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March 17, 2010

Gerald Lee

Marsharee Neely

Blaine Taylor


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Gerald and Marsharee.

Q. I don't know how much you know about Notre Dame, but you studied them. Just talk a little about the style they played early in the season versus this kind of slow-down tempo that they've adopted in the last few games.
MARSHAREE NEELY: Well, we heard much about them. You know, it's a well-known team throughout the country over many years. But they play a style that I think we're like very comfortable with in terms of the way they play and how slow they play and how smart they are on offense as well as defense.
It reminds us of a team in our conference named William & Mary. So we're pretty comfortable and pretty knowledgeable of what they do.
GERALD LEE: Yeah, obviously they've been playing on TV a lot. So we've seen a lot of games from them. And we know a couple of their key players, like Harangody is the best player on the team. He scores a lot of rebounds. He's basically the motor for that team. He gets things going.

Q. A lot of people are pointing to you guys as likely upset picks, basically. Is that a trap you guys have to avoid thinking? I mean, you guys probably want to play with a chip on your shoulder. How do you avoid hearing everybody say Notre Dame's vulnerable to the upset here?
GERALD LEE: Well, people have been talking about us all season. We try not to pay too much attention to that because it's only a distraction. We just try to go on the court and play our game.
MARSHAREE NEELY: Like Gerald said, it's motivation hearing things like that. You tend to play with a chip on your shoulder, like you said. But that's really big motivation. It keeps you going and keeping you thinking when times are rough during the game how everybody doubts you. You would do wrong, you would do bad in this game, you just pick it up to fight more.

Q. Not that you need more confidence after the way your season has gone. But to go in on the road and beat a team like Georgetown, a Big East team, does that help you heading in and playing another Big East team in the tournament?
GERALD LEE: Well, I think it helped us a lot. It gave us a lot of confidence that we can compete with any team in the country when we run our game and we do the things that we know how to do. Notre Dame beat Georgetown earlier this season. So they're a very good team, too.
But we believe that we can beat anybody in the country when we're on our game.
MARSHAREE NEELY: Just like Gerald said, it's a big deal that they beat Georgetown as well as us, but like he said, I think we can compete with any team. It's just a matter of our confidence and our heart.

Q. What, I guess, is the confidence level for you guys at this point? I mean, you go through the conference, win that conference tournament, win that. Do you come in feeling like you ought to be considered a threat to move on through here? Is there any -- do you feel like underdogs, I guess? Or do you feel you have as good a chance as anybody?
MARSHAREE NEELY: No, personally I don't think we feel like underdogs, no. But underdogs are the teams you have to look out for. Those are the scary teams that have made big noise in tournaments such as this.
GERALD LEE: Yeah, I don't think we like to think about those kind of things. We just go out there and play basketball. That's what it's all about. Just playing basketball.
THE MODERATOR: We'll start with the Old Dominion head coach. Joined by Head Coach Blaine Taylor.
Coach, just a few thoughts coming into New Orleans, and how the preparation has gone?
COACH TAYLOR: I just got done dropping Luke and those guys off at Bourbon Street for St. Patty's day. Told them don't miss the game tomorrow; it starts at 2:30 (laughing).
We're happy to be here. We've been in postseason play the last six years, and this will be our third trip to the NCAA. Finals of the NIT. Last year we won the College Insider Tournament.
Postseason play is something we expect to do. But obviously the NCAA Tournament casts a tall shadow. It's such an exciting experience for me. It's so fulfilling. These kids have put in a lot of work. Our school has been very committed to our program. So I just kind of just pleased for everybody to have this kind of experience.
But we're not just happy to be here. Obviously, Notre Dame is thought to be one of the top 20, 30 teams in the country if you look at the seedings. The way they finished the season with a flurry, they have some high hopes in this tournament as well.
But I'd like to think it's a pretty entertaining match-up. When I saw the brackets I was excited to be able to stay in the south so some of our fans could have some access.
Obviously New Orleans is a city that's been through a lot lately, but it's one of those named cities that's quite an experience for everybody to come and visit and attend a tournament like this.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Taylor.

Q. A lot of people have seen you guys as an upset favorite, if there is such a thing. How do you guard against that? How can you make sure your guys still play with a chip on their shoulder if people are saying they have a good chance here?
COACH TAYLOR: You'd like just to kind of sneak up on the whole deal. Yet in this day and age, there is so much more exposure anymore. People are more informed. We're on television 20-plus times. So people get a chance to get a glimpse of you and then kind of respect maybe the schedule you play.
Our league is getting more respect all the time. We had one of the best league races that we've had in about 15 years. We weren't in first place until the 18th game of the regular season race. So all that kind of adds up to where we're fairly respected.
And I like that. I want our kids to have an expectation that it's going to be a good game. They don't beat themselves, we typically don't beat ourselves. I'd like to think it's going to be a really good contest.
But obviously they're favored. The thing that I think about them as being a favorite is if you look at their senior class, I believe they've won more games than anybody in the history of Notre Dame basketball in their years. Then what happened to them at the end of the year when Luke got hurt, they showed they have a lot of other good players. Now they have kind of the best of both worlds where they got Luke back and they have all those kids with that much more confidence.
So it's a program that's been in postseason play. Has done well in postseason play. Mike's been around the block. You know, this is my ninth NCAA Tournament at three different schools. But, you know, the kids are the ones that have to go out and play the game.
So I'd like to think it's a good match-up, but there's a lot of good match-ups in this tournament. You just kind of go down and go, boy, that one's interesting, and that one's interesting. I'd like to think this is one that will pique a lot of interest around the country.

Q. You talked about the end of the season. Could you talk about preparing for Notre Dame? They said they feel comfortable now with the slow-down offense, but also picking it back up if the situation calls for it. How much do you try to balance preparing for the Notre Dame that they were the first 23, 24 games of the season, then the Notre Dame that they were the last six or seven?
COACH TAYLOR: Well, it was quite a departure from the way Mike has played over the years, and it was effective. So I think they probably have a mixed belief in being able to do both.
Now we pride ourselves in being able to play at different tempos. For instance, in our conference tournament, don't quote me, but I think we scored nearly 90 in the first game, we were in the mid 70s the second game, I believe the third game was in the 60s.
So we've had to face some different styles this year playing the likes of Richmond or a William & Mary, Northeastern, some of those types that don't play quite as fast. Then we've had the players that play racehorse basketball with the BCUs and the Missouris of the world. So I like to I think that we can adjust and play either way and be able to hang in there.
I don't know, Mike would have to speak for himself, but he's got such a good, experienced core of players. Part of the beauty of playing a little slower is it keeps those guys on the court more. Tory is so valuable at the point. And Luke, is he 100 percent healthy? I think so. I don't know.
I would think Mike will probably find some middle ground tomorrow, but I've got enough problems coaching my team.

Q. Do you put any credence in Notre Dame's first 25, 28 games? Or do you strictly scout them based on the last four to six games the way they've played?
COACH TAYLOR: Well, I kind of look at them through the course of those kids' careers. I think you've got to look at Luke at his best moments when he was Big East Player of the Year. You look at what they've accomplished over that time, their style of play for the most part, was the last five or six games.
But when you get into the NCAA Tournament, people don't press as much. It becomes more of a half-court game at times. So I'm not so sure they're a little bit of a blessing in disguise for Notre Dame. And we'll have more focus, of course, the last half dozen games probably.
And you've got to give them a lot of credit, boy. They won on the road, they won in the tournament. They beat good people. Of course, they were blending Luke back in, and we'll put more of a focus on on.

Q. Can you elaborate a little on why in the NCAA Tournament teams tend to press less and play more of a half-court game?
COACH TAYLOR: Well, sometimes you're just playing better people. So they're not as vulnerable to being pressured, for one thing. You get into the half court because people are so good in transition defense and they're so good on defense.
So it just kind of takes away some of the "beat the people down the court" or "take the ball away from them" tactics because you're getting to the creme de la creme of teams. You even saw some of the better pressing teams, unless they're just completely committed to it, that are a little more cautious this time of year.
The other element is to play multiple games. In our league, for instance, we play on Wednesday and Saturday. So you treat every game as a single game.
Having been in this tournament before, when you play Thursday and you turn around and play Saturday or play Friday and turn around and play on Sunday, those second games, you see some real fatigued kids.
And part of that is not the physical part of it. Part of it is all the pomp and pageantry of today and all the excitement that surrounds it. Some of it is just an emotional drain. So I think sometimes that changes the tactics, too, because you have to make sure you have a reservoir of energy to compete at an elite level.

Q. We saw a lot of games last week in conference tournaments, close games at the end where a game would be tied or a one-point game. The team defending may not guard the inbounds pass. They may not guard the guy throwing the ball in in that situation. They like to play all the guys on the floor. What is your philosophy on that? Do you guard the inbounds pass in that situation or does the situation dictate?
COACH TAYLOR: You talking on the in-line or the full court?

Q. Either way.
COACH TAYLOR: I would not put a guy on the ball on the full court. I want the extra free safety back there so you don't have a one-on-one situation. On the in-line, we put somebody on the ball, but we don't put them up on the ball. We put them protecting under the basket, so we can cover lay-ups and get off the shooters off the screens.

Q. You're carrying the banner for Old Dominion and the CAA. What do you want the nation to know about your team and your league after this weekend?
COACH TAYLOR: Well, we have a lot of pride in where we're from. Our kids are an integral part of our campus community and our community at large. There are about 2 million people there and Hampton Roads and we're the biggest school.
So there are a lot of people watching. But as you look around the country, one of the things that happens to us is we are on the East Coast. So there is the Midwest and the West that tune in to the TV and go, wow. There is some good basketball being played out there. Good players, good programs. They see our facility on TV sometimes and think wow, boy, these guys have it going on.
So probably more of an awareness of the quality that we have. And everybody is proud of where they're from and what they represent, and we're no less than anybody.

Q. Do you get a sense of Tory Jackson's value to this team just based on on watching the handful of games that you're scouting?
COACH TAYLOR: Well, as you do a little more research, it's real easy to start talking about Notre Dame and Luke, and then you start talking about the others. But Tory, you go back into Big East history, he's like fifth in the history of the league in assists. There's some pretty good talent that's been rolling through the Big East over the years.
He's just been so solid, a start-to-finish guy. He's capable of having bigger-night scoring when needed, but he's a guy that plays across the board. Stealing the ball, handling the ball, distributing the ball, boarding the ball, he does a lot of different things. He's just a tough nut.

Q. Is there a team or teams in your league that you've played throughout the season that you go to your guys and say Notre Dame is like this team? How do you approach that?
COACH TAYLOR: Well, in a mild way, I think they're a little bit like William & Mary, now, in that William & Mary will take a little time before they shoot the ball, which Notre Dame is currently doing. Very good three-point shooting teams. So those two attributes. And a little more calculating defense, not breakneck pressure. So a little bit.
But I'm always reluctant. These guys are like these guys. You can kind of say this flavor is like this flavor, but it's not exactly the same ice cream.

Q. You're in a league that could benefit if the field was expanded from 65 to 96 teams. What are your thoughts on that?
COACH TAYLOR: You know, I could be on the national advisory committee for postseason play, because we've been in the NCAA, the CBI, the CIT, the NIT, and what I've had to argue in all of those is there is enough good teams out there. We played in the CIT and won the championship last year. We played four 20-plus-win teams that were very, very good. It just kind of made you scratch your head that there are people that have had really good years. Kids that deserve that kind of opportunity. Fans that can enjoy following it. So there is room.
Now does the NCAA expand? What happens to the NIT? What happens to these other tournaments? Half of college football goes to bowl games. We have 330 Division I basketball schools slugging rats, and right now we're taking about a third of them.
So there is room, but what happens with the Masters? What happens with the calendar? Does it really benefit -- is it really going to benefit people the way they think if you've got byes and playing arounds and all that kind of stuff with the format. I'd have to see the format until I really agreed with it completely.

Q. You talked about Luke and Tory. But obviously Notre Dame has two other starting forwards now, Luke's coming off the bench. What is different about those two? What do you tell your kids about those two to kind of try and prepare for guys who really don't play like Harangody?
COACH TAYLOR: Well, some guys will screen and roll to the basket. Some guys will pick and pop. You know, I liken their front line a little bit to ours in that each of them kind of has their own game. For us, Frank Hassell plays way different than Gerald Lee. Gerald Lee plays way different than Keyon Carter. So there is a ying and yang how they fit together.
As Mike has put that team together, you have a guy that maybe shoots a few more threes. Another guy that carries good weight and gets to the basket more often. Luke kind of seems to do a bit of everything. So I think he has a nice mixture there. They're not carbon copies of one another, and that's probably why they fit together so good.

Q. Can you talk a little about where you were this time last year, CIT, to winning the league, winning the tournament and being in an NCAA Tournament this year?
COACH TAYLOR: As I said earlier, the NCAA Tournament is everybody's first choice. Let's face it, it's the big magic act in March.
But those other tournaments are quality. It was a great experience for us. We were one of the youngest teams in the country last year. We got to the first part of January and we were kind of scrambling along, trying to get better. We finished with a flurry, and we finished in that tournament.
Now, that tournament, I think, gave our kids a little more experience and more ambition in the off-season to be sitting right where we're sitting right now. The thing is, we had a bullseye on our back. We were picked to win our league. We were the No. 1 seed in our tournament. So that tournament experience last year in the CIT kind of gave us the wherewithal to handle all of this stuff.
The biggest adjustment I told the kids first day, where we go with our heads will determine how far we go. And the reason we're sitting here right now is those experiences we have handled in a real heady way, mentally comfortable with the challenge. Knowing we're human, we make mistakes, but that we can measure up and do some pretty good things if all things fall into place.

Q. Notre Dame's not a team that goes too deep into its bench very often. I'm not sure as a coach you try to do anything to exploit that in a game. Is that something -- are there things that you can do to try to make a team go down into its bench where it's not comfortable?
COACH TAYLOR: I think in the NCAA Tournament you're more vulnerable to probably fouls than fatigue because the timeouts are so long. You have all the TV timeouts and they're long. It's like taking a guy out of the game and putting him back in, those timeouts.
So a lot of times people will shorten their rotation a little bit in the NCAA Tournament because they don't need to go to the 8th, 9th, 10th guy. That'll be interesting what Mike decides to do. I've got to make some decisions, too, based on foul trouble, performance, and strategy.

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