COACH Tom Izzo: We can't wait two hours to get back when we get back at 3:00 in the morning. So really, it's all -- I'm not worried. If you hear it, let us know. I'm worried about winning a championship.
COACH IZZO: Well, you know what? For us, this was the battle cry of the seniors and since last April, really, since we lost to -- in this great city. And I think they worked for it. They deserved it. They earned it. They got it the old-fashioned way, and that's what I love about them.
So we still had some times when we struggled a little bit, making a few plays. But we got better than we did the night before and we're going to get better from here on out. I think we'll take some steps forward when we get home and get a little time to relook at those last ten minutes of games. We'll get better.
But they all came through. We utilized a lot of guys. It was the ultimate team win.
Q. Tom, last year after you guys lost to Wisconsin, one of the things you were most disappointed about is you wanted that group to have something and you didn't know if they were going to get that opportunity again with the Final Four. With this group -- and, obviously, they've got bigger goals still for them but to have this, have something, what does that mean to you?
COACH IZZO: Really, when we were in Anaheim, you know, winning a championship, we felt like we had to win a preseason championship. There's just something different about playing in the final game and winning the championship. And, whether it's at a smaller level, which is was then, a bigger level, which it is now, or the biggest level, which is down the road, I think you have to learn how to do that and realize that it just gets tougher as you go.
And you know, I'm really happy for Denzel and Matt. And they've been here four years. This meant a lot to them. Denzel, that's all he talks about. He's kind of like me. He's kind of anal in that area that he just wants to win a championship. I think in Denzel's case, with his dad being here and playing here, I just think he looks as this as I'm helping my dad live through me. And what a cool thing that is.
And Matt and Bryn and Colby. Colby has been to four out of five finals. Think about that. So when he's operating on somebody someday, he's going to have a hell of a story to tell.
Q. Tom, two parts. You've coached a lot of great players, but I know there may be some as good as Denzel but nobody better. What does it mean off the court the kind of young man he is?
COACH IZZO: Well, with Denzel it means he's got incredible parents, to be honest with you, that have been supportive and helpful and demanding. But he's -- you know, he's going to make his mistakes, like I made mine. But he has values, you know. He understands right from wrong. If he makes a mistake. I'm getting tests for two days. I tell him I hate reading those things, so don't send them. But he's just one of those kind of guys and he works -- I don't know if he's the best player I've had. I know he's the most versatile player I've had. As Bryn said, he's a multidimensional human being. The leadership he did all summer was incredible him and Tum. Every time I'd come back from recruiting trip, they're going to a movie, going here.
It sounds so kind of goofy in a way. But it matters on championship teams. There's a special bond with people that win championships. And that bond now gets cemented. And it will grow.
Q. If I had told you early in the season that you'd go through a three-game stretch where Bryn was not scoring well but staying on the court because of his defense, you would have thought I was high. But the fact that he's getting there and getting better, would you talk about that dimension it adds to this team?
COACH IZZO: Honestly, I would have thought a lot worse than that. I am proud of Bryn. Because he was a guy that had to buy-in. And he got some rebounds today, one. He had a tip-out. And he defended very well. And he was not able to do that early, and he didn't get frustrated today. I thought the other night he did. He missed some good shots again.
You know? And everyone one of us, including me, said keep shooting it. Because I thought the shots he missed were half in and out. They weren't bricks. It speaks -- but guys changing -- Eron Harris, guys changing, guys buying in to doing what they've got to do to make sure that the team is put ahead of the individual. This day and age that doesn't happen a lot.
Q. Tom, what have you learned about your team this weekend that helps or hurts the cause?
COACH IZZO: Well, what hurts a little bit we're still not very solid down the stretch. You know, last 10 minutes of games. What helps is we're not very solid, and we get a chance to work on it.
You know? When you play the number of games we played and win by what we won. Not because we're so great, just scheduling and this and that, I think it speaks volumes that we'll get a chance to rally work on it now. And we'll have their attention. But we did execute some good things down the stretch, too, and made big-time plays that I think are going to really help us as we move forward in this tournament.
Q. The development that Bryn Forbes made, did that surprise you? Did you see that coming? Has that exceeded your expectations?
COACH IZZO: Yeah, it has. It really has. And it helped because Zel and Carlton Valentine, his dad, coached him. Kept telling me Bryn Forbes is maybe the greatest pleaser I've ever had. That kid came in this morning early. "Coach, can I watch film with you?" He always wants to learn. He, too, is a very good student and an incredible kid.
So, man, I think he's got some basketball ahead of him. He's getting better. This was a good sign that he struggled and kept playing. Not that I kept playing him. He kept playing. That was a good sign for him for now, for the immediate feature, and for the long-term future.
Q. Tom, can you comment on the play of Ellis in this tournament?
COACH IZZO: You know, when I look at this stat sheet and I see -- again, we played 11 guys and 10 of them scored and Ellis made a couple big shots and made a great sweeping layup. But what Alvin has done is he's been a lot better defensively. And he's strong enough and big enough that I can play him and switch off on people. And so it's great to see a guy who struggled for two years, hung with it. We almost didn't hang with him. And he bounced back, and he's making a contribution. And, again, he deserves the credit because he made a commitment this year. And, because of that, I think he's playing better.
So we had a lot of guys that are playing good. We got to get a couple more playing great. And we got to get a little more solid down the stretch.
But heck of a championship. Big Ten is so good. And Purdue, we didn't even talk about them. Very well-coached. Very good team. Hard team to defend. I look at this tournament, and I think what Jim Delany had in mind when we -- when he invented this, was give yourself a chance to prepare yourself for the NCAA Tournament.
We played an Ohio State team -- big guards, a lot of athletes. We played a Maryland team -- big guys who could step out and shoot and maybe one of the better point guards in the country. And we might have played the biggest team in captivity today. And tough, tough, toughness. As I said, Gene and Jed would have been proud today. But we played three different teams in three days. And I think that will benefit us. I think it will benefit Purdue and Maryland and all the other teams that make it into the tournament. So I hope the Big Ten has a lot of representatives. Looking forward to it.