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March 22, 2018

Jalen Brunson

Mikal Bridges

Phil Booth

Boston, Massachusetts

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Villanova student-athletes, Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges, and Phil Booth.

Q. Jalen, what has your film study of Jevon Carter told you? And what is he doing well? Is he doing anything better than back in your AAU days?
JALEN BRUNSON: Jevon, he's gotten so much better as a player. He was a great shooter, a great defender then. He's just really gotten a lot better now, being more consistent at it. I mean, as a team, we've got to play together. There's no individual matchups. We've got to play together with everyone on the floor.

We know they're a great team with a great leader in Jevon, but it's not just him. The whole team has great pieces. This is why they've come this far. They're an overall great team.

Q. Mikal, what kind of influence did your mother have on you? I know she worked her tail off to raise you and to do what she did on her own. What kind of influence did that have on you and kind of who you've grown into?
MIKAL BRIDGES: A big part to who I am. She's just very tough on me, especially in high school. If I had bad games or missed a couple shots, she always made me have a little punishment for that. Just always staying on me, even if I do well. She always congratulates me but always makes sure I get better. I'm grateful to have her.

Q. Jalen, a question for you, just general question about the tournament: How much do you pay attention to what else is going on around the country, if at all? How does it affect your mindset knowing that you're the team that many other teams are hunting?
JALEN BRUNSON: I mean, I would say that we still watch a lot of basketball. I mean, whenever we can, like just watching all types of basketball as a team. We definitely see what's going on around the Tournament, around the country, but I don't think it affects our mindset at all. Our mindset is always to go out there and play for each other for 40 minutes, play as hard as we can, and stick to our core values as long as we can.

That's been our mindset for every game of the season. Even though it's a tournament, even though it's Sweet 16, nothing changes for us.

Q. Jalen, Mikal, and Phil, all of you quickly, if you could address the fine line that you guys ride all season between your confidence as a top-ranked team in the country for most of the year and humility. It seems like you guys also have a sense of humility about yourselves.
PHIL BOOTH: I think we believe in one another, but anybody can be beaten. We have to have a respect level for each team we play. As you see was going on in March Madness, any team can go down. So we try to just be locked in. And I think the confidence comes from one another, playing with each other and trusting one another. But any given day, you've got to respect all these teams we play because anybody can be beaten.

So it's just us trying to find that balance. I think we do a good job of keeping that humble mindset to each game.

Q. Phil, can you describe just the sheer enjoyment you're getting out of this year compared to not being able to play last year? And also, do you feel for that kid on Purdue who was trying like crazy to play even though he's got a broken elbow?
PHIL BOOTH: It's great to be back playing this year. Love playing with the guys, just the team. I love it. I enjoy every moment of it, especially after sitting out.

Yeah, I saw that with Haas. It was his elbow. I know he's a senior. He's trying to play as much as he can. I saw him struggling to shoot a free-throw. That's just part of the game. He's probably -- he wants to be out there so bad. I see him on the bench cheering his teammates on. So that's what it's all about.

I wish Purdue the best of luck. I saw that, and it caught me too because I love to play as well.

Q. Jalen, I just wanted to clear something up: Who actually won the last game you played with you and your dad? And how did that -- how was that game -- I heard it was "physical" is the word that I would use. Can you just describe your relationship with him and how he's gotten you this far.
JALEN BRUNSON: The last game, it was a while ago. I want to say I won, but I know some way he finds a way to cheat. Those are pretty physical battles. He was just trying to beat me up, trying to test me to see if I would break or anything like that. But I'm pretty sure I won. I'm pretty sure.

But my relationship with him is like any other father-son. I mean, I love my dad. I love him to death. And he's been a great father figure for me and something I wouldn't change for the world. As it comes to my relationship with him as a coach, as a coach-player with him, it's totally different. He wants me to be the best player I can be. He wants to push me to be the best player I can be, just like Coach Wright.

Once I figured out the difference between him being a father and him being a coach, life became a lot easier.

Q. Phil, you mentioned that anybody can be beaten on any night. Did you guys get kind of a reassurance or a reminder of that with the Virginia loss? And how does that impact you guys, especially knowing that you've kind of taken over the mantel as the favorite after that?
PHIL BOOTH: We know any game could be our last. It could have been Alabama. So we just made it here. That game against Virginia and UMBC was a great game played by UMBC. It just happened to come down on the top and beat Virginia.

That doesn't affect us at all. We still approach our games the same way. We try to stay focused on our next opponent, which is West Virginia right now. We can't let what's going on around us affect what's going on with our team. We just try to stay focused and locked in on our next opponent.

Q. So the Philadelphia Eagles this year going into their season had a theme song, which was Meek Mills' "Dreams and Nightmares". Do the Wildcats have a theme song for this season?
MIKAL BRIDGES: No, we don't. We don't have one.

Q. Mikal, Nova has been synonymous with success these last few years, and there's that phrase "Winning breeds winning." Do you guys see any truth to that? All these successes kind of help you succeed more as time goes by?
MIKAL BRIDGES: It gets tougher as you keep winning and winning because it's hard for you to stay humble and hungry, right? Coach does a great job with us. We're all smart individuals. We know that ego is our biggest competitor right there. We're all humble. If one person has a big ego, it could mess up this whole team.

We care about each other so much that we don't want to mess up this team, and we just keep staying humble.

Q. Jalen and Mikal, the Big East came out with a recommendation yesterday that, instead of the one-and-done rule, they should have a two-and-none rule, where guys have to spend at least two years in college once they commit to college. Just wondering what your thoughts on that are. Do you think that's fair? Do you think guys should be able to go straight from high school? What do you think about the two-and-none idea?
JALEN BRUNSON: That's the first time I'm really hearing about that.

Q. I mean, obviously, you're doing at least three years.
JALEN BRUNSON: I think guys should be able inform have their own decision. If they feel like they're ready to go to the NBA straight out of high school, let them make that decision. But I just think with the Big East doing that -- this is my first time really hearing about that. With the Big East doing that, they're just trying to implement ways to make college basketball better. Guys who want to be in college, make sure they stay in college, and guys that want to go to the NBA, just let them go straight out of high school.

So I mean, it's really -- it's in the best interests for college basketball just to throw out ideas so they can all come to an agreement and find a way to make college basketball better.

MIKAL BRIDGES: Yeah, I feel like the same way. If they feel like they're ready coming out of high school, then it's a blessing on them to go to the NBA. But I see what the Big East is doing too, trying to make it even more competitive, which is probably would be if people who are particularly like a top five pick who stay an extra year, that would be more competitive. Yeah, same thing Jalen was saying.

Q. For all the players, what was it like with your travel troubles yesterday? Did you feel like you were ever going to get out of the parking lot? How long were you on the tarmac before you guys actually took off for Boston?
JALEN BRUNSON: I mean, we were probably on the bus longer than we were on the plane. It was pretty interesting, but I'm just glad we made it safely out of there. That's really all I have to say.

MIKAL BRIDGES: It took us a little bit to leave Davis Center. It took us about maybe like 30 minutes for us to just leave the parking lot. Yeah, I'm just blessed that we made it through and made it here. It took a while to take off.

Q. Phil, just because you're the designated like Virginia/top seed/being a favorite question answerer, I'm wondering what it's like in a game where you are favored in a tournament and maybe there's a push for an upset. Like what it feels like. Is there pressure? Does the crowd turn on you guys? What it's like that you've seen a lot of teams fell prey to?
PHIL BOOTH: I don't think it's the upsets. If you're at this point, you're just as good as the team in front of you. I think it's about playing well at the right time. West Virginia is playing as good as anybody else or any other team. It doesn't affect us. We don't go out there afraid to lose. We just try to play Villanova basketball for 40 minutes, and we'll live with that outcome.

Q. You know you guys are veterans coming into this. How have you prepared your younger teammates into coming into this tournament?
JALEN BRUNSON: I think we did a great job of not really changing anything we do. Even though it's a tournament, there may be a lot at stake, but nothing changes for us. Every time we step on the floor, we play like it's our last. We didn't really necessarily care for the result, but we just want to make sure we're playing for each other and hard and together for 40 minutes. If that leads us to keep winning games and get us to where people want to see us go, then so be it. But at the same time, we just want to keep playing for each other. I think we stressed that enough to our guys. We're going to keep stressing that if we're so fortunate to keep advancing.

So we're just going to make sure that nothing changes every game.

Q. Jalen, how do you think Coach Wright is going to be able to compete with Coach Huggins tomorrow on the fashion department?
JALEN BRUNSON: They have two unique styles. I think they both have a very good chance of winning in their own bracket. Coach is over here, Coach Huggins is over there. So definitely unique.

Q. Jalen, the experience of winning, winning it all, how much does that help, or how much does that change your guys' mindset? And does it come into play more the deeper you get into the Tournament? Or is it something that it's more just an overall benefit or an overall experience?
JALEN BRUNSON: Could you say the last part of your question again?

Q. Sure. The experience of winning it all and the lessons you took from it two years ago, how much of a factor is that for you guys, and does it play more of a role the deeper you get into a tournament like this?
JALEN BRUNSON: I think the experience we got for winning a National Championship was just us really remembering like what it took. It didn't take big shots. It didn't take crazy plays that happened during the game. I think it started with our approach, started with our mindset to win the games. The experience that us three had during that game was we just saw how locked in our leaders were and how dialed in they were to scouting reports and things like that. I think we've just got to do the same thing, just be locked in, focus on each other, and not really worry about winning or losing. We've just got to go in there and play as hard as we can and not worry about the outcome.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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