|Browse by Sport
|Find us on
March 25, 2006
JIM LARRANAGA: First of all, we're very excited about being in the Elite 8. We're very excited about representing George Mason University. And this team is very representative of the university. George Mason University is the largest State University in the State of Virginia, it's also No. 1 in the country in diversity. I think one of the things about our team this year is we have a lot of players who are very diverse. They bring a lot of skills to the table, they play many different positions. Folarin Campbell has played the 1, 2, 3 and 4 this year, Norwood has played the 1, 2, 3 and 4, Butler has played the 1 and 2 and 3. Lewis has played the 1, 4 and 5, and Will Thomas has played the 4 and 5. That versatility has allowed us to matchup well with a lot of different players, a lot of different teams and play in a lot of different styles.
The success that we have enjoyed is because these guys have been able to pool their skills together and develop into a great basketball team as far as I'm concerned and one that I've really, really enjoyed working with throughout the year.
Q. I'd like to ask all of the players if you could, when you selected George Mason, the other schools that were on your lists of final lists.
LAMAR BUTLER: My final three were GW, Xavier and George Mason. I was scheduled to take a visit to Xavier before I came to Mason before my official visit and Coach Courtney told me something happened, Skip Prosser ended up leaving right before I flew up for a visit. Coach Courtney told me before my visit, if you go there, that's where you'll go because the campus is beautiful. I never ended up going so I wanted to stay close to home so I ended up choosing Mason.
FOLARIN CAMPBELL: My final three schools were Providence, Georgetown and George Mason. Providence, I went up to Providence on an unofficial visit, that kind of offered me right there but my parents were not there so I came home. Talked to the coach at George Mason, took my official visit there and decided to come to George Mason. The situation with Georgetown, they signed a guard the week before my official visit so basically said they didn't need me. George Mason, it's a good fit for me.
JAI LEWIS: My final three, it was close to my house and I just liked the family stuff that they did for me here at George Mason.
TONY SKINN: All three was George Mason, George Mason, George Mason. (Laughter) I'm glad I chose George Mason. (Laughter).
WILL THOMAS: My final three were George Mason, St. Bonaventure and College of Charleston. I picked Mason because it was close to home.
Q. You guys have had this great run, is there more to come and tomorrow, will it take more than you've done so far, is it going to take something above and beyond or what do you anticipate?
JIM LARRANAGA: What we told the players very simply is we're facing a team that has all of the makings of a Michigan State and a North Carolina in terms of athletic ability, rebounding ability, scoring ability, and we're going to have to do all of the things we did in those games kind of combined. The interior defense we were able to play against a Paul Davis and a Tyler Hansborough, the defensive rebounding that we saw against Michigan State, the changing of defenses like we did against Carolina. We're going to have to control the tempo a little bit and basically play our game, not change anything, but be sure we do what we plan on doing, not vary too much from the game plan.
Q. I wanted to ask you about the disciplinary decision you made to put your team in personal peril and in light of the Connecticut situation with Marcus Williams, how a coach balances the desire to be competitive with a desire to send the right message?
JIM LARRANAGA: That's never really been a question for me or an issue that I had to consider that night.
The only thing that went through my mind was our philosophy, and we believe in certain things and I would say that those are the things that I have lived by as both a parent and as a coach. And that is we believe everybody associated with our program should have a positive attitude, they should make a total commitment to whatever they are doing, schoolwork, basketball, develop a great work ethic to try to be the best that they can be. And third and most importantly is to behave in a first-class manner.
If any of our players, you know, strays from living by those principles -- then I think they know me well enough that I'm going to react in a way a father might discipline his children.
I think Tony knew that he made a mistake, and that it was going to be dealt with swiftly and appropriately. I think in my mind, and I think he understood very well. Nothing to do with basketball. It had everything to do with my role as an educator, a coach. The subject matter is basketball, but really, the true subject matter is life itself. These kids when they come, we live like a family, we travel together, we live together, and I spend more time with these guys than I think I do my own sons, except when they were on the team and I coached both my boys.
So the decisions, the decision I made then or we made then was in conjunction with what was consistent with our athletic directors position and our president's position, that we stand for more than just winning basketball games.
Q. What would it mean for a school, your size, your program, just in the circumstance you are, to get to the Final Four, rather than just thinking about what it would mean for yourselves as George Mason, have you thought about the bigger implications of it at all?
JIM LARRANAGA: Well, the first thing is, we're really thinking about Connecticut. They are pretty good. That was a joke (laughter).
I mean, they are the No. 1 seed, they are extremely gifted and talented, they have been picked to win the National Championship by every media outlet and expert that has a microphone.
So our thought is not really about the implications of getting to the Final Four, but if you ask us what this has meant to the university, it means everything. Because we are representative of our whole university and it gives people a chance to find out that we are not a small, private school; that we have almost 30,000 students and we are just 20 miles from the Capitol in Washington, D.C., and that we have a beautiful campus, beautiful facilities, a blue ribbon faculty, two Nobel Prize winners, a top-40 law school, an athletic department that is very supportive of all it's athletes and all athletic teams and student athletes.
So we know that we respect more than just ourselves, and the more that other people can hear about us, the better. I'm sure there have been more hits on our Website in the last ten days than there maybe was in the last five years, because people follow the NCAA Tournament. It's telecast by CBS nationally every single game and it's the biggest sporting event in the world, so everybody follows it. We've been on every media outlet, radio show, television show imaginable, and so that kind of exposure, you can't pay for.
LAMAR BUTLER: To add on what coach said, he basically summed everything up. He just showed the difference between major and mid-major school is definitely shrinking. Not just us. You look at Bradley, Wichita State, those teams made a deep run into the tournament just like us, so it shows the gap is definitely shrinking.
MODERATOR: Tony Skinn.
TONY SKINN: Forgot the question. (Laughter).
Q. The difference between majors and mid-majors, how much does this indicate what the gap is?
TONY SKINN: Like Lamar said, mid-major teams, basically we got the opportunity to show what we can do this year. Everybody is talking about, you know, a lot of schools didn't deserve to be in the tournament but we knew all we needed was just that stage presence to be able to show everybody what we're capable of doing. We've handled ourselves pretty well with those mid-major teams going far into the tournament as well as our team.
Q. You've sort of addressed this I think in several of your comments, but I'm going to try again. Could you talk about the motivational difference I guess when you talk to your kids about playing Connecticut tomorrow between focusing on how great Connecticut is and sort of the gulf in setting up kind of a Hoosiers type thing, inspiring them in that manner versus casting it as the gulf is not that great, the ball is round, we play the same game. Do you hype up Connecticut or do you make it level?
JIM LARRANAGA: Well, what we really do is deliver facts. We need to let our players know what their strengths are, what are the things we hope we can exploit. Some of the things that we feel we do very, very well, night in and night out, and the thing about this team is we've been very consistent.
I've told the players, quite frankly, if the name on our jersey was not George Mason, if it was Georgia Tech from the ACC, everyone would look at this differently and they would look at what we've done in the tournament. They don't do that. They have a preconceived notion because of the league we come from and the Colonial Athletic Association is not used to having at-large teams. One in 20 years; we're only the second in 20 years to get in. So there's a preconceived notion that because you were not able to do it before, you should not be able to do it now. Or the fact is, maybe there have been many years that there were teams deserving that maybe just got overlooked. I felt that way as a coach for many years that I had teams that were very capable of competing with the best teams in the country. In fact, during a couple of years when I was at Bowling Green, we beat Michigan State twice when we were the Big-10 champions.
So if we were good enough to beat them that night, both at their place and our place, we were probably good enough to be in the tournament, but because the MAC didn't get the respect back then, only one team went.
I think these guys have really opened up the door in future years, if the leagues can produce like we did during the non-Conference portion of our schedule. You have to remember that from a statistical standpoint, we played the 50th toughest non-Conference schedule in the country according to the RPI and we're rated 18th in the RPI in that non-Conference schedule. So we proved ourselves there, and thank goodness the committee recognized that and gave us a chance to prove it in the Big Dance.
Q. It has been a heck of a week for you guys, a heck of a two weeks, really, considering the pep rallies late Sunday and trying to go to classes and practices and so forth, and then the game late last night. How much are you guys running on fumes now or running on adrenaline? How are you running now physically?
TONY SKINN: The funny thing about it is, as good as we've been playing, it's been a roller coaster ride but at the same time, you're not ready to just pinch yourself yet because you know you're still winning. We're so deep into the tournament right now, it's like we just can't get -- we can't be satisfied. We want to celebrate but just got to hold onto that until, you know, just keep on playing basketball, whatever it ends up. But it's been a roller coaster ride and I'm having fun. It's just one of those things where maybe two weeks from now or 20 weeks from now, you're going to be like in the back of your head like, "Dang, this is what we did and it's a great thing."
LAMAR BUTLER: I agree with Tony. We didn't come this far just to settle. Nobody on this team wants to settle for the Elite 8. We have a game tomorrow and we're focused and prepared to play tomorrow for the regional championship?
Q. You said that when you played North Carolina, they were the Superman and you were the kryptonite. Have you come up with one of those for Connecticut?
JIM LARRANAGA: No, not yet. I worked on my thoughts of the day or message before the game yesterday, and I came up with a lot of ideas, but never delivered it to the team.
I thought I heard these guys talking amongst themselves, and they had the expression that I liked best, so I just left it alone. That was I kept hearing Lamar say something to this effect, and I'll paraphrase, "they don't know what's coming." They don't know what's coming; is that right?
LAMAR BUTLER: That's right.
JIM LARRANAGA: I liked that, so I left it at that.
Q. Coach Calhoun yesterday mentioned that he's known you for 25 years. Wonder if you have a favorite Jim Calhoun story.
JIM LARRANAGA: Yes, I do (laughter).
You probably don't know this, but Jim Calhoun graduated from American International College in Springfield Massachusetts, and I was the head coach of American International for two years. And when I first got the job I called Jim and asked him if he wanted to play. He was the head coach of Northeastern and I was the new head coach at AIC. He said, sure, we'll play you at Northeastern (laughter).
Sounds familiar, right?
And I said, "Come on, Jim, you're an AIC graduate, you're an alumni, you have to come back and play at your alma mater, we stink, you're great, come on, play us."
Well, I think that appealed to his ego and he said, "Yeah, you're right, okay, we'll play home and home."
So we went to Northeastern that first year but lost in a pretty good game, we lost by I think 10 or 12, and the next year, they came to our place, and again, they were having a great year and we had an unbelievable game. We trailed by six with a minute to go. We scored the last seven points and won the game by one. I liked that a lot better.
But he was very gracious. We've known each other since then. I think it was back in the late 70s, and he obviously has one a lot of games since then.
Q. You all seem to be a pretty loose bunch, what is the source of that, would you say?
LAMAR BUTLER: The personalities on this team. We have a lot of guys who like to have fun and make jokes, especially the sophomore class. They don't let you get too tight, especially Campbell and John and Will, we just look at Will, we just start laughing at some of the stuff he does. You can't help but be loose around some of these guys.
Q. But once the ball goes on the court, you seem to be loose, as well as a team.
LAMAR BUTLER: We get that from coach. Coach preaches poise down the stretch, remain calm, don't get too radical, the game is 40 minutes long. We get that from the coaches and they have been preaching that since day one since I got here and it really sunk in this year with this team?
Q. Jim Calhoun was up here a little earlier and he said, "I think we're going to see a team in George Mason that is similar defensively, in terms of what they do, to what we faced in Washington." I don't know if you had a chance to see the tape or to see what Washington did; why do you think he said that, and assess what he means?
JIM LARRANAGA: Knowing Jim, it was probably trying to send a message to his players that they needed to get ready because it should be a tough, hard-fought contest.
Whether it's true or not, who knows. We have some similarities to Washington, but I think the personalities and the different-sized athletes, Washington is considerably bigger in that matchup in the 5 position than we are.
We're not very big. I mean, we're six foot, six two, six four, six seven and six seven. Connecticut is a much bigger, longer, athletic team than we are.
LAMAR BUTLER: We didn't even have a chance to watch the game. We were doing media until about 11:30. We didn't even have a chance to watch it. We'll watch some of the tape tonight and I'll answer that tomorrow.
Q. How would you characterize how you play defensively? What's your mindset and how do you play defensively?
LAMAR BUTLER: According to the clippings, we're scrappy, fast, quick, tenacious. That's how I would describe this team.
FOLARIN CAMPBELL: I feel as if our defense, we just look to contain and just help each other. If somebody gets beat -- you know, you've got to help on either side. It's not just, you know, one person against the other person. It's basically five against the ball, so with me and Lamar on the defense, we know if we get past us, we know and Will and Jai will help us out and we'll help them out. So it's not just me and Lamar; it's everybody.
Q. You mentioned earlier that people outside your program view you differently because you are from a mid-major Conference and that you're not a Georgia Tech and that if you guys were to -- because you beat teams like North Carolina, Michigan State, they don't see you in the same light. Last night Rashad Anderson said after the game, "We are not going to lose, we are going to the Final Four"; how do you respond to that and is that disrespecting your team?
JIM LARRANAGA: Well, I don't really listen to the sports broadcasters and their expert opinion or what they expect. So I would say we'll react to that much like we did them.
We have our own expectation, our own goals, our own focus. Don't really get into the debate about who is going to win or who is going to lose. I don't even talk to these guys about winning or losing. I talk to them about executing our game plan, playing to the best of our ability, doing what we do well, keeping their poise, making good decisions, and if we're good enough, if that's good enough to win, so be it. If it's not, well, then the other team proved it's better than us.
I think a war of words is meaningless. I think that the -- it's the competition on the floor that determines the end result.
Q. Can you guys respond to that as well?
FOLARIN CAMPBELL: I just take it as that's ammunition for us. For a player to just say that they are going to roll over us, we're not going to respond back, we're just going to go out there and show it on the court.
Q. I was wondering, Jim Calhoun, paraphrasing him, talking about the difference in recruiting, he said whereas he would go in and sell the program on how many Final Fours and things they had been to, you would go in and these are the schools that did not recruit you, you'll have a chance to show them you made a mistake. Is that accurate, and if some of the kids can respond, if they do feel like they have a chip on their shoulder that a lot of the more established, big-time programs in America did not come to their living rooms and try to get them to go to school there.
JIM LARRANAGA: I'm not sure what he's referring to. As far as I remember he's never been in on a home visit with us. I don't think he's ever heard me speak to a recruit. We rarely even talk about another school or another league. We just come in and talk about our university, the academic opportunities, the philosophy of the program, the league we play in and the teams we play against and the opportunity to come in and succeed.
We do talk about our championships and our appearances in postseason. We talk about playing time and where we think a young man fits into the program, who is graduating and what we're looking for, but I'm not sure what Jim is referring to in the other.
Q. He was being affectionate, telling how you recruited -- from that standpoint, these are some of the schools that did not recruit you, you have a chance to show them that they made a mistake?
JIM LARRANAGA: I don't know. Did I ever use that line with you guys? I don't think so.
You see, if you do that -- okay, here is the flipside of that. If you do that, you're acting like those people are better than you. They didn't offer you, they are really, really good, we are not, but you can prove you are by coming to our place.
We don't view ourselves that way so we don't take that approach. We tell kids that our goal is to be the best that we can be and we think that we can help you be the best that you can be, and quite honestly, we've told student athletes in the recruiting process, we think that we're a team that can get to the Final Four. And that's always been a goal of ours to compete for the National Championship against the best teams in the country no matter what league they are from.
Q. On Selection Sunday, after you got over the joy of seeing your name come up and seeing the bracket you were in, what were your first impressions of the teams that you would have to go through to reach this point?
TONY SKINN: I don't think it really mattered who we were selected to play. I just knew if we got an opportunity to play, we would get an opportunity to show everybody what we've been doing all year and be really consistent. It didn't really matter at that stage who we were going to play. When it said Michigan State, we almost beat them last year, so I knew we were capable of playing them so it was basically another chance to get revenge on them and we did that.
Q. The Connecticut players were all sky-high about being here and they pretty much expected to be here. What's been the most surreal part of this whole thing for you guys from the police escorts to the media attention to everything for a team that really maybe you guys expected to be here but nobody else did? For Lamar, Tony, whoever has the best story.
LAMAR BUTLER: This is something new for everyone one of us, even Coach as the head coach of George Mason. I've never had police escorts to a game, media attention. It's been hectic all week. We've just been enjoying the media attention and the winning, we've been enjoying and soaking it all in. We're living in the moment right now.
Q. Any marriage proposals yet?
LAMAR BUTLER: No, no marriage proposals. None of that.
TONY SKINN: Like Lamar said, for me, it's a dream come true, so I'm sure it's the same with my teammates, never thought we would be here right now. We knew we were capable of playing, but just to see everybody else supporting us, and even the teams, the people that are not from George Mason are rooting us on because it's not supposed to happen, but we're making it happen.
Q. Could you tell me if at any point when you were being recruited by George Mason, especially Tony since you said George Mason was your first, second and third choice, did you ever think at any point before this year, by coming to George Mason, you're going to get a chance to come to the Final Four, did you ever think it out loud?
TONY SKINN: In the back of my head, of course, I wanted to play in the NCAA Tournament. I wanted to win in the NCAA Tournament. So two or three more wins after that, of course I wanted to play in the Final Four. It's just one of those things where in the back of my head, you know, it was something I wanted to do and something I wanted to accomplish. It's just, you know, surreal to actually be here. It still hasn't sunk in yet.
Q. Any of you other players ever from the time you came to George Mason think, hey, I might get a chance to play in the Final Four?
FOLARIN CAMPBELL: That's the reason I came to George Mason. I looked, there was a lot of teams in the CAA Conference that wanted me to come. I looked at the team that they had and the team they had coming back and I knew we had a chance to get to the NCAA Tournament. So that's a big reason I didn't chose George Mason.
We came here, I expected, that and we've done it. And to get to the Final Four is even better?
Q. For Will and Jai, I wonder if you picked up on the stat sheet last night, Connecticut's 47 foul shots, the five Washington players fouled out; what do you think that says about what you're getting yourself into?
JAI LEWIS: We know that their big men like to block shots so we just know when you go up, you have to, if we get it in the air, puts us in a better position to score and if they foul us, they just put us on the line.
WILL THOMAS: Basically continuously go to the offensive boards, try to get second shots, just try to keep them off the boards and make sure they foul us so we can go to the free throw line.
Q. Last night after the Connecticut game, Coach Calhoun made a sarcastic comment about how he's looking forward to playing a road game tomorrow. Did it feel like a home game last night and do you anticipate it being even more partisan tomorrow?
JIM LARRANAGA: Well, from my vantage point, I thought that it was a great, enthusiastic George Mason crowd. But I also thought the Wichita State Shockers brought a very large contingent with them that probably 25 to 30 percent of the crowd was for Connecticut. Even the University of Washington had a good turnout.
So my guess is tomorrow night will be 50/50.
TONY SKINN: Yeah, I look at it, it's not the Patriot Center but it's not too far from the Patriot Center. We know we have a lot of fans out there and a lot of support. It's college basketball, it's March, it doesn't really matter where or who we are playing. Shouldn't feel like a home game. We're just going to go out there and play the same basketball we have been playing all year.
Q. Can you talk about the physical development that Will has made since he's been at George Mason and can you talk about the IQ for basketball that he brought to you?
JIM LARRANAGA: I think one of the things that we've tried to do is recruit players who come from winning programs and who have played for great high school coaches so that their transition from high school to college is not as great an adjustment as it is for others.
If you look at our team, Lamar Butler played on a state championship team his junior year and an outstanding, ranked number one in the State of Maryland his senior year.
Will of course had a tremendous high school career at Mount St. Joe, and when he came to us, he came as a winner. His coach did a great job of preparing him, especially in an area that most big kids don't do very well and that's at the defensive end of the floor. Most big kids in high school, they are in foul trouble, they don't really understand positioning. Will was the opposite. He's a winner in every sense.
His freshman year, he weighed about 215, he spent an awful lot of time in the weight room with our strength coach and I think he's now about 232. He's gotten much stronger and that's helped develop his self-esteem and his confidence. He worked on his offensive low post game and now is a major threat in the low post. He was a consistent scorer and the leading field goal percentage shooter in the CAA and he just gets better and better. He was on the all-defensive team, could have been on the all-league team, he's good enough to have been voted on but there's just so many darned good players in the league right now.
He has a shot at being very, very special.
Q. You mentioned several times in the last couple of weeks how a lot of people are sort of programmed from the past to look at a name on a uniform or jersey and assign you to a certain level. When you look at how the last three weeks have gone, all the criticism at first Sunday, and then teams such as yourself and Wichita and Bradley to, place so well and beat the teams they have beat and get so much notoriety for it, has that entire conversation been changed by what's happened the last two weeks are we going to see a different approach, a different thought process next year when we look at teams such as yourself?
JIM LARRANAGA: Probably not. I don't think it works that way.
I think the only way that perception will change is if somehow, some way, a scheduling formula was developed for all the Division I schools in the non-Conference portion of your schedule. Because it's impossible to compare a team, let's say team one plays ten home games and team two plays ten road games, and even though they played the exact same ten teams, it looks like they both have the same degree of difficulty; the team that's at home has a much greater probability of going 7-3 and the road team 3-7.
So unless there is some method to developing parity in scheduling, I think it will always be the perception that the team that goes 10-0 is better than the team that goes 3-7, and that's what happens when you come from a major program, you are going to play seven, eight or nine non-Conference games on your home court and you're probably going to win them all.
The statistics from last year that I had my manager do, guaranteed games of the BCS schools, they played 343 guaranteed games last year. They won 330 of them. They were 330 and 13.
If you look at the records of those major programs versus mid-majors you could have seen schools, 9-0, 9-1, 10-0, compared to this group that played on the road a lot, maybe 6-4, 5-5. So you automatically have the perception, well, the team that is 9-1 has to be better than the team that's 5-5. It's not true. It's not true at all.
Where the game is played and how that competition was developed is very, very important. Home and home games give you a much clearer picture of what teams are capable of doing.
Q. I saw Bill Courtney last night, I think his smile was probably maybe as big as yours, but close, anyways. Can you just talk about his role in getting a lot of these kids with you? That's one. And two, just flash back to your time at Providence and with Coach Mullaney and Coach Gavett, I believe?
JIM LARRANAGA: Thank you for asking.
Bill Courtney is like a member of my family. He just took over and recruited the kids all by himself or with a little bit of help from me and the rest of the staff. He's like a one-man wrecking crew. He's like the Michael Jordan of recruiting. He's relentless, he's competitive, a great personality, he has a way of making everybody around him feel good. And it's not just me but all of our players, you know, we love him dearly and miss him. He's the kind of guy that had a major impact on our program and I think that's why he feels so much a part of it still to this day.
I have great memories of my college days at Providence College. I enjoyed the experience of playing with some outstanding players like Ernie DiGregorio and Nick Luce.
I also played for two legendary coaches, Joe Mullaney, who taught me an awful lot about the game of basketball from a coach's point of view and Coach (Dave) Gavett, who really not only taught me a lot about the game of basketball, but about the business of basketball, the life of basketball, the role of a coach, and I've been very, very fortunate to have played for an absolutely tremendous Hall of Fame, high school coach in Jack Curran, and then I worked under Terry Holland at the University of Virginia, Davidson. I just feel very honored to have learned so much from those guys and feel like even to this day, they are making contributions to our program at George Mason because of all the things I learned from them. I would say in particular Coach Gavett, Couch Curran and Coach Holland.
Q. You've gotten a lot of what-does-this-mean type questions, what does it mean to make it as a CAA at-large team, what does it mean it get to the Sweet 16. I think in early February, I think you got the school's first ever vote in the AP poll, one vote at the very bottom. What did that mean?
JIM LARRANAGA: That one guy really knew the game of basketball (laughter). In the entire country, we had one smart guy who really followed the college game well enough to recognize the talent that we had on our roster.
Beyond that, I don't know. And it wasn't until we got voted actually into the Top-25 that I paid any attention at all to that. And the only reason we did is because it made history in the league and at the university. It was only the second time in league history and first time in school history, and I'm a history buff. I like things like that that kind of put things in perspective. The one vote, if someone told me that was a first in the school's history, I would have been very, very excited about that.
But I assume George Mason has been there before.
Q. The number of teams in college basketball has increased so much over the last 20 years in Division I, and the tournament has stayed at 64 teams, I'm wondering if especially now given the debate over what teams should get in and should not get in, I wonder if it's time to consider expanding the tournament?
JIM LARRANAGA: I would have said five years ago, absolutely. Now, not certain.
I think the tournament is so great because of teams like George Mason and Bradley and Wichita State and Milwaukee and Bucknell. I think that first round is -- the whole story is about David versus Goliath. But David has not won the National Championship yet. Probably the closest you can recall is 1979 when Indiana State had a shot with one of the greatest players of all time and still didn't win it because of the caliber of talent they faced.
What is the Magic number, 64, 65 or 128? I don't know where you stop. But I just know that there's much more parity in the game; that the difference between the top two or three seeds is significant between the very low seeds. But when you get between 5 and 14, there's not as much difference as people think. A lot of it has to do with experience, the programs like ours or Bradley or Wichita State, we end up being able to hold onto our players for four or five years, whereas the high majors tend to lose kids earlier to the draft. And that turnover creates inexperienced teams from time to time, and that allows an experienced team to do what we did last weekend against North Carolina.
But what the right number is for the NCAA Tournament, should it be expanded? Right now, I would say it's not broke, there's no need to fix it.
Q. I know you have a formula for pulling upsets. You've talked about Bowling Green beating Michigan State, how much is that still in play being what you've done, I know you've talked about getting on a neutral court and that's one thing obviously you have here, and also how can you best use one day to turn around and get ready for this game?
JIM LARRANAGA: Well, the beauty of this team is that they have prepared the whole season for this game. It's not today. It's all the fundamental drills and practices, all of the dedication and commitment to doing things defensively and executing offense.
We are not going to do anything different or new tomorrow that we have not done all tournament or all season. Now, there's always wrinkles and adjustments to make even within a game. When we played Wake Forest early in the year, we were pressuring in the perimeter in the first half and then we totally changed it in the second half, dropped Will Thomas right in the lane because Eric Williams was playing so well and we wanted someone else to see if they could beat us from the outside.
So the preparation for this game did not occur today. It really has occurred over the last four months.
Q. And the upset formula?
JIM LARRANAGA: The upset formula is basically this. Everybody knows on any given night the saying goes that anybody can beat anybody. That's not actually true, because if there's a huge discrepancy in talent, if the game is played on the stronger team's home court with a lot of other factors in their favor, the travel and everything else, then the odds of that team winning are minimal.
But what we have found when we have areas that we could exploit, for example, we beat Kentucky in Rupp Arena in 1990 by two points, 56-54. Our guards were quicker than the Kentucky guards and that's all we exercised going into the game. Let's use our quickness at the guard position to get dribble penetration to set up our guards. If we have a good shooting night, we can beat these guys. We did, we won.
When we went to Michigan State, they were stronger and more physical but we were faster. Let's utilize our speed. And because Michigan State was also a running team, our faster guys, even though we were smaller were able to outrun the bigger, stronger athletes at Michigan State. There's always something like that that we can take advantage of.
In this game, obviously, Connecticut has so much talent and so many different positions on the floor, we're going to have to really analyze what we're going to do tomorrow in that game so that our players know, this is our focus, this is our strength against this particular team, this is their strength against us, we've got to take that away. If we can, we put ourselves in a position to win. If we can't, then we're not going to upset them.
Q. You talked a lot before you beat Michigan State about how great Tom Izzo was; what would it mean to beat a guy like Jim Calhoun who has had success as well?
JIM LARRANAGA: As I said, I don't look at it as one coach versus another. It's more our team versus their team, our program versus their program, the thing we want to do versus the things they are trying to accomplish. And whoever executes their game plan better will end up victorious.
So I think the media tends to focus more on those things. It's great because it creates interest in the game, but that's not a concern of mine.
Q. Just wanted to ask you, I know you talked earlier in the week about keeping the kids positive about all the media exposure and all of that; are you happy with the way they held up sitting in front of all of us?
JIM LARRANAGA: I mean, you heard Tony Skinn's answer to the schools that recruited him of what were his Top 3. These guys are loose, they are having a ball, they are having a lot of fun. They like playing for George Mason University, they like representing our institution. They like what they have been able to accomplish. They have not felt the pressure of expectations.
They have basically continued to do what they have done every day this year is to have fun playing ball and playing with each other. It's like the movie, Drum Line, what is it, one, one -- one beat -- where are the guys when I need them. Didn't anybody see Drum Line.
Q. "One band, one sound."
JIM LARRANAGA: "One band, one sound," that's it. "One band, one sound." And that's basically what this -- the idea that they had one band, one sound is not one instrument or one person who is great at playing the trumpet or the drums. They don't stand out. It's not about the individual; it's about the group, and that's definitely this group. "One band, one sound." I think I'll use that tomorrow in the pregame. Thanks, everybody.
End of FastScripts...