"Well, I don't know about how important it is to an individual coach. I know what coaches are thinking of now. It's a first-semester game, non-conference, against a quality opponent, and you prepare to play as well as you can. And the fact that it's part of something else means what you'd like to do is, you know, do as well as you can with your part. But there are some teams who are better prepared in November, some teams that have more players back, some guys that are working players into positions. So, I mean, you have the challenge in November. You have it in February, there might be a difference, so you just prepare as best you can with what you have in November. So we're just going to try to do our part, and, more importantly, we're going to try to play a good basketball game."
What stands out most to you about last year's game at Maryland?
"I thought the way we came back. We got down, we came back. We got down again in the second half, came back again. And the way [Devin Harris] found his touch from that game and that game on, you take a look at his shooting percentage from three. So he, it was kind of like a coming-out party for his, what turned out to be his last year, but his junior year. And Mike Wilkinson hitting a big-time shot to give us the lead briefly. But still, in overtime we didn't get it done. They did. We recovered nicely to win our Big Ten tournament, and they played real well and won their ACC tournament. So it was a good game against a quality team and we learned some things from it. That's what you remember."
Can you talk about what (John) Gilchrist and (D.J.) Strawberry will do, particularly defensively, for Maryland?
"What they will do? Same things they've been doing. They'll pressure. They'll get after you three-quarters, full. Extremely active with good wingspans, which means they cut the passing angles down, and that's something that Maryland teams have done for a long time. This won't be anything new."
How do you, it's kind of similar to what Pepperdine presented, and how do you, what do you tell your kids in this situation, similar to what Pepperdine did and how to handle it?
"Well, you know, it's, Pepperdine has players that have played and done what they do with more experience than our guys did going in, especially on the perimeter. So, you know, what you have to do is take that and learn from it. It's a different environment, but still it's players making plays. And you've got to prepare to handle whatever the team brings at you, whether they play us man, zone, what type of pressure. Still it's about the decision-making with the ball, and that's something that we knew was going to take a little time with these guys, and that's what we've got to get them to experience and be able to handle."
How is your preparation made easier in the fact that there's some familiarity with Maryland? You've played them quite a few times here in the last few years.
"Well, yeah, some of our guys have experience playing against them. Probably last year's group had more overall if you look top to bottom. It's still, everybody knows that, you can know what somebody does, but then trying to do it and counter it, and when you have the players that they have and the experience now that they have. They only lost one guy. So that's something, our guys are going to have to play and mature in a hurry to be able to compete with Maryland, with what they bring back and where they are at this point of the season."
How much can you fully prepare for a Pepperdine or a Maryland in a practice setting with what they like to do as far as their defense is concerned?
"Well, you do the best you can. You have, you know, you set up, same thing we've been doing for 30-some years in our practices. You try to simulate what you can and knowing that it's going to be different. We always hope that the other team's going, 'how can we simulate what they do?' We both have to do the same thing to prepare.
"But it's one thing to be in that kind of environment and it's just, as a lot of our fans said after the Pepperdine game, it's no wonder we don't see Wisconsin out here on the West Coast very often. Those are games that other schools I know were looking at, as we've said so many times, and going, 'what are you guys, what are you doing that for.' Well, you do it because you know you've got a team that's in their friendly confines and they're going to come after you hard and it's going to be a battle. And that's what you do. And then you try to do the best you can. If you come out on the short end, you have things to show your players as to why, and then you have to get better from that."
Do you know what goes into just deciding as these match-ups for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge since you have had Maryland a couple times, and Wake Forest, I guess? Do you know how that is determined?
"No. But it's done by TV. Those are match-ups that are done by people that, I don't know their names. I don't know. But you've got to play one of them, or there are two teams, actually, that get to take a bye until next year, I guess. [The ACC will] have 11 or 12 next year? So one of their teams are going to have to sit out."
How much do you stress right now to your players to stick to their roles and try not to do too much if something kind of falters on the floor or somebody tries to pick up, go somewhere maybe, or do something they shouldn't do? How much of that do you stress right now?
"Nothing different. I mean, every day you get on the floor there's something else you can work at. But you never change the way you work at the game. I mean, the game is still played the same way, because as soon as they change a major rule then we'll change maybe some things that we do. But it's, you know, there's always a drill, there's always some things that we emphasize in practice last night. A couple more things we'll go over today.
"You just approach it with the same idea that you go to every class with, what can I pick up today. You know, not who can I pick up today, what can you pick up today, what knowledge can be gained. So I think that's, you know, we still teach, and they're still students trying to learn. When they stop trying that then we know we're in trouble. But they'll just, I mean, you can't obsess about if you've had a tough game, if things didn't go your way. You step back on the floor and get it back."