Olson on NCAA's

The Wildcats are preparing for Wisconsin. After the brackets were announced the Cats had a Sunday night practice to get an early start. Lute Olson met with the Tucson media on Monday before heading to another Wildcat practice session.

Opening Statement:

"With Wisconsin, and having seen a number of their tapes, they like to run their half court offense. It is what they call a swing offense. Basically, their big men may be outside, their guards may be posting up, so you have to be able to defend them all over the court. They have gone with their 6-10 (Jason Chappell), 6-11 (Brian Butch) guys up front with three perimeter guys. In the last game, they went with four perimeter guys and one post guy. They do have some flexibility. I think we can match-up pretty well.

"They are a man-to-man team. They shoot a lot of threes. They will run on steals and interceptions, but not off missed shots. I'd say they are fairly typical of Big Tens teams of the past in terms of preferring a half court style and being physical, tough on the offensive boards. But I do feel that we have the ability to match up well with them based on how we've played throughout the course of the year.

"We had a full practice yesterday. We'll put in the scout team things today, but we won't be on the court for more than an hour and 15 minutes today. Our main preparation days will be Tuesday and Wednesday. We were hoping for a 2 p.m. charter departure on Wednesday, not much later, so we could wake up on their time Thursday and get acclimated to that time difference."

Is it important to get off to a good start on Friday?

"The key to our ball club is getting out and defending hard and utilizing our quickness. I'm hoping with the experience we had a year ago with the run to the Elite Eight that Ivan (Radenovic), Hassan (Adams) and Mustafa (Shakur) have been through it. It shouldn't be a shock to them, and I think it's important that Marcus (Williams) had the kind of game that he did against UCLA (25 points/7 rebounds) because that will be a confidence boost for him. He's not someone who has been an uptight guy anyway. If you look at the kind of game he had against Washington at Washington (Dec. 31, 16 points/9 rebounds) where there was a lot of pressure on him, and he responded very well.

"Getting off early would be important in any game. I think the key to the game is going to be the amount of defensive pressure we put on the ball and the ability to cut down on their second opportunities on the glass."

Give a quick synopsis of the Wisconsin approach:

"For example, the post may set a back screen and from the back screen, he will pop out to the perimeter. If you look at the stats, you will see that their big guys have shot a lot of threes. Whether it's the point guard or the five man or anything in between, they are going to be all over the court in their offense.

"Like any other team, there are certain guys that are key. (Kammron) Taylor is an outstanding penetrator with good quickness. (Alando) Tucker is a handful...an outstanding athlete who posts up very well and takes the ball to the basket. He is a very good all-around basketball player. The fact that he is the size that he is, we will have Hassan Adams or Marcus on him. Those will be our two best match-ups, but he is very, very clever inside.

Is it reasonable to compare Marcus Williams to Sean Elliott at this point of their careers?

"Marcus certainly has that kind of ability. I think Sean in his freshman year (1985-86)...well, it would be hard to compare anyone in their freshman year to what Sean accomplished. He was certainly a key to our winning the (Pac-10) title in his freshman year. I think he was our leading scorer and one of our leading rebounders.

"There haven't been a lot of freshmen that have affected their team as much as Sean did in his freshman year. I think that Marcus has had an outstanding freshman year. I don't think he is the rebounder that Sean was. Sean was a better creator than Marcus. Marcus does a good job of penetrating, but Sean was one of our leading assist guys as well. It's unusual to get a guy who sees the floor and can deliver the pass like Sean did."

"In terms of looking at Marcus and comparing him to players that have come through this program, I guess he is more like Sean than anybody else. But Marcus needs to get more aggressive on the boards if he's going to be compared to Sean."

"Marcus is a very big competitor. He doesn't show that competitiveness as much as Sean did. Sean stepped in his freshman year and became a go-to guy and a leader and took to that role very well."

Every tournament is a different experience. Do you think this team can capture the fans with a nice run in the tournament?

"I think there are a lot of similarities with the 1997 team. Both teams went into the tournament with 19 wins. Both teams were 11-7 in the conference. One of our biggest problems this year has been consistency in shooting, but I think this team is better than that team defensively. But that team (1997) shot the ball better with (Mike) Bibby, (Jason) Terry, (Michael) Dickerson, and Miles (Simon) was a great scorer.

"I think that team had the outstanding leadership of Miles Simon in terms of the toughness and the swagger and the rest of it. I don't think we have anyone that would compare with that. That is so critical when you get into the tournament that you have somebody that has the way to instill confidence in everybody on the floor with them."

How was the return of Hassan Adams to practice yesterday?

"We had a really good workout last night...very competitive. I think it was good. The guys had a lot of enthusiasm. You could tell that they were very excited about being in the tournament. I thought it was one of our best practices of the year in terms of the basic response on the court.

"I think Hassan is the emotional leader on the floor and that is evident. It took him the first eight minutes once we went full court to get in the swing of things. But his last 12 minutes were outstanding."

Twenty-two straight years in the tournament. Do you still get excited?

"Oh, yes. It's why you coach...for the excitement of being in the NCAA Tournament. For us to have been in for 22 straight years...The first year here we didn't get in, but the last five years at Iowa we did, so it's been 27 out of the last 28 years. But it doesn't change in terms of your excitement, the only thing is that you probably have a better fell of what the guys are going through and what you need to do to make sure that they are prepared for what is going to happen.

"I think the fact that we have good experience in the tournament is going to be very helpful. Those returning guys will do a good job."

Talk about Mustafa heading home to Philadelphia:

It will be exciting for Mustafa to be there (home in Philadelphia). We need to make sure that when game time comes, we need him to play the way he can play. You are going to be excited enough just being in the playoffs. The danger is being too excited."

Wisconsin has ups and downs similar to you...Is that becoming more common at this level?

"There is great parity in college basketball. You've seen in the NCAA playoffs the last two years where there have been closer games than ever in the history of the tournament. That extends into league play too. You see that in a lot of conferences. The parity, the fact that some of the top programs have lost top players to the draft in the past has had an effect on that."

Talk about Brian Butch:

"He is a very mobile five-man. He's almost more comfortable facing up than with his back to the basket. He'll put the ball down well both ways. If you are out there defending him with a big man, he creates problems for you because he can shoot it and put it down.

"Typical of most big guys when they are in high school, they didn't get a chance to play against other big guys. He looks like he has gotten stronger, but I'm sure if you spoke with Coach Ryan, he would say the first thing he needs to do is get stronger. That's not unusual. We would say the same thing about Kirk Walters."

Temple Coach John Chaney retired today, what are your thoughts?

I was so sorry to see what happened a year ago because I know John Chaney and I know him well. He is one of the best things that's ever happened to Philadelphia in terms of his leadership. He's had a tremendous effect on the inner city kids in Philadelphia. John is as nice of a guy as you will meet. You never have to wonder what he thinks about something because he's going to tell you. He is very passionate in his beliefs.

"He is someone who came up the hard way. He's a no-nonsense guy in terms of dealing with his players. His players love him. He's as hard on them as any coach, ever. If you have your workouts at 6 a.m., that's would not be No. 1 on a lot of young guys' minds. He wants guys to remember that this is your responsibility to be here whenever we call practice.

"I think you could talk to 100 coaches and they would tell you the same thing that they were sorry to see what went down last year because that's just not John."

Wildcat Authority Top Stories