Wofford Hoping Magic Carpet Ride Continues

Wofford head coach Mike Young describes the record-setting run that his team has gone on this season as a "Magic Carpet Ride" as the 12th-seeded team Terriers (28-6) get redy to battle fifth-seeded Arkansas (26-8) Thursday night at 8:50 CST at the NCAA Tournament in Jacksonville, Fla.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla - Wofford head coach Mike Young says the best season in school history has been something of a magic carpet ride.

He just hopes that No. 21 and fifth-seeded Arkansas (26-8) doesn’t go out and pull the rug from underneath the Southern Conference champion Terriers (28-6) when the two meet Thursday night at around 8:50 p.m. in the NCAA Tournament.

“Magic carpet ride,” Young said Wednesday. “Absolutely as much fun as I've ever had in 29 years. And walking onto that practice floor every day, I've felt like a first-year head coach, a first-year coach with just great guys, high-character people that have made it a great deal of fun, not only for me, but for our community and our fan base and all the little guys that come to our games and come to the locker room after wins.

“They've made it a special one, and I am so appreciative of them,” Young added. “I've also said winning is hard at this level. Winning is hard at any level. And if you're dealing with stuff, if you're dealing with guys missing class and guys not doing the things that they're supposed to do and not being good citizens on campus, that interferes with coaching and winning, and this team has been about the right things from Day One.

“They have been about winning the next game and representing the college in a class fashion, and they make it just great, great fun,” Young continued. “To be able to do this, to culminate with another trip to the NCAA Tournament, is beyond description for me as their coach, and a thrill to be here again. A thrill to be here with this team, and we're fired up.”

Wofford, located in Spartansburg, S.C,, played here in Jacksonville in 2010 when it was in the tournament and lost to Wisconsin.

"Well, it's a real honor and a treat to be back in this great city for the second time participating in the NCAA Tournament," Young said. " I'm bringing a very good team here. I look forward to seeing them compete again as they have done so very well throughout the season. We've got our hands full, needless to say, with a very fine Arkansas Razorback team. But again, we'll look forward to coming over and strapping it on and competing for our college, our league, and the great city of Spartanburg. "

Wofford won its league with a 16-2 mark, has won 15 of its last 16 games and is riding an eight-game winning streak.

The Terriers have been to the Big Dance four of the last six seasons, but have yet to leave with a win while Arkansas is 40-19 in its NCAA history

Young has a plan if his team wins and it doesn't involve taking a plane or car back home.

“I may just shut it down,” Young said. “I may just start running back to Spartanburg. It would be unbelievable. What an accomplishment for this team.

“…You know you're going to play somebody really good, and tomorrow happens to be Arkansas,” Young added. “But to do that would obviously be a very special accomplishment for our program and our college.”

Wofford does not have a starter over 6-6 and no one on its active roster over 6-7 meaning that it will be at a disadvantage with Arkansas 6-11 sophomore Bobby Portis.

Young doesn’t plan on it being a one-man job to defend Portis, the Player of the Year in the SEC.

“You don't do it with one,” Young said. “Now, you play the people that we've played, and we have seen other very good front lines, we've seen other very good players. Bobby Portis is terrific. We're going to have to guard him with two, we're going to have to put him in a beehive, as we oftentimes reference in our practices.

“When he catches it, we've got to send a couple at halfway; if he floors it, we dig on him a little bit,” Young added. “But I'm as concerned about him on the offensive glass as I am anything. The more you watch him, you see him lead the break, you see him step out and make a three, you see him do some things that strike you as a small forward as much as a back-to-the-basket post guy.

“He is ultra-talented, and we certainly have our hands full with him,” Young continued. “He's the SEC Player of the Year. I mean, that says about all you need to know about Bobby Portis.”

Arkansas’ players admitted that they had never heard of Wofford when the Terriers popped up on the TV screen Sunday as the Razorbacks’ opponent.

Senior guard Karl Cochran said that is nothing new for the smallest school (1,600 students) involved in this year’s NCAA Tournament. “You know, similar to last year, I think reporters asked Michigan the same question, and they were like, ‘who's Wofford?’” Cochran said. “It's just because we're a really small school. We come from the Southern Conference, which isn't really a dominant conference like SEC, ACC.

“But it's not really alien to us that people don't know who we are, but we return this year, so we get a little more publicity than we did last year,” Cochran adds. “But it's nothing new to us when a team as big as Arkansas and the rest in this tournament don't know who we are.”

Wofford forward Spencer Collins said a win over Arkansas would take care of that.

“It's nothing new,” Collins said. “We're used to the same thing, big schools never hearing about Wofford basketball. We're on a big stage now, and we have an opportunity to do something really special.

“Just like Karl said, we just have to stay together,” Collins said. “We have our chance to expose our name, but we'll just find out tomorrow night if we can get this win.”

Wofford actually played a game against Iona that tipped at 7 a.m. this season - almost the exact opposite of what they will be doing on Thursday night.

Young doesn’t plan to let his team set sit around before the game.

“I don't want too much time in that hotel,” Young said. “The nervous energy, we've got to be ready to go when the thing goes in the air at 10:00.

“…We’ve played at a lot of different times; we've played well at a lot of different times,” Young added. “Our charge is to, again, keep them comfortable, keep them engaged, but let's not wear them out or bring them over here and they're sluggish.”





Karl Cochran


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