Hoops Freshmen Roundtable - Part V

This second-to-last installment of the marathon roundtable with Chris, Rob and Josh talks about expectations of this past season - both inside and outside of the program. Additionally, the guys respond to the question of what are the misconceptions held by fans and onlookers.

The Bootleg:  I want to talk with you guys about Oregon now.  They transformed themselves from a middle Pac-10 team to the team that won easily the toughest Pac-10 this year I've ever seen.  The big story was that in the off-season, they made big changes to be together all the time.  Luke Ridnour ran a new off-season physical workout.  They became a much stronger and quicker team, along with better team chemistry.  A lot of that was spearheaded by a guy who was between his freshman and sophomore years.  You guys saw them this year firsthand, so what do you take away from that story, and does that fuel anything you want to do in this off-season?
Josh Childress:  Yeah, but with that, everyone has to be open-minded to change.  What is best for us and the common good of the team.  Me personally, I plan on implementing a little something into our program, and I'm sure everyone else is.  Everybody has a say in what we're going to do, as well as meeting with our coaches and our strength guy.  And they asked us, 'What would you rather do here?' and 'What do you think we can improve on?'  Not only us, but everyone has to work to make it a collective thing - a team thing.  That's what is most important.
Rob Little:  I think we learned a lot, and maybe everyone in the country learned a lot, from what Oregon did.  They came out of nowhere and won the Pac-10.  Made an Elite Eight run.
Josh Childress:  Southern Illinois, too.
Rob Little:  Yeah, Southern Illinois did the same thing.  There's no one remedy.  That doesn't mean that just because any team goes out this summer and does this, that they'll have this chemistry.  But what they did was work within the team concept, and being friends and form bonds.  I think that's the biggest thing Oregon did.  We're not going to try to do what Oregon did - we're still going to do our own thing.  I think this goes back to being young and being a freshman, but looking at college basketball from high school, you think it happens magically.  We hear people say, 'This team has really come together,' and think it happens by magic.  Well, no it doesn't.  Having been here and going through a rough year, by our standards, we understand that it will take us - sitting here - as well as our teammates, to make a full turnaround.

The Bootleg:  A lot of Stanford fans had very different expectations.  Some saw the loss of four seniors and thought that 20 wins and the second round of the tournament was a pretty good thing.  Others said that bad losses, failing to win the Pac-10 and not going deep in the tournament was all below Stanford's standards.  How do you from your perspective think this team did relative to its capabilities and expectations?
Rob Little:  It was definitely rough.  I came here honestly thinking that we were not going to lose a game.  Then we lose to Texas and my heart just broke.  I mean I really felt really bad.  Then going into the Pac-10, we won our first game before losing our second game at Cal.  I'm like, 'Geez, what's going on? We've got to fix this, and we've got to fix this now.'  Then we took an 'L' at Oregon, and took an 'L' at USC and then the losses started to mount.  Then we were in a hole with our backs to the wall with the Oregon series and Washington series, which was a string of four games we won.  I don't know what it was, but our season was really up and down.  This team had been four years of top five in the country, number one, number one seed.  It's really easy to get down on yourself.  You eventually have to believe you can dig yourself out.  I think we dug ourselves out in that Arizona weekend, which was definitely the biggest weekend of our season, by far.  Going down to Arizona and picking up those two wins, which I think secured our NCAA bid.  At the end of the season, I learned a lot - a lot about playing in tough games and what it takes to win.
Josh Childress:  I honestly don't think we had a bad season.  Twenty wins is a good season, actually.  But I think that feeling of having our backs up against the wall was what made it a rough season.  We have to go in and win these games or we might not make the tournament.  We have to do this and have to do that.  That was probably the hardest part of the season, or what made it seem like a bad season - the fact that over these past years, they've won 20+ games early on in the season, where they didn't have to worry about winning these last couple games to make the tournament.  I personally don't think it was a down season.  It was a learning experience for all of us, and I think that this season will help us a lot as far as our improvement over next season.

The Bootleg:  In your evaluation, did this team perform about where it should have, given the youth, personnel and strength of competition?  Did you underperform maybe overperform at times?
Rob Little:  If you look at our games, the beginning of the season is a perfect example.  Take the Texas loss.  Everyone at that time was saying we should have won that game.  Take Texas at the NCAA Tournament, then everyone says OK maybe we shouldn't have won that game.  Now take BYU.  They didn't even make the NCAA Tournament.  We really should have won that game.  Then you take Oregon - we lost and everybody says, 'Hey, what's going on?'  A lot of times during the year, we lost focus and lost to teams that maybe we shouldn't have.  But we also won against teams maybe we shouldn't have.  I just think when you look back, a couple of early games really cost us.  Maybe if we won two or more of those early games, maybe we win the league and get a higher seed - don't play Kansas in the second round.  Maybe we play Indiana or Wake Forest.
Josh Childress:  When you think about it, a shot makes or breaks a season.  Or makes or breaks a game.  Just playing as hard as we did throughout the season, and staying strong and focused, for people to say we had a down season is disrespectful to me.  Through all the hard work we went through - all the practices, games and travel - for people to be like, 'Are we really that good?' or 'We need to make some changes,' that's just a slap in the face.
Rob Little:  I think Josh is right.  I remember Casey's interview during the NCAA Tournament, that he said that nobody sees what goes on behind the twenty wins or behind the second round loss.  Nobody sees the blood, sweat and tears that everyone puts into this game.  To say that any effort out there was an effort loss or a bad effort is disrespectful.  Fans who weren't athletes or who didn't play basketball can become a little too detached and a little bit more demanding of athletes.  But this is a game, and there has to be a winner and there has to be a loser.  It just so happened this year that were the loser more times than we had been in the past.  But that's not to say that we can't be winners next year.

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