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March 15, 2017
Buffalo, New York
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by West Virginia University student-athletes. At the far end Nathan Adrian, Jevon Carter, Elijah Macon, Tarik Phillip. Same rules apply. Raise your hand, we'll get a microphone you to. State your name and affiliation and ask questions of West Virginia student-athletes.
Q. Hey, for any/all of you guys, as you may know, there are certain advanced metrics, advanced analytics. They all rate you guys. Top 15, top 5 team in the country. Are you aware of that? Do you talk about it? Does it make an impact on you?
JEVON CARTER: I would say we're aware of it. We don't really pay too much attention to it. We've still got to go out and play basketball, no matter what anyone says, so it don't really mean anything.
Q. Start with Nate, as you and Tarik as senior, is there a different feel for this NCAA Tournament as there have been for the last couple?
NATHAN ADRIAN: Yeah. A little bit. We lose this time, I'm done forever. So you've got to come in with a little bit of a different attitude than what you did before. Still got to go out and play the same game, so we will.
TARIK PHILLIP: To take off what Nate said, same thing. It's our last go-around, so we got to leave it all on the floor.
Q. For Tarik and Jevon, kind of wondering the three-point shot for Bucknell is a big part of their game, obviously a big part of their game plan to try to even the game out tomorrow. Just wondered, how do you defined that? What do you see from the three-point shooters?
JEVON CARTER: It's like playing Iowa State. Iowa State's got a lot of shooters, spread the court. They got a big man inside, so they go in a lot. We're just going to play our game. We're going to do what we do, try to speed them up, turn them over, make them uncomfortable and run them off the three.
TARIK PHILLIP: We just got to locate shooters, know who you're guarding at certain times. If you've got a shooter, you can't leave him too wide open, and as he said, run them off the line.
Q. For Tarik, how do you -- does anybody bring up the memories of what happened last year in Brooklyn?
TARIK PHILLIP: It's been brought up several times, but the taste is still in our mouths, Coach's mouths, players' mouths. We don't try to dwell on it too much, but it's still in the back of our mind that we lost in the first round to a team we should have beat, so --
Q. Elijah, their big, does he remind you of anybody? Looks like he's good inside, has good touch with both hands. What do you think of him and who does he remind you of?
ELIJAH MACON: Just playing against guys like Jarrett Allen and Jonathan Motley, just guys that like to get to their right shoulder a lot, just got to be physical, keep them off the glass. Just take them out of the game and everything will flow easier for us.
Q. Can one of you guys give a little insight into what Huggins is like. I mean, there's one thing when he's in practice and he's intense. In the game, we see what you experience, then there's a different side to him.
NATHAN ADRIAN: Yeah. Hugs is a two-sided person. There's what people see and what people perceive him to be and then what he actually is, and that's an extremely loyal, kind-hearted guy, honestly. I mean, he cares about us more than anyone I've ever known, any coach I've seen or been around. He's definitely a different guy than what you think.
Q. Elijah, can you answer that also and just explain a little bit the contrast between him? What's it like dealing with him when he gets heated up?
ELIJAH MACON: I mean, kind of like a father figure, you know? Somebody, you got to take him serious. I mean, he wants to win. Just a fire in his belly, he just trying to put it inside of us. We're reading off of him, going off how he feels. Like if he's mad, then we should be mad. If he's having a good day, the we should have good day. I just feel like that's how it's been.
Q. Just to follow up on that Elijah, what's his mood right now? Is he mad? Is he happy? What is his mood?
ELIJAH MACON: I mean, just from me seeing and talking to him, he's been pretty calm. Just trying to figure out the team, what we're going to do. We're trying to figure out from scouting what we're going to do from the game. He's been pretty calm from what I've seen, from what I've talked to him. Not knowing -- you know, not saying he's not mad. But he's real relaxed, just sit back and watching.
Q. What's the scare when he had the heart problem on the bench. How did that go through the team and how did you react to that? It's only been like three weeks ago.
NATHAN ADRIAN: He's obviously had heart problems for a while now, but it's something he's lived with. It's happened to him a couple times before. You know, it's kind of scary whenever you don't really know what it is. All of us are just walking back to the bench, and you turn back around and he's on the ground. I don't know. Kind of fired us up and we played well for the rest of the game, tried not to get him too mad at us anymore. Give him a little rest.
Q. Tarik, you talked about after the Big 12 championship, you said practices last year weren't what you wanted them to be leading up to the game. How has it been dealing with travel and that sort of thing? What was the last few days like leading up to this one maybe compared to a year ago?
TARIK PHILLIP: Traveling ain't really been much of an issue for us. Practice, there's been a lot of energy in practice. I feel like the players have been more dialed in, locked in to knowing their scout, knowing their plays. There's been a lot of energy in practice.
Q. If I could ask similarly of Elijah, it seems this year, when you guys are about to play a good game you feel it, and when you're about to play a bad game, you know that too because of what happened in practice the days leading up. What do you look for? What are the keys when you are readily as opposed to when you're not?
ELIJAH MACON: I just feel like if everybody is talking before the game, I just feel like if it's too quiet before the game, nobody is like communicating with each other, I feel like if we're not being goofy, if we're not being ourselves, then I don't feel like we're ready to play. When I see everybody relaxed, I feel we're ready to go out and compete. If everybody is too tense, they're thinking about the game too much. If we're walking around and having fun, and getting our warm-up, and everybody making shots, I feel that's when we perform at our best.
Q. Question for Nate. Nate, in your four years at WVU, obviously being from Morgantown and having a good connection with WVU, you've kind of come a long way. Not only in your game but the way people have perceived you. You know, your senior year, you got guys in the student section, they got all the headbands and stuff like that. It seems like people have really gravitated toward you now as a senior. Can you just talk about how the progression has gone for you when you first came in until now?
NATHAN ADRIAN: I think people just recognize the work you put in. That's not just me, it's any senior that comes in here. They're going to be -- some of the fanfares because they've been there for four years, and people know what they've done for four years. I wouldn't say anything is really different, it's just being around for that long.
Q. Have you seen the kids with the --
NATHAN ADRIAN: Yes, I have.
Q. Are they ours?
NATHAN ADRIAN: I have no idea who they are.
Q. Back to Huggins. He was there before, when you were a kid. So there was some perception -- when you were coming out, was that a guy that you absolutely -- just being from that area, you really, really wanted to play for the guy, or was there any trepidation or what?
NATHAN ADRIAN: Yeah. That was the guy I wanted to play for. That's the kind of person I want to play for. I want to play for someone who cares enough to get fired up like that. I want to play for somebody who's that competitive, who wants to win that bad. I don't know why anyone would want to play for anyone else.
Q. When you guys play tomorrow, key for you, is it the press, hitting shots? What is it that you see that makes you play well, what aspect?
JEVON CARTER: That's hard to say. Every game is different. I can't tell you whether it's been the offensive end or defensive end. I just go play, honestly. So, it's not really what am I doing, it's what are we doing as a team, you know? I can't win a game for us. We all got to do it together. So, it's not just about me.
THE MODERATOR: Any other questions? Okay. I want to recognize Bryan Messerly, over here on the left from West Virginia from their athletic communications office. He's here to assist you in any other way with West Virginia student-athletes and coaches.
Gentlemen, thank you for your time today. Best of luck tomorrow against Bucknell. We'll be right up with Coach Huggins.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined now by head coach Bob Huggins, West Virginia University. Coach, welcome to Buffalo. Good to see you again here. We'll go ahead and open to questions. If you raise your hand we'll get a microphone you to.
Q. Bob, what fond memories do you have of Buffalo from maybe seven years ago, if any?
BOB HUGGINS: Winning. We played pretty well in here. Actually, this is the third time. We came in and played Canisius my first year, and of course advanced from here to Syracuse, and had the epic game with Kentucky and Syracuse to go to the Final Four.
Q. In contrast, is it nice to be starting in Buffalo, a place where you're familiar with and had some success as opposed to maybe erase some memories of Brooklyn last year?
BOB HUGGINS: We always want to go somewhere that has good weather. So, you know, we were excited to hear you're going to get 20 inches of snow. Now, this is -- we're really comfortable here, and, you know, I think it's great to play in the city, but it's -- you know, the traffic and those kind of things, you spend more time almost planning on getting there and getting back, and not being late and those kind of things than you do really kind of preparing for the game. I really like Buffalo. I actually came up here and went fishing. How about that? I bet no other coach here has been fishing.
Q. Sabres coach.
Q. No. That's never happened here. You're the first.
BOB HUGGINS: It's near and dear to myself.
Q. It's funny when you say that. When you were here, I found you to be fun, and funny and charming. I remember having a conversation about best places to go for chicken wings and stuff like that. It's kind of like in contrast of maybe what the perception is when people watch you coach, when you see the intense, fired up, competitive Bob Huggins, a different Bob Huggins. Is there any contrast -- how do you explain the difference in there?
BOB HUGGINS: Well, you probably don't want people bothering you when you're writing a story.
Q. This is true.
BOB HUGGINS: So, you know, I mean, people see me in the workplace, you know? It's like I told some guy one time, he screamed at me the whole game, you know, over the rail and all that. I told him, how would you like me to go to your place of work and scream and yell at you. When you're frying those French fries at McDonald's, would you want me screaming at you?
Q. So, simple question, Bob, where did you go fishing and how did you do? When was this?
BOB HUGGINS: Lake Erie, and it was terrific. Wasn't it Lake Erie? Yeah. Lake Erie. It was terrific. Great small mouth fishing. You only have to go out half a mile, maybe, if that. It was great. Then the other guys in the other boat caught a bunch of walleye. So it was fun.
Q. Somebody caught a sheepshead?
BOB HUGGINS: We had a guy with us, that's all he caught.
Q. I have a non-fishing question for you. Jevon Carter, what makes him such an effective defensive player?
BOB HUGGINS: He's very competitive, I think, first and foremost. He's probably our most competitive guy, and he's got great feet. He really can move his feet, and he studies, you know? He's a guy that, if you would ask him schematically, what people are going to try to do, he knows. So, he's a little ahead of the game, I think, in that regard.
Q. You're probably aware that there's several kind of more advanced analytics that routinely, and not even just this year, have West Virginia ranked higher than, you know, some of the more conventional rankings, top 5, top-10 team. I'm wondering if you're aware of that. I'm guessing you are, but also if that's something you talk to the team about or if it's anything you take anything away from?
BOB HUGGINS: I think more educated people generally go that way. They think much higher of the Mountaineers than the normal people do, but, yeah, I'm aware of it. You can't hardly not be aware of it with everything that's out there today. I don't really talk to our guys about it. You know, I talked to them about not turning the ball over and trying to create some turnovers. I think that's more important for us.
Q. Coach, long season, some bumps and bruises at the end. How are you guys health-wise going into this?
BOB HUGGINS: I think other than Nate, we're pretty good. Nate's pretty banged up. Other than him, I think we're pretty good. He'll play through it. He's a tough guy. He'll figure out a way.
Q. Follow up to that. Do you find seniors like Nate, do they have a different purpose in an NCAA Tournament game knowing it's one and done?
BOB HUGGINS: Well, I think a lot of our guys do after last year. I mean, I was very honest about the fact that I didn't think our practices were very good leading in a year ago. I didn't -- I thought we kind of took Stephen F. Austin for granted, and they were a really good team. That was a terrible mistake.
This year, we've been much, much better, but I think probably, to a large degree, of having so many of those guys back that went through the experience a year ago.
Q. Just an offbeat question, if I may. Are they -- as a team like them, in an era of one-and-done, more equipped than a team built with more seniors, more veterans? Have things changed because of the era we're in?
BOB HUGGINS: I don't know. I think kids have changed, certainly. I mean, we're in -- I think, more than anything, it's instant gratification. You know, I think that's -- when you sit and play games all day instead of being on a playground playing, it's because you want instant gratification.
We just don't -- I don't think guys spend as much time working at their craft as maybe they used to. And we're fortunate. We got some throwback guys. Jevon Carter, he's a throwback. He's like one of the old guys that would just rather spend time in the gym than get on Playstation.
Q. Bob, do you have any kind of relationship with Jay Wright at all?
BOB HUGGINS: Uh-huh.
Q. What's it like? How would you describe your relationship with him?
BOB HUGGINS: I've known Jay for a long, long time. I mean, I know I don't look like it, but I've been in this business 40 years, so I know everybody. And we were in the same league for a long time. You know, I think a great time for coaches to get together is at the league meetings. We get to spend a lot of time socially together, eat together, you know, hang out together, so, yeah, I know Jay well.
Q. You respect him, obviously, I assume, as a coach, as a dresser?
BOB HUGGINS: Well, you know, I keep telling him, if I'd lose a little bit of weight, he'd be the second-best looking coach out there, but to this point, I haven't been able to do that. I think he's a heck of a coach. We had just great games when we were both in the Big East. I mean, if you go back and look at the scores, there were numerous overtime games. And I thought that the play he drew up when they scored the lay-up to beat Pitt was -- you know, it's kind of like an old football play. It's kind of like the kick-off when everybody is lateralling it, you know?
Q. Bob, just looking at West Virginia's numbers, I mean, the defense is there with steals and creating turnovers. Are you in any way surprised by how much offense you guys are putting up in 82 points a game, and what might that be a reflection of?
BOB HUGGINS: Well, we get so many more shots. You know? I think the key for us is getting more shots than our opposition, and, you know, the more shots we get, the better off we're going to be. We need to create turnovers and we need to rebound the ball. And if we do those things, we're going to get more shots than our opposition.
And then I think, you know, the other thing that we haven't done a very good job of at times is make free throws. But at times, we have; at times, we've been very good at the free-throw line.
Q. Someone brought up your dress, and obviously, you've spoken in the past about when you decided to stop wearing the suit. When you still did wear the more conventional coaching outfit, did you wear a tie? Because I note that Mike Brey is also a coach who does not wear a tie.
BOB HUGGINS: Yeah. I used to wear a tie. I did the whole deal. I mean, I had tie, vest, I mean the whole deal. Probably if you look at pictures of me and Jay early, I was probably better looking back then. Probably dressed better back then. I had been doing it longer, had more money. I just kind of -- do you want to hear the whole story? The whole story is this. I had a suit and tie on, and we're playing somebody, and I'm at Cincinnati, and I go in, and I'm like I got to put something different on, because I had sweat all of the way through my suit and my vest. They were heavy.
So they brought me in a pullover, and I put it on and coached the second half in a pullover, and I was walking in, my A.D. said, I just want to tell you look really good in that pullover. That's what really coaches should wear. So I started wearing one. Which was good until I got the new president, and the A.D. denied saying I looked good in a pullover. So, be careful who you trust, is the moral of that story.
Q. Bob, how are you feeling these days after that scare from a couple weeks ago?
BOB HUGGINS: I feel great. I really do. I've been through a battery of tests, and everything's good. I don't really want that defibrillator to go off again, though. Because it -- I've never been kicked by a mule, but I could imagine it's pretty much the same. But I feel good. I actually feel like I have more energy now than I did at some other points in time in the season.
Q. And how much -- you talked about the experience of last year. How much more do you think that this team is more prepared, knowing what you went through and maybe took the opponent for granted? Do you think that was a learning experience going that this tournament and do you even need to bring up Brooklyn?
BOB HUGGINS: No. We really don't. Well, I guess if we -- if I think we're starting to have a bad practice, I guess we bring it up a little bit. But, no, I think a lot of people didn't think we would be near as good as we were losing Devin Williams, you know, declared early, and Jaysean Paige who was an All-League player for us. Those two in particular, I think a lot of people didn't think we would be where we are today.
It's a tribute to our guys, and our guys do work. I'll say that about them. They do work. They do get in the gym, they have improved, and they're, for the most part, fun to coach. I think they would probably tell you I'm fun to play for most of the time and they're fun to coach most of the time, so --
THE MODERATOR: They did say that, actually.
BOB HUGGINS: They did? I'm sure they did. I've got about 175 assistant coaches out there that never worked for me to thank for that. Because they're all the time telling people you can't play for him. He's too hard on you, this and that. I thank those guys all of the time, because then I get guys that kind of want to get coached. So those guys that think they're killing us are really helping me.
THE MODERATOR: Any other questions for Coach Huggins?
Seeing none, Coach, thanks for your time. Good luck tomorrow.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports