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March 18, 2016
Providence, Rhode Island
Q. Grayson, do you anticipate a real change of pace from Yale than you got from Wilmington?
GRAYSON ALLEN: I think the game will be a little bit different. Wilmington really likes to put pressure on you for 40 minutes and really speeds up the pace of the game, a lot of shots are getting up. Guys are running up and down the court, where Yale is different. But still a really good team. They're not the pressing team that Wilmington is, but they are a very solid defensive team, one of the best rebounding teams in the country. And then offensively, they're sharp and they have a great scorer in Mason and a great big guy inside with Sears. They're going to be a really tough match-up.
Q. Grayson, do you have any takeaways from the first game against Yale in November?
GRAYSON ALLEN: It's tough to really look at that game at all just because both teams are so different now. It's really like two different seasons from then to us playing them now. So we can't look much into that game.
They're a completely different team since then, and we've grown as well, too. That game was almost like two different teams playing, and so we have to look at what we've done recently.
Q. Brandon, you had come off three kind of tough games before you played Yale the first time. That was kind of the start of 25 of 27 consecutive double-digit scoring games. What was it about Yale that you saw that kind of projected you into the season you've had?
BRANDON INGRAM: I think just me starting off slow through the season, and I think I've been working very hard, as well, this year to get to the point where I'm at right now. Just working very hard. And just seeing the problem that Grayson had in his freshman year, him coming off the bench and just showing sparks, that there's potential, just knowing how to get back in the gym, working hard, and just getting ready to play the next battle.
Q. Brandon, I hear players talk all the time about how the NCAA is a different level, it's a different intensity, it's a different feel out there. You certainly didn't seem to have any problem with it. I wonder just mentally how you prepared yourself for that first game.
BRANDON INGRAM: Just listening to my teammates. We have guys that have been here before and just listening to the leaders on our team, just developing confidence over the season, and knowing that I can play with these guys and just adjusting to the physicality of the game.
Q. Brandon, what makes you such a tough player to defend?
BRANDON INGRAM: Back to the basics, just my teammates around me. They drive and kick the ball to me. I'm able to shoot the ball and able to get around slower defenders. I use my length a lot, and I try to use my quickness around slower defenders.
Q. Brandon, Yale had a great game rebounding against a very physical and large Baylor team. What have you guys been planning to do to try and combat Yale's rebounding edge on both offense and defense?
BRANDON INGRAM: That's definitely a point of emphasis for us, being that rebounding is a weak point for our team, just having a sense of urgency going into that game, just knowing that we have to offensive rebound and defensive rebound.
Q. Grayson, you talked about two different teams from November to now. You matched up against Makai back in November. He had 31 points yesterday. Have you seen anything in him and his growth over the season that you've seen personally?
GRAYSON ALLEN: Well, I think with how their team is now, he's doing a great job of handling the bulk of point guard responsibilities, creating for other guys. But at the same time, he's doing a great job of pulling up and finding his own shot within their offense. You know, yesterday he hit a lot of tough shots, tough pull-ups, and that's the kind of player he is. He makes tough shots and he's really crafty with the ball, whereas it's going to be tough to keep him in front one-on-one. For us it's going to have to be a team effort against him.
Q. Grayson, how would you compare the difference for you personally a year ago when you were much more of a role player to now where you are expected to produce and one of the leaders on this team?
GRAYSON ALLEN: It's different, just the atmosphere around you personally is different. Last year I wasn't up here answering questions. I'm back in the locker room. And when the game time comes around, I'm not starting out running onto the floor. I get some time on the bench to collect myself.
This year there's a lot of pressure. We have guys that -- we only have one guy on our team that's ever started a tournament game before yesterday, so it's a learning process. But for us we can't be timid, can't be tight. We just have to come out here and play free like we have all season, just be confident.
Q. Coach K was hired 36 years ago today. Can you talk about playing for him, what it's like for you guys as individuals knowing you're part of that?
GRAYSON ALLEN: It's a huge honor to be coached by one of the greatest coaches of all time, regardless of the sport. He's a tremendous leader and teacher on and off the court. For us to be a part of that, we have to -- really there are some days where you just kind of realize and take it all in that you're a part of a great legacy by a man who's been a great coach. And so for us, we need to take full advantage of that while we're here.
We're all ears, listening to everything he has to say, every suggestion. And he leads by example so much because of his competitive fire shown every day. We see how hard he's working for us, and so we want to do the same for him.
BRANDON INGRAM: For me it's a tremendous honor. I know for myself and my teammates, he develops a lot of opportunities for us, just having the depth of guys that we have and just being able to fight and be tough under his coaching and just listening to him. I think everything he says is golden.
Q. Brandon, Marshall had a great game yesterday, obviously, 23 points, a career high. Is there any discussion in the locker room about maybe playing for him since this is his senior year and his last chance?
BRANDON INGRAM: Most definitely. I think he's the anchor of our team right now, and just us feeding off his emotion going into games is -- we see how hard he plays every game, and we try to match his intensity.
Q. Grayson, you guys have played a fair amount of Saturday-Monday games the last couple years. How does that prepare you for kind of the one-day turnarounds of the tournament?
GRAYSON ALLEN: With the short recovery time, it's something we have to really focus on, what we're doing in between games. Because we do have a very short bench, and we don't go very deep as a team, and a lot of guys are playing almost the entire game. So for us, it's important to get our bodies right. It starts immediately after the game, and not only our bodies, but to get mentally focused. We have to move on from playing a tough Wilmington team to now scouting a very tough Yale team. So for us, we have to be mentally focused on this day in between that we get, and get ready for them.
Q. The Yale game earlier in the year was kind of the first time you guys had featured the zone, that you went to that 1-3-1 kind of match up. How comfortable are you guys seeing that zone now that the year has gone on, and are we going to see more of the zone or the man-to-man, or is it two different match-ups?
GRAYSON ALLEN: We're very comfortable in our zone. We do have a bunch of different defenses that we can use. For us, down the stretch, we've been primarily a man team and that's what we would like to play. I think at the end of the day, that just comes to stopping your man. I think we have a very young team, and as we've grown older, we've learned more about our principles and applying them in the game, where to be on help side, so our man defense has gotten a lot better, and that's our primary thing, but we also have our zones in our back pocket.
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Well, we're in pretty good health. That was a very taxing game yesterday. Wilmington makes you work every foot of the court offensively and defensively. What a -- again, I'm still amazed at the showing. They had a winning performance.
You know, that tired us out. But having a day in between has helped us out, and then we try to make sure we didn't do anything physical today. It's all mental preparation, stretching, making sure that we recover. And we'll be fine. We'll be fine tomorrow. Nobody got sick. Nate James, one of my assistants, has been sick -- we've had to keep him away from the team. He's in the hotel room because he -- but thank goodness, it's one of us, not one of them. So we're good, and we'll be ready to go.
Q. You realize you got hired 36 years ago today; it's been a long, successful road for you. Can you just kind of address what it's been like?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: It's been great. I've been really lucky to be at two of the greatest institutions in the world, my alma mater, the United States Military Academy, as a cadet, and then as a coach for five years, and then Duke for 36 years. My mom always told me, make sure you get on the right bus. I got on two really good buses, at West Point and Duke. They've stuck with me, and I've stuck with them, and it's been a great partnership.
I never would have realized all the great things that would happen for us as a program. But again, when you're with really good people in a good neighborhood like the ACC, stuff happens, and thank goodness, most of it's been great stuff for us.
Q. Grayson was just up there and pointed out that only one player prior to yesterday had started in an NCAA Tournament game. How has that inexperience at times shown itself this season?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Well, I think the main thing, it shows up when we don't have good talk on the court. Our kids have always -- they have great attitudes and are really easy to coach -- or good to coach, not easy all the time -- but when they get silent, and that's what happens with younger players, they're talking to themselves. They're, what am I supposed to do? How do I feel? I missed a shot. And when they're talking to each other, they get immersed in the game. I thought you could see yesterday we were not talking.
And in the second half, we were talking. It's just a habit we try to teach, but when three of the kids are 18, four of the kids are freshmen, that's something usually an older guy does better. And that's why, as well as Marshall played in that second half, Marshall talked, and that set a good tone for everyone else to talk.
Q. One of the keys to beating UNC Wilmington was slowing them down and making them run offense in the half court, whereas that's where Yale is at its best. What pace would you like to play tomorrow?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: I don't think anybody slowed anybody down yesterday. It's 90 to 90 because they kept attacking. Yale will play any pace because they're that good. We're not going to slow them down, and I'm not sure that they will slow us down. I think it'll be a fairly high -- it could be a high-scoring game because they score well, and so do we.
A big thing for us all the time is rebounding. And Yale is a terrific rebounding team on both ends, one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country. We've got to be able to hold our own then.
Q. Obviously yesterday was Yale's first-ever win in school history, but the Ivy has won five tournament games the past six years. Can you speak at all to what the Ivy has done in the tournament, to the strength of that conference?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: You know, we follow the Ivy League really closely because Tommy has coached at Harvard and has done such a great job, and he and I are like father and son. We're as close as you can be. In the off-season especially, in the last few years, we've talked about the competition in the Ivy Leagues and how many good teams there are, how many good players. The level of talent in the Ivy League has risen, I think, in the last five or six years, and it's shown with what Harvard has done, Princeton, Yale, obviously. I mean, Yale, they have three first-time All-Ivy players and a two-time Player of the Year.
The Ivy League is a terrific league, and we respect it. Remember, they're going to have -- like, Yale is older. They're not just good, but they're good together. That's the best way to be good because then you know there's another person, other people on the court who've done it at a high level with you. And I think that's what the Ivy League teams have shown.
Q. Is there a way for that respect among coaches and among people in the game to sort of translate into Selection Committee?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Well, the Selection Committee has a tough job. This isn't a football bowl where 70 out of 110 -- you become bowl-eligible as soon as you win your sixth game.
For every coach who coaches in college basketball, it runs until the end of the season. You've got to win all the time. And so that selection process is difficult. So much depends on what you do if you're an Ivy League team in the non-conference. And a number of those teams, Harvard and Yale especially, have tested themselves and gone out and played these tough games. And then if you're successful, if you do a good job, you win. Then you're going to have a better chance of getting two in.
But it's tough to get into this tournament. Every coach who coaches Division I men's basketball knows that. I know even doing the tournament, everyone is about brackets and all that. Look, there's a lot of emotion for each one of these teams. I know people brush it off sometimes and say, well, they busted my bracket. Well, we're sorry. (Laughter).
What about Purdue? What a tough, tough loss.
That's how we end all but one of the teams. We don't have 35 or 36 or 37 bowl winners. We have one team. So it's difficult.
And to my brethren, my brothers in college basketball, my hat always goes off to them because they -- this is tough. And that's what makes the tournament so great. Because it's so difficult to get in, and once you're in, it means so much. It means so much.
So we know what it means to Yale. We also know what it means to us. Everyone wants to always talk about what we've done. My kids haven't done that. For a number of them, it's their first time. It doesn't make any difference how many times I've been in. It's what they're doing right now.
What else captures the whole country? War? Poverty doesn't. Fight against cancer doesn't. The election doesn't. For one month, college basketball unites the whole country. I mean, it's an amazing phenomenon. I mean, for everyone who's ever thought about changing -- should we change it to this? Don't mess it up. Don't mess it up. It's too damned good. It's too damned good.
Q. Purdue, Little Rock early in the year, likely West Lafayette, Duke, Yale. Outside of a neutral court, what makes the NCAA Tournament such a great neutralizer?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: It's all about match-ups. The neutralizing thing is for the teams from the big conferences -- you only get one and maybe two champions, so you have a bunch of teams in who are good and have gone through a gauntlet in the conference. But they haven't experienced being a champion.
I haven't counted it up because I'm coaching my team, but how many champions there are. Obviously every automatic is a champion, and that brings a different -- that's a neutralizer. In other words, those kids from Wilmington, they were double champs. They've been accustomed to walking out on the court and winning. Their ego is good. It's collective. They're together. Their faces were unbelievable. And that's a big neutralizer.
They're usually a little bit fresher than some of the teams because they've been the best team. And at this time of the year, mental, physical, and then accomplishment, I think those are neutralizing factors in the tournament.
Q. Did you recruit Makai Mason in any way, shape or form? And if you did, can you tell us how that all went?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah, well, we knew of Makai and his background. He's grown up in basketball. I'm not sure that we would have recruited him. I'm not saying we would have offered him -- but there's a kid playing for Minnesota right now that we -- named Tyus Jones, who would be a sophomore right now. You can't recruit unless they increase the number of scholarships.
But no, we were very impressed with him, and we're not surprised about what he's accomplished. We've been fortunate, there are a number of kids that we have looked at or not recruited that ended up being really good players, and he's really good. But Tyus, that commitment that we had to him, we didn't look at any other guards. Actually we didn't look at any other guards for a couple years.
Q. On Makai, how are you planning to stop him on defense after everything that Baylor threw at him didn't seem to work? He scored a career high 31 and really shot down their zone in the first half.
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah, I don't think you go into a game thinking you're going to shut down anybody, anybody who's good. What you hope is to make it as difficult as possible for their team, not just one guy, and that's what we're trying to do. I mean, our game plan is not going to be to stop one person -- because they didn't win the Ivy by one person -- although he played great yesterday.
One of the keys for us is limiting them to one shot, because they get so many offensive rebounds, and then trying to make whatever shot they take, whoever takes it, a lower-percentage shot. And that's how we approach every game.
Q. Players react differently to certain pressure put on them in certain situations. I wonder if you could speak to the way Brandon Ingram reacted to his first NCAA Tournament experience and the way he played yesterday.
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah, really well. That's the way he's reacted the whole year. He's been a beautiful kid to coach. We go to him. I'm not sure how many freshmen in the country are isolated as much as we isolate him, because he's -- he can make plays. He can make plays. When he is defensive rebounding -- he did that yesterday, especially in the second half -- but when he gets six, seven defensive rebounds, then he can bring that ball up the court, and that isolates him.
We give him a lot of freedom, and he's earned it, but he's not a nervous kid. He's had an amazing -- a terrific year. A no-maintenance kid, beautiful kid, just a beautiful kid.
Q. The last couple years your team has played a lot of Saturday-Monday quick turnarounds. How does that prepare you for the one-day turnaround in the tournament?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: That's a good question. We get a lot of that. You end up not knowing what Sunday is, which is too bad. It's too bad. Really, what is exacted from a youngster who plays, at least in our conference, is a big commitment because they hardly ever have a true day off for a number of weeks. Because even if you give them a Wednesday or a Tuesday off, it's a school day, and they can't get away from it.
People make a lot of money, and again, I make a lot of money -- and I'd make a lot of money if we didn't have the TV contracts -- but for college sports, they make a lot of money, and so Saturday-Monday is a necessity.
But it does help you prepare for something like this, because, like, in between games, what we've been doing for the last two months, or month and a half, has been kind of like the NCAA Tournament as far as rest and preparation.
Q. A lot of people were talking about Yale versus Duke and the academic rigors. You went to a place that was pretty rigorous for college. How hard is it to do that when you look around and you see kind of what your guys are going through and what probably the Yale guys are going through. How much do you admire that?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Well, I admire it, and I would hate to characterize that Duke and Yale are the only two schools that have kids who are going to school and going through the rigors of academics and athletics or the opportunities of athletics and academics. I think it's all about -- whatever school you're at -- is creating a culture where both are identified as important. And then the discipline they learn from handling both of those things, I think, is a huge lesson for these guys.
A long time ago, 50 years ago, when I was a cadet, I looked forward to playing basketball, and it gave me balance along with what else I was doing. I think the tournament is about -- again, you sometimes just focus on kids going pro. But the tournament is about what sport does in combination with academics, and they're both incredible learning experiences. And when they're incorporated together properly, those youngsters are at an advantage, and that's why you would like to see throughout our country the funding that is necessary to keep high school sports there for kids. Because you can learn in the classroom, but when you learn on a field, a court, a pool, a track, it's real. Don't underestimate the impact of sport in education.
When I went to West Point, there's an expression, "Every cadet an athlete." Because they understood that whether you're in an intramural club sport or varsity, because they felt if you were not -- and you had to be a 3 throughout the year. When I wasn't playing basketball, I was in intramural baseball or flag football or doing something -- you can imagine that, huh? Actually a pretty good hitter with a bad pitcher.
But that combination is what this tournament is about, to have that combination of athletics and academics. Anyway, I hope we do a good job and you enjoy watching us play tomorrow. Thanks.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports