USC-Michigan State Quotes
March 21, 2009
MODERATOR: USC student athletes joining us on the far left is Dwight Lewis, Daniel Hackett, DeMar DeRozan and Taj Gibson.
Q. For any of you four, I guess. The number of minutes that you four have all logged, how has it affected you this year, or has it affected you?
DANIEL HACKETT: We practiced in the off season. We prepare. Obviously it has been tough on us. And the training has done a good job on our legs. We are just playing basketball and having fun and I think we can sustain that.
TAJ GIBSON: When it's do or die and guys just want to win games, the fatigue doesn't even matter. You just want to go out there and play hard. Because, you know, there's always time to ice down and time for rest. But these memories last forever. So guys are just taking advantage of them.
Q. This question is for DeMar. Some weeks back Taj gave a very emotional speech to rally you guys. Can you talk about how it hit you?
DEMAR DEROZAN: You know, he is one of our leaders, you know. When he steps up and voices his opinion, we all listen and we follow behind him and follow his lead. And that's something that really helped us out and we still carrying on to the tournament.
Q. DeMar, the last six games you've kind of really stepped up your scoring, which is kind of the same as this six game winning streak that you guys are on. Do you kind of think that is not a coincidence and it has been a big part of that?
DEMAR DEROZAN: You know, I just think we are all clicking at the same time. And everybody finding each other in the right spot, saying we are all trying to make everybody's game come easier. You know, I think that's what has been happening these past six games.
Q. Taj, this one's for you. Yesterday in the game you were 10 10 from the floor, shot 100 percent. Have you ever done that before? And how does that happen? Is it technique or just pure luck?
TAJ GIBSON: I don't even remember the last time I went 10 10. Probably went 9 10 or something like that. But my teammates just finding me on the court. And it was just making the game real easy. And I was able to finish a lot of good plays.
It happens in a game, I just warmed up real hard. I got a taste for the rim early in the warm ups and the pre showcase, so I just felt good.
Q. For any of you guys. Wondered what your impressions are of Michigan State. Have you look at them much? Get to see much of them last night? What kind of pace do you expect in this game?
DWIGHT LEWIS: Michigan State, they really push the ball off makes or misses. They get down the court real fast. They like to post their bigs a lot and they have a couple of great guards that like to penetrate. We just have to contain them as much as possible.
DANIEL HACKETT: It is a great program, you know, great history, great tradition. You know, they have been playing great all season long. And as Dwight said, they like to push it a lot, play at a high tempo. And, you know, we expect Lucas to make plays off the dribble all night long and we'll be prepared.
Q. Daniel, can you talk about the foul trouble that you guys played with last night, and what it means for Coach Floyd to leave you guys out there? Obviously there is a lot of trust in. And can you talk about now the effectiveness of your defense doesn't seem to change, even if you have three, four fouls in the minutes you are playing?
DANIEL HACKETT: I think we are used to that. We've been playing all season long. And throughout these years we learn how to adjust to foul situations and playing in foul trouble, you know. Taj had four, but was still effective on the defensive end. And I think Dwight had three and myself had three.
It's nothing, you know. It doesn't affect us in a negative way. So we have been able to play our defense.
Q. This question is for Daniel. As the leader in minutes on this team, what kind of confidence do you have in your bench? And how much will you need your bench against a Michigan State that can often go 10, 11, sometimes 12 deep?
MARCUS JOHNSON: You know, guys coming off the bench, like Nikola, Leonard Washington and Marcus Johnson, they have to come in and give us good minutes to give us some rest. And we have confidence in them that they can step in and do a good job. They are doing that in the past, and hopefully they will give us good minutes.
Q. Taj, historically when the Pac 10 and the Big Ten meet, it's the two styles are pretty different. Do you see some similarities, though, in the way you and Michigan State play, the attention to defense and rebounding?
TAJ GIBSON: Both teams play phenomenal defense. Our coach stresses us to rebound the ball as you look at them and they are one of the top rebounding teams in the country.
And being from the Pac 10 we learn to adjust real easy to so many different styles each different night. So looking to see how we fare against a top talented team like that.
Q. For Taj and Daniel. What have you learned from Coach Floyd in the years you have played for him and what has he brought to the USC program?
TAJ GIBSON: I learned how to just become a man. To just take advantage of situations and just try to become a leader. As far as on the court, it's just expanding my game, just like any good coach is going to do, he is like a father figure and he teaches you things you need to learn for life and it's been working so far. And he gave us a long speech before we made this run as well. Just telling us about all the times he has been playing in the NBA and in college, about how many games he has been through and just telling us it will be okay.
DANIEL HACKETT: To start, he is a great teacher, off the court also, not only in the gym. You know he's been great. And the past three years in dealing with us and, you know, building a real strong program.
He's very demanding, very intense. But he knows what he talks about. He played the game. He coached the game for a long time. Coaching pros and in college. So we respect him and we have been able to go on this nice ride this past three years.
Q. For any player at all, because of the injuries you've had, do you feel like you are a much better team than your record and seeding reflects?
DWIGHT LEWIS: Like you said, we had with a lot of injuries. And around this time I don't believe too much in seeding. Any team can lose in any given night and everybody in this tournament is a good team.
And I think with all the injuries we had, it really made a lot of players step up and have to play. And we've done so. And getting everybody back healthy now and we are just clicking right now, like DeMar said.
Q. For Daniel or Dwight, I am not sure who is going to be covering Kalin Lucas, but if you know who or what's it going to take to shut him down? What is kind of going to be your approach to that?
DANIEL HACKETT: We don't know that. We wouldn't know until Coach talks to us.
But he's a tremendous player. We have seen him in person and on tape. And creates a lot for their team. So whoever has him is going to have to be very aware of his style of play and his aggressiveness off the dribble.
Q. Just for anybody. Yesterday Coach talked about psychology of winning. How important do you think it is to be on this winning streak, especially in a game tomorrow where you are going to be kind of an underdog? How important is that momentum going to be in pulling that off?
TAJ GIBSON: It's going to be big. It's about coming in, basically trying to let another team know that nothing's going to be easy and just let them know that we're going to have a good game. That's the first thing. Every team wants to come in feeling the good about themselves and just trying to let their stake be known.
Q. Taj, I was wondering what you thought of Goran Suton and how you look at that match up and in general all of the big men in the inside matchup tomorrow.
TAJ GIBSON: I have been really watching a lot of college basketball the last couple of years and I have been really watching their team. Their big men are very skilled. After just seeing how they played, Kevin last year at UCLA and seeing how tough the battle was last year, and seeing how much they have grown this year, it looks kind of scary on film.
But just trying to go out there and give it my best effort. They have a lot of talented guys, go like five or four deep, so just looking forward to the challenge.
Q. Taj, in talking to you in the locker room yesterday you could really get a sense for your emotion. Are you carrying that on the court or just, you know just leaving that separate?
TAJ GIBSON: Every day. On the court and off the court. That's the way you have to think about it. Coach really stressed to us and I really talked to him in his office like about personal stuff, about basketball and life, and just using both aspects in the classroom and on the basketball court.
MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you, gentlemen. Best of luck tomorrow. We're going to excuse them back to the locker room.
Joined on the dais by USC head coach, Tim Floyd.
Q. Just wanted you to talk a little bit, you touched on it the other day, just about your team getting healthy now. I think 9 0, if that's correct, when you're at full strength. Is that really the biggest answer to maybe some of those struggles? I know you had a tough schedule there in February, and why you're now playing so much better?
COACH FLOYD: I think it has had a lot to do with it. It's allowed us to play different lineups and different people. We can go small, we can go big. We couldn't do that earlier.
And Marcus Simmons's health has had a great deal to do with our success. And he didn't score a field goal last night, but he is anchoring the defense out front. He's really getting us into play and has created problems for teams getting into offense.
It's limited the strong point guards. This time of year you are always playing against a great point guard and he has been able to do a job on those guards out front.
Q. Tim, how deep do you feel like do you want to go to your bench? And how deep do you feel that you need to go against a team like Michigan State that can go 10, 12?
COACH FLOYD: You would prefer to go as deep as they go. That's just not who we've been and we don't probably have the same depth that they have.
We do recognize that you can't go play these guys, all three of them, 40 minutes like we did last night. That is not something that will happen in Saturday's game. But we felt like it was necessary last night. But we feel like we have some quality inside depth with Washington. Brett Winkelman started several games, and Washington started several games for 24. And Vucevic started a couple of games for us. And this game might require us to go bigger because of their ability to rebound.
Q. Yesterday Taj was perfect 10 10 from the floor. How does that happen in a game? Did you teach him how to do that?
COACH FLOYD: Yeah, I taught him every bit of that.
No, heavens no.
No, he just we played through him. He's an experienced player with talent and skills. And we always play through him because he's such a great passer. And he's a good decision maker.
It so happened that he had the ability in last night's game to go make plays. You know, we typically get him anywhere from 10 to 14 shots a game and he was just able to finish last night. He played at a high level. He played at a high level.
Q. I was wondering what kind of pace do you want to see in this game? Obviously you're able to get some run outs last night, Michigan State more depth. Do you want it to be an up and down game?
COACH FLOYD: You know, I feel good teams can play fast or they can play half court. It seems as the tournament progresses you watch teams play, and this is true even in the NBA, they become more half court because guys are every possession means more. Defensive transition gets better. Guys sustain stances longer.
And I think that, you know, we'll hopefully be prepared to play however we play. We got locked into a half court game with Arizona State in the conference final, but we were able to make it up tempo by trapping and pressing the last half of the game. And I feel like we can play different ways, but I think Michigan State is going to have a lot to do with that.
I feel like they are the best conversion offensive team in the country, as well as being the best rebounding team in the country. They get it out of the net and get it from one end to the other with a purpose better than any team in basketball. They also do it, convert off of misses better than any team in basketball and convert off of steals better than any team in basketball.
So defensive transition is real key. But I am sure that all of you in Michigan have heard that from every coach that they played against.
Q. Tim, how long did it take for you to instill the defensive mindset that this team seems to have? All of them mentioned how big of a key that has been in this run, and especially last night in the second half.
COACH FLOYD: Well, we have been a good defensive team since our second year. And every year we've been in the top two in our league in defensive field goal percentage.
And Daniel, Dwight, Taj and Keith were all parts of that. They came in our second year. And Taj is a guy that cures a lot of ills on the back end of your defense. When you have a guy who is the third leading shot blocker in Pac 10 history and in his junior year, he can create a lot of things for you with his individual talent and length.
You know, he's 6 9, but he's not 6 9, he is about 6 11 1/2, 7 feet with his length. He has great, great length.
And then we have determined defenders like Tom does. I don't know that they are as good as Tom's. He has five guys, and I never seen guys sustain a stance like they sustain a stance. Sincerely beautiful to watch, how hard they play. There is a reason why they have been in three Final Fours.
And I felt like I was looking at a team last night that can win the national championship. Nobody in basketball has done a better job than him over the last 12 years. It's a real credit to him, to how his guys play and how they represent that school with consistent passion and smart play.
Q. When you're leaning on a couple of guys for a lot of minutes, how do you manage the foul trouble, keeping them all in the game? I know it was kind of an issue last night, but you managed to avoid it.
COACH FLOYD: Well, we you know, first of all, you have to be in great condition. You're in great condition, then your mind remains strong. And we don't play defense with our hands, we play defense with our feet.
So these guys are very experienced. They played a lot in this situation. This isn't the first time they have been playing 40 minutes. We've been doing that for a long time around our place. We've had a lot of early departures to the NBA. We lost our five leading scorers over the last two years and four were early departures.
As a result our depth may not be like Michigan State and some of the other teams, and these kids have had to play long periods of time, but they are experienced at it and they are in great condition. And they don't play with their hands, they play with their feet. So we haven't really dealt with foul trouble.
Q. Coach, for those in Big Ten country who haven't had a chance to see DeMar DeRozan, can you talk about what kind of player he is and what he brings, and, you know, what talents he will show on Sunday?
COACH FLOYD: Well, in a game that features exceptional athleticism, he is over the top. I don't know that I've ever coached a greater athlete.
And sometimes that statement means that a guy is just an athlete, but he's not. He is a skilled basketball player who has got a mid range game. He's a guy that can drive and get it to the rim. He's a good passer. He uses his athleticism on the offensive board. He is the fourth leading offensive rebounder in the Pac 10 this year, which is a stat that sometimes goes unnoticed with his game. And he's a more confident player right now.
He felt his way through the first 10 or 12 games, but he's without ego. He's humble. And he's a guy who truly wants to be a great player. And with the package that he has, I have no doubt that he will be an elite player at the next level, at some point in his life whenever that time occurs. But he is a great, great talent.
Q. Coach, what do you enjoy most about being back in the college game after your stint in the NBA? And what makes the USC program a good fit for you?
COACH FLOYD: Well, it would be a good fit for any coach in the country. I mean, it's the best job I've ever had. Because we're in an area with 18 million people, at a highly ranked $55,000 a year private school education and kids growing up wanting to go to school. There are a lot of basketball players in Southern California and now a brand new $147 million facility. It is the most expensive college facility in the country.
The school has made a commitment to basketball. And that makes a coach's life easy. Or timing is certainly better than when I went to the Bulls, okay. In that, you know, it's a place where guys are really wanting to go right now. And when I got to Chicago, Michael and Scottie and Dennis and those guys had left. And it was difficult because, you know, it was hard to attract guys to come win when we knew we were going to try to build through the draft and be bad for a while.
What was the first part of the question?
Q. What do you enjoy the most about being back in the college game?
COACH FLOYD: I enjoy being in control of my own destiny. The fact that, you know, we pick our players, we pick our team. I enjoy being back on a college campus and being around young people, you know, that really are aspiring to be someplace.
And just being on a college campus is to energizing. I always said if I wasn't coaching, I'd love to be a professor and just be around young people that are trying to go someplace with their lives.
But, you know, I had a guy come up and talk to me about whether or not he should get married. That didn't happen in the NBA, you know. Guys come up and, you know, bring me a newspaper article from their hometown and show them to you and sit down. That stuff is kind of corny, but it's fun.
Q. How big is the momentum brought in with this winning streak, having that behind you for tomorrow's game?
COACH FLOYD: Well, I think that's a good question, because, you know, I think teams can learn how to lose and they can also learn how to win. And I think the way we've won has been with a consistency on the defensive end and we've limited our turnovers from who we were early. And I think our players understand that.
Q. Just in general, wondering what your biggest concerns about Michigan State tomorrow.
COACH FLOYD: Their ability to play the game with a passion and a high level for 40 minutes and do it by playing smart. The efficiency with which they run their offense. The detail. Their great ability to get from one end of the floor to the other at a high rate of speed off of makes, off of misses, off of steals. And their great ability to rebound the ball on both ends. And their talent's pretty good, too. How about real good.
Q. Going back to the winning streak, right when you guys took off was about the same time DeMar started his kind of scoring terror. How related are those two things?
COACH FLOYD: Well, DeMar had other games early in the year where he was outstanding. You know, I think our first the thing that's been great about him is he's played when a lot of other players can't play in their freshman year. He's played on the road and he's played in big games. A lot of freshman don't know how to play on the road, how hard you've got to play.
But I remember, you know, 21 and 12 game on the road early in the year. A couple of other big road games.
But he's just more settled, more confident and it breeds confidence in other our guys to include him in what we're doing, and the staff to include him more. He has grown. He has been earned that trust.
Q. How well do you know Tom? Did you have a relationship back in the college days?
COACH FLOYD: I don't know didn't know him at all till I got back from the NBA. And all I told him one time is I heard his name mentioned with NBA jobs and to stay put. I think that's the first thing I ever told him when I met him, you know. Because he's too great at what he does. And I've been an admirer from afar for a long, long time.
And the thing that I think is so great about him, nobody ever says anything bad about Tom. Nobody does. I guess maybe the guys at Michigan would. But nobody I never hear anybody ever say anything negative about Tom. He is one of the good guys. And he's one hell of a coach.
Q. Michigan State has had some trouble this year going against zone defenses, outside shooting would be maybe one of the weaknesses. Can you talk about your philosophies on that? It seems like you switch back and forth again.
COACH FLOYD: Wait a minute, what do they have trouble with so I can go back and look at the tape? With zones and what else? I really do need you to answer the question. What was the other part of the question? Zones and what else?
Q. I think I said zone defenses. Their outside shooting. Does that help?
COACH FLOYD: Yeah, that helps.
We've been playing a lot of man to man. Who knows with a day rest what we'll do. We will go back and watch some more film.
You know, I watch a game glancingly during the year and seen them play ten minutes here and eight minutes here and haven't really studied them. Saw them last night and left with about six minutes to go to press. I just got my yellow legal pad and went home and went to bed because they played so well.
I don't know. I don't know how we'll play right now. I couldn't tell you.
Q. On that note, is there anything special you're going to do to shutdown Kalin Lucas? Or what's it going to take?
COACH FLOYD: No, you know, he is a great guard. He's a great guard. I don't think we would do anything different than how we have been playing to this point in the season. I really don't.
You know, we played Collison and Jerome Randle in our league, two very, very good guards. And Rice, of course, was a good guard last night, and I don't think we would play any different than how we have been playing.
MODERATOR: Okay, thanks, Coach. We appreciate the time and best of luck tomorrow.
COACH FLOYD: All right.
March 21, 2009
An interview with:
MODERATOR: Michigan State student athletes joining us on the far left, Kalin Lucas, Raymar Morgan, Goran Suton and Travis Walton.
Q. Travis, historically when a Big Ten team meets a Pac 10 team, there's usually a pretty good difference in styles in the way the two teams play. Do you see a little more similarity with USC the way they like to defend and rebound and concentrate on it like you guys do?
TRAVIS WALTON: Yeah, I do see a little similarity between the way we play. I know they run opportunities when they can get them, and lately they have been playing pretty good defense and rebounding the ball really good. That's been kind of their key to winning.
So we do the same thing and that's been our key, rebounding and defense. So it should be an interesting game as far as who can kind of get their style to win.
Q. All of you guys can answer this. Since Tom Izzo has been coach at Michigan State, if a player stays his whole four years he has played in a Final Four. So what do you guys think about that? And it's been four years since the last appearance. Do you guys think that you're due?
TRAVIS WALTON: You know, that's an honor on Coach's behalf of, you know, saying if you come to Michigan State for four years you can, you know, kind of guarantee your right to go into a Final Four.
But, you know, I think I am the last of that kind of generation, you know. Hopefully we can come out on Sunday and take one game at a time because we can't think three games ahead. We have to focus on this game which will be a tough game for us. Hopefully we can win that game and continue taking one game at a time and you can continue to ask that question.
GORAN SUTON: Like Travis said, just taking one game at a time. Whenever you come to Michigan State, expectations are high. And, obviously, you know, we want to make it to the Final Four, but we just have to be humble and take it one game at a time.
RAYMAR MORGAN: I don't know, I think these two pretty much covered the bases of it. It's pretty hard to come in third, but it just showed how good of a coach Coach really is. He led his teams to Final Fours every four years. It's just amazing.
Q. Travis, as a defensive guy, are you pretty intrigued by USC's bench since they really haven't gone to it much? Do you have any idea what to expect with some of those guys if they try to counter with the fact that you guys sometimes can go 10, sometimes even 12 deep?
TRAVIS WALTON: Yeah, you know, that's probably kind one of the things we got over them, we have depth, they kind of play with six or seven players. But that Pac 10 style is kind of up and down a little bit, too, so no matter what we throw at them I think they are kind of ready for it. They have some very, very good guards and some very good post players that I think have a lot of endurance.
So I am pretty sure this game is not going to be because we tire them out and stuff like that, it is going to be the team that can defend, can rebound, can do those type of things.
This time of the season you kind of put all your tiredness and your aches and pains behind you and just come out and play basketball.
Q. For Kalin. Their smallest starter is 6 5 and they are very defensive oriented. How much of a concern is that for you?
KALIN LUCAS: Yeah, they are real big. They are like 6 5 and up. So, you know, they do have big guards. But one thing we will try to do is just run on them. Just try to run, try to break on them early.
Q. This is for anyone who wants to answer. I'm just wondering what you guys thought of the USC and the Pac 10 before you had this matchup, what you thought of them, what you knew about them, and maybe what you know about them now, what you saw from the game last night and has your perception changed?
TRAVIS WALTON: We knew they were a team that was kind of struggling at first. But I think sometimes when teams struggle, you don't see why they struggle. They had some players that was injured, weren't doing as good as they thought they should be doing. I think they probably had a meeting or something like that before the Pac 10 tournament and they kind of turned it on to what everybody thought they could be.
Right now they play the best basketball they have been playing all season. So that's a tough game because you can't look at their past games because they are not the same team. They got different players stepping up, playing great basketball right now on the five to six game winning streak in the Pac 10 against some pretty good teams.
So we know they are playing at their highest moment where, you know, they probably thought they would be at at the beginning of the season, but they had some ups and downs and now they are playing great.
Q. Goran, are you expecting a little bit more of a challenge this game against Taj Gibson? And what did you see from him yesterday?
GORAN SUTON: Well, you know, I watched him play a couple of times over the season, and, you know, I seen that he's as physical and athletic as probably anybody in the country. So I think he's going to be definitely more of a challenge than the past game and we just have to be strong inside. Not let him get too much position on you. And try to, like I said, be physical.
Q. Raymar, they've won six in a row coming in. Do you think that makes them pretty dangerous team?
RAYMAR MORGAN: Is makes everybody a dangerous team I think when you win six in a row. Their confidence is extremely high right now. They're rolling. If we won six in a row I think we would become the same way. I think it's all about confidence and how much confidence you have within your team.
Q. This is for Goran. When you're scouting a guy like Taj Gibson that goes 10 10 in a game, I think only one of four people to do that in the history of the NCAA tournament. When you're watching film like that with one day prep, what's going through your mind? Kind of what do you look at knowing that's something that rarely happens?
GORAN SUTON: Well, I think you have to look at the way he scores his points. A lot of it is guards creating some, you know, off of the drives. And some of it is him doing a good job of posting up and getting some easy baskets.
But his athleticism and his jump hook is powerful. You have to take his strengths away from him.
Q. For Kalin and Travis. Did you guys click right away as a back court? Or did it take some time? Was there a point where it really just came together for you two?
KALIN LUCAS: Are you talking this year or last year?
Q. This year or last year.
KALIN LUCAS: I think last year probably. I really don't know, it could have been probably the Big Ten or something like that where me and Travis just clicked.
TRAVIS WALTON: Yeah, I think we kind of started to click where, you know, Kalin was still an offensive player and I was a defensive player. So we used to always talk about or we'd come into a huddle where I say you get the points, I get the stops.
So that's kind of something that we then try to, you know, feed of each other. I know he going to come, he and Raymar and Suton are going to get some points and do what they need to do for our team. It is my job to kind of get everybody going on defense, you know, kind of stopping the main player.
RAYMAR MORGAN: It is fire and ice. He is the fire, he is the ice.
Q. Speaking of that, Travis, who are you going to focus on tomorrow? Obviously they have a lot of length and athleticism on the perimeter.
TRAVIS WALTON: I think probably my job is probably going to guard Daniel Hackett. You know, watching film on him and seeing him a couple of other times, just watching basketball. I know he is a great distributor, can shoot the ball. Averaging 12.5 points, 4.7 assists. So it's going to be a tough cover, kind of keep him out of the paint.
And I know he kind of get everything set for that offense, so my job is going to be kind of contain him. Hopefully he won't be able to get into the middle and do the things he has been doing the past couple of games.
Q. Guys, this is for anyone. Given how much raw talent USC has and how well they have been playing the last six games, do you look at them as a normal conventional 10 seed?
GORAN SUTON: You know, I was watching the game yesterday and, you know, I want to say they are a 10 seed. I think, you know, beating Boston College proves that they obviously maybe deserved a lower seed, but at this point it doesn't really matter because we have to face them tomorrow.
RAYMAR MORGAN: Yeah, I'll have to say the same thing. They are definitely a good team. They're just so athletic and an up and down team. Hopefully we can just create stops and get them to our tempo.
Q. Another matchup question. Raymar, I am sure you will probably see some time on DeRozan tomorrow. Is it exciting for you to match yourself against a player who's had as much hype and who is obviously as talented as he is?
RAYMAR MORGAN: Definitely. It is a challenge and I am willing to accept that challenge. He is a great player, a talented freshman, very athletic, can do a lot of different things on the floor. Hopefully I can just overpower him and bring some of his weaknesses out.
Q. This is for Kalin. Kalin, you seem like a guy that's never really lacked confidence. But to play with a guy like Travis, what has he gotten out of you do you think over the course of these last two years to make you a better player?
KALIN LUCAS: To make me a better player, one thing he wants me to do is just lead more. That's something that Trav talks about. That is one thing that Coach talks about, too. Just me talking more and being more that's really it, just me being more talkative on the floor.
Q. This is for any of you guys. I am wondering if when looking at the minutes that these guys have played, and you go up against Hackett and he's playing 40 minutes a game the last I don't know how many games, I imagine normally you look at that and think how deep you guys are you can normally wear them out. And they have been able to, even if they are in foul trouble, stay in games. Are you surprised by that?
TRAVIS WALTON: Yeah, I think, you know, when you look at the way they have been winning and the teams they have been beating, they all have been playing 40 minutes. You know, as a player, you kind of put yourself in that position and say that's tough, even when you got two fouls or three fouls, they kind of stay in the game.
But when you think of this time of season, you know, for how they have been winning and what they can do for that team, it don't matter if they play 40 minutes or, you know, whatever they are going to do; they got to win. So if they have three fouls in the first half, they probably are going to stay in the game.
I was watching the game today and I think they were playing Washington and Taj Gibson got three fouls and they kept him in the game a little bit. So I think that's what they roll with. You kind change up what you do, especially when you are trying to win something.
You have kind of got to trust in that player the trust that he built with the coach. And you have to trust the coach if we get three fouls I'm not going to get you my fourth foul, if we play 40 minutes and go to overtime, I will get you 45. And that's something they built with the coaches and the Coach has to trust that they will provide and do what they need to do to win the game.
Q. Travis, kind of going off the depth thing, do you want this game to be as up tempo as possible? And maybe even do a little pressure, or something like that?
TRAVIS WALTON: You know, the way they play is I think they want to get up and down because they are so athletic. But I think we want to play up and down, too. So you have to give and take some. You know, if you get into a running game with them, they have athletes that can play with the best of them. You know, but at the same time we got more depth than them.
So, you know, you say you want to run with them a little bit to kind of tire them out, but they have been playing 40 minutes in the Pac 10 style of play that's kind of up and down, freelancing a little bit. So it's going to be something the coaches will talk to us about running when we got opportunities.
We know Kalin is a great pusher of the basketball and know when to push the ball and when not to push the ball, so we're going to do what we do as far as fastbreak and all that, but I don't know if we may do it every single time thinking that that can be a weakness that we can get at go at them at.
MODERATOR: Okay, guys. Thank you very much. Best of luck tomorrow.
Joined on the dais by Michigan State head coach, Tom Izzo.
Q. Hi Coach Izzo. Raymar Morgan, we've heard about that he was very sick and he's on this comeback and it took many weeks for him to feel better. But I'm wondering, what did he look like when he was so sick? Were you sending him home from practice? I mean, what were you seeing?
COACH IZZO: Well, to be honest with you, it was two days before the Illinois game, which was, I think, January 15th or 16th. And he, you know, felt a little sluggish in practice. And then he had a temperature when he played in that game. And in the Northwestern game he played about I think 13 or 15 minutes and was really sick that game.
And then we just thought it was a flu bug. And another game went by and he just couldn't do anything. Wasn't practicing then, he was just there.
And then we had him checked for Mono, negative. Went another week, had him checked for, you know, Mono again and it was negative. And then they started on this walking pneumonia case. And then finally, two weeks into it, it started to show, you know, in the lungs and that, I guess a little bit of walking pneumonia and definitely Mono, so then we just cut him down completely. Where it looked like he missed three or four games, he probably missed eight if you really looked at it in a month worth of practice.
So never sent him home. I always kept him there. But didn't practice much during that time.
Q. Tom, just wondering your initial impressions of Southern Cal, watching them up close and then a little bit on film.
COACH IZZO: You know, it's interesting because you don't get to see as much of the West Coast teams. You know, you get to see so many teams when you're in the East, the Midwest, but not much of the West Coast teams.
And yet I've always I've known Tim, you know, and UCLA, Ben has been a friend, so I try to keep up on them. And, you know, seeing them in person a little bit, just kind of the not the opposite as last night's team, but Robert Morris I thought had some incredibly quick guards but small and strong that really got into it. These are extremely large guards and very, very strong. But maybe not quite as athletic or quite as good of shooters, except for Lewis in some ways.
And inside, Ty is a heck of a player. He is what he is. He is a guy that can score down there, and I think he gets a lot of baskets because Hackett penetrates and drops it off, or Hackett penetrates and throws it up there. And, you know, your big has to help because he's in the lane so much, and then they just gobble up the rebounds.
So I was impressed by their running, I was impressed by their size and athleticism. And if that's a 10 seed, this tournament's heading to an area where I don't know how many good teams there are now, but there's going to be a lot more in the future. Because that's a heck of a 10 seed.
Q. Tom, how much do you hope or expect your depth will play in this game? And will that be as big a factor as maybe some of us see it as a potential?
COACH IZZO: The only problem in the NCAA tournament, as we know, the one minute timeouts go to, you know, a day, two days. They are kind of long. And, you know, my guys are sick of looking at me. The good news I'm sick of looking at them in those timeouts. But the timeouts are longer, and so consequently you're getting, you know, a 2 1/2 minute plus break and that helps.
But I even felt last night we subbed a little earlier than normal with the number of guys, and Robert Morris I thought in the second half had some looks, but didn't make some shots. And was fatigue or not, I don't know. And now you have a shorter turn around.
I think it could work to our advantage, and yet, USC has played the same way most of the year, too. So I don't know if it it's a big advantage.
Q. Coach, since you've taken over at Michigan State, if a player has played for you all four years, he's played in a Final Four. What does that mean to you? And it's been four years since your last appearance. So do you think that you're due?
COACH IZZO: Yeah, I'm due. I always think I'm due, it's just the rest of the country doesn't always oblige.
But that's been a heck of a stat for us. You know, I mean, I remember being an assistant and Bobby Knight going through that. All good things have to come to an end, but it's been funny to watch the Alan Anderson and Torbert and Chris Allen years when it was a big thing to them. And, sure enough, on their senior year they made it. Travis Walton has made it a big thing to him.
But it is getting more difficult, too. The parity across our country is incredible in basketball, and I think it's getting more difficult.
So it's a goal to have. It's something that if they didn't practice very well I could throw in their face, you know how that works. But, you know, this group has done a lot of good things. I hate to be measuring everything on Final Fours because I know how difficult it was.
And in all honesty, there is usually 10 or 12 teams capable of getting there, and you do have to be lucky once you get to the Sweet 16 to go along with being good. And so I'm not sure I'm judging them on that. But it's something that, yeah, I'm proud of. Yeah, it's exciting.
It doesn't mean as much as it used to, in all honesty, because nobody wants to stay four years anyway. So what's the difference? Four years, you've got to be saying every two years, that would be cool, then maybe you could talk a guy into staying more than one year.
But, in general, it's something that has happened that I am proud of. I am excited about. But I don't really judge everybody on that. This class would not be a failure if they didn't get there.
Q. Tom, what's impressed you the most about the way Kalin and Travis have worked together knowing they have kind of different personalities? And can you think of any tandem of former players in the past you maybe worked with as an assistant or a head coach that are at all similar in that regard to those two?
COACH IZZO: You know, they are different personalities. In a way, Charlie Bell and Mateen Cleaves had different personalities. And we got a lot accomplished with that. But the good part of the personality is winning is at the top of it. And I think both guys want to win, and they both work on their game.
But it is, it is interesting because, you know, to have a great team, I think you need different parts. And those guys bring different parts to the game. I mean, they're different players. One kid could impact the game not scoring a point, and one could impact the game maybe with his assists. And sometimes with his scoring. So they're different. But I guess that's what I love about them. We don't have to get them confused.
Q. Can you talk about how well you know Tim Floyd and talk about the job he has done at USC?
COACH IZZO: You know, I once ventured into a little bit of a after we won the national championship, I had an opportunity maybe in the NBA. And I remember calling Tim. I didn't know Tim at all then. But I said I have to call somebody who made the jump and he had just made the jump to the Bulls.
And I caught him on his cell phone and he was driving to Florida, I think, to pick up his daughter. And he said, Tom, I am a bad guy to talk to. I said, Why? And he said I just went 50 65 or something. And, you know, there are parts of it that are good, but that's where I first got to know Tim.
Then we played his old team, Iowa State. And Larry Eustachy took over. And I always had an appreciation for Tim. I think his teams guarded well. They played hard. He is a tough, tough guy. And I talked to him a couple of times when he moved to USC. And, you know, it was a different move for him.
But what an incredible job he's done there in a short period of time. And they get the building, they get all the things that have happened. And that program is just taking off. And he has football to build with. And I don't know how he feels, but, I mean, I think that's something great to embrace when you have a football program that good.
So it's not just UCLA anymore. He's gotten that thing back where USC is a player, and I think, you know, big time player that year. They've got some good players and he is an excellent coach. I don't think anybody has ever questioned his coaching ability. And his teams always played tough and hard.
It is kind of funny. I was talking to Magic today, and, you know, we were just talking about some of it and he says, yeah, Tim Floyd, guard, good, strong, tough guards. Even Tinsley wasn't as big but was tougher than nails when he was at Iowa State.
I think we all recruit and try to build around our own personalities. I think Tim has done that with this team and he's doing that with this program. And other than tomorrow night, or tomorrow afternoon, I am pulling for him all the way.
Q. I wanted to ask you about a fact that, except for one season back in 2007, any time you've gotten to the second round of the tournament you've moved on. What is it about your program, your preparation, that has made that happen so often?
COACH IZZO: Good players. Good players really help. But I do think that early in my career here as a head coach, my third season, we played Princeton out in New Jersey. And, you know, we played the late late game. I think we played Eastern Michigan. I think it started around 10:20 at night Eastern time and we got back to the hotel and they had drug testing I want to say 1:30 at night and we sat there as a staff, Tom Crean, you know and we just said how can we get this done? You know, we're going to play a team that we never played, an offense like the Princeton offense.
So we started this, you know, our way of doing things, which was these 20 minute breakout sessions before breakfast, after breakfast, before lunch, after lunch, to try to keep focus on our players. And that's where the video worked that I've always believed in. We had some video already prepared. And I remember we got back to the hotel at 1:30 and just watched a hair of video and I wanted them to go to bed with Princeton on their minds.
When we won that game, we played an afternoon game on Saturday it must have been Sunday. So it was the shortest prep time we ever had. And it kind of worked, so we built on that. And I think half of it is a myth. The players believe it, everybody believes it. I am not sure it is anything more than good players in a system that we do. But the system has been pretty good to us, and I guess that be would have something to do with it.
Q. Tom, do you see similarities in the way that you your program and USC are coming into this game? It seems like there's both a lot of attention to detail on defense and rebounding, and then, also, being able to run off your stops like both the teams like to do?
COACH IZZO: Yeah, I think there are a lot of similarities where we run off makes and misses and they will run off turnovers and misses. But rebounding has, you know the toughness of the game has been brought up. That's what I always loved about Tim.
And, you know, we're definitely we both had some injuries this year and I think that's what kind of brought them to a 10 seed, because the team I saw last night is very good. Now, I haven't seen them all the time, I know they had some ups and downs, but I know they did have some injuries earlier in the year.
So I think our teams are similar. They have been playing their best basketball the last four, five, six games and I am not sure we're there yet, to be very honest with you. But I think it's exciting to think that maybe we could get there. And yet the unknown makes it a little bit difficult.
I think there are some similarities between the two teams. I think there are similarities with our coaching styles.
I often said that in a lot of ways the national championship game was the Iowa State game. Tim wasn't there, but those were all of his guys that he had coached. And that was one of the toughest teams I've ever played since I've been in the NCAA tournament.
Q. You mentioned the NBA, and in the past, and I assume you had some of those opportunities. But does that ever appeal to you at all down the line, or are you passed that?
COACH IZZO: You know, for the most part I seem to be a college guy, you know. And it's it is unfair for me to even evaluate that. I was talking to my buddy, Mariucci, and he had a chance to be an assistant in the NFL and so he had a clue what it was like. And I can't say I have a clue, and sometimes that may be good, sometimes maybe bad.
But I never said never to anything, because who knows what offers come. And, you know, the minute somebody says that, you know, you replay it five years later and you look like an idiot. I can do that myself. I don't need somebody else doing it for me.
So, you know, the word never never approaches me. But at the same time, there's some goals I still have in college. Some big time goals. And, you know, I don't know if they are obtainable, but there's one out there right now that I'd still like to get to. And if that was accomplished, who knows what I'd do. But that's where all my thoughts are for the years ahead until I reach that goal.
Q. I wanted to ask you a little bit about Brian Gregory winning yesterday and the contact you had with him. And I understand Jud was there until 3:00 a.m. or so last night. Maybe give us some colorful details after that.
COACH IZZO: After talking to Jud when I got back I thought we lost by 30 and I was looking for a tall building to jump out of. Those of you that know Jud, I told Earvin that today and he said, Yep, Coach is never satisfied, is he? And I said, I know, but that's what people say about me and I am not half that way.
But Jud was great. You know, it's just great to have him in the film room and sitting around. And, you know, he has not lost his knack for understanding the game.
And, I mean, you know he picked USC before the game, so my assistants thought Boston College was going to win, you know. That's Jud. I think he's got a little West Coast bias now that he lives in Spokane. But I also think he has an incredible eye for talent. He knows Tim is a very good coach, although so is Al. So him being there was great.
And it's kind of neat to think that two of his guys are in the same region. You know, with Brian Gregory being a GA when Jud was the head coach and I was the assistant, it makes it kind of neat.
And as far as my contact, I was in full contact with Brian until yesterday. And then if there is that one in a million chance we're playing in a week, I don't like him right now, I don't want to talk to him, except that you know I'm kidding. I have great respect for Bill Self, but this has been an incredible job that Brian did yesterday, the defense his team played, how hard they played and what they accomplished. The Chris Wright kid is a kid we recruited, so he is a big time player.
But Brian has had some great years there, and I think the best is yet to come.
Q. Coach, the question before that you talked about one more goal, something you want to accomplish in college. I need you to spell that out for me. What is it?
COACH IZZO: Well, at our school we won two national championships. Those of you from California, you know, that was just another day in the park. They won what, 10? So I'm not going after that one, you know. I am not going to live long enough to see anybody go after that one.
But I think John Wooden said something to me once after we won the national championship. I was out there for the Wooden awards and he said, Welcome to the fraternity of 40. And I sat there and I had no clue what he was talking about. And I realized that was the number of guys that had won a national championship. Actually Bill Walton told me that.
So then, you know, if you can win two as a coach, that thing shrinks down a lot. But if you win three as a program, it shrinks down even more. And that would be my ultimate dream for Michigan State and the program Jud built. And I've tried to continue. So I guess right now that's my immediate goal, whether it be this year, next year, five years from now, that's what I'm looking for.
Q. Tom, if I could follow up on Gregory for a second. How much of the Dayton game did you get to see? And if Jud was that critical to you, what did he say to Gregory?
COACH IZZO: This isn't HBO, is it? I don't know what he said to B.G., but I did get to see quite a bit of his game.
And, you know, like I said, it's hard because Bob Huggins is a good friend. But blood's thicker than water, as they say, and I sat there and pulled for Brian. And with every charge or mistake or big play, I kind of felt like I was sitting in my seat uncomfortably.
But I think Jud, you know, I kid a lot about that, but I think he's been not only proud of us, but I think he has embraced us. Where some people would leave a program, and I don't mean this totally, but I almost hope the next guy failed because, you know, you always want to think that you're the best, right? We've been in 12 straight NCAA tournaments and he hasn't missed a game. And some of those years we went to Final Fours he flew Spokane to wherever, back to Spokane, back to wherever, back to Spokane, back to the Final Four, back to Spokane.
And the guy has done more for me than anybody other than my parents. And I think now he's got, you know, Brian Gregory there. He's got Jimmy Boylan who is in the tournament down in Miami. But that makes it a more special.
And I am sure he had some words for B.G. In fact, he did talk to him last night because we called him at about 2:00 in the morning and he was at his game in person, I wasn't.
Q. Tom, Jim Calhoun was talking earlier this week about in the tournament not being able to fully play the way he wants to play because of the way the games are called, as far as physical play and things like that. How have you found that dynamic to be over your time in the tournament where you are dealing with some unfamiliar refs and not being able for your players to do what they have done throughout Big Ten play?
COACH IZZO: Is Calhoun crying again? He's too good to cry.
Nah, you know Jimmy, I think he's a very physical coach, you know. And it does get tightened up in a tournament. But personally I'd just like to get six so my team can win by 30 and we can keep moving on. So I don't know if it's any different than the tournament. I think there's a paranoia that officials have now because so much is based on every performance that is supposed to be called. And some of these guys have refed for 30 years. And if they want hand checking called a little more, you know I don't know what happened. I just know that one of the things in the Utah game, their 7 1 or 2 kid got in early foul trouble and that's what can happen.
I always kid my football buddies in football you get a 15 yard penalty if you do something wrong but the guy stays in the game. In basketball, you know, we had Morgan on the bench for 15 minutes last night. Maybe Calhoun has got some guys that have gone through that.
But I think he plays a physical brand of ball, which I think we do, too. And I think that does get tightened up in tournament time. And so I think that's what he means.
But he's got a good enough team. I don't know if it matters which way they call it, he will be pretty successful.
Q. Tom, how concerned do you get when you see a team like USC for whatever reason, injuries or whatever, isn't a high seed, doesn't have a great record, but they look like they are really put it together right now? How much of a concern is that?
COACH IZZO: I said, the last five years, I think I had my moments when I complained about seeding. And about five years ago that kind of ended because I don't know if it matters what seed you are anymore. We're a 2 seed, we played at 10:00 last night, so I don't think it matters that way. We're a 2 seed and I look at the teams we play and I say wow, you know. And you look at an Arizona, I mean, from a conference like that, a 12 seed.
You know, I just think it's changed. And I don't think it makes any difference anymore. I don't think it helps you.
When I first got in we were a 1 seed the second year and I thought it helped get you out of the first weekend. I'm not, you know people laugh, but I'm not sure I even wanted a 1 seed, contrary to popular belief. Because I think the day is coming. The 16 is going to be the 1. It's not just because of time, it's because there's better teams.
And so it is concerning to see a team like that, and I'm going, 10 seed? But just like everything else, we're not ready for Butler to beat Indiana, but it happens now. It's going to happen. It's called parity, it's here to stay. It's not leaving. And it's showing it's rearing its ugly head in the NCAA tournament.
Pretty soon there will be no Cinderellas because everybody will be on a more even playing ground.
MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you, Coach.
COACH IZZO: Thank you.