Quotes - Buzz Williams

In talking with Buzz Williams, the head coach of Marquette, you would think the Golden Eagles were facing Kansas or Kentucky in the first round of the NCAA Tournament this week. But no, it's just the 11 seed from the East bracket, Washington. But Williams makes some compelling arguments for why this 6-11 matchup could be one that comes down to the wire Thursday in San Jose, Calif.

Marquette Head Coach Buzz Williams:
On their mindset after losing to Georgetown: "I think we're doing fine. I think our mindset has somewhat been the same from the beginning of the up until now. We're always the underdog. We were picked twelfth in the Big East. We've played more close games than any team in the country. We got blown out against Georgetown; that was the worst loss here in my tenure at Marquette. It was also the first loss that we had by double-digits this year."

On feeling like they are the underdog going into the UW game: "I think any time you play on the west coast against a team in the Pac-10, you're definitely the underdog. We're thankful for our seed. Coach (Lorenzo) Romar is one of the best human beings our business has ever known, and I think Jim Shaw and his staff have done an outstanding job of recruiting. I think what they've done over coach Romar's tenure there speaks for itself. They are arguably one of the hottest teams in the country. What have they won? Twelve out of their last 14 games? I haven't had a chance to start studying them completely yet, but I've been reviewing stats. They'll be excited to play. They are coming in on a high note, and we'll have our hands full from the beginning."

On Marquette and their team: "We'll be the smallest team you've seen in a BCS league. We start a 5-7.5 point guard (Maurice Acker), and our center (Lazar Hayward) is 6-6.5 with his shoe on. So we're really small, we don't have a lot of depth. We play six guys - on a good day, seven. If something goes considerably wrong, we have to play eight. So we're small in stature and small in depth. But we've figured out a way that gives us our best chance for success. We didn't start out very good. We were 2-5 and everybody counted us for dead when we started out league play. I think we've won 11 out of our last 14.

On bouncing back from losing so many key players from last year: "We lost three of the top-8 scorers in school history - Jerel McNeil, Wesley Matthews, who starts for the (Utah) Jazz, and Dominic James. They were all very, very good players. They left here with huge shoes to fill, almost impossible shoes to fill. And I don't know if any of our players have tried to fill them individually; I think collectively, as a team, we've done a good job of trying to figure out what our identity should be and what would give us a chance to have success this year. No one anticipated that we would win 22 games. Most pundits thought that our record, if you reversed it, would be the expectation level outside the program entering this year."

On what he thinks of when he hears the phrase 'Marquette Basketball', and how it should be played: "I think you have to play the game the right way, and I think the way that you do that is you get back in transition, don't give up easy baskets. You don't give up baskets on out-of-bounds plays. You play every single possession like it's the last one. Offensively, you take the first best shot that you can take; never take a surprise shot that surprise your teammates or surprise your coaches. You take shots that have been derived from getting to the paint, whether that be off the pass or off the bounce. And then defensively, you do everything you can to keep the ball out of the paint - whether that be off the pass, off the bounce or off the shot.

On Hayward and his success despite being outsized nearly every night: "He's played his whole career that way, and when you take a look at our team and you watch us play, our whole team has been like that. We're all small, and it's not that we're just small at the center spot or at the power forward spot. We're small from start to finish."

On overcoming size issues: "I don't know that we have overcome it, to be honest with you. We try and make sure we value every single possession offensively; try to limit turnovers; try to increase the number of paint touches that we have. We're not necessarily a fast team, but I don't think you would necessarily categorize us as a slow team either. Defensively, we have to have as much pressure on the ball as we can, as high on the floor as we can - because we know that our deficiencies are inside. So we try and do the best job we can of keeping the ball out on the floor as long as we can."

On expecting the seeding they got: "That's a good question. I probably didn't spend as much time thinking about it as I should have. Obviously I knew we were in the tournament. I knew there would be a lot of teams in our league in the tournament, so sometimes that impacts us and the league - sometimes in a positive direction, sometimes in a negative direction. Ideally the (NCAA) committee doesn't want to have teams from within our league face one another until the Elite 8, but they made two exceptions this year, both came from our league; one was us and West Virginia, and another was Villanova and Notre Dame. I think that's part of the unbalanced scheduling in the Big East. We played West Virginia one time, got beat at the buzzer by one. I guess we would play them in the Sweet 16 if we were able to advance to that point.

"I didn't really think about it too much. I know a lot of the pundits said 8,9…a couple said 7, maybe one or two said 6…I really don't pay attention to that sort of stuff. We're thankful for where we're at. We definitely have a lot of work to prepare for Washington. We'll have our hands full. It'll take us five hours in the air to get there (San Jose, Calif.) and how long will it take you guys? An hour and 15 minutes? Are you guys gonna drive or fly? And the Huskies…Jim Shaw…he's already in the hotel right now."

On having to travel despite being the higher seed: "I don't know that it's an advantage. I don't know how many fans for us will be able to travel that far relative to how many fans from U-Dub will be able to make it to San Jose. San Jose is in northern California, right? We just want to make sure it's as close to Washington as possible.

"I said this earlier tonight, and I mean this in a respectful way…I haven't earned enough equity in our business, particularly in the NCAA Tournament, to do any sort of politicking. I don't want to be a politician. We're thankful to be in the tournament. Whatever the number to the left is, it doesn't matter. When the ball is tipped up, we're going to have to be really, really sharp and really efficient in what we're doing to have a chance. Whether the game is in San Jose, or whether the game was in Providence, Rhode Island, it wouldn't matter. Our margin does not change. Our margin is still zero. We're not a good enough team to overcome locale, or officials or home support or fan support. We're just going to have to be really sharp just to have a chance.

"I'm not disappointed in where we are playing. For our kids, they will be excited to see the sunshine and be excited that they could potentially wear something other than a sweatshirt that has a hoodie on it."

On pulling the Lou Holtz routine in underselling his own team: "Coach Holtz won a national championship. We're just trying to see if we can hang in there in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. I have great respect for coach Holtz and I've studied him a lot. But that's who we are. It's not an edge. It's not coach speak. You can talk to anybody that has had consistent communication with our program, with our players or with me over the last year. I'm not saying anything to you guys because you don't know me or because you do know me; that's just who we are. It is what we are. It's not a spin. It's the truth."

On playing so many close games being a benefit come tournament time: "Well, I don't think it hurts us. You definitely don't want to go through the year that we have gone through and not gain some sort of an advantage from the opportunity to learn from those situations. Of our 21 Big East contests, 14 were decided by five points or less. We started out 1-5 in those tight games. We have finished seven of our last eight winning. We're 8-6 overall. Of the 21 league games, counting the Big Tournament we played in - for 14 of them to be decided by one or two possessions - I would hope that in a tournament setting…I don't know if it gives you an advantage, but it does give you some confidence in that you've had so many repetitions of that type of situation that your guys are not caught unaware or uneducated relative to what we need to do to give ourselves a chance.

On responding better when their backs are against the wall: "Well, we've been on the bubble longer than any team in the country. We were 2-5 when we got whipped at Syracuse. They beat us by five. Everybody counted us for dead - not relative to the NCAA Tournament, but relative to the CBI Tournament. We were just trying to hold on. Then we won five in a row. And then Pitt beat us by 7. And once Pitt beat us, we went on the road for three consecutive road games. That's only happened twice in the history of the Big East, and it's ironic that it would happen to Marquette. But we went on the road and won all three by one possession, all in overtime. That's the first time that's ever happened in the history of the NCAA.

"Does it give us confidence? I don't know if it doesn't give us confidence. It's because of our margin. Our margin is such that we're not good enough to think that we're going to blow anybody out. But we are bad enough that if we don't do what we're supposed to do on both ends every single possession, we will get blown out. We're constantly fighting an uphill battle just to make it a game. Hopefully we can get it under the two-minute mark and have enough time outs to manage the game and hope we'll give ourselves a chance."

On if a six seed is too high for Marquette: "I'm grateful for the respect the committee gave our program. I think it says a lot to our program and it says a lot to our current players. Can we live up to the six seed? I don't know. I'm not so much caught up with the numbers. Anytime you can get to the NCAA Tournament, I don't think there's a bad team in the tournament. And when you talk about Washington, Washington has won 12 of their last 14 and won the Pac-10 Tournament. If they are an 11 seed, what's a 12 seed? You know what I mean?

"I just think that part of it is how it all works in the bracket, where can guys go, where do they want to put them, where do they have to put them relative to league teams, league opponents, where does that put you on the s-curve…are we good enough to be a six seed? I'm not backing away from that. Are we good enough to be an 11 seed? I think you can argue about all that kind of stuff. I don't mean this in a condescending way, but that's more for you guys to discuss and think through and talk about and write about. We just have to figure out what can give ourselves a chance to compete against Washington."

Dawgman.com Top Stories