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March 28, 2015

Branden Dawson

Tom Izzo

Lourawls Nairn

Gavin Schilling

Travis Trice

Denzel Washington


COACH IZZO: We're just excited to be here. I can guarantee you that. We were watching a lot of film last night. We've got our work cut out for us, but we've had our work cut out for us all year in different ways. Different teams present different problems for us. This team presents a couple of problems. Harrell is an incredible player. Rozier is playing so much better. Rick's got experience. He's been here. We've had some great battles in the Sweet 16 and the Elite Eight games the last couple years. I know our guys respect him. But this is a chance that -- we knocked on this door last year probably played two-thirds to three-quarters of a game good enough, and we watched another 7 seed not only beat us, but go on to win a National Championship. Maybe we hope history repeats itself.

Q. Gavin, for you, it's important, as big as they are, to have a breakout game, or do you just need to play at a certain level? What are your expectations on you after watching the film, to beat Louisville?
GAVIN SCHILLING: I just need to defensively hold my ground, and I think I'll be ready for the challenge. We have a good frontcourt. We'll be up to take that task.

Q. For Denzel and Travis, you were in that locker room when you guys lost to UConn. Can you talk about what Keith Appling and Adreian Payne in that setting did for you in terms of motivation, and what it would mean this year to get there.
DENZEL VALENTINE: It was a big motivation factor seeing those guys go through what they went through. Those guys were crushed, seeing their faces and how they reacted, it was a big motivation factor for us. During this time, we think about that. We want to make sure that's not us.

TRAVIS TRICE: As disappointing as it was to see them go out like that, that hurts us, too. It's been a dream for us, to go to a Final Four and play for a National Championship. It's added motivation for us, too, because we want to get there.

BRANDEN DAWSON: Just what Travis said and Denzel, just by seeing Adreian and Keith last year, that's definitely going to motivate us this year. Like Coach said, we play good half the game, and we're so close. So that feeling in the locker room, and Denzel telling one of the reporters, "We are gonna be in this position. We want to get back here." So it's definitely motivated us, especially myself and Travis.

Q. Travis, what do you make of the opportunity that was given to you this season and how you responded, especially over this 14, 15-game stretch, and what do you make of it?
TRAVIS TRICE: I'm just blessed with this opportunity and just appreciative of it. I know there's people -- I remember in high school, just talking to people there, saying, man, you've got a heck of an opportunity. I know people who wanted to go to Division I and didn't get an opportunity to go. So I'm just blessed and appreciative of it. I just try and take one day at a time really.

Q. You guys talk about the feeling last year. That was the first time four-year players under Coach didn't get to a Final Four. Is that anything the two of you guys have talked about? What would it mean for you to get back there and start a new streak?
BRANDEN DAWSON: It's really not something we've talked about, but we're aware of what happened. Keith and Adreian were the two seniors that didn't make it. Coming into this tournament, people doubted us. People were saying that we were going to be out of the Tournament, and good luck even making the Tournament. Myself and Travis, we just knew we had to lead this team. We lost some good guys last year. So we knew that, coming into the season, we had a younger team. With them not making it, it has added fuel to the fire and definitely motivated us.

Q. For Travis and Denzel, take you back to the next to the last week of the regular season, you lose the overtime game to Minnesota at home, you go to Madison and lose. How much would you have believed someone that went into your locker room up in Madison that weekend and told you that exactly one month later you'd be one game away from the Final Four?
TRAVIS TRICE: I would have believed them. This is the closest team we've had since I've been here in all four years. There weren't major mistakes we were making. It was the minor things we needed to clean up. We have faith in each other, and we have faith in our coaching staff. We've never lost that since the season, even with all the ups and downs. We knew it was just a couple of minor things we needed to correct, and we could become a great team.

DENZEL VALENTINE: I mean, I didn't doubt it because we played all the top teams. I think we played three out of eight teams in the Elite Eight. So we knew we could play with anybody in the country. So that being said, we just took that mindset on, that we could play with anybody in the country, and we've been just taking it one game at a time.

Q. For Branden, Montrezl Harrell, I'm sure you've been studying up on him. What does he do so well? Can you just break down that matchup for us.
BRANDEN DAWSON: Obviously, as you can see, he's a good player. He's a bona fide scorer. He's relentless, plays with high energy on both ends. We saw that. We're going to have to do a good job on him. Like Gav stated before, we're going to have to stay solid. Can't get into foul trouble, and we definitely have to rebound the ball. I think if we play solid and don't get rattled, I think we'll be fine.

Q. Gavin, during the season, you seemed to pick up a foul coming out of the locker room. You obviously have to stay on the floor for this one.
GAVIN SCHILLING: I've just got to learn how to play smarter, especially the first five minutes of the game when they're really paying attention to every single action and really calling it close. I've got to learn how to keep my hands up, move my feet, and just play smart.

Q. Travis and Denzel, you obviously have been around the program quite a bit, and you've made friends with the other guys who have been through here. Who are the guys that have reached out to you the most? What messages have they given you that have stood out the most? And what parallels do you see with this team and any other team that's been through here?
TRAVIS TRICE: For me, that's one of the great things about Michigan State is it's not like there's one or two guys. Both of us probably have multiple guys that would text us. I know the biggest two for me have been Mateen and Draymond Green. I'm getting texts or having conversations almost every day between those two. They're just trying to drop words of wisdom and trying to help you get through what you're doing. A lot of it is praise and encouragement. I've definitely got to thank those two.

DENZEL VALENTINE: What Travis said, the main two are probably Mateen and Draymond. That's what I love about Michigan State, we can talk to those guys at any time, call them up or text them, and they'll respond. Give us words of advice at any time, doesn't matter what time of the day or night it is, and that's what makes Michigan State so unique.

Q. Tum, for you, you trust your speed. Is this a game where you're going to almost have to trust your vision more than your speed and knowing when to turn the jets on and when to back off?
LOURAWLS NAIRN: I think I've just got to be smart. Even when they trap full court, you've just got to be patient and come let them come at you, and see where your guys are open on the floor.

Q. For you guys in general, first of all, being the lowest seed left, do you feel like Cinderellas? A 7 isn't typically associated with that, but there's so many high seeds left. Secondly, if you could comment on playing a program like Louisville, who's obviously got a ton of tradition and actually has a winning record over Michigan State all time.
BRANDEN DAWSON: I'll say that it really doesn't matter what seed you are, as long as you know everyone is on the same page, playing great basketball and that you have guys that play as a team, I think you'll be fine. Louisville, they're a great team. They're coached by one of the best. They do a great job scoring the ball, and they make guys rattle with their zone and with their press. I think that, around this time, we've been playing great basketball. Ever since the Big Ten Tournament, our chemistry has flourished a lot.

TRAVIS TRICE: Louisville is a great team. They're a storied program. Got one of the best coaches. But when you talk about the seed, that doesn't mean anything. It's not like going into the game, if you have a higher seed, you get a ten-point lead right off the bat. So our thing is going out there and playing the way we know how to play, executing our game plan. Our coaches do a tremendous job of preparing us and breaking down the other team. So it's just on us to go out there and execute.

Q. Branden, when you were a freshman they played Louisville in the NCAA Tournament and due to injury you had to miss it. What do you remember about having to sit that out? Does it kind of come full circle getting to play them again here?
BRANDEN DAWSON: Yes, I feel great. This is a great opportunity. I was talking to Draymond, and he said that, if I would have played that game, we would have went to the Final Four. I remember I was in my dorm by myself watching the game. It was hard, just sitting there and not being able to play. I think, come tomorrow, it will definitely be a man's game tomorrow. It will be great for myself being able to play against these guys for the first time.

Q. Denzel, you sometimes have been called a poor man's Magic, a Lansing kid. Do you have a special relationship with Magic or any relationship?
DENZEL VALENTINE: Yeah, I have a relationship with Magic. He's been around ever since I've been a freshman. So whenever I can get to talk to him or see him or get some extra advice or wisdom, I always pull him to the side whenever he comes. He's a busy man. So phone calls and texts, we usually can't do, but whenever I see him, I try to get as much as I can out of him.

Q. Tom, can you just walk us through your time and what you've done since you left here last night.
COACH IZZO: Well, we have a little routine where we go back and have a little something to eat. No matter what time we get back, I make them watch 10 minutes, 15 minutes of film, just want to get rid of the team we just played and start dreaming about the team you're going to play. That was around 1:30. So the late night start makes it a little more difficult. We got them up at 10:30, let them sleep in a little bit, gave our coaches a chance to do a little bit more and pare it down. Then we lived in our 20 minutes: 20 minutes -- we had them down at ten minutes to 11:00. 20 minutes of film. Then we had breakfast. 20 minutes of walk-through. Then 10 minutes of film on some other things and a little bit more walk-through. And now we'll get to practice and do the same thing at dinner and same thing tomorrow morning. I figure their attention span, they're tired or this or that, so I try to keep it shorter. It's worked well for us. The assistants have done an incredible job, and a lot of the work is done throughout the week. Just put kind of the frosting on the cake once we find out if we're still playing.

Q. Tom, a lot of people talk about what you do this time of the year with surprise. Are you ever surprised with what your teams have accomplished, and more specifically, with what this team has done?
COACH IZZO: Not a lot of years I'm not, but this year, I guess I am, to be honest with you. What we do, I have two staff members that have been with me for quite a few years. I don't think they do get enough credit for what we do because they put it all in, and I get to direct it at the end. This team has surprised me a little bit. Not totally, because I thought we could be a good team, maybe a very good team. You don't get to the Elite Eight unless you're a very, very, very good team. It's like being a poor man's Magic, he's a poor, poor, poor man's Magic. Let's get that straight right off the bat. Love the guy, but it's a special guy we're talking about. So I think one of them said it right, we knew we were some free throws away from winning four or five more games. Which means that we did the things offensively and defensively we had to. We just made a couple of mistakes, and I probably made a mistake or two in what I would do at the end of a game. I had my reasons for doing it the way I did it. The combination, we all made some mistakes, and we all learned from them. I think we went into those last 10, 12 games knowing we were -- I used to bring stats into the film room every week and say -- trying to convince our guys don't listen to the Twitter people. Don't listen to the other people. This is where you are. This is statistically where you are in the league. We were ranked 1, 2 in our defense. We were ranked 1, 2 in three-point. We were ranked 1 in rebounds, 1 in assists. I mean, three-point shooting, we were very high. We had some incredible stats for a team who at one time was 13-7. That's why I think we did a decent job as a staff selling them on glass -- I'm usually a half-empty guy. I made it a little more half full. A couple times I was trying to go to three-quarters full. And I think some of it worked.

Q. Is it almost fitting, you and Pitino having so many Final Four berths, so many Elite Eight appearances, and to have both been involved, and had some inconsistencies and ups and downs this season, to be meeting in this game tomorrow?
COACH IZZO: Sure as hell is fitting for me and I'm sure for him. I'm sure there's other coaches that don't think it's too fitting. I think it is. I think we both kind of came through similar kind of years and in different ways but similar. I think a lot -- and I say this not humbly, I say this honestly. There is too much made out of it. There's so many great coaches. I can think of some of the great coaches in the Big Ten that never made it to the Final Four, and every time I'm in this situation, I just think of them because I have so much respect for them. These players play the game, and the players -- the assistants do a lot of the leg work. The players play the game. Maybe we've got a bunch of players that love March, not a coach. I mean that honestly. As he said, some of the veteran players, some of the former players, they're the ones that light up in March. And I think, when you have relationships with them, that really helps those players understand that it's another season, it's another important time. The one thing I always tell my football counterparts, we get to make a few mistakes during the year and still have a chance to play for it all, and that's what makes our sport unique.

Q. Tom, you had kind of a rare group last year. Would getting to the Final Four with this group ease some of the pain of the way last year finished for you?
COACH IZZO: Yeah, it really would. It really would. I think, to be blunt about it, it would be one of the greatest things we've done at Michigan State. But last year's team -- I just got a text before I walked in here from Gary Harris that says, "Coach, I'm still believing." You feel for those guys that kind of were tagged with the burden of being the first team that the seniors didn't make it because it's kind of ridiculous when you think about it. I mean, it was something that was going to end sooner or later. But that team had been through so much with Appling's injuries, Harris' injuries, Payne and Dawson missing the games at the end of the year, and still bouncing back to make an incredible run until that doggone 7 seed went and ruined the party. They ruined it, and they went on to prove their colors, too. So that's kind of the battle cry. It doesn't matter what you're seeded. Playing anybody, anyplace, anytime is, I think, what we live by at our place, and I think it still benefited us in games like now at the end of the year. You really have to lean on what you've done. For me, my whole career, but for these players, Travis and them are like third or fourth most winningest class. They're setting their own mark. They're setting their own footprint, and I love when people set a footprint in the sand so they can leave knowing they've done something that few before them have done, and they're doing that. It could be capped by getting to a Final Four, and then of course, double capped by going beyond that. But the Final Four is everybody's dream. I think that place for college basketball. We're 40 minutes away to have a chance to do that, and it's a special time.

Q. Watching Pitino from afar, what are the qualities or things you think have enabled him to put together the record that he has? And do you see those qualities in this team?
COACH IZZO: I do. His teams always play hard. He has so much passion and energy watching from the sideline, and he's living every shot. He's trying to -- if he gets out on the floor tomorrow and traps one of them, because he's been close, I'm going to protest that. Other than that, I love what he does. I love his energy. I love his enthusiasm. I love his passion. It's easy to see. It's not because he wears it on his sleeve. It's beyond that. For a guy who's done it at different levels and different schools, I haven't done that. That's why I do have great respect for Rick. He's found a way to get his team back, and I think it's because of some of the players he has. And we found a way to get our team back to a position, and I think it's because of the assistant coaches and some of the players I have.

Q. Tom, Dean Smith used to take the NCAA Tournament and divide it up into three weekends of two-game tournaments. Do you have an approach to March? Or do you change anything about the way you'll coach a team when it gets into Tournament time?
COACH IZZO: I don't. I think I have approached it that way. I try to explain to my players that during the season you can win a lot of games playing one way, but you can only win championships and advance deep into the Tournament, you have to play another way. So you try to play that way all year. Whenever we don't, I always say, you know, we can win our nice 18, 19, 20 games, and that just isn't very sexy at Michigan State anymore. Not getting a date with that, I'll tell you that. So you try to preach that your whole time. What I do know is I sell the one and done. I sell the "my bads". They talk about "my bad". "Coach, I only made one mistake." That's fine. That's great. Do you want to get to a Final Four? Do you want to win a Big Ten Championship? Do you want to win your 18 to 20 games and everybody can be somewhat happy with you? So I don't know if it's any different. The sense of urgency for me is all year long, but I get to make some mistakes. And I think scheduling like we do, I don't make as big a deal about it as other people do, but I do think, when you get punched in the mouth, you learn how to get up. Last night, for the first ten minutes of that game, we got rocked. I mean, they came at us as hard as any team has come at us. We were kind of close to staggering there. I think all the things you go through during the year, what you preach all the time gives you the ability to bounce back.

Q. Tom, you were talking about showing Louisville film at 1:00 in the morning. Can you give us a sense of what you showed them and what kind of attention span they had at that hour? Were guys falling asleep?
COACH IZZO: I made sure that Montrezl Harrell was invisible because I didn't want them to have nightmares. I just wanted to show them some film. We had our video guy cut out anything where he was living with his head and feet on the rim. Other than that, we just showed a little bit of each individual player and just a little bit of their maybe seven or eight basic sets and just a touch of their press, so that they can go to bed thinking, understanding, knowing. Wake up in the morning feeling good and then realizing we've got a lot of work ahead of us. I've done that every NCAA Tournament game I've been in. The last two years, though, I'm pressing it. When you get back at 1:30 in the morning, it gets a little bit harder to do that, but it's what we do. So we did it.

Q. You mentioned getting punched in the mouth, I guess. Richard Pitino in Minnesota did that. Are there similarities between what Richard does and what Rick does and how much carry-over?
COACH IZZO: There is some carry-over. I think Richard is taking what his dad does. He's taken some of Billy Donovan's. And he's got a little different approach, but there's some similarities. Right now, I'm not sure he has the same players as dad does, and yet we've struggled at times against them. I don't know if any of those things matter. What matters now is we've got two teams and 40 minutes. Some of these kids have worked -- when I just think, I look down and see Travis and Denzel for sure and I think how many hours they put in this summer, all that for 40 minutes. Does it get any better than that? It reminds me of an Olympian, you work out all that time for a 100-yard sprint that you could screw up at the start. That's what's great about sports. That's what's great about what we have. That will be the pre-game talk. Hey, you've earned the right to be here. We didn't take an easy route to get here. We had to beat a lot of good people. So you've earned the right to have some swagger, but just understand that there's another team that's earned the right, too, and they play hard as hell, too. It should be a hell of a game as far as that goes.

Q. Tom, thinking back about ten years ago, how does this team mirror and parallel what the 2005 team did for you guys?
COACH IZZO: That team, I think, was a little more talented, to be honest with you, but it was an interesting team, too, a bunch of good guys that we kind of fit in. And we made some changes on that team, too. We took a couple of starters and made them subs, not as demotions, but just trying to get the chemistry right and the right guys coming off the bench. That team took us on a hell of a ride. It's funny, late last night I got a text from Alan Anderson, who got hurt in that Elite Eight game in the last play of the game, and barely played in the game against North Carolina, which we led at halftime and couldn't quite finish or we would have had an all-Big Ten final. He just said, "Make sure the guys know this is a chance of a lifetime." It's so much fun to listen to the former guys because they know they don't get another chance. You try to in a positive way sell that without putting too much pressure on guys. Every team's a little different. Every team that's had a similar journey, you try to find similarities. The similarities there is we had to beat Duke and Kentucky down in Austin to get through. We beat a 3 seed in Oklahoma. We need to beat a 4 seed to get to the Final Four. At that time, it was a 1 and a 4. That was close. We beat a 2 and 3 already. So all good. It's all good.

Q. Tom, what are your impressions of Quentin Snider and how efficient he is with the ball? And did you recruit him? What do you recall from those days?
COACH IZZO: When he de-committed, we did recruit him for a little while. I went down there and saw him once. My staff had seen him a few times. I think he's improved a lot, even from then. I just think he's very solid with the ball. Maybe not quite the athlete Rozier is, but his ball skills are good. He's shooting the ball better. Pretty confident to come in and take that many shots when he just started playing a lot of minutes. Sometimes there's addition by subtraction. I don't have any idea what the circumstances and what they lost, but sometimes it gives other guys a chance to shine. In this case, he's taking advantage, and I think he's going to be a great player someday.

Q. Just as a followup, I think he's had three turnovers in three tournament games. Just how impressive that is at this level to be able to be that efficient with the ball.
COACH IZZO: Sounds to me like you're trying to ruin a good press conference. (Laughter). I got enough I didn't sleep about last night. I got a guy that's dunking with his ankles, and you tell me about a guy who doesn't turn the ball over. He's good. He's solid. He kind of knows, it seems like, who he is, and he's got a jet alongside of him. And he's the facilitator and not taking chances and doing what a freshman should do. So now he's even moved up another notch. So I appreciate the info.

Q. My apologies.
COACH IZZO: Anytime.

Q. Coach, his name has come up a couple times today, what's your relationship with Magic Johnson like? And what's it like to have him around your team?
COACH IZZO: Well, I think I have a good relationship. I remember I started it when he used to still come back. My first year as a GA, my job was to unlock the baskets. We had these covers on them, so he could come in in August and start working out for his next season. That's where it started. I'm sure that he was one of the guys that had to support me for me to get a job like this from an assistant. He's been so good. It's not just the NCAA Tournament. He comes back during the year. He comes back during the summer. He's always back. He comes back for football games. His family lives there. But if you watch him during the game, he has such an appreciation. Whenever he talks to my team, he knows them better than I do. So I always loved him as a player when I watched him. I got to love him as a person. But then I really got to love the fact that anything he touches, he has the same approach to his business world as the same as his athletic world. He's a role model for me because you watch him in the stands, it doesn't matter where he goes, he doesn't need bodyguards. He doesn't need people around him telling people "no autographs." He does what he does. I think he's one of the greatest winners that ever played in any sport, and I think he's just an incredible. Every time he flies in, I tell my guys, "Don't forget, when you leave here, act like him. Come on back. Share with the younger guys your knowledge, your experience, and your passion." I'm telling you, he's done it as well as anybody I've ever seen in sports.

Q. Tom, you've had time to think about Louisville. What are your keys? What are the things your guys have to do and that you're emphasizing in these 15-minute sessions?
COACH IZZO: Well, we can't turn the ball over a lot because they can get out of there and turn over into a touchdown really quick. They're really good at that. So turnovers would be definitely key. Transition defense, they run very well. And their big guys run very well. I think that will be a key. And not to panic on the craziness of their zone. It's not something you see very often in very many places. I know very few teams that play it like he plays it. Sometimes I think you can get enamored with all the movement, and you've just got to make sure you keep it simple and do your job. And probably the last thing is rebounding the ball, because they've got some guys that go after it. So you've obviously got to make shots, you've got to do this, you've got to do that, but I think taking care of the ball is one and maybe how we attack their zone would be the other.

Q. I was going to ask about the defense, but that question took it. I guess my next question would be, the team, your current players did so much to get back in the Tournament and beat Georgia in the first round and take the program to another level, 18 straight Tournament appearances. Is there ever a time when they led the program, and then the program flips around and pulls the players?
COACH IZZO: When you say "the program", the program is not the coaches. The program is the former guys that played here. And, yes, they do. They do it often. I mean, to me, it's amazing that there's an expectation -- and a lot of schools have it. A lot of schools have great programs. I think I've got one thing that very few schools have -- Duke has it. Syracuse has it. But Gus Ganakas is still my radio guy. He started in the early '70s. Jud Heathcote, I worked for. Gus actually worked for me for a little while. And then there's me. And what Gus did is he did an incredible job for me of bringing back the guys from the Johnny Greens, guys from the '50s and '60s, making them a part of it. And then, of course, Jud's guys in Earvin and Gregory and Shawn Respert, Steve Smith and Scott Skiles and all those guys, but we've all been part of the same family. There's been a real connection, and that's the one advantage. Because there are some disadvantages to staying in the same place, but I think there's a comfort level amongst the former players and they want to come back because, hey, Gus is still here, and Tom worked for Jud. We've had like, I don't know, 45 years of the same people that are still there. That even beats Boeheim by a year or two. He's been here so long. But I think that helps, and most programs don't have that. North Carolina had it with Dean Smith and Roy, who worked for him. And Mike's been there and done such a fabulous job at Duke. But most programs don't have people that stay that long or survive that, and there's not a comfort level, I think, with the former players. So I think the program does drive the players because of the guys that built the program.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
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