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March 14, 2018
THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Arizona student-athletes to the dais.
Q. Questions for both you guys. It's obviously been a chaotic month for you guys in this program. Can you talk about what's that been like to deal with that distraction, but still playing good basketball, if you could talk about that.
RAWLE ALKINS: I think off-the-court stuff, we don't really worry about that. We focus on the court, on the task at hand, this week, and we just take everything game by game.
ALLONZO TRIER: We're taking it day-by-day, worrying about playing our best basketball every time we step on the court. There's nothing else to take away from our focus of that.
Q. This is an off-the-wall one. Today a lot of high school students walked out in their classes in protest of gun violence and gun control. Have you ever talked about that as a team, if the two of you have thoughts on gun control?
RAWLE ALKINS: We haven't really talked about it as a team. To be honest with you, I wasn't aware of that. I didn't know about that stuff. But I don't think it's right.
ALLONZO TRIER: Something we've never talked about as a team. I wasn't aware of the protest happening today. But there's something that needs to be done about that. I don't know if we have the biggest voice to have that opinion if it's going to change anything. But I'm sure something needs to be done about that.
Q. Could you guys talk to me about your opponent, Buffalo, what do they bring? Is there anything that you're concerned with? Anything that you've seen on film that you really need to lock in on?
RAWLE ALKINS: We know that they play a fast tempo. And they have four guards on the court at all times. They're kind of a small team but they still play tough. That East Coast toughness. And we know it's going to be a battle tomorrow.
ALLONZO TRIER: We respect them a great deal. They have a great pace. We also understand that they're in the top five point scoring teams in the country. They're really good on offense in what they do. It's going to be a challenge for us defensively and we respect them a great deal.
Q. You guys were seeded lower than a lot of people had predicted. Do you think there's any particular reason for that, either being part of the West Coast or the FBI investigation?
RAWLE ALKINS: I don't think so. I don't think the FBI investigation has anything to do with seeding. But that's just my opinion. I don't know.
ALLONZO TRIER: We can't be worried about where we're seeded or anything like that. We have to beat them, no matter who it is. All we can do is focus on every time we step on the court playing our best basketball, that gives us the best chance to win.
Q. What do you guys plan to do to slow down CJ Massinburg? What are your guys' plans for stopping that core four? They're all averaging double digits a game.
RAWLE ALKINS: We're going to still do what we do. We don't have a game plan for the one person. It's the whole team. We play whole team defense. And we're just going to try to play our best.
Q. It really seems like the program and the school have stood by your coach. Just talk about the support that you have lended to Sean Miller during this trying time.
ALLONZO TRIER: Our basketball coach has led us on the right path. All we're focused on is basketball right now, and nothing else.
RAWLE ALKINS: The same thing that he said.
Q. Last one for you, despite all the outside noises, the team has still done well. Winning five in a row on the road. What's it like for this team to still play the best basketball, despite the outside things?
RAWLE ALKINS: Just the same thing, just focus on the task at hand, us winning. We understand with team success comes individual accolades. And we just want to win the championship.
ALLONZO TRIER: Not worried about what anybody is saying or what's going on the basketball court. Trying to put together our best basketball and see where it takes us. That's what we care about. That's what we're worried about.
THE MODERATOR: Welcome Coach Sean Miller.
Q. It is a very, very difficult time to be a college basketball coach in this day and age. A lot of coaches talk about managing distractions. What have you done to manage all the distractions around your team and get them to focus and play at such a high level?
SEAN MILLER: I think it starts with you have to really attempt to control the things that you can and to block out the other things that you can't. For us, whether it's anything off the court, an injury, a tough loss, you want those types of things that are adversity-filled to build your team, to build character and the players on your team.
For us, I think we're playing our best basketball as we enter this tournament. That doesn't mean we get a chance to stick around or we're automatically going to win because of that. But I think our team has shown a lot of resolve. And it's been through some of those obstacles that we've had to overcome.
Q. Can you talk about just what it means for you to be the head coach of the Arizona Wildcats? What's it mean to you to be the head coach of this program?
SEAN MILLER: Well, the University of Arizona is one of the great programs in college basketball. It's not anything that I have done. When I showed up in Tucson nine years ago Lute Olson built the University of Arizona's basketball program, and he did it with decades of excellence. Players like Steve Kerr, Sean Elliott, Damon Stoudamire, Jason Terry, Luke Walton. And I'm almost embarrassed because I've named them all that didn't play for me.
If you start to name the players that have played in our stretch over nine years there's quite a few: Solomon Hill, Derrick Williams, T.J. McConnell, Nick Johnson, Deandre, who is playing with us. And I've left out a hundred.
So it's been a foundation of great players and great teams. And it's an honor to coach. If you've ever been in McKale Center on basketball weekend, there's no more pageantry than anywhere else.
To answer your question, it's an honor to coach at Arizona.
Q. Today across the country a lot of high school students walked out of their schools in protest of gun violence and gun control. I wonder, do you talk with your kids about social justice issues? Do you encourage them to be involved, be aware, vote, that type of thing?
SEAN MILLER: Certainly we talk about a lot of different things, not just basketball but sports related. Off the court you try to teach your players. You try to allow them to be independent.
If you just think about being on a university's campus, you're there to grow, and form your own opinions. And that's really what being a student-athlete is all about, that you get that opportunity. Oftentimes the court is your best classroom. And then you learn other things.
But clearly those types of topics are always discussed. And at the same time all of our players come from different families, different walks of life, backgrounds, that allow them to have their own informed, educated opinion.
Q. While you were preparing for Buffalo and studying the tape, was there anything that surprised you or jumped out at you with how they played?
JOHN CALIPARI: Buffalo is a really good team. Any team that you play in this tournament is capable of beating the other team because of the great parity in college basketball. If you're from the MAC and you win the regular season championship and you follow that up with the tournament championship, you're a really, really good team.
And they have a real confidence about them. They're a tough matchup. They score the ball as easily as any team that we've played. Oftentimes in that conference they're guard and forward heavy but they may not have a big guy. But Buffalo does. Perkins in particular is a center that I think could play at any program in the country.
We know that it's going to be a difficult challenge, that's what we expect. And our focus is on that, just trying to play our best.
Q. I'm wondering if you have any thoughts in general about the changes that could be made in a sport where the culture is so much incentive to bend the rules that the FBI could get involved?
SEAN MILLER: I've made my statement.
Q. The other day John Calipari said that your grandmother basically raised him and that your guys's relationship goes way back. Can you talk about that a little bit.
SEAN MILLER: He's right. It's really amazing, but his family and my family have been connected since we were born. And he was an assistant coach at the University of Pittsburg. When I was recruited there, in large part I went there because of him. And certainly have a lot of admiration for him, not just as a coach, but also as a person.
Q. Ben Tucker is a local kid that was born and raised here in Boise. I'm curious, what do you think of his coaching prospects and his future?
JOHN CALIPARI: Tuck, he's one of my favorites. He did a great job as a manager at the University of Arizona, and he's become a coach with us, has left us, and now he's at Santa Barbara doing an excellent job. But he's a great person, No. 1. And I think he has a future to be a head coach one day. He'll make Boise proud, if he hasn't already.
Q. According to a lot of the experts, they projected you being seeded higher than you actually were. Do you think there was any contributing factor to that you're being on the West Coast or the FBI investigation?
SEAN MILLER: No, I think the tournament selection committee has a difficult job. We're a 4 seed. We're in Boise. Excited to be in Boise.
On a personal note the last time we were in Boise we got to the Sweet 16 when I was the head coach at Xavier. When you return to a city that you won in, you're excited even more.
We'll have a lot of fans, and most importantly, it doesn't matter where you're at or what your seed is, you're going to face a very good team. And if you don't play well your tournament will end quicker than you want it to. Our focus isn't on things we can't control, but to be as ready for Buffalo as we can be.
Q. Considering the distractions the last month or two, as a coach, how good has it been to see your team respond and play good basketball despite the distractions surrounding the program?
SEAN MILLER: I'm incredibly proud of our team, the players on our team, and the families of the players on our team. Sometimes when adversity strikes it can really rally a group of people. Can bring out a closeness that maybe you otherwise would not have felt. And I believe that about our team.
That doesn't mean that because of that we're going to win. There's a lot of teams in this tournament that feel the same way. But I do think that we've played our best over the last month. Our defense has improved. And sometimes the starting point of defense is a closeness and unselfishness. And I believe our team has grown in both of those areas, and that's a big reason why our defense has gotten better.
Q. Calipari was in here saying he hasn't watched you guys all season, he doesn't see anyone except his team and who he's scouting. Do you watch basketball in your free time? If you have a late tip do you watch games during the day? Do you watch your brother?
SEAN MILLER: I watch basketball. But to his point, you're so consumed with your own team practice that day, the team that you're getting ready to prepare for. It's like this tournament, you'd be surprised how unaware you are of even the other 7 teams that are here and who plays who tomorrow because it's for us about getting ready for Buffalo. And you get that single-mindedness that maybe takes the ability to really follow people that you care about and other teams.
But that's what I would say. I have a son who is in high school. I have a hard enough time getting to watch him play, let alone another team in the country. But you're right, if I would watch one other team or two other teams I would watch Indiana and Xavier because of my connection to both.
Q. You mentioned how much it means to you to be the head coach of Arizona. If you could talk about what the last month has been like for you and just what does it mean to see the support you've gotten from the university and your players during this time?
SEAN MILLER: You know, I'm very fortunate. Dave Heeke and Dr. Robbins, our president and athletic director, that they have been as diligent in listening and learning and staying with me as they have been. I'm grateful. Our fans are amazing.
But the two groups of people that I really hone in on right now is my own family and our team and our program. The parents of our players and our players. And those are the people that you know love you. Those are the people that you're the closest to. And whether it's a season that you don't want to end or having three sons that you don't ever want to see hurt, that's really what you try to focus and stay in the moment with.
A lot of the other things, they're on the periphery. Everybody learns that when you go through different things.
Q. Do you have strong opinions on the one-and-done rule?
SEAN MILLER: I really don't have an opinion one way or the other.
Q. Has all that's gone on over the last several weeks made you like this profession more or have there been times where you wish you could go to Hawaii and call it a day?
SEAN MILLER: You probably know the answer to the question that you asked. Like I said, I think it's coach-speak to some degree, but there's nobody that will put what I'm saying in that category, for you to be successful in a high-pressured environment with a lot at stake, a lot of different things going on, your emotions have to be aside. It's about what can you control. Who really matters.
And I think if you focus on the things that you can really control and you surround yourself with people that really matter, meaning that they love you unconditionally and that you're in charge of them, whether you be a coach, a parent, a teacher, then that's going to be your best way. And that's really what I've attempted to do. And I've probably improved at doing that, as well.
Q. Have you ever been to Boise or Idaho before? Do you feel like a lot of fans should maybe root for you guys here at the NCAA tournament here in Boise?
SEAN MILLER: Yes, I was here a decade ago in the NCAA tournament. We played Portland State in the first round, Wisconsin in the second. We advanced to the Sweet 16 when I was the head coach at Xavier.
We were in Providence, Rhode Island a few years ago in the first round of the NCAA tournament and you could hear the U of A chant. It doesn't matter where we go our fans will be prevalent. But I would expect we would have fans here.
Q. You're a defensive guy. This team has been different, they haven't been as good defensively all year. With that plus all that off-court stuff, how is this manifesting itself with your stress level? Do you feel like you have more gray hair this season from getting these guys to play defense?
SEAN MILLER: No. Our defense has improved over the last two or three weeks, almost astronomical. I think that's a function of the closeness of our group, the unselfishness of our team. You could sense sometimes in our earlier practice today if your group wants to continue to play, and we have that.
That doesn't mean that it's going to win out and we're going to beat Buffalo. But I do think we have a closeness, togetherness, we played our best here at the end.
And offensively you can look at that question two ways. The other way is, they also are a really good offensive team. We have some answers on that side of the basketball. We've played very well as far back as November on offense. And recently we've really cut our turnovers down, which I hope we can do tomorrow night, as well.
It's the combination for us of improved defense and continued offensive excellence that I think is our best recipe to stay in that tournament.
Q. This is kind of a two-part question: Deandre makes up such a large part of the offense. Do you see that being a potential issue in the tournament as you progress? And also is there any plans to try to get Allonzo more involved in the tournament than he was in the PAC 12 tournament?
SEAN MILLER: That's a good question. We have balance on our team. Allonzo Trier has had a great season, his defense has been the best it's been all year. He shoots over 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from the three, 80 percent from the foul line. He averages right below 20 points per game. You have Rawle that brings a toughness to our team that separates maybe us from some others. Parker Jackson, Dusan at the center position, they're seniors. Dusan is the all-time winningest player in Arizona history. When you think of some of the great players that have played in our program, that's quite a testament. Parker is now second. They've been involved in a lot of games. We have some experience, as well.
But Deandre, he stands out because I haven't seen a player like him. And I think he's the best. He does it on defense. He does it on offensive. As his coach he does it every day in practice. He has an energy and smile about him that makes him fun to be around. He's exceptional. And I hope this tournament gets a chance to see him at his best. If you watched the PAC 12 tournament you watched a player that played a level that you won't see very often.
Q. Could you talk to me about Allonzo and Deandre as a one-two punch. How would you defend against that? What do you do with those two?
SEAN MILLER: The key is for us to get both guys playing well in the same game. I think that's when we're really tough to deal with. Allonzo can do a lot of different things offensively. He's not one dimensional. He's a high free throw attempt player. Gets fouled a lot. Shoots a high percentage at the three. He has over a hundred assists, which I think is the biggest improvement that he's made from the time he's walked in the door until now.
With Deandre, he can score a number of ways, as well. He doesn't score just in the low post. He's averaging I think five or six offensive rebounds a game over the last five or six games. Makes free throws, gets fouled.
For us it's a matter of playing team basketball, being unselfish. Those two guys have a way of scoring. You don't have to call their number for them to score. They're going to score as long as we're an unselfish team. Both of those players are very unselfish.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports