Gottfried Discusses Tide In SEC Tourney

Following is a transcript from University of Alabama head basketball coach Mark Gottfried's weekly press conference on Monday. Alabama plays Florida in the first round of the 2008 Southeastern Conference Basketball Tournament on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. CT/7:30 p.m. ET in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

University of Alabama Head Basketball Coach Mark Gottfried:

On Florida:

"I think first thing, probably like every team, we are anxious to play. For us it gives us a chance to start a new season. Everybody is at 0-0. Everybody has a chance. We know we are playing a very good basketball team that came into our gym and beat us this year. We know we have to play awfully well. I think the mindset of our team is good. I think winning your last game always helps. It makes you feel better about yourself. We are going over there anxious to play."

How is Richard Hendrix today?

"I think that Richard will be fine. I don't think he has anything major injury wise. I think more than anything he may be fatigued in his legs and maybe the wear and tear of the season. I think he'll be fine. We'll see today. I'll see how he feels. I anticipate him being fully involved in everything that we do."

What is his injury? Is it his knee?

"I don't know to be honest. I think he's had some soreness in there. We've tried to rest him some. Hopefully he'll be okay."

How is Senario Hillman today?

"I'll hold him out of practice today. We'll see how he is tomorrow. I'd say for the game on Thursday, I'd say today he may be questionable. I'm hoping he'll be able to play."

Can you talk about the dimension that Nick Calathes brings to Florida's team?

"I think where he's really good is, with their team, it's like they play three point guards. All three of those guys, (Jai) Lucas, (Walter) Hodge and (Nick) Calathes, a lot of times what happens is the player who's defending them, like Alonzo Gee for us or Mykal Riley, they are defending a guy who has point guard qualities. They can bring the ball on the break and penetrate. You aren't always defending that guy off the ball, a lot of times he has the ball in his hands coming off ball screens. That gives their team a little bit different dimension. I think it helps Calathes a lot."

Is the approach any different when you know you have to win the tournament?

"When you go to Atlanta, or wherever, you're going to win the tournament, every year obviously. The only time that would ever come into play is if you were in a situation where you had a large lead; you were able to rest players, which is rare. In the game, you just go play it to win it like you would. You obviously aren't going to get ahead of yourself and start looking down the road."

How difficult a stretch is winning the four games in the SEC tournament given that guys aren't used to playing four days in a row?

"It's hard, obviously. When you get to Sunday, one team has played three. Even that, they are going to be fatigued as well. I don't know. I think when you go play in a tournament, anything can happen. Typically, the biggest reason why it hasn't happened is because the other teams are better than the teams that are having to play four. It's not a fatigue factor as much as they are just better. That's why they win more. But, hey, go play. If you're in a position where you can hopefully win four, you go win four. You have to go one at a time."

Speaking of, (Vanderbilt Coach) Kevin Stallings mentioned after the game Saturday that conditioning was a factor. (Alabama outscored Vandy 16-11 in overtime to win.) Are you pleased with the condition of your team?

"I think we are pretty good actually. I think it's helped us in a lot of games. I think our guys have done a good job in that regard. I think Richard's got some late season soreness and Senario has some issues, but we haven't had any injuries. I think the guys that are playing now, those eight or nine guys that are playing pretty regularly, are getting into a good rhythm. I think we're in good shape."

The last game with Florida was pretty close and it came down to free throws. Does that give you confidence going into this one that you can play with them?

"I don't think it was just free throws. That was part of it. There was no question. They were 21 of 26 and we were 15 for 26. That was definitely a key. I thought that the difference in the first game was they stepped up and made some huge shots. Big ones. Calathes made some late in the game. They played awfully well down the stretch. I watched their game against Mississippi State which was at Florida, and they had a stretch from about the eight or nine minute mark in the game where they couldn't make a shot, and a lot of them were wide open and they just couldn't make them. They did against us. We have a lot of respect for them. I think when you look at their tape, they'll look at the tape, you always find some things and can say, ‘We did well here. We didn't do a very good job there. We could do a better job at this.' They are probably looking at it doing the same thing. ‘We handled this good. We didn't handle this very well.' That happens anytime you play somebody a second time."

This is a two-part question: do you see or detect Florida being a team that needs to win to get in the NCAA tournament; and where do you think the league is this year in getting teams in?

"I will say this. I believe that the NCAA selection committee, I've talked to enough of those guys, from a RPI standpoint. I think a lot of those decisions are being made already, right now, prior to the tournament. I think where the tournament comes into play is if a team can win three or four or make it to the championship game. I think that changes their position with the committee. I don't believe one game does, in my discussion with guys on the committee.

"I hear people on TV all the time say, ‘If they go and win one more game.' I just don't see that they view the tournament as being the vehicle as one game here or there. We have a tournament to give an automatic qualifier in. That's why you have a tournament. Outside of that, I don't know that is a factor now.

"From a motivational standpoint, I'm sure you could use that as a factor and convince your players one way or another. I don't know that that makes a difference either. You look at Vanderbilt coming in here and they were playing for Thursday off. If they would have won, I think in their minds the opportunity to be a one or two seed. That didn't guarantee them a win. Sometimes I don't know that that stuff is as much as a factor as we like to make it out to be."

"Certainly, I'm not a committee member and I don't know anything about it. I think that the tournament, in my talkings and discussions with the guys I know that have been on that committee, it's there to give everybody an opportunity to get an automatic berth. I'm not a believer in if you look around and say a team, say a Texas A&M, "Man if they just win one game in the tournament.' I just don't think the committee members are looking at it like that. They may be. Again, I've talked to a bunch of those guys, and I just don't see that being a factor."

Do you think the SEC is strong this year?

"I think it's really strong and it's good every year. I think that there will be six teams in there maybe. But we've got a lot of teams that are deserving and we'll see what happens."

How would you assess Rico Pickett's season?

"He's been up and down. I think he's had some moments when he's played real well and he's had some too where he's struggled. It's been a learning experience for him but I think he's got a really bright future. He's got a lot of areas that he needs to continue to work on and improve on at the same time."

Is Brandon Hollinger back at back-up point guard?

"I think in the last few games he's done a really good job and I've talked about it before, of running our offense for us well. There is some stability that Brandon provides in there. I think his shooting percentages are very good. His ability to knock down a three point shot has been big for our team at key times. I think with all of those things, he's done a good job for us."

On Pickett, what are some of the things he needs to learn, improve on?

"I think that there are things if you're a point guard, learning the right decisions to make, where to go on the floor if you are trying to run certain things, understanding what it means to be a safety and getting back and then how to play that in the break when you're the last guy back. I think those are things for him that he's got to improve on.

"Obviously his shooting percentage numbers aren't very good and I think he can improve there. I think sometimes when you are a freshman you are feeling your way. You are trying to improve and you are trying to do well in this league. This league is tough. It's a hard league with very, very good guards. I've talked about that. When you are in high school you have no idea how good Ramel Bradley is or Jamont Gordon is or Sundiata Gaines. And then the list just keeps going with every team. When you get to college you realize, ‘Those guys are pretty good. This is a little harder than I thought.' He's working through all those kinds of things. I think he's got a really bright future. I think he can improve on those things."

What's the difference you're seeing in Florida now as opposed to their numbers and the difference earlier in the season?

"I don't have their actual game by game numbers here, I think when they came into the Coliseum here earlier in the year, they were in a mood where they were making every key shot, every big shot that they needed to make. I think they've had a stretch here late in the year, and just watching the games, I've watched four or five in the last day or so, where they haven't necessarily knocked down shots. There may be more reasons for that I don't know but Mississippi State went in there earlier. That had some great looks but just couldn't make any of them. LSU game down there, same thing at Florida. That doesn't take anything away from LSU or Mississippi State. I think Florida early on, they just seemed to knock down every big shot or they certainly did against us. Maybe that's one thing would jump of the page if you are watching them on tape from my perspective."

Is that the biggest thing, with their perimeter offense?

"You asked the difference. I think that might be the difference (his answer above about how many more shots they were making earlier). They've had some games here recently where they haven't made a lot of shots."

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