the game itself are perhaps overshadowed, but still important for a young team in need of experience.
Albrecht and Junior guards Caris LeVert echoed their coach: playing in close games will benefit this young team.
“Obviously, you never want to learn from a loss,” Albrecht said. “But there’s definitely a lot to learn out of this.”
Added LeVert: “I think last year we were really good in close games because of what we went through early in the season. We went to Duke, we went to Iowa State, we lost to Charlotte — we really learned from those games.”
For Beilein, the loss matters to the team’s record, but he knows that watching a his squad claw back from a 13-point deficit — in doing so recovering from a 15-0 Wildcat run — is more important.
Against such a veteran-laden team like Villanova, Michigan could have faded quickly, eliminating any chance of a comeback. Instead, the Wolverines responded with a 27-8 run, with contributions by Michigan’s veteran core and its young big men.
Even though the Wildcats won in the end thanks to the late-game heroics of forward JayVaughn Pinkston, Beilein was happy that the lessons Michigan should take away from the loss were clear.
When Beilein did look up from glancing over the stat sheet, he heard LeVert echo the sentiment. And later on, once both players had left the room, he made sure to stress that such a message was apparent.
What Caris said here was perfect,” Beilein said. “These are things that when you’re in this time of the year, (you focus on).”