Sampson talks about Niagara, tourney

See inside for OU head coach Kelvin Sampson's comments on his Sooners making being a three-seed, how the Big 12 faired pairings and a scouting report on Niagara. OU and Niagara is scheduled to tip-off at 11:45 a.m CST Thursday morning. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

Below is a transcript of OU head coach Kelvin Sampson's interview with Bob Barry Jr. and James Hale Monday morning on the Sports Animal.

On making the NCAA tournament for the 10th time in 11 years
"We never take getting into the tournament for granted. If you think about teams like Maryland, Notre Dame, Indiana — those teams didn't make it.

"Going for nine consecutive years just shows you the consistency that we've had here, and we were proud of that. We understood that last year was going to be a rebuilding year and we had some unforeseen things happen.

"For us to bounce back and go from what happened last year to a three-seed and winning the Big 12 regular season championship, we're just proud of this year. I'm proud of this group of kids.

"Now we get to start all over. We've won seven of our last eight. We think we're playing pretty good. We had a little bit of a hiccup on Saturday against a really good group of guards.

"We get to go to Tucson and play a really good Niagara team. It's funny that we're playing Niagara because I was watching CBS a lot yesterday listening to Clark Kellogg and Seth Davis, and the team Clark Kellogg kept talking about was Niagara. He says you don't want to play them in the first round, so I said I hope we don't play them then.

"Sure enough we go up as a three-seed, and I was proud of that. We kind of thought we'd be a three and if we won the tournament might've gotten a two. So, I was proud of the three and the next thing I know Niagara pops up there. I hope Clark Kellogg was wrong.

"We're excited with this group of kids. We have so many kids that have never played in the NCAA tournament. We're a three-seed, yet we're so young and so inexperienced when it comes to something like this. But our kids will be excited to play."

On the team playing well despite the loss to Texas Tech
"You don't get carried away with one game. You don't forget about a seven-game winning streak because you lost one game. We've won seven out of our last eight. Our last one was a head-scratcher, but if you look at the teams that advance this time of the year they're on a little bit of a run.

"We're looking forward to practice today. We're going to leave tomorrow and head to Tuscon and get ready to play Thursday morning."

On if the NCAA committee was fair to the Big 12
"More than fair. The teams that deserve to get in got in. Texas absolutely deserved to go. Iowa State for sure going 9-7 (in Big 12 play).

"The thing about going 8-8 or 9-7 this year is this is the toughest the league's ever been. I've never seen the league this good all the way throughout.

"You're almost 10 deep with postseason teams. I don't know if we've ever had 10 out of 12 teams that could've gone to the postseason, which is why we were so excited to share the regular season championship with Kansas. Our group of kids had a heck of a year."

On if he was surprised by an of the seedings
"No, Texas is an 8, Iowa State is a 9. We're a 3, Kansas is a 3, O-State's a 2. That's about right.

"O-State should've had the highest seed in our conference even though they finished third in the regular season. They beat Kansas and we lost to Texas Tech.

"Oklahoma State was the one school that I thought for sure should've been sent to Oklahoma City. The argument was whether or not Kansas or Oklahoma should've gone to Oklahoma City.

"You could've made a strong argument for us, but no excuses. We lost our chance when we lost to Texas Tech. You just keep your mouth shut, you work hard, go to Tucson and try to take care of business."

On playing No. 1 seeds Washington and Duke during the non-conference schedule "I thought Washington was one of the best teams we've played this year. Duke's one of the teams everyone wants to look at what's wrong with them, but sometimes you forget to look at what's right with the team.

"J.J. Redick arguably is the college basketball player of year this year. Who's had a better year than him? And who's stopped him? I see him get 30 against really good teams. They say all you have to do is stop J.J. Redick, well it's a lot easier said than done. Duke's good. I think sometimes when you only play six or seven players your chemistry is so much better.

"Washington was the hardest team for us to guard all year. We gave up 96 points to them, although I think we got better as the season went on defensively, but they were a hard team to match-up with. They don't have anybody that can't shoot a three and they don't have anybody that can't score.

"If you go on down to the next line look at the 2's and the 3's. We played Connecticut, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Duke, Washington. We played a really difficult schedule."

On Niagara
"They've got three fifth-year seniors (Juan Mendez, Alvin Cruz, David Brooks) that all scored over 1000 points this year. Their league is the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and they call it the MAAC.

"The big kid, Mendez, is the 'Shaq' of the MAAC. He's 6-9, 245. He's the only player in the country that's in the top five in rebounding and scoring. He's averaging 19 points and almost 11 rebounds a game. Their point guard, Alvin Cruz, is a tremendous point guard, jet quick.

"They beat St. Johns at St. Johns by 20. They took Providence to the wire and lost. Coach (Joe) Mihalich is kind of a Paul Westhead clone. His goal is to outscore you. They're one of the top five scoring teams in the country. They averaged over 85 points a game.

"It's an offensive team, a senior-dominated team. They've got a great inside player and a great point guard, which tells you right away you're going to have to really play well to beat this team."

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