March 11, 2014
SAN DIEGO -
Head coach Steve Fisher
"I think the excitement now turns to post-regular-season play. I'm like everybody, I've caught snippets of the conference tournaments. We will be there with several other conferences for the tournament in Las Vegas and it should be a tremendously exciting week. We look forward to it, plan on playing well and our goal is to play and win three games in three days. I know that's the goal of a lot of teams, but that's what we're striving for. We want to play well and move on to the next game. So challenges will be there starting with either Colorado State or Utah State, and it will go from there. But our players are excited and they'll be ready. It's a wonderful time of year if you're a basketball fan, coach or player."
On if he likes the conference tournament:
"I may be different, but if you asked players if they could play everyday, they'd much prefer that than practice. That's what we have to opportunity to do, and the more you win the more you play. So I don't think any of us are worried about fatigue, physical or mental, from three games in three days impacting how you're going to play in the NCAA Tournament. Injuries are a part of anything you do, so obviously you don't want to get anybody hurt. But if you come through it physically healthy, it's a win-win if you play three games. That's my theory, and that's how we're going into it. We want to play and we want to win, and we're going there with that attitude. We may not win, but it won't be because we believe it will be easier if we were back home resting. Every conference in America now has (a tournament) except the Ivy League and maybe one other, and that's who gets to go to the tournament. We're fortunate we're in a league now where if you win the conference, you're going to go to the tournament, and we won the conference, so we know we're going to the tournament. But it's exciting to play in some of those leagues and see who's going to go (to the NCAA Tournament). Maybe it's not 100 percent fair if you win your conference and don't win your tournament and don't get to go, but that's what it is now and everybody knows it. I think this adds a level of excitement to March that many teams look forward to."
On if the MW Tournament is anti-climactic for them at this point:
"A lot of teams in the country are probably in the same situation we're in. I don't see how it could be anti-climatic. Obviously if we don't win it will be a little bit of a downer, but we would be tremendously excited to play. I think you have to have another challenge and motivation, and that's something to look forward to also. That was part of our thought of the day yesterday: Congratulations, now it's the next opportunity, next challenge. We're very excited about going (to Las Vegas) and playing. We won't be less motivated to win the conference because we won on Saturday. Hopefully we'll be more motivated to get greedy to get two championships in a span of a week."
On if having so many teams fighting to get into the tournament gives this year's MW Tourney a different feel:
"I think that will add to the energy in the building and excitement, but with that being said, there was no less fight from the teams that knew they would get in last season. It adds a little more stress for some teams that know the only way they're going to get in is to win the conference tournament, and that's quite a few (teams) this year. They'll feel pressure to win that first game for a chance in the second one. It will be some interesting basketball I'm sure."
On if he'll be quick to go back to the zone if needed:
"I'm a guy if someone says emphatically, `We need to do this,' I'll think long and hard about doing it. I think teams will spend a little time on what they'll do against the zone, so that's probably good for us too where they have to take some practice time to use on that. I really don't know how much we'll use it in the tournament. We may do it a lot, we may not do it all. We'll see what happens."
On if his feelings on using the zone changed after Saturday:
"I think you have to factor in who you're playing, how good of shooters they have, and if you get back-to-back-to-back baskets made on you from the perimeter, you're probably going to get out of it. But since it was a huge piece of winning the game, everyone will want us to use it. My premise is we're a good man-to-man defensive team, we've proven that and have been very successful with it. You can spot (the zone) in and use it. Because it's been successful, we may try it a little sooner. What happens when we're in it will dictate how long we will stay in it."
On if his team has a mindset that no deficit is too big:
"I think you have to have that on any team. In today's climate, big leads are overcome, and it could happen in five possessions. You have to not get carried away if you get a big lead, and can't panic and do things crazy if you have a big deficit to overcome. You have to just nip away, and you've got a chance. I've been on both sides. I've seen big leads frittered away, and I was part of the one on Saturday that was a wonderful comeback in five or six minutes."
Senior Guard Xavier Thames
On the campus environment following the big win against New Mexico:
"Everybody is just coming up and congratulating us and showing us love. That's been great the last two days on campus."
On if people they don't know come up to the players to congratulate them:
"Yeah, the students do. But it's great. We all say, `Thank you' and show them love back. It's been great."
On if winning the conference championship isn't as important with the NCAA Tournament soon after:
"We're competitive. We want to go out and win each and every game and get to that championship game and cut down the nets in Las Vegas. We just have to take it one game at a time when we go out there. We have a game on Thursday and we have to get ready to play either Utah State or Colorado State. We just want to go out there and compete and have fun at the same time, and try to win it all."
On what it would mean to him to win the conference championship:
"It would mean a lot, especially with this group of guys. It would be a great thing if we could win the tournament. We just have to take it one game at a time, but it would be a special feeling to go out there in Las Vegas and win the (MW) championship."
On what each coach brings to the team:
"Each coach brings a different dynamic to our team. David Velasquez works on offense and defense. (Mark Fisher) runs our offense and coach Justin Hutson and coach (Brian Dutcher) do our defense and offense. It's just a big family. Each coach does their own thing and they're always looking out for us, not just as players but also as men off the court. That's a great thing about this team."
On how the coaches support the players off the court:
"They invite us over for dinner with their families. They invite us to spend time with them, not just for basketball but also for family."
Senior Forward Josh Davis
On if the comeback against New Mexico was remarkable:
"I think it is, but at the same time we all knew we had this kind of talent coming into the season. It's just great that it happened this way."
On if the team is confident that it can come back from a large deficit:
"We play every possession as hard as we can, no matter what the score is. Defense is one of our biggest staples so no matter what happens, we just play as hard as we can."
On if they get worried when they fall behind in a game:
"It's not that big of a deal. We just know we have to kick it up another gear."
On if it is difficult to prepare for an opponent on such short notice:
"It's tough but at the same time that's a part of this game - quick turnarounds, tournament games, three games in a row. But I know our team will be prepared for it."
Junior Forward Dwayne Polee II
On if any faculty or staff members have shown support for the team:
"I think one of my professors said he and his wife often come to the games and that they're proud of us. I think the whole school is pretty proud of us and it's something the students take pride in, not only for basketball but for all the sports."
On if the long season takes a toll on the players:
"No. This is such an important time of the season, it's such a crucial time, that our adrenaline pumps so much we don't even worry about how tired we are at this point."
On why they are successful when having a short turnaround in games:
"I think our coaches do a great job preparing us. They spend hours cutting film, going over game plans and preparing us in practice. I think that has a large part to do with it. Also, the players are focused on the task at hand."
On the role of the 1-3-1 zone going forward in the season:
"I think we're going to implement it a little more because it did catch New Mexico off-guard. We haven't played too much zone this year, and I think it's just a change in tempo type-of-thing. I think it would be good to switch it up every now and then, but we'll see how often we'll use it."
On if he thinks opposing teams will start preparing for their 1-3-1 zone defense now:
"Definitely. They've seen how effective it was and they never know when we might throw it at them, so I think they're going to start preparing for it."