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March 15, 2018

J.P. Macura

Sean O'Mara

Trevon Bluiett

Kerem Kanter

Nashville, Tennessee

THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome back. Up here now are the Xavier University Musketeers. They're the No. 1 seed in the West Region. They're the Big East regular season champions and will face No. 16 seeded Texas Southern in Friday's game.

The men's basketball contact is Tom Eiser, and the student-athletes up here are J.P. Macura, Kerem Kanter, Trevon Bluiett, and Sean O'Mara. And we'll go right into questions.

Q. Welcome, fellas. I wonder, for the three returning players, is this a happy, kind of joyful moment to be at this stage of the season, or is it your fourth trip to the tournament, does this kind of feel like a business-type trip at this point in your career?
J.P. MACURA: I would say, yes, it's a business trip. The coaches have talked to us about it all year, about taking one game at a time and never overlooking an opponent. I think we need to lock in on Texas Southern and really know what they run and how their players play.

TREVON BLUIETT: Pretty much what J.P. said. It's a business trip for us. Like we said before, seeding doesn't necessarily matter. Anything can happen. So we've got to take this game, take the tournament one game at a time and just focus on what's in front of us.

SEAN O'MARA: Pretty much the same thing for me, honestly.

Q. J.P., do you have a black eye right now?
J.P. MACURA: Yeah. Got elbowed. It really hurt.

Q. When? And by whom?
J.P. MACURA: Practice. I don't remember who did it, though. I'll get 'em back.

Q. Looking at this tournament, the top four seeds, Xavier seems to be a popular upset pick. It seems like a lot of people want to choose against you guys. What do you do when you hear that information and how do you kind of react to people being against you at this point?
J.P. MACURA: Nothing. We don't really care about those people at all, to be honest with you.

We care about our teammates and our coaches, and we're going to prepare for Texas Southern.

Q. For Sean and Kerem, regarding the game itself. How do you evaluate the matchups at the center forward position. They're kind of undersized in their starter, and then they have a seven-footer coming off the bench. How do you guys view that matchup?
KEREM KANTER: We watched a little bit of videotape yesterday on what they like to do and stuff. We just have to play our basketball. We have enough talent to beat any team in the country, so we have to stick to our game plan.

SEAN O'MARA: They're a team that has a lot of guys that have come from a lot of different programs, so we can't really see them maybe as what might be on their jersey, but these guys are high major players. It's a very good team. They're here for a reason.

Q. Trevon, Coach has said that he thinks your defense, team defense has grown up a lot in the last three weeks. Would you agree with that assessment? And what, particularly, do you feel like you guys have done better, compared to earlier in the season?
TREVON BLUIETT: Yeah. I think, you know, we have been. Those areas is just locking in on key details, whether we're supposed to whip screens or chase screens coming off, ball screen defense. It's just different type of stuff, just making sure that we're sharp. I wouldn't necessarily say it's the energy. The effort was there. It was just being focused and locking on to certain players, and how we play those certain players.

Q. One of the issues maybe the team has had is putting together two halves that were consistent. What gives you, I guess, the idea or the promise that you guys can do that heading into this tournament?
TREVON BLUIETT: Just from what's been going on in practice, I feel like the last practice we had and, you know, just a lot of energy. And you can just tell that we're excited and ready to get this postseason going.

So based on the couple of practices, I would say, you know, that's an indication that I feel like we're ready to put two halves together.

Q. For Tre, if you don't mind again, Demontrae Jefferson, it's an interesting little guard, kind of fits the prototype of guard that has given you guys trouble over the course of time.
Just what do you make of him?

TREVON BLUIETT: I've known him since about middle school. I mean, I played him probably about five, six times growing up and he's always been that type of player.

He's a great player. He lacks the size, but he makes up for it with his scoring and all that. He's an exciting player. We have shown that we have trouble with small guards in the past, but I feel like we've made adjustments to that and so, hopefully, we'll be able to contain him.

Q. Last year, you guys were an 11 seed. This year, being a 1, never been a 1 seed before. Does that add any pressure to you guys, being more the hunted this year, rather than the huntee?
J.P. MACURA: Not at all. Like I said earlier, we're just going to play our basketball and stick to the things that we do. And we're going to take one game at a time.

KEREM KANTER: I wasn't on the team last year, but like Tre said before, seeding doesn't matter at this point. Anything can happen in March, so you just got to be prepared for it.

TREVON BLUIETT: Yeah, no pressure. We know what pressure is, so...


Q. I don't want to leave you out, Kerem. In terms of your appreciation level, just coming from a one-bid league up to this point in your college career, what does this stage mean to you?
KEREM KANTER: Everything. This is why I came to Xavier. I wanted to play in the postseason and play at a high level. And I love the fact that we're a 1 seed. I'm just looking forward to playing in the tournament.

Q. Sean, you guys were able to watch the game, I assume, last night when you were out to dinner, the Texas Southern game. What were your thoughts on that outing and your thoughts heading into tomorrow's game about Mike Davis' team?
SEAN O'MARA: I think you saw them do a lot of really exciting things. They put up a good amount of points. So it's just, like I said earlier, they've got a lot of high major guys that may not be on what may be considered a high major team, but they're very talented. We've got to make sure we come out ready to play.

Q. You talked about being No. 1 seed, it doesn't matter. For any of the four, how aware are you of the fact that a No. 1 has never lost to a 16 seed in the tournament yet?
TREVON BLUIETT: I mean, we're well aware. We've been seeing it all over social media, there's no losses or whatever. We don't pay too much attention to that. Like Sean said, they're a very talented team despite their seeding. So we don't look at them as being a 16 seed, like it's going to be a pushover game. We know they're going to bring their best game. We've got to bring ours. We're the 1 seed, so every team will give it their best shot so we've got to be ready to take their punch.

THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much. Best of luck.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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