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March 17, 2010
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
MODERATOR: We'll start with the East Tennessee State student-athlete news conference. We've been joined by junior forward Tommy Hubbard, as well as junior guard Micah Williams.
Q. As far as your preparations, guys, since the bracket came out Sunday night, you saw you were matched against Kentucky. What has been the focus at practice as you try to prepare?
TOMMY HUBBARD: The focus this week in practice, just focus on ourselves. Then, you know, obviously slow down Kentucky's transition offense. They're one of the best transition teams in the country. And they can really be dangerous if they get a chance to break out in the open court.
MICAH WILLIAMS: Yeah, main thing was, you know, just we prepared in this game just like we did in any other game in the regular season. And along with stopping Kentucky's transition offense was -- a big key was the rebounding. So we worked a lot on defensive rebounding and sprinting back in transition D.
Q. What do you make of the fact, and I'm sure you're aware of it, no 16 seed has ever beaten a 1 seed? How does that -- can you talk about that?
TOMMY HUBBARD: It has to be done someday. I mean, if it's a year from now, ten years from now or tomorrow night, It's going to happen. So only thing we can do is be well prepared and be ready to play tomorrow night.
MICAH WILLIAMS: In an atmosphere like we're in right now, you know, it's not really much more needed motivation to win. But like with that never being done, it's the buzz in the locker room how we want to be the first 16 to upset a 1 seed.
Like Tommy said, it's never been done, so we want to kind of go in the history books for being the first team to actually do that.
Q. Tell me why do you think you have a realistic chance to pull this off.
TOMMY HUBBARD: What makes the NCAA Tournament so special is we don't have to play Kentucky seven times. We only have to play them on one given night. And any team is capable of beating another team, no matter the seeding. So every team that comes out and ready to play tomorrow night, throws their heart out the most and the team sticks together, the chemistry is there, and I think we have a real good chance.
MICAH WILLIAMS: Along with what Tommy said. I think our team has really bought into the system this year. We play for each other, and we've got a team full of confident, confident guys. We just have a lot of faith within ourselves and our coaching staff.
We just know if we go out there and give 100 percent, we can play with any team in the tournament.
Q. Could you guys specifically talk about John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins and what kind of jumps out at you when you watch those two guys play?
TOMMY HUBBARD: They're both great players. Fortunately we've gotten a chance to watch them throughout the season, so we know their tendencies. John Wall, he's a quick, fast guard he can go up and down the court floor. And obviously Cousins is a real big, physical guy. We've both got to try to slow both those guys down.
MICAH WILLIAMS: What he said. They're obviously great players. But we talked about them a lot in practice, but it's not just a one- or two-man game. We have to focus on the other guys that Kentucky brings to the table. They're a good team. They bring a lot of players off the bench. We're not trying to put too much focus on one guy or another guy. It's a team game. So we're going out there and it's five on on five.
Q. What do you think Kentucky will be surprised at when they go up against you tomorrow on the court?
TOMMY HUBBARD: That no matter the outcome, ETSU played their heart out, played high energy for 40 minutes and played relentless.
MICAH WILLIAMS: Yeah, I agree with what Tommy said. Also that we're a scrappy team. Like we're going to put it all out there on the court and we're going to play like a lot of people say. This could be the last game that you play, so we're going to go out there and play like it is, like it could be.
We're just going to go out there and give it 100 percent. Just leave it all out there on the court.
Q. Do you feel like you guys can play loosey-goosy and the pressure is on them?
MICAH WILLIAMS: I guess any time coming into the tournament I would say a No. 1 seed may feel a little pressure as opposed to what we feel as a 16. I think that, you know, with them being No. 1, a lot of people predicting them to go pretty far in the tournament, I would say they probably do have a little pressure on them more than we do.
So I think we just need to go out there and just play. I think we can play loose and kind of play like we have all year.
TOMMY HUBBARD: Our main focus is not to play tentative. Just keep on playing basketball we've been playing all season. Go at them, be aggressive, and be confident in ourselves.
Q. How much do you guys feel like if you just can hang in there, the more you hang in there, the more the pressure mounts on the favored team?
MICAH WILLIAMS: I think kind of it's kind of similar to last year. We hung around with Pittsburgh last year. We were close just a few missed shots here and there and a few missed free throws.
I think if we could have converted on one or two of those possessions and put a few free throws in, we could have come out on top.
I think just going in and hanging with them whether it be late second half, I think we can come out on top, just building confidence within the team just hanging with them.
TOMMY HUBBARD: To add to what Micah said, the game of basketball is so much a mental game. If we stick around and hang around with them, that can kind of mess them up psychologically. Like his attitude, we did that in Pittsburgh, and we're a few plays short from beating Pittsburgh last year.
MODERATOR: We're here with Head Coach Murry Bartow. A few thoughts coming to New Orleans, your preparations for Kentucky in the tournament, and then we'll take some questions.
COACH BARTOW: Well, we're obviously excited to be here. And have played well as of late. Obviously, we know it's a tough challenge ahead. John's a great coach, great team. The more tape I watch, they're just really, really good at both ends of the floor.
So, you know, I think last year playing Pittsburgh in the first round helped us. The fact that we played awfully well in that game a year ago. You know, I think you'll see a team that we're not going to be fearful of playing the game. We're not going to have a "deer in the headlights" look. We'll be ready to play.
We'll compete hard, but we know we're playing a great team, and, obviously, we'll have to play our best game of the year to have a chance. And that's certainly what we're going to try to do and expect to do.
We've had some great preparation, and hopefully we're ready to go.
Q. You said you had great preparation. Can you elaborate a little on what made it great?
COACH BARTOW: Well, obviously our guys are excited. It's a little unusual in our league. We finish the tournament so early, so you've got about a week and a half to prepare, and that's not easy. There's a lot of time there. I think you've got a balance of practicing hard, giving them a little time off and catching their breath a little bit.
But the guys obviously are incredibly excited and very eager to play this game. Again, we know we're playing a great, great team, but our practices have been pretty sharp, and I think we've gotten a lot done in preparation for this game.
Q. Can you describe your relationship with Cal?
COACH BARTOW: Well, we're friends. I'm really close to Martin Newton. Martin and I have been friends forever, and longtime, very, very close friends. I've known John a long time. We competed against each other when I was at UAB and he was at Memphis. I think he's one of the best coaches in the country.
He's also been incredibly nice to my dad. My dad's had a tough battle, fighting a tough battle with gastric cancer, and John has reached out to my dad in an incredible way. Talks to my dad probably at least once a week. Has traveled to Birmingham to see my dad, and certainly that's meant a lot to our family.
John's been incredibly good to my dad and our family, and certainly we appreciate that. But I've known John for a long time.
Q. Tommy Hubbard mentioned when he was up here about how much basketball he thinks is a mental game. I'm wondering when a 16 is going against a 1, if a 16 can hang in there; that that can work in the 16's favor.
COACH BARTOW: Well, I think mentally a big part of this game is the mental game and preparation. Now once the game starts, it's -- obviously it becomes a lot more than that. But I think mentally you better be ready to play this game, and mentally you better know you can win this game or you shouldn't even show up.
I think we've done a good job last year and this year of showing the guys factual evidence that we can win this game. You can look at past tournaments and see mid-majors beating these types of teams. Not in the 16-1, but in a 15-2 or a 14-3. But you can show them that mid-majors can win these types of games.
Plus we've got good history in the tournament of playing close games. Now, we haven't -- several years ago we played Cincinnati in the first round. We lost by three. Last year played Pittsburgh, and that game went right to the wire or at least down to the last three or four minutes.
So I think the mental part of it is big, that, hey, we can win this game if we do these things well. I think our guys really believe that. Obviously, again, we're smart enough to know we'll have to play our best game of the year tomorrow. But I think the mental part of it is important; that you really do truly believe you can win the game. And our guys do.
Again, if you've seen our teams play or saw us play Pittsburgh last year, we're going to compete very hard. We're going to fight and scrap and compete, and hopefully that will be enough. But, again, Kentucky's awfully good.
Q. On the flip side of the mental thing, Kentucky is a No. 1 seed. They're projected by even President Obama to get to the Final Four and play in the championship game. I'm wondering if you think that as the game goes along, if you're right there, right there, that that can maybe turn the screws on them?
COACH BARTOW: Well, I think that's true in any game where you've got a prohibitive favorite in the game. Later it goes, the tighter it gets, it certainly does probably favor the other team because there is pressure involved with being expected to win. That's in a conference tournament. That's in a game like this.
The problem in a game like this for the opposing team, us, they've got great players. And great players make the plays to win games, especially late in games and in close games. I think that's the reason you've never seen a 16 beat a 1, is because the great players, the John Walls, the DeMarcus Cousins, the Pattersons, the Bledsoes, they've got the ability to take over a game when it needs to be taken over.
But I do think we saw that at Pittsburgh in the Pittsburgh game last year. Five, six minutes to go. It was a two-point game. The whole place was for us. The crowd got into the game. That 1 seed can get tight. The problem last year with the 1 seed is DeJuan Blair decided he was going to take the game over in the last four minutes, which he proceeded to do.
But obviously, if we could get to halftime and it would be a tight game, and if we could stay in the game, deep into the game, it does put some pressure on the team that is the favorite and expected to win.
Q. How much premium do you put on tournament experience? That is the one area where Kentucky might be lacking?
COACH BARTOW: Well, you know, that's a factor. I think it's a factor. Certainly as I look at our team, it's a factor. Not that we have a ton either, but I do think it helps when you've played in the tournament and have some experience in the tournament.
Certainly as people critique Kentucky's team, that's one thing they'd say. They have three freshmen that have never been in the tournament. The problem is those three freshmen are so talented and future pros. And John Wall's the best player in the country, so I don't know how much effect it will have in this game.
Q. You said John Wall's the best player in the country. What gives him the edge over, say, Evan Turner or the guys that are right up there?
COACH BARTOW: You know, there's probably some others. He's just got such incredible speed. That's one thing as a coach you can't teach. He's just got speed on top of speed. You know, we've talked to a lot of coaches and they all say you've got to stay in front of him. You've got to stay in front of him. The problem is you can't stay in front of him. He's just got incredible speed.
He's got just a great will about him. He's got a great feel for the game. He's obviously a phenomenal athlete. Can make plays, get into the paint, can distribute. He's just a great, great player. He's just got a great, great feel for how to win games and how to play the game of basketball. Then he's got that speed, and speed is a great separator with good players and great players. He's just got that end-to-end speed where he can get to the rim whenever he needs to get there.
We'll try different things on him. But whether he plays zone or man or whatever you do, he's just tough to play in front of.
Q. You do have experience at the 16-1 business. How would you compare the challenge that Kentucky has as the 1 as opposed to Pittsburgh and the other 1s?
COACH BARTOW: In terms of us playing them?
Q. Yeah, in terms of how difficult the task is?
COACH BARTOW: It's tough. I mean, Pittsburgh was really, really good. Very different teams. You know, Pittsburgh was -- they had the one inside player in DeJuan Blair. You know, obviously when you're a mid-major, a lot of times you don't have a lot of size, so that's always a concern when you go into the tournament. How are you going to match up? So you're waiting to see the bracket, waiting to see who you're going to play, and waiting to see how much size they've got.
Last year DeJuan Blair was phenomenal, but they had just one of him. Obviously this year it's Patterson and Cousins and Orton. So there is a lot of size that we have to deal with.
Pittsburgh was more of a set team. We're going to run these 20 sets and they're a great defensive team. Kentucky, John -- I think John's teams have always been this way. Not real complicated, but John's a great coach. He keeps it pretty simple and lets players make plays. He's got guys that can really make plays.
Now, don't get me wrong. He's a great coach. A great X's and O's coach. But he also keeps it pretty uncomplicated and pretty simple. And Kentucky's just much more talented than Pittsburgh was a year ago.
So obviously they're on paper one of those teams that a lot of things have to happen over the next -- obviously, they've got to get by us, first of all. But they're certainly one of those teams on paper that they've got all the ingredients to have a chance to win it all.
They've got great, great talent. It's hard to beat good talent if you've got a lot more than anybody else. And Wall is, you know, I think it would be hard to argue that they've got probably four top picks in the draft. Whenever those guys decide to come out. But they've just got a lot of size, they've got a lot of speed. They don't shoot it great from the perimeter. But they've got all the makings of a great team.
So it's a little different than Pitt. I think they're a better team than Pitt was a year ago.
End of FastScripts