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March 14, 2018
Q. Buzz, I'm sure you've seen a lot of Collin Sexton tape by this point. What's the biggest defensive headache he poses for you. Is it keeping him on the lanes, driving and get fouled, or the three-point shots you put you against Auburn. What's the concern for you?
COACH WILLIAMS: I think he's the best guard in the country. I think the draft in June will reflect that. But I think we would be foolish to think that it's just him. They are ultra-talented, and so I think there will be more broken plays tomorrow than any team we've played against other than Miami.
And I think how we handle broken plays are really, really important. Very effective because of their length and athleticism on the offensive glass. How will we handle that? And I think because there will be so many broken plays and because of offensive rebounding, how we handled number 2 on his second touch, I think is critical. We can't be flat on his second touch. We all have to guard the ball per se and be in the gaps on his second touch.
I think that's when he's most effective. Yes, he's really good the first time he has the ball in his hands. Yes, he can score right away. Yes, he can shoot a three, a lay-up, get fouled, *good two. But I think it's the second touch where he's elite, so how we -- if you were to break it down in categories, those are the things that we've been trying to prepare for. We don't have a number 2 on our roster, but that's what we've been trying to prepare for.
Q. Buzz, 17-mile drive from Castle Coliseum to the Dedman Center. You guys are right next to each other. Radford and Virginia Tech, locker-room wise. I know some of the guys in there, your players were saying some of them play pick-up games in the summer. How cool is to see New River Valley represented here?
COACH WILLIAMS: Awesome. Happy for Robert Lineburg. I've know him since I was a kid. Happy for Coach. I guess I haven't -- I haven't processed it in that manner. How many teams from the state are in the tournament? Oh, those are the three? Yeah. I would say -- has that ever happened, ever? Yeah. Yeah. I wouldn't think that's happened. Of course we haven't been many times, so, yeah. That's cool.
Q. You mentioned the size and length of Alabama, Danny Hurley, you played early this year, was talking about that when I asked about 'Bama. Not only the greatest match-up for you guys facing a long team. How do you go about beating a team like that this time?
COACH WILLIAMS: I don't know if we can. We don't have the length or athleticism -- I don't know if we have the length or athleticism in any position. I know you're speaking of interior players. We don't have it on the perimeter either. When you look at their team and how they've evolved. I watched their game against Rhode Island, I watched a little bit of their nonconference schedule. Not a lot. Spent more of it in conference season.
But their teams just continue to move like most teams that are good. They've continued to evolve into something else, but their length and athleticism was the same in December when Rhode Island played them. That will cause us problems just like every team that we've played with that sort of length and athleticism. When they come off the bench, it's the exact same. It's just another guy, maybe with a slightly different skill set, but still has length and athleticism.
Q. So, we had Coach K. And Jay Wright in here before. They were asked a lot of question about the one-and-done and how one-and-done teams do at this time of year. Only Duke and Kentucky have won National Championships relying on one-and-dones.
Jay said Cal and Coach K. Were uniquely suited to coaching those teams and that seniors and upperclassmen tend to do better this time of year, and only a few freshmen can really kind of carry the load. Just kind of curious on your thoughts on that and why -- there's really been two one-and-done teams that have won it?
COACH WILLIAMS: I would agree with Coach. It would be hard to argue with what has transpired at Kentucky and Duke relative to talent. I think they go about recruiting in a diametrically opposed way than the Hokies, mostly because I'm the coach, to be honest with you. It has nothing to do with Virginia Tech. It's just because of how we go about things.
I think it takes a unique gift to coach those guys. And it's a different gift than the gift that Coach Wright has, because the consistency of Villanova at the level they've performed at, it's not the same manner that Kentucky and Duke have went about those things. It's just as unique of a gift, though, to develop those guys, and get as old as you can and stay as old as you can.
But those guys continue to improve, and you're staying in National Championship contender status. So, different ways to skin a cat, for sure, but the gift that Jay Wright has, in my opinion, is just as unique as the gift that Coach Cal has, just as unique, just completely different. I don't think either/or is wrong. It's just their approach in how they go about it.
Q. I heard in your Sunday press conference you mentioned Avery Johnson. I was just wondering how your connection with him started and what your friendship or relationship with him has been like over the years?
COACH WILLIAMS: Coach is one of my heroes. I love Coach, I love his story. I love where he's from. I love his path. I love his college coach. I love how he fought and scrapped to get to the league and how hard he fought to stay in the league. I'm from a small town north of Dallas, and so I've always been a Dallas Mavericks fan since they started.
And so when he played for him, when he coached for him, loved him. And upon his arrival into college basketball, for whatever reason, I think we've probably privately spoke more than anybody thought. I think that when he got to Alabama and the state of the program and what he's been able to do in his three years, I don't know that you could have done any better.
The coaches that he's hired, what he's done at Alabama -- not that Coach Saban has done anything but flourish and help that. I just think he's done a fabulous job. He's always been really, really kind to my two boys. And so I just -- he's one of my heroes.
Q. Buzz, Robinson said something interesting in the locker room. He said we need to give ourselves more credit than we give ourselves. I know you preach humility, but is there a certain swagger that you need to play with this time of year that you would like to see out of your players?
COACH WILLIAMS: I said that to our team 10 or 12 days ago. I appreciate how 5 said it. He probably said it more politically correct than I did. If you really studied what's transpired. If you even talk about 5. If you study what's transpired since we've been here, I think it's pretty remarkable.
When we were hired we were 244th in the country and tomorrow we're the 31st team, seeded team, in the tournament. But what I apologize to our team for is that I'm just not really good with you guys. And so I only do what is required so I don't get in trouble, and I don't think that at all times does that give the credit that our kids and our staff are deserving of.
I think if you look at any Power Five team over the last four years -- maybe if you studied it over the last 20 years, because I have upon arrival through year four -- and watched the trajectory, I think it's been minor miraculous what's transpired, so I just apologize to our kids. 5's the only All-Conference player since we've been here. That's -- that only adds to the miracle in my opinion. That's when I apologized to the team. Because I think if I was a little more politically correct, a little bit more polished, even with you two guys, it would help.
And I think I wanted to apologize to them for the disservice if that is what it would be deemed to be called, that I'm not more outspoken about who they are. But I do -- I want to be more humble in spirit. If there was anything to be known for, I would want to be known for that more than anything else.
Q. Coach, you've coached in a lot of NCAA Tournament games and these guys have not played in a lot?
COACH WILLIAMS: Yeah.
Q. For this particular group of guys, do you treat it as business as usual? Do you let them know how big it is? What is the best way with psychology to get in the focus and play their best?
COACH WILLIAMS: Thanks for asking. We went about it a little different this year. If there would be one thing that I would say specific to last year, I don't know that we prepared for the event as much as we should have. I think we prepared for Wisconsin. I think we prepared for the opponent, but I don't know that I did a good job helping prepare them for the event.
One of the other things that I would add to the miraculous thing that nobody said -- and that's fine -- only three guys in our program played last year and we're back again. I think that says a lot considering what's transpired over four years. So, we've spent a little bit more time, me, specifically, with your kids on preparing them for the event. The timeouts, this, what we're about to do, why we're practicing late, the tip time is not going to be what it says it's going to be on the Internet, how the officials work, what is an NCAA Tournament share, what does that mean? All of those things, just so that they understand that maybe from an educational standpoint.
There were some kids that watched it last year that were in our program but didn't play, so I hope that because some of us have had some level of a rep of doing this, we'll be better than we were last year. Maybe not specific to the opponent, but specific to the event.
Q. Coach, Collin Sexton is known for getting in his opponent's head. With the way he -- how do you prepare someone for that?
COACH WILLIAMS: I can't speak to that. I can speak to his talent, but, yeah, we've -- we've played against a bunch of guys that are competitive. Hopefully, we have some guys on our roster that have that same competitiveness. But his talent is semi other-worldly.
Q. Is Alabama an SEC version of any ACC team either offensively or defensively?
COACH WILLIAMS: If you studied the numbers that matter, and you put Alabama in the ACC, they would be third in the league, relative to tempo. They would replace us. We're third. They would replace us. If you were to put them in our league from the numbers that matter defensively, they would be third behind Virginia and Duke. I think as good as they are offensively -- and 2 is obviously a big key to that, 23 is a big key to that. I think 25 is really good going downhill. I think 0 is an elite level runner-jumper. 3 is a mismatch nightmare because of his, quote, game. I think 30 is -- probably, just from me watching and never talking to any of them, I think 30 is probably one of their smarter players other than Coach's son. 12 has great length and size and can do whatever he wants to do with the ball.
I think as much is given -- notoriety that's given to them offensively, I'm not sure that they're not just as good or better defensively, if you really pay attention and studied the evidence of their numbers, and the more I watch tape of them, I think they are very good defensively.
Q. Buzz, Devin was telling us how much he's looking forward to his homecoming. In terms of his career with you, how surprised are you in this day and age of 800 transfers in offseason that he stuck around that first year you came in and obviously stuck around every year since he helped you guys?
COACH WILLIAMS: You can write as big a story as your paper will allow on just that. I think he's a throw-back. We take a tour every year in the spring. There's ten people on our staff, and we all get on a plane and we go see every returning player and we call it the thank-you tour. So, we go see every returning player. We give them an update on where their child's at academically, where their child's at relative to their degree plan.
Each child does a video thank you, where we record them and show it to their parents. We do clips, like a scouting report of, Devin, hey, this is where Devin -- here's some clips of Devin defensively. Here's some clips of him offensively. We give them their itinerary for the summer, what they're going to work on, what their goals on and off the floor. So, we went and saw nine kids last year, obviously Devin was one of them. Devin was coming off playing football, so Devin didn't join us until January 1st. And his parents would probably answer this question better. He's the throwback because of how he's been raised.
His parents have never said a word to me, other than How are you doing? And to Devin's credit, all he's ever said is "yes, sir." So, he finished in last place as a freshman and our first year there, he finished in last place. And for the first time in over a decade, we go to the Tournament last year, and he doesn't get to play. And then he's been the catalyst behind our change defensively since February, and then for it to be able to be here, I just -- I agree with what you said.
Maybe it's just the way of the world. My children have a lot of that in them, too. To be able to stick something out, that's rare anymore. And most kids, it's just, I quit and I'm going somewhere else. And that's never been the case in any sense. He has had more of an impact on our program and played less than any player I've ever seen in my career as an assistant coach or head coach. He's so respected amongst his peers, whether he's playing or not, and for this to end on this stage for him, in this city, it's beyond a lifetime memory, I think, for him.
Q. To have Chris Clarke healthy and back, to have Devin Wilson back in the lineup, how beneficial is that to have these extra weapons? I know Nickeil is also a freshman.
COACH WILLIAMS: Yeah, I'm excited for those guys. Chris didn't get to play last year. In essence Ty replaced him. You can say Ty is the reason we went to the NCAA Tournament. So Ty tore his ACL in the summer. He's not going to be able to get it.
Dream was a starter last year and then left and came back. He's Black Jesus in our program. He's resurrected and now he doesn't get the play. And I think, you know, Pig's test score was pulled last year. I never said that and he couldn't play. But he got to watch it and now he gets to play.
And then the three true freshmen, I think they've -- most coaches tighten their rotation in February, and I did the exact opposite and I didn't know that it would be true, but I thought that they could help us. And they've made such a -- even though the minutes don't necessarily say it, it's similar to Devin's impact. Those guys have really helped our team over the last ten games. So I'm excited for all of those kids to have an opportunity to experience this.
Q. Watching from a rival conference to the SEC, what do you think of the league's rise? Do you think they were held down by the quadrant system this year, and you've obviously watched enough tape of Alabama to see the league as a whole. You know, is there some kind of mystery with the SEC that they've been able to get eight teams in this year, just to see how they do?
COACH WILLIAMS: I don't think it's a mystery if you look at the league ten years ago, if you looked at the league five years ago. I've only been a head coach 11 years, so I don't want to speak longer than that. What I would say as a huge fan of football, when you think where is the best football, college football, you think of the SEC. And one of my not spoken reasons for wanting the Virginia Tech job is I knew everybody said it was the worst job in the best league, and so I wanted to critique that most of these guys in here gave me on committing career suicide to take the job.
But it was the best league in the country, basketball-wise. So it's SEC football and ACC basketball. And I think what's happened, just from an outsider, in the SEC basketball, is I think the coaching changes over the last five years has been dramatically different. The commitment from those schools, specific to those coaches and those programs, I think that's when you've seen the rise relative to that.
And I do think, because the Committee's looking at quadrant 1 and 2 maybe different than they ever have in the past, I still think it's to rely upon RPI and I don't think RPI is necessarily the right metric, but that's just my opinion. If you just look at quadrant 1, I think that's why there's eight teams from the SEC. So I think they're scheduling different.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports