MEN'S HOOPS: Coach Billy Donovan Q and A

"As I said last night in the teleconference, I'm very excited about the invitation to be a part of the tournament. It's a great time of year. I had the chance to watch a little bit of film on Ohio University. They're a basketball team that has very good speed on the perimeter. They have a post player in (Leon) Williams who was freshman of the year in the (Mid-American Conference). He's a very talented young kid with size and physicality, who can score from the low post."

"If you look at (Jeremy) Fears on the perimeter and (Sonny) Troutman, who's another front court guy, they have a very good basketball team. They have speed, depth and can play a lot of different ways. They can push you down the floor and get after you or they can play half court. They had a great run in their conference tournament. When you get to this point of the season, every team you play against will be a good team."

On the Syracuse region:

"I'm not worried about our region or who we might play. Our focus is only on Ohio University. That's all we can worry about right now. If we're fortunate to get to some of the teams they're talking about, that's great. But right now, we're not there. The only thing we need to be focused on is playing on Friday."

On the progression of the defense throughout the season:

"Defensively for us, it's a process of changing habits and trying to get guys who are young to understand. A guy like Chris Richard, who came out of high school and played as a freshman, patrolled the paint and blocked shots. (But they're) playing against different players. It's the same with Lee Humphrey, (Anthony) Roberson or (Matt) Walsh. You play at a different level (in college). There are different things that you have to do. Because they were good high school players, it doesn't automatically mean they will be effective in certain areas at the collegiate level. For us, defensively, it's been building habits and rehearsing things over and over. Progressively, our team has gotten better defensively because they've been able to learn and grow as a group through some of the ups and downs."

On Chris Richard:

"Chris didn't play much as a freshman last year. Understanding the intensity level he has to play with and the personnel we play against in this league is very difficult. For someone like Chris, who's coming out of high school with a big, strong frame, it's easy for you or I to say ‘Just go out there and play more physical.' He never played against anyone in high school that was as strong or big as him. When you're a front court player, there's an adjustment you have to go through. I was really proud of the way he played yesterday because he was very active on the backboard. Although he missed some easy baskets on the offensive end, I thought he was very active in keeping the ball alive. He also made a couple of free throws and defensive rebounds. I think it's a process that a player has to go through, where they figure it out over a period of time."

On the SEC Tournament:

"I thought it was an incredible week for our basketball team. I'm really happy and proud of our kids and what they've been able to accomplish – not only last week, but (over) the entire season. It's been a fun group to coach. This last week, what they've been able to do against Kentucky twice, and then against Mississippi State and Alabama, who were picked to be the best in the league in the west, is really special. I'm happy for them, because of how hard they worked. I'm happy for the school, the administration and our fans. As a coach, to see where someone like David Lee was a year ago and where he is now, that makes me happy. Last year he was doing some soul searching. Through these ups and downs, to see him enjoy that moment the way he did, along with Roberson, Walsh and even the freshmen, that is what it is all about as a coach. To see those guys achieve and enjoy something that they've been trying to do for a long time, to see it come together, was really magical. For a whole week, our team played at a really high level."

On playing a full-court offense against Ohio:

"I feel very comfortable about pushing the ball and going up and down the floor. We'd like to do that. In the Kentucky game, there were some early transitions. The game (moving into) being a half-court game was probably based more on the other teams we were playing. Mississippi State was an early offensive team. We got some threes and some early lay ups that helped us extend our lead. We want to push the ball and transition. But we also understand that if we are unable to do that, we have to be able to guard and defend. Defending and rebounding allow us to fast break. My mindset in practice hasn't changed from where it was in September or October. We want to be a transitioning, fast-breaking team."

On the opponent dictating the tempo:

"We're comfortable playing whichever way we have to play. For our team, tempo is based on are you able to score, and then how well you're rebounding the ball. If you give up second shots, or are fouling at the end of second shots or are fouling near half court, it kind-of slows the game down and you can't get it going up and down the court. Some teams get the ball across half court and make us guard for 35 seconds. Then we have to be smart on our end, because we can't play defense for 35 seconds and the first ten seconds (on offense) take a quick shot. We have to make sure we get a good shot, and if we get a good shot, that's fine. We've had to play against a lot of different styles and tempos this year. Our guys understand what we're trying to do. We're trying to play to our identity and play our style. We're still trying to do the same things offensively and defensively, regardless of what the pace is."

On playing physical since visiting the Rupp:

"Sometimes that point hits where everything clicks for a team. The game in Rupp was one our guys were disappointed about. They felt like they had a chance to win the game. What dictated the game was (Kentucky) turning us over and getting some steals. We had some empty possessions that allowed them to get on the break and get easy baskets. That's the thing with Kentucky, if you can take away easy baskets and make them shoot it over the top and take some tough shots, any team will have a difficult time scoring in that situation. Kentucky is so good, we gave up too many easy baskets. Our guys competed well, but on the backboard, there was probably a plus-seven or plus-eight for Kentucky. We didn't do as good of a job as we needed to. (However,) we made those plays here in Gainesville and yesterday in Atlanta."

On the team's NCAA veterans:

"This time of year, Ohio University is probably very excited to be (in the tournament). I imagine they'll come out and play loose and confident. They've got a lot of pieces to their puzzle. I don't know (if our veterans) if that's a factor. I believe it's a new year, a new game, a new day – some of our guys have been in an NCAA atmosphere, but we also have a bunch of freshman that are playing for the first time and don't understand it yet. David Lee, who's played in it the last four years has a better understanding of it, but I don't know how much that experience plays a factor in it all."

On giving the team Monday to recuperate before Friday's game:

"I don't know if it's an extra day, we're playing at like eight o'clock in the morning. The game is at 12:20 p.m. Eastern Time on Friday. When you have a week like we had, where you play Kentucky, then Mississippi State, then Alabama and then Kentucky again, we've had four games in eight days. They need a break physically. Knock on wood, we got out of the tournament with hopefully no major injuries. Tomorrow, we'll introduce Ohio University and try to get the guys back physically. We'll leave again on Thursday. There's no question the extra day allows our guys to get rejuvenated and focused on what they've got to do going into Friday's game."

On the differences between this post-season team and previous post-season teams:

"I think people should not look at our team advancing very far. Rather, they should look at the teams that have beaten us. On that given night, the teams that beat us were better than us. Was I happy with the way we played last year against Manhattan? Absolutely not, I was very disappointed. But I don't want to take away from how well Manhattan's kids played. Participating in the tournament as a player, assistant coach and head coach, I've had some unbelievable, high, exhilarating moments. I've also had some very low, depressing moments. That's what happens this time of year. There isn't a team that has the tournament figured out so that every single year they're getting to the sweet sixteen, elite eight, final four and winning the national championship. You've got to be able to play very well against very good teams. The difference between this year's team, last year's team and the one from the year before? I don't know – we're just a totally different team. We're a better team this year than last year."

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