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October 31, 2011

Steve Alford

TIM SIMMONS: Coach Alford, welcome. Thank you for joining us today.
COACH ALFORD: Thank you.
TIM SIMMONS: If you could give us a summary of how pre-season practices are going.
COACH ALFORD: Well, they're going pretty well. We've had 14, 15 practices. We're a little bit banged up. But we have an exhibition game tomorrow that we probably need just to play against somebody else. But we'll be without Phillip McDonald who sprained an ankle early in the practice season. He suffered a pretty good injury. Hopefully get him back by the weekend. Other than that I think we're pretty healthy and moving forward.
TIM SIMMONS: I think this is the first time you played in this type of format where you play two games, off a day, play a final day. Any concerns about that?
COACH ALFORD: No. I mean, we're obviously extremely excited about being in this tournament. It's a great field. We like that format. You got to play back-to-back games, you got a day off to prepare for that third game. To have a tournament that lasts four days, you get that day off, helps us. We're very much looking forward to it.
TIM SIMMONS: What are your thoughts about being the top team in the Mountain West?
COACH ALFORD: Parts of it are good, parts of it are bad. People are believing in it, working towards it, it makes sense. It's all pre-season hype.
Going into year five in the program, you like to be talked about positively because you feel you're going in the right direction. We feel like we're doing that. That's a positive.
You got to play the games, keep getting better. We have to make sure our guys are level-headed, continue to work, continue to improve and get better. Anytime you can be the pre-season choice in a league as good and as competitive as the league we're in, that's always a positive.
TIM SIMMONS: Any players surprise you during the pre-season, stood out in the practices?
COACH ALFORD: Well, we're pretty deep especially in the backcourt. I don't know if there's any one particular individual. Tony Snell has been very, very consistent for us, especially with Phillip being hurt now. He's made the most of that opportunity. He'll start for us in the backcourt tomorrow night in our first exhibition game. He's been doing extremely well.
Our two go-to guys Drew Gordon and Kendall Williams have been great in the pre-season and doing a lot of good things for us.
TIM SIMMONS: You play Santa Clara. What are your thoughts?
COACH ALFORD: Well coached. I think Coach Keating does a tremendous job with his staff. They've won an awful lot of games. We're in a Classic like this, no matter who you play it's going to be difficult. This is a difficult matchup for us, a team that's on the West Coast that I think is doing an outstanding job of putting together a very good program. It makes for a great first-round game for us.
TIM SIMMONS: Any thoughts on a possible second-round matchup against Oklahoma and Coach Kruger?
COACH ALFORD: No, we'll have to wait and see what happens there. Obviously I've known Lon for a long time, have the utmost respect for his past. Goes back to my Iowa days, competed against each other when he was at Illinois. Then had four great years of competing against him here at UNLV and New Mexico.
They're fortunate to get a guy and a staff like that. He does a traffic job. If that ends up being a matchup we have to have, we know that's always a difficult task when you go up against a Lon Kruger team.
TIM SIMMONS: Do you think you should be considered the defending champ this year?
COACH ALFORD: I'd do anything just to keep pressure on him (laughter).
TIM SIMMONS: We'll open up the floor for questions.

Q. How important is it for you to come out to the West Coast and play games in terms of recruiting, exposing your program to West Coast players?
COACH ALFORD: Well, it's very important. But you also want to be a part of a good situation. I think that's why we're very fortunate that we were invited to play in this Classic, the 76 Classic. It's gained momentum over the years as I think one of the better tournaments throughout the holidays where you think about Thanksgiving or Christmas.
For us to be invited is a great honor for us. Two, with five kids already on our roster from the state of California, obviously we'll continue to recruit that state.
To be able to get out there for four days and play three games means a lot to our program. Hopefully we'll have a lot of good things to lead to our program. Hopefully we'll play well. Kids in that area will see that, get a glimpse of our program and help us down the line.
TIM SIMMONS: Coach, thank you very much. We'll see you in about three weeks in Anaheim.
COACH ALFORD: I appreciate it. Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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