March 19, 2009

 

MICHIGAN STATE QUOTES

MODERATOR:  We're joined on the dais by Michigan State student athletes.  From my far left, Travis Walton, Goran Suton, Kalin Lucas and Raymar Morgan.

Q.  Kalin, before or right when this pairing was announced, had you even remembered of Robert Morris before?  And just how has that changed in the last few days as you are getting ready for this?

KALIN LUCAS:  That was my first time hearing about the team.  They are a good team.  They shoot the 3 well.  So that's something we will have to work on.  We have to get back on defense, because they do like to run in transition.

Q.  This is for Raymar.  People talk about upsets and, you know, these 2 15 games.  Is all the heat really on you, though, in that for a school like them, just to get here is a victory, to a large degree, and all the pressure is on you.  If you go out and beat them by 25 or 30, you are supposed to.  If you lose, it kind of looks pretty bad.  That said, is heat all on you and not on them?

RAYMAR MORGAN:  I wouldn't say so.  The tournament is a new season.  Everybody    everybody's looking for an upset.  So I wouldn't say so.  We just have to come out and play our game and stay focused on the task that we need to do.

Q.  Travis, what's practice been like since the Big Ten tournament got over and has intensity changed or ramped up as this thing has gone forward?  How would you describe that?

TRAVIS WALTON:  I think our practices have been great.  We have been excited.  It is a new season, as Raymar said.  Whenever you come into the tournament, you know, no matter who you're playing, the seed in the tournament, you are excited for it because every team comes in 0 0.  Every team, especially the smaller teams, they won their conference, they have their hands up.  We are looking forward to a new season and a great new start.

Q.  This is for Goran Suton and Raymar Morgan.  How do you guys feel physically?  Goran, you had the knee problem back in December.  Raymar, I saw you at Purdue and you were not feeling well.  So where are you add physically?

RAYMAR MORGAN:  For me, I'm back at 100 percent.  I'm feeling well.  My strength is back.  It's just a matter of me getting my timing down, and I think that's back, so I am feeling all right.

GORAN SUTON:  I have to say I don't think any player is    physically, as far as their health, I don't think anybody is 100 percent, but I think it is the best I felt the whole year.  My knees are feeling great and everything else feels good.

Q.  For any of you guys.  What does 21 bring for them, Chappell?  Obviously the best player in their league.  Not to kind of put him in one of your games, but could he play in a Big Ten game?  And what does he do on film that you've seen so far?

TRAVIS WALTON:  Well, I think he's a pretty    he's a good player.  You know, he leads them in all kinds of stats:  rebounding, scoring, assists.  I think turnovers.  You know, so in every category you can lead the team and he leads them.

So he's a good player.  When you look at smaller teams, and you got their best player, they can kind of play any level.  So if he was playing the Big Ten, I am sure he would have a big impact like he has for their team.  And wherever he can play he can have a big impact on them.

So it doesn't really matter where he plays at or where he's from, we know he's a good player and we have to look at him like we look at somebody who is playing in the ACC or the Big Ten.

RAYMAR MORGAN:  Like Travis said, Chappell is a great player.  He adds a lot to his game.  He is very versatile, he is a strong guard, he shoots the 3 well and he goes off the dribble.  So, like you said, he's a threat wherever you look at him, in every category.  So we're just going have to have play him tough.

Q.  Raymar, can you talk a little bit about your AAU days with Jimmy, what they were like and what kind of player he is and what kind of player he was?

RAYMAR MORGAN:  Jimmy is a cool guy.  He is a leader.  He leads his team in wins.  He is a heady guard, very crafty and can do a lot with the guard.  A great shooter.  He can shoot the 3.

So I think forcing with a lot of pressure, we can make him do some things that he doesn't want to do.

Q.  Have you guys talked during the week about this?
RAYMAR MORGAN:  We talked a little bit, texting each other.  Talking a little trash.

Q.  What do you say on the floor?
RAYMAR MORGAN:  Nothing.  It is nothing but respect between us.  Jimmy is a cool guy.

Q.  Who is the better player on that team?
RAYMAR MORGAN:  I have got to go with me.  I ain't going to down myself, so me.

Q.  Did I hear right, were you playing against that AAU team, also?
TRAVIS WALTON:  I can't really remember.
RAYMAR MORGAN:  I don't think we played, no.  We didn't play them.

Q.  I guess for any of you guys, obviously the Big East has gotten a lot of pub going into the tournament about being the No. 1.  It seems the Big Ten, if anything, a lot of doubters out there.  Do you guys feel that there is a sense that you want to prove that hey, you know, we're from the Big Ten and we belong here as much as anybody else?

GORAN SUTON:  You know, I think Big Ten has been disrespected all year, and I think, you know, I think there are a lot of teams in the conference that are, you know    you look at Minnesota, they beat Louisville.  And, you know, you look at Northwestern and they didn't make it to the tournament, gave Florida State a tough game.

So I think we don't really care what people think and we just want to take care of our business, and, you know, hopefully the Big Ten will do well in this tournament.

KALIN LUCAS:  Yeah, the same thing Suton said, the Big Ten, I don't think we get our respect that we should.  But you know what I think it is, some good teams in the Big Ten    I mean Penn State, Penn State was a good team and they didn't make the tournament.

Q.  I think a lot of people see the losses this year and don't know exactly what to expect from you guys, even though you obviously have a lot of talent.  Do you guys know what to expect from yourselves in this tournament?  Is there any curiosity?  Or are you pretty confident in what's going to happen tomorrow and the rest of the tournament?

TRAVIS WALTON:  Yeah, I think, you know, sometimes you pay attention to the losses, to the teams we lost to.  But if you look across the board at any team in the Top 10 or Top 25, they didn't have losses that people questioned.

It is a new season and you can't really look at that and worry about what people are saying and what they feel about our losses, because our losses come to Northwestern who beat a Florida State pretty good or different teams like that.

So pretty much we just have to come out here and play basketball and then look forward to what we    to how we feel.

And we're feeling pretty good.  You know, we're excited about the tournament, about playing Robert Morris and the different teams that's here.  We just have to look forward and not worry about everything else that's going on.

Q.  This is for any of you guys.  Last Sunday when you saw that you were going to play Robert Morris, did you guys know where Robert Morris was?  And if you did, what did you know about them?

KALIN LUCAS:  No, we didn't.  I don't think I did.  I don't think the team did either.  But, you know, our main focus is we're going to take one game at a time.  And, you know, we try to make a run in the tournament.

TRAVIS WALTON:  Robert Morris is where Five Star at.  So, yeah, I know where it was a little bit because I played at Five Star.  So it was kind of I went to the Five Star and that's where it was at.

Q.  This is for Raymar.  Travis mentioned a couple of days ago after practice the kind of sacrifices that you've made on this team.  With your health, all of that    kind of putting stats aside, knowing that you weren't going to get some of the post season awards because of everything that you have been through.  What does it mean to be around these guys now, be healthy, and kind of get a chance now when you absolutely need to to show this team's potential and have you be a part of it after what you have been through?

RAYMAR MORGAN:  It is great.  It is a chance of a lifetime.  I can finally get to show the world what they have been missing for a while, and my team, it seems like we are playing our best basketball over these last couple of practices.  So everybody's feeling good.  Everybody is close to 100 percent.  So we just can't wait to step on the floor.

MODERATOR:  Okay guys, thank you.  We'll go ahead and excuse them back to the locker room.

Joined on the dais by Michigan State head coach, Tom Izzo.

Q.  Tom, Raymar just got done saying that he thinks this team's playing their best basketball over the last two practices.  Have you kind of seen a little bit of a giddy up in their step?

COACH IZZO:  That's a great line, over the last two practices.  Most people say the last two weeks, you know.
But I think everybody's aware of, you know, kind of some of the things we've been through.  And we've had a couple of good practices.  And I think, you know, we didn't play as bad on film as I thought over the weekend.  We just didn't make shots.  And when you don't make shots, sometimes that happens.

But even though it is a crazy statement, I kind of have to agree with him.  We've had some good practices and I think guys are very focused in on what we have to do.  And now we have to play the game.

Q.  Speaking of Raymar, Tom, how has he looked recently?  And what do you think you can get out of him, specifically in this game?

COACH IZZO:  I think that's why he said it.  Raymar has had his best week.  He's had his best couple of weeks as far as being consistent.  He shot the ball better.  You know, he did not maybe have a great game in our last outing, but as far as the consistency of the last two, three    two weeks for sure with Raymar, things have been a lot more consistent.  And he's starting to feel a lot more comfortable shooting the ball.

But his defense in practices has been unbelievable, too.  He's starting to rebound now every time.  So, I'm expecting big things out of Raymar and I think we'll need big things.

Q.  Coach, do you talk about any of the 2 15 games before, Coppin State or Hampton or Santa Clara?  I know it is foreboding to do so.

COACH IZZO:  I kind of look today's games a little bit more.  You always see in the first round of the tournament    and Memphis had a struggle there for a while.  We were coming back from our practice at a high school, or at St. Thomas.  And, you know, listening to the score and I think they were down 3 with about eight minutes left or something like that.

But, you know, this tournament is so much about matchups and so much about, you know, maybe how you're playing, but maybe who you're playing that we've been beaten by the 9th place team in our league at home, and we have beaten some very good people on the road.

So I can use our own experiences.  I don't have to look at others to kind of see where we are.  I think our players are starting to learn more and more that it's not how good you are, it is how good you play on a given night.  And I haven't stressed that.  I haven't spent a lot of time on it.

I have talked about a 1 16 is going to go down sooner or later, and I say that just because of the parity in college basketball when you start looking at it, and we talked about this the night of the Selection show.  You start looking at teams like an Arizona, you know, as a 12 or 13 seed.  It shows you how deep it's getting.  And you know, I look at Boston College and USC being a 7 and 10 seed.  There's parity all the way through right now and I think everybody is starting to realize that.

Q.  Talking about just these last few days of practice, is there any other player that you've seen just kind of really step up even more, take it to another level?  Just someone who may have put  

COACH IZZO:  Chris Allen has had a very good week.  Actually a couple of weeks of practice.  I think he has definitely, on both ends of the court, shown more.  If I had to pick two guys that, you know, maybe have shown more, it would be those two guys.

Q.  Coach, Brian Gregory was talking earlier about his involvement with you and Michigan State.  What's your reaction to what he's done at Dayton?

COACH IZZO:  Did he lie to you and tell you that he coached the team that won the national championship (laughter)?  I taught my assistants well, take credit for what you can and give blame to the head coach.

I am very impressed with what Brian has done.  And I watched his team last year.  And unfortunately, and this year, too, he had a serious injury again.  But last year when Chris went down, Chris Wright went down, and he lost another player, I think, too.  He's battled through some things.  I thought he had a tournament team last year if everybody would have stayed healthy after beating Louisville and Pittsburgh, and not getting in.  I felt really bad for him last year.

But I'm impressed with the job he's done and yet it doesn't surprise me.  He was one of the best assistants I've ever had.

And, you know, he went to Northwestern and Kevin O'Neal.  And he's kind of been through it all.  And each has a little military background.  So I'm pleased for Brian.  I am ecstatic for Brian.  But it doesn't surprise me.  The guy is a class guy.  He works his tail off.  He's got a good staff.  And I think he's building a program there that's going to get back to, you know, the Donaher days, not that whatchamacallit did a great job, too, building it back, but that is a program that should be there every year, and I think it will be.

Q.  Tom, Raymar said he pretty much    he was in here and said he wants to show the world kind of what they've been missing with the fact that he is healthy now.  Him saying that, is that kind of un Raymar like?  Has he maybe grown and matured and maybe looking to be a little more bolder and confident now after what he has been through?

COACH IZZO:  There have been three different guys who told me Raymar said three different things.  Three times as much as he has been lately.

You know, Ray, I think he is feeling some confidence.  And, you know, some people have to tone down their cockiness and some people have to tone it up.  There is a happy medium to both and Raymar is on the downside.  If he is saying that and feels that way, I think that is half the battle.  But visually I've seen a big step in Ray, especially this last week.  The last couple of weeks, you know.  And just getting comfortable back into things.  Especially our break, where he can go with it.  The offensive rebounding.

You know, as well as he was playing even a couple of weeks ago, he was making progress.  The offensive rebounding is just starting to come back to him more and more on a consistent basis and he could be a great one.

So, you know, I'm glad to hear he's feeling good about how he has practiced and maybe progressed.  And now the finishing topper would be to do it in a game.  And he has made some progress in games, and I think he will hopefully this weekend.

Q.  Tom, you guys get to the hotel early last night, you go all day, all night today.  You are going to go all day and all night and tip off at about 10:00 Eastern time tomorrow.  Is that long wait a concern to you or you just chalk it up to it is what it is?

COACH IZZO:  It is what it is.  It is a long time.  I didn't realize    I wasn't even thinking about it, not that we would have changed anything, because you have to be here today anyway.  But that is a long time.  Tomorrow is a long day.  I think, you know, it's    and yet we've played from 10:00 in the morning until 10:00 at night.  So we have been well versed in this and that's why we practice at many different times.
 And there will be a lot of excuses for things, but that won't be one of them.  It really won't.

Q.  At this point of the year you usually are what you are as a team.  But given everything you've been through, is there a greater curiosity on your part about how are they going to be?  Who is going to show up tomorrow and the rest of the tournament?

COACH IZZO:  I don't know if it's as much as who is going to show up but just who is going to fit in.  I have said it has been a different year to win 26 games, but I think the exciting part for me is I don't think we have played our best basketball yet.  I think we've shown it a couple times.  I was talking to Bill Self today and against Kansas we played awfully well, and it was days later that Raymar went down.  And that kind of threw us into a little bit of, you know, inconsistency.

So I'm kind of excited about it, you know.  I said all along we have a high ceiling and it's higher than the one we're at right now.  But sometimes you never get to it.  And I'm hoping we can get to it.  Because if we do, I still think we have some good basketball left to play.

Q.  Tom, when the brackets came out on Sunday, other than Garf having his camp there, what did you know about Robert Morris, and also what did you know about Mike Rice?

COACH IZZO:  I knew Garf had his camp there and spent a lot of time there in different ways, all star games there in the days.  And I knew a little bit about Mike Rice because Pittsburgh, number one, and also Marquette when he was with Mike Deane there.  And he did a phenomenal job there.  That team plays hard.  It's got some weapons, and the Chappell kid is a very, very good player.  Can play probably a lot of places, or anyplace.

So I had been on the campus a lot of times, as you said.  But did I know as much about, you know, the league and everything?  When I was at Northern Michigan we played Mount St. Mary's and I was watching that championship game and they were Division II then, and when I was an assistant I laughed because we played them in the NCAA tournament and now they are competing at this level.

But, you know, I didn't know as much about them on a day to day basis.  But he's definitely done an incredible job there.  He's definitely got good players and he runs a lot of good things.  And I think they are a very solid team.

So everything I've heard about them, his teams have been well coached.  And coming from that Pittsburgh system, which I think has been a lot like ours, or ours has been a lot like theirs over the years, I think he's got a bright future, that's for sure.

MODERATOR:  Okay, well, if we don't have any further questions, thank you.

COACH IZZO:  Thank you.

ROBERT MORRIS QUOTES

MODERATOR:  We're joined on the dais by Robert Morris student athletes.  From my far left, Rob Robinson, Jimmy Langhurst, and Jeremy Chappell.  We'll go ahead and start taking questions for the student athletes.

Q.  Jeremy, if you can just tell those of us who don't know Robert Morris very well what it's like playing there.  From what I understand, you're a little bit in Pittsburgh's shadow.  And are you looking forward to this?  Is it finally an opportunity to put some attention on your school and the program?

JEREMY CHAPPELL:  I think this is going to give the school a lot of attention.  We are playing under Pitt and Duquesne's shadow, but in the same sense we are giving Robert Morris a name nationally.

And, you know, this is a great opportunity for us.  And, I mean, we have been working hard all season just for this opportunity just to give Robert Morris a name.  And I think this is going to help us out a lot.

Q.  Jeremy, when you look at Michigan State and how fast they play, how big of a challenge is that, particularly with Kalin Lucas?

JEREMY CHAPPELL:  We know that they are a particularly fast team, a fast breaking team, so we'll have to run back on every possession.  Transition D is a must, so after every shot we'll have to sprint back.  So it's going to be a big task, but we have to in order to win.

Q.  Jimmy, we were talking to Raymar who said that you guys were AAU teammates together.  And Raymar says he has nothing but love and we respect for you.  Can you talk a little bit about Raymar and what he has gone through this year as far as all the illnesses and really not having the season that we thought he was going to have?

JIMMY LANGHURST:  The same way, mutual respect.  In high school, yeah, we played together for two years, and he's just a great athlete.  I mean he's 6 8, athletic, cat quick.

He was our center, so, you know, we played against a seven footer and he had the advantage of taking them outside on the perimeter.  And I think that's what worked well with him right now at Michigan State where he can play the 3, the 4, even the 2, and he can guard all of those positions.

And him being sick and everything, I think that    I mean, he's trying to get in the groove now.  I mean, late in the season, as to what he was last year, so I think they're looking for him to do a little more this year.

Q.  What was the name of the AAU team?

JIMMY LANGHURST:  The King James Shooting Stars.

Q.  I hate to tell you this, but he said this in jest.  He said he was the best player on the team.  Do you have a reply for that?

JIMMY LANGHURST:  He was.  I am not going to argue, he was (laughter).

Q.  Jeremy, you look at these 2 15 games, is the heat really on the No. 2 team?  If they win by 20, they are supposed to; if they lose, they kind of look bad.  And, also, have you looked back at any of those at Hampton or Santa Clara or any of those other 15 seeds that have won and derived any motivation from that?

JEREMY CHAPPELL:  I've heard of Hampton    15 seed beat a 2 seed, so it is possible.  And in the sense that the 2 seed does have a lot of pressure because they're supposed to win.  So it is kind of looked upon if they lose, it was bad.  They played bad.  And if they win, they were supposed to win.

But, you know, we're playing to win, so, you know, the 15 seed, we win, and it is not because they played bad; it is because we played good.  And, you know, in the same sense, the 15 seed beat a 2, it is not looked bad upon by them, the 15 seed played really well.

Q.  How about the other guys, same question?

JIMMY LANGHURST:  Yeah, I think the 15 2, those are just numbers.  Like Jeremy said, this is our business trip.  We're going to treat it like any other game.  And I think yeah, yeah, obviously the 2 seed is supposed to win, but there has been upsets.

ROB ROBINSON:  I feel the same way.  Like we are playing to win.  We didn't come here to just have fun, we're trying to win.  And there has been upsets, and we're just trying to make another one.

Q.  Yeah, Rob, how has Coach Rice prepared you for the size that you're going to face underneath and the bulk of the Michigan State players?

ROB ROBINSON:  He prepared us the best way he could, like just going to have to fight, fight as much as we can.  It's going to take all five of us, like a team be silent, but it's going to take all five of us at all times.

Q.  Is this also a game that you can show the world that, you know, how far you've come as a D I player?

ROB ROBINSON:  Definitely.  Definitely.  Like our whole team probably like not recruited by the top teams, so this is our time to make our national name.

Q.  Jimmy, as you've been playing at Robert Morris, it is a commuter school and so you probably don't get as many fans as you like.  Has there been times where you thought to yourself, jeez, when are these guys going to come out, and it certainly would be nice to be playing in front of a lot more?  And I guess as a follow up to that, do you think that a good performance tomorrow could help kind of get those guys out a little bit more?

JIMMY LANGHURST:  Yeah, definitely every year it's like that.  Like you say, it is a commuter school.  We have late games, so some of those kids go home.

But, you know, as the season goes on, we get more and more fans.  If you get wins, I think people are going to come.  So I think, you know, that's how it's been the last two years.  And once we started getting into the tournament, we had a lot of fans and it was our spring break at school, and it was like, man, we just hope people come out and we actually had the best crowd that we ever had in like my three years there.  So, yeah, it was good.

Q.  Transition has been one of the things you do well.  That's what Michigan State does well.  Do you mind if this gets into a running game?  Or is that not in your best interest?

JIMMY LANGHURST:  Yeah, we know it's going to be a transition game.  We like to get up and down.  And they do too at times.  And I think that was one of our keys, probably going to have to contain Lucas, you know, on the fast break.  And we won't mind if it's an up and down game.  That's the way we like it.

ROB ROBINSON:  Yeah, our coach prepared us for a transition game.  That's one of the biggest keys to the game.  We started off practice the other day, had to do transition defense.  And we never did that at the start of practice before, and it is just one of the biggest keys right now.

Q.  Jeremy, when you accomplish things that you do at a lower level that Robert Morris is, do you ever think of how it would translate to a Big Ten school or an ACC school or Big East school?  And when you've played    I know you played Pitt and schools like that, do you ever think how you would blend in to play a whole year of that schedule?

JEREMY CHAPPELL:  No, it wouldn't happen, so I didn't get recruited by a big school, so I chose Robert Morris.  That was a perfect fit for me.  So, you know, I did what I did in my career, and, you know, it was the best for the team.  And, you know, I just played my hardest every game.  It doesn't matter who we play.  So whatever I've got to do for the team to win is what I...

MODERATOR:  Okay, guys.  Thank you very much.  We'll excuse you back to your locker room.

Joined on the dais by Robert Morris head coach, Mike Rice.  We will begin with questions.

Q.  Mike, can you just talk a little bit about what it means to this program to be here and to maybe have a chance at least to get a little bit of attention on yourselves and step out of Duquesne Pittsburgh kind of shadow?

COACH RICE:  Sure.  It means everything to low  to mid major schools.  The success and publicity we had for the last seven days, you can't buy that press and publicity.

Again, the positive light in and around western Pennsylvania.  You know, you have the Steelers and then you have Pitt basketball which has been so dominating, you know, this season.  To get publicity, and you know, around, to build a program.

And that's what    I heard the question about our fans.  It's going to take a while.  We haven't won here in 18 years    excuse me, we've won, we just haven't made postseason tournaments in about 18 years here.  So I just think there's a process of building.  And to be in the spotlight, to be on the board, so to speak, on Sunday.

We were just thrilled and excited, even though you know, the opponent happened to be Michigan State, you are still just excited about being a part of it all.  Being a part of the tradition and how enormous this thing has become.

Q.  Mike, for those of us who haven't seen Jeremy play, can you talk about his game and what he has meant to your program?

COACH RICE:  He does it all.  He is one of those guys who is just versatility you may not find in the Big Ten or a Big East because he's our leading rebounder, our leading assists, our leading scorer.  He does everything for me.  He guards 1 through 4 defensively.

You know, at a time where you have the point guard and he's going to make all the assists and you have a lockdown defender or a post player, you have a spot up shooter, he's versatile.  He does it all.  He can score from the perimeter.  He can go and take guys down in the paint.

So he's pretty much, again, besides the scoring, he's our best defender.  And does all the little things for us.

So, yeah, he's pretty valuable.  He's been    his maturation, how his game has developed over the last two years has been incredible.

He became    he went from just a good athlete who can shoot the ball to an all around player who's developed a winning edge, and that's certainly rubbed off on our players.  And that's why I'm sitting up here speaking to you today, because he has really willed us to win.

Q.  Mike, at a school like Robert Morris, you are probably not going to be able to get a lot of the, you know, one and done kids, the really upper echelon kids  

COACH RICE:  We're working on that, but finish your statement.

Q.  When you are out on the recruiting trail, particularly a school that is kind of overshadowed in Pittsburgh obviously by Pitt, what kind of kids are you looking for and how do you go about selling them on Robert Morris?

COACH RICE:  Ones that will chew off their arm for a victory, a win, and we look for guys who are basketball junkies who just want to get better and understand that it takes hard work.  Look for talent.  Look for an aggressive type of player.

And how we sell them is on success.  We talk about, you know, off court success, academic success.  And then what most importantly what the young student athletes want to hear is about how they are going to develop their games.

And, again, my first line to a lot of our prospective student athletes, you didn't dream about coming to Robert Morris University.  It's not your dream to be called into the starting lineup and hear Robert Morris.  But, that being said, we can make you successful.  We can do this for you and develop you.  And not only academically, but on the basketball floor, too.

So having this success helps us in cities like your city, New York City and Philadelphia, New Jersey, North Jersey.  And we've done very well the last two years because of people want to go and play against the big time because they think they were    everyone thinks they were under recruited.  And to show themselves what they can do against them.
So, yeah, I think this will help recruiting considerably next couple of years.

Q.  Do you talk about    the pressure is, you would think, on Tom and on his team because they are  

COACH RICE:  Really?  Interesting theory there.

Q.  Do you talk about the 15 seeds who have won in the past?  Hampton and Santa Clara and those?

COACH RICE:  They know it because it's on TV every day.  No, I don't talk about beating Michigan State.  I really don't.  I didn't talk about the upset.  And I don't talk about out rebounding them because    are you kidding me?  I talk about playing every four minutes as if it were your last four minutes.  I talk about every time a shot goes up, rebounding and giving an effort like you have never given before.

We are going to play in four minute segments.  When you're in the NCAA tournament, you get like a half hour every four minutes for the TV timeouts, so we are going to discuss that kind of focus.  And those five guys are on the floor, whatever they need to do at that four minutes to compete, to take care of the ball, to execute, to rebound, to transition defense.  They have to do it as hard and as focused as they have ever done in their lives.

And if we can compete enough four minutes or happen to win a couple of four minutes, then yes, then I think later on in the second half somewhere if we're in shot of the mighty Spartans, then I think the pressure does fall back on Michigan State being a higher seed.

Q.  You have been with Pitt at neutral sites and you have been with St. Joe's.  Do you find that people who don't have a vested interest will cling to a team that they may have not heard of?  Or a team that they are not accustomed to?  Do you think that you can sway people who just show up to watch basketball if you keep it close?

COACH RICE:  I know we are going to get to USC and Boston College fans certainly cheering for us.  But, no, it happened to us when I was at Pitt when VCU came back.  We were up 19 and they came storming back to force an overtime, and Levance Fields was on the free throw line to win the game and all of a sudden it felt like a VCU home court because of all of the fans just rooting for the underdog.

And hopefully, again, if we can keep it close and compete and do all of the little things that we will have to do to just compete with Michigan State, that, yeah, I would hope that I know the rest of the schools would surely rather see Robert Morris than Michigan State opposite them.

Q.  Hey, look into the future.  Can you predict, or do you have a sense of feeling how your team's going to play tomorrow from this past week of practice?

COACH RICE:  Certainly not from today's practice I can't, no.  They will be flying around.  They will be energetic.  There will be an intensity about them.  Do I think that they're going to have the jitters and nervous energy?  Sure I do.  I just hope it doesn't cost us transition, easy buckets the other way.  I hope it doesn't cost us, you know, unnecessary fouls or quick shots.

They're going to do it just because of the moment, how big the game is.  And hopefully the name Michigan State or Big Ten doesn't have that big of an effect on them.  Just because they have done    you have been in University of Pittsburgh at Miami, at Xavier.

So, no, I don't.  Because this is a loose bunch and I like them loose.  Because that's the way we play.  We play with a freedom.  We play with an intensity and energy.  But if I could have a forecast    no, I don't.  Because this group is a very interesting group.

Q.  Mike, what are your impressions of Raymar Morgan from watching some film?

COACH RICE:  What a beast.  Unbelievable.  It's unfair that he can be that athletic, that quick, and that skilled with that body.  It's just, you know    and watching him last year.  Again, I am a college basketball fan, so I watched Raymar Morgan last year and did expect probably more of a breakout year, and really didn't follow why he wasn't as good as he was this year.

And, again, watching eight or ten films that we did, understand about the walking pneumonia, the sicknesses, all the type of stuff that kind of slowed him down.  I think he's a young man who, boy, plays the game the right way.  The intensity that he plays with, the unselfishness.  He'll get it back, and hopefully it's not Friday night, because he certainly has every advantage over every single player we put on him.

Again, it can't be a matchup with Jeremy Chappell versus Raymar Morgan.  It has to be Raymar has to go through three guys if he wants to get to the rim if we are going to be successful on somebody like Raymar Morgan.

Q.  So, Coach, this practice tonight, what do you want your players to get out of this environment right now in about five or ten minutes?

COACH RICE:  The same thing    I practiced at the Palace of Auburn Hills before we played Central Michigan.  I never go to a shoot around, and we don't shoot around in the morning.  We are actually tomorrow morning where no one else in this whole field is.  Hopefully we get the nervous energy out.  Hopefully we get    stop looking around at this is where the Vikings play, the Steelers, whatever it is, could be any number of interesting things popping through an 18  to 22 year old brain.

Hopefully they calm down and understand why they are there.  We talk about it is a business trip and to focus on what you have to do to be successful during that trip.

Q.  Since you identified yourself as a college basketball fan, only four at larges from the non big six schools I guess this year.  A couple of them are out already with BYU and Butler.  Do you fear a little bit now that you're out of the big six, that the tournament will lose a little bit of its charm with fewer teams from a different level or, you know, that have less acclaim getting a chance to play in the NCAA tournament?  And does the performance today hurt the cause for the future?

COACH RICE:  You would think it does.  I just think it's    it goes year by year.  I just think it was a down year kind of for that team.  Whether it's balance in the Missouri Valley or the Colonial or whatever league you want to label a mid major.  I just think it was one of those years where you didn't have, you know, those four, five number of teams that usually get in.

And hopefully, again, because I do think it is a better tournament when you see those teams and you see those teams, they make the runs.  The George Masons.  Last year was Kentucky, whatever you have it.  I think it makes for a better tournament, a tournament now people can    just the general sports fan.  Somebody who doesn't maybe follow a BCS conference and just wants to    really pays attention to college basketball for one month out of the year, they get behind those stories and I just think it's important not to lose touch and not to have, you know, a BCS type of tournament.  This is a tournament where 347 teams have a possibility of making it, and I think, you know, it was a little down year.

MODERATOR:  Okay, if there are no more questions, thank you, Coach.