I'm aware that they have had another terrific season, coming off a Pac-10 title game. Coach Braun has done a sensational job since he went out to Cal. He and I used to tussle when we were both in the Mid-American Conference. He was at Eastern Michigan, and I was at Miami. I've had a great deal of respect for him and his programs for a long time.
Where do you see the team's mindset heading into the tournament now?
Our guys are really excited about earning an NCAA bid again. As you watch the field here on the screen, you realize what a great accomplishment it is. There are so many quality teams all around the country, and I think our guys are excited to be in the field again.
Considering the way the season ended, how hard is it going to be for the team to turn this thing around?
We've had a great body of work. We've had an excellent season, and I think you have to take into full account of the season, and that's why we're in the field. Even if you have a so-called strong finish, it doesn't guarantee you are going to win a first round game either. There's a lot of tough matchups, and all the teams in the field are good, quality teams. From that standpoint you have got to be ready to play no matter what. We have to celebrate the body of work that this team has accomplished and look forward to a fun, exciting NCAA Tournament, and feel good about the berth and the opportunity that we have.
Thoughts on the health of the team:
We've been banged up down the homestretch. At this point we have to manage our health the best that we can. We have the kind of guys who have the capacity to do that. That's all a part of enduring a long season.
What do you know of Leon Powe?
I really have not had a chance to watch Cal this season. We are usually focused on who we are playing next, and I don't get to watch a lot of other teams. I do know that he is a great player. Somebody already brought to my attention that he had 41 the other night in the Pac-10 Tournament. I am certainly aware of his brilliance, but I have not had a chance to watch him yet.
Are you surprised at getting a 10 seed and what do you think of the rest of the Atlanta bracket?
I didn't have an opportunity to study or break it down to decide who should be seeded where. I don't even know how you split hairs between a ten or a nine seed or even a five seed. You saw teams go from being on that proverbial bubble to having excellent seeding. It seems like it is more dynamic than it is anything. There are going to be upsets and surprises. There is every year.
What was your first thought on the matchup when you saw NC State pop up and then California, after playing them three years ago?
My first thought was great excitement for our guys. I'm really, really proud of the body of work that they put together. I think it is a significant accomplishment for us. Obviously we have to get to work and find out what we can about our opponent.
Thoughts on ACC only getting four teams:
As a competitor and as a participant in the ACC, I'm naturally biased, and I have great respect for the challenges our league presents. I know that Florida State and Maryland and the other teams are terrific. Your heart goes out to them because you know how good they are and how tough every night in this league is.
What are you thoughts on how Gavin Grant has played these last couple of games?
Gavin has really been a bright spot down the homestretch. He has really playing his career-best basketball, and he is playing with a lot of confidence right now. He has given us some terrific play as Cameron has worked back from his hamstring injury. It was much needed, and we look forward for him to continue playing well for us.
Does the game against Cal from three years ago leave a sting with the way your team lost?
It was a tough way to lose. It was a hard fought game. A very evenly matched, competitive game. It came down to the final possession, a great shot by Cal to win it.
How is your team different than the one that Cal faced three years ago?
I think thee team is almost completely different. We have really an entire different team than we did at that point, as I'm sure Cal does.
How are you different?
We have different players, you know... we have different chemistry. I think the basic way we go about the game is similar, but our personnel has changed tremendously.
Did you even have Richard Midgley, the guy who made the winning shot, in your scouting report? He was a freshman at the time.
We sure did. We were very aware of him. We were aware that he was a terrific shooter and an excellent young player.
Is the losing streak a product of the teams that you have played or problems of your own?
I think it's both. We could play a good game on Friday and not come away victorious because Cal is such a good team. We are going to have to play really, really well to advance.
Can you put your finger on what exactly has gone wrong?
I'm much more inclined to put my finger on all the things that have gone well and not dwell on those last couple of games. There's a lot of different factors. I've tried my best to address all the different reasons why, but I think it's important we look back at the season we have had as a complete body of work.
What type of coach is Ben Braun? How would you describe him?
I just think he is really solid in everything he does. His teams are always well-prepared, they play both ends of the floor, and he does a good job in recruiting because his teams always have talented players. I just think he does an excellent all-around job.