Coach V on Drake and the CIT

Nobody - outside of the players and coaches in Moscow - anticipated Idaho's complete turnaround this year on the hardwood. First year head coach DON VERLIN, along with assistant Ray Lopes and an emerging group of stars, produced a thrilling third place finish in the WAC and earned an invititation to the Tournament. Coach V discusses the CIT and what it means to his program.

The Vandals, who earned their best record since the 1998-99 season at 16-15 overall, will host the Drake University Bulldogs of the Missouri Valley Conference WEDNESDAY (March 18) at 7:05 p.m PST. The game will be played at Memorial Gym as the Cowan Spectrum has been removed in preparation for the Kibbie Dome renovation project.

On what he expects against Drake this week in the opening round of the Tournament: "They [Drake] are about even on the boards and we're obviously upside down in that category; so obviously that's a key to our game all year long and will be a key to this game too. We've got to rebound the basketball. They average 23 threes a game. They do a good job getting fouled. They almost make more free throws than their opponents have shot; so those two things…I look for a fairly fast-paced game. They like to get up and down, even though they only average 64 points a game, but I think it's going to be a fast-paced game. They're a good team. [They have] a lot of guys - three or four guys - off a team that was a number five seed last year in the NCAA; so they're a good basketball team. Any time you can get a Missouri Valley team – any time you play a Missouri Valley team – in your own building it's going to be a good game; so we're looking forward to the challenge."

About the importance of playing in a post-season tournament: "Well, there are enough reasons why, but the first is it's post-season. When you look at the overall picture, the so-called mid-majors are out of the BCS conferences. Only one team out of our league went to the NCAA and the NIT and three of us went to either the CBI or the College Insider and seven Missouri Valley teams are in those tournaments. I think it's important. I think any kind of a post season is really important. With the current setup that we have going with the BCS schools dominating – getting most of the bids or dominating the invitations -- I think it's important to play in any type of post season no matter what it is. I think it's a great opportunity for the University of Idaho."

About how he found out about the invitation and how the team reacted: "For me, they called me at my house on my cell phone; so I was extremely excited, and our players have been really excited. A chance to continue the season, especially for the seniors…I know when I talked to Terrence Simmons and Trevor Morris they were fired up to continue to play because this might be one of the last games they play in. Our team is very excited and really ready to play, and for the state of our program, not being in post season for 19 years, they're excited about it."

About what he's been able to pickup about the Drake team in the short time he's had to prepare for them: "Well, I think they shoot the ball very well, and I think the key to the game is getting to their shooters. They've got some really good shooters in Josh Young, Jonathan Cox and Josh Barker. They're all very, very good shooters. I think maybe just that the late teams have been able to get to their shooters and limit their 3-point shots and held them down. Maybe that's the key to maybe why they've lost a few games, but they've lost a few games that were really close. They lost some overtime games, and you know they're a good team when you win at New Mexico. I think they won at Iowa State early in the year, they beat Iowa, they won at Southern Illinois. I mean, this is a good basketball team, and it's going to be a great challenge for us."

About Drake's fast start this season: "They did, and I don't know exactly all the dynamics of their team, but they play in the Missouri Valley which is a brutal conference. I mean, that's as good a conference as there is."

About any personal experience he has against Drake in his coaching history: "We played Drake when I was at Utah State two years ago in the Top Of the World Classic -- maybe now three seasons ago if you count this season -- when Dr. Tom Davis was the coach there. We actually beat them in the Top Of The World, but not any experience after that. And with Mark Phelps coaching them coming from Arizona State in his first year, I don't really have any experience with him."

About Idaho's run this year, going 10 years without any success, then having a great season this year, and the impact of finishing strong and taking third in the WAC: "Absolutely. I think it validates a great season. I know our guys feel good about all the hard work they've put in, and any time you come off a loss at La Tech, a game that we felt like maybe should have or could have or had a chance to win, then to continue to play - it's a good deal for our players and our program. We're looking forward to Wednesday night…that's for sure, and hopefully if we can get by Wednesday we get to play a little bit more. But obviously, first things first."

About the value of post-season play for the Idaho program at this stage of the rebuilding process: "We get a couple of extra practices, and I think any time you practice at this time of year and you're playing for something that a lot of teams here haven't played before, I think it's really good. Also we've got to experience the post season. From a staff standpoint of what you've got to do to get all your film work, to get your team ready quickly, and our players the same thing…getting ready for a new opponent, someone you knew absolutely nothing about two days ago; so I think it's a good experience for everybody – they players, coaches and for our administration and our fans. I think what we hope to build here is a long tradition of being in the post season, and I think it's just the start to that process and those things happening."

About pulling in some players who went home for Spring Break after the WAC Tournament: "Yeah. Marvin Jefferson was in LA, and Kashif Watson was in Oakland. Mac Hopson was in Portland. But we were able to get them back either Sunday night or Monday morning; so they were ready to come back. They're excited about coming back when they heard the news; so it worked out well."

About how the team reacted when they heard about the chance for the post-season: "When they found out they were ready and excited. I told them [after the WAC tournament] that we might, a slight possibility that we might - a really minute possibility - to get into the post season. So I said to be prepared if we do get a chance to play."

About the CIT and what it means for mid-major programs: "I think that's the reason why the tournament was set up. There are no BCS schools in there. I think they set ‘em up for the mid major guys. There are some really good teams in this tournament. Portland who we played earlier in the year and had a great start in the WCC. Pacific was third in the Big West, lost in the tournament final. Old Dominion has been a very good program for a long period of time. I know the coach. He used to be at Montana, Blaine Taylor. There are a number of really good schools, and a lot of them had 20-plus wins. There are some really good teams. I think it's a good tournament. There are some good solid mid-major programs in here, and it should be a good tournament."

About whether this is a team that really stands out as the team to beat: "Traditionally Old Dominion has been really good. You'd think they've got to be pretty good, And The Dogs have been in the NCAA in the last number of years; so they've obviously got some tradition. Austin Peay, we played them last year. Coach Loos has done a good job there for a number of years. And then Bradley is a Missouri Valley team who has Jim West as coach and is a good team. Kent State has been good. There are a lot of good teams and good programs in this thing; so we're looking forward to going out and seeing what we get done."

About the importance of this opportunity for the team: "I talked to the team about that, about ‘we need to feel really good about this' - the first time in 19 years. One of the things that the kids brought up when we were talking is they always talk about Coach Monson's team when Mac's dad played; so it's important. It's important to them, and I know it's important to our fans to have this opportunity. The team was excited about having the opportunity."

About whether this is a recruiting tool for the program he is building: "Absolutely. Post season helps you because…what are there, about 128 teams or 129 teams that are playing? Absolutely. There are, however, many more sitting out. There's what, 340 now…350 Division I teams? A lot of people aren't playing. Yeah. I think it's a huge recruiting tool for us. Also it validates that we're making progress in the program and we're going in the right direction. I think it helps tremendously."

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