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March 17, 2016

Mick Cronin

Gary Clark

Troy Caupain

Spokane, Washington

THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Can you give us an update on your ankle and how much you've been able to practice?
GARY CLARK: It's good. I've been able to get out there with the guys a lot more than I was last week. It's really good. I'm excited for tomorrow definitely. All the treatment and stuff, to go out there today and yesterday with the guys, it feels great.

Q. So you expect to play and be at what, full strength, close to full strength?
GARY CLARK: I'll be at full strength.

Q. Troy, this is your third time in this tournament. How is your approach different? What have you learned the first two times?
TROY CAUPAIN: Don't play scared. It's an opportunity of a lifetime. If anything, I would tell the team it's a one-game tournament, it is your last opportunity for the year to step out there, just leave it all on the floor. Play with your heart, all your energy, and let the game handle itself.

Q. Troy and Gary, what most impresses you about St. Joe's?
TROY CAUPAIN: The way that their bigs are stretch bigs. That they don't play with two bigs in the post, that they both step out, can shoot the three very well. They can beat bigger defenders off the dribble with their height. It's very tough for opponents to have centers that can move their feet. It's a tough challenge for them. So I'm very impressed at the way, that their skill level, at the height that they have.

GARY CLARK: I would agree with Troy. Having two bigs that really can -- are versatile bigs and can handle the ball and you always got to kind of find out where they are at on the court.

Q. Troy, you've played here two years ago, in this building, do you think that gives you an advantage coming back tomorrow?
TROY CAUPAIN: No. I think I still got to not for just myself, but the team, has to be ready, it's still another game. Our team is coming prepared, and I know they're team is coming prepared. I don't think coming back into the same building with being two years ago, it's kind of the same, it's not like a home court advantage type thing or nothing.

We just got to get used to the rims with the time that we had today and in warm ups tomorrow and just get a feel for it and try to get comfortable as soon as possible.

Q. For Troy, can you talk a little bit about coming back from your last game, the heart breaking loss and how the team has handled that loss.
TROY CAUPAIN: Well, it was tough the day when we lost. But we got a lot of encouragement that we wasn't out of the game, we didn't lay down. We had a couple mental mistakes, certain possessions where we didn't play to the best of our abilities. But it wasn't a loss that we would keep our heads down on. The basketball gods just wasn't on our side that day.

They hit a shot and it led to another overtime, four overtimes, that game's going down in history. We wasn't one to hold our heads, we knew that we were feeling a little comfortable going into Selection Sunday that we had to prepare, get our minds right for the big, big dance. It would have been nice, but it was nothing that would ruin our team or bring us down or feel any less of an organization than we are.

Q. Gary, back to the topic of their bigs and how maybe unique they are. You guys are more conventional. How much of a problem do you think that will be for you to cover those guys and get out on them when you have to?
GARY CLARK: It will just come down to us communicating well through our defense, regardless of what we're playing. Really the back line guys really talking and letting the guards know where to go and when to do certain things. It will all come down to just us communicating.

THE MODERATOR: All right. Thank you, guys. We'll have coach in just a moment.


THE MODERATOR: We'll start with an opening statement from coach and then take questions.

COACH CRONIN: Well, first of all, it's an honor to be playing against Coach Martelli and haven't had a chance to coach against him. For somebody like myself, who likes to think I'm still younger, Coach Martelli is a guy in our business at the highest level of integrity and has just done an unbelievable job at St. Joe's, where they're not in an arms race for facilities. And he's just somebody you look up to personally, that I look up to in our business. Have great respect for him.

Not only for his coaching, but also for his work with Coaches vs. Cancer, that I'm involved with myself. And he just does so many great things for our game and what he does for the fight against cancer with the American Cancer Society, being our head of Coaches vs. Cancer.

So, they have had a great season, St. Joe's. Tremendous run last weekend, to the A-10 championship. Obviously, averaging 85 points a game, has ruined my week. Watching film of St. Joe's and the way they spread you out on the offensive end.

But we're happy to be back in Spokane, it's a great city, and try to stay a little bit longer this time. We had a little early exit last time we were here.

Q. I saw one of your news conferences this week when you talked about the parity across college basketball this season. How no team is infallible, all teams are beatable, could you share your thoughts about that?
COACH CRONIN: Yeah, I took -- I guess to expand on that, for me, I think sometimes the media wants the great player or the unbeatable team, because that's what moves the needle in the media. And I think that there's -- what hasn't been talked about this year, is there's a lot of really good teams. That's why you see some teams taking losses. It's not because when you see people say, well, they're inconsistent.

No, there's a lot of really good teams in college basketball. With the players getting older, because there's very few one and done's. So with transfers, so you take four years of 500 transfers a year, okay, so now all those guys are in their, they're older. So a Junior's in his fourth year, a senior's in his fifth year. So, the games are so much more competitive. Then you have the fifth year seniors. People plugging holes everywhere. So you just have a lot of really good teams playing solid basketball.

The older kids are, the more they understand how to win, the more resolve that they usually will have, and it's tougher to get a W. It just is. In all conferences.

So, that's what really what I was referring to when I talk about the parity. It's what I think is the misnomer is that that means that college basketball's down. I think it's up. Now, obviously, we don't have a team like Kentucky last year with eight supposed NBA guys or whatever it was. That was the anomaly. That's probably the greatest, most talented team ever assembled. That's not going to happen all the time.

You've just got have a lot of really good teams this year, a lot of them. So I don't really look at certain games as upsets. I just think that people look at names and think it's an upset. Or because somebody in the media picked a certain team, talked about a certain team, doesn't mean they're right, there's just a lot of really good basketball teams and that's why you see ebbs and flows in the season. You can play well and get beat.

Q. You're, obviously, you know that you're known for defense when the first time --
COACH CRONIN: I was not. I was not. My dad just passed out in the back. He was my high school coach. I'm just teasing.

Q. When you ask a coach what his impressions are of Cincinnati, they always say defense. And when you mention your dad, you've had three major coaching influences: Your dad and Rick Pitino and Bob Huggins. Why take so much pride in defense? Where does that come from? Why not offense?
COACH CRONIN: Really, when you've had the jobs that I've had, being on Coach Huggins' staff, being on Coach Pitino's staff for two years of rebuilding, being at Murray State, and then having to rebuild Cincinnati. I've never been in a blue-blood program, where we have the best players by far.

Trust me, in 2000 and 2001, when we had the first and sixth pick in the draft, we had really good offense as you remember. When Steve Logan was coming off the bench at Cincinnati, people weren't worried about our defense, they were worried about our offense.

So, when you have to so called overachieve, and you got to try to beat one of the best teams without having all the best players, you got to do it with toughness, you got to do it with defense, you got to do it with togetherness, competitiveness, and that's in any sport. You could call that a football mentality, but it's the same thing in baseball or any team sport. You can't just rely on your talent to win.

So it's just a basis of the places I've been as a coach, I think, and that's where it was born. But I think in fairness to the teams that do have great talent, they're not going to win it all or anybody's, unless they do have toughness and they do defend.

Q. How much pride do you take in that?
COACH CRONIN: I don't know. I try not to -- you know, I'm not a guy that talks about myself. So I'm not comfortable in that. I will say that my guys know that my line is, if we're going to lose, we're going to lose our way. Which is playing really hard and really unselfish. And I got no -- if we get beat doing that, I can sleep at night. We're not going to lose because of lack of togetherness or lack of effort or lack of discipline.

Q. Let me ask you a variation of that one. When Coach Martelli was out here, he said when their name or your name went up opposite them for the first round game, first thing he thought was that this team is a reflection of their coach and not a lot of teams are. How much pride do you take in that?
COACH CRONIN: Well, I'm assuming he wasn't referring to my team reflecting my height. Because they're very -- they're not a reflexion of me in that by any sense.

But, in all seriousness, I take a lot of gratefulness in any comment that Coach Martelli would make about our program. Again, my respect for him and what he's accomplished in the situation that he is in and has been in at St. Joe's, when he probably years ago could have ran for greener pastures and bigger facilities. So my respect for him is off the charts. So, I appreciate him saying that.

Now, I would like to be known, though, going forward in this tournament, as the coach of the team that makes a lot of shots. That's what I'm really hoping to be, to win a few games and have another press conference and have the other coach say, boy, Cincinnati's on fire the way they're shooting the ball. Because I really think that's what it's going to take for anybody to advance in this tournament, somebody's going to have to ride the hot hands of a few of their players.

Q. From looking at the statistics, I don't know where they're ranked nationally or anything, but it seems like St. Joe's takes and makes more free throws than their opponents --
COACH CRONIN: No, they do. They have made more than they're opponents attempted, even within their conference.

Q. So, you are one of the national leaders in fewest fouls, how much, how important of a key is that in this game is keeping them off the foul line?
COACH CRONIN: Well, I'll say this first: It's a huge key, obviously. We don't believe in letting teams beat us shooting free throws. The other thing is, if your best players are on the bench in foul trouble, it's hard to win. You're nowhere near as good of a coach. But I would say that where Coach Martelli has done a tremendous job this year is playing without a true big man with Miles and Bembry a lot as his front line. What he's done to keep those guys defend the rim, and keep them out of foul trouble, is the reason why they don't give up a lot of free throws. It's not that they shoot a crazy amount of free throws, they really do a good job of not fouling, because he's got to keep his two best players in the game, and he does it and they still are able to play solid defense and protect the rim. Now they do it in different ways with low post double teams and what have you, but that's a big key to the game, to the strategy of how this game will go, because those guys have got to play without fouling for St. Joe's. That's a big part of what they do. But he's had, they have had great success, because they're smart kids and Coach Martelli can make in game adjustments to the way he protects them. And they do it seamlessly, when you watch them on film. I've seen them make three changes in the way they're playing their man-to-man defense on the interior, within a 10 minute span. And you can see his kids are communicating and that's because they have been so well coached and he's go the some veteran guys he's had for awhile.

Q. Back to the parity for a second. Are we making too big a deal about Yale winning and Little Rock winning and are we bound to see a 16 seed finally end that streak?
COACH CRONIN: I don't know, how's my buddy Joe Dooley doing, did he get beat? He got beat? Joe's a good friend of mine of Florida Gulf Coast. So you never know, as far as the 16. I mean, tough to say. Anybody can get beat on one night in college basketball. I wouldn't say you're making too much of it, because it's a story. It's fun. What I would say is Little Rock, they're really good. Like, when you win at San Diego State, the red flags went up to all coaches, like, oh, wow, Little Rock is really good this year. That happened early in the season. We know, especially here on the West Coast, people know San Diego State doesn't lose at home. So -- and Yale's excellent. They should have went to the tournament last year, they had a crazy ending to their last regular season game, which cost them the bid last year. So, as say, there's a lot of good teams. I don't think it's any discredit to Purdue or -- who else got beat? Baylor. That's the beauty of the NCAA Tournament. You only got to beat them once. You only got to beat a team once and you only got to win by one. Versus beating them in the best of five or best of seven. That's why it's the greatest show on earth, that's why everybody loves March Madness. They have had enough of me, I think.

THE MODERATOR: All right. Thank you.

COACH CRONIN: Thank you, guys.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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