They're very quick. They have a young freshman that they're playing at center right now who has good size, but they really pressure 94 feet. They try to take advantage of those kind of mismatches, if you will, on offense, by having guys who can put it on the floor and go by people at various positions. And I think they're a team that has a tremendous tenacity; they have tough kids.
How did this game come about?
Just, once again, trying to put together a very strong, non-conference schedule. On the heels of the kind of season they had last year, we thought they would be good game for our team. We were fortunate to also have Fox television pick the game up, so it's going to be another terrific national exposure for our program.
Was last December different? You seemed to be at home most of the time last December.
We had two early road games last year; we played at South Carolina and at Michigan. We typically play the same number of road games. If we have an 11-game schedule as the standard – sometimes you play more than that with an exempt tournament – we may play three games outside of our building. This year we have the exempt tournament, so we're playing a fourth game outside of our building, but by and large, we keep it in that range.
What did you learn from watching the Purdue tape?
I thought early in the game, we had really good looks -- we just didn't make shots the way we had and they way we're capable of. And it thought, for a period of time, we started to press a little bit because the ball wasn't going in, instead of just kind of staying with things. But I thought our guys did a really good job of digging in on defense. They didn't let their shooting carry over to the defensive end of the floor.
Manhattan forces a lot of turnovers, 19.3 a game.
You really have to handle the basketball. Like we talked about, they're going to extend their defense much of the game, 94 feet. They're really good at pressuring the basketball; it starts with their point guard, Kenny Minor, who really gets up after the ball. They would like to turn you over and allow that to lead to easy baskets for them. Even when they don't turn you over, you have to be careful that you still take shots in rhythm and you don't let them take you out of what you do day in, day out.
Can you talk about your friendship with Bobby Gonzalez, the Manhattan coach?
We just have been friends for a number of years. I've known Bobby for a long time, I remember when he was in the high school ranks and working the Five Star Camp. He became friends with Coach Pitino, who I obviously worked with, and I think that just continued to help foster the friendship.
Could you perceive him becoming a successful coach?
Absolutely. As you probably know better than most, he has a great energy level, he really is a people person and with his enthusiasm for the game and his job, you can see why he's such an effective recruiter. Absolutely.
Are you where you thought you would be at this time with your team?
I don't really try to forecast where we're going to be ahead of time by this point in the season. I think we've played well so far, and I know we can play better. I'm very aware of the fact that we have to get much better over the course of the season, in particular this next month of December. But I like our group; we've consistently gotten really good effort, I think guys have really tried to play together. We're just really intent on improving each and every day right now.
Is there any one thing you think needs improvement?
Not any one thing, more like everything. We're not polished or good enough in any one area. We always talk about having good balance, and so we don't, after any one particular game, usually just run off and say, ‘OK, before the next game, all we're going to work on is rebounding.' We have to work on everything all the time. We have to strive for well-roundedness, if you will.
Did you watch any of the other ACC/Big Ten Challenge games?
I didn't get a chance to watch as much as I would have liked, my schedule didn't allow for it. But I certainly followed the scores and the results, and obviously, the ACC fared very well. And I think you all and many others have documented it well. It's going to be an incredible conference, as usual, this season.
What are your strengths and weaknesses compared to last year's team?
I just don't get into comparing teams from one year to the next. Our team isn't even going to be the same at all points this season, let alone from last season or two seasons ago. I think it's really important that we focus on this team right now and the dynamics that it faces as it continues to evolve and come together and faces different challenges. I don't spend a lot of time, in other words, trying to compare last year, this year … It's a new season. There's enough information, there's enough variables to deal with with this year's team, that we don't have to include more variables from last year's team.
How much do you use the ACC/Big Ten Challenge as a recruiting tool?
We don't really speak too much of it when we talk to our recruits. I think it's said for us with the results that are reported by you all, that it's not something that we have to revisit and broadcast a lot. There's a lot more things that have precedent over that in our recruiting, or priority over that in our recruiting.
How has Cameron Bennerman improved the most?
He's really, I think, continued to improve as a shooter. Looking back to where he started as a freshman, he was a good shooter; he had a nice touch, good form. But I think he has continued to really improve in that area, and his confidence has grown as a shooter.
Cedric Simmons did not play against Purdue. Was that a function of how the game was being played?
Cedric's going to be fine. He's going to be a terrific player for us. He's a young guy right now who's running on that learning curve, and we're really excited about his future.
Will shot-blocking be an added dimension for your team this year?
It remains to be seen over time how many shots we actually block. I think we might have personnel that's more capable of doing that this year, but I don't know that we're going to be a team, over the long haul, that just has tremendous shot-blocking prowess. I think we have same guys who can block some shots, as do most teams in our league, but I don' t know that we'll be on end or the other of the spectrum of that.
How important is shot-blocking?
It depends if you do it intelligently. It certainly can be an advantage to get a shot block or alter a shot, but if you don't do it with a measure of intelligence, it can lead to abandoned rebounding position and second-shot opportunities for your opponent.
Shot-blocking is something that is somewhat of a gift. Some guys have a knack and the size and other guys don't, and you try to play to your strengths. Ilian isn't a shot-blocker, per se, but he's a very effective post defender because he uses his gifts and resources very well.