We had a nice win at Louisville. I think that helps our confidence. We have a mid-day break in the schedule here so we have a week before we play.
We need to take advantage of this week in a really smart way, but we'll be looking forward to playing Virginia Tech on Saturday.
Coach, what have you seen from Anthony Barber recently in the last four games, especially offensively?
He's developing as a player and as a point guard. He's gaining confidence. He's shot the ball extremely better than he has earlier and even through last year.
I thought at Louisville the other day he was terrific. He handled the pressure, he attacked, he had poise, he made great passes... defensively he really good.
A lot of times we forget that when guys are young they still have a lot to learn. He's learning, he's improving, and he's getting better. I think here midway through his sophomore year he's taken one big step forward.
Hopefully that's something he'll continue to do, and hopefully we can continue to help him improve.
Against Virginia the second time around, Notre Dame in overtime, North Carolina.. all those losses were by four points or less. What's that say about where this team is at that even against some of best teams in the conference you're hanging right with them to the end?
I told our team even after the Virginia loss that we're not far off, we're close. We don't need to reinvent who we are. All we need to do is get a little bit better in a number of different things... whether it's defensively, our offensive execution, block-outs, rebounding, turnovers.
We're just a team that's not that far off from being competitive with anybody in the country. We've proven that.
Sometimes with our team we've just been all over the board. We've been really good, we've struggled some, we've had close games we didn't finish, and we've had some close games we did finish.
I think the message is we're not far off. We have to keep getting better and improve. That's what we're trying to do.
These days every game seems like a referendum on NCAA Tournament status. Does that detract from the season or is it the reality of college basketball in 2015?
I think that's a great question. I think it's the reality.
It's the greatest show on earth. I talk to my team about it all the time.
I could put five of the worst players I've ever had on the floor, and I still somehow want to get in the NCAA Tournament. It doesn't matter. That's where we are. That's how I feel about it.
I do think game-by-game there's a lot of over-reaction. If you win one, everybody thinks you're automatically in the tournament, and if you lose one you're automatically out of the tournament. I think that's the nature of fans and people that get excited.
It's the reality of the world we live in. We want to get there every single year, no matter what.
You've got to not pay attention to the daily discussion sometimes because it's a long season and a lot happens throughout the season, good and bad.
You just have to wait and see what happens.
Is that the approach you've always had with your teams or has that changed with your recent experiences?
Not really. My goal is to win a national championship, and you're not going to have a chance to win it unless you're in the tournament.
It's hard to do, it's not an easy thing to do... to be a team that can play in the tournament every single year.
That's our goal and what we're trying to do so for me that does become the carrot dangling in front of your team... not only getting in the tournament but hopefully getting a good seed in the tournament where you have a better opportunity. I think all those things are important.
I'm not afraid to talk about it. Some guys don't want to because it raises the expectation for your team. I think that's cowardly, and I've always felt that way. I want to talk about it, and I want our kids to believe that they are good enough to go, even in a year where we're not picked very high. I still want that for our team.
It's just the way I've approached it with my teams.
As you look at Virginia Tech, some have struggled a little bit with the small lineup. How do you view that matchup?
It's going to be difficult for us because we've traditionally played with the two big guys. I've watched them on tape, and I think they are doing a great job. Teams have had a hard time beating Virginia Tech. They are a team that's much better than their record and especially their conference record. They've been right there.
The small lineup has worked for them at times... they stretch the floor out and it makes them hard to defend. We have to be ready and prepared for that.
They've done a lot of different things scheme-wise, switching defenses... do you need to watch that game on Wednesday or do you have a pretty good handle of what's in their bag?
I'll watch most every one of their games... probably not every one but certainly five, six, or seven of their last games... which we all do. That's what coaches do.
I think we'll have a good feel for how they like to play. Buzz has been creative. He's been very resourceful. We need to be ready to play a very difficult game. They've proven that all throughout the year.
Just a follow up on Anthony Barber, he came in as a McDonald's All-American and now has taken a big step forward. I'm sure a lot of his peers were one-and-done types. How has he handled it in terms of his patience?
Very few guys are one-and-done. I just think for all the players that's just part of the process.
Cat has been tremendously coachable. He's a great young guy. I really enjoy coaching him. I think he's getting better, and he's learning how to be a point guard... learning how to be a true quarterback. His shooting is improving and so he's taken some big steps, which is great.
Everybody is a little bit different. Some guys start to develop and mature quicker and some guys are later. He's certainly played awfully well lately.
Do you call him Cat or Anthony? What do you call him?
Cat Daddy. I call him the Cat Daddy, and I want him to play like the Cat Daddy.
I think there's been times where he's tried so hard to run a team and get our team into the offense that he hasn't utilized that great speed and quickness that he has.
Lately my message to him has been to turn it loose... cut it loose, let's go. He's gaining confidence. Hopefully he'll continue that.
You mention the NCAA Tournament... you've had so-called bubble teams and every year you've got in. Is that experience helpful? Do you have a secret to hitting the switch to get you over the hump?
[Laughing] No, the answer to that question is we don't want to be on the bubble. We'd love to take the next step.
Every team is different.
That first team that I had, no one expected that team to even remotely be a NCAA Tournament team, and we went to the Sweet 16. Then the next year, we did have the expectations and I can't remember what seed we were, but we were a real solid team... I don't think we were a bubble team that second year.
Then last year, I think we lost 85% or 87% of our scoring and probably the expectation was to not be a NCAA Tournament team so to be on the bubble was actually good.
This year we're still building. We're very young, and I think picked 10th by a lot of people in the league. I don't know where we'll finish this year... where we'll be.
It's different with each team. The ultimate goal is to be a high seed so you have a better chance to advance. That's where we have to get to in the future here at NC State.
Mark, I was glancing down the stats from Trevor Lacey, he's so amazingly consistent that you almost take him for granted. Can you talk about the way he's played this year and that kind of consistency?
That's a great word for him. He's been very consistent.
You can count on him to do certain things throughout a game. There's been a couple of games where he's struggled and we do take it for granted that we think he's going to get 17-22 points, rebound the ball, make tough shots... all the things he does every night.
It's great to have a player like that you can rely on. He's human and will have some ups-and-downs, but it's great to have a guy that reliable contributing to your team.
Does that rub off on other guys? Can they strive to play that way too?
Probably. They probably do, but as players, you just sometimes take him for granted because he's always there and always doing what he does.
Hopefully that does motivate some players to be that consistent guy that he is.