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Coach, what scares you about the Long Island team?
"How good they are. I made this statement and I believe it. I mean, they're a 15 seed and they're really good. I really believe that. It's not coach talk. It's not that Lou Holtz is one of my buddies. This is not Lou Holtz up here talking kind of thing. They're really good. You look at their RPI, which I really don't know what that means most of the time. Their RPI is better than a 13 seed, better than all four of the 14 seeds. It's the best RPI of the other three 15 teams. Their RPI is better than four teams in our league in the ACC. They're really good.
"They have three perimeter shooters who shoot about 40 percent from three-point line. They have two guys that can take the ball to the basket and score. They have a guy coming off the bench that can score inside and block shots. They have two point guards that have tremendous assist error ratio. One scores more from the perimeter. He does a marvelous job of getting it to people. They're a very good team, and again, you know, you guys going to have every 1, 2, 3, 4 seed say something about that, but I'm saying it, but I really believe it, too. It's fun -- I've watched two of their game tapes, and I am extremely impressed with their team."
Coach, I know you're done with Duke, but as a quasi objective expert on that team, having seen them so much, I'm just wondering if that's your thoughts on what Kyrie Irving's addition to that team at this point might do to their championship hopes?
"I think I have a great deal of respect for Mike. My guess is he wouldn't bring him in and try him if he didn't think it was really going to help them. I know in the preseason in those whatever it was, eight games, ten games, whatever it was, he was phenomenal. I saw Kyrie play a lot in high school. Dexter Strickland was a year older, but they were teammates. I saw Dexter play three, four times his senior year, and Kyrie is one of those guys that I just think is phenomenal. I made this statement to a couple people. He's the closest thing to Isaiah Tom -- not Isaiah Tom from Washington, who is pretty good, but Isaiah Tom from Indiana as a freshman, that I've ever seen."
Coach, aside from a little bit of foul trouble with Leslie last week, he was doing other things other than shooting. Even late in the season he had a defensive stand. How has his game grown this season?
"He's gotten better particularly on the defensive end of the floor and particularly with the idea that shooting the basketball is not the only thing he can do and he can help us in other ways, and you mention several there. There's one game he had five offensive rebounds down the stretch for us, and shooters usually can help you a lot more than they believe, and you got to convince them that they can add some things to the game other than just shooting the ball in the basket, and I think Leslie has been big on that part."
Coach, usually in the Tournament when an underdog hangs around with a higher seeded team, the fans get with that. That's likely not to happen. How much of an advantage is that to you guys?
"I've never been beaten by a crowd or building. I've been beaten by good players. That's what Long Island has. Is it a advantage to us more than an disadvantage? Yes, it is. I don't get too caught up. I love playing on the road. I love trying to shut up those other people. Those Long Island kids and coach may be the same way, but I'm more concerned about their team because they're really a quality team, but, you know, who knows what kind of effect the crowd is going to have on anybody, but -- I try not to get too concerned about that. But I understand what you're saying. It's what it is."
Roy, in the locker room a few minutes ago, the players are kind of crowded around the TV and erupted when Morehead State hit the shot to beat Louisville. Do you ever bring up some of the other games? In the situation you're in, do you ever address some of those other games, anything can happen in this time of event?
"I say that all the time, you know, about it's a one and done now. It makes no difference how good you think you are. At the end of the game, you have to have more points than the other team. We do talk about that, and there's always going to be upsets the first week, and you just have to hope it's not you."
Can you just talk about how tough Dexter has been through this whole thing. He's been playing really strong even with the knee injury and everything like that.
"I'm really proud of the youngster. He could have very easily said, "Coach, I do want to go ahead and shut it down, had the surgery and missed the rest of the season. He wanted to play, and you have to admire that toughness. We just wanted to make sure that we weren't hurting him any more. And he had -- he had also been through the same thing with the other knee in high school, so he knew what he was getting into, but it's bothered him a great deal. He's kept playing, and defensively two games ago was the defensive player of the game and has done some big things to help us."
John, could you talk a little about how coming back this year, playing your sophomore year has helped you develop and improve and how big a difference do you feel like you've made in the last year?
"You know, it's helped me a lot with weight training and just growing up as a young man and all of that, just kind of coming together, and, you know, I think it was the best thing I could have done for me, my basketball career and, you know, I'm looking forward to this tournament. It's the first time here, so I'm just ready to play."
This is not quite a neutral court. Are you expecting that there will be a pretty large Carolina turnout?
"Yeah, I think so. You know, they showed up pretty good at Greensboro, and I don't expect anything different here. You come to a school like this, big fan base. Hopefully, that's going to help us out."
What about this process, the interviews, the locker room stuff, the timing of kind of sitting around hotels and that whole deal?
"We're actually really good at that because as much as we travel, we spend about half a week every week in a hotel or on the road. And, I mean, the media, like all this kind of stuff, I mean, I think everybody is starting to get used to it, and, I mean, I told them all today, lot of them are going to be in the locker room, probably just sitting there watching games. Like some people are playing cards right now. But, I mean, I just told them to come prepared and we've got to be very focused tomorrow."
When you go against a team that has so many players that average about the same, between 12 and 11 points a game, how does that -- how do you approach that from a defensive standpoint? Some teams have one guy who is scoring 20 and that's it, but they've got like four, five guys.
"It makes it very difficult. You can't -- I mean, you can't -- our defense can -- if somebody is averaging 20 points, you can focus on that one player, you can always pay attention to where they're at, support them on drives. But with a team like them, you got to be aware of everybody. Everybody has got to be able to handle their own man and you got to be able to help. At the same time you can help too much. It does make it very difficult. It's kind of -- we're kind of the same way. So I know we just got to find a way to be able to guard them and hopefully slow them down."
You apologized to the fan base on Twitter, which was a surprise to a lot of us. Did that motivate you? Did playing as you did against Duke motivate you to do better coming into the NCAA Tournament?
"Not just Duke, I felt like the whole weekend I didn't help my team the way I know I can, and for us to be successful I have to be able to play to a high standard. And I'm going to hold myself to a high standard, and I expect my parents to do the same thing. So when I go out there and perform the way I did last weekend I feel like it's my job and my duty to make it up to them."
Coach [Williams] said he told you he was talking to Bobby Hurley to you, and how Bobby Hurley learned from his defeats. What did you take from that conversation?
"The positive spin I took off of it was he talked about Bobby Hurley, and how when they played UNLV they really got into them, and he went on to win two national championships. But the thing I got from it was that happened to him in the NCAA Tournament. You know I struggled in the ACC Tournament, so on the bright side it didn't happen in our ultimate goal of winning a national championship. So hopefully I can learn from my mistake last weekend, and come out here and perform tomorrow."
What do you guys know about Long Island?
"They're a very skilled team. They won their conference, so we're just going to have to defend their sets and play with a lot of energy."
We don't get to see you all the time. What kind of evolved for you as your confidence grew as we could see it happen? As the season progressed you kind of really came into yourself.
"Just experience I think. When guys started getting hurt I really took on a much bigger role, and my teammates we built a chemistry with each other, so that helped a lot."
Now did you hurt your knee at the end of the FSU game, or did you hurt it in practice?
"That's a tough question, because I don't know. It really started hurting after the Florida State game, and I played through it through the Duke game when we played them in Chapel Hill. But right now it's doing good. It's not swollen at all. Sometimes with a meniscus injury it's tricky. You know sometimes it hurts, and sometimes it doesn't. But you I think the trainers have been doing a great job of you know making sure I'm training well, and you know doing the right stuff, eating well, and giving me the right medicine and stuff like that to keep the swelling down."
So I guess it wasn't hurting on your dunk over Kyle Singler?
"Oh no, not at all. Not at all. It didn't hurt at all."
Do you view yourselves as the Cinderella team, or do you feel like, you know, you've got as good a shot as anybody at this?
"We're more of a big underdog than maybe a Cinderella. I do think we have a shot. A 15 has beaten a 2 before. We have to play extremely well. We'll have to do what we do very well. We have to play with great poise and composure. I guess you want to say underdog, Cinderella, you want to put them together, I guess you can."
How in the world in your style of play have you be able to shoot 974 free throws, over 30 a game?
"Hopefully we'll get to that see tomorrow night against North Carolina. We're a very aggressive team. Part of our philosophy is winning free throws, winning turnovers, and winning rebounds. We preach it every day in our program. You know, we play aggressively. We offensive rebound aggressively very much like North Carolina. We're not as big. We play at a very aggressive speed. We have very aggressive forwards that get fouls. We constantly put pressure on you. And then obviously the drastic difference is we really focus on not fouling as well as a program.
"What's more important to me, I mean, the attempts are ridiculous, I'll admit that. It's taken our philosophy to a whole other level. What I'm really proud about is the statistics in regards to the made free throws compared to our opponents' attempts. That's something we really work on and focus on. If we continue to play the right way tomorrow night, we play so unselfishly as a group and the ball moves that we can attack it from different angles on top of the offensive rebounding. I thinkg that's going to be a big factor in tomorrow night's game. If we can get to the foul line at the rate we normally do, we'll give ourselves a chance."
With two teams that like to run up and down the court, is this a good march up or mad bad matchup for you guys?
"I don't think it's a very good matchup. We're very good as flying up and down the court. They invented it is what it seems like. That's the way they play. And to have to do it here in Charlotte, I think that's very difficult. There's going to be -- I know they travel as a crowd, but their crowd doesn't have to travel that far.
"We're going to have to make some adjustments to what we do. We really got to focus on trying to slow them down, which is not an easy thing to do, not many teams have been very successful at doing that. But at the same rate, we can't come in here and suddenly become Princeton. That's not who we are. We can't slow it down and take the air out of basketball.
"We have a bunch of guys that believe in what we do, and we've been pretty successful at doing it. We maybe have to be a little smarter and more disciplined with it."