It's been an absolutely tremendous ride for us this year. We're really excited about that until we saw who we drew. Then reality started to set in.
Q: Is there any added challenge getting a team to play together when you're bringing in guys from different four-year university background?
Burton: A lot of guys ask me that and it's always hard getting your team together regardless of who you have. I was at a junior college for 20 years as a junior college coach. For 20 years, I had a new team every year. There were two year players that would leave after one or two. I really got used to doing that and the one thing about Cal State Fullerton is it's a place where you can get high school kids but it really does attract JUCO kids.
I am really used to that and I feel comfortable to that. When they transfer into our program, they have to sit out a year to be eligible, so they are really in our program for three years. It's really worked out and been a great formula for us.
Q: A lot of your guys haven't played at bigger programs. Do you think that helps going into the NCAA Tournament that they have been apart of bigger programs before that it is not an intimidation factor?
Burton: I would hope so and I have really been thinking about that. I hope that is the case. One thing that I notice about our team that is on most occasions, that against bigger teams and bigger crowd and a tougher environment, we play better. They really like that challenge. Hopefully that is the case but none of them have been to the NCAA Tournament, including me. So it is such a different experience for all of us, doing all the press and interviews and so forth. I won't know that until the ball goes up and how we all feel sitting there. But I know Wisconsin plays in big environments all the time. So I hope are guys enjoy that and look at the challenge that way rather than be nervous about it.
Q: When you look at these teams statistically, there's a great difference between how much you score and how much Wisconsin allows per game. Are you guys going to try and push the tempo against UW and how much would tempo be a factor to you?
Burton: It's going to be the key factor. If we can't get out and run and go and get good shots and play at the tempo we like, then we won't have a chance. I am literally playing a 6-foot-5 center and 6-foot-5 power forward. Our advantage is trying to running up and down the court and play faster. They play a little bit faster when I watched them on film.
The tempo is going to be the exactly huge thing there to be able to get our break going and rebound. If we can't rebound on them, we can't run. We got to get stops. It's really going to be are they going to pound us so bad inside or are we going to get a chance to go up and down.
Q: When you were talking before about Wisconsin you said you thought they were a little slower until you saw them on film.
Burton: I watched them on tape and I saw them take off a few times and push it pretty good. Obviously they aren't like a lot of the other teams. We run on every opportunity. We like to go after misses and makes and timeouts and whenever and they don't do that. I understand that, but they have the capability to push it at you a little bit, especially after turnovers and some misses. There whole deal though is to grind it up on you, play great defense, show great patience on offense, never turn the ball over, those things. Our goal is to run, get more possessions and get more shots during the course of the game.
If we come down and make bad shots or turn the ball over quickly, we're really going to get in a hole.
Q: From the start of the season to now, where do you think your team has gotten better on the court? Where do you think you have made the most strides?
Burton: I'll tell you what it was and it was the chemistry. In the first part of year, we were going to through those things about who was playing like what a lot of teams do. They got settled in and understand their roles and do a lot better job in those areas. We have great senior leadership. We have six seniors and they all really are leaders and want to win. They have all put behind them the individual things and it has become more and more of a team.
I think the turning point was after we lost to Cal State Northridge and they came in here in a huge game and kicked our tails here. I think we won 10 straight from that time. We really got together and really have been playing well.
Q: You talk about the excitement and 30 years without the tournament. What kind of barriers or obstacles did you guys have to overcome to get to this point?
Burton: They've had a lot of coaches here and a lot of coaches better than me. It was always hard for me to be a division one guy. I was a high school guy for 10 and a JUCO guy for 20, I couldn't even get interviews. All of a sudden one of my former players Ray Lopes, who was at Oklahoma and had a great run that year, got the Fresno State job and he asked me to come with him. I went to Fresno as an assistant and this is how amazing it is. You move to the right about 18 inches and all of a sudden you are qualified to be a division one head coach. Almost 30 years of being a head coach didn't count but now you're an assistant saying ‘That's right, Ray' and I get the interview.
When Fullerton opened up, I thought the possibly to be good was there. I have known that in the past they've had a lot of problems. They had some NCAA restrictions put on them that they had to overcome. They were for some reason not getting it done. The Big West league was incredible with UNLV, Utah State, New Mexico State. It was really a good league.
Our facilities aren't great and everything was on the back burner. When they took a chance on me, I felt really the way to do this was through the junior colleges and transfers and gradually get into the high school kids. It's really hard for us to get top high school kids for us because they would rather go to the bottom Pac-10 teams for the TV and environment and such.
As we win, we've gotten better players and better people and you win with good kids. Every year, we get better and better. It might be a tough call next year losing six seniors, so you might not be talking to me next year.
Q: After seeing Wisconsin, can you give us a couple of impressions about them?
Burton: Obviously, one of the best coaches in the country is there. That's no secret. The thing I love about him is that he has a background like me. From what I understand, he worked in high school and worked his way up. As a fan, I have always routed for Wisconsin and as a coach because I like (Ryan) so much and I like his style, the way they play. I love the way they do it in his offense. I think number one, the coach is a real star there and he's terrific.
I love their team. There's no B.S. about them. They play together and they are really a team. I know I told our players yesterday that Wisconsin has done all year what we've been doing right now and that's playing like a team. They have really good players, good size, great system for what they want to play and that's why they are having so much success.
To win the Big Ten regular season is to terrific and to march through the tournament was terrific, too. Trust me, I know they are a Big Ten and we're the Big West but I know there's a difference. We won our league in tight with two other schools and our tournament, but they are at a way higher level than we are at and it's going to be really, really difficult.
It's a tough matchup for us and one that I didn't want. I thought we'd be better played against someone else that we could go up and down with us and play with us because that would fit with us. To deal with their size and their style, I think it is always harder to slow it down than to speed it up.