Some of the players mentioned that they wished someone – one of the players –
would have stepped up and said something during the first half against Kansas. Will leadership be a problem for this team?
"No. None whatsoever."
Do you wish someone would have said something during the Kansas loss?
"If it would have worked, yes. But I think it was the most unreal basketball game that I've ever been involved in. I left the locker room and thought that we'd play very, very well. It was the same preparation that we had used for three games in the ACC Tournament and exactly like we had done in the first four games of the NCAA. We just didn't play."
Is Danny Green going to be the leading candidate to replace Marcus Ginyard, and how will his short absence affect the team?
"If we had to play a game today, I'd start Danny, so I think that's probably so. You're losing your best defender. A guy who gets more little cheap baskets, offensive rebounds [and] steals than anybody on your club. You guys as writers and we as coaches like to talk about somebody that does all of the little things, the dirty work and that kind of thing, so you're missing somebody doing that early.
"But hopefully over the course of this time where he's rehabbing and getting this healthy, he might even be able to sit back and look and observe and maybe even gain something… I hate it, because being a senior and as good of a kid as he is, you hate it for anybody, but especially for somebody like him."
Can you win them all?
"Probably not. I don't think anybody can in today's game. I think our five that we put out there – there are several teams that can compare to that five. But I think where we may have an advantage over a lot of teams – I'm not going to say over every team, but a lot of teams – but if we get to a game where the seventh man, eighth man and ninth man is a huge factor, then I don't know of many teams that can be as talented and as experienced… If we can figure out a way for that depth to be a huge factor, then I think it's a big plus for us."
On the senior class:
"As all coaches, I think you would love experience or talent, and if you can have both, that's the best of all worlds. And that is what we have. It's been fun with this senior class having them for three years. I can remember their freshman year – you asked that question, ‘Can you win them all?', but that year they were wondering if we could win one. Maybe not quite that bad, but people didn't have a lot of respect for what we had coming back and thought the freshmen were too young.
"It's been a great run with this group. Bobby, Danny, Marcus, Michael and Tyler have been fantastic for our program and it is fun getting to the senior year, getting to a spot where their hard work and their play has put them into position where people think they can be really good."
Do you enjoy having a target on your back?
"I enjoy it a lot more than no target on your back. It was fun in 2006. Very times since my first years in coaching have I coached a team that wasn't supposed to be very good, and so that was fun. It was fun seeing those freshmen show people that they were pretty good and it was fun watching David Noel be as good a leader as I've ever been around, but I like having a target on our back.
"I think it makes us play to a higher standard each and every day, concentrate to a higher standard. You can't take any days off… I like the fact that we're a big game for people. There's no question about that."
Do you try to insulate your players from talk about going undefeated?
"No. First of all, I think it's sort of stupid to talk about it… I do think it's silly in college basketball. I'll say again – Louisville, Connecticut, Duke, Georgetown. There are some really good teams out there, and we have to get it to where there's enough possessions so that depth becomes a factor or it's a fast-paced game enough that depth is a factor,
"But I have no dream – none – of going undefeated. Not even a blip on the radar. I could care less. I'll take a great year and a great run and play it every single day and enjoy my life. I'll ask you guys – in 1988, Kansas won the national championship. How many losses? Eleven. And people were printing NIT tickets. So I would think those guys enjoyed that year quite a bit."
What's the glaring weakness from last year that this team needs to improve on?
"We were 36-3 last year. There's not a heck of a lot of glaring weaknesses out there, I don't think. My bunker game is a glaring weakness. We do have to get better defensively. I've said that since Day One.
"Last year's team, for example, we did get better defensively, but at the end of the year, we were still just a good defensive team and I'm hoping we can be a great defensive team. Whether you guys like to admit it or not, during the last month of the season last year, I said Kansas was the best team and that they were playing the best. The reason I said that is because I thought they were the best defensive team. I've never seen a bad defensive team win the national championship…
"We want to do it better in two ways – we'd like to force more turnovers and also hold teams to a lower field goal percentage, which is really hard, because if you force more turnovers, it means you're gambling, and if you gamble more, you give better shots… Tomorrow's practice plan is 12 minutes on the offensive end of the floor, and one hour and 48 minutes on the defensive end."