Rick PitinoI talked with one of your former assistants today. He said he doesn't know of any coach who is better than you are at using the underdog mentality to his advantage. Do you agree with that? How are you using the underdog mentality to your advantage this week?
COACH PITINO: You know, I really haven't used it this week, to be honest. I have used it before in my life. I really haven't used it, mainly because I want my team to have confidence that they can play with Kentucky.
I think at this level, if you take the underdog mentality, then I think they feel they don't belong and it works against you.
I have used it, but in this case I haven't used it. I think it would work against us.
Can you speak to the intensity of Louisville/Kentucky, for those who don't know about it. Is there anything like it in college sports?
COACH PITINO: You know, at this stage, with the national championship at stake, it really started with the dream game, which was I think for the Elite 8, now it's the right to play for a championship. The magnitude is so much greater than a regular season game where everybody kids around says jokes.
It's both fun intensity and a lot of things that go with it. But it's so much more meaningful now because what's at stake. Certainly we hope we win a championship and bring it back to the state. If we can't bring it back, I hope they do.
COACH PITINO: He's done that since the UMass days when he spoke about us in '96 in Kentucky. He thinks the referees read the newspapers. He thinks the referees stay up at night and listen to Coach Cal's comments. They really don't.
I can play a tape back from Memphis when I was at Kentucky, pretty much the same thing as well. Pretty much the same operating procedure. You don't have to write it down because you heard it back in '96 (smiling).
When you get to this level, do the games change in terms of how important savvy play is versus how important the talent on your roster is?
COACH PITINO: I think you never know, when the ball is thrown up in the Final Four, who is going to handle and overcome the nervousness of playing in a Final Four and who's going to be totally focused in and not bothered by it. You never know.
There are some players I've coached in the past I thought would be really cool and calm, and they weren't, and others I thought wouldn't be were. You really can't tell by their demeanor before a game or how they act.
Early on in the game if guys make shots, their confidence rises, it just becomes a basketball game. When they don't make shots, they start to press. So you really never know.
You said you didn't want your team to have that underdog mentality because you want them to feel they belong at this level. What is it about your team that you want them to keep in mind about what their strengths are as they come into this game that will have them feeling like they belong?
COACH PITINO: Well, I think when we lost the four out of six games, you know, I always say, Look, I don't read it, I don't listen to it, but invariably people come up to you and say things. You can't even stop them and say, Look, I don't want to hear it.
Somebody said that we lost four out of six, we're going the wrong way, we're not going to go far in the tournament. If I'm hearing it secondhand, I know my players are hearing it.
We went into the tournament. I sort of told them, Look, guys, the last two losses were on me. I was the reason we lost. I held you guys back. We didn't press, we didn't run Syracuse, I didn't feel we could do it at that time, we're going to do it in the Big East tournament. Now your season's beginning.
There wasn't a whole lot of confidence on the basketball team going into Madison Square Garden. We had to build that. We did really play four terrific teams. Could have lost to Davidson, New Mexico, Michigan State or Florida. All four teams could flat-out play and were extremely well coached. We went through four tough games in the Garden.
We've cut the nets down twice and I don't want my guys to feel they're inferior. It's easy to feel inferior to Kentucky because they go on the draft board all the time. You see the one pick in the draft, two pick in the draft. You won't want that feeling going into it because you'll play like inferior players. We don't want that underdog mentality.
"I like it. I feel comfortable out there. It's a big place, but we will have fun tomorrow. It feels the same as a normal court. We started inside and worked our way out (shooting) in practice. We have some shooters on this team and we liked it."
On the rivalry with Kentucky and the meeting earlier this season when he got into foul trouble:
?"I got caught up in the moment, and I won't let it happen again. I need to just keep my cool. Hopefully, the results of last time won't happen again. It's a serious rivalry and people take it to heart."
On being recruited by both Kentucky and Louisville:
"I was very close to going to Kentucky. I'm happy I made the choice I did and here we are."
On Kentucky's defense:
"They are pretty tough. They have Anthony (Davis) down there and he blocks everything that comes through. They have a great point guard in Marquis Teague and then they have (Michael) Kidd-Gilchrist. Their defense is unbelievable."
On the hype surrounding the Final Four:
"I definitely feel more comfortable today. We all feel more comfortable. We have confidence."
On sophomore center Gorgui Dieng:
Chris SmithOn if the pressure is on Kentucky:
"They're probably a little tight right now. Us, we're having fun, relaxing, going through our normal routine, game-planning and focused on the task, and having fun at the same time."
On does it hurt that no one is picking you to win:
"It doesn't hurt at all. It actually feels good, because the underdog most of the time comes out on top."
On what are some of the keys to winning on Saturday:
"The backboard, keeping them out of transition and for us to get into transition. Our press is going to be the main key of the game."
On being outrebounded by quite a bit in the first game and how to turn that around:
"You turn it around by putting a body on somebody. You got to put your body on a man, drive him out of bounds, get a high outlet (pass) and run it."
Gorgui DiengOn what do you see in Kentucky's Anthony Davis:
"He's a great basketball player. He blocks a lot of shots and he converts on a lot of alley- oops."
On what were the things that you learned in becoming a great shot blocker:
"I was working on timing my jumps and my ability to get stronger. People are going to come challenge me so I can block the shot, so if I'm strong enough, I can take the heat and block the shot."
On understanding the significance of being a part of an epic battle in the paint on Saturday:
"I'm just trying to play for the defense. It's not like I'm a shot blocker. I couldn't care less if I break records. I care more about winning tomorrow and the next game on Monday. If I break a record, it doesn't mean a whole lot to me. I just want to do the little things to help this team."
Kyle KuricOn the differences of playing in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome compared to the Carrier Dome:
"You're in that one little corner of the Carrier Dome where one side looks pretty good. Here the court is in the center and you're all surrounded so it's a lot different."
On going into a game like this with Coach Pitino:
"He's been here before. He knows what to expect. He knows how to win here. It helps us do well through his confidence."
"It's going to be an up-and-down game. Kentucky likes to run and we like to run. It's going to be a very up-and-down game. We just have to do a good job of turning them over and hitting the glass. They killed us on the rebounds last game, and it's going to be that type of game. We just have to help our big men on the glass."
"We're both great defensive teams. Obviously, they're No. 1 in defensive field goal percentage. We're both going to try to play great defense and limit each other to easy buckets. We're out there playing hard, that's just how the game goes some times."