John, how much better is your team since that November match-up with UCLA? From what you've seen of the Bruins, how much better are they?
Calipari: "I watched the tape last night. They're way better, and we're way better. We shot threes like fumbled balls. I really chuckled. I'm laughing at the tape. I imagine Ben was doing the same thing. Both teams are way better, more organized, better defensively. We scored 88 on 'em. I don't think we're getting 88 on 'em tomorrow. I mean, they scored 80 on us. Let's hope they can't get 80 on us tomorrow. When I watched it, I'll be honest, I did not draw a whole lot from it. But I watched it to say I watched it."
John, how much of UCLA being much better is a product of their freshmen improving?
Calipari: "Yeah, their freshmen have gotten better. But Farmar is doing a better job of controlling the game, getting people involved. Their young kids inside have just gotten better and better and better. They're playing truly the way they have to play to win, and they've all bought into how they're going to play. They're an outstanding team, outstanding."
Joey and Rodney, would you talk about how the big picture has changed for both of these teams since y'all played way back in November.
Carney: "Well, you know, throughout the whole season, we really just concentrated on getting better as a team, getting the chemistry better. As the season progressed, we became a better team. The chemistry was great. We love each other up here. We're a totally different team. UCLA is, too. We can see that as the season progressed. We've seen them play. We've seen how much better they got. The freshmen emerged. Farmar got better. Both of us, you know, we came from a long way throughout the season and now we're both great teams."
Dorsey: "I just think we both better on offense. Our defense, we doing better on defense by talking. Coach said we got to talk a lot. I think our defense is kicking in. UCLA is getting a lot better, too, since we played them in New York. So it's going to be a good battle on tomorrow night."
Do you feel you were more prepared? We talked about the impact of the freshmen on UCLA. Ben said they're not 18, they're more prepared than typical freshmen. For the players, did you hit the ground running faster?
Anderson: "Usually everybody will be more a little bit nervous when they come to college, do things like that. But we knew coming in that we were going to be able to play some minutes. Coach told us that we can't be out there playing like freshmen, we got to able to be out there and take some of the punishment that the older guys take, be able to get out there and take screens and do things like that. We all came in with that mentality. None of us really show that we're afraid of anything like that. As of now, like none of us were never nervous, things like that. That's why everybody say we don't play like we're freshmen."
Williams: "I feel basically the same way he feel. I feel like we still are real freshmen because depth in the college game is way different than high school. High school is just go around, walk around, shoot threes, do whatever you want to do. It's like AAU. Coming into college, it's a bigger depth, adapt to make. You got to adapt to the environment, you got to get coached. It's different from being coached and just playing basketball. Coach is coaching us, we got to listen. We got to do things he tell us to do. We got to run all the right offense. We had probably like 30 plays, 30 set options. That's what we got to do. "
One of the things you've done well in this tournament is break open games with runs. After seeing what UCLA was able to do, talk about the importance of playing a full 40 minutes.
Calipari: "You know what, I'll be honest, I think we've played a full 40 minutes the three games that we've played. Now, the other teams are going to make runs at you. Every team that we've played has. Oral Roberts went up on us. Bucknell started up on us. Bradley I believe went up on us. We just keep playing. I mean, the other teams are good, too. If there's a team left in this thing, and they're one of eight, they're very, very good, they're well-coached, they're tough, they're hard as nails, and they expect to win. You're going to have to play 40 or you don't advance."
Darius, could you talk about the impact of playing a team that did what UCLA did Thursday. Do you get a feeling there's some destiny on their side or do you think maybe they left a lot on the court?
Washington: "I mean, UCLA is a good team. You know they're going to come out and play us well. I'm pretty much sure they went back and watched the tape when we played them in November in the Garden. They're going to come out with a different mind frame on trying to play us. Destiny, they won a couple of games, we won a couple of games. I mean, that's behind them, that's behind us. It's time to play."
John, a lot of talk about how different both teams are from when you played before. Will you talk about specifically maybe when you saw a change and improvement in your team, a particular game or time when that happened? In what ways in particular are you better?
Calipari: "Well, the road games helped us. We had to go to Cincinnati, to Mississippi, to Providence, to Alabama. In our league, every game we played was like a sell-out, the biggest crowd in the history of the buildings, the highest ranked team ever to play there, and they were all dogfights. We survived them all. So I think we got better as the year went on. We hit a lull, like every team does. It's usually about in the middle of February where you cannot see the end line and you got to keep marching forward. It's kind of like being in a darkroom. But this team responded. Part of it was we were so deep, if someone didn't play well or wasn't ready, we just went with somebody else. We were able to survive that time. Now what I have is a team that's fresh mentally and they're fresh physically. They have fresh legs and fresh minds, and that's what we're always trying to strive for in March, and that's what we have."
John, you mentioned the road. Because you're in the west now, UCLA has the home court advantage. If you would talk about that. If any of you guys would comment about how well you've played on the road this year and why.
Calipari: "Well, first of all, they do have that advantage. But we're happy we're still playing. I mean, the biggest thing right now is to just keep playing. The biggest thing of that is enjoying it. So we're going to enjoy the environment. That's the biggest thing I want these players to do, enjoy this. So what they have more fans than we'll have? Enjoy it. We've been up against it, as you know, all year. Normally we have a lot of people that travel. I think we'll have two or three thousand people here from Memphis at this game. We're not going to have the 15,000 that UCLA will have. The challenge of that maybe even keeps you sharper because you know this is like a road game for us and you're trying to do some -- what we're doing, chasing greatness, and it's a big-time obstacle. It makes it harder, but I think we're up for the challenge of trying it and getting after 'em."
John, does the first game between the two teams matter?
Calipari: "I watched the game. It really doesn't matter. He watched the game, and he knows it doesn't matter either. We're both different teams now. He has different players on top of being a different team. We play totally different offensively and even defensively. At that point, it was an absolute rat game. We both were so sloppy, both teams. Defensively we gave up so much, both teams. We scored 88, they scored 80, and it didn't go to overtime.
The other day you left me with the impression you don't like for your players to watch a lot of tape of the other teams or watch their games. That's sort of against the grain here. Why is that?
Calipari: "Well, I think I learned it from Larry Brown. When I was with the Nets, I was watching so much tape of the other teams. Then I went to work with him in Philly. He never watched the other team. You know whose tape he watched? His team. We watched our games together. His idea was, I have no control over that other team. I only control my team.
"He knew enough about the actions in the NBA that he'd watch the tape with the players prior to the game. Now all of a sudden our team's thinking about us getting better instead of thinking about the other team's stuff, which we really have no control over.
"I've watched five or six tapes already of UCLA. I watched our game last -- I did not watch their game as it went, but I watched the Gonzaga tape and I've watched probably three or four other games. My team have seen no tape of them yet. Now, we just went out and walked through their stuff, did drills to work on their offense.
"Tomorrow after the shoot-around, they'll watch about a five-minute clip of their tape. If I think they need to see more, we would. At times -- let me tell you what tape they like to watch. Tape of themselves. Now, tape of themselves, you could give them seven DVDs. Now, if they sub, they'll go fast forward. Then when they're in there...
"I think you start wearing them down when you're saying you should be like a coach and watch all this tape. They're players. They're not coaches. Now, I may be wrong, but it's how I've done it in the past and how I do it here."
Antonio was saying earlier, commenting about how these guys don't play like freshmen. Why do you think maturity hasn't been a factor so far or is it a factor?
Calipari: "It is a factor. It's not as much maturity as it is experience. What I would tell you is we have so many guys, if someone's not playing well, you're not going to see it for a very long period of time 'cause I'll just go to somebody else. We've done it all year. Chris Douglas-Roberts has played so well, that last game in the first half, he didn't play well. He played about three minutes. The second half, he played better, he played about 10 minutes. We were fine.
"Now, in a normal situation, you may have to keep that guy out there 25 minutes, and all of a sudden you see the things he's not doing well or maybe he's nervous, maybe he's a little scared. We just don't -- we just go with somebody else. Who's running hot right now? Who's running hot? Leave 'em in the game.
"I left Rodney in for 35 minutes. Our people here that have watched me coach, he's played about 27, 28, 26 minutes. I played him 35. Different time of the year. I played Shawne Williams I think 32. The most he's played is probably 27 minutes. Different time of the year. It's won and done now. If somebody really goes, you're going to leave them in a little bit longer, and the other guys have to accept that.
"I'm in the hotel after the game, a guy asked us, "Do you know who I love on your team, who I absolutely love? Robert Dozier." He played nine minutes in the game. He loved Robert Dozier because he watched him play. I didn't even play him that much. You haven't even seen him. There's other games he played 27, 28 minutes. This game I played him nine. That shows you that you don't have to be out there 30 minutes to impress people with your game."
How different are you either as a coach and as a person from the UMass days?
Calipari: "Well, the thing I said, and I told the team today, I was nervous as heck with that Elite 8 game in Massachusetts. I'm nervous now. I know how good UCLA is. But it's not going to change my life. At Mass, it was going to change my life, and it did. Went to the NBA. It did change my life. And I knew it would or could. Now that's not the case. But I will say this. It could change every one of these guys' lives. It makes me feel good that it's more about them than me. My life is -- we can win the whole thing, it's not going to change a whole lot. My job is to prepare them, get them mentally in the right frame of mind, let them loose, go play."
UCLA has been so impressive defensively. How do you attack that defense with your offense?
Calipari: "I just hope we make more shots than they do is what I hope 'cause they're really good and they're really physical and they really help -- they really stay in front of people driving. They really help on screens. They're really good in pick-and-rolls. You're talking about two pretty good defensive teams. We're pretty good defensively, too. Our numbers probably mirror their numbers. Could be a 60-point game, 62-60."
You mentioned how fresh your team is right now at this time of year. UCLA obviously came off a very hard, emotional victory. In your experience, when a team has come off something like that, do they have a difficult time going the next game?
Calipari: "Do you want my hope or my opinion? My hope was the game was going to triple overtime. That was my hope. I will tell you it all depends on the team. They could be playing, like someone said, destiny, that this is destiny, find the adrenaline to just go crazy. But then the other side of it is they could be worn down. I don't know. Let me say this: I have no control over them. I can only deal with my players and my team and preparing my guys. And all we'll try to do is what we've done this whole tournament: make it very hard on them and try to make it easy on us by making the extra pass and taking good shots, defensively make it hard. "
You're coaching at a classic city university. Not a lot of those get into the Final Four. People in Memphis think it might change their lives. You've knocked off Bradley. UCLA did some damage to Memphis, and Villanova did some damage once upon a time. They're still alive. Is there perhaps a chance that destiny is on your side?
"I hope so. That would be fun. We're a, I don't want to say were an urban school, we're more of a suburban school. I live across the street from our campus. I have a family of five, three kids. I live truly a block from the campus. We're more of a suburban school, even though it's an urban/suburban school. And it is unusual. It's unusual for a non-BCS team to do this well -- from a league this well. You know what, Memphis expects it. The expectations in the city are very, very high. They have always been that. It is a provincial place. For the people in Memphis, there's nothing really outside of Memphis that they really care to see or do. It's about Memphis.
"There was no crime. There were no accidents because there was no one on the streets our last game on TV. I imagine on Saturday, there will be no one on the streets. They'll all be watching. The numbers on the TV were higher than the Super Bowl in Memphis, our game. The numbers for TV ratings were higher than the Super Bowl for our last game. Well, that's ridiculous. These people, that crazy about basketball? Yes, they are."
You spoke about your time at UMass before. In particular '95, you got to this level after three fairly comfortable games, if are there any parallels or lessons to be made?
Calipari: "Well, if I remember right, we played Central Florida, and it was a two- or four-point game at halftime. We played Stanford, they have Brevin Knight, and it was like a two-point game. Dante Bright (ph) made an elbow jumper to put us up four and we won the game. Then we went to the Elite 8 and played Arkansas and Georgetown. In both games, we were not predicted to win. Everybody said, they'll lose, forget about it. They're not winning either one of these games. Kind of heard that stuff this year. There are some similarities. The thing that is different is the year before we had gone to the Elite 8, the year before that we went to the Sweet-16, and I had a junior/senior team with a kid by the name of Marcus Canby on it."
Not the Stanford year, the year before that when you lost to Oklahoma State.
Calipari: "You know what, similar. We played Tulsa in the Sweet-16 and we played Oklahoma State in the Elite 8. They had that big kid, Country, who was an absolute -- I've never seen a body that big. Marcus struggled with him. So did Lou. Lou did not play well in that game and we got beat. It's a comment I'll never make again in my life. I walk in at halftime, I say, "We're going to the Final Four, boys. He we just shot 29%. We're up three. You know we won't shoot that bad again in the second half." We shot 26% in the second half and lost the game. I will never again even think about making that statement."