VandyMania: Mario, you open up with Auburn on Thursday night. You're coming in here with the pressure on you that you might have to win two or three games to get in the NCAA Tournament. With that kind of pressure, is there a temptation to look past Auburn?
Mario Moore: Well, that would make us totally stupid, to look past a team such as Auburn! They're a good team, and anything can happen in March. So that would be totally crazy for us to look past a team like Auburn. We have total respect for them in this locker room. We know any team in the SEC can beat any other team on any given day. With that in mind, we're just going to come out and focus on our game plan and play hard.
VM: They don't have much size, but they have a lot of quickness and a lot of fine three-point shooters. What do you think is the key to defending them?
Mario: Just not letting some of their good players get off and get going. Douglas is a good player, and Ian Young is a good player. We respect their guards. Either of their guards can score 30 on you on any given night. We've got to contain them and play them as tough as we can, and hope that they don't make too many of those tough shots. They're very capable.
Mario: Probably watch some TV, and try to get some sleep in. But I know we played Alabama earlier in the season at 9 o'clock, and that wasn't a factor. So it's just another thing we have to do. You have to be mentally tough for things like that. Whatever time it is, we've got to be ready.
VM: Did you get a practice in [Wednesday]?
Mario: Yeah, we did, and it was a good practice. We're feeling confident about ourselves right now.
VM: Mario, the SEC media picked Vanderbilt to finish sixth in the Eastern Division. You finished third, and here you are in March, still with a chance to make the big dance. Are you pleased with the season this year?
Mario: As young as we are, we had to bring a lot of freshmen along. I'm definitely glad with the way we played. We could have played better at times, but you know, at the same time, we played well. We were picked sixth and finished third, so obviously that's a win in itself. We're just trying to come in here and win some games. We're not worried about people are going to say, because people are going to write what they're going to write. Everybody's going to have an opinion, and it really doesn't matter. You just worry about the people in your locker room. That's the main focus.
VM: Are you pleased with your year this year, overall?
Mario: Um, yeah, as long as we're winning and have got a winning record, I'm always happy about where we stand. Right now we've got a chance to get into the tournament, so I can't be displeased with that.
VM: They used to call Reggie Jackson "Mr. October." It's just a matter of time before somebody calls you "Mr. March," because you always seem to step your game up a notch this time of year. You put up 30 points against LSU last Saturday. What is it about the month of March that gets you going?
Mario: I don't know... it's my birthday in about a week? Laughs I don't know, other than that. All I know to do is just try to help my team win, and be there for my teammates when they need me.
VM: I know J.T. [Julian Terrell] is your good buddy, and he had an outstanding game last Saturday against LSU. What was that like to see him have that kind of a game and go off like that?
Mario: It was definitely good. When you play against the players that we have in this league, and against some of these freshmen that are here, and you put up those kind of numbers, it will give anyone confidence. I think he really knows now what he can do. He's on an uptick right now, and we definitely need that going into Thursday night's game. We're happy he had that game, and it can only be good for us.
Senior guard Jason Holwerda also spoke briefly with VandyMania Wednesday.
VandyMania: Jason, with you guys probably needing two or three wins to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, has Coach Stallings said anything to you guys about the importance of the Auburn game on Thursday?
Jason Holwerda: Yeah, that's exactly what he's saying. That's exactly what his thinking is. If we're worried about winning two or three, and don't win that one, then there's no chance of winning that second or third game. So we're really focused on that Auburn game. We know what they do, and we've got all that in our gameplan.
VM: I know you're a big sports fan and a fan of ESPN SportsCenter... do you ever read "Bracketology" and stuff like that?
Jason: Hmmm.. that's the million dollar question today! [Laughs] No... I mean, yes and no. I see it on ESPN, and see what the quote-unquote experts have to say. I'm aware of what they're saying, but at the same time I'm not going out of my way to see what they're saying. They do their job, and I'm gonna do mine.
VM: Playing so late Thursday, what are you guys going to do to stay loose?
Jason: Boy, I don't know. I imagine maybe walk around a little bit, maybe see a little bit of the town, try to get some blood flowing. It's kind of unfortunate with the late game, but being a basketball player you've always got to be able to play at the drop of a hat. Doesn't matter what the conditions are and where you're at. Auburn has the same conditions. So we've just got to be ready to play.