March 16, 2023
Columbus, Ohio, USA
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Florida Atlantic.
Q. Alijah, this is now -- everything we've talked about and everything that you've accomplished has now sort of come to this. What's the feeling like now that you're here in Columbus and it's just a day away?
ALIJAH MARTIN: Honestly, just soaking in the moment. Also staying with tunnel vision, trying to get the job done.
Q. Vlad, you sort of face a tough matchup tomorrow with the Memphis big man, who is sort of athletic and can stretch out and hit the 3 ball. How do you prepare for a matchup like that against a player like that? And is there anyone that you can sort of compare his game to to who you played so far this season?
VLADISLAV GOLDIN: I feel like we've been playing the same type of people over and over again. So we have a scout report. We're just trying to execute it as much as we can. I don't think it's going to be anything specific or anything like we didn't face before. Everything's the same.
Q. Nick, you have a tough matchup in the back court as well with a guy like Kendric Davis and the way they play, the aggressive nature that they play. How important is it for you guys to keep the ball on offense and not turn the ball over and sort of let them get into their sort of game?
NICK BOYD: It's the biggest key to the game. We focus on that a lot in practice. But we've got a tough Memphis team that's going to try to get under us and be physical. We're just going to keep our composure, do the best we can.
Q. FAU has sort of -- the city of Boca Raton, the FAU students have supported you throughout this journey. Yesterday when you guys were leaving there was a huge crowd for you guys at the stadium. Do you sort of feel like this is Boca Raton's team and you guys will go as far as the fans sort of push you guys?
JOHNELL DAVIS: Yeah, I think so.
Q. Nick, I wanted to ask you about how much has been made about this team sort of coming out of nowhere, 31 wins this season, and now you're on this stage. Big moment for the basketball program. But what can this do for FAU as an institution, a school as a whole? How important is this?
NICK BOYD: It's important. Everybody watches, supports, shows love, take our university to the next level and really transpire things.
Q. Alijah, you've got it with Nelly, Gary, Indiana; Nick, New York; you, Mississippi; Vlad, Russia -- and you guys have come together. A lot has been made of the selflessness and sacrifice. How does this melting pot of players from all areas come to a 31-win season?
ALIJAH MARTIN: It starts with the coaches. They bring us together and tell us, they, like, help us stay together. And just we use basketball to just rely on that -- but we've just got a brotherhood over here. We go by serve and compete. We do it on the court and off as well.
Q. All year you've been great at the frame-by-frame mindset going not only just one game at a time but even like one possession at a time, not looking ahead. And I'm sure you guys are obviously locked in on Memphis, the game tomorrow night. But for right now, being on this stage, as this was a goal that you guys set preseason, probably even last spring, last summer. What is this feeling like right now to be on this stage, having achieved one of your goals? I know there's more work to do, but how is this all feeling right now?
ALIJAH MARTIN: It feels amazing. We think about all the work we put in to get here. Once we get here, we're just soaking in the moment, and being locked in not letting the outside get to us.
NICK BOYD: To piggyback off that, it's a great accomplishment, but we're locked in, focused and ready to go. We know we'll have a tough Memphis team, but we'll do whatever we can to not go home.
Q. How do you balance that at the same time while being on this stage but still focusing in on the game, on the matchups, the game plans, things like that? How do you pull both of those things at the same time?
VLADISLAV GOLDIN: We play on the court and the court is always the same. We practice on the same court. We play in the same court. Everything change outside the court. But everything is the same on the court.
So I don't think we need to like do something extra or we need to change anything. We do it since we were little.
Q. It's been 21 years since FAU has been at this point in the season. And qualifying for the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2002. How do you guys feel being the successors to that 2002 squad right now?
NICK BOYD: We have a great deal of respect for them. They set the standard and we try to chase that. And to do it, it feels good. But we're not done yet.
Q. When you guys looked over the tape of this team, you know that they're conference champs like you guys are, tournament champs. What stood out most to you about the team that you're going to face tomorrow in the first round of the tournament?
ALIJAH MARTIN: How fundamentally sound they are, how well-coached and disciplined they are, but also we know what they want to do. We keep that in our conscience when we practice every day.
NICK BOYD: They're a great team, good run in the tournament. They play well together. They've got two guys that do a lot of good work, and it's going to be a tough matchup for us.
COACH MAY: We're excited for a great matchup against a storied program like the Memphis Tigers. Our guys, we prepared all year for this moment and we're excited for the opportunity.
Q. When you started this year, did you see 31 wins from this team?
COACH MAY: No. But we knew we had a capable group last season. I think we were 8-8 in January, December/January. And we really finished strong and found ways to lose last year, found a lot of different ways to lose.
We felt we were much better than our record last year and we brought back eight or top nine producers. And we added Nick Boyd, who was valuable as a freshman on our rotation. We thought we had a chance to make a run at Conference USA, but 31 wins, no, we never envisioned this.
Q. You mentioned that continuity and that experience. You returned so much. How much does that help when we get into March, particularly in environments like this?
COACH MAY: It helps that this group is really, really together. And they work. They support. They bring out the best in each other. We knew we had the intangible qualities to have a special team. Then you have to make the shots and not turn the ball over and defend at a high level and do it for an extended amount of time several, several months. So we were very, very confident with intangibles of this group.
Q. Nick Boyd has been sort of that spark plug for you guys this entire season, whether it's defensively or coming up with big shots. How important is someone like that against a team like Memphis with their ability to go on runs and try and put the game away sort of quickly?
COACH MAY: Well, Nick, throughout the season, he's had several nights where he's been our best player that particular night. We have a very unselfish group. But the next night he might play 15 minutes.
But what Nick has brought more than anything else is an infectious energy and leadership on the floor. When you watch him, he can bring guys together. He brings out the best of the group. And he's done it every single day. And then his work ethic and work capacity also is contagious.
We really missed him last year. And just having him back has brought so many things to our team that don't show up in the stat sheet even though his stats are pretty good.
Q. Your influence, working with Coach Knight all those years ago, what of that has stuck with you all these years later and maybe translated into your team this season?
COACH MAY: There's so many lessons. And as an assistant, I don't think that I knew what I learned until you step over and you slide into this seat.
But the discipline, the preparation and the value of trying to become a great teacher, I think, is probably the one thing that's underrated as you get older.
You don't think about it as much that just becoming and improving as a teacher yourself can help all of your players immensely and incrementally.
So I could go on and on what I learned from working for Coach Knight, but those are the things that really jump out.
Q. What would Coach Knight think about 44% of your field goal attempts being from beyond the arc?
COACH MAY: One of my fondest memories of the Hoosiers growing up was '87, when they knocked out UNLV, and one of my favorite teams to watch ever was UNLV in the NCAA Tournament. I think they did it with Steve Alford probably banged in seven 3s, and it seemed like everyone was raining 3s. So that's my memory of the Hoosiers growing up.
Q. The Burrow, as small as it is, it's been sold out for most home games, and you guys have had a ton of support from people in Boca as well. What does that support mean for you as a program and university to see so many people rally behind a basketball program in South Florida?
COACH MAY: I think anytime you do good work it feels great to be appreciated. I think our guys do feel appreciated. And I've said all season, it's not just the wins and losses; it's the way our guys play the game, the way they interact with each other.
These are great human beings who happen to be really good basketball players. They're a lot easier to root for. They're very easy to root for, I should say.
Q. Considering the team goes on a deep run in the tournament, how important will managing the energy levels of the players be to make sure that fatigue doesn't set in early on?
COACH MAY: Well, we just played three games in three days and Memphis did the same thing. And when you're in this environment, energy level's probably not one of our major concerns. The Memphis players and the way they play the game is a much greater concern for us.
But without a doubt our guys are going to be ready to play. I would be more concerned with jitters and things like that than anything. But I anticipate the jitters will be gone about one minute into the game and our guys will settle in and play basketball.
Q. I know we talked about it on Tuesday, but the pace that Memphis plays at and their ability to create turnovers, I think a lot of it comes off them double-teaming and them sort of getting aggressive meeting. Now that you've had a little bit more time to digest it and sort of practice against it, what makes that sort of defense so unique and how do you sort of go about getting buckets where you can?
COACH MAY: Their effort is extremely impressive. And their ability to help each other and cover for each other, if one guy goes to trap, it's not like he's on an island and it's unscripted. They know exactly how to react off of that trap or off of that double team. And they do a great job of working with each other and covering for each other.
They present a number of challenges, but the effort is incredible, especially when you factor in the length, size, athleticism. I think DeAndre Williams runs the floor in transition as fast as any player in recent memory in recent memory. They present a lot of challenges. We just have to find a way to limit easy baskets and play our game.
Q. There's been so much talk about how small you guys are in the back court. I think you guys have one rotation player over 6-4. How do you sort of combat that all season and now when you get into March? Is it just you guys knowing how to play with it?
COACH MAY: Absolutely, heart over height is something you'll hear in our locker room a lot from the staff and the players. There's a want-to and a tenacity that our guys play with every single day.
And we have been hurt a few games on the glass this year where the ball took some bad bounces and we weren't quite as quick to it, but we have a quick and fast group.
So not all rebounds land in the same spot. So the half court is big. When the shot goes up with our speed and athleticism we're able to, I guess, overcome our lack of height by just being quicker to the ball and also really wanting the ball in a bad way.
Q. You have so many guys that shoot 3s. I guess seven with a lot of attempts. Did you recruit to play that scheme, or did you get these guys and go, oh, look what I found?
COACH MAY: From day one, we wanted to get the best players we could possibly get and figure it out. We felt that was kind of our job, when we're in a rebuild that we've been in.
As we've progressed into being a little more selective, having an identity, we've recruited good shooters who we felt played really, really hard and could defend and had other intangibles.
We haven't recruited any guys that we said this is a great shooter, we need to go get him, or we're going to recruit shooting. We tried to recruit a bunch of good shooters and tried to help them become really good shooters.
Q. With this matchup against Memphis pretty much being a prelude to what FAU will face heading into the American next year, how beneficial is this game going to be for FAU before they head into the American?
COACH MAY: Well, we know what type of program Memphis is without seeing it firsthand. This game is more about now. But after the fact we'll really have a gauge of how fast, long, active, athletic they all are, as we prepare for recruiting classes and development and things like that.
But we're not really thinking about the AAC next year. We're trying to think of finding a way to keep playing and be back here on Sunday.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports