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March 21, 2019
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Colgate student-athletes Rapolas Ivanauskas, Will Rayman and Jordan Burns.
Q. Jordan, there was a story circulating that you took an Uber to get here. Could you just go into detail about that whole experience?
JORDAN BURNS: That wasn't true at all. Fake news.
Q. You guys have obviously won a lot of games down the stretch. How important do you think it is having confidence going up against an opponent like Tennessee and just coming into this tournament in general?
JORDAN BURNS: I think it's a big key for us. The confidence is what keeps us going when we're on the court. In order to make shots and things like that, you have to be confident. I think it's a very big deal for us going into this game.
Q. Rap, talk about dealing with Grant Williams and what kind of player you think he is?
RAPOLAS IVANAUSKAS: Grant Williams is a fantastic player. We scouted him all week. Really strong guy, really great in the post, really good in the duck-in situations. It's going to be a tough situation it's not going to be just me and Dana or anyone else. It's going to be a team effort. He's an All-American and we have a lot of respect for him. And we can't wait to play him.
Q. Jordan, what's this week been like for you guys? And just how different is it than, say, a tough regular season stretch?
JORDAN BURNS: It's just been fun for us to be able to make the tournament. It's just really a blessing for us. We're having as much fun as we can on this trip while still trying to stay serious and really compete during the tournament. So it's just been really fun for us.
Q. How do you handle the nerves of this week and what's at stake?
WILL RAYMAN: Honestly, like, we're really just trying to play free. We know that we're a really good team and we're just trying to soak up the whole experience and play with as much confidence as possible.
Q. With what's at stake, how are you able to do the Jedi mind trick to make yourself feel that way?
WILL RAYMAN: I don't know. Just every day in practice we know the type of team that we are. Like, there's really nothing to be nervous about. We're playing in front of a bunch more people than we do at Cotterell Court, but for us it's the same for the team.
Q. Rap, I'm curious, what's it like to be here these last couple of days in Columbus? What's the experience been like, the magnitude?
RAPOLAS IVANAUSKAS: It's a surreal feeling. I can say it for all my teammates. Just being here, being somewhere close to home, too, so my family can come out. Just being in the hotel, seeing the Colgate logo and the March Madness logo, it's stuff you grew up with. You turn on CBS, see all the college games.
And it's awesome to be a part of it. Awesome and a blessing to be part of it. But now that we're here it's time to get down to business and we have work to do.
Q. I was on campus on Monday. And this is all everybody's talking about. What do you say to all your friends and classmates and teachers, people that will be watching from home?
RAPOLAS IVANAUSKAS: Just thank you. Thank you for my professors for letting me come here. But in all seriousness, thank you so much. We know we're going to get a lot of good viewership back home around that area. We've been supported. We've been understood.
And guys have really been -- even coming out here, we have a lot of football players coming out here to support us, just really, really thankful to them.
Q. Have you looked at 15 seeds from the past -- Florida Gulf Coast, Middle Tennessee -- have you looked at their storylines and kind of figured out what their secret was?
RAPOLAS IVANAUSKAS: Not necessarily looking in depth with it. But I know just looking at Middle Tennessee beating Michigan State and just great upset stories. And it all could happen.
Like Will said, we're playing free. We're not playing with nerves. We're really happy to be here, but we also know we earned our way here. It's not just a fluke that we're here. We know we deserve to be here too.
Q. Jordan, especially with Bone at the point, Tennessee likes to go fast and can speed it up. What's the key against that in trying to maybe slow them down?
JORDAN BURNS: Our coaches, they devised a good game plan for us. So basically we're going to go in there do what Coach says. There's nothing new for us. We're just going to go out there and play hard. They're another team just like us. So we're going to go out there and play hard and leave it all out on the court.
Q. Will, you're the elder statesman in this group as far as wearing a Colgate uniform. What's the difference and journey for you for the past few years to get to this point with this team?
WILL RAYMAN: I think it just shows that every single day since I was a freshmen, our whole team has been putting the work. We attracted players like Jordan and Rap who are really good players. And during league play we all started to come together and it's been fun to be part of that.
Q. Rap, you're the newcomer this year, the transfer that came in. How has it been fitting in with the team and how is it that you've helped them get to this point?
RAPOLAS IVANAUSKAS: It's a testament to Coach and these two guys here my teammates. I didn't know how I would fit in. People told me they needed me here and that I could contribute. But they took me in. They put their egos aside. They put their stats aside.
They were just, like, we just need to win. We want to win. We want to make the tournament. That's a testament to these two guys. They've been really humble and really kind in taking me in. So I'm really appreciative for them.
Q. Jordan, I know that as well as you all shoot the 3 ball as a team, there's also the turnover numbers kind of are what they are and they're pretty high. How paramount is it, how important is it to kind of keep the ball, to not let Tennessee get out and run by a team with that much athleticism? How important is it to kind of take care of the ball?
JORDAN BURNS: We've stressed that a lot in practice, the turnover margin and things like that. It's very important because they can get out and run and get a lot of easy points in transition and things like that. So basically what we're doing is just planning on running good offense, moving the ball, and making sure that whenever we're rebounding, things like that, we can get defensive rebounds and offensive rebounds at the same time so they can't get out on easy run-outs.
Q. Rap, you mentioned watching this tournament when you were a kid. Back then did you fill out brackets looking for the 15 seed or the Cinderella story? And what's it like being that team now?
RAPOLAS IVANAUSKAS: Yeah, no, 100 percent, it's unimaginable. I remember making all these brackets and always being around -- my little brother would always beat me. Just picking out random teams, he would always get all the upsets.
No, just being here -- obviously I didn't make a bracket -- but just being here, it's such a surreal experience, just being -- knowing that you've got other kids watching our games on national TV and other kids that are like me.
Q. Rap said he didn't make a bracket. Did either of you other guys make a bracket and did you pick yourself if you did?
WILL RAYMAN: No. I've just gotten a bunch of pictures, like, oh, Colgate, Sweet 16, blah, blah, blah. It's just really fun to see all my friend picking us.
JORDAN BURNS: Same with me. Didn't make a bracket, but I got two brothers. They both picked us to win the national championship. (Laughter). It's good.
Q. Following up on that, I'm sure you were all March Madness fans when you were kids. For each of you, what comes to mind? What's your favorite moment from watching this tournament?
WILL RAYMAN: My dad actually used to work for Newsday. I think the best part is just seeing our name everywhere, like, seeing Colgate everywhere, and just like trying to show as much exposure about Colgate because a lot of people don't even know that. I feel like that's the best part.
Q. When you were a kid?
WILL RAYMAN: When I was a kid? Just filling out the brackets. Looking at the newspaper, turning on SportsCenter. That's honestly the best thing.
JORDAN BURNS: For me, honestly I don't even remember a time when I was younger. I was really into football. So March Madness was just something I turned on the TV and watched, got to see on ESPN. Filled out a couple of brackets when I was younger, but that's about it for me.
RAPOLAS IVANAUSKAS: For me, I have -- definitely pretty memorable. My cousin played for Florida State when they won the ACC. So they went to the Big Dance a couple times, went to the Sweet 16, got knocked out by a good VCU team.
Watching him he was a big inspiration to me. Him playing, him playing well, winning the ACC it's just inspiration for me because the ACC is run by those two teams usually and they were the underdog that year.
Actually today is his birthday, so I'll give him a shoutout. Happy birthday, Deividas.
Q. What's his name?
RAPOLAS IVANAUSKAS: Deividas Dulkys.
Q. Jordan, when basketball became serious in your life you envisioned playing in the NCAA Tournament. Is it surreal a kid from San Antonio representing a school from small Hamilton, New York?
JORDAN BURNS: It's surreal still to this moment. Just growing up, when I decided to stop playing football in ninth grade and just decided to focus on basketball, thinking about making it to this moment was never really a thing. I never really thought I was even going to be able to have this experience, be able to be here with this wonderful group of guys with a great head coach and great assistant coaches and things like that. This is something I could have never envisioned. I'm blessed, really.
Q. Jordan, can you go back, you were asked originally about this Uber, can you elaborate on that. This was like a fake tweet? And what's the reaction since then?
JORDAN BURNS: I found out about it last night. My mother called me. And my mother called me she was, like, wow, I know if you would have missed this flight I know you would have picked up the phone and called me, right? I was, like, yeah, mom, I'm in the hotel and things like that.
I had a lot of little messages like, did you not make it? Like, wow, they left you? Really? Like, that's crazy. After everything you've done.
People are telling me all this stuff. It's funny. But it's just a fake tweet. It's really hysterical.
Q. Jordan, I know you all shoot the 3 ball at a pretty high clip and have most of the season, especially the past couple of months. And Tennessee, as good as it has been this season has sometimes been vulnerable from there. Is that something you feel you can take advantage of if you play your game?
JORDAN BURNS: Of course. I think everybody looking at this game says that if we can shoot the 3 ball well we'll have a good chance winning this game. That's our plan. We're planning on hitting shots. Planning on going and making the right shots.
So the 3 ball is going to be very important in this game and hopefully we can knock down and come out with a win.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. We'll start off with a general statement from Coach Langel about the status of his team and how he's feeling at this very exciting moment and then we'll take your questions.
COACH LANGEL: I think the last week-plus has been a really exciting time for us as I think back to when I was a first-time head coach eight years ago. I didn't necessarily think about winning championships, but what I wanted for the student-athletes that we were going to coach is to have a chance to have the experiences that I was able to have as a student-athlete.
And I think that this group has embraced that. They've built on the work that a lot of other guys have done over the last handful of years. And what they've been able to achieve this year for our school and our program is really significant. So I'm extremely proud of their efforts over the course of this season and the offseason.
And I know they're super excited to be here and for the opportunity that we have tomorrow afternoon.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. Obviously the players are going to be nervous and amped and butterflies and all that. But how about you as a coach, how do you deal with it and how do you keep your focus on the biggest game of your season?
COACH LANGEL: For me, I don't really look at it like the biggest game of our season. For me that -- the last eight regular season games, if we were going to have a chance to do what the group set out to do, be regular season champions, we were going to have to win them all.
And obviously to get to this stage, to win three games in whatever it was eight or nine or 10 days, I think those games are the ones that you really concern yourself with as a coach. Are we doing everything we can to prepare? Are you, in game, making the adjustments you need to?
Here, for this game, I don't think there's many people out there who are expecting us to win. So in so many ways the pressure is off. I think what we're trying to do as a coaching staff is we have the good fortune of having been in our players' sneakers before. So just trying to share with them.
There's going to be some nervous. There's absolutely some excitement. When the ball goes up, it's a game, it's just a basketball game. So all this stuff that is new for them, hopefully, will settle down early in the game and play the way we've played all season and give ourselves a chance to be really competitive.
Q. Coach, for a lot of fans and young players, tomorrow will be the first time they see Colgate play on the national stage like this. What kind of feel do you want them to take away from the game after watching Colgate play? What do you want them to know about Colgate basketball after watching a game like this?
COACH LANGEL: I hope that we're able to play the way we've played all season. For me that's a group that really helps one another all the time. Again, their belief in themselves as individuals and the group as a whole is significant for me.
I think on the offensive end -- and that's been our better side of the ball all year -- is that we really share the ball. That we've got a number of guys who are threats to make individual plays, but that we're at our best when the ball's moving and we're sharing the basketball inside and out. And so I think that that's what I'm hopeful that our guys are able to do tomorrow afternoon for everybody watching.
Q. We're going to do an interview with Pat Moore in a little bit. A kid from Utica, went to Colgate, an alum, now coaching. What do you have to say about your assistant coach?
COACH LANGEL: I'm thrilled to have him as part of our coaching staff. It was a joy to coach him as a player, again. When you inherit a roster you didn't recruit any of those guys, no matter where you are. And from day one Patrick did everything possible to help build the program that we were trying to build.
So for me, a big part of building a program was to try and find some continuity, some continuity through the years, because I was fortunate enough to play and then coach at two programs, Penn and Temple, with great history and tradition. And a huge part of that experience for me was generational -- that guys from the past were still a part of the program.
So to have Pat now as part of our staff, I think it's evidence that that exists for Colgate basketball and I'm really proud of that.
Q. Have you looked at any other 15 seeds in tournament history -- Florida Gulf Coast, Middle Tennessee -- Cinderella stories in the past for your own preparation or have you discussed it with your players?
COACH LANGEL: No. To be honest, I mean, I did go back and watch the Loyola Chicago game against Tennessee from last year as well as other games. We don't resemble many SEC teams. So as you try and find some ways to be competitive against a team like Tennessee, you do try and find some common games, some teams that maybe you can identify with how they play, how they manage the game, how they were able to stay competitive.
But I haven't gone back into the history. I mean, I remember watching them as a kid, but I haven't gone back to study them in our preparation.
Q. And I guess my last question is I was on campus on Monday and I asked this of your players. This is what everyone's talking about on campus. What do you say to the campus community watching at home?
COACH LANGEL: I'm really thankful. I'm thankful for everything they've done for us, especially in that tournament run. Our students were all on spring break, the community came out, the campus community, the local Hamilton community.
For me it's what's really special about March Madness is that you're able to, when you're able to get here, so many people are excited for you and are able to join in the process. So to everybody back home, certainly thankful for everything they've done.
Q. When you look at a team like Tennessee, obviously without divulging your game plan, I'm sure you have no desire to do that, but how do you weigh doing maybe what it is you all do that got you all here versus trying to maybe control tempo or do something to get them out of their game, because you look at the stats and you all seem to put the ball in the bucket, too. I'm guessing you wouldn't want to get out of your element and doing what you don't do normally?
COACH LANGEL: Yeah, my son's nine years old, and he's a basketball junkie. He's watching the ACC Tournament, the SEC Tournament, all the possible teams that we could play. And after Tennessee lost, he said, dad, we might play Tennessee here's what we should do. Don't let any of their three leading scorers ever touch the ball and we'll be good. So for everybody out there, that's our game plan. (Laughter).
I think your point is dead accurate. We've been at our best in transition. But if you try and go up and down and play transition basketball with a team of their caliber, you're running a big risk. So I think we've got to manage the game.
When we haven't done well, it's kind of like when Tennessee hasn't done well, they lost the championship game, they turned it over, needlessly you could say, a number of times. Some of the bigger games we played -- not that Penn State, Syracuse, some of those games, not that they're quite the caliber of Tennessee -- but we've turned the ball over.
So you've got to manage the game. You've got to play within yourself, but while also doing what you've done all year long to have that success. So a couple little wrinkles here and there on both ends to try and help the guys with what Tennessee will be. But for the most part you've got to try and go be who you are and play the best that you've played all year.
Q. When you look at last year around this time, you all made a pretty good run in the postseason. Ran into Bucknell at the end there. When did you know this team this season could be different? When did you know this group of guys here could kind of reach this moment?
COACH LANGEL: I felt really good about the roster that we were going to return. We were able to recruit Rapolas as a transfer in the spring. There was some conversation that we didn't know which direction it would go as far as him gaining immediate eligibility.
Even without him I felt we could compete for a championship in our league. And when we did find out early in the season, that first game day, that he would be eligible after having him in practice and working with him, I thought we had a team of really legitimate size, not just for the Patriot League but for any league. And I liked our skill and I liked our pieces.
But you never know. You never know how a season is going to go, how that group is going to come together. Tucker Richardson is a freshman. We thought he'd really be good, but how he's able to handle himself with the other guys and handle the game and grow up as a player and within the team, you never know as a coach how those things are going to go.
But going back to last season I felt really good about the team we would have coming back.
Q. All three of your players said part of the joy for them growing up watching this tournament was the Cinderella or finding the Colgate that could shock the bracket or shock the world. You've been there as a player before. Is there any lesson you take from kind of being that team and what it's like when the crowd gets behind you that you share with them or try to help them out tomorrow?
COACH LANGEL: Amongst other things, I think it's what makes March Madness so special is that literally everybody stops what they're doing and turns on the TV or has it on the Internet to see who's doing well. And it can be a contagious thing.
So we certainly -- I wasn't able to be a part of a team that won as an underdog. We certainly fought hard and that's something that we've talked to our guys about, some of the things that we learned as student-athletes, the guys on our staff who were able to do that. But I do think that's something that's an exciting part of the year.
So when you're in their spot, they're dreaming about being one of those teams, and you certainly try and channel that energy to play the best you can.
Q. All three of them also said they did not fill out a bracket, but a lot of their friends had Colgate advancing. Did you or did you leave that to your son?
COACH LANGEL: Someone told me we're in the Southern region. I had no idea. Once our name was announced, it was -- I knew who we were playing; I knew the other teams that would be here. I couldn't even tell you all the teams that are still playing and who they're playing against or any of those things.
I'm sure my son, Luke, filled out his bracket and hopefully he has Colgate winning at least a game or two. But it's a fun time of the year for a lot of people. As a coach, you're just trying, again, to do the best you can to help your guys perform at their optimal level.
Q. You left no stone unturned in recruiting players to your program. Obviously the recruiting footprint is bigger in Knoxville than Hamilton, but in a lot of ways Tennessee is unheralded, under-recruited, three-star-or-below guys. Do you share any commonality with Coach Barnes in that aspect trying to sell players to your program?
COACH LANGEL: As I've studied this Tennessee team and talked to people across the country, if I could share any common traits with Coach Barnes as a basketball coach, I would be really proud.
I think that the coach that he is, the job that he's done, not just at Tennessee but everywhere he's been, is absolutely a footprint that I would like to follow in.
This group of Tennessee guys, they're a throw-back group. In today's day and age, with all the analytics and everybody's 3 and D, and, like, they just play really good basketball. They don't turn it over. I think they have the top two guys assist-to-turnover in the entire SEC on one team. Like that unheard of.
They're so good at getting into the paint. And again they have such a good record because they don't ever beat themselves hardly.
So the recruiting part of it, yeah, we've had to recruit a lot of guys who didn't have a lot of other opportunities, just like maybe Tennessee doesn't have a roster full of McDonald's All-Americans but yet is beating teams with them.
So in that way, I do think you're right that we have to find other ways to build our programs. And we're certainly really proud of that.
Q. You mentioned drawing on your experience. I'm curious when you think back to the starts of those games you played, what were you feeling like and was there anything that helped you settle in?
COACH LANGEL: Yeah, you're nervous; you're excited. There's a sense of energy. Again, our guys don't experience these things, press conferences with their names in front of them and this size of arena and all the things that go into the NCAA Tournament.
So you're balancing enjoying the moment with getting yourself ready to play the best you've ever played. Seeing the ball go through the hoop helped me immeasurably. I remember we played Florida in Key Arena in Seattle and we were able to make a couple shots early in the game. And I think there's nothing more that helps a team better than seeing the ball go through the hoop. Hopefully that can happen for us tomorrow afternoon.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports