March 19, 2009


MODERATOR:  We are being joined on the dais by USC student athletes.  From my far left, DeMar DeRozan, Daniel Hackett, Dwight Lewis and Taj Gibson.

Q.  Guys, coming in here, you know, what you've done these last five games.  I mean, do you feel like you're a pretty dangerous team just coming in on the right note?

TAJ GIBSON:  I feel we're coming in with a lot of confidence.  Guys that are healthy this time of year, throughout the years, guys have been really banged up and injuries played a key role in a lot of our games, losing one point at Oklahoma, a lot of tough road games in the Pac 10.
 DANIEL HACKETT:  We feel good about ourselves.  But we learned a hard lesson last year.  Losing to Kansas State in the first round, so we don't want to get our hopes too high.  Stay humble and keep playing our basketball.

Q.  Hey, Taj, how does last year's experience and the previous years help you guys, with you, Daniel and Dwight and Keith Wilkinson all being here before?

TAJ GIBSON:  It has its ups and its downs.  My freshman year we went pretty far, then the mishap last year we lost to a tough Kansas State team.

Just a lot of experience.  I hope we can use it to our advantage.  But, once again, we have a lot of young guys coming around at the right part of the season, so the sky's the limit.  But I know Boston College is a really skilled team, a lot of veterans on that team, so just looking forward to getting back out there and playing.

Q.  DeMar, could you discuss your development through the season?  Tell us about how you have come    how far you have come from the beginning of the season to the point where you were the MVP in the Pac 10 tournament, and how did it feel to break through and have three great games in a row?

DEMAR DEROZAN:  You know, all season I have been in the gym working, trying to get better day in and day out.  And that's one thing I try to take from it, just to learn from these guys.  And learn from the coach.  Taking in everything that was shown to me and use it, you know.

So every game I try to use that to my advantage.  And the Pac 10 tournament was a big, big step for us, and I just felt comfortable from all the stuff that I learned all season.

Q.  Hi guys.  What do you know about Boston College?  And what concerns you about them?

DWIGHT LEWIS:  We know they are real physical team.  They like to crash the boards a lot.  They have a great guard in Tyrese Rice, as everybody knows.  And also has a good supporting cast.  We have to get really physical with them and try to match their intensity.

DANIEL HACKETT:  They come from a power conference like the ACC.  They beat Carolina and Duke and played Wake Forest tough, I think.  So they are a pretty good team.  We respect them.  And hopefully we'll give them a good battle.

Q.  A lot of guys, a lot of media and even Vegas picking you guys as favorites in the game even though you are a 10 seed.  How do you feel about that?  What makes    what do you think makes you look so dangerous to pull off an upset?  And is it kind of surprising that you're in a position as a favorite as a 10 seed?

DEMAR DEROZAN:  I think a lot of people is betting on us, but we really aren't going to pay no mind to it.  We just try to go out, go out there and put in work and just come out tomorrow and give a great game, you know.  Everybody is healthy, like Taj said.  And we're just going to go out and give it our all.

Q.  For Taj and Dwight, could you talk about what DeMar brings to your team?  And what have you seen in him this season as far as his development as a player and as a teammate?

DWIGHT LEWIS:  He brings a lot of athleticism to our team.  He does a lot for us.  He can score, he can rebound, he can defend.  Like he said, he has been in the gym since the season started just developing.  I think he is getting more confidence and he showed it in the Pac 10 tournament.

TAJ GIBSON:  Just brings a lot of effort.  Real strong leader.  You don't see that much in a lot of freshman, but he stepped up to the plate.  As you can see in the Pac 10 tournament, he made key plays late in the championship game.  And his development, there's more to come.

Q.  For Daniel.  I am interested in your thoughts on Tyrese Rice and does he remind you of anybody that you've gone up against in the Pac 10 conference?

DANIEL HACKETT:  Not really, because we    well, maybe Taylor Rochestie from Washington State.  But Tyrese, I think he has more talent them him.  It kind of reminds me of my AAU teammate Brandon Jennings a little bit, playing overseas right now.

As I said, I've seen him on tape.  And of course he is a lead player.  He is a senior.  And, you know, he's got a lot of pressure on him.  And we're going to pay a lot of attention to what he does on the court.

Q.  For Daniel, Taj and Dwight.  How has it helped this team that you've had this junior core together, three years now you guys have played together?  It is a little bit unusual in this era of college basketball to have this kind of togetherness for such a long period of time.  How has that helped out?

DANIEL HACKETT:  We have been through a lot.  We have been through a lot.  Practicing has been tough this past three years, and you know with a coach like Tim Floyd who demands a lot, it has been challenging for us.  But at the same time we have been able to grow up and stick together.

You know, it's good.  It's good to have all the guys on the team.  The talented young players like Leonard Washington, DeMar.  You know, it helps.  So I'm going to look forward to this run, and hopefully we'll go deep.

DWIGHT LEWIS:  I think us being together so long we've been able to help each other out and our team with all the ups and downs we had this season.  We've been through a lot together and we have been able to guide all the young players, like Nikola Vucevic and Leonard and DeMar and Donte Smith, and what to expect when things go wrong that it will be a light at the end of the tunnel.

TAJ GIBSON:  It's just a great experience.  Coming into college.  It's being a freshman and meeting guys and then being a bond on the court, and our three years, getting better and better.  And guys just maturing as adults.  And on the court and off the court it's been great.  And just looking forward to seeing how we're going to play, and my first round game as really the leaders on this team.  The last couple of years we had Nick Young, Gabe Pruitt, O.J. last year.  It is going to be something different this year.  So I'm looking forward to it.

Q.  For any of the guys.  Boston College players are talking about playing in a city where they don't get a lot of attention, a lot of pro teams.  Do you guys feel that way playing in L.A. and maybe wish you had more attention?  Is the NCAA tournament a chance for you to make a bigger name for USC basketball?

DANIEL HACKETT:  We're in L.A.  It's Los Angeles, man.  We don't really care about attention.  It's there, so I will let the other guys talk.  But Los Angeles is basically a media city.  I don't know how Boston is.

TAJ GIBSON:  I feel that we have all the attention in the world.  ESPN, all the time.  We're just    we're in California.  We're in one of the most popular cities in America.  So it just comes down to who wins.  Everybody wants a winner.  But at this time of the year, everybody's going to be watching, so it's not really about who watches who, it's about how well you play.  And if you're gonna win, you get more attention.

Q.  For Dwight, do you feel that you guys are peaking right now?  Was there ever a concern that you wouldn't peak, that it just wouldn't happen for you guys this year?  Was that ever in the back of your mind at all?

DWIGHT LEWIS:  No, I wasn't worried at all.  We had a lot of injuries throughout this season.  And we are getting healthy at the right time and clicking at the right time.  And going into the Pac 10 tournament, everybody got healthy.  We had great days.

And we have been able to put it together and make a great run.  And we're just trying to ride this run as far as we can.

Q.  DeMar, what have you enjoyed most about your first year in college?  And what have you gotten out of a year of playing Pac 10 basketball?

DEMAR DEROZAN:  One thing that I really enjoyed was the camaraderie of everybody on the team.  You know, just how close everybody is with the team and how fun they make the game come.  And being my first year, these guys taught me a lot, you know.  Listening to the older guys, taking advice from them has been great.

You know, that's one thing I will never forget.  And I credit them for a lot of my success, because they're the ones that helped me out through my whole year.

Q.  You mentioned injuries a couple of times.  But I mean, did you notice anything else that changed from when you guys were struggling in February to these last five games where you've really turned it on?

TAJ GIBSON:  I would say our intensity I believe has jumped out on teams.  The last three games we had in the Pac 10, we just came out with nothing to lose, just played our game.  With Marcus Simmons coming in, just basically a whole year of his injuries, he just came in and attacked every point guard he's guarded and just guarded them well, and three straight nights he has just been going at it and guys responded behind him, bringing a lot of energy off the bench.  And the coaches just kept    just kept teaching us more new things.  And it has been working so far.

MODERATOR:  Okay, if there is no more questions, we will go ahead and excuse you guys back to your locker room.

Joined on the dais by USC head coach, Tim Floyd.  We will go ahead and begin with questions.  If you would like to raise your hand, we will  

Q.  Hi, Coach.  What do you know about B.C. by now?  And what concerns you most about them?

COACH FLOYD:  Well, from the coaching standpoint I think he is the best coach that nobody ever talks about.  The job he's done there with seven NCAA tournaments in 12 years.  A young team this year that obviously believes in what they're doing.  Great shot selection, great conviction to what they run offensively.  Play with a physicality, terrific offensive rebounding team.  And great role definition with their players in terms of knowing what they should do and when they should do it.

And they have a star caliber with Rice.  You know, a developmental big guy in Southern who is getting better and better.  The 2 guard is outstanding, maybe could have been an All ACC player with a little bit more attention paid to him because he has been terrific the last five games.  Just very good basketball team.

Q.  Coach, a lot of people are, you know, picking you as, you know    a lot of people are saying that you guys are going to be a good upset pick.  What do you think makes you such a dangerous 10 seed in this tournament?

COACH FLOYD:  Well, I just hope the people that are picking them are the same people that didn't    or not the same people that picked the upsets in the first round today because there haven't been any.

You know, I think that those things don't mean anything.  They really don't.  If these guys were such great predictors, we ought to let them do the economy and get them out of basketball games and get them to turn that around.
It's going to get down to players playing, players making plays.  Typically, I think these games get down to who gets the easy baskets.  The free throw line, offensive rebound baskets, transition baskets, scoring on inbounds plays.  All of those things.

Q.  DeMar came in with such tremendous expectations hanging over his head.  How has he developed from the time that he came into your program?  And what does he bring to your program now that he's got a year of playing experience behind him?

COACH FLOYD:  Well, I remember the first day of practice he told me, Coach, you're going to have to be very patient with me.  I've never been taught on the defensive end.  And as far as running set offenses, I have never done any of that either, screening and all that kind of thing.  So he came in very humble.  He came in as a listener.

But he came in hungry.  And he has just grown with the process, every game.  Gets a little better, learns, asks questions, goes back utilizes the experience garnered in that game and gets a little better the next game.  He is blessed with so much talent, so much God given talent.

And he's got a nice touch.  And he's learned when to, when not to.  How to play off the dribble.  How to pass off the dribble.  How far to go.  When to go.  All those things.  And, you know, he played a lot of AAU ball, he played high school that was a very loose system.  He never really had to play in any half court games which you see in the ACC and the Big Ten and the Big East and college basketball.  But, also, that's what you see in the NBA.  It's not 94 feet.  And the great players can play half and play full.

And you play Washington State and UCLA and Arizona State and Cal, and Arizona, these teams get back on defense, and he's had to learn how to play in a half court set, in addition to full court.  And I think it's really to his credit, he came in without ego and is a listener and has just gotten better and better.

Q.  Well, Coach, you brought it up.  One of the guys who picked against you is dealing with the economy, President Obama.  He took Boston College to go to the second round, though.  Your comments?

COACH FLOYD:  Well, as you know, President Obama is a former basketball player and athlete.  And he played out west in Hawaii.  And any kid that grows up west of the Rocky Mountains grows up wanting to play in the Pac 10.  And he was not recruited by the Pac 10 level and I think he is still dealing with that.  There is still some bitterness (laughter).

Q.  Coach, interested in your assessment of Tyrese Rice.  And is there anybody that you can compare him to that you compete against in the Pac 10 conference?

COACH FLOYD:  Well, he's terrific.  He's absolutely terrific.  You don't see many guys go over to Carolina and get 46 in a game.  And what we've seen is a guy that's deferred more this year and made his team better.  There's an understanding that point guards are measured by winning versus points scored, which is a credit to Al and what he has imparted on this young man.

I think that as far as comparatives, I guess Rochestie at Washington State, the speed of a Collison maybe at UCLA, which for people out west that's a pretty good combination of talent.

Q.  Coach, you certainly know the challenge of having players leave early for the NBA and how much it can upset things.  What has it meant to your team this year to have a core of experienced upperclassmen that have stuck with you?

COACH FLOYD:  Well, it's really helped us.  This is the first time since we have been there    this is our fourth year    and, by the way, we only have one senior still, Keith Wilkinson, who is a senior on the team.  But we're just thrilled because we have three guys in the junior class which we haven't had.  It is great to have a core of three guys together for three years that have played minutes.  Because early we weren't having to teach every drill ourselves and get out and slide around on the floor and show them how we are supposed to do it.  I don't do that very well anymore.

And these guys could do that.  And they also could lift players that were young and get them through the process of the commands of pre season practice, in terms of understanding that that is a period of growth and that they're going to hear their name a lot.  And understand that that's a good thing and not a bad thing.

Q.  Coach, what is    what have you seen changed in the team from, you know, the string of losses that you had in February until now when you are on the winning streak?

COACH FLOYD:  People wrote us off in February and I can understand why.  We lost six out of seven.  Let's look at who we played and where we played, and I don't think enough attention was spent on that.  At UCLA, not many people have won there in the last four years.  At Arizona.  Not many people have won there in the last 20 years.  At Arizona State, we came back home and got a great win against Washington State.  Very good Washington State team and then lost to Washington.  They won our league and then we went on the road at Cal and at Stanford.  Very good basketball teams.

I thought we played well with the exception of the UCLA game.  But we played without key people.  Simmons was still nursing injuries, Marcus Johnson was out, Leonard Washington was still nursing injuries and Dwight Lewis was just coming back off a high ankle sprain where he didn't play at Washington and Washington State.  We got healthy and we played better and we were able to insert Marcus Simmons into our rotation and he has been outstanding.

The stats won't reflect anything about what he does for our basketball team.  He has got us into a defense out front, and we have been much better on the defensive end with him in the lineup.

Q.  Tim, you mentioned injuries.  Give us the update on how your club is healthy.  And I noticed from following your club from afar when you have all hands healthy you are 8 0.  I certainly hope everybody is healthy and ready to go.  And talk about your rotation.  You leaned on your core guys to play a lot of minutes for you.

COACH FLOYD:  Yeah, we have.  Well, we're in great health right now and feel terrific about that.  We lost a young man that we won't get back this year, the sixth game of the year, Kasey Cunningham.  In 14 minutes against Missouri    we were up 9 at half, and he went down with an ACL.  14 minutes, he had 14 points and 11 rebounds.  And we lost him for the year.  Hopefully we'll have him back.  But everybody else is in the best shape that they have been in all year long.

The second question, I'm sorry.

Q.  On your rotation and your tendency to lean on the core guys.

COACH FLOYD:  Heavy minutes.  Hackett is a guy we feel we can't win without.  He's the heart and soul of who we are.  He is our best driver.  He's our best 3 point shooter.  He is our grittiest defender, along with Marcus Simmons now that he is in the rotation.  He is the best post feeder.  He is a guy that is our best free throw shooter late in games, the whole thing.  We have a very difficult time playing without him.  So we played him every minute in the Pac 10 tournament, 120 minutes.

But we have been able to get some breathers for Lewis and DeMar DeRozan.  The guy I am excited about tomorrow night is Leonard Washington, and I think he will play well.  He is as healthy as he has been and he played very well at Oklahoma early before he got hurt.  Nikola Vucevic at 6 10 1/2, 6 11, has done great things.  If Taj is out of foul trouble, we will play him.  And Vucevic is a guy we have grown to trust with the minutes that he has received.

MODERATOR:  Okay, Coach, thank you very much.

COACH FLOYD:  Thank you.



MODERATOR: We're joined on the dais by Boston College student-athletes. On my far left, Rakim Sanders and Tyrese Rice.

Q. I was going to ask, do you guys feel like you're playing your best brand of basketball right now? And also, even though you haven't gone on a long, winning stretch, this tournament kind of requires it. Do you feel like that makes a difference?

TYRESE RICE: I don't think we are playing our best basketball right now, but we are definitely improving. And we have to be ready for tomorrow.
As far as the winning streak, a lot of the No. 1 seeds have had big winning streaks. Really the only big winning streak right now is Louisville. So you can't really say much about winning streaks; it is who is going to get hot at the right time or who is not.

RAKIM SANDERS: What he said, we're improving as a team. I mean, we haven't -- like our last game we haven't won, but we are learning from each game and getting better. So I think yeah.

Q. For both players, guys, talk to me about the national perception. The ESPN talking heads are both predicting Southern California, a fine ball club, to beat you guys rather easily. Despite the fact you are a higher seed, USA Today has you as an underdog in the paper. Nothing is really talking about your team or about the game. How do you guys feel about that kind of lack of respect that you're getting by the national media?

TYRESE RICE: That's nothing new when it comes to us. I mean even my freshman year we were No. 10 team in the country and still didn't get any respect. So it doesn't mean anything to me. I mean, everybody will always have us as the underdog regardless when we are playing Southern Cal or whoever else.

So we have been playing the underdog roles our whole life. Most of the people on our team have been playing the underdog roles, and we're fine with that.
RAKIM SANDERS: Really don't matter to me. At the end of the day, I mean, we're going to leave it on the court anyway. So it really don't matter.

Q. Tyrese, how dangerous is this USC team? What are you guys expecting from them? They won a whole bunch of games coming in.

TYRESE RICE: You see what they did in the Pac-10 tournament. Backs against the wall, they got hot and they won three straight games against three nationally ranked opponents, or it might have been two actually. But the point is, they got hot when they needed to and you see what they can do when they're on their game.
So it is definitely going to be a challenge, but I think we are going to be able to step up to it.

Q. Can you just talk about where you guys are at with your guys' games? You had a tough loss your last time out. You had a tough game the last time out, but where do you feel you guys are at in terms of peaking and all that?

RAKIM SANDERS: For me, I think we're doing that right as a team. I mean, we I lost, but, I mean, we have a lot of confidence in each other. We are getting better with each other. Each game we are playing better with each other. That comes from not only playing basketball, but I think getting to know each other off the court.

So, I mean, I think right now I think we're at a good time where we can just keep getting better, and I think this is the right time to do it.

TYRESE RICE: Like I said before, I mean, right now once you get into the tournament, anything can happen. And whoever gets hot at the right time at the right point of the game can just roll on you. So it's basically whoever gets hot.

Q. As a senior, what you are telling the other guys as to how to prepare or what to expect in the tournament? And as a sophomore last year, what are you expecting and how new is it to you?

TYRESE RICE: I mean, we talk about the past tournament, like my freshman year, my sophomore year, but I am just basically letting them soak it all in. Letting them kind of realize how big of a deal it really is. And, I mean, tomorrow, come tomorrow, I really, I really push for everybody to focus in and be ready and be prepared for what we're trying to do.

RAKIM SANDERS: I just hoping we're coming in, I mean, it's an honor obviously to make it here. But I feel as though I take it each game the same. You want to go out there and just play hard and try to win. I mean, that's how I'm taking it. I ain't taking it no different from any other game or nothing like that.

Q. Do you see any similarities between USC not necessarily in style of play but the fact that they have a couple of veterans but a lot of young guys, they haven't strung together their 3s, they're catching hot at the right time? Do you see any similarities at all?

TYRESE RICE: I haven't actually seen them enough to actually compare us to them. But as far as matchups, I guess you can say we match up to them pretty well. They are big in size, we got big in size.

So, I mean, I don't really know too much about their team to really say that we compare to them.

Q. This for both players. Guys, talk to me about the dome, the fact that you guys played two games last week in Atlanta, got familiar with the background and depth perception. And knowing that at times it's very difficult and kind of unnatural to shoot the basketball in the domes. Do the two games in Atlanta help you guys given the fact that you played two, Southern California did not? Just from both players' point of view, shooting the basketball in the dome, how much of a challenge is it?

TYRESE RICE: I think it was pretty -- it was pretty tough, but us already playing inside of a dome I think is definitely going to help us coming back and playing in another one this week. I mean, we got plenty shots over the course of those two games and that practice before, so I think that we may be a little more prepared.

But when it all comes down to it, it's going to matter who makes shots tomorrow and not who's made shots in the past.

RAKIM SANDERS: I feel the same way as him. So, I mean, no matter where you go, you want to stick it your routine, the way you shoot. And you just have to stick with your shot and how you shoot any other day.

Q. This is for both guys. Just the idea if you can speak to playing in a city where college basketball is not as big a deal as it is in a lot of the places that you go to play games in the ACC and all around this country where it's a bigger deal than it is where you are. It seems like the highs are higher and the lows are lower in Boston. But is that ever something that bothers you in any way, that college basketball is not as big of a deal as it is in a lot of the places you play?

TYRESE RICE: I pretty much got used to it. I got used to playing and being like the fifth- or sixth-tier team in Boston. So flying under the radar, we try to use it to our advantage. When we come out we play against the schools like the Carolinas and the Dukes who have 20-, 30,000 people that always follow them, so, I mean, flying under the radar is what makes us who we are. And we are just trying to keep it that way.

Q. How are you guys feeling about depth as far as ego, playing well in the tournament, Josh playing well in the tournament? And USC was having struggles with depth. I feel that you are starting to get contribution from other players, or not just starting to.

RAKIM SANDERS: Again, it's just us having confidence in like Biko and Josh and everybody stepping up. It's just everybody feeling comfortable with each other out there. And that's all it is, I think. Once you have like your friendship off the court and on the court it just makes everything easier for everybody to get out there and play and play their role in it, and like pick up the slack that we might have out there from the starters and all that.

Q. This one is for Tyrese. USC had a lot of success in the Pac-10 tournament using Marcus Simmons and bigger guards against the other teams' point guards. Have you encountered anything like that this year? Is their size in the back court a concern for you?

TYRESE RICE: Not really. We have big guards in our league and we have players who match up with different style of players every day. So, I mean, whenever we have practice, Rakim all the time guards me. So that's not really an issue for us. We still have to execute. We still have to stick to the game plan. And we still have to play hard.

So I'm not really worried about their putting a bigger guard on me.

Q. Personally how is it for you, Tyrese, going from last year to this year, missing the tournament and then coming back this year and having to, you know, make the sacrifice of saying I can't score enough or I put my scoring aside if we are going to get back. Was it easier, good for you?

TYRESE RICE: After last year, I had already decided to come back, like after the last game I was like I can't go out 14-and-17 like that. If I was leaving my teammates like that, I would be leaving them out to dry. And talking to Coach Skinner and my team, they know what kind of person I am. They know that scoring doesn't really mean anything to me.

When we get in the locker room, the only thing they hear me talking about is getting assists. I need that assist next time, you missed that layup, I need you to score that next time. But scoring points doesn't really matter to me.
I think I have done enough of that since I was a younger kid, so that doesn't mean anything to me.

Q. Tyrese, kind of as a follow-up to the question. Just talk to us about the significance of making the NCAA tournament after the struggles last year. And last year you finished in a tie for last place. You jump up seven spots in the standings and finish in a tie for fifth. 22 wins, that's 20 wins in the last -- seven times in the last nine years. Just talk about what a tremendous jump the club made from last year to this year and why.

TYRESE RICE: I think the biggest thing was the maturity of our team. I mean, we lost a lot of close games last year. I mean, we was 14-17, we could have easily maybe been 21-10 or something like that.

But the difference between last year and this year was we closed out games. And the people that needed to step up from last year to this year did that. I mean, you see Rakim went from averaging about 10 points to 14, 15 points a game. And I think that the addition Joe Trapani helps us also.

And guys stepped up. Knew exactly what their roles were and we knew what to expect from everybody and I think that just made us a better team.
MODERATOR: If there are no questions, we will go ahead and excuse the student-athletes back to the locker room.

Joined on the dais by Boston College head coach, Al Skinner. We will go ahead and begin with an opening statement from Coach and then take questions. Coach?
COACH SKINNER: We'll just take questions.
MODERATOR: Just start with questions.

Q. Coach, talk about just the fact that, like you mentioned before, that you haven't necessarily gone on a winning streak per se, but the tournament is going to require you do that. Where do you feel like the team is as far as putting those together?

COACH SKINNER: Can you repeat it?

Q. You talked about not necessarily going on a winning streak per se in the ACC, whatever, but being in a tournament kind of requires you do that, to kind of put wins together. Does the team need to have that experience beforehand or do you trust that they have that ability?

COACH SKINNER: They definitely have the ability, it's just a matter of doing it. But as you've already indicated, you're in a situation where it requires that. But then saying that is different. This is very different because it is one and done. It doesn't afford you to look beyond the first game. I think that's clearly a mistake for anyone to do that, regardless of who you may be. So that situation is very different.

I think the most you should do is look at it as a two-game situation, because that's all you have to do. And you have plenty of time the following week to prepare. But, you really do have to take it one game at a time, otherwise you are doing yourself and your team a disservice.

Q. Does it make it kind of dangerous when two teams seem to be playing some of their best basketball of the year around the same time? Like USC won five straight. You don't have a winning streak but you are meshing and the chemistry is coming together. Does it make it kind of dangerous when two teams are playing their best basketball at the same time?

COACH SKINNER: What it does, hopefully it will create a great basketball game. And I think that's what the tournament's all about.

But you're not going to be playing any bad teams this time of year. It's just not going to happen. So you've got to get yourself prepared for -- get yourself prepared for a great basketball game. And I think we've done that.

But again, there are just no bad teams. There are talented guys out there. Outstanding coaches. And so, you know, you have got to put your best foot forward, otherwise obviously you are going to be heading home.

Q. From your studying of USC over the last few days, film work and so forth, what are some of the things that jumped out at you?

COACH SKINNER: Well, again, the fact that they've been able to put together five games at this period of time, it is an indication that they've kind of -- they have got a much better feel for who they are and what it is they want to do. I think they have kind of recognized what their roles are to get a better feel for each other and kind of defined themselves.

And because of that, you know, their play has improved. They are not juggling their lineup as much as they were earlier in the season. And, again, I think guys just know their roles and most likely are playing much better together.

Q. Hi, Coach. You guys are the higher seed, yet not favored in a lot of national circles. It doesn't mean a whole lot, but is that something that you will mention to your guys? Is that something that you'll use?

COACH SKINNER: No, I really don't -- I don't really use those type of tactics, because I don't want them to succumb to it where it is positive or negative. Sometimes there are negative things that can occur, and maybe this could be considered a negative. And sometimes there are positive things that can occur. I very rarely use outside tactics to motivate my team. I'd like to find something a little more internal within us that's going to help elevate our game to match the competition.

Q. Just to follow up what he said, Tyrese actually said he kind of got used to not getting as much respect as what the team deserved. Is that kind of a trend, that I am not surprised at all?

COACH SKINNER: Again, it's not something we focus in on. I mean, your guys have a job to do, people have jobs to do. And I'm not going to allow any of that to influence us. If we did, we would have ended up in 11th place in the ACC.

Q. Any similarities in not necessarily the style of basketball, I asked a couple players, just the fact they have like one veteran senior and a bunch of young guys that kind of are catching on, any similarity between you and those guys at USC?

COACH SKINNER: Not really. I am not sure if we really identify with them in that sense. You know, I don't -- I didn't necessarily break it down that way. I don't look at it that way. I just look at their talent level and how well they play together.

Q. Kind of off the subject. Did you know about Jimmy Calhoun being in the hospital before the game? Any thoughts on that?

COACH SKINNER: I just heard about it as we were heading over to practice. And obviously the first thing you think about is has the cancer come back. And of course you hope that's not the case. I just hope he has an upset stomach.

Q. USC had success in the Pac-10 tournament using Marcus Simmons and bigger guards against the other teams' point guard. Is that a concern for you going into this game that they can use some 6-5, 6-6 guys against Tyrese Rice and how do you counteract that?

COACH SKINNER: Did you ask Tyrese that?

Q. I did. He said it wasn't a big concern because he goes against Rakim Sanders in practice and faces big guards.

COACH SKINNER: He is the one who should answer the question. It is not a question for me; it is a question for my player. If that's what he said, he's okay with it. We're going to do what we are going to do and they are going to do what they are going to do.

Q. Coach, what concerns you most about what Southern Cal does and what they have been doing lately?

COACH SKINNER: The thing that's most important is that obviously I think they have developed a winning attitude. They have had some success. They seem to have balance, their game between the half court and some transition. I mean, they just have a great feel for each other now.

And because of that, again, they know what they want to do. They know how successful -- what they need to do in order to be successful. So that's why they have been able to win the games that they did and win the Pac-10 tournament.

Q. Sort of an old topic. Speak to the idea you played college basketball in Massachusetts and you have been in B.C. a long time, that the area you represent is not as college basketball crazed as a lot of other areas that you go to regularly. Is that something that everybody is kind of resolved with? How do you deal with that?

COACH SKINNER: I mean, I think for us we just have to take a tremendous amount of satisfaction in what we accomplish and we have to set our own parameters. Again, it goes back to the question earlier about outside influences. I appreciate any recognition that anyone gives us, but that's not what we're seeking.
We're seeking to go out and to compete and get respect among our peers. That's the most important thing to me. Anything else above that is gravy or icing on the cake as people say.

Again, it is not what motivates us, it doesn't motivate me. You know, again, I appreciate any acknowledgment that we receive and the way people feel about us, but I think our satisfaction has to go into the fact of being -- having some success and competing and getting recognition from your peers.

Q. And the follow being trying to get athletes to come to Boston to play basketball, has it been an issue? Or has it been something you need to sell kids?
COACH SKINNER: Well, the thing is, at least in Boston and the New England area, the fact of the matter is, they are in an environment that they would like to ascend to, meaning the professional athletes and the success they had serve as role models for them. To see the Red Sox, to see the Patriots, the Celtics all win a championship and the way those young men handled themselves and handle the success is a great role model for our guys.

And that's again, at the end of the day, they would like to be able to aspire to that. But more important, you know, is they're in that environment. They have an opportunity to rub elbows with those individuals and I think there's some satisfaction there. They may not be getting the acknowledgment night in and night out for their individual accomplishments, but over the long haul I think it serves them better.

Q. If you can point to a strength that you guys have over USC, would it be the guards?

COACH SKINNER: Right now it is hard to say. Unfortunately, I can't really assess as well as I'd like sometimes in film. I get a much better feel as the game goes along. And so I have a tendency to kind of coach from the seat of my pants. So that's what we're going to do in this situation.
I can't really say what our strengths are. Hopefully we'll find some as the game goes along.

Q. Did you expect -- at the start of the season it was about learning, about trying to figure things out. And you knew you had the potential. But did you expect this?

COACH SKINNER: If you really -- well, I don't really bring expectations that way as far as -- you know, everyone, I know they want to play in the NCAA tournament. I know they want to try to win the ACC. I know that. So I don't have to put that out there. I know they will want to try to go as far as they can in this tournament. But that's a given in my opinion. So I don't bring those type of expectations to my club.

What I try to do is help them get prepared and get them better every day. That's really what my goal is. And if we're doing that and guys are really trying to improve and they are improving, then we eventually will reach that, whether it is in a year's time, two years' time, and obviously my contract will affect that, but that really is what I am working towards.

So I don't put limitations, but I don't have expectations either other than what we are doing in practice. Are we working well enough? How are we performing in the games? Does it translate from practice to the games? That's really what I do. And, you know, try to put together a game plan that gives them a chance to be successful.

Q. I think Barack Obama or at least his staff picked -- I want to say they picked you guys. Yeah. Did you vote for Barack Obama? Is there something you are not --
COACH SKINNER: (Laughter) no, like I don't pay much attention to his prediction, but I don't pay much attention to anyone else's either. I appreciate that, but the fact of the matter is we have to play the game.

Q. Al, just as a follow up to that, USA Today had you as an underdog. Two of the talking heads at ESPN, Doug Gottlieb and Joe Lunardi, say you are going to get beat. Nobody is really talking about this matchup at all. I have a sense to what your reaction is, but does that frustrate you a little bit that everybody basically in the national media has you guys losing the game, and nobody is talking about what I think is a fascinating first-round game?

COACH SKINNER: No. Like I said, no. Like you said, you already knew the answer to the question. No, it doesn't frustrate me at all and no, it doesn't impact me at all.

MODERATOR: Okay, thank you, Coach.

End of FastScripts