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March 16, 2017

Mick Cronin

Kevin Johnson

Troy Caupain

Sacramento, California

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by student-athletes from the University of Cincinnati, Troy Caupain and Kevin Johnson.

Troy, talk about your season thus far and what it's like coming all the way out to Sacramento?

TROY CAUPAIN: Our season is going well. We are 27-5? Something like that. It's great to have a winning season, especially for me, Kevin and Tobler, going out with a win -- with wins. Coming to the west coast is not new to us. We've been here before, two years in Spokane and this is the third year in the west. We haven't conquered the west, so our goal is to overcome some games and make a run in the west coast.

Q. Kevin you probably are aware that you share the same name as a recent mayor of the city of Sacramento, also a pretty good point guard!
KEVIN JOHNSON: Definitely, played for the Phoenix Suns. I don't know too much about Kevin Johnson other than that, but such a great point guard.

Happy to be here with my teammates, my last year here. Like he said, we're just trying to make a run here in California and finish out a great season that we had and enjoy the moments.

Q. With both you guys being seniors, how much -- is there extra pressure to kinda make a run and get out of the west? To advance to the next round?
TROY CAUPAIN: It's not really pressure because you've gotta come ready to play. You can't be scared. You can't have extra anxiety on the side. But the game is going to go how the game is going to go. If you prepare well, you wake up excited, you get excited during warm-ups, the game should be fun. We know it's our senior year, and we're not trying to put as much pressure on us. We know this is our last time ever doing this, so we gotta try to play the best, be ready to play, perform well, focus on the little things and the game is going to take care of itself.

Q. Troy, what do you know about K-State and the team's defense. People are saying this might be a low-scoring affair.
TROY CAUPAIN: Big 12, best conferences in basketball. They've got great guards, actually one of my friends is on that team. We played AAU together, Kalmon Stokes. They have a big man, two big men, one shoots and one that plays very aggressive in the middle. It's going to be an up-and-down game, but it's going to come down to defense and stops and rebounding and who executes the best.

Q. Talk more about that relationship with Stokes?
TROY CAUPAIN: When I was 7 years old we played in Baltimore for Baltimore's Best until I was 10. We were second in the nation at 9. We grew up -- my cousin played on the team as well. I haven't seen him since I moved to Virginia, since we was kids. But we have a great relationship with his family, the whole team still communicates. It's an opportunity to play. Basketball is so small you see people that you played with back in the day and it's good to see we're all in college now and getting the opportunity. So it's going to be a fun game.

Q. Any advantages or disadvantages in playing him? Obviously, you haven't seen him in a while. But in terms of his game, have you seen his game recently?
TROY CAUPAIN: I know he's a great shooter, fast, point guard. But that's not my job. I just enjoy the game for the game. I let the coaches do the rest and follow the scouting report.

Q. Kevin, I know you have had a short amount of time to know that you're playing K-State. Outside of their starting five, what do you see off their bench, guys like Carlbe Ervin and Isaiah Maurice giving them a spark?
KEVIN JOHNSON: Having a short turnaround. Not too much. Done a little bit of research, though. They definitely do come off the bench and help them. I think one of their guys is a power forward. I think they have another guy that likes to drive coming off the bench. At the end of the day we are worried about us. It's not just K-State. We are focused on what we have to do and we know if we show up to play and stick to our scouting report and our game plan that we will be in the battle and it will come down to execution and rebounding.

At the end of the day who can make the tougher plays, those 50/50 balls, who can get those. I don't know too much about the starting five or bench players, but as long as I know that we are prepared we will be fine.

Q. There's a lot of talk about pace and tempo in basketball. Seems like in the tournament and even in the season teams that can control pace and actually play slower seem to be more successful. What do you guys do to control your pace and how difficult is it to speed your team up?
TROY CAUPAIN: Value in every possession. I don't know, the game's up and down. The game plan that Coach tells you to do is run. Then we're going to run until he decides to slow us down. If it's something different about running plays, that's all on him. We don't decide that. We just follow and then do the rest ourselves.

I think Big 12 is up and down. Shoot, Cincinnati basketball is up and down, so it's definitely going to be a fast-paced game. Trying to speed both teams up on defense. Going to be a lot of shots. Like I said, rebounding, come down to the nitty-gritty stuff, 50/50 ball steals, deflections, boxing out, all that good stuff.

Q. Can you talk about Cincinnati's basketball program and what it has done for your academic and athletic careers? A lot of great players that came out of that system.
KEVIN JOHNSON: For me, personally, being a hometown native it's given me plenty of opportunities, not just with basketball but off the court as well. Just a great program, great people behind it. A lot of people that care.

Academically, it does a great job. Us two -- the three seniors that will be graduating here soon, just as a basketball player it gives you the best opportunity to play against the best people in the world, just to travel, experience, everything about it is pretty elite, man. What you kind of -- as a kid what you dream of and as you watch and you learn about NCAA basketball. It's like a dream come true.

The program is a great program, great staff. We've got great players, great academic coaches. Gotta enjoy it. I'm a big fan of Cincinnati, so being from there I got all positives.

TROY CAUPAIN: I'm from Virginia, and I was born in New York and growing up I used to watch the Big East Tournament and go to the Madison Square Garden and watch them play and I knew it was tough basketball and when I committed they was in the Big East. From a basketball standpoint, that's what I was around, the prior players, Corey Blake, Martin, just that team. That team. Elvin, people that were hard-nosed players, on the court, off court, nice, genuine guys that you can hold a conversation with. The alumni is great. They still talk to us till this day. The '92 team that went to the Final Four talked to us and wore throw-back jerseys when we were in UConn.

Nobody is on the outskirts, and academically, like he said, you've got seniors this year that did school, played basketball and ready to graduate at the end of April when it's all over. The goal has been reached since we were kids for our families for our parents to say, my son went to college, graduated and played basketball. So that's something we can have forever when we walk across the stage.

Q. Troy, what do you make of the south region and just all the talented teams that are in it? How tough is this region?
TROY CAUPAIN: It is tough. Who we got here, K-State, UCLA, Kentucky, North Carolina, basketball is basketball. This is what tournament time is about. Like we said, all we can do is come to play. We can only prepare as best we can. When the ball gets thrown in the air for tip-off it's about who wants to be the tougher team and get the job done. When the coaches prepare well for their scouts you can't say anything else about it because you never know how it's going to go, and any team can be beat on any given day. It is not planned. You can't see the future, so you just have to prepare for the present.

Having all this talent is something -- you don't want the easy route. We didn't get the easy way in the south region so we are ready to ball, ready to play, do what you do, what we was planning to do since we was kids.

THE MODERATOR: Any further questions? Okay. Thank you very much.

We have Cincinnati Coach, Mick Cronin, one of only six head coaches to go to the NCAA Tournament in each of the last seven years. A tremendous accomplishment.

MICK CRONIN: Thank you, sir.

Q. Aside from having good players to what else do you attribute that to?
MICK CRONIN: Being a good Irishman like yourself. Did you want me to start it off? Let's do it. You gonna partake tomorrow at all?

Q. Once the games are over?
MICK CRONIN: St. Patty's Day, I can't celebrate. Fortunately, we have been playing the last seven years. Obviously, we had a tremendous year, 29 wins for our team and it's been fun the whole way because we have a very unselfish group of guys. They've been extremely pleasant to deal with and to coach because they play for each other.

Coaches talk a lot about stuff like that, but it's hard to find. It's hard, especially hard to find this day and age, unselfishness with individuality and brand marketing and things that are glorified in our society today for athletes are what they are. So I'm appreciative of my players. They got great attitudes, aside from their talents, they have great attitudes. They're great people.

We've had a great run this year and tried to prepare -- we knew we were going to be in this tournament for a long time, so we have been trying to prepare as best we could for the NCAA Tournament, to try to go on a run and be successful here in March. So we're excited to get started, because like I said, we've had this in mind for quite a while.

Q. Coach, when you found out you were playing Kansas State, how did you do the preparation? Was it a lot of video? Making phone calls to common coaches that played in the Big 12 that you know? Talk a little bit about the process of finding out anything and everything you can about K-State and what can you share with us?
MICK CRONIN: First of all, I would hope -- I didn't call anybody in the Big 12. My staff does the reconnaissance stuff. I would hope the head coaches in their league wouldn't have answered if I would have called. There should be a little bit of league loyalty. In this day and age with technology being what it is, when our plane landed here Tuesday night, for about the next 24 hours I watched probably the last two months of their season.

So that's what I did all day Wednesday and Wednesday night. Getting myself acclimated with K-State and Coach Weber, and Chris Lowery did a great job building the Southern Illinois program. So when I watch them play it takes me back to my time at Murray State. They're so competitive. They don't take plays off. They never give in on either end of the floor, especially lately when they've been playing well.

They make it as hard as they can on you to score, but I think they also do it on offense. Their players really know what they're good at. They're unselfish and they're doing everything they can to get a great shot. I don't see them taking possessions off. They just don't give in and take a bad shot. If they get in late clock obviously they gotta get the best one they can, but they do everything they can to get a great shot on offense, too.

That's a tribute to Coach Weber. Watching them play seems like he -- I would guess that he really like these guys and what they've become. Obviously, I haven't talked to him, but watching his teams play over the years, that would be a guess of mine. I have a lot of respect for them and what they have had to go through to make the tournament.

Q. Looking at the stats between your team and K-State they look similar. Do you see similarities between your teams and what you try to do, especially on defense?
MICK CRONIN: I'm not a huge stats guy, so I don't know 'em like you would probably know 'em, because I think stats are relative to competition is why I would make that statement.

I would say that we're both very balanced, as far as we don't rely on one guy to score. They don't rely on one guy to score. I know that they play really hard from watching them for the last two days. So I would like to think that that would be the similarity, other than statistically, that both teams make it really hard on their opponents, do everything they can to maximize who they are. Both of us are overachieving type of teams.

Q. When you look at K-State, what do you see on their bench, the reserve guys when they come in? What type of a spark do they provide? How tough is that going to be for you to stop?
MICK CRONIN: Well, obviously they're bringing -- when they go to the bench they get younger. Sneed was high rated, wasn't he? Wasn't he a high-rated recruit? We don't get those high-rated guys, so I don't know 'em all. He can really shoot. He can really shoot, and I think it's Maurice, No. 10, right? I'm a numbers guy. He's come on late and it seems like Coach Weber is really comfortable putting him in the game now.

Obviously, I didn't see him in November, December, so maybe their development has helped them turn it around a little bit. I know they had a lull in February. Obviously, they're not the deepest team. I'm sure, you know, the Big 12 is so brutal. I'm sure that probably had some affect on 'em and maybe some of the other blue bloods got a few more bodies than they do. But they're definitely younger.

Sneed can really shoot. He can really, really shoot. When you're a guy like that this time of year everybody knows that you're a shooter which means you don't get a lot of wide-open shots, and you're still making shots, that means you can make contested shots.

Q. You referred to the growing presence of individuality and branding. Lonzo Ball is here and his father started a brand for him and his brothers, they sell t-shirts, hoodies, hats. How do you feel about kids getting ahead of the game like that?
MICK CRONIN: I would say that what's good for the goose is good for the gander. If everybody else can make money, they're his sons. Now I don't think he can beat a lot of these people one-on-one that he's claiming he can beat, but in all seriousness, they're his sons. I firmly believe in that. I don't think you have to worry about his kids from what I've seen. They're worried about winning. His son maybe passes the ball too much. But when it come to the other side of it, I say more power to him. They're his kids. The era of everybody else making money is over. So I say good for him.

Q. Coach, I think a lot of --
MICK CRONIN: Can I add one thing to that? Because I'm a parent, kidding around about his one-on-one. What I saw because I've watched some of that stuff, we should be thankful that he's a great parent that loves his kids and his kids wouldn't be that good if he doesn't spend that time with them. He could have been sitting on the couch drinking beer and watching games. He was spending time with his kids. I saw all those videos. I love my daughter. She is here with me.

So his kids wouldn't be what they were if he didn't spend time with them. All kidding aside, we all love to judge. If he wants to say wild things, be funny, that's great for him. But what's lost in the shuffle that should be glorified is that that man is obviously a really, really good parent that spends time with his kids. That's something I try to do in my program is show my players that that's the most important thing about being a man. So I applaud him for that.

Q. Coach, I feel like people thought both you and SMU might get higher seeds in this tournament with your records. Was that surprising to you that you came in as No. 6?
MICK CRONIN: It was surprising, but I would say it's irrelevant. I just think it's irrelevant, which has been my point. It's irrelevant. First of all, I don't aspire to the thought process that if we were to lose that our year is a failure. With the year they've had if they don't make the Sweet 16 it's a disappointment. To who? My three seniors are going to graduate. Troy Caupain became the all-time assist leader in the history of our school. We don't let other people quantify success for us.

So when you talk about the tournament, the way I look at it, there is only one winner. Now I get it, people want to -- when people quote coaching resumes, he's been to two Sweet 16s and three final fours. I know this: Rick Pitino is a mentor. He's like an older brother, and I tell you this, the guy is competitive. But as a coach when people are standing around talking about you, over your grave site, we're Irish so we know that there will probably be Irish Whiskey. They're not going to talk about how many Sweet 16s or Elite Eights you went to.

Your former players are going to be there because you impacted their life. Only one team is winning the tournament, so eventually -- you're not just going to keep playing the 16 seed. So what round you might get knocked out in, to me, is irrelevant. Doesn't matter. That's why I would say it just doesn't matter.

Now you may sit there and say, you're crazy. We're trying to win six in a row and win the tournament. What the heck are we doing here? What's the difference of all that stuff? You may get an easier path, somebody is going to have to get upset for that to happen. You might get one game off, if you're playing a 15 or 16. So you get one game that may be a little lighter. Is that really -- if you're good enough to win it then you better be able to beat somebody. That's why I say it really don't matter. All that seeding stuff it's subjective. It's always going to be subjective.

There will be years where you get a better seed, years where you get a worse seed. We've been in it seven straight so it is what it is.

Q. Mick, does your daughter have a brand yet?
MICK CRONIN: Yeah, she's the boss! All you gotta do is hang out with us. I like to -- if I was to admit how much money she spent shopping yesterday, it's embarrassing.

Q. Maybe you need a brand, then!
MICK CRONIN: Her brand is my boss, without question.

Q. Coach, you played Rhode Island early in the season. What did you see about them that might have made you believe that they would be an NCAA Tournament team and get here?
MICK CRONIN: Danny has calmed down. He's matured a lot. You know I'm kidding, right? He's a good friend of mine. They've got good players. I get lost in the shuffle. I know Martin was injured, right? And Garrett got injured in our game. Hassan got injured and they've had other guys get injured along the way, and then you had to integrate E.C. Matthews back into the fold.

So they've been through a lot, but obviously they're playing well of late because Danny has calmed down. They've got a toughness about 'em. They're a veteran group, too. Scary, when you play a veteran group at this time of the year, because they've been through some battles, some wars and they've had downs and figured out how to -- that bonding together gets you back up and equals W's. So I'm glad we're not playing 'em.

Q. Troy was in here talking about the mold of a Cincinnati player and how he used to watch them in the Big East Tournament and the toughness and resolve. How long does it take to create that or are they that way when you recruit 'em and that's what you look for?
MICK CRONIN: Well, we try to recruit the best player we can that's got some character and wants to play to win. I think with all these kids, even the best players in the country, coming out of high school it's a lot harder than they thought once you get to college, for most of them, 99.9%, college basketball is a lot tougher than they thought, just practice alone.

So, Troy, probably took him a year. Some guys, Jacob Evans it did not, he was able to do it right way. It just depends. I think we just try to make sure that we would try to recruit kids that have enough character to realize that they want to get their degree and that we play to win.

Others write that, you know, well, we focus on defense. No, we try to do whatever it takes to win. We try to make every shot, too. But to win in team sports you have to play defense and you have to play unselfish. We try to focus on the things that it takes to win and win consistently.

Troy is a great example of a guy that -- because he couldn't guard his lunch from a pack of ants in high school. (Chuckles.) It was bad. In fact, we were at the Big East Tournament and I was watching film of him because he signed early. They made me a highlight reel and gave me a game where he had 37, but it was just a whole game. He had 37, but I think he gave up 37. I remember sitting there with my dad somewhere in some hotel in Manhattan thinking, boy, this guy has a big adjustment coming.

But I'm proud of him. He's probably the youngest senior in this tournament. He turned 21 on November 29th or something. So he's another kid with great character, great parents. He understands what it's all about. Be a great coach someday, hopefully.

THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much.

MICK CRONIN: Thank you. Enjoy tomorrow!

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