Kansas-North Dakota State Quotes, March 19
March 20, 2009
MODERATOR: We are joined on the dais by Kansas student-athletes Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins.
Q. Ben Woodside was asked in their news conference about matching up with you and the difficulties that that's going to make for him. Can you talk about how you look at your matchup with Woodside?
SHERRON COLLINS: He's good. I can't take nothing away from him. He does a lot. Crafty. A good 3-point shooter, a good foul -- he's good all-around. He has a good game. And, you know, he knows how to use screens real well and does a lot of different things for the team.
It will be a tough matchup, but I think playing against a lot of guards all season, that's prepared me for this moment.
I mean, it will be tough for us. It will be a tough matchup, but I think I will do all right.
Q. Cole, with you being from Bloomington, is it perhaps -- are you the only one on the team that knows where Fargo is? And if so, what do you know about Fargo and North Dakota?
COLE ALDRICH: I think Sherron probably knows where Fargo is, don't you, Sherron?
SHERRON COLLINS: I played up here a few times.
COLE ALDRICH: He said it's in North Dakota (laughter).
No, a lot of guys -- we have Midwest guys. A lot of guys from Kansas, a few guys from Chicago. And we have big tournaments here over at AAU, so a lot of guys have played in Minneapolis and whatnot over at the AAU circuit over high school.
We're just really looking forward to the game tomorrow. We know that they're going to be good, as proven over the past four or five months, over the season.
So, you know, we're just excited really to get back on the court. It's been a week since we played, and, you know, I'm anxious just to get out and play again.
Q. Sherron, can you put into perspective what it means being the defending champion in this event, and also how you guys approach that?
SHERRON COLLINS: I just think, you know, of it as a title. We won last year. Of course we're defending it, but that's not how we're thinking. We're just trying to take this thing one game at a time.
I think it means a lot to the guys. We have a lot of new guys, so they weren't here last year. And we carried it, and we're going to have a target on our back anyways just because we play at Kansas. It is not much of a big deal really.
Q. For you, Cole. Last year you got some big minutes in the semifinal game, and I'm just wondering if you can explain how that experience maybe gave you some momentum to be able to do the things you have been able to do this year. And also the opportunity to play, because you guys did have a lot of departures.
COLE ALDRICH: Yeah. You know, we had a great game against North Carolina last year in the Final Four. You know, I was fortunate enough to get in the game, you know. And when I got in the game, you know, I played well.
One thing I took out of it really, it gave me confidence. You know, it gave me great confidence just going into the summer. You know, I think I had a great summer. And I worked really hard with some people back home here and with the coaching staff and guys, you know, down at Lawrence.
But, you know, it's been different from last year's team to this year's team, because, you know, on last year's team I was the fourth big man off the bench. You know, I got a few minutes behind, you know, three guys that got drafted into the league last year. And, you know, I just really took it as going from practice, you know -- that was my game, was practice last year because, you know, I knew I wasn't really go to get into too many games. And when I did, I wasn't going to be there for, you know, 35 minutes at a time.
But I learned so much from those guys last year, which has carried over to this year's team. Because Sherron and I are looked upon as the leaders, you know. And there's been, I have to say, a 180 from last year's role to this year's role.
Q. Sherron, the North Dakota State coach said that he thought that you and Ben Woodside were very similar type players. Both good finishers, good shooters, point guards. Having seen as much as we've seen of Woodside, how do you think you guys are alike and how are you different?
SHERRON COLLINS: We watched a few clips of him on tape, we watched tape. I actually watched some more at night, but I just think they hand the ball to him most of the time so he has to make a lot of plays for the team. He shoots it pretty well and I shoot it pretty well. And, like I say, finish at the rim a lot in a similar let.
But, you know, there are some things that were different. I'm going -- I like contact. And, you know, this is the type of game, that's the type of game I play. But he's good, you know. We have a lot of similarities and I just think it's because we have the ball in our hand more of the time. We have to control the game. And they depend on us most of the time to make shots.
But I think my upper hand is the big fella right here, just throwing it to him, so.
Q. For either of you guys. Is there a team that you played this year or in the Big 12 Conference that is similar or reminds you of North Dakota State?
COLE ALDRICH: Missouri. You know, they kind of run the same motion. You know, they're not quite so, you know, large all around as a team. But, they're really good, you know.
You take a good hard-nosed Missouri team and you take the North Dakota State team and, you know, they're going to be really good, you know. And that's the one thing, you know, when we're playing North Dakota State or another school, it's the NCAA. You know, it doesn't matter who you're playing, it's going to be a tough game.
Q. Cole, how many times would you say you've been here to this building as a fan kind of growing up?
COLE ALDRICH: A lot. This is my first time ever, you know, being able to be not a spectator at the building.
You know, I told all the guys, I remember watching Twins games, Vikings games, you know. And I came back, I think it was my junior year of high school when they had one of the regionals here that I came and watched I think it was Florida and Boston College and Villanova and another team play here.
You know, so I've been a big fan of the teams that have played in this building for, you know, 19 years. You know, 20 years that I've been alive. So it's kind of really fun of not being that spectator and just having everybody come watch us.
Q. And either one of you guys can answer this question. You two were the only guys off last year's team that played any kind of significant minutes but came back. How were you able to have the success you did this year after losing so many talented players off of last year's team?
COLE ALDRICH: I would say Sherron. Me personally I think Sherron has done a great job. I give all the credit to Sherron because, I mean, I don't even know if I consider myself a significant player in last year's team because, you know, I only played -- I think the most minutes I played last year was 17. Which is a good amount. But Sherron was the guy that, you know, made plays in the real big games, you know. And I think Sherron has been an absolute great leader. He's led us to really, you know, great places, you know, winning the Big 12 and whatnot. I think Sherron is an unbelievable leader.
MODERATOR: Sherron, do you want to add to that original question?
SHERRON COLLINS: Yeah, I think just Coach really getting me ready to become the leader that I am. And I think it's just the young fellas that came in, they didn't come in thinking they knew it all. And I think it made my transition easier because they want to learn and want to get better.
And early in the season we was having a problem with, you know, coaching effort instead of just coaching the little things that we needed to work on. So my deal, I had to get them to buy into Coach's system, which Coach played a big deal in it, too. And I was able to lead and they was able to listen and we stopped coaching effort and started coaching little things we needed to work on, and that's when we got better.
MODERATOR: Okay, if there are no more questions, we will go ahead and excuse you guys back to your locker room.
Joined on the dais by Kansas head coach, Bill Self. We will go ahead and beginning with an opening comment from Coach, and then turn it over to questions. Coach?
COACH SELF: Well, this is, you know, of course in our biassed opinion the most special time of the year, and certainly we're honored to be part of the tournament again. And really looking forward to playing a very, very good North Dakota State team that's very well coached in the opening round.
Q. Bill, in watching them, how obvious is it that it's a better team with a lot of guys that played a lot of games together?
COACH SELF: We've watched quite a bit of tape, a lot of tape, but it didn't take long to figure that out. These guys, they all -- they say the longer you play the game the slower the game becomes. And I think they're a prime example on both ends, but probably more so offensively. That they don't panic, they understand where the shots are coming from, and they know how to move without the ball.
They really are a hard team to scout because their movement is dictated by what the defense does as opposed to what they have pre-set in their head to do. And that's much harder to do with the young team than it is a veteran team.
Q. Bill, from all you've been able to watch Woodside and talk to people about him, what have you been able to determine about him, other than obviously he's a very fine basketball player, but about what makes him tick? His heart, his toughness.
COACH SELF: You know, I don't know him personally. But he would be the type of guy that every coach would want on his basketball team. He gives the appearance to me of being their leader without question. But he does it in a way where it looks like to me everybody respects him so much because they know he makes all them better.
Very unselfish for a guy to average 23 points a game. And, you know, he's got different gears. A lot of guys are easier to guard because they only have one speed they play at. And I think he does a terrific job of playing at three or four different speeds and really utilizes that to his advantage. He does a good job of keeping his defender off balance.
Q. As you know, President Obama filled out his brackets. Disappointed that he didn't have Kansas in his Final Four? And do you agree with Coach Krzyzewski saying that the economy is something he should probably be focused on more than the brackets?
COACH SELF: Yes and yes. And I think everybody needs a little release every now and then. I think it's okay for our president to spend five or seven minutes of his day getting away from all the things that he has to deal with daily, because I am sure his plate is more full than any of us could imagine.
But no, I'm not disappointed at all. I don't think that -- last year we may have been a little bit of flavor of the tournament type of pick because we had so many returning guys and so many obviously talented guys. We're a little bit unknown ourselves. We have a good seed in being a 3 seed, but there is still some unknown out there about us because we are so young. But that doesn't disappoint me at all.
Q. How are Ben Woodside and Sherron similar as players? And how are they different?
COACH SELF: They are both under six foot. I don't know who's taller, neither one of them are, I don't think, going to spend a lot of time in the post posting each other up.
But, I think there are some similarities in that both -- you know, Sherron is a point guard first that can score. We need him to score. I look at Ben, you know, he's a true point guard that can really score and make baskets. So from there, there is a similarity.
I think that Sherron is probably more of a guy that gets his shot on his own, maybe than Ben a little bit, but not a lot. Ben can get his shot on his own as well.
So Sherron is obviously a bigger point guard from a weight standpoint, but I think there are similarities. Not very often you are going to find two guys that score that many points that are also, you know, truly guards.
Q. Have you or will you -- do you feel any need to address the dangers of the first round with this team in connection with Kansas?
COACH SELF: Well, you know, I think you always address every situation, but not have a negative standpoint. You address it, this one who we need to be and this is how we need to play to give us the best chance.
You know, you say, you know, struggles in the first round. And we did have two first-round flame-outs I guess four and five years ago. So I believe that's right, four and five years ago. So was it three and four years ago? Three, excuse me, I was corrected. Three and four years ago. But I don't think that's the mentality you go into anything thinking that oh, no, this could happen. I don't think that's the right thing.
You know, North Dakota State has got a good team or they wouldn't be in the field. We've got a good team or we wouldn't be in the field.
And you'll find out, just like in our conference tournament, just like in their conference tournament. They played a good Oakland team in the finals, if I am not mistaken, that could have gone either way. And you know what? We played the ninth place team in our league and they beat us in the first round.
There is so much parity in college basketball, I don't think anybody can afford to look past anything. But I don't think you ever approach anything saying let's not let a negative thing happen to us. I think you approach it thinking hey, let's go make something positive happen.
So it certainly -- I remember it better than anybody else, but these guys didn't have anything to do with those two losses.
Q. Bill, is it any different playing in these big dome stadiums more suited for football than, say, a regular --
COACH SELF: I haven't even been out here yet, so I don't know the configuration or anything else. Somebody told me they had it seated to 32. Is that right? Even though that is huge, that's not Detroit big like we played in last year where they seated for 75. But I don't know if it makes that big of a difference.
We obviously haven't played in a venue this big. I wouldn't think North Dakota State has played in a venue this big. I don't know it to be a fact, but I don't see it being a huge difference or advantage for either team.
Q. Bill, from watching Cole in practice all last year, and watching him develop, did you see this type of season coming from him in his second year?
COACH SELF: Probably not. When we first got him, I thought that he had a chance to be a good player in time. He turned out to be a much better player last year by the end than what I had envisioned because he worked so hard. He is a winner, coachable. He has a lot of attributes that the great players need to have in order to become great.
Then he had a good summer, a confident summer. Then when we went to Canada I'm thinking this guy has improved so much, he needs to get a touch every possession or when he misses I'm disappointed. And I caught myself, hey, he is just a sophomore and hasn't even averaged three points a game yet. Then as we got into season, he got off to a good start and he just got continually better.
He's really got a chance to be a really good player. And certainly he's a good player now, but I'm talking about he can be one of the best true big guys that Kansas ever had, not just in recent memory, because he is a true 5-man and you don't really see many of those in today's time.
Q. Coach, what concerns you most about this North Dakota State team? And are they similar at all to any other teams that you played so far this year?
COACH SELF: I don't know if they are similar to the teams we played, but I would say that -- I'm saying their personnel is not similar, but their styles, I mean, they run the best motion of anybody that we played this year. And, Texas Tech obviously with Pat and, of course, you know Coach Knight being there for years, they run a similar form of true motion that we obviously did not guard very well. We had a guy go for 35 against us. So we have been working hard on that.
But if you are going to just match up styles offensively I would think that Texas Tech could possibly be that style. I am not saying personnel-wise or anything like that, just the ability to get shots off the catch, I think that North Dakota State does that probably better than anybody we played this year.
Q. You mentioned you're a young team. With that in mind, how much of a concern is it within NDSU's experience in a game like this?
COACH SELF: I do think experience matters. There's no doubt about that. It mattered last year for us. I'm not sure our team could have been in the situations that it was in last year and been successful if they hadn't been through the wars before. We know that.
But also I do think we play a pretty difficult schedule, and it's a pretty good league. And you have a bunch of young guys that somehow manage to go 14-2 in a pretty good league, so you have to develop some experience beyond their years in order to do so. There is no way we can add it up tomorrow and say we have an experienced team as North Dakota State.
But I will say this, we are more experienced than our years because we've been through a lot at an early age. Cole is an inexperienced guy, but he still has done more than most sophomores in the country has done. Sherron is a junior, but he has been in more crucial situations than most juniors have been. Even though our other guys are all freshmen or guys that haven't played before, they put themselves in positions to play big games this year and also have some success and also some failures.
I think it is a factor. It remains to be seen how much of one it is. But I think our guys can play beyond their age. They have pretty consistently this year.
Q. Going into the season, talk about your expectations for Sherron and how much, if any, he has exceeded them. And let's say if he can max out at 100 rpm, where does he play best?
COACH SELF: I'd say he probably plays best about 90. And I've never been asked that question in rpm-wise, so I have to think it through. It is pretty deep. Probably about 90. Because when a guy is sped up, he is usually not his best. But he is a guy that needs to be in attack mode all the time. I say about 90. That's one thing about Woodside I think is really good, he can play so fast and not be out of control. Sherron has a tendency sometimes, when he gets to 100, it can be a little wild sometimes. And I think about 90.
And I don't think Sherron has exceed my expectations for him. And I told him before the season I thought he could be the best league guard in the country. And to be honest with you, I think he is still working to get to that point. But when he plays well, he's really, really good. And when he hasn't played well, it is usually because he has missed shots or been a little sped up. But I have as much confidence in him as any guard I've had.
Q. Talk a little bit about pros and cons of the time off, getting a little fresher, but maybe not playing a game as long as you have maybe this year?
COACH SELF: Well, I don't think it's -- I have a hard time getting a lot of positives out of getting your butt beat. But, if you allow it to be a negative, it will be more of a negative, so we have to address what our weaknesses were and come out and hopefully understand that intangibles were the reason why we got beat the other day, in my opinion, more so than execution. We were a team that did not play with the same energy level that we had played with when we played well other times. So hopefully that's corrected.
But I would think in the NCAA tournament it could be corrected. Of course energy doesn't mean you are playing well, but it certainly gives you a better chance to play well.
Q. Any chance to be rusty?
COACH SELF: I guess there is a chance to being rusty, but there is a chance that North Dakota State can be rusty, too. I don't know this for a fact, the game against Oakland was on Wednesday or --
Q. Last Tuesday.
COACH SELF: Last Tuesday, we played on Thursday. So we have that going for us. They will be rustier than us.
Q. Coach, do you do anything differently when you're playing a game this early in the morning, an 11:30 game? Does it change your approach or mindset going into a game at all?
COACH SELF: Probably not. It certainly -- when we found out the game times this week, we've gotten up and eaten early breakfast as a group and practiced at the same time as game time, so that's about the only thing that's different. Just trying to get into the routine a little bit.
Q. Coach, how important is it for your team to hopefully in the first couple of minutes of this, five, 10 minutes of this game maybe try to take control, especially knowing they could potentially have a crowd that's pretty large in their favor, kind of take them out of it a little bit early and not let them hang around, I guess, towards the end?
COACH SELF: You think -- you guys are saying that you guys will have more fans than us? That's just a guess, huh? No, I heard you guys travel pretty well, so we anticipate that.
You know what? I am not going to say whether it is important or not. This is my deal on that. Every coach wants his team to get off to a good start. If you go in and tell your team hey, we have to get off to a good start, what are you telling them if they don't? The whole deal, it is a 40-minute game. And certainly we want to be ready to go right from the opening tip.
But the whole thing, it is basketball and there is a human element. And sometimes guys make hard shots and sometimes they miss easy ones and you can't put too much emphasis on it that early in the game, in my opinion.
MODERATOR: Okay. Thanks, Coach.
COACH SELF: Thanks.
NORTH DAKOTA STATE QUOTES
MODERATOR: We are joined by North Dakota State student-athletes. From my far left, Mike Nelson, Lucas Moormann, Brett Winkelman and Ben Woodside. We will go ahead and begin with questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Ben, how much have you seen of Sherron Collins and how do you think you guys are alike and how are you different as athletes?
BEN WOODSIDE: I have watched him plenty on ESPN, I know that. He is a great player. He can do it all. He's tough at getting in the paint. He can shoot the ball. But yeah, he's a great player.
And similarities, you know, we might be able to shoot the ball the same, but he's going to be a tough matchup for me and I am looking forward to it.
Q. In preparing for Kansas, can you just talk about what stand out most to you? Maybe what impresses you most or concerns you heading into this matchup?
BEN WOODSIDE: They get the ball in transition and they push it up the floor in a quicker hurry. And, you know, if they can force some turnovers, some bad shots, they can get the ball in the open court in a quicker, and they can definitely hurt you.
There are a number of ways that Kansas can hurt ya. That's one thing that we've been practicing again, is the transition. Their transition is unbelievable.
Q. Ben, can you talk just a little bit more about the matchup that you have with Sherron Collins. You said it's going to be a different matchup. Why do you think so? And for any of the other players, how do you expect Ben to put himself in that matchup?
BEN WOODSIDE: I think he's one of the top guards in the nation. You know, he's so good at creating for himself, creating for his teammates. And, you know, he is great. They have the ball in his hands all the time. And good things happen all the time when the ball is in his hands.
It's going to be a tough matchup for me. Like I said, he's a great shooter. He can get in the paint and he distributes the ball really well. So yeah, it's going to be a tough matchup.
Q. For some other players to talk about the matchup?
BRETT WINKELMAN: I know Ben worked hard last season and preseason to work on the defense. He has always been a great offensive player, but this year we all focused on defense so I think he will be up for the challenge. It will obviously be a tough challenge, but he'll come ready.
Q. Mike, you guys got a lot of national attention this week that some experts have gone out and picked you guys to pull an upset. Do you prefer that? Would you rather keep going under the radar and maybe sneak up on Kansas tomorrow?
MIKE NELSON: Definitely. I think we fit well with the underdog role. I don't think there's really any pressure on us coming into this game, I think. It is more pressure on the higher seeds.
So, you know, as far as, you know, anxiety coming in, I don't think we have much. I think we just come out and play our game and play with a lot of energy, a lot of fire, a lot of passion. And I think, you know, it will be a good ball game.
Q. Brett, can you tell us how this game with Kansas compares with other high majors that you played?
BRETT WINKELMAN: Yeah, we've had our experience playing against high majors. Obviously we had some success with that, too. And we know coming in that we're just going to have to play a solid game.
Whenever you have a tough opponent like a Kansas you can't give them points in transition off our turnovers or taking bad shots like Ben said earlier. We have to play a solid game in order to compete and think we are capable of that. But obviously we can't give them any points because we have enough tough shots the way it is.
Q. Lucas, talk about the matchup with Cole Aldrich and have you faced a guy that size this season?
LUCAS MOORMANN: Yeah, he is a great player. We started watching film on that and we watched him on TV quite a bit, too. But as far as guys, you know, his size, his length, we haven't played a ton of guys like that. But, you know, he's a good player. He bangs down there and he finishes well, so we're just going to have to play good defense and try to keep it out of his hands down in the block.
Q. Ben, you come into a situation like this, is all the heat really on the bigger school? You look at Robert Morris is here as well, and smaller schools like that. In that sort of matchup, is all the pressure on the bigger school?
BEN WOODSIDE: I agree with what Mike said, I think so. You know, we're not expected to win this game. It's not like people across the country are putting us over Kansas.
So, you know, overall I think there's more pressure on the bigger school. Obviously, you know, we're happy to be here and we're excited. But I think overall I don't think there is much pressure on us at all.
Q. What about any of you other guys? Do you feel the same way?
BRETT WINKELMAN: This obviously is the one shot for us seniors to be in the NCAA tournament, so there's a little bit of an excitement and maybe want to go out, this is our one shot, so it is our one opportunity to play well here. Maybe a little pressure.
But to be honest, like everybody is saying, the top seed is expected to win, we're not. We're going to go in and have fun and play a good game and make it a close one down the stretch.
LUCAS MOORMANN: I would say the same thing. Two goals at the beginning of the year: to win the conference and to make it to the dance here. And we accomplished both those. Now it's just having fun, I believe.
Q. This year, guys, Kansas has held every one of its opponents under 50 percent shooting from the field. Have you guys been working on anything this week to get better looks to try to make sure you guys get it, have your usual high field goal percentage?
BEN WOODSIDE: We have been doing the same thing the entire year, and we're approaching this just like we would any other game. We're not changing anything, and we're approaching this like other game.
Yeah, they are a great defensive team, but hopefully we can counter that by shooting well and, you know, we are approaching it the same as we would any other game.
Q. I know you guys have talked a lot about this. But the decision to red-shirt and the payoff now, can you just kind of put that into perspective for a lot of people who have never really heard your story?
BRETT WINKELMAN: Yeah. In the transitional year we all came in and decided to red-shirt so that are fifth year we would be eligible for the post-season. And like I said before, it was our one chance, our one opportunity for us seniors to make the dance. And so we took advantage of it and we're here.
Obviously we know that it was a great decision for us to red-shirt. All of us played every year, started basically the whole way through. And we're just excited that we took advantage of the opportunity and we made the dance.
Q. Mike and anybody else, how has this week been for you guys being on the big stage? Fargo is a pretty quiet place and now you are all over the national sports news. How has this week been?
MIKE NELSON: It has just been extremely exciting for not only us, but just Fargo and the community. Like I said, people don't really talk about Fargo too much, so it was just, you know, a great opportunity to put Fargo on the map. And, you know, we've been, you know, soaking it all up this last week. And hopefully we can -- we don't want it to end, so hopefully we can keep it going.
LUCAS MOORMANN: I think it explains it pretty well when you are watching the Selection Show and you see North Dakota State show up and you have a lot more fans than a lot of other teams by far, so that just shows you how much Fargo is behind us and the support we have and it has been great to be in the city of Fargo these past weeks.
Q. Woody, do you feel that maybe the experience factor is one of the things in your corner based on the fact that the Kansas team is talented but you are starting four fifth-year seniors?
BEN WOODSIDE: We played a lot of high majors throughout our entire career. Each year we played a number of different high majors and hopefully that can prepare us for a game like this. I look at USC, they are very similar. They are a very athletic team. Kansas is a very athletic team. Their length, both of the seems have length. It is nice to be able to play a team like that this year.
I think obviously it's going to benefit us. There is no way it can harm us in playing other high majors and I think that experience will definitely help us out.
Q. To the two Minnesota kids, are you expecting a lot of local support for these games?
BEN WOODSIDE: Yeah, I have quite a few fans coming from my hometown. I have a lot of buddies that, you know, have told me they're coming to the game. So I expect a lot of support from people throughout Minnesota and, yeah, there's a lot of friends and family that will be coming.
BRETT WINKELMAN: Yeah. I got a lot of emails this past week saying good luck and we'll be down there supporting you. Some of my friends from high school and around the community that I haven't seen for four or five years that are just excited about it and will come down and support us.
Q. Ticket requests?
BRETT WINKELMAN: Quite a few. A few more than we're allowed. I had to pick and choose. Family first.
Q. Lucas, you mentioned Fargo is behind you. Is the entire state of North Dakota behind you? And would it surprise you if you guys had like 20,000 in the stands rooting for you? What number could you put on that realistically do you think?
LUCAS MOORMANN: Yeah, it's hard to imagine us having 20,000 fans there. With the home games we draw about 4,000, 5,000. But I think the state is definitely behind us. It's kind of the one team they have in the state, there are no pro teams or anything like that. So this is the one team they are always watching.
And yeah, I have heard from a lot of people back home in Dickinson for me, and making their way all the way over to Fargo and then up that are coming to the game and already have tickets, so they are pretty excited.
You know, a lot of people had tickets before we made the tournament, they were going to go down here for a little vacation. Now that we made it, it made it that much better for them.
Q. Talk to me about you guys coming to the Dome after the Bison football team last time here was pretty successful. How can you build off of that and maybe the experience of that trip?
BRETT WINKELMAN: Yeah, that's a nice little fun fact that the last time the Bison played here we got the win, the football team obviously.
But you know, especially for us Minnesota boys, we have been in the Metrodome a lot of times. It's a dream come true on Selection Sunday when they picked us to play in Minneapolis, to play in front of our hometown, and a place that we've came and watched quite a few games. But, we're just looking forward to be being here in front of the home-town crowd.
Q. For Ben. You mentioned seeing Sherron Collins on ESPN. Have you gotten used to seeing yourself on there the last couple of weeks?
BEN WOODSIDE: It's kind of funny that after that Oakland game we saw ourselves on ESPN. And most high majors, you know, they probably turn the channel because they see themselves so many times. I think myself and our teammates, we watched it a couple of extra times just to get a good look at it.
But yeah, it was nice being on there, but it was a little different being on ESPN and some national coverage.
Q. For any of you guys, you've talked about the significance of playing high majors. Is there any special connotation to playing the defending national champions?
BRETT WINKELMAN: Yeah, definitely. Obviously that makes it a little more special if we did pull the upset. We played a defending national champ before, played Florida, and had a pretty decent game down there. This is the second time we will be able to go up against the defending national champ.
And any time you can go against the best, you're excited and it's exactly what you want, to be able to go up against the best and hopefully compete against the best, so we're excited.
Q. Mike, do you want to add to that?
MIKE NELSON: Yeah, they are the defending champs. You know, they are pretty much a whole new ball club than they had last year, but they have a bunch of young, new talent and they have some -- Collins and Aldrich that have been there before.
And we are looking forward to the opportunity to playing such a high-caliber team such as Kansas in the first round.
Q. Mike, when you guys were playing Stephen F. Austin and the game's finally over and you're disappointed about losing, but did you have any idea at that point how many points Ben had? Or would you have any clue that he had 60 points?
MIKE NELSON: I think it was the second overtime I fouled out, and I was able to look up at the scoreboard and see Wood, he was up in the upper 50s I think. So at that point, I realized that he was -- could possibly get into the 60s.
But throughout the game, I had no clue that he had that much. But in the overtimes it seemed like he was getting to the foul line every time he got the ball. So, you know, I knew once I looked at the scoreboard he could very well have 60 and he did.
Q. How does he draw so many fouls?
MIKE NELSON: I think he has an unbelievable first step. He gets in the lane and gets his defender off balance. And, you know, he causes the defense to rotate over. And yet he can also finish at the hoop. And he's got great body control. And I think he does a great job of using his body to block the ball from the defender and he ends up getting a lot of fouls in the lane.
Q. For anyone other than Ben, the coach the other day was talking about just how tough he is and I believe a black belt? Is that correct?
BEN WOODSIDE: That was a long time ago. I couldn't even tell you the first move, how to do that anymore. That was years ago.
Q. Okay. But that being said, your coach was talking about how tough he is. Can you guys talk about his toughness?
BEN WOODSIDE: I guess I'm not that tough, am I? My teammates can't even comment on me (laughter).
LUCAS MOORMANN: Just not toughness but leadership. He has been a great leader since our freshman year. As a freshman we came in and he tried to bully us around and I guess that's when we really figured it out.
No, he has been a great kid. He takes any challenge. The big guys in the paint, he just goes right in there with them. And he finishes so well with guys with a seven-foot wingspan, it is unbelievable.
Like Mike said, his body control and his ability to finish defines his toughness right there.
BRETT WINKELMAN: To add to that, I have been playing with him six, seven years. We played in the summer league in high school. Whenever he would get a sprained ankle or banged up knee he would go offer to play and say, Coach, I'm ready.
He is always ready to go. He just lives on the floor and always want to be there. So no matter what kind of adversity he faces, he is a tough guy and always wants to play.
MODERATOR: Thank you, guys. We're going to excuse the student-athletes back to the locker room.
Joining us now is North Dakota State head coach, Saul Phillips. Coach, we will go ahead and begin with an opening comment and then take questions.
COACH PHILLIPS: I've talked to just about every media outlet in the country at this point this week. And one of the reoccurring questions I've gotten is what has changed since you have gotten your NCAA bid. And I've had a hard time verbalizing how things have been different since we've gotten the bid.
But I've got something quantifiable now and I want to share this with you. This was my dry-erase board before we made the tournament. You can draw plays up, it works great. This is now. Huh? There is no way I draw up a play on here and it doesn't work (laughter).
Q. It's only half-court, though.
COACH PHILLIPS: Checkmate. Yeah.
MODERATOR: With that, we'll take questions.
Q. A lot of your players talked about not feeling any pressure coming here, all the pressure's on Kansas. Do you get that sense, too?
COACH PHILLIPS: Well, certainly I can tell you right now I was a lot more jumpy heading into the Summit League tournament than I am here. There is a feeling of underlying accomplishment that you bring into this for us, because it is, you know, and we made history. Getting here.
At the same time, you know, we aren't here as tourists. And we're here to play basketball. And I have a lot of confidence in my team. But as far as pressure goes, no, that's long gone.
I just witnessed it a little while ago as we walked out onto the Metrodome floor and saw our guys as cool as they try to be, there was a little wide-eye in there and hopefully that wears off before tomorrow. Certainly seeing Kansas on the front of their jerseys will provide a little bit of a spike in the heart rate as well.
But all that stuff is pretty fun to us at this point. We've had a great time with it to this point, and we just want to keep playing games.
Q. You talked about that you talked to every media outlet in the country the last week and are on the big stage now. Have you enjoyed it? Has it been a pain? How have you looked at it?
COACH PHILLIPS: I had an absolute blast. You know, it's a story at North Dakota State right now that is worth telling. I mean, I think this is a group that has earned every bit of attention they have gotten out of this.
First semester we had a 3.2 GPA as team. They have done things the right way off the court, in the community. And obviously things have gone pretty well on the court as well. So I don't get sick of talking about this team. Anybody that knows me knows that I tend to be a little bit verbal anyway. So this is great.
Q. Coach, the national media's really picked up on you guys over the last few days, some have been brave enough to go out and pick you guys. Would you prefer to stay under the radar until Friday morning? Or would you like all this attention on you?
COACH PHILLIPS: Bring it on. We'll take everything that comes our way. There is zero chance that a team coached as well as Kansas is going to overlook us anyway, it's just not happening. We're going to have to play very, very well. People -- the more -- I was gravely disappointed that President Obama didn't pick us in the brackets, but everything else is fine.
Q. Do you look at any teams that have won in the past? Hampton, Santa Clara, teams that had upsets in the past, do you put your finger on any of those or use those as your examples?
COACH PHILLIPS: Yeah. You know, I've watched this tournament. This is darn near a religious experience for me being here and I've watched as much NCAA tournament basketball as anybody my age in the country, I promise you that. And you look at a situation like Valpo with Bryce Drew. At that time they were in this league, and you look at a player like Bryce Drew and a player like Ben Woodside and I see similarities there as well.
Tony Bennett at UW Green Bay coming from this league and the amazing stories that they made, making runs to the tournament, giving people big scares.
The biggest thing you want to make sure of is that you don't get caught up in changing everything to fit a certain mold. We've gotten so far. We've gotten here doing things a certain way. We can tweak that a little bit, but we can't get too far away from our formula in an effort to trying to emulate one of the great upsets of the past.
Q. Coach, you kind of talked about the national exposure and you have been everywhere this week. And you know, you mentioned earlier in the week your sleep schedule was kind of off. I am wondering how this week is affecting you personally? Are you tired? Holding up?
COACH PHILLIPS: I already made a doctor's appointment for when this thing is over with. There is going to be a week of prolonged illness of flu or cold or something. The heck with sheep. We don't need it now. I hope the guys are handling it a little more normally than I am. And it has been a whirlwind and I love every second of it I wouldn't change it for the world.
Q. Saul, can you compare Kansas to other high majors you played, specifically a USC and Florida?
COACH PHILLIPS: I think you probably have to go this year with USC is probably the most similar that we've seen. Taj Gibson is a dominant center and Cole Aldrich, all their different types of centers. Both teams are capable of putting on defensive pressure that will take you out of what you are trying to do.
Yeah, the biggest thing is when you're playing a high major, there's a length on that court. They're longer, they're maybe a little bit quicker to the ball, and that's hard to simulate in practice. You know, we do things like go against six defenders or shooting drills where you're very heavily contested the best we can. But we don't look like these teams physically, so it's hard for us to simulate what they do.
USC is probably the closest we can come this year. We played at a pretty high level and had a chance, didn't quite get it done. Hopefully we fair a little better this time.
Q. Coach, being that your team does shoot the ball so well and you're playing in a big open space like the Metrodome, how concerned are you? How do you adjust to that, playing in an environment where there is a lot of open space for shooters out there?
COACH PHILLIPS: The original plan was to have them go out to a park outside where there is no background, but you can freeze your hands off this time of year in Fargo doing that, so we decided not to.
You know, these guys played indifferent venues. Nothing that even vaguely resembled this.
Again, I go back to when I was a kid, I shot outside all the time. There's a breeze outside just like the Metrodome when you open up the door, that's good. And certainly the background is different.
So yeah, we'll see. We are did to hit the floor and shoot around a little bit. We can't to get them acclimated as soon as we can. But there isn't anything -- even the Fargo Dome doesn't even begin to simulate the space behind the basket here.
Q. Saul, Collins is going to prove an interesting defensive challenge for you guys. How does he compare with some of the other players that you guys have faced this year? And is this going to be Ben's responsibility or teamwork? Or how is it going to go?
COACH PHILLIPS: It is certainly about team work. You will not stop them one on one. It's not going to happen. Ironically, the guy he reminds me of the most that we have been around this year is Woodside. They do have similar games in a lot of ways.
It has been a real thrill watching Kansas tape over the course of the year to watch him evolve and take control of this team. He is the leader. And you see it on tape. He's the guy that is going to make the play when it matters with and because of that, we have to have more than just one guy ready to guard him individually, we also have to have other people on the court ready to help. Because he is a difference-maker. He is a big-time guard.
And like I say, he reminds me a lot -- he plays a similar role on his team to the role that Woodside plays on our team.
MODERATOR: If there are no more questions, we will excuse Coach. Thank you very much.
End of FastScripts