Q: What does it mean for you guys as seniors, if each of you could address this, being here, you guys have talked about it all year, through all you've been through getting to this point and what kind of leadership you felt you or the other guys have given to help get this team to this point, being seniors and knowing this is your last game?
Horner: I think this year after making it last year, the pressure is kind of off us. We kind of just went out and played this year, had a lot of fun out there and we knew that we had a team to get back to the NCAA tournament. It's the same team that's returning. Our leadership kind of stepped up because we knew what we had to do to get back there this year after we got back last year and winning a Big Ten Championship, I think it showed how much this team has grown the past few years and stuff like that. It also shows how we fought through more adversity this year. A lot of guys got injured and stuff like that and fought through it, and this team has just stepped up big time.
Hansen: It really feels like it's the end of our journey. This is the last chance we'll have to play together. It's our last couple of games and we're really going to cherish them, go out there and play as hard as we can, keep it going as long as possible. We don't want it to end yet. We're just going to really be battling through this.
Brunner: The best scenario that happened was kind of us losing last year. We got here and we didn't get what we wanted, it kind of put a fire underneath everybody and everybody realized that their dreams and aspirations to contend, wouldn't be satisfied by just getting to the tournament. The guys really worked extremely hard in the off-season. It helped us as seniors, we didn't have to do as much to motivate them to come in and practice. They had their own individual mindset that they wanted to get better, especially as seniors, they wanted to get better. It's your last go around, and you want to make sure you go out at the time. So far we've done well, we've accomplished what we wanted to, and now it's the last segment of our year.
Q: Talk a little bit, last year you came in and you guys talked about Cincinnati intimidated you a bit, you've got another team now that's quick and are going to do some similar things. How is this time going to be different?
Horner: Just the experience factor, it's kind of weird that we're playing a senior oriented team just like ourselves. They're experienced, they haven't been back here since 2001, I know they missed out on a chance last year losing in their championship. They're going to be hungry, and I know Coach Weir and our staff has said that this is what they've always wanted. They've been playing together for a long time, we've got to be ready for anything. They're a very athletic team, they like to press and get up and down, and if you look at Tom Davis' teams, you can compare them to that a little bit. They like to get up and down, very athletic team, they just run and gun. If we can handle Drake's press and obviously Northwestern State made it to the Big Dance, I'm sure they're a pretty good team.
Q: You mentioned athleticism about this team, that was kind of the Achilles heel in the loss to Cincinnati last year. How have you guys improved athletically form a year ago?
Horner: I don't know if we've really much improved athletically, but just learned how to play against athletic teams. Cincinnati last year had a lot of shot blockers and stuff like that, we'd go in and get our stuff swatted. It was kind of tough last year, I think Maxiell had 7 blocks or something like that. This year we're going in there and shot faking and pass faking and stuff like that. Just learning how to play against an athletic team like Northwestern State. If we can break their press and hopefully get some easy lay-ups, that would be huge for us too.
Q: You guys are going against a team that's gone into some tough buildings and won this year. Does that give you a little more respect for them, some of the places that they've been able to win this year?
Brunner: Just looking at their team, the caliber of player they have, that's enough for respect right there. Then to go on the road and win like they have, I think they're 25-7, shows that they have the ability to win games. Against a team who's got 25 wins, you can't underestimate what they can do. Being a senior oriented team, you know that they're going to fight, they're going to come out and play, not going to take any intimidation, they're going to be extremely motivated to play. Just knowing that, our guys are ready.
Q: You guys have talked about this a little bit, what is it when you think back 2 years ago, you're getting out at the Family Arena and lose on a last second shot in the NIT, it was a tough year, guys left the program, then last year all the stuff with Pierre, what is it about this group that's sort of gotten it through the last two years with sort of a long view that there was something at the end of the tunnel? How did you guys make it through that?
Horner: I think Coach has pretty much kept all of our heads up, nobody's ever given up. We definitely haven't given up on ourselves. We knew coming back next year that we would have a very good team, and even though we lost some seniors and stuff like that, it just seemed like the injury bug and everything else just kept hitting us, it was tough to handle. The way this team's persevered, it's been something else. A lot of teams would have just died down. You look at a lot of teams that went through injury bugs, a lot of guys sat out, they ended up going to the NIT or they ended up not even making postseason play. For us to make postseason play in the NIT then last year to do the NCAA Tournament and then this year to the NCAA Tournament, it's just a huge mark on how this team has never given up and persevered through a lot of difficult things.
Q: What has Coach Alford meant to you in your 4 years here, and how frustrating has this year been to see him have to go through rumor mills in the midst of what's been a great year for you guys?
Brunner: He's a great man. He's become a father figure to all of us. You sit down and talk to him, have a great relationship with him. We know we'll continue to have that relationship for a long time. We see the way he and Coach Knight still interact, and that's the way we want to maintain our relationship. It's hard to see what he's gone through but he's a very strong individual. He's been able to handle it, kind of brush it off. He never lets it affect us. Basically, he uses that to help motivate us and he uses all the stuff that's happened to create a good environment for his team and players. He's definitely a player's coach and in that same line, he understands what it takes to win. That's what it's all about.
Q: Erek, they're going to want to press in full court which is going to make it harder for you to establish yourself defensively if they're successful. How important is tempo for you guys, defensively, in allowing you to do what you do, which is block shots?
Hansen: I think tempo is very important for our team. We've got to keep lots of energy going, lots of movement. The games where we get stagnant, start standing still is whenever we get in trouble. If we keep their offense on their toes and keep forcing them to make hard passes and drive to the hoop with lots of defensive guys jumping in and helping in there, it really helps us. We're going to keep our tempo up as well, just in our own game.
Q: Greg and Jeff, can you talk a little bit about your health status?
Brunner: Fine. (Laughs) Just getting old, it'll be fine. No big deal. College basketball is what it's about. It's March Madness now, you don't feel anything.
Horner: Just a little bruised up, banged up. Doing alright though. Just a good thing we had a couple days off from game play. I think the coaches have done a good job of not making us really go live at these last couple of days, just to get our bodies back in shape and stuff like that. I think we're both pretty good.