Wilkinson: "So far, there's nothing different from a regular game. We had yesterday off and come in today for our next team. I don't think practice will be any different this week than for any other game we've had this year and I know our preparation isn't going to be any different."
What challenges do you see with North Carolina State? What are some of the tough things that you guys are going to have to take care of against them?
Wilkinson: "They're a great team, they can do a lot of different things. They've got some guys who can put the ball on the floor and some guys who can knock down the three and finish inside. We're just going to have to play real sound defensively and try to make them work for everything. They're a pretty good team defensively, they really get into you and make you work for everything."
What kind of coach is Bo Ryan?
Wilkinson: "He's a great coach and a really good person. You could say the best thing about him is that he understands the game real well and knows how to read people. He knows how to get his point across, he's a great teacher. He knows when to say something and how to say it. He gets the most out of each person and the coaching staff is the same way. He really knows the game and sometimes it's scary how well he knows what's going to happen."
Tucker: "He's a competitor, he's just like us. Every time he's on the floor, we feel like we're watching him. It's like he actually wants to be in the game, he wants to be out there and run some plays but he can't. He enforces that through what he says to us and when he talks to you. He talks to each player and tries to fire us up. He is a very fiery coach, he's always ready to compete. He's sweating more on the sidelines than we do in the games."
Is Bo Ryan a pretty fiery coach?
Wilkinson: "Oh yeah, he's got a lot of emotion but that's what makes it so much fun to play for him."
Does he have a good sense of humor, too?
Tucker: "Oh yeah, after practice he's always bringing up some jokes from back when he was growing up. Some Philly jokes, some Chester jokes, you know. He always has some one-liners for us."
What do you make of the improved guard play over the last two games?
Tucker: "Going into the game, me and Mike were getting a lot of touches so defenses were really focusing on us a lot. Coming into these games, the guards were going to have to move a lot more on the perimeter and we knew we were going to get them open. Me and Mike are unselfish when we get the ball so if guys are moving around, we're going to find them. They were ready to knock down shots and that's what we need. It's a five-man game when you're out there, so you need more than two or three people scoring. You need everyone to be a threat. They were ready to shoot shots, they weren't standing around watching me or Mike as we touch the ball."
Did you go away from the inside-out strategy in some games during the middle of the season because the guards were standing around?
Tucker: "You know, they were different games. Different teams bring different match ups. A lot of times, guys get comfortable watching other guys go to work. Those are things you address when you're with the team. We addressed it and as you can see, it worked out pretty well because guys are willing to listen and do what they have to do to get better. They do what they have to do to help this team win."
Mike, what kind of farm do you want to have?
Wilkinson: "A lot of it depends on what the future brings. I'm getting married in the spring, it depends on [Alexis Schrubee's] career and what goes on there. Maybe we'll start with a hobby farm just for us to live on and then own a farm and just manage it just as a business. I love just being in the country and having the privacy with the opportunity to go out and see the results of your work first-hand. I think it's just really rewarding to work on a farm and everything that comes from it."
Have you set a date for your marriage?
Wilkinson: "May 28. We're still working on the plans. Basketball is kind of taking over some the planning but we'll figure out some more stuff about the wedding after the season gets done."
Were you expecting UConn? Is N.C. State a surprise?
Tucker: "You don't know what to expect. You just have to worry about yourself because when you start worrying about other teams that's when teams don't do so good because you pretty much overlook the team that you're playing. You really don't know what to expect because a lot of people said we were supposed to play Kansas and look what Bucknell did. They're a great team. There are a lot of great teams out here. Teams don't worry about what's on the front of the jersey. You know, going into the game we can't worry about what's on the front of the jersey because anything can happen."
Wilkinson: "I agree with basically what he said. You look past one game and you're going home. We're basically looking forward to the next game and if we get past that game then whoever is there, is there. And we'll get ready for them. Right now, we're just looking at N.C. State. They're a great team and we've got our work cut out for us."
You always here in the NCAA Tournament that guard play is so important, and you here that year after year. Do you think that is accurate?
Wilkinson: "I think it's accurate to a certain extent. You look at the teams who are doing pretty well and usually their guards are playing well. That could be a result of having good guards or the result of having guards that are just hot at that moment or as a team playing real well. Our guards are right now are playing right now as well as they have played all season, knocking down shots and creating. They do the little things that help us win, that's part of the reason we're here."
Tucker: "During the tournament, teams pick up their pressure. Guards, handling the ball a majority of the time, have to be on top of their game. There's going to be a lot of pressure and different teams are going to bring different things to the table. Guards are the ones distributing the ball, they're the ones getting the ball inside. They're the ones who have to make the calls, the plays. They're running the floor out there, so they have to be on top of their game for the tournament."
Mike, I know you've got Alando right there with you, but can you tell me a little about how he's improved this year? And also, what he was like last year when he couldn't play [due to injury]?
Wilkinson: "We've talked about many times how he was always a part of the team last year. He was always involved in everything, whether he was getting in the huddle or in the locker room, always just supporting us, helping us out. There were things you'd see on the bench that you didn't see in the game. He'd let us know if we could improve here or do something to stop something there, or score here. It was just a big help last year. I think he learned a lot from that last year, just sitting on the bench watching, understanding more about the game and how people play. It's really helped him this year. He's improved all season, especially getting in the lane and dishing to people. Kicking it out and guys have been knocking down shots. He's really gotten better and he's made us a better team because of it. Early in the year, he kind of forced some stuff and now he's letting it all come to him. When he's playing like that it is tough to stop."
What do you know about Julius Hodge and the emotion that he brings to games? And how do you contend with somebody who is just such a strong emotional leader like he is for N.C. State?
Wilkinson: "He's a great player. I've watched several games that he's played in. He just finds ways to help his team win. He doesn't have to score a lot of points, he doesn't have to show up on the stat sheet a lot. He just still finds ways, whether it be his defense or his leadership ability to get guys around him to play that much better. All of the little things like that, setting a screen to get someone open, making a pass, whatever it be. That's a sign of someone who just wants to win, somone who's a real competitor. That's just what he is. We're just going to have to make him work hard. Hopefully, he'll miss a couple of shots or something like that. But hopefully, he'll have to work for everything he gets."
Mike, as a senior, is there a sense that the clock is ticking on your college basketball career? Does that feeling grow stronger with each game?
Wilkinson: "I really haven't thought about it too much of it as being the end. I just keep on going out there and playing a game. If we lose, we're done. Just being a competitor, you want to keep playing. That's the way the team feels and that's they way I feel. Personally, I haven't thought about my career being over or anything like that. I just want to play basketball and we still have some games to play, hopefully."
N.C. State runs the so-called Princeton offense, but they still average almost 75 points per game. How important is tempo to you guys in any game you play?
Tucker: "It is very important. What you try to do is get teams out of their comfort zone. N.C. State can really shoot the ball and they have that Princeton offense and they get cutters in and they pass the ball really well. So they find shooters, they find the open man. We just want to be in there to corrupt their offensive flow. We want to try to force them to do things that they're not comfortable doing. That's basically it, we try and do that every game."
Mike, there has been a lot of attention given to UW-Milwaukee... Do you feel like statewide you might be running a little bit under the radar, maybe taking a backseat to that story?
Wilkinson: "Whatever they do is fine with us. Whatever people think about us, we don't pay too much attention to. Right now, we're really just paying attention to what we need to do for this next game, what we need to prepare for. People can think what they want to think about us. We know a lot of guys on the UW-Milwaukee team, and we're happy for them. They've been playing so well, that they have won the games that they have. But we need to focus on what we need to do to get to this next game. That's all we're really focusing on this week."
Can you talk about the different paths that you N.C. State have taken to get to this point? N.C. State went through the reigning national champions, and you guys had to beat Bucknell. That's not a value judgment against Bucknell necessarily, but do you feel that maybe you are in a better position, maybe physical more rested? Is there anything that you feel like because of those differnt paths that you feel gives you an advantage heading into this game?
Wilkinson: "I wouldn't say it does. You look at both games we played, both have been close, tightly contested games. They haven't been easy from any standpoint. Every team that's in this tournament deserves to be here. They (Bucknell) beat Kansas and there's a reason they beat Kansas. Because they're a good team. Just because of the seeding, doesn't make it any easier for anyone. So it's going to be a tough game no matter what. There's a week to prepare and rest for each team so each team's going to come out with pretty fresh legs and well prepared for each other so it's going to be a good, highly contested game and it should be a lot of fun."
I know you all led the Big Ten in 3-point shooting defense and State obviously shoots a lot of 3s. How big of a key is that going to be? Do you as inside players get out and defend on the perimeter or is that left to the guards?
Tucker: "On defense, it takes five guys. We have five guys that are out there at any time that can guard. We like to say we can guard any position on the court. So if we have to step out, at times we might have to switch off, step out to a point guard. We might have to defend them and make them put it on the floor. The main thing you have to do with 3-point shooting teams is you have to take them out of their comfort zone, their level. A lot of these guys have different rhythms that they have, you have to identify that and see what each player likes to do. From there, make teams put it on the floor and make them beat us in different ways. If you let teams get comfortable shooting the three, especially good 3-point shooting teams, you can't get beat like that because they're going to knock down shots. We have to make them put the ball on the floor and make them take some long 2s."
Do you see that as a key match up, your 3-point defense and their 3-point shooting?
Wilkinson: "I think it's one of the keys. They're a great team, they do a lot more than just shoot the 3. They've got some great shooters, they can really put the ball in the basket when they get going. We just have to make them work and not give them any clean looks. Hopefully, we'll have someone there to force them to make a tough shot. Like 'Do' said, we feel like all five of us can guard every position at any given time and you have to have that confidence when you're out there playing. It'll be interesting to see if they try to do anything a little different or not. I think both teams will be up to the challenge."
Can you describe your offense? Would you call it deliberate? How tough is your offense to guard?
Wilkinson: "Our offense...it is the swing. It is just move the ball and make cuts. We're just looking for a good shot, whether it be inside, outside. We're just going to be patient and move the ball and just really look for good shots. If we can get it inside and kick it out or get it inside and finish, anything like that. Whatever we can get, we'll take."
Tucker: "It's an inside-outside offense. We try to work the ball around and like Mike said, have patience. Basically, try to find a weakness in different teams' defenses. You work the ball around, you get it inside to see if teams are going to double then you kick it out. Then it's also a chance for our guards to get a chance to get in the post. We have to have guards that post up. In our offense, you have to have guards that can get down there and make post moves."