March 18, 2009
Head Coach Buzz Williams
"I definitely have the longest hair on our team. Obviously I think it's a nice look. They're a lot better looking than I am so I think it helps their appeal more so than it helps mine.
I don't know, I don't like to talk about that. I don't know. They met me on Monday afternoon when we came to practice and asked me if that was okay with me, and I said, 'Sure, if that's what you guys want to do.' I'm surprised that Lazar and Wesley did it because those were the two guys I didn't think would do it. I saw Lazar on Tuesday morning and Tuesday afternoon I saw the entire team and they all did it. I don't know if it's a tribute to me or not.
[Jerel] tends to pose as the barber over at Humphrey Hall, I think. I don't know that his skill set is very good but his toughness makes him come to the barbershop so that's what happens.
I think it says a lot about the camaraderie of our guys - good players, bad players - combined, they all did it and I think that says a lot about the relationships this year.
I think in a lot of ways we've gotten better each of those six games. There have been segments in those games where we haven't been as efficient as we needed to be. Against Villanova, we were out of character too long on both ends of the floor. I thought in the second half against Villanova we were as good defensively as we were against St. John's in both halves defensively. I think they're excited to play and with each passing day I'm glad that we play on Friday because that gives us another day to prepare. Not just for Utah State but for us to prepare with our new team. I think that for every day that has passed, I think that they've gained confidence for what we've got to do to give ourselves a chance for success.
I'll tell you a little bit of the story about Gary [Wilkinson], you'll only be able to use snippits. When I was at Texas A&M, I was recruiting the best player in junior college. He played at Salt Lake City Community College. He ended up taking two official visits, one to Texas A&M and one to Kentucky. He was the number one ranked player in the country. I was in Salt Lake all the time, and my last trip to Salt Lake was after Rekalin Sims, the kid I was recruiting, had been to Texas A&M for his official visit. So I went to see Rekalin and the day I was there, Gary Wilkinson was on his quote unofficial campus visit in junior college at Salt Lake. So I met him then, he wouldn't remember that. The next year is when he was a freshman at Salt Lake, and I developed a great relationship with the coaches at Salt Lake. They kept telling me 'Buzz, he's pretty good. Buzz, he's pretty good.' Obviously I've changed a few jobs since then, but I knew Gary before he was ever a college player. He's the oldest college player to ever have been named MVP of a league. Twenty-six years old. Of course, there's a small percentage of guys that are ever 26 and still playing. But he's kind of like my wife, 26 and still in college.
I think there's a lot of truth in that. Coach Morrill has lost 86 games in the last 10 years, and in those 86 games, 70 of those 86 times that they've lost, they've been held to less than 72 points. They average 72 points this year. They've obviously only lost four times. In those four losses, they didn't score 72 points. It's kind of a mathematical problem: they want to be on offense two possessions per one minute. So if they can do that, that's 80 possessions in a game, and they score on one out of every two trips. That's why they're first in the country in field goal percentage. So if they're on offense two times per minute and they score one of those two times, that's how they get to 72 points. So if you can get consecutive stops, that's key when you're on defense. When you're on offense, you can't take bad shots because that plays into their hand because they want to be on offense two times per minute. It's definitely a contrast in style, it's a distinct style of play that they have, and as I've told our guys, it's Georgetown and Northern Iowa combined. Georgetown obviously has a pattern to what they do. Utah State has a pattern but it's not the same pattern every possession. The pattern is they're going to run a set play every possession, no matter what. If you stop the set play, they'll look over to the assistant coaches and they'll run another set play within the same possession. They're used to playing late in the shot clock and that's why their point guard is second on their team in rebounding because when the shot goes up, they send two guys back, and it's their two and their three. Their point guard rebounds but that's because he's always the one initiating offense and initiating the set. It's a unique style of play, but they're the fifth winningest program since 2000 in the country. Obviously it's a very well-discplined yet successful style of play.
I think that each game, [Maurice] is getting better. I think that each game, because he's gotten better, in addition to him getting better our team has gotten better. I don't think it's all completely on Maurice. I've told Wes and Jerel this - I think initially they were trying to completely pick up for the loss of Dominic...and when they got to trying to do what Dominic was, we lost was Wes and Jerel were. We can't lose Wes, Jerel, and Dominic so we need to all take one step to what Dominic gave us. That's me, that's Wes, that's Jerel, that's Mo. I think that every game, they've better understood that from an efficiency standpoint. I think that every game, Maurice is gaining confidence and because he's gaining confidence, our team is gaining confidence in him.
Extremely excited. I try to cover it up the best I can because I want it to be about the players. I'm really excited that my wife and children get to be a part of it. I think it's a lifelong memory that you can never capture. You can't buy it - you have to earn it - and that's what I think makes it so special. You never know if you'll have a chance to get back again, and that's the thing I've tried to talk to our team about this week. We don't play until Friday at 11:36 our time, so let's make sure we absorb everything between now and then, and let's make sure we get better between now and then. I've tried to, as best I could - I haven't slept a lot - I've tried to absorb it and try to enjoy it, maybe more so than I should. I'm very grateful and thankful just to have a chance.
We do the same thing. The number of tirades I have per practice haven't changed, the number of breaks per practice doesn't change, they understand the intensity level. The practice agenda has never changed. I understand that we are 1-5, but I think part of doing the same thing every day is if you're convicted that you're doing the things the right way and you're fundamentally sound in what you're doing, you have to continue to work on it to get better and be more efficient. That's what we've done. We can't changed what's happened and we can't change who we're playing and we can't change who we are within who we're playing. What we can do is try to become better at that and that's what we've done. That's what we did before Dominic got hurt.
The same things that I've said all year long - we have to finish possessions with a defensive rebound. [Utah State point guard Jared Quayle is] getting their team a lot of extra possessions. I don't know that there's any point guard in the country that's averaging 5.8 rebounds a game. The only people on our team that averages more than 5.8 is Lazar Hayward. We have to finish plays and finish possessions with a defensive rebound. We can't give them extra possessions because as soon as they get an extra possession, they're going to have two offensive possessions within a minute.
I think our players have been completely accepting of me and I don't know, as best I can answer this. I'm not a coach to my children. I'm just dad. My daughter and oldest son kind of process that I coach at Marquette, but they don't necessarily understand the wherewithal of all of that, so I just try to be dad to them and coach to these guys. Off the court, I try to be a mentor type to our players. I'm excited that they get to go, not because it's the NCAA Tournament, but it just means I get to spend more time with them than I typically do.
[My kids do] get to go to Boise, Idaho. They have no idea. They get to ride on a plane. It will be fun for about 20 minutes and then I'll be asking my wife to help calm them down. Try to give them as much Tylenol as possible between now and then.
I think a lot of people have said a lot of things, maybe in a negative slant, towards Boise. I don't know much about it. I have flown in there to go recruiting like I said on Sunday. I don't know anything about it. I mean this in the right way, I really don't know a whole lot about Milwaukee either. I drive to my office and I drive to my house. So whenever we land in Boise, I'll drive to the hotel and we'll drive to the gym. Whatever is on that path, I'm sure it will be nice and we'll enjoy it. That will be the extent of this.
I put on non-Marquette clothes yesterday. I don't mean this in an egotistical way, obviously now, the more I go out, the more people recognize me. I took off my work clothes yesterday and walked through campus and just tried to see what was going on, see some kids. Not wearing Marquette gear didn't help any - they all recognized me and I enjoyed it. It was about 30 minutes that I just walked through the middle of campus and said, 'Thanks for all your support. Thanks for being a part of it. It's your team just as much as it is our team.' They were very appreciative so I thought it was pretty cool. I wanted to absorb that which is why I did it."
Senior guard Wesley Matthews
Thoughts as the team leaves to go to Boise...
"Excited. We are excited to play again. It has been a long week with a lot of anticipation after we got out early of the BIG EAST Tournament. We are happy with our seed and get more prepared as the day go on. Overall we are just excited to be in the tournament and to play again."
About the team's new haircuts...
"The whole team did it. We all just try to do something different each year for the NCAA Tournament. A couple of the guys said, 'why not go bald? Why not? It will grow back.' Rob Frozena has a 'buzz cut.' We are are Buzz's buzzards, or Buzz's Bunch, whatever you want to call us."
About the team's fourth straight trip and if there is still the same excitement...
About Utah State...
"It's the same excitement. Not everybody goes to the tournament. Not everybody gets a chance to play for a national championship. It is a fresh season and we are ready and itching to play."
"They are a good team. It is almost a home game for them. They have a good team. They shoot the ball well. They have two solid 'bigs' and a solid point guard. They make plays. If they didn't, they would not be in this tournament. They are in it to win it just like we are."
About Gary Wilkinson...
"We have played against some old players, but I don't think I have ever played against someone who is 26 while in college. He gets it done and is a very good player. He is going to be matchup we are going to have to focus on."
About being a senior and the end of his career...
"I know it is, but I can't think about it like that. I can't play like that. I have to play the way I have always played. I try to play like there is no tomorrow. But when you think about it.. it's true. That is not a good thought process to have. I am going to play hard, have fun and good things will happen. If you try to play scared or tense or nervous then you are thinking about going home."
About the psyche of the team...
"We are alright. If you would have come to our practices you never would have thought we have lost five of our last six and a heartbreaker in the BIG EAST Tournament. If you were in there, you would have thought we won the BIG EAST Championship and just came back from New York with another title. That is the way we practice and the way we carry ourselves."
Goals for the tournament...
"It's just today. If we take care of today we give ourselves a chance for tomorrow. We are working on just getting better at what we do and hope that carries over to Thursday and then to Friday."
Senior guard Jerel McNeal
About the haircuts...
"One by one everyone was cutting their hair. Some of us found new looks. We do something different every year. This is the first year just about everybody did it."
About the tournament...
"It's tournament time. The best time of the year for college basketball. If we go out there and do things right and get two wins, there might be some more haircuts before the Sweet Sixteen."
About being routine after going the last three years...
"No, absolutely not. It never gets old. It only comes around once a year. The feeling is amazing because you know that you have a chance to compete for a national championship. But, at the same time, if you have one bad night you can be done for the rest of the year and have to wait till next year. I'm going to take full advantage of it. It is still exciting. It's the best time of year for a college basketball player. "
Mindset going into the tournament...
"I'm just taking it all in and trying to enjoy every second. At the same time, I'm working as hard as I possibly can each and every time I step on the floor just because this could be the last time. You never know when the last time will be, but when we are done I want to be able we gave it everything we possibly had and I worked as hard as I possibly could. If you do that you will never have any regrets no matter what happens."
About playing against an older player in Gary Wilkinson...
"Not in college, I have played against some older guys in local gyms, but not in college. It is a first. They have a real mature team, and very smart team. We have to matchup mentally and then try to overwhelm them with our physical abilities and athleticism."
About Utah's style of play...
"I think the biggest key to the game is just to be disciplined enough to guard them each possession, and let our defense lead us to our offense. I think if we do that we will be fine. We need to get stops, rebound and hold them to only one shot and guard. We can't let them get an extra possession. Getting the first shot rebound will be key."