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March 27, 2008
COACH IZZO: I'm excited to be at Texas and especially here. The site is beautiful. I had a chance to play on a court like this one other time but I don't think our players have, I think they will enjoy it. We know we are playing, you could argue, whether it's the best team in the country, but they have been 1 or 2 all season long, and deservingly so.
I think John has done a great job; I have to agree with his orneriness over the free throw shooting, being such a hot tomorrow I can when really he's got one hell of a team, and if I could shoot poorly from the line and up 20 in post games because the rest of my team is playing so well, I think I would trade that myself.
But we understand that in Rose and Roberts, they have two phenomenal players, and then the supporting cast is awfully good, also. It's probably the most athletic and longest team we have played all year, with maybe the biggest number of guys that can put the ball on the floor as they can with four and their starting group, and then they bring in some great shooters and some guys that have already been starters over their career.
So the task I guess is daunting in some ways but I think we are excited with it. We feel we have played very good in the first two games, and took away some things that other teams did. And yet, I think it will be a little harder to do that against Memphis, but also very challenging and we are looking forward to that.
Q. Marquis did not participate in all of the drills, walking around gingerly a little bit; talk about your concerns about his ability to play.
COACH IZZO: I do have some questions about it. He hurt his knee and we're not sure if it was a recurring injury where it just locks up or whether there's more to it than that, and it just happened in practice, where he kind of twisted it and don't know how much it was twisted; it was just a freak.
So I don't know any more than you know. Practice, he could not participate in it. If it's just locked up and they get it unlocked, he'll be 95 percent; if not, we have to find a way to tape him up or put a steel cast on it or whatever, but he's got to play.
Q. They are the only two out of the Division I program that is run the Memphis offense, how do you prepare for a player like that, especially with a guy like Rose's caliber running it?
COACH IZZO: No question, a lot of times we've run into some strange things over the years with the Big Ten. You have teams like Iowa used to press all the time and took some time. Some teams ran the flex. We have gone through the Princeton offense which is now the Northwestern offense in our league.
I can't say that we have played a lot of teams like this, but in some ways, playing on the road at Bradley where they had four perimeter guys that drive and shoot it, not exactly like this, but it gave us some feel for it, and in some ways, Pittsburgh, you know, we had to keep Fields out of there and he was a great penetrator, but not as great as Rose but he created some problems.
We have some teams that are similar, but similar, because they don't have the 6-6 or 6-8 wings that Memphis has but some similar and try to do the best we can.
Q. You mentioned free throws with the Tigers, and you mentioned that you have a ritual do you do with every practice, and can you talk about the history behind it and what it is?
COACH IZZO: When I was a junior in high school, I missed a 1 and 1 free throw that would have sent our team to the quarterfinals. When I got the to the quarterfinals, I thought a ritual would be important for our team. So for the seven minutes that we stretch and loosen up, I shoot a hundred free throws in that. Over that period of time, and over the years I've had managers chart them and once in awhile I challenge a player but I went from an average free throw shooter in college and I'm pretty good. So if some of these players can go on the 13-year plan and the NCAA would allow it, maybe we would have some good free throw shooters.
Q. The old adage this time of year is backcourts take teams far, and your backcourt is playing pretty well. Can you talk about the confident that you have in them, and also conversely, Memphis has I'm assuming one of the best backcourts you'll face this year.
COACH IZZO: I definitely think ours is playing better. Neitzel has been playing very well and Walton does what he has to do. We are getting more play out of Chris Allen and Lucas has been dynamite and we have another sub in Summers who has one real game in the tournament and one where he didn't play quite as much. But the athlete that he is, I think he'll help us in this game.
The problem with Memphis over a team like Pittsburgh and some of the other teams we've played is they have tremendous depth, too, and tremendous depth at the guards, but Douglas-Roberts and Rose, as you say, are probably as good of a guard tandem in different kinds of players. One is athletic like Gordon in our league, strong, and one is so long and can go right or left and can do so many things, kind of has a quirky style, as they say, but it's an effective quirky style.
So, you know, we are not going to be able to guard people just one-on-one like a lot of times that offense gets people to play. We are going to have to guard them one-and-a-half-on-one, and hope that they are not making a ton of 3s.
Q. I read a little bit that you might have been a little miffed that Kalin did not get as much attention as some of the other freshmen. Can you understand why that happened to him?
COACH IZZO: We had a lot of good freshmen in our league but he played on a team, you know, that was winning and did what he had to do. As the year went on, he earned his starting spot when it was more conducive to our team.
So miffed would be a wrong word. I was disappointed that he wasn't, hoping that especially coaches would see what this kid has done for us, instead of maybe just choosing the guys with the highest scoring average or things like that.
But every freshman that got honored was deserving of it, and yet I guess the good news is mine is the only one still playing, so maybe that answers all the questions.
He has progressed a lot, and at one point I was worried about having too many freshmen on the court at the same time, and then at one point I was worried about we didn't have as good of leadership out there. So it wasn't -- he didn't start or not start totally because of his ability; it was more trying to figure out how this team and whether we needed a scorer and a jet coming off the bench and the different things that we had done.
As I said, everybody was more than worthy of it. And yet, I think this kid has got a chance to be a real special player. He really has progressed. He's started to become a better leader. That was an area that talking wasn't a big part of his game. Talking to his teammates, not talking to opponents. And I just see him making progress each and every day, and it's going to be fun to coach him for a few years.
Q. You touched on it a little bit but can you talk about what makes Rose a special player and when you have a player like that where there's a lot of speculation that it's going to be one year in college, what's the impact for a kid in this situation knowing that maybe this is it?
COACH IZZO: Well, it always works one of two ways, whether it's a senior or freshmen. We had Zach (ph) and Jason Richardson early in his career, we played in the Final Four with both of them, and you know, you can look at it like I've got to do everything I can do, but you can also look at it like there's more pressure on you.
And so, it can work one of two days. I think for most competitive people, which I think he is, I think it will work to his advantage, unfortunately for us. I mean, but at the same time, what makes him so special, I think he's got -- like I said, Gordon in our league, strength and athleticism, but he's more of a true point guard where he really sees the court. He really draws people to him and can dump it off.
I think he's as good as I've seen, you know, and he, too, maybe doesn't get as much credit. He's not scoring 25 points a game, because he's playing in a system where his job is to deliver the ball some, score the ball some. He's got great versatility, and I think that's what makes him a special player.
Q. When you say you're pretty good at free throw shooting, what would your percentage be?
COACH IZZO: I almost never hit less than 90 out of a hundred but I'm always just standing there, you know. So this week I pretended that I was shooting against Perry in '97 just so I could get Johnny.
Q. With all of the emotions going through your mind, can you describe what happens when that part of the game goes south for a team and it gets contagious, and what's it like for the bench to endure something like that?
COACH IZZO: In my 13 years as a head coach we have been a pretty good free throw shooting team and there's no doubt it's over half mental, it really is. Because there's some excellent 3-point shooters that are just struggling from the line, and sometimes, when it gets to be one or two, you know, pretty soon it spreads to four or five and then it becomes an epidemic.
You know, I remember we had a kid, Chris Hill who struggled from the line. He was a great shooter and even John Smoltz came in one day and talked to him about how he struggled to throw a strike for a while. That's what I've done. I tried to use people around me that I know that have been at that level.
Tiger Woods even makes a mistake once-in-a-lifetime. That's what I try to take to my guys about, because otherwise, if they can see other people that have been very successful people that have gone through a stretch like that, I think that helps them get through it, and there's no doubt that as poorly as they shoot free throws in a way, Pittsburgh was 67 percent and went 18 and 19 against us.
Some of those guys are very good free throw shooting guys and it's John's job to put them on the line and our job to keep them off the line.
Q. Can you talk about your relationship with John and how tight it is? Is it awkward when you coach against a friend like that?
COACH IZZO: I wouldn't say we are best friends but have been friends for a while. Like I said when I looked at in NBA things and he had done it, that was one of the guys I called. He's a very good friend of Larry Brown; when Larry Brown was with the Pistons, he was good to the college coaches in our state.
So I have known for quite a while and I have watched him put this team together and I just think he's done an incredible job of mixing in and taking a starter out and making him a sub. We did some of those things with Morris Peterson. Those guys are playing 28, 29 minutes a game and everybody seems to be happy.
I think those are things that a coach does that make you special, you know, when you can deal with not only the skills of a team, but the situation that sometimes disrupts a team, and I think he's done a heck of a job with that. They are very good defensively, and giving up 38, 39 percent, and they run the ball, they rebound it pretty well.
Yeah, we've done what he said, they have all picked free throw shooting, and you have to pick something, and the difference is for them only one works and I had see where they get frustrated a bit. You win 35 games, you must have a lot of good things that you do and I have seen a lot of them on film and tomorrow I get to see it in person.
Q. Do you pick his brains at all?
COACH IZZO: We talked, it was funny, we talked three weeks ago just about some things that he felt about his offense, and I said this to our media; that disappointed I didn't write more of them down. Maybe I'd been a little smarter if I would have wrote those things down.
You know, do I think we talk. He's got a real good clinic he has out there every year, and I'm supposed to be at it for a couple years and I'm supposed to come up, so he's always on me about that.
He's a good job of sharing with other coaches. I don't like guys that are so secretive, and that's one thing that he's not, and that's great.
Q. There is a story about you donning helmets and shoulder pads to get you more physical; did you do that this week?
COACH IZZO: We used to do a lineup with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Mean Green and Joe Green and them, but everybody now has us more on reputation. Our reputation of the past is not one of the present. No shoulder pads this week. They are too athletic. I'm afraid that if we put shoulder pads and tried to block them, they would jump over us. We tried to get more athletic this week, and I'm not sure that worked, either.
But you know, I think it will be a heck of a game, because I think there's some things we can do to take away some of what they do, but if this team is hitting on all cylinders, they are one of the best teams I've seen on film, or only on film because I have not seen them in person, and yet I am excited about the challenge and I'm looking forward to the opportunity. If we win, we get to move on. If we don't win, a friend of mine gets to move on, and so it's not all bad.
Q. Drew, Big Ten has taken a lot of abuse this year, and I wonder if you see any indication in the fact that there are two Big Ten teams left in the Sweet 16.
DREW NEITZEL: I don't know. I think the Big Ten is a very, very solid Conference. We've got a lot of great players, great teams. Wisconsin is a very solid team, and as well as ourselves.
Big Ten has had a lot of success in the NCAA Tournament, so like I said, that can prove the strength of the Conference, not only this year, but in years past. You know, we are really not worried about that anymore. We're just focused on trying to get a couple wins this weekend.
Q. This team is going to run from the moment they get off the bus. Talk about especially as guards, it's critical addressing their running attack.
TRAVIS WALTON: Memphis is a great team in transition. When they get into a running game, might get blowout if we run too much with them, so we want to run a little bit because we do run a lot but we want to take it to a halfcourt game a little bit, too.
DREW NEITZEL: Memphis, they are very athletic and deep team. That's kind of been our mentality all year is to get up and down the floor and get some easy buckets in transition.
Like Travis said, we want to be careful and we don't want to get into an up-and-down battle, but at the same time, we are going to continue to push the ball and hopefully get some open looks and things like that.
KALIN LUCAS: Same thing Travis said. They are a great transition team, so you know, Rose, he's going to push the ball up the court and he's going to have the wings running. So the same thing that Drew said, we have to make it a halfcourt battle.
Q. A lot is made about how much a freshman has learned; what do you think you have learned about college basketball that maybe you didn't know in December or January?
KALIN LUCAS: A lot. Coming from high school, it was more getting into the lane and making a lot of layups and stuff like that. Where in college, you have to adjust to seven footers and big guys in the lanes. So the biggest thing for me is just learning from transition from high school to college.
Q. You have seemed to hit your offensive stride as of late; is there something you noticed on film that helped you elevate your offensive game?
KALIN LUCAS: One thing Coach Izzo told me was I need to start watching more film, offense and defense, and just watching film and just watching things I did right and watching things I did wrong?
Q. Travis, is there an adjustment you guys have to make playing on a court that's elevated like the one they have here?
TRAVIS WALTON: Not really because in the Big Ten, we play Minnesota, and they have kind of got an elevated floor, so I think we have kind of got a little edge right there as far as playing on the hard floor.
Q. How physical do you think you guys are and will that work to your advantage tomorrow night?
RAYMAR MORGAN: I think we are a physical team. We bring it on different nights. But overall, I think we are overall physical. We have some guys that are really tough inside and do a great job defensively. We have great guard play on the defensive end, and we have guards that can rebound. So overall, I think we do a decent job.
Q. Did you run into Derrick Rose AAU or summer circuit? If you did, could you share some impressions, and if not, just talk about what this guy has done as a freshman.
KALIN LUCAS: Yeah, I played with him, and yeah, you know we played against him at the jam, the Final Four game, and I was playing with him at the Michael Jordan Classic, and I think that was in April in New York. He's a big player, explosive and quick and he gets to the hole.
Q. You played with Dorsey over the summer representing the USA. What were your impressions of him?
DREW NEITZEL: He was a great player and a great teammate. He was a very easygoing guy. He kept everybody loose on the team, and you know, he's just a junkyard dog. He's a great defender, very athletic, tough. He was a lot of fun to play with in the tryout, and we were actually on the same team quite a bit. He made me look pretty good, just throwing lobs up to him and things like that. We had a good three weeks together this summer and I still keep in touch with him. He's a good guy.
Q. Have you guys had a chance to practice out on the court yet and what were your impressions of the elevation, do you see that as an issue?
DREW NEITZEL: Not really. It's just a matter of going out there and playing. It's a different environment than an actual arena. But as far as the elevated floor, Minnesota and the Big Ten, they have an elevated floor similar to that, four or five feet off the ground. So we're used to playing on that, and it won't be that much of a distraction.
Q. Coach talked about the length of Memphis, do you think that will be an issue for you or hinder what you're trying to do on the offensive end of the court?
DREW NEITZEL: As a smaller guard, I go up against a lot of bigger guards on a night to night basis, especially in the Big Ten. I see a lot of bigger guards. Everybody is going to try to take me away.
But I'm just going to have to spring off my cuts and come off tight and get the extra space and get my shot off, but yeah, they are going to try to stop me but it's my job not to let them.
Q. You played in domed stadiums before, and can you talk a little bit about what it's like shooting in one, and specifically, for a guy playing in one for the first time?
DREW NEITZEL: I don't know. To me it's not that big of a difference. I mean, it's a lot more open but this stadium is not bad, you know, with the darker background, the curtains and things like that. So the hoops are the same height and the court is the same size, so it's not really that big of a deal. You just have to focus in, and getting a couple of days to practice on it, it shouldn't be a problem in the game.
Q. Just wanted to know, before the Pitt game the day before, you said you were shooting it well. What's your scouting report on you from today?
DREW NEITZEL: I've been shooting it pretty well. I shot it great. We had practice this morning and I shot it well in practice.
But you know, doesn't really matter how you shoot it in practice. It's about what you do in the game. So you know, I'm going to continue to shoot it. My teammates have my back and they keep encouraging me to shoot if they are going in or if they are not. So I'm going to let them fly tomorrow.
End of FastScripts