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March 19, 2008
THE MODERATOR: Josh Akognon and Frank Robinson and Scott Cutley representing Cal State Fullerton are with us for the 6:00 edition. Scott Cutley has volunteered to make an opening statement on behalf of his teammates, the first today. We'll let him start and then go to questions.
SCOTT CUTLEY: I just wanted to thank everyone on behalf of Cal State Fullerton for welcoming us here to Nebraska. It's been great being here so far. I just want to thank everybody here for actually showing up and asking us some questions. (Laughter).
Q. Scott, Jim Christian, Kent State coach was in here today said he was very happy you had the opportunity to come here and play and said that he understood why you left, that you were an impact player from day one. Talk a little bit about your decision to leave.
SCOTT CUTLEY: My decision to leave was just I wanted to come back home and play in front of family and friends. It wasn't because of any team thing or coach thing, because I have the utmost respect for Coach Christian and his staff and just being there. And I had a great time while I was there. But it was just time for me to come back home.
Q. Too cold?
SCOTT CUTLEY: It's not the warmest place in the world.
Q. I know that the 1978 team had its reunion before one of your games this season. This is for any of you guys, how much do you know about the lore of that team and what they did 30 years ago and obviously it's not going to affect what you do tomorrow night, but is that something that you can sort of bring with you?
FRANK ROBINSON: It's an inspiration to all of us. Greg Bunch actually came in and spoke to us after that game and he gave us some great words and some things that we could use towards the season and we carried the season on, and we were pretty successful. He gave us a lot of confidence in ourselves and told us we can win a couple of games in this tournament, and we feel we can, too.
Q. Scott or Frank, you both average seven rebounds a game in the Big West, you don't have the same size here but you're both athletic off the glass, are you going to be able to use that tomorrow?
SCOTT CUTLEY: Basically we're going to try to keep them off the boards for the most part. You know, we average seven rebounds in conference and stuff like that, but we're playing against a much bigger team. So our main focus is just make sure we keep them off the boards first and our rebounds will come hopefully after that.
FRANK ROBINSON: I think the key will be our guards rebounding, the 1 and 2 point guard and shooting guard rebounding, we box out their bigs and let them go get it.
Q. Scott, when is the last time you played against somebody as big as you're going to play against tomorrow?
SCOTT CUTLEY: We played Portland State who had a big guy inside and we played Arizona in the beginning of the year. And they have some nice size inside. Saint Mary's has a big guy inside, too.
So I've had a couple of challenges this year with height. So it should be interesting.
Q. Scott, having played at Kent, you're kind of in the heart of Big Ten country out there when you're there, I mean any -- any intimidation factor playing a Big Ten school, knowing what you know about that conference and kind of the rough and tumble way they play?
SCOTT CUTLEY: Big Ten is a great conference. It's a big conference with a lot of great players. Intimidation factor, I'm just going to go out there and have fun. No one is expecting us to do anything here. We're just going to go out and have fun and play our game and hopefully we can get a win.
Q. Josh, Frank and Scott talked about the size difference, obviously, that Wisconsin has, what about the tempo differential between these two teams? In some ways if you guys can control the tempo and get things going up tempo, does that maybe play to an advantage to you?
JOSH AKOGNON: I think it does, because of the fact that they slow it down we have to continue to play our game which is speed it up. I feel they're going to do a good job to slow us down too, I think if we stay with our game, we should be fine.
Q. Scott, did you play here, you had one game or two games?
SCOTT CUTLEY: We played Creighton my sophomore year when I was with Kent. We came here and luckily got a win.
Q. It's only inevitable that someone has to ask you about baseball.
FRANK ROBINSON: We were waiting on that one.
Q. All three of you, how much awareness do you have of what the baseball team has done out here in Omaha over the years and how much has that come up the last few days?
JOSH AKOGNON: First, we're proud of them. They were representing Cal State Fullerton. It wasn't envy, it was more of a motivational standpoint for us. So they helped us out a lot, too, to get exposure to Fullerton in another sport.
So saying that, you know, they've given us a lot of support coming to the games. We know what they've done and they know hopefully what we're going to do. I think that's helped us a lot getting here.
SCOTT CUTLEY: Yeah, the baseball team has been great for our school. They've come down here almost every year and done well. So they're a great inspiration for us because they motivate us to try to get into the tournament every year and stuff like that.
So they did a great job. They do a great job every year.
FRANK ROBINSON: I think it's a sign of good luck, too (smiling) us coming down here. They come down here and they win a lot. I think if we can pull out a couple of wins, it will show that we own Omaha (laughter).
SCOTT CUTLEY: Come on, man. (Laughter).
Q. At least a steak (laughter). Been asking the players all day, once they find out who they were going to play or where they were going to play and then looked around the country and saw maybe where they've been before with different players, either in high school or AAU or college, how much e-mail and how much Facebooking and how much stuff went on with congratulations or -- who have you called? Who have you talked to over the last week or so that you know in the tournament that's either here or somewhere else?
FRANK ROBINSON: My roommate Mike Cook from Pittsburgh -- when I was at East Carolina he was my roommate. I talked to him every day since we won that game Big West championship. All he can tell me is how exciting it is to be in this tournament and what to look forward to and all that stuff. So that's definitely one person I talked to. I know Scott talked to a lot of people. Josh probably talked to his Washington State teammates.
SCOTT CUTLEY: Once I saw Kent State get announced and we soon followed them and we found out that we were going to be in the same place as Kent State, I got in contact with a lot of my old teammates there -- not a lot, a couple of guys that are still there. And just was excited about maybe even seeing them again, because I haven't seen them like in three years. So it was cool.
JOSH AKOGNON: And at Washington State, my coach is Dick Bennett went to Final Four here with Wisconsin, he knows them in and out, and Coach Tony is the coach now at Washington State and I've heard he's good friends with Bo Ryan, so I know they've talked and I've talked to a lot of Washington State guys and they pretty much told me that's where the styles come from. They come from the Pac system, which I was taught at Washington State, and the running style and the offensive style, it's the same exact thing. I'm kind of used to it. I know it and I know the base from what it's taught being that I played with Coach Bennett.
Q. Scott, you talked about how difficult it was to be far from home a little bit. Marcus made a similar transition when he left the Midwest to go out west. Could you talk just as a friend and how he made that transition and how he's done?
SCOTT CUTLEY: I think as a transition, you know, my family and Frank's family, especially, we've really kind of brought -- took him in as part of our own. Once he got out there, he was living with me and then he moved in with Frank. He's Frank's roommate for the last two, three years.
FRANK ROBINSON: Yeah.
SCOTT CUTLEY: Just basically giving him that family function around him, really just helped him in his transition.
Q. This could be for any of you guys, but after winning the Big West title like 30 years, whatever it was, has there been any hangover, have you guys been able to turn around and get ready for this game now?
SCOTT CUTLEY: Winning the Big West was one of our goals. But it's not the only goal we have. I mean, we wanted to come out here and put Fullerton basketball on the map.
And so just to make it here is an honor, but we're not just satisfied with just winning the championship and the Big West title. We want to have something to say out here and be respected out here.
So hopefully we can do that tomorrow.
Q. Frank and Josh, when Scott went down with the ankle injury, second day of practice, what were you guys thinking?
FRANK ROBINSON: Scared.
JOSH AKOGNON: Panic.
FRANK ROBINSON: He's our best player, man. Does everything for us: shoot the ball, play defense, rebound, everything. So to lose that type of person and player on our team, he's also the heart and soul of our team. So all the energy he brings and stuff, it shook us. We weren't prepared for that.
But I think we bounced back early. We bounced back and played really well early in the season. So when he came back it felt like he belonged and everything just fell right back into place.
JOSH AKOGNON: Like he said, it was painful. Sitting there watching him, he's a tough guy, so when you hear him screaming, you know something's wrong. So everybody sat back and prayed for him and hopefully let him have a quick return, which he did, came back stronger than ever.
Q. For any of the three of you, I apologize, I just walked in, I don't know if this question has been asked already, but when you look at Wisconsin, you see them on tape, who is kind of the X factor to their team that really makes them go, that you've seen so far, kind of a glue guy?
FRANK ROBINSON: He's six-seven, No. 45. I can't say his name. I don't want to mess up his name.
Q. Joe Krabbenhoft?
FRANK ROBINSON: He's the X factor. He doesn't score that much. But everything else he does helps the team win, leads the team in assists, second in rebounding, he goes hard to the glass, so if we don't box him out, it could be a long night for us. Plus he's six-seven and I have to guard him (laughter).
Also Flowers, we understand that he's a great offensive player and also a great defensive player, got player of the year in the conference. So we have to help Josh get open, setting screens and also keep him off the score books.
SCOTT CUTLEY: Pretty much everybody on their team looks great in film. (Laughter).
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much for your time. Best of luck tomorrow.
Head coach of the Titans is with us, Bob Burton. We'll ask him to start with an opening statement for his team being here in the Qwest Center in Omaha, then we'll go to questions.
COACH BURTON: We're obviously really thrilled to be here. I was really excited until I just watched them walk out on the floor and saw the size of them. And I think my guys are in the locker room hiding now, if I can get them out tomorrow night maybe we can show up and play it.
But I'm so impressed with the physicalness of their team and obviously we know we've got our hands full, not only the size factor, but how well coached they are. I think probably the real strength of their program is their coach and they just run all their stuff so well. It's going to be obviously a tough game for us.
I feel that for us to be in it, we have to play the way we play, and that means we have to get the tempo going faster, we have to push it and we have to make shots. If we can make shots and maybe we can hang right in there on it and have a chance. If we don't, it's obviously going to be difficult to rebound with them and speed the whole thing up.
So it's going to be an interesting night for us.
Q. Bob, there's a lot of talk about the tempo in this game. Obviously contrasting styles. What's going to be the key or couple keys to control that tempo?
COACH BURTON: You know, I think one is can we defend them without them just smashing us inside and getting the ball inside. Not just defend them in there but keep them off the boards. That's going to be huge.
And, you know, how we play defense is going to dictate all of that. Can we pressure the ball so they just can't get it inside, because we don't really press. We don't trap and we don't do all those things. We're just trying to put good pressure on the ball.
So if we get pressure and get some turnovers. And I honestly think the big key for us is if we can take the first couple of shots. Because they're used to this kind of environment. They play in arenas as big as this. They're used to all of this stuff.
This is new for us. And if we can -- you know, our guys settle down, don't try to do too much, let it come to them and make some shots, then I think we can have a chance.
Q. Number one, I want to kind of get an idea what these last four days have been like for you. I would imagine it's kind of a whirlwind. And I'll ask the second one right now. You've sort of embraced the whole 30-year thing and the magic of the 1978 team. If you could talk about that and about how these -- what these guys know about it and is it a little extra something that you can use tomorrow night?
COACH BURTON: Yeah, those are two really good questions. The first one is I've never been involved in anything like this in my life. And, one, going to an NCAA tournament. I was kind of confused that this is just typical NCAA tournament, because of how much activity there's been for interviews and how interested they are, or is it a lot of it because we haven't been there in 30 years? Is it because there was a team 30 years ago that almost got to the Final Four, all of those things.
So I don't have the answer on that. I have been literally just going. As you can tell, I've lost my voice a little bit, which my team really appreciates. They kind of like that part of it right there. I think it has been really exciting. I think that our kids are excited about it. I just hope not too much. I hope that they have settled in. They're starting to settle in. This is such a big deal here tonight. This would be good for them. Then tomorrow to really focus in.
The second question was?
Q. On the 30-year anniversary. The fact you've embraced that?
COACH BURTON: No, I have, and it's probably because I'm kind of a basketball historian and old, probably, more than anything else (smiling). I remember watching that game like it was yesterday. And I remember Fullerton shooting a jump shot that could have gotten them into the Final Four saying, my God, what's going to happen here, this is unbelievable.
So I remember it. Our players don't. And as a matter of fact, one of my players is dating Greg Bunch's daughter, so that gives you an idea how much time has passed in there. I mean, they think he's old, you can imagine how old they think I am on this thing.
We've brought him back we've had Greg Bunch come back and talk to our team we've made an important point about that. But I think our kids want to try and establish their own legacy, and kind of this is an opportunity for them to do something on their own. And I think that's probably more on their interests than the 30 years ago.
Q. Bob, when Frank was in here he said maybe if we get a couple of wins we can show we own Omaha.
COACH BURTON: If we can get a couple of wins. I'll probably be in Mozambique on a beach or somewhere and won't even make it to the next round. That would be great. We know our baseball team has traditionally done great here. We've talked about that. I hope those people come out and support us, give us a little bit of support here.
I'm sure Wisconsin will be with a lot of people. Frank better not be thinking about a couple of games; Frank better be thinking about the first half, because if we don't play well there, you won't see me in the second. I'll be out the door and finding a restaurant somewhere.
Q. As far as first-round match ups go, do you like having something that's so contrasting to what you do or would you rather have --
COACH BURTON: No, I hate this. I didn't like this matchup at all, to be very honest. I like to play actually teams that don't have names on their uniforms. I'm more interested in that myself trying to get those kind of wins.
This was -- I didn't like this matchup. When it was all going on, everybody kept telling me who we were going to play, either Louisville or Stanford or Wisconsin.
I didn't want to play Stanford because of the two brothers. The size I thought would just be too hard, because even though our guys are really tough, our two kids inside, they're six-five. And all of a sudden when Wisconsin came up there and I've watched them play and I know how they play and I know how hard it is to speed it up, and everybody said you just gotta speed them up and get the tempo going, well, it's not like people haven't tried to. These guys are the Big West champs. I wish they were the Big West champs and we were the Big Ten champs, but they're the Big Ten champs. They just won the tournament. Closing in on 30 wins. They're a big-time team.
And the matchup, it's almost too big. And we'll see what happens when we get on the floor if we can move them out a little bit, the big guys, and now all of a sudden make the game more important at the other positions, then I think we might have a little advantage with our athleticism and quickness.
Q. Bob, can you understand Josh's frustration with the Washington State offense and did he really need like an offense like yours just to really blossom and let his talents show?
COACH BURTON: You know, I don't think so. Because I thought it's really funny how he thought that way. But here's a kid that went into Pauley Pavilion and played there, had 24, 26 1/2, is that enough nonshots for you or what? You know?
I think the style, watching Washington State play, I think they're just a great program, great team, great coach, the whole thing it would have been a great place for him to stay and play. We were really fortunate for him to come and if he hadn't I wouldn't be sitting up here.
I just think he also kind of wanted to play the point and handle the ball a little bit more, which gives him more of a chance to do it. He hasn't played the point much, but he does get to handle it more up and down.
So hopefully it's been a good move for him. My concern for him is getting him to be more than a shooter, and like guard a guy once in a while. That would be an exciting highlight. He's starting to do that. He's really coming out and doing that and becoming more of a basketball player I'm really proud of that, because he's a phenomenal shooter.
It's going to be interesting to watch him tomorrow night, too, because this will be the first game in I can't tell you how long where he's not going to see a box and one and a guy totally face guarding him. He's going to see a great defender, the best defender in the Big Ten will be defending him, but it will be fun to see how he reacts to one guy and he hasn't seen that in a long time.
Q. In addition to Wisconsin's size, they really take care of the ball. Did you see they had one game against Michigan State with only one turnover, can you force turnovers against them, do you believe?
COACH BURTON: I don't know, we'll find out. We're going to try, and our pressure has been backing off a little bit as we've gone throughout this season. And you'd like to keep it up there. When somebody said do you like this matchup, it's not only their size that bothers me, it's that kind of stuff. They just don't cough it up and throw it away.
And there's a reason for that. It's because they're skilled and they're coached and they know what they're doing. And so that's going to be very, very difficult for us to do. And that's why I didn't like the matchup, I'd like somebody that has size but wants to go this way and turnovers are going to be different. Because the ball's going to be so important in this game.
And it's always big when you get to the NCAA tournament. You just can't have the same turnover rate that you would have.
So we're going to try. We're really going to try and do that, but also I want them to concentrate on the other things, the other part of the games that's important, screening, making shots, blocking out, all of those things.
Q. We talked about contrasting styles and you guys like to get up and down the floor. Bo Ryan, you know him, you admire him, he runs the swing offense, what do you know about the swing offense and do you like it? I know you like to run and gun, but what do you think about the swing offense and what do you know?
COACH BURTON: I know a lot about it because I'm such a Bo Ryan fan when I was a junior college coach. To be honest, I hate to say this, I've been a Wisconsin fan because I love his program. I love him and the way his kids are, the kind of kids he recruits and I think that he's really figured this thing out, like Ben Howland has at UCLA, they've both got a plan.
So I watched the swing offense for years. And I think it's terrific. It's hard to defend because it puts everybody in a position they can score, guards can post up. Big guys step out and obviously their big guys can really shoot it.
So he's recruited for that offense and all those kids fit every part of it. It's not probably like you're changing an offense every year to match your personnel.
They really understand it. And, again, they're not JC kids like we are transfers, so a lot of their kids are probably four-year guys, maybe five-year guys that have been in that system to have a great understanding.
So I think it's a very difficult offense for us to defend, and again I would much rather have them out there just cranking it up and trying to go as fast as they could, that would help us more.
So that part of this toughest matchup is the size.
Q. Can you talk about the fact that a lot of your kids come from a lot of different places: You've taken all these parts and put them together and obviously made it work. What's the secret to that?
COACH BURTON: Well, you know, that's a great question, too, because I've been asked that a lot. The one thing, I was a JC coach for 20 years. And in junior college you get kids for two years, that's it. If you get a kid from a freshman sophomore year it's like having a senior in college from which you go through a lot of times in those environments.
And so I'm used to really having kids for the last 20 years for two years.
So the nice thing about first when we came into the program, we understood it was going to be very difficult to get high school kids come to Cal State Fullerton. And with that, what we did is we really had a lot of junior college kids who came in because of my connections being a JC guy.
So that was very helpful. And then we started to get a lot of transfers, because of kids, people knew Bobby Brown, one of our best players, and he knew this kid at this place and this kid and they all wanted to come back.
We found out that kids that leave southern California love coming back to southern California. They really enjoy that. So you've got a real good connection on there. And then the big thing that's great about transfers is they have to sit out a year. So now you get to coach them without them playing in games and you can really -- they can get used to you and the system and you can kick them in the tails when they need to do it and get them on there, plus it's like anything else, it's their last stop. And that's nice, too, because now there's the door or here.
And you've got a lot of advantages like that. And mature guys. It's like Ray Reed I recruited when I was at Fresno State, went to Georgetown, wasn't playing much at Georgetown, missed LA, came home. We've got the 2 guard, Josh Akognon, wanted to play in a different system. He liked the way that Bobby Brown had developed. He was able to come down. Frank Robinson knew Bobby Brown. Scott Cutley was Bobby Brown's assistant. The more I'm talking here I ought to fire my assistants and hire Bobby Brown, to be honest, because it looks like he's the guy who recruited our whole team here, but there's a lot of truth to that.
So we've been able to get that and obviously we love to get high school kids. We signed a really good high school guard and we like to get into the high school kids and keep the junior college thing going and the transfers and I think it's a good blend for us. And a lot of people don't realize our baseball team, who I think has got the greatest program in the country, how hard they recruit junior college players. The last MVP back here was Jason Windsor who came from the JC I came from, West Valley College. So we both made it and there's a lot of great kids out there in all different ways.
Q. You talked about how all the players come from different schools and you say that it might be a little pressure tomorrow when they play, but they have played a lot of big games. Is that going to help them out a lot?
COACH BURTON: I sure hope so. I'll tell you right now, I'm counting on that (smiling). You're right. Josh Akognon has played at UCLA. And Ray Reed played at Yukon and Syracuse and things like that. But they were all just parts in those things, kind of smaller parts.
Now they're really the focal point. So it's going to be great to see how they come in and play in an NCAA game. For all of us it's a new experience. And obviously we hope it's not our last one here. But I would imagine each time you move on, I know when I was a JC coach we played in the state championship three times. The first time I was like this and the third time felt a little bit more comfortable with it.
So I think the experience there, we haven't been here, but I really hope -- that's what I say, once they get through the first couple screens and we toughen it up and we make our first couple of shots, then I think they'll relax. If those things don't happen, I think then it will be a lot tougher for us.
Q. Can you talk about Ray Reed's impact since he's been the starter and has it surprised you at all?
COACH BURTON: Yeah, it really surprised me. The kids told me he's a point guard since he's been here, I've had him at a 2 guard. That's shows you how sharp I am. We had Bobby Brown wanting to shoot it, passing to him and he couldn't shoot it last year. Worked okay, won 20 games, probably wasn't the smartest thing in the world.
Then out of necessity with Junior Russell being suspended this year, we moved him over there just by out of necessity and he's honestly turned everything around for us because now he's driving, passing, kicking it and he's a really great defender. So he's probably had as much to do with us being here as anybody in changing from where he was not very good at the 2 position to now where he's at the 1 and he's real good.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
End of FastScripts