LOUISVILLE, Kent. -- Maryland takes on Kansas March 24 at 9:40 p.m. Head coach Mark Turgeon addressed the media on the eve of the matchup:
COACH TURGEON: Thank you. Obviously, we're excited to be here. It's been a crazy week for us. Flew home Monday and came in here this morning. But we're super excited to be a part of the Sweet 16 and playing the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, Kansas, tomorrow night.
So should be a lot of fun and get back on the East Coast to play, which will be fun. We're excited. Guys are fired up, ready to play.
Q. Mark, can you kind of summarize what Rasheed Sulaimon has been to this team from a leadership perspective, especially in the postseason?
COACH TURGEON: Well, his leadership's been great all year. With his personality, he didn't really wait to start leading. He started doing it right away and our team needed it.
Really vocal early leadership-wise. As the season went on, became a much better practice player and led that way also. But obviously he has a little bit of experience in this tournament. His freshman year, I think they went to the Elite Eight at Duke. He has a feel for it. He's been good. Guys respect him.
Obviously, he was tremendous on Sunday night when we made our run. He was great defensively, made some nice plays offensively. He's been terrific. He's been everything and more than I was expecting and so I'm happy for him.
Q. Coach, talk about what you think of Louisville as a host city and your overall thoughts on the city.
COACH TURGEON: Well, we just landed so I've seen the hotel and a bus. But, no, it's a basketball town, so we're excited about that. I love the location of the Yum! Center and all the hotels down here. It will be great for the fans. I think a lot of people will be able to just walk to the games, which should be a lot of fun.
Q. Mark, can you talk about the other night, when you had that run in the second half. As a coach, do you want to see -- I mean, do you see more of that happening in a game like this because of the way Kansas plays? And, also, does your team sometimes play up and down to the level of competition so in the case of Kansas, it could be a good thing that they play up to the competition?
COACH TURGEON: How can you ask me that question? We've been together all year. You know we've done that all year. I'm just glad we had that run. We were really tight and finally we broke loose. Our defense got us going.
So I just think this time of year, everybody's dialed in and ready to play. I expect Kansas to play well and expect us to play well. Should be a great game. But our guys will be -- they're fired up because they have a lot of respect for Kansas and they're the best team in the tournament. That gets our attention.
Q. Mark I noticed the other day you mentioned you'd hate to have to play Kansas. The reason is obvious, of course. I wonder if you could elaborate a little bit on what it's like to play KU. If you can answer this afterwards, compare '85 and 2015 as World Series events.
COACH TURGEON: That's a lot of questions. Okay. First of all, the Kansas thing is not that weird to me anymore or unique. It was a little bit that way the first time we played. Being at Texas A&M, we played them a lot. You get used to it.
I'd rather play them in a national championship game than a Sweet 16 game, but here we are so we'll play it. It is what it is. As Bill can tell you when he plays Oklahoma State, which he's done a lot, it's probably not unique or weird to him anymore. He just does it. Kind of the way I feel about this game.
As far as the World Series go, I grew up just a die-hard Royals fan, Chiefs fan, Kansas fan. But I was lucky enough to be in the '85 building when they won it, Game 7. It was a blow-out.
That was fun. This year, I've kind of brain washed my kids into being die-hard Royals fans, and so we got to be there at Game 5 in New York, which was -- I took my two boys. It was a lot of fun.
By the end of the game, we were on the dugout, basically. We were in the front row of the dugout because Mets fans started to leave. So it was a special night. It was -- to do that with my two boys and watch the Royals. I literally can't go to bed at night until I get a Royals score unless they're playing on the West Coast. Then it gets hard. But it's something I follow pretty closely.
Q. Mark, can you just take us through your recruiting battle to get to Kansas out of high school for you?
COACH TURGEON: My recruiting battle?
Q. Yeah, recruiting battle for Mark Turgeon services?
COACH TURGEON: I was down on my knees begging Coach Brown to take me. That's what it came down to. Or my dad was doing that. I got very lucky. There was a coaching change. The coach happened to be 5'11", like me. And thank God they had 15 scholarships back then. Now we only have 13 so I probably wouldn't have been on the team.
It all worked out, and it was a one-year deal. It's like, hey, you got one shot. If you don't -- doesn't work out, you won't be here next year. So it worked out. And I talked to Coach Brown this week, and I just -- changed my life, obviously, for the better.
So I was very fortunate and played on a lot of great teams, too, so it was a lot of fun.
Q. (Off microphone)?
COACH TURGEON: Ted started. I recruited KU, went to their camps, go to their games. Yeah, I recruited them. So in the end, my high school coach, Coach Meseke, really helped set up a meeting and I was pretty confident at that age, to say the least, when I met with Coach Brown.
Q. That's one leap of faith. What about the other one when Jim Shouse called you and wanted to hire you after only two seasons at Jacksonville State and bring you to Wichita State? What were those years like for you as a coach?
COACH TURGEON: Well, I had a losing record at Jacksonville State. My second year, we won. I just remember waking up that morning in Jacksonville and I had one more player to get. I said oh, by the way, I've got a phone interview with Jim Shouse from Wichita State today. I have no shot, but I'm going to talk to him about 9:00. By 10:00, I think I had the job. We were on the phone for about an hour. Then went over to Atlanta. So Jim was great. Worked out great for me.
I was able to go home. We love being in Wichita. We had KU fans, we had Wichita State fans. We became friends with K-State fans while we were there. It was a big part of my life. Two of my kids were born in Wichita.
I'm really proud of what we did at Wichita and I'm even more proud what Greg's done with it. Don't go to sleep at night unless I get a Wichita State score. Obviously was following them closely last week.
But really proud of that program, what Jim and I were able to do, Don Beggs, to build that thing up and be a part of a Sweet 16 ten years ago. When I took the job, if someone was walking in the office, someone couldn't be going out of it, it was that narrow. So the facilities weren't great and we put a lot into it.
I couldn't show recruits the locker room on the visit. There was too many cockroaches down there. So that thing's come a long way and playing a Final Four and win 28, 30 games every year is amazing.
Q. Coach, you had said to your team before Saturday night's game, we're going to have a game where shots are not going to fall. So you experienced that. What were some of the things your players were saying to you in the huddles during the timeouts when they were going through that rocky patch in that game, and how do you think that helped them and helped prepare them for tomorrow?
COACH TURGEON: Well, I'm glad I said that to them. But that's the way we've played all year. We've been a little inconsistent. And during the timeouts, we just kept talking about our defense, because our defense was terrific. That was a hard matchup for us. They had a lot of little guards, guys that we had to chase.
Our guys were just terrific. And then I told a really bad Larry Brown joke about the 12-minute time-out. I think the score was tied. It really loosened us up.
Q. What was it?
COACH TURGEON: I can't say, but Coach Brown knows. I told him about it. And our guys know. And can't be repeated. We just relaxed. It was amazing. But I was desperate. I was like -- I felt like we were clearly better than Hawaii. We just had to relax and play, and we finally did and went on a 14-0 run. It was just trying to get the guys to loosen up a little bit.
Q. Saw you talking to Bob Davis during practice time. What's your relationship with him like?
COACH TURGEON: Really not a big fan of Bob's, to be honest with you (laughter). No, I tell you what. It goes -- time goes fast. I grew up with Max Falkenstien, first of all. My dad used to play golf with him. Max taught me a few curse words I never knew before, you know, back in the day.
But it is amazing how quickly it's gone. I think Bob was there my sophomore year was his first year at Kansas. Then I hear he's retiring. It goes way too fast. I watched his son, Steven, grow up and be a part of all of it.
So happy for him. He can go out on his terms. He's been great. He's been lucky. He's got to call a lot of victories. Final Fours, national championships. He's had a nice run. We had a great relationship. I'm happy for him and he's had a great career.
Q. Can you talk about Melo a little bit? How much does he have to do with you guys getting to the Sweet 16 and talk about his development. You talk about your team having inconsistent shots. He's had some of those. But as a point guard, which you know well, could you talk about his point guard development?
COACH TURGEON: The only thing I can say about Melo, he's a winner. The year before we got him, we were 17-15. I think we're 55-15 since. He's a pretty good player. He's gotten better at his point guard play. His assists are up, his turnovers are down, his decision making is better.
Defensively, he's come a long way for us in the last year. He just hasn't shot the ball like he did his freshman year. He really shot it well and was very relaxed. A lot more pressure on him this year.
But he's a tremendous player. Knows how to score in a variety of different ways. So just try not to put too much on him. Try to get him to relax and trust his teammates a little bit more and run the system.
So he's got a good feel for it.
Q. (Off microphone)?
COACH TURGEON: No, just Preseason Player of the Year. We had a lot of expectations. It was all new for us in Maryland this year when we had it ten, twelve years ago. But it was new. He's had a terrific year. Second Team All-League. Had 24 and I think 19 in the two games out in Spokane. So he's had a terrific year.
Q. Mark, last year there were Duke and Kentucky in the Final Four with freshmen-dominated teams. This regional is very heavy on experience. Did you see what happened last year as an anomaly? What is the benefit of experience in this tournament?
COACH TURGEON: Experience is huge. And I love that there's seniors doing what they're doing this year. Sulaimon for us, Jake Layman decided to come back, he's had a great year, Perry Ellis, the year he's having for Kansas in our game. So it's great. Hopefully, it will keep kids around, help them make good decisions and make college basketball better.
Was last year an anomaly? Could be. Next year, Kentucky and Duke and Michigan State are putting together some really good young recruiting classes. They could probably do some great things next year.
But I think it's great for college basketball that there are a lot of upperclassmen doing well, and it's more about them this year than it is about the freshmen. I think it's great for our game.
Q. Coach, what do you like about your inside game and how well you think it compares to Kansas' game?
COACH TURGEON: I have good bigs. They continue to get better. Diamond Stone and Robert Carter have gotten better defensively as the year's gone on. They'll be challenged tomorrow night, obviously. Damonte Dodd, a young man we have a lot of confidence in. Great defender, smart defender, good ball screen defender. We have to be great in ball screen defense tomorrow night. All three of those guys are good. Ceko hasn't played a lot, but he might see some time tomorrow night too. Gives us some more depth.
Worry about Kansas speed. They're big guys, a little bit faster than ours, and I worry a little bit about their speed. So we've worked on some things to try to prepare our guys. We have good bigs. They have good bigs. Should be a great matchup.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thanks for your time. Good luck.