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March 30, 2007
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.
Q. Ron, can you talk about how you stepped up your game this year?
RON LEWIS: Well, it's a thing of just playing your role. When I came back here at Ohio State, I had a lesser role from what I had at Bowling Green. I was just playing my role, waiting my time.
With Greg and Mike coming in, you know, they had all the spotlight. It was just good for our team that we all gelled together and we're coming together right now.
Q. Ron, could you talk about how you guys might be able to keep other teams from trying to get Greg in foul trouble so much, something that the teammates can do on the court?
RON LEWIS: Our main thing is, you know, the guards, dribble, getting to the paint. We have to guard our yard better, keep our man out of the paint. Greg won't have to help us much. That will limit him getting in foul trouble.
Q. Can you talk about the match-up, challenge that Jeff Green poses for you? What do you remember from last year's game that can help you?
RON LEWIS: Well, he is a tough match-up. He's 6'9". He can play inside, out. Our main thing is just to limit his touches, to make him take tough shots because he is a great player. If we can limit his touches, do great things for us.
JAMAR BUTLER: I agree with Ron. He's a great inside-outside player, can put the ball on the floor. Just a triple threat. Like Ron said, limit his touches, make him take tough shots.
Q. The fact that you do have so many new players this year, how much does inexperience -- how much is that a problem? How do you keep those guys from getting overwhelmed?
JAMAR BUTLER: Them young guys, as soon as they got on campus, they came in wanting to learn things. They came in listening to us. They weren't scared to ask questions. All you got to do is tell them once, then they did it. That made our freshmen class great.
RON LEWIS: Just with the overwhelm thing, they have been great with all this media attention and being on the top levels already. So I don't think it will be any different being at the Final Four.
Just more excitement and more people watching. So I think they're going to handle theirself well and we're going to go out there and try to play together like we always been doing.
Q. Ron, you've talked about not wanting your season to end. When you were going down to take that last shot against Xavier, was that in your thought process?
RON LEWIS: No, I never try to think about the season ending while I'm on the court because it gets me off the game plan, thinking about other things. I try to stay focused during the game and not really think about what's going to happen and just focus on what's happening right now.
Q. Jamar, Thad mentioned the other day that earlier in the season he thought, like against North Carolina and Florida, that Othello might have been you awestruck because it was early in his career. He might play a significant factor tomorrow with Georgetown's size. When did you maybe see him not being in awe of his surroundings any more during the season?
JAMAR BUTLER: I'd have to say it was after that Florida game. You know, the Florida game, North Carolina game, that's two tough road games. Othello wasn't used to playing in front of 19,000, 20,000 people. It takes a while to get used to.
I mean, he's playing great ball right now. As long as he keeps playing good, defending the way he is, I think we'll be fine.
Q. Ron, y'all have showed yourself to be a very resilient team in the comebacks. Georgetown showed that the other day. Do you see a lot of the same characteristics in Georgetown as you see in your team?
RON LEWIS: Well, uhm, I guess that may be the only one. But we really don't try to focus on that. We focus on ourselves. Our program has been doing the best of just focusing on what we've been accomplishing and been doing things to try to get better as a team.
They have been shown to come back in games, but we're just focusing on us right now.
Q. What have your coaches, family, friends, what are you hearing about how to handle this experience because you haven't been here before? What are people telling you?
RON LEWIS: Well, they haven't been here before, so they really can't tell us too much (smiling).
Just enjoy it, have fun with it. I mean, our coaches really don't tell us nothing, but just to have fun. They're going through the experience the same as we are. We're enjoying it together.
JAMAR BUTLER: Loving every moment of this, the situation we're in right now. You know, this is a once-in-a-lifetime situation. Coach just says have fun with it, you know, just keep doing what we've been doing all season and be all right.
Q. Has it hit you yet?
JAMAR BUTLER: I really don't think so. We're in the Final Four. It's great and everything. I don't think it's going to hit me till after, a little later down the road.
Just, you know, loving it right now, loving being here with my teammates.
Q. So much has been made of Greg. How vital has Mike been to your success? Are you surprised at how quickly he's come along?
JAMAR BUTLER: Mike, he's a big part of our success. Without him, I don't think we'd be here right now.
Coming in as a freshman, run the team, be a leader the way he's done all year, you know, really has been big for us. You know, him and Greg Oden both came in and played big parts on this team.
Q. Do you have buddies on the football team? Have any of them told you whatever the frustration is like to get onto the big stage, not quite close the deal out here?
RON LEWIS: No, we haven't talked to them about that. It's different situations. We got to play more games. They really haven't told us anything. But we talked to them.
Q. Greg obviously has had monstrous games this year. There's been games where he's just really broken out. Have you seen the differences of when he's that way? Can you tell when he's going to have an incredible performance?
JAMAR BUTLER: I mean, you really can't tell from looking at him. He shows no expression at all. I think it depends on the way the team is defending us. If they going to sit back in the zone, not let Greg get touches, I think it's up to the perimeter players to get the job done.
Greg is fine with that. He doesn't care who's scoring, as long as we get the win.
Q. Ron, you were talking about football, having to win more games. This tournament, a day between games, is this the best way to decide a national champion do you think?
RON LEWIS: That's not my call. It is for basketball. Pertaining to football, I have no clue because I haven't been playing that.
Q. You wouldn't want to play a three-out-of-five game series to maybe decide this thing, like they do in the NBA?
RON LEWIS: No. It's fine the way it is for me right now.
Q. Y'all had your problems with Florida earlier in the year. How much does motivation enter into the equation in games like this?
JAMAR BUTLER: That was last year. That was in the past. That Florida game is in the past. We have a totally different team now, new faces on this team. We play a different style of ball.
RON LEWIS: Yeah, I mean, you don't have to get yourself jacked up for these type of games, especially in the Final Four. The crowd's going to do that for you. The only thing you have to do is just stay focused.
I mean, we're not going back and looking at those games. We're looking at right now. Florida's a different team than what they were when we played them. We're a different team than what we were when we played them.
This is just a great challenge, if we both make it there, for us to meet up again.
Q. So much has been made about this incoming freshman class. How did the older players react on the team? How is the mix of younger players coming in taking a lot of the spotlight worked?
RON LEWIS: Well, when Greg, Mike and Daequan and Dave and Othello committed, we were greatly appreciative because we wanted to be a great team. With us getting great players, we knew we had a chance to be one of those great teams out there.
We took it with an open hand and we became a family. We did a lot of things together to make this team grow. You can see the effects of it right now.
Q. Since you didn't come in with this rule now about playing one year of college, do you ever think that you wish you came in like that? Does that never factor in? You focus on college now and that's it?
RON LEWIS: Well, my situation, I focus on college. I think that's about it. If it was my time to go to the next level at any point in time, I would have made that decision. But it didn't come.
Mine was pertaining to college, being focused on that.
JAMAR BUTLER: Same as Ron, be focused on college. I don't think I was going to make the jump from high school to the NBA anyway. Just come to college, you know, live it up.
THE MODERATOR: Jamar and Ron, thank you very much. Now joined by Coach Matta from Ohio State. We'll make Coach Matta to make an opening statement.
COACH MATTA: Last time I sat up here it was difficult. We had just lost in the Elite 8 game.
Obviously very excited for our players, for Ohio State, to be a part of the Final Four. I think we've got what I think is probably one of the greatest Final Fours as far as the players and the teams involved.
We have a tremendous match-up ahead of us with Georgetown. We've said all along from last year's game that I think it's no surprise whatsoever that that's our opponent.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. You've already referred to the strength of this Final Four, no dark horses. If you throw North Carolina and Kansas into the mix of the so-called big six, there were teams all dominated by underclassmen, many freshmen in the first year of the NBA rule. Is this what college basketball is going to come to?
COACH MATTA: I think it is. I think that you look at the guys that have gone early in the draft over the last few years. Normally it's bigger guys. I think a lot of times the big guys have the chance to make more of an impact earlier.
But I think obviously it's good for college basketball that these guys are here. As you said, really across the board in college basketball this year, freshmen have played a prominent role in a lot of team's success.
Q. Could you talk about Ron Lewis. We make so much about the Fab Five, all the freshmen. How has he really stepped up now to be the heart of this team and you could argue the reason your team is here?
COACH MATTA: Yeah, I think from the day Ron came to Ohio State, he's had an incredible work ethic. The reason he came to Ohio State is he wanted to compete at this level. To see this happen for him, I couldn't be more excited.
I think that Ron has done a tremendous job. I've said this, you know, lately here the last few weeks, that Ron really came to grips with a phrase we have: "The more you give, the more will come back to you."
To watch his play elevate, I'm not surprised. I'm happy that it has. Obviously he's made some big shots for us. He's done it really throughout his career for us.
The fact that him being a senior on this team, leading these guys, I couldn't be happier with the job he's done, really the other three returning players, of welcoming the new guys in, showing them how we do things at Ohio State, on the court, off the court, academically. They've all done a great job with that.
Q. Coach Thompson was talking about Jeff Green, saying he can dominate a game without being a big scorer, which I would think is pretty unusual. How difficult of a match-up does he present because of all the things that he does? Is he overlooked maybe because of the stat sheet?
COACH MATTA: Not by us. I know, and our players have a great understanding, how good Jeff Green is. Coach Thompson is absolutely right. I think he does so many things even without the basketball.
But he's a great passer. He can score when they need it. It comes crunch time, they've shown they get him the basketball and he can make big plays.
He rebounds the ball. He's just extremely talented. He's such a unique match-up because of his size and his skill level.
Q. You came into this tournament ranked No. 1 in the country. That gets you a No. 1 seed. Obviously you still have to win six games. This tournament, this format, is this the best way to crown a national champion? How hard is it to get through?
COACH MATTA: Well, I don't know the alternative if you didn't have it the way they have it now. I think the selection committee did a phenomenal job as you look at the games that took place. I've always said I wish they would let everybody in because that would stop the media from talking about the bubble, putting coaches and players in jeopardy in January. To me that doesn't make any sense.
I think the difficulty of getting here is something that is probably overlooked. I marvel at what Coach Howland and Coach Donovan have done to be back here two years in a row. You look at some of the coaches that have done it for an extended period of time, you look at their games. People make a big deal out of our second-round game or our third-round game, it happens.
I mean, sometimes it takes a big shot, sometimes it takes a big block. I think it just shows you the parity that there is in college basketball today.
Q. There's a ton of NBA talent in this Final Four. Your program is included in that. Because of that there's a lot of people that want to get at your kids to potentially represent them. I know you go through extensive education. But considering all the ways they can get at players back in their hometown, is there ever a part where you hold your breath and hope everyone's following the rules as best you can, but there's only so much you can control in this?
COACH MATTA: It really is. I think that's sad, that the kids are in college, they're trying to be college kids, and people are trying to use them, to get to them.
As I say, everybody has a job to do. I think one of the biggest things we try to do, as you alluded to, was educate our guys. Ohio State is phenomenal at doing that with our compliance office. I think having kids that you can trust is vitally important.
It is something that, you know, the perception is we're with these kids 24 hours a day. We're not. But I think when you've got good kids like we've got, I've got great trust in them, and they know the rules because of what Ohio State has done.
Q. It's a unique situation where Mike Conley, Sr. has talked about becoming an agent. Do you have any thoughts on that, how that affects what you're trying to do?
COACH MATTA: No, not really. I have the utmost respect for Mike Conley, Sr. I've known him for a long time. He is one of the greatest human beings I've ever met. Just looking at the job he's done at raising his son, the success that he's had in life is something that -- you know, Mike is one of those guys, you spend five minutes with Mike, you walk away a better person. That's what I love about Mike, Sr.
Q. As you look at Hibbert, comparing him to last year, what has changed about his game?
COACH MATTA: Well, Roy had a tremendous game against us last year. I think what he's done, he's really fine-tuned all of his skills. I think he understands the game even better because he's a year older.
I thought last year when we played him he was one of the best big men I'd seen. Now watching him on film, I couldn't agree more. I think he's just a tremendous talent. I think his athleticism, he moves well, he can finish around the basket either hand. The size factor is always going to be there.
Q. How do you prepare your young guys for playing in the Final Four so they don't get overwhelmed? Can you talk about Mike Conley's development this year?
COACH MATTA: I think the first thing with preparing for the Final Four, you know, each bracket that we've gone through the last two weeks we've kind of made it like a Final Four. So, therefore, I didn't want to change anything when we got here.
As I told them before the Memphis game, I'd be an idiot to stand up here and talk about the magnitude of this game because they know. The one thing we've tried to do is we haven't changed anything with our approach of how we've, you know, gone into games from a game in January, a game in February, and now here we are tomorrow on March 31st. It's still the same preparation action and I don't want to get the guys out of their habits of what we do.
I think with Michael Conley, watching his progression as a player, there's a direct correlation to how hard he's worked through practice, out of practice. I thought he was going to be a special talent. I didn't know that he was going to come in and play as well as he did, as quickly as he did. But it doesn't surprise me because of who he is and how hard he's worked that he's, you know, in this situation.
Q. Since you started at Butler seven years ago, you've had a pretty good run. John Groce has been by your side. How much credit does he deserve for this, especially the success you've had at Ohio State?
COACH MATTA: John is my right hand man. He's been invaluable in the success that our programs have had wherever we've been. I've known John back when he was in high school. We've developed such a relationship.
I think the great thing about having John with me is he understands me. He knows what I want. He knows how I want it done.
I've got all the faith in the world in him when he's out, be it recruiting or watching film, talking to our guys, as I do with all of our staff. You know, I think that it's a great relationship for me. John is one of the best friends that I have. I think that makes it even more special, his commitment to me and the programs that we've been in is off the charts.
Q. One of the major things going into this game that people are going to watch is the foul trouble situation between Roy and Greg. What do you have to do as a team and what does Greg have to do to make sure he remains a factor in the game?
COACH MATTA: I think, number one, we have to play hard. Fouling at times can be a sign of weakness. I don't know where we are today, but I think I know going into last Saturday's game we were No. 1 in the country in fewest fouls committed. Greg has only fouled out of one game this year. That's something we take great pride in.
I think that, you know, at times you have to look and say, This is how the game's going to be called. We won't know until the game starts. But, you know, you hope that all the different situations that we've been in, all the different offenses that we've had to guard, we'll have a pretty good understanding of not fouling.
We do not want to foul. I think that that is, as I always tell our guys, it is a sign. They see every foul they commit.
Q. Do you have somebody on your roster who you would describe the way Coach Thompson did Jeff Green, someone whose contribution may exceed what you see on the stat sheet?
COACH MATTA: Honestly, I think I got a lot of those guys. I think one guy that comes first to mind, because I don't think he gets the credit he deserves, is Jamar Butler. What Jamar has done for this team, the defense that he's played, the stops that he's made, playing multiple positions for us. I think that Jamar would probably be that guy. I think he's one of the toughest players I've ever coached and has a true appreciation for what it takes to win.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much.
End of FastScripts