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March 16, 2018
Q. Admiral and Grant, I don't know if you guys spent much time looking at stuff last night, but obviously Loyola had a last-second victory. Did you guys see any online video of the shot and what did you think about it?
ADMIRAL SCHOFIELD: Yeah, I was actually at Shake Shack watching the shot. It was a big shot, and Ingram, who hit it, actually played against him in high school. He went to Simeon downtown. It was a big shot for him, but really for their program.
GRANT WILLIAMS: Yeah, I'd say the same thing. It was a terrific shot. Got a good look, and they're a talented team. They move the ball well, and it was a competitive game, so I was actually watching it with a couple of teammates in the hotel room. It was kind of exciting because March Madness, and you kind of get hyped up for it. It was a good shot.
Q. So he didn't invite you to Shake Shack?
GRANT WILLIAMS: Shake Shack isn't my thing.
ADMIRAL SCHOFIELD: Yeah, he don't need that. We're going to keep Grant away from Shake Shack.
Q. If you weren't playing Loyola, would this be a team you might be rooting for in this tournament?
GRANT WILLIAMS: I'd say so. You like teams like these, the ones that fight all odds and compete, and that's something that you love. Like we're a type of team like that. Not many people chose us. We're fighting for the same thing they are. If we weren't playing them, you'd kind of get excited and you kind of enjoy March and the madness side of it. But really, we've just got to focus on the game and play our game.
ADMIRAL SCHOFIELD: Yeah. Like he said, most of the times in March Madness, a lot of people pick the underdogs. They want the underdogs to pick the bigger schools, just like Buffalo and Arizona last night, teams like that. The biggest thing about March Madness is anybody can go on a run, and it's about chemistry and executing and really what goes into winning, people playing unselfishly and sacrificing for the team and for the greater good. The biggest thing for us is continue to play hard. We don't have as much talent as other schools, but we have people that work hard and are willing to go out and do their jobs consistently. For us, we've just got to continue to do that.
Q. Kyle, Grant sort of brought it up a little bit, but you guys have been the underdogs all year long. We've asked you about being picked 13th for months now, and tomorrow you're going to be the bully against a team that is the underdog. How does that mindset work for you?
KYLE ALEXANDER: I mean, yeah. So you know, like when you've been the underdog the whole year, you kind of carry a little bit of a chip on your shoulder, and it's kind of a little bit of a motivation for your team to kind of just do what you've been working on all off-season and all season.
But just like yesterday's game and just like any other game in the season, it's just a regular game that we have to go out and we have to work on keeping our identity and being who we are and playing our Tennessee defense and just going and playing our basketball. We can't look at it any other way, you know.
Q. Admiral, you touched on this just a little bit just now, but do you think parity is changing, the definition of a Cinderella, and what is your definition of a Cinderella?
ADMIRAL SCHOFIELD: Well, the biggest thing is in a Cinderella story, it's teams that people don't expect to come out and compete against the big dogs. I mean, I don't believe in a Cinderella story. I believe anybody can be beat. It just makes a buy-in from a collective unit, and like for us, I would say we were picked 13th, and the biggest thing for us was we didn't think we were 13th.
When you have that collective group believing in something bigger than themselves, you can do anything, especially when you put the work in. And when you put the work in, eventually you'll reap the blessing of it.
So for us, I would say that -- I mean, me personally, I don't believe in Cinderella story, it's just who wants it more in that aspect.
Q. For the two Jordans, do you guys expect it to be like a road game, kind of the arena against you guys tomorrow with Texas Tech and Florida fans cheering for the underdog and trying to get Loyola?
JORDAN BONE: Yes, I would imagine that the atmosphere would be leaning towards Loyola. Like Kyle mentioned, simply because they would be considered the underdog in this, and during this time of the season, that's who people often root for. I mean, I would imagine that the atmosphere would be like that. It's kind of been like that the entire season for us, though. I mean, our backs have been against the wall. We're just ready. We're ready to play tomorrow.
JORDAN BOWDEN: Yeah, like Bone said, Loyola has a lot of fans out there and a lot of people going against us, but we've just got to go out focused and be ready for them for tomorrow.
Q. For Admiral, growing up in Zion near Chicago, I was just curious what were your perceptions of Loyola? Were they ever on your radar screen as a possible destination?
ADMIRAL SCHOFIELD: Yeah, they were. They recruited me out of high school, and in the summers, we would play a lot of Summer Leagues up there, so I would be in the gym a lot. It's a really nice school downtown, but the biggest thing for me was I wanted to get out of the cold and snow. I got tired of shoveling every winter and all that, so I wanted to get out. But I love going home, love the deep dish pizza, love being downtown and going to Millennium and all that.
It's pretty cool to be able to play against a school like that growing up, them being right 20 minutes away from the house. But at the same time, I'm really focusing on playing hard for Tennessee, going out and giving my all for Tennessee.
Q. Admiral and Grant, I don't know if you saw this, but Loyola has a 98-year-old nun praying for them. How can you guys compete against that?
GRANT WILLIAMS: I don't know. I feel like she's aggressive. You know, she pushes the ball up the court. (Laughter). But she's super nice. I saw her on TV. We respect that, and we just -- to have that around is something special, and you just love it at this time of the year.
ADMIRAL SCHOFIELD: Well, for us, that's hard to compete with, a 98-year-old -- but we have our traditions, as well, but we're just going to go out and compete.
Q. Kyle, you mentioned a phrase we have to be Tennessee, not let outside stuff affect us, play our game. How much better have you guys gotten at doing that this year, just focusing on yourselves and not worrying about the opponent?
KYLE ALEXANDER: I think a lot better because we were relatively young, you know, last year, and we got some experience. This year, we've never been a team that when we went places, we sold out stadiums and stuff like that. We've been through a lot. We've experienced a lot this year, and I think this team has matured a lot in the sense of learning how to shut out all the outside noise and all that stuff and really focus on our game plan, our scouting report and what we do. I think that we've gotten a lot better at that this year, and I think that we can continue to get better at that.
Q. Kyle and Grant, after looking at Loyola, what kind of challenges will they present to you guys defensively, and I guess what did you think about the way they executed, as well, late game yesterday?
GRANT WILLIAMS: As I said, they're talented offensive team. They move the ball really well. They have a lot of motion, and they're just aggressive. And on defense, depending on the lineup, they might switch everything. You've got to prepare and execute your game plan. Coaches do a good job preparing us, so we've just got to go out there, find the shooters, and consistently get those rebounds, as well.
KYLE ALEXANDER: He got it. He covered it.
Q. They remind you of anyone you guys played this year?
ADMIRAL SCHOFIELD: They run similar offense to Vandy, but the biggest thing is we've seen pretty much everything you can possibly see offensively. It's just about going and competing like I said earlier, and being on edge and knowing what they're going to run and trying to pressure them out of it, just understanding they're going to do the same thing on the other end.
They're going to switch like Grant said and try to put pressure on us, as well, but we've got to be aggressive on the boards and be really physical and be really strong with the ball.
Q. Admiral and Kyle, you guys obviously won a lot of SEC awards after the regular season, but you guys didn't have anybody on the all-SEC defensive team. What goes into being such a good defensive team without having any stand-out individuals?
ADMIRAL SCHOFIELD: I was actually surprised that Kyle didn't make it. Actually that was one of my goals, to be on the defensive team. I didn't really care about all-SEC to be honest. No disrespect to our league, but I really wanted to be on the defensive team more than anything. I really thought Kyle would have made it. But I think it's ironic, us being one of the top five teams in the country as far as defensive percentages and ratings and all that stuff, and no one is on the list.
But at the end of the day, most of the time, it's a pain to focus on statistics. For us, we're going to keep competing and we are going to keep going out and doing what we do. We're not worried about getting awards or accolades. We're really just trying to win championships and really make our University proud, our families proud, and our coaching staff proud.
Q. Admiral, you mentioned playing against Donte; what was the game, and what were your impressions of him?
ADMIRAL SCHOFIELD: Well, I played against him on the AAU circuit more than anything. But he's very athletic, very shifty with the ball. I mean, he's a city kid. He plays city ball, and very tough, tough-nosed guy. But the biggest thing is a lot of us coming up in that area, that's how we play ball. We're very tough.
We pride ourselves in being able to get to the rim, being able to shoot the outside shot and having somewhat of a mid-range guy, guys that can do everything, and he can do that. He can pose problems for a lot of teams. And for us, we've just got to be ready to guard that.
Q. Kyle, Loyola really likes to space the floor offensively and do a lot of driving and kicking and that sort of stuff, and Miami was able to help at the rim on a lot of their penetration. The way they play, what's the challenge defensively for you guys? Obviously you guys are a really good defensive team, but when a team is trying to space you out, what are the challenges for the team in general?
KYLE ALEXANDER: I'd say the main thing is kind of like our white-line presence, and that's kind of just loading up in the middle of the paint. You're not -- when your man is not guarding the ball and somebody on the other side of the court has the ball, we're loading up on the white line and just making sure that you're providing help for your teammates because like he mentioned, defense is really a team thing. You can't just rely on one person for it. I think that's why our team does so well is because we really play a lot of help defense. We really help our teammates out.
Q. Kyle, can you update your health? I saw you had an ice pack on your hip yesterday.
KYLE ALEXANDER: It was good. I had a little bit of a bone bruise on my hip, and I've been with the trainers all day, and I will continue to be with them, see how it goes.
RICK BARNES: Again, you get into this tournament, you realize that everybody that's playing, they're here for a reason, and you look at Loyola, you realize they haven't -- they've lost one game since January. You win 29 games. You shoot 50 percent as a group. Five guys in double figures, it's just a team that, one, looking at them and watching them play, you enjoy watching them, the way they share the ball, the way they move the ball, and the way I think they really understand how to play together.
Q. Coach, your guys looked like they had been here before yesterday. Were you surprised at the poise that they showed, or what did you expect?
RICK BARNES: You know, I'm not sure about what to expect, actually. We thought they would come out a little bit jittery, which they did. We missed some shots there, but I did feel like looking back on it, they were locked in defensively. And we had actually told them that coming out of the tournament in St. Louis that we had really had one really good game where we played for 40 minutes the way we needed to. What team is going to show up here? So they came out yesterday, and I thought they were really locked in on the defensive end. Then we did get things going offensively. But to be honest, I wasn't sure what to really expect.
Q. Rick, these days, is a team in the seed range of Loyola still a Cinderella, quote-unquote, and if not, what's your definition of a Cinderella these days?
RICK BARNES: Well, I think with college basketball now, the parity, and once years ago when we went back to 13 scholarships and the fact that players transfer now, we know that there's been an epidemic in college basketball. Every team has good players. I think you realize that when you start playing early in the year and you even get into your non-league schedule.
You realize that maybe your players don't see it at first, but I think over time they really do have a great respect at how many guys in the country can play.
And so when you talk about a team that -- if you want to say Cinderella, whatever, it's probably a team that's doing the unexpected. But that could probably -- that label could be probably said about a lot of people in some ways. But all I can tell you today in college basketball, there's a lot of guys that can play, and with the rules where guys can transfer and sit out and another year of sitting out makes a big difference, and teams that get older, and most of those guys end up getting older, and teams I think that stay together.
One thing we wanted to do with our program is get our team old, and we knew we were going to start young, but we want to get old, and we want to stay old if we possibly can.
Q. A lot of your players were asked about the 98-year-old nun as the sixth man for Loyola. I wonder if you worry about that karma, and are you going to bring in a priest or Chaplin to counter that tomorrow?
RICK BARNES: Well, I can tell you one of the best things that we've done all year is we've had a power talk that we have Scott Jackson, who's actually my pastor and local minister in Knoxville, and Chris Walker, who's with Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Of all the things that we've done on the court, my biggest thrill has been to see what's happening with our team within our program. That's been the biggest thing.
I do believe that God is sovereign. I believe he's in charge and controls everything. I'm not sure I believe in karma, but I do believe in God and that he's in control.
But I can tell you, like I just said, what's gone on with our players off the court has been as big a win for us as winning the games.
Q. You mentioned you want to grow old and stay old. Seniors can kind of be a lost commodity in college basketball. Will we ever see that change and maybe the NBA change their one-and-done rule? Could we maybe see more juniors and seniors in college?
RICK BARNES: Yeah, I do think it will happen. I think the rule is close to being here. I don't think it'll be a year or so away, maybe even could come in quicker than that, that high school prospects will have a chance to enter that league if they want to. I think that's going to happen.
But you look around, there's some teams that have been that way for quite some time. I mean, Virginia is a team that's shown that. I think of other teams, I think of Gonzaga has been a team that's done a lot of that, too, Wichita State, I think of that -- I'm not sure on those, but when I think of that, I think of guys that have guys that stayed in their program for periods of time and have had success with it. And I'm sure there's other ones.
I'm not up on all of it, but again, I do think that it'll all trend. I just think it's just around the corner before the NBA drops that rule and gets guys come right out of high school.
Q. Rick, you've coached teams that had one-and-done guys and five-star guys. Now you've got guys who are maybe a little under the recruiting radar. Is there a difference in groups when you have guys who maybe weren't given all the notoriety or aren't looking at going to the NBA after one year?
RICK BARNES: Well, I think there's -- I don't know if there's any one specific thing. I can tell you, every one-and-done guy that I coached, I really enjoyed coaching, and the best players that we had at Texas were our hardest working guys. And I will tell you, whether people believe it or not, they did not come in with that idea they were one-and-done. If they were, so be it, but they came in and they put both feet in.
I think where the problem occurs is when they're not putting both feet in, and they come in like, hey, I'm only going to be here for 8 or 9 months. I've always thought it was really tough if you sign a terrific player, and the first thing he says is that he's leaving before he even gets on campus. I think that's a -- we talked to Gavin about it. We talked to LaMarcus and TJ and all of those guys to make sure they realized that they were going to have to come in and be part of a team. And they didn't want to separate themselves right off the bat.
So I do think it's the way it's handled, but I think we all know that you want talent and you want to recruit the most talented players you can recruit. But sometimes in recruiting, those five-star guys are over-recruited, and sometimes those three-star guys are overrated, and the three-star guys are underrated.
We ourselves don't put a lot into what other people rate them. We've always said we're going to go out and rate ourselves and get the guys that we want and that will fit with what we're trying to do.
Q. Rick, in your history in the NCAA Tournament, have you encountered a double-digit seed like this with the story that people are running around, the building is getting behind them, they hit a shot like they did yesterday, and if so, does that stuff matter once the ball is tipped off?
RICK BARNES: Yeah. I mean, like I said earlier, I remember when we were at Clemson, I don't remember what the seed was, but I remember playing I think it was Western Michigan that had five fifth-year players on their team and had one of those great years. We were banged up a little bit, but still, they beat us. But you expect that in the tournament. You expect -- there's three sets of crowds normally at the game. They have their fans. We have our fans. And then the neutral crowds have always -- most of the time when you think about it, they go for the underdog or the team wearing the darker jersey. They're not necessarily the underdog, but they're normally the team that's wearing the darker jersey.
You expect that, and it can be like a road game if that's what you want to call it. But you've got to play the game. You've got to get in there, and you've just got to execute what you've talked about, understand the ups and downs of a game, and just fight the game and understand it's 40 minutes or longer sometimes that you've just got to stay focused and locked in and understand how hard you've got to compete to get the job done.
Q. I want to ask you about Chris Chiozza, the guard for Florida. His numbers aren't really eye-popping, and this is really his first year being the full-time point guard, but how have you seen him kind of evolve kind of from your side of the court as far as him becoming a player who's kind of, I guess, the key to Florida maybe?
RICK BARNES: Well, you love him. When you coach against him, he's the kind of player that he's got tremendous speed and quickness. And when he gets going downhill and he's a guy that really wants to pass the ball, I think Mike has done a terrific job with him. He's improved a lot from a year ago, where I think he's much more under control, a guy that really looks to play the position the way coaches want it played.
But when he really -- and they're obviously a heavy ball screen team, and when he gets going downhill, he can really create havoc for your defense. So he's a guy that going into the game that you have to give a lot of attention to because if you don't get him contained and under control, he will set up a lot of guys, and he can get to the basket and finish, as well. He can shoot the ball. But again, his biggest improvement I think has been the way he has really learned to get his teammates involved.
Q. Back to the 98-year-old nun and God for a second, what kind of control do you think God will have on the outcome of the game, and can you tell us a little bit more about the power talks?
RICK BARNES: Again, I think -- all I can tell you is I think God is sovereign, and that means I think he's in charge of everything. He's the only guy that knows the future because he's made the future.
Our power talks, what we wanted to do was Chris Walker came in, and since we have been there, we've had fellowship of Christian Athletes, Athletes in Action, both were on campus. But when Chris Walker played for
Coach Fulmer, and when he came back, I met him, and I knew a year ago he was going to move back to Knoxville and be -- leave that chapter on campus. And I just -- and he's one of the finest people I've ever been around. I just said, I'd like to be someone that's going to really be invested in our program and be around.
I look back on my time as a head coach, there's a lot of things I wished I could go back and do different. And one of them would be I wish I would have done what we've done this year a long time ago. And it's something that during those power talks, he's going to share the gospel. He's a former player that understands athletics, but he is a very transparent person. He along with *Scott Jackson. It's real, and we talk about it because we know just in the last really two and a half, three weeks, people that I know have passed, and you realize the brevity of life and how quickly it goes.
One of our former players, the first player that we signed at Texas, Chris Owens, came by this morning to the hotel and had breakfast with us, and one of the neat things has been to watch -- I've coached so many guys that have grown up to become wonderful fathers and very successful in what they do.
But what we've done with this team, like I said, with our power talks and what those guys have done has been just really something I'm most -- probably as proud of as anything we've done this year.
Q. What have you seen from Loyola's big Cameron Krutwig, and how do you plan on stopping him from getting down and scoring a lot from the post tomorrow?
RICK BARNES: Well, again, you love their balance as a team. Five guys in double figures, you're obviously going to look at each player and see what you can do with as many tendencies as they have.
But he's a terrific player. We've always said, we don't think we can stop anybody one-on-one. Our whole defense is set up on being a sound defensive team as a team. And we expect our players to be on edge and understand whatever coverage we're in with ball screens, whatever we're doing when the ball goes into the post, understanding the scouting reports, and if we feel like we want to help off of and who we don't want to help off of. So it goes back to our game plan in terms of each individual guy, how we're going to try to play him to -- really try to get as much done as we can on the defensive end.
Q. I know you're a big fan of Bob McKillop at Davidson. I was curious in the evolution of your offense, maybe how much the Davidson offense influenced that in any way?
RICK BARNES: Oh, yeah, Bob and I were together at Davidson. And truly a man that I -- a great friend, and as a man I admire as much as anybody I've been in the business with. Just, again, a great basketball coach. And yeah, I've learned from Bob. There's no doubt I've learned from him. But we've taken some of the things that he does along with some things I've learned from Gary Williams and Wimp Sanderson that we're using this year -- back, again, some things from Alabama, some things that -- so we put it all together, and we will continue to do that, along with some of the things that my current coaching staff, that we think fits our team.
We've always believed that we're going to change the system for the players to help them as opposed to trying to always force feed them into something they can't do, and we're not a heavy ball screen team. We have it as part of our package, but that's not what we do. But we can. We like the movement. We want to be different. We want to play inside-out, and everybody knows that, so there's no secrets with that.
I've been very blessed and been around a lot of terrific coaches and assistants and guys I've worked for that we've used a little bit of all of it that I've learned through the years.
Q. What's gone into Derrick Walker kind of cycling out of the rotation a little bit?
RICK BARNES: It's nothing -- Derrick hasn't done anything. It's just Fulke has been a guy that's continued to improve, and Derrick is the same way. We look at both of those guys based on match-ups. That's what we base it on. But Derrick hasn't done anything. He's ready to play. Fulke is a guy that's given us good minutes the last couple games, and we're going to need them all tomorrow. And we know that, but Derrick is getting better, but he hasn't done anything, it's just a matter of the match-ups that we've seen.
Q. I don't know how much you're aware of this, but the SEC has gotten off to a pretty quick start in the tournament, I think winning their first five games. What does that say about the league, not only getting a lot of teams in, but making the most of that opportunity?
RICK BARNES: Well, you know, as a league, we talked about how good we think our league has been, and it was a good league. I've said every year, I think every league is good, you know, but who's the better league, that can be debated all the time.
But I can only tell you from experience, this year, it was as tough a league as I've ever been a part of from top to bottom. It was amazing. And then I'm excited because I like to be -- every year I tell people all the time, when this season is over with in another two weeks, people are going to start projecting next year how many teams the ACC is going to get in. Somebody is going to throw out eight or nine or ten. Somebody is going to throw out the Big 12 getting in seven or eight.
I want the SEC to be a team that people know from the beginning. They're going to get seven, eight teams in. And on a bad year, it's going to be seven. And on a great year, it can be eight or nine as opposed to people might say -- most people have said four or five since I've been here in the three years. And hopefully to do that -- and probably in the past, that's probably what they were doing. I'm not saying they won't do it anymore, but change in perception is a hard thing to do, but it started a year ago.
So the start of this tournament, I was with our commissioner who has done a terrific job. And he said, you know, I was so excited when it came out with the number of teams we got in, but now I'm as nervous as I've ever been because we need to do well, and we know that.
Hopefully we can continue to do well. We've got some terrific coaches in our league and guys that know what they're doing, and recruiting has been great in our league. We've got good teams. We really do. And there's some other teams that were right there that probably had a chance, but you end up beating up on each other.
Q. Your kids talk a lot about the team defense concept that you just mentioned and seem to take a lot of pride in that. Can you talk about tweaking your defense, your basic defensive philosophy from year to year, and how you adjust things to the personnel you have?
RICK BARNES: Well, for three years at Tennessee, we haven't been very good on defense. One of the hardest things to do as a coach is when you know you're going to struggle on offense if certain guys go out of the game. When we first got there, we knew we had two seniors that had to play 35, 36 minutes a game in Armani Moore and Kevin Punter, we had to basically tell those guys, you guys can't get in foul trouble.
So you basically -- not that they would -- both of those guys were really big competitors, but we couldn't extend our defense. We couldn't pressure the way we wanted to. And at the end, we were only playing six or seven guys. Last year, we had a lot of these guys back -- these guys come in and they were young and had no idea how hard you have to play at this level to be a good defensive team. They had no idea.
But we knew that after last year, the biggest way we could improve would be on the defensive end. If you go back and look at numbers, you'd be surprised if you rebound the ball three more times a game how you can go from being in a team that's in over 200 to the top 25. If you turn the ball over three times, the same numbers show up.
So we talked about how we've got to improve on -- we really talked about four or five possessions, that we've got to get better at defensive rebounding. We need to do a better job on the offensive boards, got to get consecutive stops more. So our personnel and the one thing with this year's team by having the depth, we told our guys if they're not going to play hard on defense, they're not going to play, and I think they know that.
Hopefully we can -- and we think we can be better, and going forward, we hope that we can be a better defensive team because we think we can be.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports