“It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, so we're happy to be here and face a tremendous challenge, needless to say, tomorrow. But we worked out over at Southern Cal this morning, and had a decent workout, and came over here and just tried to get used to the surroundings, and hopefully get better health-wise between now and tomorrow. We don't know anything about Kennedy. This morning he did some contact on a limited basis for the first time. You saw him out there, if you chose to go out there, he didn't do much, but our whole team didn't go because we had already practiced. But the big thing now is we'll have to wait to see if there's any more swelling or any pain tonight for what little he did this morning, and probably it won't be -- well, if there is swelling or pain tonight, we won't play him. If there's not, then we'll probably make the decision during warm-ups tomorrow.”
Roy, how have teams been defending Brice Johnson differently in the NCAA tournament as opposed to the ACC Tournament or the regular season? And how critical or how pivotal would his performance or his offensive improvement be tomorrow night?
“Well, I think the last part of the question is the easiest because we really need him to be very important for us. We need him to be very successful. We really need him to shoot a high percentage. The only thing that is consistent about Brice is his inconsistency, that old saying kind of thing. But how they've defended him differently, I don't know that they've defended him differently. In the ACC Tournament, he had better stats than he's had the in the NCAA Tournament. I think he's 4-for-15 in the two games here, or not here, but in the NCAA Tournament. He hadn't shot as well as he wanted to, I think, in the Arkansas game early. He rushed it. I think that shook him a little bit that he missed him some easy ones. But I expect that he'll go out there. He's got the little thing on his finger tip that's bothering him a little bit, but that's most of the time an excuse for everybody. But we do need him to shoot the ball well, and he shot 56, 57% for the year, and we need that kind of performance here.”
When you look at a stat sheet after a game, how quickly do your eyes go to fast break? Is that an important stat to you, and is there a threshold maybe that you try to hit in any given game?
“I think it would probably surprise people, but I look at it 12, 15th, 18th, 20th, something like that. For years and years, as long as I've been a head coach, I look at our field goal percentage, the other team's field goal percentage, the rebound margin, then I look at turnovers and then I look at number of free throws attempted by both teams. And sometimes I'll get down to that stuff at the bottom, points off turnovers or offensive rebounds. So it's not fast break -- I mean, I don't have to look at that to know we haven't run as well as I wanted us to run. And that's the way it's been really all year. I'd like for us to run faster. I had a coach one time when I was recruiting against he told the parents, Roy's teams don't really run that often. They just run very efficiently. And I said, Oh, I'll take that. It was that kind of thing. But we do like a fast pace. There is no question about that. Against Harvard it was a very low-possession game. We had 17 turnovers and it almost killed us. We were very, very, very, very lucky to win the game. And in the game against Arkansas, a much faster paced game, many more possessions, and we turned it over 16 times. So for us, I like the fast pace, but really good teams make it difficult for you to get fast break points. And then you'll be in some arenas where the guy the only credit they'll give you for fast break is if it's 1-0 and I think sometimes our best fast breaks may be 4-on-3 or 5-on-4, too.”
Coach, you didn't get that growth spurt from Joel Berry, so do you have a better idea now about how you're going to deal with big Frank tomorrow?
“Very, very seriously is the way we're going to try to deal with him. It's 6-10, 6-11, whatever he is, who can go out on the floor and shoot the three. He can shoot it in a pull-up. He's a really good passer. If I'm not mistaken, he leads them in points, rebounds and assists. So he's really a fantastic, fantastic player. Joel Berry, as you said, did not grow 8 inches since the press conference on Monday. If he had, then we would have put him on him. One of the big guys is going to have to be able to get out there and guard him, and we may end up going small some as we did against Arkansas. And a lot of that also depends on how healthy Kennedy is. I don't want to just say when nobody can guard Frank, so let's play small because that takes away part of our game as our inside scoring. So it is a balance there that you have to have.”
There is always a recruit that's going to get away, and Bronson Koenig, one of those guys you went after pretty hard. Can you kind of take us back to that moment and the player he's become for the Badgers?
“Well, I'm really happy for him right now. And you hate for Traevon [Jackson] to get hurt. But Bronson has really stepped up and has been from the distance of 1,000 miles or whatever it is, he's been really crucial to their success. I loved him as a kid, loved him as a player, wanted him badly. As you know, I made several trips to La Crosse. The high school coach was really a good coach. He was one of those recruiting situations that I really enjoyed, but in the end he went somewhere else. I pulled for him like crazy. I'll pull for him like crazy tomorrow. I just won't pull for his whole team to do well. But he's a big-time young man that I really enjoyed recruiting.”
During the tournament the media timeouts are four minutes, which is longer than the regular season. What do you do when you're out there for that long with the players? Do you prepare extra material?
“Well, first of all, I've never heard that in my entire life. If it's four minutes, it's a surprise. If you're a fan at home watching, the commercials go on and on. If you think they're as long as a fan, try coaching. What the heck am I supposed to say for two minutes and 25 seconds?
That's what I'm saying. Are you preparing extra material? Trying to keep the guy's attention?
“No, I usually spend that time making the officials and TV people mad because I send my players out there on the court, because I don't have anything else to say to them. They're always saying, Keep them on the bench. Keep them on the bench. It looks bad. I don't care. I don't get together with my staff and talk and then go talk to kids. As soon as they get over there, we kneel down in front of them. I give every one of my assistants an opportunity to say something. Don't just speak to hear yourself talk. Then I start it, and then I end it, and we get rid of them because I really do tell them all the time, We just had a timeout two minutes ago, I don't have anything else to say to you. But you scared me. If it was four minutes, we were going to have to have a summit somewhere.”
How imperative is it that Marcus Paige kind of sets the tone tomorrow, especially against those Wisconsin guards?
“ Well, I think with Gasser and Bronson both, they're really good players. They can hurt you offensively or defensively. But that's what Marcus is. He's a really good basketball player, too. I never think it's imperative that one guy has got to do everything. North Carolina's got to come to play. Marcus is a huge part of that, but we need Brice to play. First question, we need J.P. to play, we need all of them to play. But Marcus does give the guys a little bit of energy, there is no question, and he's our leader. The bigger the games get, your better players need to play even bigger roles in it. You have no idea how you scared me about four-minute timeouts.”
A lot of great coaches left in this tournament and obviously four great coaches out here. What can you say about the job the other guys have done with their teams. They're chasing milestones. You've had Final Fours and championships. A guy like Sean Miller hasn't been there.
“I'm so old I recruited Sean, so that tells you something right there. But I can remember Sean was probably in the fifth grade coming and doing ball handling exhibitions at Coach Smith's camp. But think about it this way - we're at least okay or we wouldn't have the jobs we have. I mean, that's sort of the way I look at it kind of thing. Every time I go and I look down at that other bench and the coach down there, most of the time it's a guy that I really like. If I don't like him, most of the time it's a guy that I at least really respect. And I've never won a game. I really haven't. I’ve never thought that I outcoached anybody else.
“So at this moment it's a fun time for coaches. There is a lot of stress. You're always asking, ‘Have I done everything? Have I looked at everything? Do I need to look at this tape more? Do I need to look at this more?’ But at the same time, it's what you coach for. I mean, to me one of the great days in the world of my teams that put me there a few times is the open practice at the Final Four. There's only four guys left coaching and all those other suckers are sitting up in the stands wishing they were you. But as coaches, the guys here, we're playing Bo tomorrow. I mean, Bo is a big-time coach. I mean, really a big time coach. He has his beliefs. He gets his players to play his philosophy. I haven't coached against Sean's team or Chris's team, but they're really good coaches here. There are 16 guys who are really good coaches and there are a lot of them that aren't here. But, no, I don't know about the rest of them, but I've never won a game on the bench.”
You and the Tar Heels have a long history with the tournament, but how do you get these young guys to calm down and treat this just like any other game?
“Each team is different. Some guys you have to do a lot more with. Tyler Hansbrough's team in '09, I didn't have to say very much because he was so driven. Let's see, Wayne and Ty had come back trying to win a national championship just like he had. That team was really driven. I didn't need to do a lot with that team. I've had some other teams that did very, very well. We came in in 2003, when I was the last year at Kansas and we beat Marquette by a lot. We had them 29 at the half. Then 40 hours later we got beat.
“So it depends on the mood of the kids, but the leader in the locker room is more important to me than anything I say to them. Because I have been there before, I have done some of these things, but that internal thing they have within your team, to me, I felt awfully good in 2009 at the Final Four and we walked in. Bobby Frasor who didn't even start for us said, ‘All right, guys, I remember what this felt like last year when we didn't play in the semifinals.’ So I didn't say much. I mean, he sort of said it. And so we played very, very well that day and got to the finale as on Monday night. So got to just try to get the kids to concentrate on three or four keys that we give them right before the game to help us win the game. Try to get them to concentrate on those things, try to get them to understand that if we play really well, and if we play really well and if we get lucky, they may let us stay around and play another one.”
You played Bo Ryan's teams a couple times in the past ten years. Is this team different, and if so, how much?
“You know, that's a very limited experience for me, so understand that. I may say something 180° from the truth, but it won't be intentional. This team, because I'm thinking we played them three years ago when we played them in the tournament in '05, yeah. I think it was a one-possession game down at the very end. This team to me, they don't have a low post scorer that stays there. I forgot this guy's name the other day, Tucker, Alando, he was a low-post scorer. Frank doesn't give you just that. So we knew that we had to guard Tucker inside, and that he had to guard Sean May, for example. But this one from a distance has more versatility than that team did because a big problem for us is who is going to guard Frank.
“It really is. Is one of our big guys going to go out there? So the versatility with this team, I don't remember him having with the other teams that everybody could go out on the court and shoot a three or 6-10, 6-11 guys leading the team in assists. So I think the versatility of the team is a little bit different. I read the article in the paper this morning about how much looser they are. I've known Bo for a long time and used to always talk to his dad at the Final Four and really enjoyed the dickens out of him. I don't see Bo getting a lot looser, I can tell you that. He's wound pretty tight like a lot of us. But it looks like he really enjoys coaching this team though.”
There have never been so many teams in the Sweet Sixteen this time around with 10 or more losses. Do you see that as a case of parity? Is it just an aberration this year? Why do you think that is?
“I'd say two reasons. One, parity, you guys don't like to write about it that much because it's not quite as interesting, probably, but I think there is some truth to it. If you look and you go back ten years, we're probably playing a few more games too, and I think that's pretty significant. Gosh, I remember when 36, 37 games won the national championship. Now you have guys play 36, 37 games even before you get to the Sweet Sixteen. So both of these. But I think there are some really, really good teams. Every team we lost to this year played in this tournament with the exception of Pittsburgh and the day they beat us, they could have beaten anybody. They shot 88.9 percent from the floor or whatever crazy thing it was. Made every shot, and they were as good that day as anybody I saw all year long. But it is college basketball. There are so many good players.”
Marcus, how imperative is it for you to kind of set the tone for tomorrow, especially against those Wisconsin guards?
"I think it's very important. We need to set the tone defensively with our pressure. If you allow them to run their stuff, they're very good. So it's my job as a point guard to pressure the ball and also attack them and do my best to get the tempo up. So I'm going to try to do that from the beginning of the game. I guess it does start with me, and that's my job. So tomorrow I'm going to try to be really active early just to try to get the tempo in our favor and get a little bit of transition going."
Marcus, how would you describe your season? Do you feel like you've exceeded expectations?
"I definitely haven't exceeded some expectations. There was a lot on me at the beginning of the year, and I put a lot of expectations on myself. I got injured. I started off slow and then I got hurt for a lot of the year. But I think I'm coming around at the right time, and our team is gelling together at the right time. So I'm not too worried about what other people have said and whether I've lived up or haven't lived up to what people have pegged me for this year. I'm just trying to do whatever I can to help this team right now, and I think I'm playing my best basketball of the year right now. So I'm not too upset."
Brice, when do you actually get the final defensive strategy and who is going to cover who? You and Kennedy and Joel and Isaiah, are you joking amongst yourselves about who is going to go out there and chase Frank all night?
"No, we don't joke around about it because it's going to be a tough task to be able to do that. We do get the final defensive assignments during pregame before every game. So I mean, whoever is going to be chosen to do that, we just have to be ready for it, because all of us are going to get the shot at having the runaround and chasing them around. Nigel Hayes is the same way. So everybody just has to be prepared."
Brice, have you practiced more zone this week than you have normally?
"No, we've been doing the same things we've been doing all year. We practice a little bit of zone, but we've been mostly practicing man-to-man because that is our primary defense. We're going to try to stick to that, and if that's not working, then we'll go into zone."
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