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March 8, 2006

Ravi Moss

Dean Smith

Patrick Sparks

Brandon Stockton


COACH SMITH: We're excited to be back in Nashville. It's been a good place for us over the years. We're coming in in a situation where we're the third seeded team and playing this first day is going to be a challenge for us. We know Ole Miss is coming off a good performance so we need to be focused and ready to play. But we're excited to be here.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for the three student athletes.
Q. How weird is it getting ready to play on Thursday where Kentucky didn't have to do that before?
BRANDON STOCKTON: It's kind of weird being that with my four years here we always played on Friday. It's just an extra game and we're going to go out and prepare today for a Thursday game and take it game by game.
Q. How are you approaching the tournament since you guys didn't win the regular season title?
RAVI MOSS: One of our goals at the beginning of the season was to win the regular season title we didn't do. That -- another goal was try to try to win the SEC Tournament. We have a chance to do that. Starting tomorrow we're going to come out and try to take it game by game and work towards our goal.
Q. Two questions, first question you are playing in the first round so my first question is what do you guys usually do with that extra day? Secondly, do you feel like this is your last time to let Kentucky be Kentucky because Kentucky is supposed to do well in the tournament?
RAVI MOSS: Can you say that again?
Q. What do you do with the first day off? Secondly do you feel this is the last time that you are going to let Kentucky be Kentucky because Kentucky is supposed to do well in the tournament?
RAVI MOSS: We usually practice so it's one less day of practice that we get, so it's nothing really big there. Secondly, yeah, we're trying to showcase our talent and beat Kentucky and play Kentucky basketball. So that's what we're going to try and do tomorrow.
BRANDON STOCKTON: I feel the same way as Ravi. We got that less day, but we're going to prepare the same way as we would for any team and just come out and play Kentucky basketball.
Q. Pat, just as far as the NCAA tournament is concerned, how well do you feel that you guys have to do in this tournament?
PATRICK SPARKS: Say that again, like how many games we have to win?
Q. How many games you have to which or how do you feel you have to do to get a better seed or even to get into the NCAA tournament and is that in your thought process?
PATRICK SPARKS: Not really. I just think we take it game by game and four games, four days that's what we're trying to do.
Q. None of you seem to be happy to be here today. Is it something that Coach Smith did to you or bad questions to start out with?
RAVI MOSS: We're focused, we're trying to put our game face on.
BRANDON STOCKTON: It's not that we're not happy to be here. We're very happy to be here, but we know what we have to do. We're just getting ready for tomorrow's game and practice.
Q. Brandon, you mentioned about coming out and playing Kentucky basketball tomorrow. What does that mean to you if you guys play Kentucky basketball?
BRANDON STOCKTON: I think if we come out and do the little things, rebound the ball and play good defense and just get up and down the court and play the way we're accustomed to playing then we're going to come out and do a lot of great things.
Q. I know that Kentucky is a place where the expectation is always high. Has this year been -- has the outside scrutiny been a little tougher this year for you guys?
BRANDON STOCKTON: It's been a little up and down, but as seniors we have been through it before, so we just try to take it day by day and deal with it and try to make the best of it.
RAVI MOSS: I feel the same way. We haven't won as many games this year as we usually do and it's tough because it's -- we have a big fan base and everything like that, so they want to see us win. So when you are not winning as much as you are accustomed to they are going to get a little upset. We're trying to play it game by game. I think we have been playing a lot better. Hopefully we can continue to play well and showcase our talent this week.
THE MODERATOR: We'll excuse our student athletes. Questions for Coach Smith.
Q. Talk about your feelings about Rod Barnes, he coaches your son and what you expect from Ole Miss tomorrow, knowing his situation they will give a great effort?
COACH SMITH: Well, your heart goes out for him. My heart does, especially for him or any coach, but especially because we have been good friends for a long time. I think he's done -- I thought he did a great job there, obviously this year they haven't played up to their -- to what their expectations are, just like us. We haven't played up to expectations, not just to fans or media, but to our own expectations.
But it's tough to play against family and sons and good friends any time you go out to compete and I know they all -- I know Ole Miss players, they care about Coach Barnes and their program, they want to play well. They know it is the last time they will be together, with him, not necessarily the last time as far as that particular game is concerned. But the last time as far as being coached and being in a tournament, so they have -- I would imagine that they would play hard. They have always played hard. They have played a lot of close games this year. They are coming off a very excellent -- a great effort against LSU so I know we better be ready to play or we're going to have a real -- a lot of problems.
Q. Dwayne Curtis didn't play the last time you all were there because of very bad circumstances. How big of a difference does he make? What do you have to do to prepare for him?
COACH SMITH: Well, Dwayne is a real talented player. He's one of the top players in this league. When you are one of the top rebounders and one of the leading scorers in this league you are solid, and he's a clutch go-to guy. He's a real presence and a real force inside, things have given us problems. At 290, 280, he's a guy that can score in many ways, that can control the paint, control the post area, both at the offensive and defensive ends.
We have got to do a better job. We didn't -- we weren't very successful against Florida in defending the post and he's as talented as any of the those post players they had. So that means that we have got to try to do our best to pressure the ball and make -- help our interior people, Randolph or Lukasc or whoever is guarding him at this particular time because one man can't stop him from getting the ball in the post. We have got to make him play both ends of the court.
And he is -- had he been at the game at our players certainly we wouldn't -- the score wouldn't have been the way it was. He's that much of an impact player for them. I know the effort that he will give having not played at Kentucky and that he will give a tremendous effort.
Q. Couple of players were alluding to, with massive interest in Kentucky basketball, when you don't win 30 games fans tends to get upset, how hard is it to keep that from having an impact on your players and their focus as you go along?
COACH SMITH: Well, I tell our guys all the time, you are never as bad as you think you are, you are never as good as you think you are, so you are somewhere in between there usually. You are not as bad as people think you are either or as good as they think you are. That's usually the case. So having not played to our potential or to our level of expectations and having some of the distractions that we have had this year that we haven't had in the past, that created, I think, some issues that can cause teams, if -- to affect your psyche or affect a lot of things I think -- we lost some games that one or two mistakes, late game situations, time and score when we didn't handle properly, it cost us games. So those things will -- they are cumulative. Now you start thinking about them.
But the fans, we have got great fans. That's why we're -- that's why Kentucky is such a special place because we know we have an unbelievable following and the interest level is always there and certainly we want to perform well and give our best effort. I think we have done that for the most part. There have been some games that we have stunk it up, but pretty much we have competed all year long.
Q. Do you go into this tournament feeling like you have something to -- the team has something to prove whether it's to yourself or to the selection committee or to the media or fans or anything such as that?
COACH SMITH: Oh, yes. We need to necessarily know that we can play better than we have been playing. But we have played pretty well over the last six games, I think we have played - other than the second half against Florida the other day - we played pretty solid basketball, probably some of the best basketball we played all year long. So having said that, I don't know whether it was the emotion of senior day or whatever, or just Florida was that much better than we were that particular half, which is a combination of both, I think. But yes, we have got to come out and -- everybody is watching this time of the year. It's another opportunity for us to reach for one of the goals that we have set at the beginning of the year, knowing that we didn't achieve our first goal, of winning the SEC regular season title, even tied for it or being second. So we have had a lot of missed cues and there's reason for us to be playing with some urgency and with a sense of pride that we need to play better.
Q. What did you feel like was the potential of this team going into the season and as far as not reaching that potential yet, how close or how far away do you feel like you are?
COACH SMITH: You never know. Everything comes together and it's like anything else, you try to figure out each day, each practice, are you getting better, that's why we had to go back to the evaluation period there to just try to correct some things that we weren't doing well.
But at the beginning of the year, the sky is the limit for every team all 300 and plus teams and everybody is thinking they are going to win the Championship. I don't think anybody starts the beginning of the year expecting to lose or be the best that they can be. We're one of those 300 teams of coaches and players around the country that want to be playing at the end of the year in post-season play and competing for Championships. So that's a given. So it's not like that's something that we just going to do next year or not do this year; it's something we do every year. Having said that, we have a list of things we try to achieve and when you don't, you have to figure out why and much of it has been well documented as far as, see statistically that we're not doing some things that we should be doing well, like rebounding the ball or getting to the free-throw line or defending like we should, so those are the things that, you know, that you have to do on the court, you know, the toughness areas that, I think, we're still -- so those are the areas that we have to do better now. Because there's no -- there's not another opportunity. You have to do it now.
Q. You have lost some ball games during the course of this year. Has had that had a psyche effect on the ball club do you think?
COACH SMITH: Losing -- yeah, it has an effect on everybody. When you lose 11 games, I am not happy, they are not happy. Nobody is pleased with -- especially when you feel like you can be better, you know, being just -- knowing that we have the type of talent that we have, we just didn't do it. I am not making excuses but I don't think our psyche has been affected by, you know -- although I have to say losing games at home does sort of create problems for us and then it did raise its ugly head against Florida in the second half. We haven't lost many games at home over the years. This group, this senior group haven't lost many games at all, so I know they understand what it takes to win just getting everybody else on the same Page.
Q. Do you expect Bradley to be back tomorrow and can you just talk about him for a little if he's coming back?
COACH SMITH: Ramel is coming back. He should help us. His wearing a bandage on his left hands, the bone he broke in his hand is mended, so -- but he's wearing protection and he looked good in practice yesterday. He will be a big help. He's a guy -- those are some of things that happened to us throughout the year, more injuries than we ever suffered and more, you know, losing, missing the big kid for 14 games, Randolph, those things all have a play. But he should add some depth to our back court, some scoring some athleticism. Because he's a 6' 3" guard that can do some things.
Q. Going back to potential and the talent, did you go into this season feeling like this team did have the talent --
COACH SMITH: Be honest with you, I don't want to discuss anything about the past. Talk about what we're going to do now. I am serious, because I think what we have to do is improving the things I said we need to improve on which is the things that we need to do all during the rebound, defend better, you know what I mean, past is the past. Expectations always great -- as I said before I tried to explain that from the beginning. So what were you leading up to?
Q. Wondering how close or far you feel like you are from that.
COACH SMITH: I say we played better the last six games but we -- the second half against Florida was a major setback as far as where we -- how much we had improved just from over those six games, so we have got to find that that again and hopefully we can find it by tomorrow afternoon. Thank you.

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