Comments on the NCAA Tournament

Reece Gaines, Luke Whitehead and head coach Rick Pitino addressed the media and fans about the Cardinals NCAA Tournament seeding.

Reece Gaines:

On Austin Peay: "I don't know too much about Austin Peay, but I hear that they a fast up and down style. Right now I'm just excited that I have a chance to play in the tournament and I'm just looking forward to the opportunity."

On the emotion of being in the NCAA tournament: "There's definately a lot of emotion right now. It's exciting to finally get back and have a chance to play in the tournament and couple that with the conference tournament championship. Hopefully we can carry over the intensity and focus that we had to win the championship into the tournament."

Luke Whitehead:

On Austin Peay: "Just like Reece, I don't know to much about Austin Peay, but I just know that we are going to go out there and give it everything we got and just focus on what coach tells us and we're going to try to take this thing all the way."

Is being in this position something that you've dreamed of? "It's great because everybody grows up and wants to play in the big dance and now we're finally getting our chance. All the players on this team have worked tremedously hard and try to listen to coach and do everything that he wants us to do. He's been here a lot of times before so we're just going to listen to him and hopefully follow his blueprint all the way to the end."

Rick Pitino:

Comments on the tournament: "Well the only thing that we know about Austin Peay is that we were thinking about scheduling them next year and when we do that Scotty will research all of them and bring them back and he says, 'coach, they're going to have a hell of a basketball team next year, they got all their players back and they really compete.' So, we know a little bit about them from as far as future scheduling.

The seed was a little bit of a surprise, but it showed me, I was always go by the RPI because that's supposed to be the true gage, the unbiased gage, but when you look at a Brigham Young who was very high in the RPI and they got a 12 seed or you look at Florida who was a 15 [in the RPI], got a 2 seed, so you have to sort of throw it out. This committee is probably a little stronger than I've seen in how they were swayed and I also, very interesting to see that they would place Arizona and Kentucky in the semi-final game, according to the season, all though it doesn't mean it'll work out that way. There are a lot of things that you are curious about, but there's no exact science.

We are very excited. If you said to me at the beginning of the year that you could be a 4 seed and playing in the NCAA, I would have said that you people are really getting carried away, you're drinking to much, you don't understand what you are doing, so very, very excited and thrilled to be representing the city, representing our university.

Our players right now needed three games, we needed to win that tournament, because we were so out of whack a little bit, because of the turbulence in our practice. So we needed that, it's a great confidence booster and now we just need to focus in on practice. It's all about focus in the NCAA tournament. Our team, if we lack one thing, we don't lack heart and desire, we are very weak in focus area, so in the next three games we are going to have to get much better at that."

You talked about focus, what are some other things you can tell the guys about playing in the tournament? "I believe that you got to more of a risk taker. You got to run more, you got to press more, have some more fun, don't be afraid to foul and I think our players will do that. We have freshmen who are totally oblivious to pressure. We have seniors who are big time basketball players and we have so many middle guys who are rising to the occassion. You don't get nervous if you focus and that's the whole thing. Again, we're weak at that. We're weak at concentration and talking and communicating, that's our biggest weakness and what we hope is that by Thursday that will become a strength. In a four day period, if our guys are real serious about getting out of the first round, then they need to change their basketball personalities with their focus, because it's very poor."

In the last few years, two and sometimes three #1 seeds made it to the Final Four, do you think that will be the case this year? "I think that there is no question about that Kentucky and Arizona are the, right now, have probably the best 8 or 9 players in the country, they're playing the best basketball, I think Lute Olsen, just by his comments, didn't put a whole lot of significance in the conference tournament and I think Tubby [Smith] did, he wanted to win it and so did the players. That's an unbelievable and remarkable performance to win undefeated in conference and then turn around and win the conference tournament, so they're better than everybody, but the thing about the NCAA and why we have a shot, and I'll go back and keep using this, if we focus and we shoot the ball well and in the tournament you have to shoot it well, and so I've got a lot of confidence in our guys in that area and we'll see what happens. You don't know how you're going to shoot it any given night. Defense usually determines that.

The one thing that I always do when the brackets come out is I just focus on in the team you're playing. We're not the type of basketball that can do anything except focus all our energy on the people we're playing and that's what I got to get through to our guys. 4 seeds lose all the time, it happens, and if you don't focus in on Austin Peay they're going to beat you, I can assure you of that."

Closing comment: "One of the big things about NCAA basketball is having your people there. Make sure you get [to Birmingham] and have some fun on us."

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