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March 19, 2008

Tom Izzo

Kalin Lucas

Raymar Morgan

Drew Neitzel

Travis Walton


THE MODERATOR: Now joined by Michigan State University student-athletes. We'll take questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Drew, you won't be around next year, but they're moving the three-point line back a foot. What is your opinion on that? Do you think it's necessary?
DREW NEITZEL: I like the rule change. I think it makes it more of a skill shot. That extra, you know, nine inches or whatever it's moving back is making it a tougher shot.
I think it will spread the floor a little bit more. More spacing, similar to how the international and NBA game is.

Q. Drew, last time around for you. Talk about the emotion of getting out here?
DREW NEITZEL: Just trying to come out here and make the most of it. Try to help the younger guys out with my experiences in this tournament. Playing in the Final Four as a freshman. Just trying to make another tournament run.
I got to take it one game at a time. I'm not ready for my college career to end yet.

Q. Now looking at Temple, talk about the challenges you're facing defensively, how you think this game is going to play out. Do you think this is going to be a faster-pace game than you've been playing in the Big-10?
TRAVIS WALTON: Well, you know, Temple is kind of similar in a way to Bradley. They can play four guards. They spread the floor. Some great shooters in Christmas and Tyndale, Clark and Brooks. So it's going to be tough matchups at times. So we gonna have to shrink the floor. It's going to have to be team defense, six eyes on every individual.

Q. Kalin, being a freshman, coming into this environment, can you talk a little bit about how you're adapting to it or reacting to the hoopla?
KALIN LUCAS: Well, I think I'm doing very good at it. Really just my teammates, you know, my teammates are sticking with me. I'm just listening to the players and the coaches, just listening to the point guards as far as Travis and Drew. They just been sticking with me.

Q. How are you all adjusting to the time change? Have you done differences in preparation, then the mountains?
DREW NEITZEL: It hasn't been too big of an adjustment. We got in yesterday. We practiced late last night. Practiced again this morning around the same time at game time tomorrow.
It shouldn't be too big of a factor playing the early game tomorrow. But the air is definitely a little different. Getting here a couple days early has helped us. I don't think it will be a factor tomorrow.

Q. The altitude is going to test the conditioning for the year. Whoever is in the best shape is going to fair the best.
DREW NEITZEL: Yeah. We have experience, though. We played out in Salt Lake City against BYU earlier in the season. I think that game and that experience is going to help us as far as the altitude, things like that. Like I said, we got here a couple days early, kind of got adjusted to it. I don't think it will be too big of a problem tomorrow and in the future.

Q. Drew, has there been less hardware than you expected, Big-10 tournament, regular season, in your career? What is the impact of that as you look at this kind of last shot?
DREW NEITZEL: Yeah, I mean, any time you come to a program like Michigan State, an elite program who has won many Big-10 championships, national championships, Final Fours in the past 10, 12 years, it's kind of expected to win a Big-10 championship every year, at least be right up there.
We can't do anything about that. What's in the past is done. We're just focusing on these next few weeks and hopefully putting a run together and getting back to a Final Four.

Q. How would you assess what teams have done defensively to you this year? Different from before? Adjustments they've made?
DREW NEITZEL: It's been a little different. Teams have been taking me away. But we've had a lot of guys step up, whether it's Raymar, Kalin's made some big plays, Travis, some of our guys on the inside have stepped up and carried the load at times.
But, you know, we're excited about getting out of conference play, playing some different teams who don't know us like the back of their hand, so to speak. It should be exciting. Hopefully things will open up a little bit more. We'll be able to execute a little bit better than the grind of the Big-10.

Q. Drew, clearly you were very comfortable in the Big-10 tournament. There was a lot of talk maybe earlier in the season you were looking a little too much to integrate your teammates. With the regular season in the rearview mirror, anything you would have changed or done differently as far as being more assertive, looking for your shot?
DREW NEITZEL: I could have been a little bit more aggressive. But, like you said, I wanted to get everybody involved and have everybody contributing. I think in the Big-10 tournament I changed my mindset just to attacking, not letting teams take me out of the game, and not let them stop me. Whatever they did, I wasn't going to let them stop me.
I just want to continue to be aggressive in this tournament. My teammates have done a great job of sticking with me and encouraging me to shoot when I'm open and attack and create. I just want to stay aggressive. I think that helps out the whole team as far as confidence and opening other things up for other guys.

Q. Raymar, you guys were right on the brink, leading against Wisconsin, then all of a sudden the fouls imploded everything. Talk about the impact of that on your confidence, team's confidence?
RAYMAR MORGAN: We learned a lot from that game. We watched tape. We reviewed it. A lot of guys I think have grown and are more hungry from that game.
It was a learning experience. We really wanted to win. But we just learned from it, like I said. We're ready to play Temple.

Q. Drew, from here on out before every game when you put the uniform on, it could be the last time. Is that something that's in your mind?
DREW NEITZEL: Oh, yeah, definitely. It's definitely hit home. I'm just trying to make the most of, you know, the last few games I have. Every time I step on the court, whether it's practice or a game, just trying to leave it all out there. Just prepare like it's my last.
Hopefully leave this team with some other guys and hopefully carry us to a deep run in this tournament.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much. Good luck tomorrow.
Now joined by Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo. We'll take questions for Coach Izzo.

Q. Drew talked a little bit about how he took himself out of things earlier this year to get everyone else integrated. Can you talk a little bit him changing that mindset lately, what you've seen teams do specifically to take him away, or try to, throughout the year.
COACH IZZO: Well, I think he stated that very honestly. I think it was a battle all year that I felt he had to do more because I think he was capable of doing more.
I do think teams took him away a little bit. But we went against two of the best defensive teams in our league, and maybe arguably the best and most athletic defender in our league, in Flowers. I mean, Drew was fine. If for some reason early in the year, through half the year, he just wasn't coming off things as hard, I think he felt like he had to get more people involved, and I felt like he had to get more involved.
Thank goodness at the end he did. If he can continue that, that's a big part of our team.

Q. Can you talk about Coach Dunphy, what he's been able to do at Temple in a couple seasons, and the fact he's done it with players he inherited.
COACH IZZO: Well, it can be difficult and it can be good. I know John Chaney. I wouldn't mind inheriting a couple of his kids (smiling). I think Fran being in Philadelphia, where a lot of those kids are from, when he was at Penn, you know, I still think there's a connection there that's not quite as odd as going across the country.
But, you know, I mean, the style's a little different. And I played against Fran, our teams did, when he was at Penn. Did a great job there all those years. But I'm not sure it's a bad thing to inherit some of John Chaney's kids. I think one thing this team has, it has some toughness and it has some guys that can really shoot the ball. Seems like John always had a couple of those 6'4", 6'5" wing guys that could fill it up with Christmas and Tyndale I think they've still got some of that.
So he's done an incredible job because it is a different system. And I think when you go and take a different system, it usually takes a little bit of time, which it did. It took last year and it took even the beginning of this year. You know, they were up and down a little bit. Now they're coming on and playing some of their best basketball. That's a tribute to him. I would think John Chaney in a way should take a little pride in it, too, of some of those kids because they're good kids and good players.

Q. One of the reasons the NCAA moved the three-point line back is to kind of get the midrange jumper back in the game. How much do you agree with that?
COACH IZZO: I do. I do agree with it. I wish they would move it back a little more.
I think at the top of the key it's a shot -- in the NBA I think the risk and the reward are a little bit evened up. You're not going to shoot as good a percentage. But in college game now, 19-foot shot, whatever it is exactly, I think there's too many gifts. People get back into too many games that way. I think it will spread some things out a little bit.
I personally am for it although I have no criteria. I'm not one of those data freaks that looks at everything that way. When you lose a game like we did last weekend because a guy hit a couple three-point and four-point shots, I hope they move it, you know, outside the building (smiling).

Q. The way the Big-10 tournament ended, you seemed to be in position, then you ran out of fouls, does that sort of create a little bit of a hunger here? Is that a silver lining thing in a way?
COACH IZZO: I'm not sure losing's ever good. But I will say this: it was one of more difficult defeats that we've had. At the same time, after a day or so of feeling bad about it, I do think that our players and everybody regrouped. I do think we learned some lessons. I do think there is some hunger.
And yet, you know, you can look at it 50/50. I mean, you can look at Temple. They won seven straight coming in, so they should feel good that way, too. I've never been a big advocate that a loss is good for you, especially at the position our program's in. I think we know how to win, we know how to lose. We've done both.
I do feel we learned some things in that game on maybe not managing, you know, fouling and maybe not getting maybe proper shots right down the stretch. So hopefully we can build off that. I do think we're playing better basketball than we were playing a month ago. And I think that's almost as big as winning or losing.

Q. The rapport that you've had with Drew Neitzel has been pretty obvious over the years. I'm sure it's the same with Naymick. Can you talk about the feeling you have watching them go through their last stretch of games here.
COACH IZZO: Well, Drew and Naymick, who's been there five years, him and I have a connect and disconnect. He's a little bit above my level.
He really has kind of persevered through a lot of injuries, two shoulder surgeries, a lot of things, and has had a pretty good fifth-year. Never as good as anybody wanted, him or I. But definitely made some improvements.
Drew Neitzel, he's been one of those guys you die to have in your program, the All-American, a guy that spends morning, noon and night watching film. I think a team guy to the point where this year it hurt us a little bit for a while, not understanding that being a good team guy means you've got to do your role, and your role is to score a lot of points.
But, you know, they've embodied what you hope there is about college athletics. You know, good students, good guys, good players, and guys that won a lot of games. Been to four straight NCAA tournaments -- five. One of them has been to an Elite 8 and Final Four. Those are all good things.
As always happens when you have seniors, they can't do this, they can't do that. We're like everybody else in society: you see all their warts. All of a sudden they're gone, and you say, I wish I had him back. I'm glad I have him for this tournament. It was great to see Drew Neitzel play so well in the Big-10 tournament. If that's any indication of what he can do here, I still think we have some good things ahead.

Q. There was a question asked earlier to Drew about leaving with a little less hardware than he expected. He gave a pretty candid answer to that, that that's why we're here, for one last run. Has that been a topic of conversation, getting out there and getting that one final one for this class?
COACH IZZO: Well, Drew was involved with the last class back in 2005 when he was a freshman. That would have been the first class of four-year players that never reached a Final Four. That year they reached the Final Four. So he knows what that's like. He's been part of that. He knows the thrill of getting to a Final Four, what it means.
I think we always talk about leaving a footprint of where you've been, leaving something behind that will make sure 10 years from now or 20 years from now, when you before I your kids back, you say, Yeah, you know, I helped hang that banner, I won that ring, I did this, I did that.
We talk about that a lot in our program because that's the level I think we've gotten our program to, and that adds some pressure. That sometimes isn't always handled properly by a coach or by players, but it is what it is. It's got a lot more positives than negatives. I think he understands that. I think that's why he's looking forward to seeing what we can do this week.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thanks very much. Good luck tomorrow.
COACH IZZO: All right.

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