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March 22, 2006
Q. Physically if you look at your front court you should be able to dominate West Virginia, but they do some things in their zone to kind of neutralize that. Speak to that whole matchup, your front court matching up to their zone?
COACH RICK BARNES: When you run the 1-3-1 that they do, obviously going to space you out, going to make you move out and space the floor. They do so much with their zone. They adjust it, they -- sometimes they will be a little bit more aggressive. They will get to you, pick up your dribble, back off, and so they are to do a lot of the different things there, but then on the other end, you got to guard them.
That's where they too will spread you out and they are going to make post players play perimeter defense. I think they are a more athletic team than I think people give them credit for. I think that they obviously understand what they are looking for. You look at their players in terms of really understanding their roles, each individual roles, how they play off each other, but they cause you problems because the 1-3-1, that's what they normally like to go to on made baskets to try to space you out, get you to play further from the basket and hoping you don't handle or get standing really.
So you have got to move the ball. You have got to make sure that players are relocating constantly, that helps so you are not always throwing through the defense. So yeah, they neutralize what they probably would lack in terms of like of their physical height or something. But more athletic than anything.
Q. Most people say that Paulino is the unsung hero on the team. Agree with that, what has he brought to the table?
COACH RICK BARNES: He has been the guy that probably everybody is talking about. He's just kind of glued it all together. He does his job. He can do a lot of different things. He's very quiet the way he goes about his business. But we need him to play well. We do. I go back to he's made a lot of big shots for us this year when a lot of attention has been given to a lot and lot of other guys. People will be surprised how many big shots he's made for us when we needed them.
Q. How far has your team come from the team that turned it over 24 times and just speak to that growth?
COACH RICK BARNES: Well, you go back, this year's team, if you look at our top 6 players or 7 players, if you want to look at the top 7, we have got Daniel Gibson, sophomore, you've got Kenton who's a senior. You've got Brad Buckman, who's a senior. P.J. Tucker who's a junior but missed his sophomore year basically, you got LaMarcus Aldridge who missed his -- basically his freshman year who is a sophomore. Mike Williams, sophomore. A.J. Abrams is freshman.
I would think people expected from this team and where we're right now that this team has done a good job growing. I think that you go back to the West Virginia game at that point in time, we threw the ball all over Kansas City, and they capitalized on that end where we were able to even it out a little bit in that game were even able to get back on the offensive boards and score from there.
But we have -- early in the year we did struggle turning the ball over. We have been better as the year has gone on. That's going to be a big key for us now. We have got to make sure that we get shots because if we turn it over 24 times here now we won't have a chance.
Q. Considering the way West Virginia plays offensively and defensively footballwise, it is like a team having to get ready for a wishbone team because they are so odd. The fact that you played them earlier this year, does that help a little bit that the players actually have been up both offensively and defensively?
COACH RICK BARNES: I don't know if I will call it a wishbone more than I would call it that fun and gun because they spread you out, they're going to shoot 25 threes. They average -- they make more threes than any team in the country. It's almost like playing against a no-huddle offense. They are going to come down the floor and they quickly -- they do a great job of flowing right into their offense. They do a great job of creating offense with their defense. Out front if you don't handle the ball well, those turnovers, those deflections usually result in easy baskets on the other end.
So you have ball handling is you have got to handle it. You have got to handle the ball otherwise they will make you pay on the other end. But they are so -- they are so good at reads off their defense they do a great job of spreading you, getting into their two-man games where even if you defend it well they can still make shots. The fact is you know going in they are probably going to shoot 25 threes, they are capable of making well over half of them.
Q. Even though the Big 12 hasn't won a National Championship in basketball yet and your team is still alive in the Sweet 16, is there any trend or pattern there where would you say kind of the league is right now?
COACH RICK BARNES: I think the league is a young league. We knew that going in based on what we lost a year ago. I have always said that I think the leagues cycle, I have always felt that. That's why I don't know if you can ever -- I guess over time numbers might say one league is better than the other, but I think year in, year out, leagues just cycle.
I think a lot of it has to do with some leagues lose players early. Some leagues have players that stay around a long time, senior teams are always extremely effective. But I think we went through a cycle right now. But I also know that next year we have got a lot of guys coming back in our league that had great success this year, so our league will definitely be better. I will be disappointed a year from now that our league is not one of those leagues that put six teams back into this tournament. Because in my eight years there I think six of those eight, I think we have had at least six teams in, the last two years I think we went five and four, I think.
Q. I am hearing some frustration from coaches and players over late-night drug test after those 10 o'clock games, also some people who would like maybe time on the floor before the game, that type of thing. Anything about the NCAA tournament operationally that you think they thought to take a look at?
COACH RICK BARNES: Well, I think anything that you do that's of this magnitude there's always ways you are going to try to improve it. I think the NCAA has tried to do that every year. I do -- I am a believer in the pod system. I think that there were many times that we would go into the NCAA tournament, be at sites in the first round game, nobody's there. That's not what it's about. Because when everybody thinks of this event they think of the excitement that goes with it and players were disappointed.
I remember one year going into New Orleans playing an early game there, I think it was against Temple. I think that might have been my first year. There was hardly anybody there, the bands were there, but so I think the pod system has been good. I think it's tough when like we played Sunday then we turned around played West Virginia, was in the same position where I think they had to leave Auburn Hills and get back home, they had to fly. We busted back, and long trip for us because of the rain. And I think if you had your druthers you'd prefer to stay Friday, Sunday if you could, but again if it meant giving up the pod system I'd say no.
The drug testing, I think what is hard about that's just dehydration, that's the hardest part. I understand that. I think we all understand that, and but the hardest part afterwards what they really should do probably is do it prior to the game, everybody is a little jumpy. They ain't going to the bathroom. They'd get all the urine samples they needed. But that's the hardest part, guys having a hard time using the bathroom at that point in time.
But again I think this thing has grown so big, and it's the best sporting event because it affects every state in the country. But I am sure one thing about the NCAA, the practice time too, some coaches would tell you that they probably want less time because most of us go work out a bit earlier because we get on a schedule this time of year.
Like today we'll go out and shoot. We did a little bit earlier, not very much. You know, one thing if you had more time out here, you are probably go somewhere, if you do walk-throughs like we do, I don't think I would be comfortable walking through what we're getting ready to do tomorrow, not that West Virginia -- they know us as well as anybody. You want some quiet. So again, sometimes -- I like it right now the time myself because I don't want to stand around there for an hour. I don't think -- our guys don't need to be out there for an hour.
Q. If you can get into LaMarcus's skill a little bit and for a center, is that a rarity nowadays because you don't see the total package for a center it seems?
COACH RICK BARNES: I am not one that puts guys centers, forwards, I mean, I am in the -- trying to get guys to do -- let them get where they are effective.
And I have said it before, he's just getting started. Now he has got a lot of different things he can do that he hasn't done yet because I don't think he's quite comfortable enough putting it into a game situation. We know he -- you know, physically people have always tried to get physical with him, push him away from the basket.
He can shoot the ball. He's very good shooter. He has got a hook a lot of different things, really he hasn't shown yet. That's just a matter of time and maturity that he can do it. But the best part about him, I have said this before, is I am not sure I have ever been around a player that wants to be coached any more than LaMarcus Aldridge. And defensively he's going to have a very tough matchup tomorrow, but he will compete, and he does try to do that night in, night out.
Obviously people will talk about him not being as aggressive as he should all the time, but some of that has to do with his youth. Again, what he's done this year coming back from last year I think he had a pretty darn good year.
Q. You talked about their ability to hit the threes and are you saying basically that you are going to kind of give them that part of the game then concentrate on other things neutralize other things to --
COACH RICK BARNES: I didn't say that. No, no. We're not going to give them anything if we can help it, because again when we watched the tape earlier in the year, not only did they shoot some threes but they cut us up pretty good to coming off the high post area and getting the ball there. They back cut us, they drove us. They do a great job of attacking closeouts on defense where they drive the ball on you.
So we're not -- I don't want to give them anything, but there's -- we're going to have to be conscious of a lot of things and one of it is the fact that, again, if you give them 3 pointers they can make a bunch of them. They can make them even if you are guarding them. We have just got to be real solid defensively of the got to help each other. Can't get so stretched out. We're worrying about our own man and we're not playing team defense.
Q. Talk about memories from two years ago that team that you had, how heartbreaking that was?
COACH RICK BARNES: I was gonna tell the guy, we are going to give them threes. You can write that if you want. The game here two years ago? Well, we go back I think we were disappointed in that game obviously, what I can remember about it was we were more of an inside team and we lost to Xavier, they were really more after perimeter-oriented team. I just remember that we were trying to go at them inside pretty hard and for whatever reason, we didn't -- we weren't successful with whatever, I don't really remember. I guess you will ask me why I got thrown out game is that what you want to get to.
COACH RICK BARNES: Memory was I got thrown out of the game.
Q. Is that what you remember most?
COACH RICK BARNES: I remember getting beat and getting thrown out of the game. I railroad my conversation with the official. But --
Q. Share that?
COACH RICK BARNES: In terms of the game itself, again, it was close to the very end but they beat us and just what happened at the end you hate to see that happen, but it happened and it was dealt with, I think in the right way by the NCAA, and but I haven't thought much about that since then.
Q. You have a freshman Abrams who apparently against West Virginia first time scored two points. Talk about Kevin Beilein said he's made your team different over the course of the year and he's a different player now. Talk about him.
COACH RICK BARNES: He's different player. He's improved every area of his game. He's grown. He's always -- back then, if you asked him that day, he'd probably told you he was the best player. He probably blamed me for only scoring two points. He's a confident player. He's a player that quickly earned the respect of his teammates. But the fact that he was going to compete, he obviously can shoot the basketball. We have all seen that all year.
Where he's made his biggest gains has probably been -- he's definitely gotten better defensively, got a ways to go, but has gotten better. He has got much better understanding I think of playing the point. When he was a high school player he had to score a lot, and coming in that's where he had to adjust a little bit because he was thinking shoot first as opposed to setting his teammates up.
He's a really nice passer. He will have to be ready tomorrow. I am sure they will look to put pressure on him in a different way. Teams have always -- try to come after him this year, the way he handles the ball will be very important part to us because we're going to need him out there tomorrow.
Q. P.J., West Virginia has a unique offensive and defensive style. The fact that you guys have already played them this year, does that help you a little bit as far as preparation?
P.J. TUCKER: Yeah, I think it helps both teams. We get a look at the game we played. Get to see some of the tendencies of both teams. I think we have come a long way since that game. It's going to be exciting game to watch and be a part of.
Q. When you guys look at their rebounding numbers, do you just lick your chops and what how are they able to force you guys into 24 turnovers in that first game? -
P.J. TUCKER: Like I said it was early in the season. A lot of turnovers. We were just giving the ball away, not being strong with the ball, little 1-3-1 they run is tough sometimes if you don't take care of the ball.
We definitely capitalized on the boards, I think like we always do try to do every game. They definitely helped us win that game and we will definitely look at that coming into this game try to do that.
DANIEL GIBSON: Definitely it was a game at the beginning of the year, and like you said the defense is different from other defenses that's we have faced before, so now I think coming around the second time I think we'll be more prepared for it and ready to handle it and take care of the ball a little more and yeah, definitely we feel like we have like one of the top front courts in the country so we definitely think rebounding will be key tomorrow.
LAMARCUS ALDRIDGE: Yeah, like these two guys just said, it was earlier in the year but Coach also said that everybody is putting a big emphasis on how we did it on the boards. He said we have to try to -- we wanted to look at them, try to do something to counter them on the boards. We have to see what they do and just try to do what we do.
Q. Do you remember if most of your 3's that game were from the corners and also what specifically were you guys doing wrong against forced the turnovers?
DANIEL GIBSON: Really I think I got a couple of 3s from the corner, but they were pretty spread out, I think. But yeah, definitely we just have to be a lot stronger with the basketball and make a lot of pass faking and be strong with your passes. That's basically it, just understanding the value of the ball is real important in this game, just you need to take care of it.
Q. Talk about the heartbreak being here two years ago and losing and what it's like coming back here?
P.J. TUCKER: Yeah, I was here. You come in confidence, Sweet 16, got big goals for yourself and your team to get far, so just to be back here we're happy but we're not satisfied. We definitely want to take it further and like you said we set a lot of goals for ourself the beginning of the year and now we got big time opportunity to try to make it happen.
So we're excited about being back in Atlanta and excited about making it happen.
Q. What do you think your defense is a little bit underrated, people don't talk enough about Texas's defense what is the key to playing defense for you guys in general and maybe in this game?
LAMARCUS ALDRIDGE: Yeah, I think -- I mean I don't think people look at our defense, I think the things that we can do -- because I think we went into the last game focusing on that they was a great three-point shooting team and who was going to try to run them off the line and make them do different things.
I think our defense is underrated. Going into this game we're trying to be there on the catch when everyone catches it and just help everybody out when things start to break down.
P.J. TUCKER: I guess just consistency, just being able to go out every single night and play hard, you know, are the biggest things. When it comes to playing our defense, communicating. Those are the biggest things that we try to do as a team, try to play hard, go out there and lay it on the line every single night.
Q. Are you surprised that the Big 12 has only one team still left in the tournament and do you guys think the Big East is the dominant conference in basketball right now?
DANIEL GIBSON: I think it's definitely a surprise that Big 12 only has one team standing because it was a really tough year this year. Every game was a tough game, so you definitely would expect the other teams in your conference to still be standing. But I also agree that the Big East is a powerful conference right now. They have a lot of great teams.
P.J. TUCKER: Big 12 you look at all the teams that are in the Big 12, Kansas, OU, either one of those teams made pretty good runs to at least get here to the Sweet 16, even further. It was kind of surprising to see both of those teams go out in the first round. But the Big East is -- they have been a real good conference this year. They got like five, six teams in the tournament, and you know, you got to look for a lot of those teams to get pretty far too. It was just a real good year for the Big East, I think.
Q. After this week's practice do you guys feel like something clicked last weekend that will carryover to this weekend that maybe wasn't happening late in the season?
LAMARCUS ALDRIDGE: Well, I think we have been trying to go at it every year I think we had ups and downs I think you have to go through it just to learn, just to learn what you are trying to be around this time.
So I think the last game showed that we're learning from all those games that we had earlier in the year, just putting it all together. I think we should be able to come out strong tomorrow night.
P.J. TUCKER: I think all year we worked to get to this point. I don't think you can expect us to play like we played against N.C. State earlier in the year like in the Guardian's Classic because it just doesn't happen like that. Each game you go in you try to get better, try to work hard to see where your team is and where you need to be at the end of the year.
I think we're just coming down to the wire now, we're going to play our best basketball, play our hardest basketball and hopefully that will turn into a good run for us here at the tournament.
Q. If you look at the matchup physically, your front court should be a complete mismatch with West Virginia's but they are able to neutralize that by the one way they play their 1-3-1, talk about facing a zone and the problems it presents and how you guys will fair against it?
LAMARCUS ALDRIDGE: Yeah, that zone, we had some problems with the zone last time, I think like Daniel said we didn't past fake, didn't take care of the ball as we should have. I think that 1-3-1 it covers. I am 6-11, theirs is 6-9. It kind of cancels us out for us being dominant down low. We have got to do everything.
DANIEL GIBSON: Definitely, I think the way that they played their zone is a lot different from things that we faced, but I think in practice we have added a few things that I think that we can counter and we can get our big guys more involved. So I think that, yeah, definitely we have improved there a lot of areas as far as handling that zone.
Q. Back in November when y'all played them, can you sort of retell how that whole last block came about, where you were on the floor, did you see Gansey out the corner of your eye, were you right there, go into that block that won the game?
LAMARCUS ALDRIDGE: They called a timeout. Coach just told us we was going to try to keep our man in front of us, just let them break up, don't let them break back. He also told me that I was going to be on the back line. He said if anybody gets behind me, just try to make a play on it. So I was on the right side at half court and I was guarding my man. I saw Gansey out of the corner of my eye. He was on the left side of half court and I just made a run for it and I got the block and that's how it happened.
Q. Talk about LaMarcus and the way he has grown and developed this year to become a dominant offensive player, defensive player, rebounder for your team?
DANIEL GIBSON: Yeah, LaMarcus, as a group and as team, we kind of expected it because of the way that he puts in the work and the time in the gym and trying to get better. So when he came in, I kind of knew that he was going to explode, but you really never know until you see it. He came out and just -- he's just been dominant for us in a consistent fact that every night. And it's just been great to be a part be on the team with him.
P.J. TUCKER: Yeah, he just works hard, man, when a guy like LaMarcus with a lot of potential that can do a lot of different things, when you work hard, you put the hard work to that, there's no stopping. Him working hard and him not being satisfied with where he is and trying to get better, you just expect that kind of thing to happen for a guy like him.
Q. Mr. Tucker, how does your coach handle not yet having the trophy that so many other coaches at University of Texas have right now, the National Championship trophy? Anybody kid him about it? Do you Josh him about it? Any envy?
P.J. TUCKER: No. Everybody wants to win it. But he doesn't really -- I don't think he puts extra pressure on himself or on us to feel like just because he ain't got one that we got to do something.
We want our coach to definitely have a trophy and be up there with those coaches and be mentioned with those guys. But we're just going to work hard and try to get one for him. I think all of us want to win it for him more than we want to win it for ourselves. We'll try and do that for him.
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