Q: You guys are working a lot in practice on defense this week. Talk about the focus on the defensive end.
A: I think we are trying to rebuild the foundation and make it a little stronger. I was not pleased with the defense against Georgia Tech and in some ways I was not pleased with the defense in the last game against Duke. I think also the bottom line is that we have to go back to the basics and make sure that your fundamentals are as strong as they can possibly be. There is also just pride in guarding somebody. We really didn't do a good job the last couple games, but anytime you can go back and reinforce some of the things that perhaps slipped a little bit, it can only help you.
Q: Does it help that you have seen the N.C. State offense and the similarities it has to the Princeton offense that Air Force runs.
A: I don't think there is any question that it helps but there are some differences. I think that Air Force is totally committed to that style of play. I have seen two of their game tapes since Sunday and I mean they play it all the time. N.C. State would every now and then break off and do some different things. It is not that style of play for 40 minutes. Again, I think it helps us, but it is not what we are going to face.
Q: Sean May and Jackie Manuel talked about how hard Air Force cuts and how good their backdoor passes are. Elaborate on that.
A: That means they are listening. That is exciting. N.C. State, when they cut backdoor they go pretty hard too, but I think that when Air Force cuts, not just when they backdoor cut, not just on backdoor cuts, but when they cut, it is at full speed. That is something that is hard for you to get used to and it will present a challenge for our blue team guys to try and do those types of things to help us prepare for Thursday night. They do it at full speed. They slow the ball down, but when they slow the ball down they slow it down at full speed.
Q: Do you think you guys can get Air Force out of their style of offense and into your fast pace?
A: I don't know that you can get them out of it. I think when you have good ball handlers who are savvy, I don't think you can make them. I just think you have to have enough confidence that you do the best you can and believe that you can win a 50-point game just as easily as you can win a 90-point game. I'd rather play in the 90's, I just think it is more fun myself. That is not a cut at anyone who plays differently I just enjoy it myself. We have got to be prepared mentally to win a game that is in the 50's. If we are just concerned with speeding it up, then sometimes they chew you up while you are trying to speed it up. It does you know good if you make them take a shot in eight seconds if it is a lay-up.
Q: Is there a concern about your players not ever being to the NCAA Tournament before and that inexperience factor?
A: I think that we are concerned a little bit, but I hope that our hunger will make it a positive for us. I cannot imagine anyone in the country more hungry then we are. I mean this is North Carolina and nobody on this team has ever been in the tournament. If we are not hungry now, then we have got some major, major problems. I can't imagine anyone is more fired up then we are.
Q: Some predictions have you guys as a sleeper to go to the final four. Can you address being a sexy pick?
A: I can tell you first of all that I have never been addressed as being a sexy pick on anything. I do believe that our players were overvalued and my abilities overvalued. A lot of people thought I was sticking up for Matt (Doherty), which I was in a way, but it was true. 36 losses wasn't just assigned to the previous coach, that just isn't fair. I think that there were some unrealistic expectations and perhaps there still are. I do think that we are relatively close. We are awfully close to having a magical year....We had 10 losses and in eight of those 10 losses with less than a minute to play we had a chance to tie or go ahead. So I think some of those people that are making those predictions now, realize how close we were and that if all of a sudden we can put things together, we can become a big-time basketball team. Sometimes we have been pretty good. It is just the inconsistent play that has hurt us.
Q: How do you guys feel being in the tournament?
A: We finally got back in the tournament, but we are not satisfied by any means. We are happy to go to Denver and play a real good team in Air Force, but this team is hungry right now. We haven't been to the tournament in three years, so it is just a great feeling.
Q: Talk about coming from a basketball town and what this tournament means to you.
A: My whole life, growing up in Bloomington and watching the NCAA Tournament, I mean it is the best basketball that you can find besides the NBA playoffs. Everyone plays so hard and the games come down to the last minute. There is no telling who is going to win on any given night. I mean it just means so much to finally be a part of it, especially at a program like this. We have had some struggles, but bringing it back to where it has been has been a real big joy for me. I am just excited to playing in the tournament.
Q: Have you ever played at a high altitude like Denver?
A: I played in Denver two summers ago at a youth festival. It took some time to get used to it, but I think it is a little overrated. A lot of people say altitude affects you, some people it does and some people it doesn't. It kind of affected me a little bit, but I was out of shape anyway, so that could have just been the case. I am really interested in seeing tomorrow how practice goes and how we will adjust to the altitude.
Q: Any comfort or familiarity with the Princeton offense that Air Force runs?
A: I have seen some film of Air Force and Princeton, the way they run their offense. N.C. State will help us, the fact that we know they run that spread offense with five guys on the perimeter. Watching Air Force, they just cut so hard and move so well. They are a very unselfish team. They have five guys who can basically do anything. They are all interchangeable. They are a well-balanced team and for this team to win we know that we can't take crazy shots because they are not going to shoot a lot and the shots that they do take are going to be quality shots. They don't take a lot of bad shots.
Q: All year long you guys have had trouble closing games out. Do you guys feel like you are that point yet where you can?
A: I feel we have learned how to win, it has just been a long, slow process. We lost so many games where it has come down to the wire. We just need to have one of those games where we are up two with a minute left, and we win by eight. We need one of those games just to get us on a roll against those good teams where we know how to close it out. I think we are so close to being where we need to be. It is so shocking that just a little bit of a difference could turn us from a 6-seed to a 2 or 3-seed. We are fine with where we are at, I just think we need to get one of those games in our pocket.