March 25, 2009
Q. Tyrell and Sam, welcome to Boston. I just wanted to ask you a little bit about DeJuan Blair and if you could comment about what he's meant to you on the front court and what presence he lends to your team.
TYRELL BIGGS: DeJuan has meant a lot to us. Physically he takes up space in the middle, rebounds well and just a great teammate.
SAM YOUNG: I think that question is pretty obvious. He brings a lot of intensity, skill level for his size and quick on his feet and good hands. He's an overall big presence.
Q. I guess there's a couple of ways you can look at how you have run through the first couple of games. You can look at it as you barely squeaked by and got to the Sweet 16 or took the opponent's best shot and are still here and at the Sweet 16.
LEVANCE FIELDS: We look at it we survived. No game is guaranteed in the tournament. Being No. 1 seed, everyone is gunning for you. We think we did a great job taking the team's best shot and making plays we needed down the stretch to win the game.
Q. Levance, can you talk about Xavier and what concerns you most about them in this match-up?
LEVANCE FIELDS: Their size. They're really tall at every position. So we've got to do a great job of boxing them out and not giving them second-chance opportunities. We also pride ourselves in getting out in transition. The team that wins the battle of the boards most likely will win this game.
Q. Sam, can you talk about going through the Big East and it being arguably the best conference all season and now you see all the success the teams have had so far in this NCAA tournament. Just talk about going through that meat grinder of a year.
SAM YOUNG: I think the Big East is definitely the best conference in college basketball. I think this year the teams that are in the tournament were well prepared to come to the tournament and advance.
Q. There are a lot of expectations for this team to be the first Pitt team in a long time to get past the Sweet 16. Have you blocked the pressure out or does it motivate you guys as you go deeper?
LEVANCE FIELDS: Every year is a different team. We're well aware of it, but at the same time it's a different year, different team. We're just going out there to play. We feel if we out-rebound and don't turn the ball over we'll have a great chance of winning the game. That's really what we're focusing on, nothing about the past and what Pitt hasn't done, but what we can control, what we can do on Thursday against Xavier.
Q. If you could just talk a little bit about the pressure Xavier is going to put on the perimeter, they have a lot of great perimeter shooters. How do you guys get ready for that?
LEVANCE FIELDS: Same way we do with every team, close out under control, high hands and not try to let them get a couple of open runs to get them going. Make sure every shot is contested. And over the long course of the game if you do that, more often than not they begin to miss.
Q. Levance, can you talk about the physical nature of this team and your ability to respond to physical teams throughout the course of the season, and maybe in the tournament, as well, and how much of a toll has it taken on you guys. And B, how do you feel coming through it physically?
LEVANCE FIELDS: This team is really tough. It starts from the first day of practice. Our practices are very intense, very tough. Guys leave bleeding most of the times just from drills we run. And it gets you ready for the games. And for us, we're used to it, like I said, from practices. If we have to go through the games it's kind of second nature. We like to play like that.
Right now everybody is a hundred percent. DeJuan had a little fall the last game, but he's fine. So everybody is good.
Q. Tyrell and Levance, most of your games with about eight minutes to go the other team is still in contact with you guys. Do you guys, though, have the sense that in those final eight minutes the way that you play, the way that you guys practice, that that's where the game is going to be determined?
LEVANCE FIELDS: You know, it's not how you start, it's how you finish to win games. With us our biggest thing is we're five minutes to go in the game, we want to have a chance to win. If we have that opportunity, we feel like we have more than enough weapons on offense. And if we all have our heads in the game on defense, we can get it done.
We just want to make sure we worry about what we can do as far as offensively and defensively. And if it's a close game, once again, we feel we have enough weapons to pull out a win.
TYRELL BIGGS: We know every game is going to be tough. There's not going to be a lot of blowout games, that's just not really our nature. So we kind of expect that it's going to be kind of close. But we're a grind-out team, and we come through at the end and grind it out.
COACH DIXON: Obviously looking forward to our game tomorrow against Xavier. We know how good a ball club they are. We know the history of their program. Very familiar with a lot of their players.
While we haven't gone against them, we know a lot of their guys. And our guys are very familiar with their guys, as well.
Had a good workout today, this morning, and then we'll get out here on the floor. We're looking forward to the opportunity.
It's great to be here in Boston. The guys were excited to be in this Regional and we're excited to be playing here. It's a good -- been a good trip and our guys are looking forward to it.
Q. You grew up in Hollywood. I was just wondering --
COACH DIXON: Small town.
Q. I wonder about the Hollywood script, Sean Miller coaching against his alma mater.
COACH DIXON: Yeah, I didn't give it much thought. Obviously he had coached there, too, as well. So he was there coaching as well. And the guy -- we're good friends. We've talked from the time I got there at Pittsburgh we talked. I've been there now ten years. And I can remember talking to him about his -- more so when he coached there, things that he learned from there and things they could have done better and things that he had learned.
He's always been a friend and a guy we've talked -- we talked a number of times this year before -- now, we haven't talked since, until just now, since the match-ups.
But I think obviously he's a proud alum, and we're proud of him at the University of Pittsburgh. So he is a good friend and I think it's -- but I think once we put the ball up in the air, I think everybody knows that both teams are going to be thinking only about trying to take care of business.
Q. Just staying with Coach Miller for a minute, just as a follow-up, do you have appreciation for what he's built and kept going at Xavier?
COACH DIXON: Obviously you think about the coaches that have been there, Skip Ross or Thad Matta, I mean Pete Gillen, just to name a few. And then Sean. There's obviously something going on over there that they know what they're doing administration-wise.
But it's great to see him doing well. I think he knows he has one of the best jobs in the country, as I know about mine and the job we have here at Pittsburgh. I think that's something that coaches know. That's one of the best jobs in the country. Everybody I talk to in that league tells me it's the best job in the league, by far, which makes it one of the best jobs in the country. So it's something that -- he's done a great job.
He brings in very good players, they redshirt guys, they get transfers, they just do it in a variety of ways. And that's how you continue to have guys waiting in the wings. And I think that's what they've continued to do year after year.
Q. Coach, a guy like Bradley Wanamaker has come along this year, and increased minutes. He just mentioned meetings you had with him this summer, asking him to accelerate certain aspects of his game. Talk about how far he's come from his freshman year, basically.
COACH DIXON: I think, first off, he's a great kid. He's a very positive influence on the team. He's a great teammate. And he's a winner. He won at Roman Catholic. And he won -- really carried the team on his back to win the city championship there, the Catholic championship. And then won the Alhambra Tournament at the end of the year. He's obviously a winner.
He had some struggles last year, as all freshmen do. And I think times -- I oftentimes apologize to him because I was so sure he was going to be such a good player. He's a guy I watched a lot in high school and wanted him and knew he was going -- and maybe I would have been maybe a little too hard on him, because I expected so much out of him. I just think he's competitive, he's tough. He's a great kid, good student. He's going to be like three-quarters of the way to graduating after two years. He's just a great, great kid.
The one thing we talked about in the summer was just -- or in the spring, we talked about guys, what they can improve in is just shooting the ball. And more so, I don't care about you making it, just you've got to shoot the outside jump shot, which will open up the rest of your game. I think that was the biggest thing. I didn't make pressure on him to make the shot, just shoot it. Sometimes he was overpenetrating, using his strength, that's what he did in high school. Just taking the open shot is going to open up a world of things for him offensively.
Q. Last two losses I believe were West Virginia and Providence. Which one did you get more out of? Coaches like to say they want to build from their losses a little bit. Can you talk about those two.
COACH DIXON: We had four this year, and I remember them all very vividly and clearly, so that's the problem with coaching or anyway how I look at it. We don't seem to remember the 30 wins as much. That's something I've got to work on over the next couple of years.
I think two different games, two different teams, one on the road, one on neutral court. Neither one we played well. That one was very clear, anybody could figure it out. You can't play well every game. And I think hopefully we're beyond that now.
West Virginia, we got some foul trouble, Gilbert wasn't playing, Levance got hurt, wasn't practicing prior to that. That was a game where we -- Providence, we were just bad early. Really a bad half. We got outscored by 19, I think, in the first half and we outscored them by ten in the second half. That came down to one bad half.
You don't want to get down 19, I figured that one out. We had a really bad half on that one. That was just things that were unexplainable, things we hadn't done all year.
Q. Being in the Big East and going through that competitive schedule, how much of an advantage, if any, does it give you over a team that is in a mid-major conference, maybe didn't have maybe quite that level of competition?
COACH DIXON: I don't know, it's -- as far as I don't think there's any advantages, really. You've got to play against good people, I think, in any conference. And you're going to play tough road games in any conference.
Ours was at a high level this year, I think no one can deny that. But that's two weeks ago, three weeks ago. It's where you are now and what you did early on is not that important.
There's 16 good teams left, very good teams. It may build in some ways character with the teams you play, but at the end of the day it's who is playing well two weeks, three weeks after the conference is over.
So everybody -- you can learn from losses, you can learn a lot from wins. And feeling good about yourself is a good thing, too. If you're getting a lot of wins in the conference, that can go a long way, as well.
Q. When you and Ben Howland arrived in Pittsburgh, the program wasn't terrible, but it did not have a strong basketball association. Was there something you could tap into at Pittsburgh that could put you on the road to where you are today?
COACH DIXON: Yeah, obviously that was ten years ago, I've been at Pitt ten years. Our first two years were a struggle. We got beat up. We had a lot of losses. I can remember our first conference game at St. John's. Back then every team in the conference was put on ESPN, national TV twice, so we were excited. We only got two, you were given two, no matter how bad you were. We were excited we went to St. John's, and we were down 41-9, I think, at halftime. You better learn quick at that point. And that's what we figured out.
The thing I've always said is that you learn from the teams that are winning. And when we got there, Connecticut just won the National Championship and I looked at them and what they had done and how they had done it and tried to take some things. I always said that about Coach Calhoun in Connecticut and what they have done. It seemed that defensive rebounding was something they did well, and something we prided ourselves on ever since. That was one part of it.
You talk to people that have had success. You talk to people who have been at Pitt. You talk to Sean Miller, when he was an assistant, what he learned through their struggles. And Jimmy Christian, former coaches, Troy Weaver, coaches that had been there. And just trying to figure out what you can learn from previous.
And you go in with an open mind. You go in, I think, as I -- you go in, you don't think you have all the answers, I think that's important. Oftentimes people come in and think they have to have all the answers. I didn't have all the answers. We're just trying to learn and learn from people who had success and learn from other people's failures, too.
Q. There's been a lot of conversation, especially down in the south, who has the best conference this year. Your conference has five here in the Sweet 16. Do you feel like the Big East has set the bar as the best conference this year?
COACH DIXON: You know, obviously someone else is going to say differently from some other conference. We're all looking out for ourselves in a lot of ways. But I think our numbers -- I think it was hard to live up -- one thing I've said since the year was over, we had a lot of hype going into the year about how good this conference would be, we talked about it being the best conference in history. Rarely do coaches in their exaggerations ever come into being true.
It seems like this conference came as close to living up to expectations as they could, and that's hard to do with the standards we had talked about and with the expectations that were set.
Again, we have five left in the Sweet 16, three No. 1 seeds, I think that speaks volumes. But at the same time I don't want to take anything away from any conferences in the country. There's great basketball teams everywhere. But, again, getting five here says a lot.
Q. You said a moment ago you could learn a lot from your wins. What did you learn from the first two in this tournament?
COACH DIXON: I guess it reinforces things. We didn't rebound well in the first game, and the second game we got better, and out-rebounded our opponent by 20, that was something, I think.
I think it was what we learned was we can win -- really that Oklahoma State game showed we can win offensively, we can win defensively in the second half. That was an interesting game, because you had two teams shooting, knocking down shots the first half. And the second half became a grind it out defensive affair. And we played that way, as well, played successfully in that half, as well. You learn you can play two different ways this time of the year.
Q. Really high expectations for this team to be the Pitt team to get past the Sweet 16. Has that affected your players, is that an issue you addressed, it seems they're blocking out and focusing on what they need to do the next game?
COACH DIXON: This team is different than any other team. And again, that's -- Sweet 16 is an accomplishment. If it was -- if it wasn't, teams would have got there more than we have. And there's only two that have been there more than we have the last eight years, Duke and Kansas have been there more than us. There aren't any buys into the Sweet 16. I think maybe it's forgotten.
Yeah, I think this team is different than the previous team from last year, and it's definitely different from the team six years ago, five years ago, four years ago. All the times we've made it we have different players, we're playing different teams. And at the same time we know we have a very good opponent to play tomorrow in Xavier.
Q. Pitt is one of the few schools that has teams alive in both the men's and women's tournaments. What are your thoughts on that and just having the school in the spotlight in such a favorable way?
COACH DIXON: Yeah, I think -- how many, I didn't get all the scores last night. I don't know how many are left. But it's something that we had -- I think we're very proud of. I know at one point during the year our football team was ranked, our basketball team and I think our women's team was in the top 25. And I think we're the only school in the country -- there were two schools at that time to do that.
We have great leadership from our chancellor, Chancellor Jerry Cochran and Steve Peterson. There's commitment to athletics, there's support throughout the city, the University, the community. And we really want to have a very balanced and all-encompassing athletic department. We have a number of teams. We feel the resources, equal resources to men's and women's athletics, equally well, and we take great pride in it. I think it's something our administration has made a commitment to and are very proud of the success and everything. We have track and field championships, wrestling, the swimming wins every year in the Big East. We take great pride in our entire athletic department, and we're just a small piece of it.
COACH MILLER: Well, we're obviously, as a program and university, very excited to be here in Boston and playing an excellent team in Pitt. But I think most importantly, really excited to be back here for the second consecutive year. Not many programs can say that.
Last year we lost in the Elite 8 to UCLA. Here we are again. I think it's really a remarkable accomplishment for our players, some of which now have been in four consecutive NCAA tournaments. We look forward to the game tomorrow, knowing that we have to be at our very best to have a chance to win.
Q. I know you probably prefer for the emphasis to be on your players, does it mean more to you to be playing Pitt and have your former teammates and classmates call you and asked you to take it easy on them?
COACH MILLER: Pitt has a special place for me. I was a student athlete there many years ago now, '87 to '92. But like so many former student-athletes, you look back at your experience and the one I had was amazing. Some of my strongest relationships, which include my wife, stem from my time at Pitt. And several of my teammates will be at the game. Which side they'll be on, I don't know until the tip-off. But from that perspective it's unique. And certainly I love my days as a player there.
But for this game, the spotlight really should be on our current team and in the match-up and their team. It's exciting to be in the Sweet 16 regardless of who you play.
Q. Talk about Pitt, you are an alum, you might keep a little closer tab on them from other teams. Are you more familiar with them? Have you seen them this season?
COACH MILLER: Yeah, I've watched them with a lot of pride over the last eight years, as much as from a coach's perspective, from the fact I once went there, and even the amazing job they've done, from Ben Holland and transforming their program from Fitzgerald Field House to the new arena.
And watching Jamie Dixon take over and just the consistent success that they've had in the Big East Conference speaks for itself. And a lot of the things their program has become known for we, too, try to take great pride in what we do at Xavier; physical play, tough defense, trying to be a solid rebounding team, trying to develop players. Whereas the years change, faces change, you have different players becoming the new leading scorer, the new leading rebounder. As they've had that in their program, we've had some of that in our program, as well. So there's more of a healthy respect than anything.
Q. Coach, you talked about Pitt's consistent success, yours has been consistent progress, you get deeper in the NCAA tournament each year. How have you managed to do that?
COACH MILLER: Well, I think first of all we have great balance in our classes. If you look back a few years ago when we played against Ohio State and lost in a very tough game, but a great game in the tournament, we were led by a group of three seniors, Justin Doleman, Justin Cage and Brandon Cole, and they left our program. And last year on our Elite 8 run we were also led by three seniors, Josh Duncan, Drew Lavender, and Stanley Burrell.
And as the baton has been passed this year we have two, B.J. Raymond, who arguably has had as good a senior year at Xavier as just about anybody that's played here, First Team All Conference and has been incredible through here, and his counterpart, C.J. Anderson. Derrick Brown is a junior, but he, too, is in his fourth year in our program.
If you look at the success, it's really stemmed by our oldest players have terrific performances in their last year and really showing, I think, leadership, like you would want it as a coach. When that's in place, it's amazing how everything can follow.
Q. Now that you've seen Pitt, do parts of their game remind you of anybody you've played this season, and talk about how big rebounding is going to be this game?
COACH MILLER: No, to me they're the best team that we've played. In Memphis, we played them a long time ago and I think they've improved over the months since we played them.
But Pitt has, on offense, three dynamic players, Levance Fields, I can't judge where he goes from here, but if you look at who he is in college basketball, you can make the argument that he does as good a job playing that position as anyone out there.
Sam Young on the wing, coming off of 23 points in one half, in the last game, he's really developed over his time there to be, to me, someone who probably will be an NBA player.
And inside with DeJuan Blair, how unique he is, how tough he is on the glass. You have three different players who at their respective position don't take a backseat to anybody out there.
And then they're complemented with so many other players that can make shots and plays. And they have a system, they're very good on defense. They have a great confidence about them. And you put all that in, that makes them the No. 1 seed.
For us, I think where it really starts and stops is to be physical, ourselves, to not allow them to dominate us on the glass. I don't think they nearly get enough credit for being a great offensive team. Their transition, they get dunks and easy baskets that break your backs. We have to be rock salad in our transition defense and rebounding, two things that we've been very good at this season. And for us to have a hope, I believe, of advancing or beating them at the end of the game, you'd have to see us do a great job in those two areas.
Q. Coach, one of the things I know you and your school has been upset with in the past is the labor of a mid-major. Is this more evidence that you guys have put that label behind you and now you're one of the more elite programs in the country?
COACH MILLER: Yeah, if I had to ask you back to define "mid-major" for me, how would you define that? Just pick a topic.
Q. Through conference affiliation is where it usually stems from.
COACH MILLER: I would say college basketball is not college football. When you look at Memphis last year, in the National Championship game, I don't think anybody really cared what conference they were from, they just looked out there and saw an excellent team.
We've been in the Elite 8 two times in the last five years. When you add the fact that we're alive in the Sweet 16 this year, we've now been in the Sweet 16 three times in the last six years. And that, I think, speaks for itself.
When you go further into our program, if you've been to the Cintas Center, our on-campus facility, to me it's one of the nicest in all college basketball, it's on campus, it's accessible to our team 12 months out of the year. We have our own practice facility, state-of-the-art weight room and anything you'd ever want for the team that you have and the players that you coach, it's the best of the best.
When you look at our non-conference schedule and some of the things we've done in recent years, where we'll be next year, to me it's so much more about your program than the name on the front of your jersey and what you stand for than whether you're in this conference or that conference. And I think college football and college basketball are completely different when it comes to that.
Q. I'm just wondering, what was your impression of C.J. when you were getting him? What have you learned about him and how -- is it different than what you thought?
COACH MILLER: C.J. Anderson? No, he's from Cincinnati and he went to high school there and did a very good job at Manhattan. He's someone that really needed an academic environment like the one we offer at Xavier. We not only have great education, but it's in the small atmosphere with all the academic support you could ever, ever need.
For those of you who don't know, we have the No. 1 graduation rate in all of college basketball. I think where C.J. has blossomed is it's that combination of comfort and structure off the court in his hometown and a team approach, surrounded by some terrific kids, that have really brought out the best in him.
Make no mistake, this year he's the leader of our team. He's the heart and soul of what we do. Tomorrow's game from a toughness standpoint, there will be nobody playing the game who's tougher than him. If you think about it, he's played two seasons at Xavier. He went to the Elite 8 last year and here he is back at his senior year. I think that says it all about him.
Q. Going back to the previous question about the mid-major business and all that, with regard to your recruiting, is there still a class of player that you wouldn't "waste your time trying to get"? How do you compete with those so-called elite teams?
COACH MILLER: I think one of the keys to being successful at Xavier is you've got to know who we are. Generally we're going to be attractive to a family that cares a lot about their degree. Where we're located in Cincinnati, in a five-hour radius, arguably you can make the case that it's the most talented area of our country right now in terms of high school basketball players.
Looking for that fit, that family, but as our success has happened over the last three or four years, to me, our scope has broadened. We're clearly right now, in addition to those factors, trying to recruit the best student-athletes we can get. I know this, that we're able to talk to people and be in places now that four or five years ago were untouchable for us. A lot of it has to do with this, that it's about the NCAA tournament. Can you get there? Can you advance? And once those two things are established and people investigate our program further, and look at the Cintas Center and the academic environment we have, it's really become a lot easier. And quite frankly, we can recruit the high level student-athlete right now.
Q. Sticking with the conference team, Pittsburgh is known as a physical team. They're from a physical conference. How do you feel you match up, your style of play, with that type of play?
COACH MILLER: They are. They're the very best at playing that game. Offensive rebounding numbers, to me, they're the No. 1 in the nation when you consider what they do to their opponent in the toughest league, so that speaks for itself. Ironically it's the very best thing that we do. And it will be tested at a high level.
Our defensive rebounding, rebounding margin, our defense in general is what has allowed us to have 27 wins, it's why we're here, and what we just did last weekend. Our greatest strength will be tested against, to me, the best at doing it. And that's why I say we're going to have to play a great game and clearly hold serve in those areas for us to have a chance to win.
Q. Following up on that, what are your impressions of DeJuan Blair and the physical presence he lends to their team?
COACH MILLER: He's a very unique player. He reminds me of a guy I played with, Jerome Lane and Jerome led the nation in rebounding. And DeJuan is right there. Both of them are high -- you can't really put a height on them. DeJuan is about 6 foot 7, I would say, but he plays so big because of his arms. He's a very intelligent player. He's physical, but he's very intelligent with positioning and how he gets to the ball.
I know I'm not the only coach that's been able to talk to their team about you can't let him get five rebounds a game on offense. He does it every game. So I think for us -- using our depth, we have four front court players that have really done a great job for our team. Kenny Frease and Jamel McLean are two young players that come off the bench. Kenny is 7 foot. And Jason Love and Derrick Brown are very experienced. Those four guys are going to have to do a terrific job rebounding and being able to compete with not only DeJuan, but Pitt's entire front line.
Q. For any of you guys, just what do you think this game means to your coach to play his alma mater. Do you think deep down inside he really wants to beat that team?
C.J. ANDERSON: I don't think it is a matter of who he's playing against, he wants to win the game. So if we were playing against any other team, he'd want to win just as bad.
DERRICK BROWN: I agree with C.J., totally. It's an important game, regardless of who we play. I don't think -- for the outside world it might be more important, but for the people in the locker room it's just as important as any other game.
B.J. RAYMOND: It's a simple -- it's another game. We're just going to focus on that. We're going to come out and just play our best. Coach did play there, everybody knows that, it's the elephant in the room. But we're just going to focus on trying to do our best and play at the highest level.
Q. Have you talked about the Coach's playing days?
DERRICK BROWN: In practice sometimes when we don't get the job done, he would say, When I used to play, something funny like that. But for the most part he's pretty humble about his college experience.
Q. C.J., this is for you, can you tell me a little bit about your memories, what you remember best playing at Manhattan, the decision to come to Xavier and when you knew for sure that it was the right move?
C.J. ANDERSON: I had a lot of good times at Manhattan. I still talk to a lot of the guys that I played with. The decision for me was easy, once Coach Gonzalez took the Seton Hall job, I wanted to come back close to where I was from. I decided to go to Xavier. It has an outstanding graduation rate, thanks to Sister Fleming who keeps us on track, and has an outstanding basketball program, so it was really a no-brainer for me to go to Xavier.
Q. Derrick, Coach talked about the physicality that Pitt has in their front line and how important rebounding is going to be. Can you talk about what it's going to be like going against them?
DERRICK BROWN: It's definitely going to be a challenge. They're the best offense rebounding team in the country, actually. And defense rebounding is something that we do well, really well, also. So it's going to be a battle of who can do that better. But it's never going to be easy, especially in this game and at this magnitude. But we're up for the challenge.
Q. B.J., you guys lost a lot from last year's team. When did you guys know you were capable; was it in Puerto Rico, was it as the season went along?
B.J. RAYMOND: No, we knew that going into the summer. A lot of people thought we were losing a lot off of last year's team. But the three guys sitting up here, we're a big part of that, as well. The thing that we do at Xavier, it's tradition. We help each other get better. So the younger guys push the older guys to get better, and the older guys help the younger guys get better.
And Dante Jackson, Jason Love and now Kenny Frease and Jamel McLean, they're becoming better. And that's the strength of our team. We don't count on just one or two guys to get the job done every night. We count on a number of guys. We beat you with numbers. And that's one thing, we never lowered our goals. We never lowered the bar. The bar was to get back to where we were last year. We just want to play our best. We worked for that, for this moment. And this is good to see that the hard work is paying off.
Q. C.J., I wonder if you would be more specific about what do you feel you're getting at Xavier both athletically and academically that wasn't there for you at Manhattan? That's the first part of the question.
C.J. ANDERSON: What I'm getting at Xavier athletically is I'm sitting here talking to you, getting ready to play in the Sweet 16. I didn't have that opportunity at Manhattan. Last year we made it to the Elite 8. I didn't have that opportunity at Manhattan.
Academically, there are people at Xavier that care more about me as a student versus me as an athlete, and me succeeding as a person off the court. And Sister Fleming, who is back there sitting in the room, she's a major part of that. And the coaching staff, they care about us graduating. Xavier has the No. 1 graduation rate in the country. Those are the things I'm getting at Xavier that I didn't get to Manhattan.
Q. Have you spoken to Coach Gonzalez?
C.J. ANDERSON: I seen him in Puerto Rico. But I have not seen him since then.
Q. Since you left Seton Hall?
C.J. ANDERSON: Yes.
Q. B.J., it seemed like coach is a little tired of talking about it, I'm sure you guys may be fed up, as well. Do you think mid-major paints you with too broad a brush, you're beyond that label, now that you've in the Elite 8 and back in the Sweet 16.
B.J. RAYMOND: We've been to the Elite 8 in the past five years. Been to the Sweet 16 probably three of the last six. If you want to call that a mid-major school, you can. I feel like we're an elite level program. We don't really confine ourselves to conferences, like Memphis is moving themselves out of Conference-USA.
But Atlantic 10 is a great conference. All we focus on is trying to win our conference. It wouldn't matter if we were in the Big East, Big Ten, Big Sky, we focus on winning our conference. That's one thing we worry about. You can say we're a mid-major, but we feel we're an elite level program, and that's what we try to focus on.
Q. The life and times of C.J. continue. When you got to Cincinnati and you started working with Sister Fleming and the other academic people there, was there a day when you realized early on, I've really got to buckle down? Did you come in once and have them call you on the carpet or was it more demanding than anything you had been through before?
C.J. ANDERSON: I don't want to say it was more demanding, I want to say, if anything, it was easier because there was more willingness to help me out.
So I don't think it was more demanding, I think it was easier for me to come in with people that were willing to help me and take the time, sitting down to help me and help me when I was struggling. So it wasn't more difficult at all.