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March 18, 2010
THE MODERATOR: We welcome Jon Scheyer and Lance Thomas from Duke University, and we'll take questions.
Q. Jon, can you talk a little bit about what's kind of being said as far as you guys being a No. 1 seed and whether maybe West Virginia should have gotten that seed and that you guys have an easy road? What's the team's reaction to that, and is that giving you some extra motivation heading into tomorrow?
JON SCHEYER: Yeah, for us, we haven't even talked about it once, about what we should have been or who else should be a 1 seed. For us once we found out we were a 1 seed we were excited, and all the talk has been about our opponents and who we're going to play.
For us, I think, obviously you don't -- it's not like you can't hear everything. You do hear people saying things about you shouldn't be this or that, so for that it just makes us hungry.
Q. This is for both players. Considering your history, your individual history in this tournament, how difficult is it to not look far -- too far ahead to get to the goal that you want to get, to go further than you have in the past and to reach those goals? How hard is it to not get carried away and get caught up in looking too far ahead?
LANCE THOMAS: It's pretty tough not to, but considering that we haven't been that far yet, we don't have any preconceived notions of where we should be. This is a hungry team right now. We've been working really hard all year and now that we're in a position where it's a completely different team. We're not trying to make up for what we did the past three years in this tournament. This is a new team, and we're just going to take that and keep moving forward.
JON SCHEYER: To go along with what Lance said, we can't just expect we're going to be playing next weekend or playing the weekend after that. One thing this team does know from our experiences is how quickly your season can end. So for us, we really just want to stay hungry. We're really hungry, like Lance said, and we're just trying to take it one game at a time.
Q. Can you guys talk a little bit about trying to guard against over confidence? Obviously a 1 has never lost to a 16, and talk about Villanova as a 2 seed getting quite a scare going into overtime. Does that send you guys a little bit of a message in case there is some over confidence?
JON SCHEYER: For us, I think this group of guys, we just scared ourselves two years ago when we were 2 seed and we had a really close game. We know better than everybody that you have to be ready for every game in this tournament. That's one thing we've talked to the younger guys about a little bit. There's no problem, we're going to be ready to go, and we watched the team on tape. They're a good team, and we need to be ready to go for them.
LANCE THOMAS: Yeah, one thing that we definitely have learned is you can't sleep on anybody. You can lose on any given night, and you're not promised to play the next game. With that said, we just have to be a hungry team just like Jon said.
Q. For either of you, has Coach K mentioned Mississippi Valley State, the coach at Arkansas-Pine Bluff, played on a team that gave the No. 1 Duke team in 1986. Has he mentioned anything about that or have you heard anything?
LANCE THOMAS: No, I haven't heard anything about that. Our main focus is winning this game. What happened in the past has no effect on this team.
JON SCHEYER: We haven't heard anything.
Q. For either of you, this first opponent, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, what's kind of been the scouting report? What do you know about that and that sort of thing?
LANCE THOMAS: We know they're a good team or they wouldn't be here. They're a veteran team. They start five seniors, and they just have a bunch of guys that can actually play off the dribble. We're going to have to play really good defense at every position because they're a versatile team. Their big guys, Weathers and Glass, they're really good off the dribble, and they actually can hit 15-, 17-foot jump shots. So it's going to be a nice challenge for us defensively, especially for our front court.
JON SCHEYER: Yeah, they really like to spread you out a lot. We call it driving line defense, just when you get caught in a situation where they try to go one-on-ones, you need to be able to guard against that. It's about playing team defense against them and not getting caught up with playing a guy one-on-one.
Q. Could you talk about the chemistry that you have with Nolan and how that developed?
JON SCHEYER: Yeah, well, you know, this is our third year playing together, and something clicked this year for us. I think it started in the off-season when we knew there weren't a lot of guards, and we were going to really need to have a great connection. You know, throughout the year, we've just been really honest with each other and really feed off each other well on the court. You know, I think we complement each other well. He can create a lot for me because he's such a great one-on-one player. He can create off the dribble, and I find him, too.
Q. How about off the court? Have you always been as close as you are now, or is this something that has developed as your roles have changed? And what is it -- I mean, to look at the two of you, there's not a whole lot in common it seems like, but yet you really do seem to have a lot in common?
JON SCHEYER: Yeah, we're great friends, and we have been since we've been here. But I think this year it's taken another step. We spend a lot of time off the court talking about things we need to do on the court, so that's something that's developed with us and made us what you see on the court, too.
Q. Lance, not knowing who your opponent is going to be until Tuesday night, what kind of challenges did that present in preparation for today, or for tomorrow?
LANCE THOMAS: Well, it gave us time to focus on us, us coming off of a conference championship. The main thing for us is making sure we stay hungry and giving ourselves an extra day or so to focus on things that we need to take care of. I think it was key for us. It gave us the time to flush that win out of our system and refocus for this game.
This tournament, you know, is going to be a really big one for us, especially with what we've done with this season. We really want to win. I mean, myself and Jon, as seniors and captains, this is -- we're in a perfect position right now. We worked to get where we're at, and all that's left now is just go for it.
Q. Lance, you were talking about this chance. Do you like having this pressure? There's always a lot of pressure on Duke, but this year considering sort of what the league went through, and I know you don't want to hear this, and UNC not being here and all this stuff, there's more pressure probably. Do you like that pressure?
LANCE THOMAS: Yes, I like the pressure personally. Like I said, we worked to get here. The position we're in, I feel like we worked for it. Nobody gave us anything. We always have a target on our back every game we play, from the beginning of the season until now. Teams always give us their best shot. I mean, every team -- I don't think there's been a team this season who's laid down to us, and it's not going to happen -- from here on out it's definitely not going to happen. Keeping that mindset as far as just letting loose, we have nothing to hold back. Like I said, you're not promised to play the next game, so why not give it our best effort each game.
Q. How aware is a Duke basketball player about the history in the sense of do you guys know chapter and verse how many appearances, how many Final Fours, how many national championships? Is it something that is either drilled in you or you know just by being there, and is it difficult living up to that kind of legacy?
JON SCHEYER: You know the success Duke has had as a program for us. And I think the one thing we learned as freshmen, the success isn't a guaranteed thing once you come here, and that's something we had to learn our freshman year. The ACC championships and Final Fours and NCAA championships, we know those numbers, but for us, it doesn't come up much with us. We really just talk about what we need to do, and coach doesn't bring that up too much. He just talks about our team and what we need to do this tournament.
THE MODERATOR: Guys, thanks a lot.
Coach, if you could give us an opening statement about the tournament we'll field some questions.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah, we're obviously very excited to be here in Jacksonville. We've been treated great. I mean, the hospitality has been terrific, and we're anxious to get out on the court and see the arena. I've never been here before for a game. So I think the shoot-around is really important for us. But we're healthy and ready to go.
I apologize for my voice. I've had laryngitis since the ACC tournament. There were some writers in the front row that were sick, and they asked a lot of questions throughout, and I got infected. (Laughter). In fact, I see a few of you out there.
Q. A lot has been talked about this week as far as the seeding you got, the team as far as the road you have in front of you. How motivating has that been for this team to hear things like West Virginia should have been the other No. 1 or Duke has an easier road to Kansas. Can you talk about that a little bit?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah, it has nothing to do with anything. I mean, an opinion that I had before the selection is worth as much as an opinion I have after the selection, which is it doesn't mean anything and you can't focus on things like that. I mean, we have our body of work, and we're going to -- we said before that whatever we're seeded, wherever we go, let's play, and that hasn't changed.
Q. Would you give me the impact Brian Zoubek has had since he's come on for you lately?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: He's actually had a great year for us. He didn't start, I think, our first 24, 25, 23 games, somewhere, something like that, but really him and Miles Plumlee were like co-starters, and then we just switched that around. And when we switched it in February, he got even better. But he's been good the whole year long. He's the veteran out there, and he's had a terrific year, talking, communicating on defense and on offense, screening, rebounding, playing defense, and I'm really proud of Brian. He's had a great senior year for us.
Q. Lance was talking a little earlier about how he thought it was an advantage to not find out who you're playing until Tuesday night because it gave you a day or so to kind of concentrate on yourself and kind of recharge from the ACC tournament. From a coaching standpoint, how much of a challenge did it give you to have a little bit less time to prepare?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, really, we just adjusted. We have as much time to prepare for Arkansas-Pine Bluff as we do normally for an opponent, a couple days. So if we knew earlier, we'd probably be over-preparing. So we, one, gave them a day off after the ACC tournament. We just lifted our Monday. And then on Tuesday we just concentrated on ourselves, working on some things offensively and defensively that we wanted to improve on.
And then when we found out, it became more of a normal way of preparing, and we know a lot about Arkansas-Pine Bluff and have been able to study them like we would a normal opponent in the conference. So it's worked out really well.
Q. George Ivory for them was on the Mississippi Valley State team.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah.
Q. Did you know that when they won the game Tuesday night, and what do you remember about that game?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I remember I was scared. (Laughter). They were beating us. In fact, I just spent -- I had a really good conversation during the coaches' meeting where they have a tournament meeting, and we got there a little bit earlier so we got a chance to visit for about 20 minutes. I was telling one of the people with me who was in the group, I said, I'm 63, and I've been scared at different moments in my life, and sometimes you meet the person or go to the place where you were scared before, and I said, see this guy right here? He scared me. And I think he had 14 points, and they played great.
I told George, though, that he didn't dress as well as Lafayette, but he coaches just as well.
Q. To kind of get back to what I asked you earlier, is it kind of nice when you are a 1 seed to have something that maybe gives your players an extra push?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: There's no extra push, though. I mean, we don't need an extra push. If we're seeded 6th, 1st, 8th, those things don't matter. What matters is what we're doing tomorrow night, and then if we advance, what we're doing Sunday late afternoon.
As a coach I don't pay any attention to that because -- if I was a fan I think I'd pay a lot of attention because everybody talks about that. But as a coach, we don't talk about that at all because it has no bearing on our performance.
Q. Can you talk about each year you change your system to meet your personnel? Have you always done that since your first days in coaching, and if so, who taught that to you and where did you learn it?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I didn't do it the whole time. I was kind of by the book, so to speak. I'm not saying it's bad, but I just found in all the years from learning from coaches that you've played against, having an opportunity to work with Coach Knight in international competition, coaching against international competition when I was a younger coach, and Coach Newell, Coach Iba, they stressed don't try to be like anyone else and always try to adapt to your personnel. Don't try to force the personnel to always adapt to you. And that made sense to me, and that's kind of how we try to do it.
This year's team we've had to change quite a bit, but we had a whole preseason to do that. It wasn't because of injury or anything. It was a planned way of doing it.
Q. From a chemistry and communication standpoint, how important is it to have your two guards be really good friends off the court as well as playing together on the court? And have you had a pair like Nolan and Jon be that close in the past?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: They're friends? Did they say they were friends? So they've made up, huh, because we had some inner turmoil for most of the -- no, we didn't.
Our guys have been friends. We've had guys who were really close friends at the guard spots. But this team, it's not just Jon and Nolan; they really get along well, and they all have value. They have equal footing. And they have a lot of fun off the court and on the court.
It's been one of my best groups as far as that goes. I really am really proud of our guys. I've really enjoyed coaching these guys. They make it easy every day. You know, we're not a great team, but we're a very good team that usually doesn't beat ourselves, but obviously we can be beaten by a lot of people.
But they're close, and they have good character, really good character.
Q. When you first saw the November and December schedule that Pine Bluff played, can you just offer your impressions?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah. It's crazy, which says a lot about them, the character of their team. I mean, to play your first 14 games on the road and 11 of them were everywhere against really good people, and to then become 18 and 4, it says a lot. It just says a lot about their kids and about George. I mean, they're a good basketball team.
To me, I try to -- I judge a team by how hard it plays, do they play smart, and are they together. And boy, they check off on all three of those categories. Maybe they learned that through some adversity by playing that level of schedule.
Q. There's quite a diversity in the teams here. You've got yourself and Louisville and Cal and Temple with extensive tournament history, and the only two teams in the field of 64 who have never been to this tournament are Wofford and Pine Bluff playing here. Is one of the enjoyable things about this seeing a kid go to this event for the first time, especially a team like them where they know that nobody in history has ever been where they've been? Is it, like I said, one of the enjoyable aspects of this?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I think even though a school has gone numerous times, we have kids that are in for the first time, also, even though our school has gone a lot. And you -- we don't take that for granted.
To see a school like Arkansas-Pine Bluff do it as an institution for the first time and seeing not only their players but the pride that everyone has around their program as a result of this accomplishment, I think it's one of the beautiful things about the tournament.
You know, whatever we do with the tournament in the future, you want those things to happen. I could tell when I was talking to George and the people around him just about 45 minutes ago, they feel great about what they've accomplished thus far and the opportunity they have of playing against us and trying to beat us, and that's an opportunity that has never been presented to an Arkansas-Pine Bluff team before. So they're the first. That's a great, great thing.
Q. Can you give us a quick assessment of how you believe your team is playing heading into this tournament, what level?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah, I think we're playing well. We've played well pretty much the whole season. We've had a couple bad games but not in a row. We've been fairly healthy, and I think we've gotten better in the last part of the season. Our bench is performing better. We got better, I thought, in the ACC tournament. Our bench really -- Plumlee, Andre Dawkins, they all had good, significant minutes, and our veterans continued to play well together.
Q. As a follow-up, does that late season loss to Maryland factor into any of that wellness?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I thought we played well against Maryland. We would never be in that type of situation, senior night, 18,000 people. I mean, they have great, great fans, and they're a terrific team. It was Gary's birthday the next day, and we were playing at 9:00, so we might have finished right on his birthday.
No, but we played well. We got knocked back early and then we took the lead. And then the last couple minutes of the game, they hit some tough shots and we missed a couple shots. So I didn't think -- I thought they won, we didn't lose in that game, and that's kind of how I judge it, especially as we go along. I think that game helped us, to be quite frank with you.
Q. You've been very clear in differentiating that you're a very good rather than great team. Can a very good team win this tournament?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Actually a very good team will win the tournament because you have to be very good to win.
I think there's definitely more equity around the country, and it's showing up in the games thus far today. You'd better be ready to play every ballgame and try to be very good every game, and hopefully in some games you play great.
Our team has played great in some games, but we've been very good I think pretty much the whole year.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much.
End of FastScripts