Roy: 'Nobody hungrier than us'

North Carolna coach Roy Williams takes his time with the media on Sunday night discussing the Tar Heels' NCAA seeding and its upcoming opponent.

  • UNC draws Air Force in NCAA first round

    Opening Statement:
    "Needless to say we're happy that we're still playing. I had the players over to my home after practice and they're very pleased themselves. It's been a long hour. There has never been anybody on my squad that has ever played in a NCAA tournament. So we're happy about that, but we know we've got to play a heck of a lot better than we have in our last two games.

    "We've got our hands full with Air Force. Their 13-0 at home, and we're going to be playing about an hour and a half from their home this time. But we're happy about being there, and hopefully we'll get more information about them later in the week."

    What were your players' reactions about being sent out West, and what do you think about playing a team that close to their home? – Jeff Wirick, The Burlington Times
    "First of all, our team was getting a little antsy – the anticipation of wanting to see your name come up on the screen. It seems like tonight it took a little longer than it has in past years to get all the teams' names up there. They were telling me stories about last year hoping their names would come up; I think that was the big thing. Other than that, there wasn't too much said about where we were going, other than it's colder there than it is here. But we realize as a staff that playing Air Force in Denver is a big time and unique challenge for us, so we look at those things more than the players do."

    Roy, was the seeding about what you expected or anticipated after Friday? – Steve Phillips, The High Point Enterprise
    "Yes. One of my assistants asked me, and I said I think we'll be a six – I would have hoped for a five – but I think we'll be a six. Some wild things happened because they played their tails off. I mean, Maryland went from maybe not making the NCAA Tournament, until that last win at N.C. State – if I'm not mistaken – and then winning the [ACC] tournament, and they go all the way to a four-seed. So it's about what I expected, but you always hope for more."

    The Big Four is all in for the first time in a long time in the NCAA Tournament. Can you talk about how unusual it is to have the top four teams in the top six seeds within a two hours in the tournament? – Hermann Wendorff, The Fayetteville Observer
    "Well Hermann, first of all, it's not just the Big Four teams, but six ACC teams has been quite awhile. If I'm not wrong here, it's been a long time since the ACC had that many teams. The ACC had four teams last year and the year before it might have been three. So I think it says a great deal for our league to have six teams among the top 36 teams, according to the [formula] the tournament committee used. The fact that all the Big Four schools are in there just adds more to it. Tobacco Road has been tough in the past, and it has been as tough this year as it has ever been."

    Roy, do you think your players will have a better idea of just how [inaudible] it all is, and how they've got to be mentally prepared [inaudible] than the ACC Tournament? – Eddy Landreth, The Chapel Hill News
    "Well Eddy, I hope so. We stopped practice today and we told them that Maryland and Duke were in the ACC Tournament finals. And if we had played better, perhaps we could have been there. Then we stopped practice again until Maryland had won it. I think it does show them the small things, the little things, we've been talking about all year, makes such a big difference in the game. I think that if we don't realize that now, then there is something wrong with the kids."

    You've been doing this awhile, but do you still get that buzz or anticipation when you see your name up on the screen? – Aaron Beard, The Associated Press
    "You know, I did today; no question. My first year at Kansas, we couldn't go; we weren't allowed to. Then we went 14 straight years and that was exciting. Today was extremely exciting, and I'll say again, the apprehension of waiting for our name to come up was bothering us a little bit. Most of the times in the past, I've known that we were in and this year I really did know that we were in, but still, until you see your name up there it does cause a little anxiety. But, it's exciting for us and our staff to go 15 straight years is something we're proud of."

    Roy, what did you have for dessert? – Neil Amato, The Durham Herald-Sun
    "Wanda did the whole thing – brownies, ice cream, banana pudding and strawberry shortcake. So you could have your just about what you wanted."

    Should an 11-seed be able to play that close to home against a six-seed? – Neil Amato, The Durham Herald-Sun
    "It's one thing that I would probably disagree with. I don't think it should happen. I'll go back to one that is even more dear to our heart here in this part of the world: I didn't think North Carolina, when they were the eighth-seed playing Stanford down in Birmingham; I didn't think that was fair for Stanford. I think the higher seed should not have to play the lower seed closer to their home. But we're doing it, and there's nothing we can do to change it. You're not going to hear us complain about that part of it. We've got to go play basketball."

    Are you at all concerned about the elevation factor, and how will you prepare for that? – Aaron Fitt, The Daily Tar Heel
    "Yeah, good question Aaron. We'll have to tell our guys a little bit about it, but the first fourteen years that I was at Kansas, we lost at Boulder against the University of Colorado one time. And the only time we lost, one of our players – one who became a lawyer, and maybe this is why – had some article talking about altitude, and he passed it around and let the guys see it. That's the only time we ever lost, until last year; they beat us out there last year. To me, it's a small factor; it's not a huge factor. I'm going to do my five miles the day of the game. It's going to hurt a little bit more at the start, and after that, it's not a factor. I'm 53, and if I can do five miles and 19- and 20-year-olds can't play a basketball game, then we're in sorry shape."

    Roy, how much do you allow yourself to look farther down the bracket, or just farther down that you could be playing Duke in a regional? – Jeff Carlton, The Greensboro News & Record
    "Jeff, I don't allow myself to do that at all. I legitimately walked into the administrative meeting a few moments ago and it dawned on me that, ‘If we win two games, where do we go then?' But I have no clue. I don't think there is any college basketball coach in the world that looks at those brackets any less than I do. I never try to determine where we're going to go, I never try to determine who we're going to play; and when I look at the brackets, I'm looking at Air Force and hopefully if we win, we'll get to play two in the same spot. I do know that Texas and Princeton are below us, and until you asked me that and I happened to look over, I hadn't looked at the bracket not one single time."

    Can I get my three miles in with you on that day, Roy? – Bill Cole, The Winston-Salem Journal
    "It depends on what your pace is, Billy."

    What is the most critical thing that this team is going to have to do improve in the regional here and survive? – Bill Cole, The Winston-Salem Journal
    "I think in the last two games against Duke and Georgia Tech, I think in our offensive play, there were just too many quick bad shots – in the first half against Duke and in the first half against Georgia Tech. We can't do that, for one, but I'll give you the second thing and it's the most important: Bill, we've got to play our best basketball of the year. We've got to play as a team on both ends of the court, and better than we have played all year. If we do that, then we have a chance to win some games. If we don't do that, we're coming back home as fast as we go out there."

    Could you tell us who was the former player that was a lawyer with the article? – Ken Tysiac, The Charlotte Observer
    "No, I'll keep that to myself. I don't want him to get any extra ‘pub' out of this."

    You talked about putting North Carolina back where it was. Is this the first step? – Ken Tysiac, The Charlotte Observer
    "Well, I think it is. I think most people think around here that North Carolina is every year a one- or a two-seed, but I gave you a scenario a minute or two ago where they were an eighth seed. In the hype before the Selection Show, they showed North Carolina making a basket when I believe they were the eight-seed against Oklahoma. So we know not going in the last two years means it's been three years since we've been. We do want to establish the tradition that we're going every year, and you can't do that until you do the first one. That was something that our staff wanted, and hopefully it will be something that our staff…we've been 15-straight years, and we sort of like that."

    Hey Roy. The NCAA; is that something that you have talked about much during the year, and do you have something specific to tell them about these games? – Bret Strelow, The Salisbury Post
    "Well Bret, we met at our house tonight, so I've already talked to them some tonight about what it could be. And one of the things I did say was that a lot of people were giving me some grief because what I think were some comment taken out of [context] about the ACC Tournament. I said one thing the ACC Tournament does is allow you to improve yourself in a setting in the NCAAs; and I think Maryland is the best example in the world of that. But we talked about it with the team there to give them another reason why we should play our tails off while we were over there in Greensboro as well. But as far as the entire year, we had something with the team that we thought we had explained to the guys that it was going to stay in-house, that we put on the back of some workout shirts: ‘Play hard; play smart; play in March.' And I told them that wasn't just to finish the regular-season or the ACC Tournament, but that we wanted to play in the NCAAs. But after we put that on the workout shirts, it sort of got out."

    How much of a factor is it trying to go deep into the NCAA Tournament without a player who has played in an NCAA Tournament game before? – David Scott, The Charlotte Observer
    "It remains to be seen. I worry about it, and there is no question that I am concerned about it. But, I think for us, we've just got to play one game. And if we play really well that one game, they may allow us to play around and play a second game and that's the way that we've got to look at it. People have already came in saying that Air Force shouldn't even be in the Tournament and that's going to give them great incentive. No one; no one should have more hunger than the University of North Carolina. Where this program has been and where this program stands – to not go the last two years and have a three-year absence since the last time we have been there – no one, and I mean absolutely no one should have more hunger than we do."

    Will you spit into the Colorado River? – Andy Britt, Inside Carolina
    "[Laughs] You know Andy, I was trying to think what I had done all those years. This year I've lost just about every superstition that I have; I don't know if I've got any left. I don't think I'll be spitting into the Colorado River. We played in the regional in Denver one year and had a great game against Arizona in '96 and we won, and then played Syracuse to go to the round of eight and we lost in a great game there. So that's my experience there, so I'll try to remember what I did there and try to do something opposite."

    It is early, but what do you know about your opponent just from a basketball standpoint? It looks like they have a few quality wins over BYU and a couple over Utah. What do you know about the Falcons so far? – Andy Britt, Inside Carolina
    "I think they would be one of the best stories in college basketball so far this year. They have been out of the spotlight, but a couple of years ago, they didn't win but about three or four. I don't know what year, but I know it was a fairly recent year. But I think they have had a great run this year to make it through the conference and to be undefeated at home. I know they will play the Princeton-style offense, because their coach was Pete Carrill's assistant. I know looking at the stats – in conference play – when you shoot over 50-percent in conference play…that's pretty impressive. I don't care what conference you're in. And as I look at their stats, over half of their attempts are three-point attempts. So we've got to get out and defend on the perimeter and it will be a little more of a slower-paced game than we would like to have it, but we've got to play regardless of who it is."

    How does playing in a tough conference prepare you for playing in the NCAAs? Can it get any tougher than what you've faced in the ACC? – Robbi Pickeral – The Raleigh News & Observer
    "Well, I don't think it can get any tougher, but the emphasis and the hunger that everybody has at this time of year certainly makes it as difficult, if not more difficult; particularly as you go further down the line. For us, I think the ACC is great preparation for playing about anybody. And I think that Air Force is a little unique and that scares you a little bit. Sixty-a-game is all they average, but when you look at their record, they're 22-6. So whatever they do, they're doing it very, very well. We don't have that many teams in the ACC that control tempo that much, but the ACC prepares you for about everything."

    Do you have any background against the ‘Princeton system?' – Natalie Meisler, The Denver Post
    "We played Princeton themselves the last couple of years; John Thompson, Jr. is the coach, and he was with Pete there also in two of my last years at Kansas I think it was. And Herb Sendek at N.C. State favors somewhat that same kind of style, but it's not exactly like we're going to see. We understand that. So if you take away those two games with N.C. State, our team itself doesn't have any experience, and if you take away those two Princeton games we played, then we're kind of short on that type of experience."

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