Michigan coach John Beilein talks about the regular-season loss to Michigan State providing an "edge," and his team's Big Ten tournament. James Hawkins, The Detroit News
Ann Arbor — Ask Michigan coach John Beilein about junior guard Zavier Simpson and redshirt junior wing Charles Matthews and he'll rave about their defense.
Even when you don't ask about their defense, there's a good chance Beilein will still find a way to bring it up.
Beilein has said on countless occasions the fire and desire Simpson and Matthews play with on the defensive end is unlike any he has ever coached.
They are driven to shut down whomever they guard and that determination is a major reason why the Wolverines' defense ranks among the nation's best this season.
So when Simpson was named to the Big Ten’s all-defensive team earlier this week, Beilein thought it was well deserved.
But when Beilein scrolled through the rest of the names — Maryland’s Bruno Fernando, Michigan State’s Matt McQuaid, Purdue’s Nojel Eastern and Penn State’s Josh Reaves, who was also named defensive player of the year — he was stunned to see Matthews wasn't on the list.
“That was surprising, but that's always been a great motivating factor for everybody,” Beilein said. “People are watching a different game than I'm watching obviously with Charles. He's had some rough offensive moments. The guy has never had a bad defensive game and he's taking care of everybody.
“How many people were on that team? Five? And he's not one of the five best? Besides Zavier, there must be four really good defenders out there. That's all I can say.”
Big Ten coaches vote on the all-defensive team. The media does not have an all-defensive team.
Despite missing out on a share of the regular-season title and finishing third in the conference with a 15-5 mark, the Wolverines also didn’t have a single player make the All-Big Ten first team. Freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis and Simpson led Michigan with second-team honors.
Junior center Jon Teske said the omissions can ignite an inner fire in guys heading into the postseason, like it did for Simpson last year.
After Simpson was snubbed from the all-defensive team, he responded by locking down and putting four opposing point guards in body bags en route to Michigan's second straight Big Ten tournament title.
“I know a couple of the guys are talking about it and it'll definitely be a chip on the shoulder,” Teske said. “But at the end of the day, it's over with. It doesn't matter. You can't do anything about it. We're just going to go out and play our game.”