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March 22, 2018

Vic Schaefer

Kansas City, Missouri

THE MODERATOR: We are snow joined by Mississippi State Bulldogs coach, Vic Schaefer. Coach your thoughts about this upcoming tournament?

VIC SCHAEFER: Thank you very much. We're obviously awfully glad to be here. It's been a special season with a bunch of special kids and we've got a little bit of a heavy heart this morning. We won't have Roshunda Johnson with us today. She is attending a funeral back in Little Rock; she lost her grandfather. So we've got her in our hearts and minds today and hopefully she'll be able to rejoin us, but certainly our thoughts and prayers go out to her and her family. We miss her and love her very much. We'll keep them in our thoughts and minds.

Obviously, coming off of two great games at home, tremendous crowds, over 20,000 in Stark Vegas for two games, and so proud of our fan base and the support that our kids earned over the course of their careers. We have four really special seniors on this ball club and they've done a great job leading our kids, leading our team, and being ready when the lights come on.

We're playing a really good team, obviously in NC State. They've got great guard play, Konig can run the show and obviously score for them. Rebound it, too, from there, which is unusual sometimes. Maize is a tremendous talent, plays really hard. Defends, smart, physical, just a tough kid. Leslie is explosive, big guard on the wing, and Chelsea Nelson is a double-double machine.

They're a little like us, just a hard-noticed defensive team, they bring two athletic kids off the bench with some size as well and another big guard. Wes has done a great job and he's been there one less year than I've been at Mississippi State, I believe. Known him a long time. Have respect for him and know the kind of man he is and the kind of coach he is and he's done a great job there. We've got our hands full and we're excited to be here and excited for the opportunity.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach?

Q. Coach, you talked about what you did last season and the men's team is playing very well at Mississippi State. What's it like in Starkville right now getting that basketball fever?
VIC SCHAEFER: It's really special. I'm so happy for our guys, Ben has done a really good job. Those guys have really done a 180. Earlier in the year, and speaking from what I see it goes back to guard play. He's done a really great job coaching those guards and getting them, you know, ready and changed 'em in some ways which changed the team. He's getting great guard play from Peters and Nick our freshman who is just so special. It's a lot of fun, there's a lot of buzz and talk about basketball in our community.

Obviously in women's basketball it's really special. It's unlike most places in the country. I say that all the time. There's a handful of places right now across America that have the excitement that we have in Stark Vegas for women's basketball and had two back-to-back sellouts in the NCAA women's tournament, and that's part of building a program. It's not just the X's and O's and the wins and losses I say your fan base. You're going to see tomorrow night we're going to have a lot of maroon in the building. People making plans, they have been for a long time.

Look, I'm just going to tell ya, when we did lose our first one, people around our community thought the sky was falling and I guess it's better than the alternative, but that's the expectation that we kinda have right now. Again, I would rather have that than the alternative, but, you know, it's a lot of fun. Sure is.

Q. Vic, talk about two things: Put in perspective how much Morgan has grown as a player, the littlest person on your roster but obviously had such a big impact. Then what are the main things you look for when you are recruiting point guards in this day and age?
VIC SCHAEFER: Well, Morgan obviously her role has changed this year in that she has some more weapons and she doesn't have to score as much as she did a year and two years ago. With the offense that we've been able to put together at four positions she has become a great facilitator. Her assist to turnover ratio is off the chart all year long and she has embraced that. I think you saw in the second game in the Regional, I told her going into the ball game she can dictate the whole game and I needed her to. I thought she did on both ends. It's one of her better defensive games she has had if a long while. She really did a great job, locked down on their kid that destroyed us the first time we played them, Goodwin. So Morgan's role has changed, but I think she can still fall back -- if I need her to go get 20 I think she is capable of doing that. I told her she had 41 in the Elite 8. I think you're still capable doing that. I hope I don't need her to do that, but if that's what they gave us I think she is capable of doing that.

As far as what we look for at that position you're looking at a prototypical point guard for Vic Schaefer, somebody who is quick, heady, smart, somebody who understands the game and somebody that can defend. You know for us, you've watched us play, we're pretty much an energetic, pressure, defensive team. If you're soft on the ball it's been my experience in 33 years you're going to be soft behind the ball. If you're tough, physical, aggressive on the ball, everybody behind the ball gets excited about do get same. It's just human nature. When you see somebody out there picking up the ball full court and getting after it, well, it makes you think to yourself. Morgan is playing pretty hard on the ball I guess I'll get up here and take this wing away. It's just the way it is. For us it becomes a very important role and Morgan has been great. Jazz is in that same mold. Myah Taylor who we are being afforded the opportunity to redshirt is the same way.

So those kids are all very smart, heady, understand the game, understand who needs the ball when they need it and yet they embrace their role defensively, understand the importance of what they do.

Q. Will Roshunda Johnson be here for the game?
VIC SCHAEFER: She will. We anticipate her being here, yes, sir.

Q. It's one thing to make it to the Final Four one year but every team is different even if you have all your players back. How have you been able to maintain this level of excellence the year after the Final Four?
VIC SCHAEFER: Yeah, you know, it's really been a unique year. We lost two kids early in the season that in my mind were going to be starters on our team. We lost Jacaira Allen in practice. We lost a kid who got up and left and went home. Both those kids in my mind going into this season were probably going to start for us. We haven't talked about it much. It's nothing to dwell on. For us it's the next person up, next woman up. For this year this team which has made us so unique and special is our maturity with the four seniors, they know what it's about. They've been in this stage so the experience of playing in our conference night in and night out, all those kids have played big minutes for us coming into this year.

The other piece that I don't think anybody saw coming was how good we were on offense. We averaged 82 points a game most of the season. Our average margin of victory in the SEC was 24 points. That's off the chart! I thought last year's team was good! We were 13 points better going 13-3. This year it was 24 and that's just amazing, averaging 80-something points a ball game, holding people to 55, 56 and I don't think we're that good defensively.

But that's been this team. We've really embraced and taken advantage of some things that we can do on offense, we shoot the ball extremely well from three. Obviously you've got the big piece inside in Teaira and our point guard has been really, really good. This team is much different than last year but different in a good way in a lot of aspects. It's a special group, no question about it. They've played not only with the target on their back of being in the Final Four a year ago and playing for the National Championship, and as the year has gone on this year, Rick, they've played with the target on their back of being undefeated. So they've had two targets on their back.

It's just really been fun for me to see them play night in and night out and see how they've handled that. I mean, that's hard to do. Let's be honest. That's really hard to do.

You know, up until we get beat in the championship game in The Southeastern Conference tournament, they're playing with an undefeated -- that's a heavy anchor that you're carrying around and they handled it like a champ. I'm really proud of them. It's a very special group. By the way, I was born in Austin.

Q. (No microphone.)
VIC SCHAEFER: It was back in the early 60s, which Texas was beating A&M every year about Thanksgiving. My dad was an Aggie one Monday afternoon. They played on Thursdays. He was an engineer and every Monday after Thanksgiving they would decorate his office in black toilet paper because he was an Aggie living in Austin. He came home one afternoon and he said, honey, pack our stuff. We're moving. And we moved to Houston when I was 2 years old, but I was born across the street from the drum, Breckenridge Hospital.

Q. A couple days ago you spoke about the idea of appreciating the moment a little bit more than you did last year in this situation. How has that balance been for you so far?

Q. How has that balance been for you?
VIC SCHAEFER: It's easy to talk about for me. It's a hard thing to do. I'm always worried about the next one and I never get past the next one. I worried about Oklahoma State last week and now NC State. It's difficult for me because I want so badly for these kids. I wanted that win so badly on Monday night for those seniors to go out on their home floor undefeated in front of their home fans to win that last one, I just wanted that so bad.

That was a really special night, a special moment for those four seniors and for me, personally. So you move on to the next one. My staff and I have been getting ready for this one, cramming for three days. You know, when you're a bad college student, Will, that's all you know is cramming! That's all you know is staying up all night and getting ready. So I'm pretty good at it and we've been cramming for three days and, you know, we gave the kids Tuesday off. I felt like they needed it. That's normal for us. We have had two-day prep every game in the SEC. It's normal for us and our kids will be ready, I think.

THE MODERATOR: We will let Coach go and bring student-athletes up.

VIC SCHAEFER: Praise the Lord and go Dogs!

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