THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student athletes.
Q. C.J. and Rakeem, last time you played Marquette they did a good job of getting the ball inside and Davante Gardner had a big night. What will be different this time with the way you guard them?
C.J. Fair: Yeah, their bigs got a lot of second chance points, so we are going to do a good job of packing it in a little bit and making our job a little harder like yesterday against Cody Zeller, so the main thing is keeping him off the offensive glass, and I think we can limit him.
Rakeem Christmas: We're going to not give them second chance rebounds and try to get the keep the ball from getting down there.
Q. I understand you're close with James, and I was wondering if you could share with us a little when he missed those six games was there a moment where you could tell it was eating at him or where you got the sense that it was painful for him?
RAKEEM CHRISTMAS: He just told me to go out there and have fun and he came back. We're just happy to have him back basically.
Q. James, what's it like to play zone and where do you suppose more teams don't play zone?
James Southerland: I feel like other teams don't have the length we have, especially in our guards and forwards. It feels good, we have been doing it for four years now and it's great to have a bunch of guys who work together and work very hard. It's got us really far and it never failed us.
Q. Mike, it's been talked about a lot, but how have you been able to compartmentalize your thoughts this week, based on everything that's happened with your family?
MICHAEL CATER WILLIAMS: You know, I think when I'm on the court or when I'm in practice, you know, all my focus is on my teammates and the team and, you know, outside of basketball I think I can just be there for my family as much as I can, but when it comes time for basketball, everything else is kind of irrelevant.
I'm just focused on the team.
Q. James, I want to ask about the zone. When you play on the street you don't play zone you play man to man, you grow up guarding a man. When you get to college how long does it take mentally for this to kick in, this is how I'm going to play, it's not the way I played out on the cul de sac.
JAMES SOUTHERLAND: We all grew up playing man to man especially AAU and high school, most of us. I feel like it takes a it takes practice, just takes a while, like two months, if that. After playing it for a couple of years, we have a bunch of guys, Mike, Brandon, C.J. and I have been playing it for a custom years together and it makes a bigger difference.
Q. Brandon and Mike, two Big East teams here in the Elite Eight so definitely one Big East team to the Final Four. Just your thoughts on what that says about the league and is it appropriate that that's happening this year when Syracuse is leaving to go to the ACC next year?
Brandon Triche: I believe so. I think the Big East one of the toughest leagues. Obviously, one of the reasons why I chose the Big East because you're going to play against strong competition, it's going to be a battle each and every game.
For one of the Big East teams to make it to the Final Four is incredible. Hopefully it will be us.
MICHAEL CATER WILLIAMS: I think, like Brandon said, the Big East is a tough conference. It's special that at least one team is going to the Final Four, and the Big East has been tough all year. Going against Marquette is going to be tough, but we've seen them before, so it should be good.
Q. Brandon, can you take us into the subtleties of what a team has to do when you reintegrate a player like James. You have him, you lose him, you get him back subtlety. What happens when you reintegrate him?
BRANDON TRICHE: You just adjust. We are a team that adjusted all year, when James went out Jeremy played a whole lot of minutes and we got used to Jeremy playing and James back Jeremy's minutes declined, and it takes a while, some time to get used to but basketball in general is about adjusting to whatever is thrown at you, and that's what we did.
Q. You guys were in this spot playing in the Elite Eight. How much does that experience help you this season?
C.J. FAIR: Yeah, I think so. We was at this stage last year, and we didn't make it to the Final Four, we know how it feels to get so close and come up short, so we got another chance this year to have a different outcome.
I think we are going to do whatever we can do to get to the Final Four.
Q. Brandon, last night when you were in here, you told us you hadn't checked your phone yet. Have you heard since then from your uncle and what did he have to say and what was that like, if you have?
BRANDON TRICHE: He just said congrats on the win and keep it going. He didn't say anything about Indiana.
COACH BOEHEIM: That's a lot of conversation for those two device, that's like about three weeks.
THE MODERATOR: Any other questions for the student athletes? All right you guys are dismissed. Thank you. Questions for Coach Jim Boeheim now?
Q. I know you've talked endlessly about the Big East and the end of the Big East here, but as you move into this game with two Big East teams, your thoughts on the two being in the Elite Eight and given the end of the league this year how special or what would it mean if you or a Big East team were to get to a Final Four?
COACH BOEHEIM: We're going to get to the Final Four, I think we'll get two teams to the Final Four this year. Our league has been good. It's been good all year. You never know what's going to happen in the NCAA Tournament, how things work.
Some years it really doesn't prove you've got the best league, it just means you played the best during this couple week period, but the Big East has been very good this year. It's a good league, always been a good league. It's remarkable that you could start a league and it could be good right away, like the Big East was. We had the right schools, the right players came in early with Patrick and Chris and Pearl and Walt, all those guys came in right away. The coaches were there right away. Dave Gavitt saw it, none of us saw it, we weren't that smart. He was right, and it's been an unbelievable 34 years, history of the league, over that 34 year period it's been as good as any league. You can easily make that argument.
It's sad the way it was almost inevitable that the football schools would need to get with football schools, and I think it will work for the basketball schools now that they're going to get together, and they will have a really good basketball league. I think that's for the best. I think it will work out, and we have a great challenge going to what will be a tremendous basketball league.
Q. Can you talk about the job that Buzz has done over the last two, three, four years to get his program to this point?
COACH BOEHEIM: Well, he's a tremendous basketball coach. He's done a tremendous job. They have a very good team. You're talking about I just look at the players on the team, I don't look at the hype. They have very good players. They're very good defensively. They can score inside, they can score outside. They handle the ball, they don't make mistakes. They're a tremendous defensive team. That's what you look at as a coach, you don't look at how many High School All Americans, they had, whatever, half of the ^High School All Americans aren't any good. People don't realize that but half of those never play well in college, let alone past that. So that's nonsense, it's how good are their players. Their players are very good, and he's done a tremendous job with those players.
Q. Jim, when James came back after that St. John's game you talked about how difficult it is for a player to miss games, particularly a senior. I was wondering if you could share that and his season has been extended now because of what this team is doing, your feelings about that?
COACH BOEHEIM: Obviously we're happy and you can keep playing this time of year you're going to be happy, there is no question about that. As far as James, I think we all forget how important a game is for these players. As we get older we lose sight of that, or just playing 5 minutes, how important that is to a player. When you take away a game or two, or whatever, it's important it's huge, you know? I remember when I didn't get into a game when I thought I should have got into a game for two minutes, when I was a sophomore, it's crushing. It's crushing. We sometimes forget as we get older how important it is and what you lose, and as far as our team goes, Jerami played above any hopes that we had for him, and we went 4 2, beat Louisville, we beat Cincinnati, we beat Villanova and we should have beat Villanova the second time, we should have been 5 1, and I'm not sure we would have been 5 1 if James had ever gone out, but he came back. The funny thing is he played pretty well when he came back but we didn't look noticeably better. Then we had that losing streak with him in the lineup, and he played pretty well. It wasn't him not playing well. We didn't shoot well.
I'm not sure that this is true, but it's possible that the disruption and the getting him back, you know, maybe that had some affect on us, I don't know. You know, the problem with these things, it's not a lab experiment, we don't have a control, we just have what we have, so we really can't say. It's possible that we're now playing, say, starting the Big East Tournament and now, we would have played better if he had never gone out. We may not have had that. But I'm not sure of that.
Q. After the loss to Marquette and where Davante had the big game, Buzz said da haven't tea understands where the gaps in the zone are. If you are review of the game can you figure out how he was able to figure that out and how you adjust for that?
COACH BOEHEIM: First of all, you got a lot of offensive rebounds, that's not a gap in the zone. We got to do a better job there. We played them in Syracuse the year before and I don't recall him having a big game. He's a good player, and he got a lot of offensive rebounds, they found him in the lane, and he made good plays. To me he's a very good player down there, and we obviously have to do better with him, for sure.
The good thing is, from playing that game is that we know that. We have to keep 'em off the foul line, we have to rebound better. We did a good job on their perimeter people, at Marquette, that's why we had the lead. We played well on offense at Marquette. It's a difficult place to play, and they played well and they didn't lose any games at home, so that's okay.
They're playing well, they're playing at a high level, I think they're playing better now, I think we're playing better. Should be a great game.
Q. What effect does it have on a tournament game when two teams have played each other in the regular season and beyond that your conference rivals, so there is a commonality, a history, you've played each other not just this year but maybe the year before and the year before that.
COACH BOEHEIM: They know us, that's a fact, they know how to play against us, they're used to that, and we understand them, what they do. So I think that's all that's part of playing somebody that you know. They're going to understand what to do and hopefully we will understand what we need to do as well.
Q. Late in the season I think it was after the DePaul win, you talked about how your big guys weren't where they needed to be at that stage of the season what's changed?
COACH BOEHEIM: I would say they're pretty much in the same place. I haven't seen much change. I think they have been pretty good defensively all year, I think Baye has picked up a little bit, gotten to some spots but it shouldn't be hard to score when nobody is guarding you, but I guess it is.
Q. Piggy backing off what Mike said, because and you Marquette know each other so well, does the advantage have to come on nights like last night where your staff is out scouting them, Buzz is out scouting you guys during your game and trying to find that one thing that has changed between two teams since you played each other last?
COACH BOEHEIM: I don't see the biggest change is they're making more shots now and you don't have to scout very much to see that. You don't have to scout at all, you just look at the stat sheet. I'm not a big proponent of scouting, film work, I probably watch less film than anybody in the country. We know what we need to do, it's always everybody in this business knows what they need to do. It's a question of if you can execute it in the game. Indiana knew exactly what to do Tom Crean has coached against me, he's seen our defense, he knows they knew what to do, it's a question if they can do it.
That's what basketball is all about. We all know the answers. You guys know the answers. Probably better than we do, in your minds, but it's whether you can get your players I always laugh at football coaches they know every play, every position, every move that these other guys are going to make because they watch 36,000 hours of tape. Their players have no clue what they're talking about. If they can get some of the players to get some understanding of I always say if the football player can do 1/10th of what those coaches know, they would be geniuses, because you can't. It's not what the coaches know or what you know, it's what the players know and how they execute, and sometimes it looks like we didn't coach 'em at all, you know, but we do. We do try. We do coach 'em.
Q. What has been your personal guiding philosophy with the zone defense that's made it such a characteristic part of your team for over the years?
COACH BOEHEIM: Well, number one, it's like anything you do. I learned this a long time ago. You have to believe in what you do. You have to believe in what you do. You have to believe what you're doing is right and good. It really helps in coaching to have a massive ego, which I don't have, I wish I did sometimes, but I don't.
The coaches that have those egos, they think they know everything and everything they do is right and they never second guess themselves, no matter what. They're the best in some ways, the best coaches. You have to believe in what you do, and we work on it hard. We've gotten better. You have to get better in this game. I've learned a lot over the years about what we're doing and what we can do better. My assistant coaches have put in a couple of drills, Gerry and Adrian and Mike the last year or two that we didn't use that much before that have helped us. I had nothing to do with that, they did it. That's been very helpful.
You have to believe in what you're doing and stick with it, and, you know, I think every coach has a philosophy, and you have to stick with what you do, and within that philosophy you have to be flexible. You have to be able to make a little change or do something a little differently. I think that's what separates not really just coaches but anybody in what they do. You can't be just rigid. Anybody can do that. Anybody can read a book and do this, these ten steps. It's being flexible within that, what you do, and that's why you become, hopefully, better at what you do, the longer you do it.
You lose some of that early enthusiasm you might have, but you hopefully gain knowledge that you do things better than you did. But you have to believe in it. We believe in what we do. One thing that's helped me is when we played both defenses I used to second guess myself. It's bad enough when 30,000 people are second guessing you, when you start second guessing yourself, you're really in trouble. When we went to just playing zone, at least I don't second guess myself anymore.
Q. What year did you go with that?
COACH BOEHEIM: We've been really it's been I think since we lost to Le Moyne. I figured out, we can't beat this team playing man to man we better forget about playing man to man because they lost 10, 11 games in Division II that year. Wasn't like they went undefeated in Division II, so I think that might have been the best thing that ever happened to me, because I stopped fooling around and we got more into practicing the zone more and by eliminating and spending an hour a day on the man to man we spent an extra hour or so we still spend time on the man to man but we spend more time on the zone. That might have been a key.
Q. You guys show that it works so well. Why do you suppose more teams don't use it?
COACH BOEHEIM: Because you have to commit to it and most coaches have played man to man and that's what they commit to, that's what they do. That would be a major, major philosophical position. For some coaches they have switched, Buzz played zone now, John Thompson, played zone, Jamie Dixon played zone, Indiana played zone, so those coaches are playing zone, but you can't practice enough on both. The only team that's ever been good at both was John Thompson, Senior, "Big John" whatever, "Old John" now, because he practiced five hours a day defense, but you can't do that anymore. We don't know that they don't, because the doors are locked, but he practiced exclusively defense, I'm sure he would tell you that if he was here and they were the best defensive team ever, because most teams when they change defenses their second defense is no where near as good. When they changed it got just as good. And they changed between pressing, 2/3 zone, 1/3/1 zone, and man to man. So they played four defenses. Rick does as good of job as any changing defenses, they play good at changing man to man and pressure. It's hard to do that. More teams are playing zone and it's been effective, beat us a couple of games this year.
Q. You mentioned earlier about needing to keep Davante Gardner off the line. Obviously that's something Marquette tries to do is go in there and get those fouls. How do you keep somebody off the free throw line.
COACH BOEHEIM: I said we have to do a better job on the boards because a lot of fouls come off second chance rebounds. That's where you usually foul people. Not let 'em get the ball, whether it's off the boards or just in their offense, and not letting them get the ball where he really wants to get it. We need to do a better job of that.
Q. Do you think a young coach could sell himself to an AD by saying, hey, I'm going to come in and we're going to run 38 minutes of zone defense or is that so out of the ordinary that it wouldn't work?
COACH BOEHEIM: I don't think that would work. Nobody does it. If a young coach was at a school, whatever school playing zone, and it was successful there, then he could do that. But there aren't many of those I don't see any of those guys out there right now. I don't see them.
Q. If you look at the arc of your tenure and even before you in the program, this is 9 Elite Eights now and if you get to the next level. They have been spread out, you haven't gotten fat in a stretch of five or six years. Other than this time we're with the back to back. Do you have a reflection of the ebb and flow of it over the years?
COACH BOEHEIM: Our fans think we should have been there more, I'm sure. But it's hard to get here, that's all I can tell you. There has been a couple of teams that we thought could have gotten here that didn't and we had a couple of teams that we thought wouldn't get here and they have. It's much more difficult now in today's world to get to this point. The balance is so much better. Long time ago your first game you knew you were going to win, if you were a high seed you were going to win really you thought you could win your first two, then you're going to have a difficult time. But now they're all difficult. Davidson was one hold of the ball away from beating Marquette, just hold the ball, probably win the game. That's how crazy it is.
Q. One of your players earlier, talk about the kids growing up playing "man," how big of a sell job is that?
COACH BOEHEIM: First off, they don't play defense on the playground or AAU so you have two things there that don't count. They don't play defense in any of those venues.
We work on our man to man and work on our offense every day, so we work on our man to man defense in time, but we do more zone than we used to. We didn't used to play any zone hardly in practice, 10 minutes. Now we play more and do some drills.
They like the zone, they're good at it, they have worked at it, they understand it, it takes a little while. They know it's a weapon for us, so they're fine with it. Derrick Coleman used to argue with me a lot of the time but he's gone. He argued with a lot of people. But he always did it, and he was good at it.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you and good luck tomorrow.