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March 30, 2018

Jay Wright

Phil Booth

Mikal Bridges

Jalen Brunson

San Antonio, Texas

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Villanova head coach Jay Wright. Coach, an opening statement.

COACH WRIGHT: Everything's going well. Just a great place for a Final Four. We're on the Riverwalk. Guys are staying focused, got a great Villanova crowd down here, and looking forward to our own practice here, get one more time on the court. And we know we've got a great Kansas team to play.


Q. Not to compare this team to the team two years ago, but do you see threads and maybe, for lack of a better term, a DNA, so to speak? And could you describe what you think that is if that's true?
COACH WRIGHT: Definitely threads. To get this far, all the teams that are here, you have a laser focus, you have an ability to prepare for different opponents. If you don't, someone's going to catch you along the way. And it really has to be at a high level.

And we've had some really good teams and sometimes you just can't get to that level at this time of year. And this group reminds me of our group in '16 in that way. And I feel like we're getting better as the season goes on, even at this time of year. And that's something that's similar to our team in '16.

Q. Bill Self had something interesting to say about Devonte' Graham and Jalen Brunson. He said I hope they're matched up against each other quite a bit because I think it will be fun for people to see that and certainly fun to coach it. What are your thoughts -- do you agree, disagree, or how do you feel?
COACH WRIGHT: You know, I tried not to think -- I really try not to think about those types of things. And I don't really think I would enjoy any matchup against Devonte' Graham, really would have fun with it. I would enjoy the challenge it would be.

He's a difficult matchup. And you can put a smaller guy on him like Jalen, but I think he's got the ability to shoot over someone close to his size. And you put a bigger guy on him, he's got the quickness to go by him. So I wouldn't say I would look at it exactly like Bill.

Q. When Donte first gets in the game, 16:46 left, 16:14 left, in this tournament so far he's gone in for Booth twice, Paschall once, Spellman once. I'm curious if you've already pre-decided who he's going to go in for or whether the first four minutes are deciding?
COACH WRIGHT: No, I think you nailed it. It just depends on what's going on. I know we want to get him in there and quickly. And it just depends on what's going on. Sometimes we want to play smaller. Sometimes Omari as a freshman might be confused on pick-and-roll coverage. Sometimes Phil Booth might be at the top of our press and get tired.

It's always something different. But we're almost looking for that need to get our rotation going. Not only does he bring energy, but he starts to get our rotation going, where we get somebody out, we get them rested and that guy's usually coming right back in so we can keep fresh bodies in there.

Q. Talking to Omari, I think he thought things would come a little more quickly and easily since he sat out the last year and had a familiarity. But it took a little while. How important was his evolution to what you're doing right now?
COACH WRIGHT: Probably individually the most important part of our growth as a team. Everybody else on our team is pretty experienced. And to get this far, you've got to have a good big man. We've always had good perimeter players. But in '16, I thought Daniel Ochefu was playing like the best forward in college basketball when we were in the tournament.

And Omari has approached that level. I don't think he's at the level Daniel was yet. But if not for him and his development, we probably wouldn't be at this point. Other guys are kind of -- they've each improved, but not at the rate that Omari has. He's probably had the biggest impact.

Q. Obviously the 3-point shot has been a big factor for your success, but all teams here can shoot it and make it at a pretty high rate. They make more than in past years. I'm curious, do you look at this and say, it's only going to get bigger from this weekend and years coming? Or is it just the evolution of the game and mimicking NBA styles? Where do you come down on that?
COACH WRIGHT: I think you hit three of them. I think NBA style. College, we all watch the NBA. We all learn from those guys; they're the best -- players and coaches. And then I think the rules, the two rules, obviously the 3-point line, but the freedom of movement, the emphasis on freedom of movement, lack of physicality is making that the evolution of the game -- skill, perimeter shooting.

And that's where I think this is going to continue to be a big part of the game. And then in college we all look and see who gets to the Final Four and what they're doing. And a lot of us emulate that.

Q. We were talking about Jalen's maturity last week and the matchups that he had with Sexton and Carter and Evans and how it didn't seem to affect him, how he didn't concentrate on it. Is he going to take the same approach, do you think, with Graham?
COACH WRIGHT: I really hope so. That was my answer to the earlier question. We just don't play that way. We play individual matchups. And it's tempting when everyone is talking to you about the matchup, when you're the player they're talking about, it's just tempting for it to get in your head. I don't think he's let it.

But each guy, each step here, I think Devonte's -- all these guys are great. If you just take a little bit, if you add a little bit to each one of them Devonte' is probably the best of all of them. And so I know Jalen loves a challenge. I think part of his challenge is not getting caught up in it, and I really hope he doesn't.

Q. Larry Brown just said that you saved his life when you allowed him to come to practices back around, I guess, it was 2011. How would you characterize his influence on you?
COACH WRIGHT: I've learned a great deal from him about the game of basketball. I worked under some great coaches, Coach Massimino I learned everything from. But having Coach Brown around us for a number of years, even when he was the coach of the 76ers, when he would have a day off he would come to our practices, with his staff, which blew my mind.

But his love of Xs and Os and the game is far beyond mine. He would watch what we were doing. He could watch one practice and learn everything we were trying to do and then come up with a suggestion for what we were trying to do. And he probably give me 10 suggestions and I would use one, just because they were all so good, but I just couldn't incorporate everything.

And he really taught -- I think it helped us offensively a lot over his years with us, and a lot of the drills, a lot of the things we do offensively came from him being spending time with us.

Q. You said the team, you feel like it's continuing to improve, how much of that is on the defensive end? And through the season, because the team was so efficient offensively, how often was it a struggle to make sure they get dialed in on the defensive every game even if they're up 20?
COACH WRIGHT: No matter how many years you're in coaching you continue to learn from your players. This group taught me to never give in on the ability to improve defensively. They were so efficient offensively and they picked up so many things we were teaching offensively that I thought it might be really tough to get them to be a good defensive team. I almost thought, all right, we've never had a team this good offensively.

So, you just can't get them to be good defensively, but they stuck with it and they're becoming one of our best defensive teams, which I never would have thought midway through the season. But these guys taught me a lot. And I'm really proud of their commitment.

Q. Given your opponents in the Sweet 16 and in Elite Eight and the defense that West Virginia and Texas Tech played, I would imagine it was an adjustment to get ready for each of them. Do you have -- I would imagine it was an adjustment to get ready for each of them. How much adjustment do you have to do again to what figures to be a much more open style of play?
COACH WRIGHT: It is, it's amazing. The physicality of West Virginia and Texas Tech was on another level. Providence and Seton Hall are like that in our league. But they were in a little bit, another level strength-wise and in terms of using their physicality.

And now this Kansas team is a little bit like Creighton in our league and Butler and Marquette, the way they use 3s, but just on another level. So in each of those games we kind of had to take a little punch in the mouth to start the game just to get a feel for it and adjust. And I think we're going to have to do the same thing in this game.

Their speed in transition but also the speed with which they run their half court offense is the best that we've faced.

Q. I say this with a heavy heart, it's our first time and your first time on this stage without Coach Massimino. And during this time, is there maybe a piece of advice that he gave you from over the years a memory or moment that really pops into your mind?
MIKAL BRIDGES: You know, he was always helpful and always give you teaching points. I think the biggest moment that Coach Mass that I think of was in the championship game. We're in the championship game, it's a lot of pressure, he looks at Coach and tells him to fix his little pocket. That's the best memory.

Because everybody is, you know, nervous, everybody's really anxious for this game, and you just see him point at Coach, it's like, you gotta coach this team but fix this first. That was probably the best moment.

PHIL BOOTH: I don't have any specific moments, but I can say just his presence was always felt when he came in the gym or in the room. He loved to be around the game of basketball. I always noticed that. Every time he came to watch us practice and we say hi to him, he'd have the biggest smile on his face, give you a couple of pointers here or there. He just loved to be around the game. But I don't have any big moments from him.

JALEN BRUNSON: I was going to say the same thing that Mikal said. It was cool to see how calm he was and such a -- could be a very nervous and nerve-racking situation for many. But as Phil said, his presence was always felt when he was around, always put smile on everyone's faces. And he was just one of those guys that was really wise about everything he said. And it was fun to be around him.

COACH WRIGHT: It's funny, these guys got to see him towards the end of his life as this like fun, jovial, loving guy. I would always say -- he'd always come in joke with them at practice and always positive with them. I'd always say: You didn't play for him. He was not always that sweet when you played for him.

But I loved the fact that his -- that's the way these guys know him. Towards the end of his career and the end of his life, he was just a lovable guy and that's how these guys know him. And I miss him. It's not the same being in this tournament without him.

He loved the big stage, man, and he was good at it. And when we would be here he would take a lot of pressure off of all of us because Villanova people just wanted to be around him. It was magical. And it took a lot of attention away from us in a good way. And I miss that. But I also miss just seeing the pride in his eyes of watching these guys and watching his program.

Q. Mikal's involvement as a player, I know two years ago he had a big game, came off the bench against KU, 26 minutes, five steals. How important is that kind of defense that he plays for you guys, and also just his involvement as a player these last two or three years?
COACH WRIGHT: That was really probably his best game that year in terms of the impact he had in a game was that KU game. I mean, he had a lot of games where he scored more, but he was really impactful in that game. And it was because of KU's length and size, we needed him.

And he always has had a willingness to do whatever it takes for his team. We played a game this year in the Bahamas against Tennessee, we were down 14 at halftime. And unbeknownst to me, he got the team together after I talked to them at halftime and said, hey, you guys, Jalen and Phil, you guys go out and get buckets. I got this; I got the rebounds; I got the defense; I got this.

So that's what he's done his whole career and he's developed into a complete player that -- the Alabama game, we needed him to score in the second half, he scored. Whatever the team needs, he's really unselfish that way but talented enough to do anything.

Q. Could the players talk about the Kansas guards? And then, Coach, could you make a comment about the matchup of bigs? We've heard so much about the guard matchup.
MIKAL BRIDGES: They're all talented. All of them can shoot. They can do everything, moving off the ball, coming off ball screens. They play so well together. And just really talented force.

PHIL BOOTH: They're about just as complete four set of guards you'll see with -- all unselfish, all can dribble, pass and shoot, like Mikal said. They play real well for one another, and they always look for the best shot.

It can be very tough matchups for us and they just don't really force anything, just making everything easier on each other.

JALEN BRUNSON: Just to go off what they said, I mean, they're really complete as players. They can all shoot, they can all create shots for themselves, create shots for each other. They're just so well rounded, they can do a lot on both sides of the floor. And we've just got to give them credit and they've been doing it all year.

COACH WRIGHT: The bigs are going to be interesting in this game, because Azubuike and De Sousa are beneficiaries a lot of their spacing that those guys create. They're so athletic that they get to the rim, they throw it up there to those guys. And they're long enough and athletic enough to finish.

I think that's something that doesn't get talked about enough. They're great rim protecters. You worry so much about their perimeter play, but it opens those guys up. If they weren't so athletic and good with their hands you wouldn't have to worry about them rolling to the rim so much.

So they're a bigger part of this team, I think, than people talk about. And Cosby-Roundtree, Omari Spellman and Eric Paschall, we've got to keep those guys off the glass, and we've got to be able to guard them because they can go into those guys one-on-one and with those perimeter shooters around them and they're very difficult to guard.

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