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March 25, 2010
ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI
MODERATOR: Spartans of Michigan State are next up. Raymar Morgan, Durrell Summers and Draymond Green.
Questions for the Spartans.
Q. When you were growing up, what did you all think was the absolute coolest thing about the NCAA tournament, and now that you've been in it, is it any different?
DRAYMOND GREEN: I mean, winning the national championship, that's something that you dream of as a child, playing outside, at recreation centers, that's something you always dream of. And we made it there last year but we didn't win it, but I know the feeling is great to win it just by how good it felt getting there.
DURRELL SUMMERS: Yeah, I agree with Draymond, the coolest thing growing up was just winning it, being able to cut down the nets and have the bragging rights that you won it.
And just being in it now, just flashing back to last year, just knowing how it feels to get that far and all the hard work and focus you had to put in, just making you a lot hungrier this year.
Q. Draymond and Ray. They were talking about you two and how physical this team is on defense and with Kalin out you want to be careful because it takes down your depth, one. But the need to maintain that physicality, because they all reference it, the coach, the players, every one of them.
RAYMAR MORGAN: Definitely, that's the way Big Ten basketball is played in our league. We show that every time we step out on the floor.
DRAYMOND GREEN: We have to maintain physicalness, that's something that we do as Michigan State. That's just a part of what we do. So just because one player goes down doesn't mean we can't stay physical. We still have to stay physical regardless of what the situation is.
Q. For all of you, if you could answer, what's the impact of playing without Kalin for you, for your coach, for what you guys are going to do on the floor?
RAYMAR MORGAN: It's huge. Just because he's our leading scorer. He's such a great distributor on the floor. I mean, he adds a lot to our team. But without him, the show still must go on and we've still gotta play the game on Friday. So we're prepared really well throughout the entire week, and I think the guys are ready to step up.
DURRELL SUMMERS: I think that he went down. He's still with us spiritually, he's here helping guys and trying to help lead Korie to help run the team. He wanted to be here. He pushed his surgery back so he could be here and support us through the whole run. So hats off to him. And we are all here behind him.
DRAYMOND GREEN: It means a lot anytime to any team regardless of what sport it is when you lose your floor general or your quarterback or whatever it may be. It means a lot to your team.
But like Raymar said, the show must go on. We have to play without him. We've prepared without him. You know, everything happens for a reason. We had to play without Kalin in a game earlier this year. So maybe that was to prepare us for now. So you never know what it was. But I mean, we're prepared to play without him and we know someone else will step up.
Q. What were you thoughts when Ali hit that shot against Kansas, them beating the No. 1 seed in the tournament?
DRAYMOND GREEN: It was kind of one of those shots where you are like why would you do that? And it's like, oh, man, he hit it. It was a great shot. And it shows what type of person and player he is. He gotta have a lot of guts to take a shot like that in a game of that magnitude. So looks like he always is willing to take the big shot. So that's what we've got to be expecting.
Q. Raymar, did you come into this tournament with a little bit of a different mindset? I know last year you were trying to overcome some injuries and illnesses, and was that in your mind just to want to have a better tournament individually?
RAYMAR MORGAN: Definitely. I just wanted to come into this tournament being aggressive. I felt that I had a lot to prove, and I just wanted to show the world what I can do. And so far it's been working out. And my teammates have done a great job in getting me the basketball in plays where I can create and score.
Q. For all three players, obviously your coach has a really good overall tournament record. What do you notice when it comes to the tournament time that's different or maybe just ratchet up a little bit about his preparation or things he might do a little differently?
RAYMAR MORGAN: He doesn't sleep. He's a workaholic. He's in the film room 24/7. And he literally doesn't sleep to get his job done, have us prepared for that week.
DURRELL SUMMERS: And I could say just nothing goes undone. If we could just do something on the other team for the entire day, each second, he would do it, try to work rest in in some kind of way. But he wants to make sure we don't miss nothing. He's trying to get everything done to a T.
DRAYMOND GREEN: I agree with those two guys. He doesn't let anything go undone. Like Durrell said, every time we get a chance to do something, if it's walking through the hotel or watch film, whatever it is that he can possibly do, he's doing it. And he stays in the office 24 hours, not seeing his family, his kids, his wife, but he's in there working for us to give us the best opportunity to win.
He never lets us overlook anyone. If it's a 16 seed or if it's a 1 seed, he never lets us overlook anyone. He makes sure we respect every team the same.
Q. A little bit along that same line, but this is a program that has tradition of overcoming adversity, and sort of rallying together when something goes wrong. With what's happened this week, do you guys consciously have that feeling that you're rallying together? And what is it about Michigan State that's been able to do that time and time again?
DRAYMOND GREEN: I think it comes from our program, everything being based around family. When one person goes down, someone else has to pick them up. Everyone has to pick them up. And you have that tightness and that bond. You just feel like it's almost required for you to pick someone else up when they go down.
And I think that's one of the biggest things that makes this program really run like that, when adversity comes, we feel that we have to fight through it for the next man that did go down.
DURRELL SUMMERS: I think with help with that, even in practice, Coach sometimes just creates adversity and sees how we get through it, through offense or defense, having our scout team fouling us and creating game situations when things aren't going right. And if a guy, if one guy is slacking, we kind of just pick him up, like Draymond was saying with the family issue. I think that just helped us when real things happen and guys aren't able to play or something.
Q. With the story Northern Iowa has become, do you guys feel as if you're the underdog going into this game?
DRAYMOND GREEN: It doesn't bother me being an underdog. It's really almost added motivation. Even though at this point in the season you don't really need any added motivation because you know what's at hand. But being the underdog, I like being the underdog for the simple fact, you get to prove the world wrong, show others what you're really made of.
I'm pretty sure if Kalin was in this game we wouldn't be the underdog. But with Kalin going down, a lot of people think we can't do it. And we know that we can. So we're going to come out and play like it.
RAYMAR MORGAN: Definitely. Just add to what Draymond said. It has no effect on us. We have one goal and that goal is to get a national championship. And that's all we're focused on. We've really been practicing great. We're growing as a team and we're getting better each day.
Q. Going back to your coach again, I'm kind of curious, other than his high-pitched voice, what is it that you guys like the most about Coach Izzo?
DURRELL SUMMERS: Probably just how much he cares. He still might yell at guys and do different things, you might not understand at the time, but when you really just get to sit down and talk to him off the court and things like that, you just realize how passionate he is for what he does and how much he cares.
DRAYMOND GREEN: Like Durrell said, he cares about everything. It's not just about basketball with him. He's really building us to become men. And it shows on the court, off the court. And one thing that you have to respect about him is even when things are going wrong, you could have done something that got him cross off the court, skipping class or missing class or something like that, but it never stops him from pushing you to be the best that you can be.
He's also -- 1 through 15 on our team, whoever it is, he's always pushing you to be the best you can be, and you have to respect and love it.
Q. Draymond, you guys are one of the best rebounding teams in the nation. What explains that, and just talk about your mentality when attacking the glass as a team?
DRAYMOND GREEN: It's something that our coaches, players, everyone puts big emphasis on around our program. I mean, we do a drill called War every day which is simply based for rebounding. And we do it every single day. It's a tough drill. You get tired, tired of doing it it's so much banging and bruising, but it shows on the court.
We're always trying to go get the rebounds, and that can win games for you. So that's something that we really focus on, especially when you're playing against a team that rebounds well and always going to the boards, that's something that we really put emphasis on.
And player-wise, we take that as a challenge to win the rebound. We don't just like win it by one or two on the rebound margin. We like outrebound a team by trying to outrebound them by double digits and that's something that we really take to heart.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
We're joined by Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo. We'll have him make a statement about his team being here in St. Louis, then we'll go to questions.
COACH IZZO: I'm just happy to be here, to be honest with you. Started our little run here back in '99, and been here for the 2005. It's a great place.
I think we're getting a little healthier. Of course, we won't have Lucas, but it's the other two I'm worried about right now. And they practiced a little bit today. So Northern Iowa is a very good team.
I said in this tournament, since I've been in it, when you win your first game, it can be lucky. But when you get to a Sweet 16, you're probably pretty good. And when you beat a team like Kansas with all their experience, I think that speaks volumes in itself. So we know we've got our work cut out for us, and we're looking forward to it.
Q. With regard to your well-known emphasis on rebounding, which we just heard an eloquent discussion of by Mr. Green, did you have some traumatic athletic experience in high school or college or something where you got killed on the glass and said that's never going to happen to me again?
COACH IZZO: No, I got a better one. My first year -- better one that. My first year I had a team that we could barely score when we were going against ourselves with no defense. And I remember we went out to Maui and we beat the hell out of Chaminade by two, and then the next game we played North Carolina, and I don't know got beat by I think 100. And then we played Steve Nash and got beat and we came back and were going to play Arkansas. That's when Nolan had his good teams.
And I realized that our best offense has to be the missed shot. And so I started a kid, Antonio Smith, at power forward. He was a center. I think we had 24 or 25 offensive rebounds in that game, and we upset them. They were in the top 25.
And I said, aha, there's something to this. And then I had to spend a couple of years listening to Jud telling me it was my only offense the missed shot. Then when we got better shooters we maintained the rebounding. I hear a lot of people talk about good defensive teams, how can you be a good defensive team without being a good rebounding team, because the rebound finishes the defense.
And that's the way I've looked at it. I've always sent four to the glass. I've had some incredible guard rebounders, Charlie Bell, Jason Richardson, Morris Peterson, and that helped. That was kind of unconventional to send four to the boards. Usually people send three.
So it all started because we couldn't make a shot. So nothing in high school. I could make a lot of shots then because I had Mariucci guarding me and that was a piece of cake. It was when I got to college I got my problems.
Q. On the outside looking in on this tournament when you were a younger guy, what did you think was the -- what did you think was the best thing about the NCAA experience, and once you got into it, what did you discover actually was the best part?
COACH IZZO: You know, I think we all complain about the hype and the pressure. That's the best part to me. There's just something about March. There's something about practicing in Michigan and it's still light after practice -- I mean when it is light after practice. That means you're practicing in March, the right time of year.
And I just looked at it, the first time we got in it was incredible. And we went to a Sweet 16 that very first year. And then we hit those three Final Fours. And I have just always thought that the NCAA tournament is the most special thing.
You all know I'm a big football fan. But that one-and-done and the ability to try to make guys realize the my bads, the it was only one mistake, that you hear all the time as excuses. Well that's great but if you want to compete in the NCAA tournament you don't get that. This is it. You lay it on the line. You do it. If it's a bad game or my bad play or whatever, whatever. Realize that's okay. But you're going home.
And I love that. I think it teaches kids a lot and it doesn't leave room for many excuses.
Q. Every year there's a mid-major that makes it to the Sweet 16, but as you're studying Northern Iowa, what stands out? What makes them different than the typical team maybe that surprises to this point?
COACH IZZO: I've got a lot of great experience. We're the team that got beat by George Mason and everybody said how could that happen, and then they beat North Carolina and then they beat UConn and then they're in the Final four.
I'm a division two guy at heart. So I'm not a fan of the phrase mid-major, only because I understand when you have juniors and seniors on your team, which they do, when you have guys that have played together a long time, which they do, when you have very good basketball players and a couple I think are great players, you know, they play together well.
They're very well coached. They're probably the best, if you want to call it mid-major, defensive team that I've seen in a long time. Very sound and solid. And kind of like a Wisconsin in our league. They just don't make a lot of errors. They don't take a lot of chances, but they don't make a lot of mistakes because of it.
And you gotta be as solid as they are or more so. And I watched Kansas play them. And you try to pick up the tempo and speed the tempo up and maybe pressure, do some things that you don't do. And it didn't work so good, because I think they can handle that. And that's where their experience comes in.
Q. Coach, would you describe your team as warriors?
COACH IZZO: I've called them a lot of things during the year, you know. Some good, some bad. But I think what we've done is we've developed into a team that has gone through some adversity, some sort of rebuilding.
Everybody talked about we got a lot back. We do have a lot back. But we lost a lot in Walton and Suton and my two other centers. I lost three fifth-year centers. And we struggled with getting our chemistry the way I think it needs to be to really move on. We've struggled with our leadership a little bit. That's not always of anybody's fault. It's just the makeup of your team.
And I've been prodding that and trying to push for that. But I really felt these last couple of weeks, not just in the tournament, even at the end of the season, guys started to realize, you know, to win 20 games you can be one way. To win a Big Ten championship or conference championship, or deep run in the tournament, you gotta be another way.
And I've always now, because of what we've done over the years, I've been pushing more for that end product and not letting those -- kind of not be okay with the average-ness or the lack of chemistry or the lack of leadership, because I know eventually it's going to get us.
So warriors, I think, you know, we have a pretty tough team. Not as tough as some that I've had. But I think couple of the guys that were here were making some progress in that area. And we've definitely taken some big steps as far as our better teammates, more togetherness, in the last couple of weeks. And can't think of a better time to do that.
Q. How much differently do you prepare during the tournament now than maybe your first tournament or couple of them? And what kind of things do you pick up along the way, or people did you turn to to learn some I guess tricks to maximize your team's chances in a short amount of time?
COACH IZZO: You know, I can honestly say I don't do one thing different than what I did, because what happened to me is we won our first game against Eastern Michigan out in New Jersey. And we were playing Princeton the second game.
And I said how do you prepare for Princeton in a day and a half? With that offense, all those backdoor cuts. And I really had some good assistants back then. Tom Crean was one of them. Mike Garland who is still on my staff. Stan Heath who is now down at South Florida. And we just thought of how do we keep their attention.
Our game -- we didn't get back to the hotel until 1:00 at night. So we started these 20-minute segments, 20 minutes of film. Before breakfast, 20-minute walkthrough. After breakfast, 10-minute film session. And we did that throughout the day. And I still stay to that pretty similar pattern, because I think I heard Bobby Knight talk about the biggest key is having familiarity with the opponent and how do you get that in a short turnaround time.
And I realized it wasn't beating them to death for two hours, it was more these walkthroughs, these film sessions, walkthroughs. I've got incredible video guys. I've got great assistant coaches, and so I can honestly say I don't think since that Princeton one, and we came out and won it.
I will never forget they didn't get one back door, and that was the ultimate goal. Back then Bill Carmody was a coach then. So I've stuck to that program pretty good and it's been successful for us.
Q. What changes for you and your team without Kalin Lucas, and what do you think about people now expecting Northern Iowa to win this game because he's not going to play?
COACH IZZO: Well, you know, I look back last weekend, and people asked me a lot. We've got one of those teams -- it's just not -- the McDonald's sign doesn't hang on our locker room. So we're always kind of underdogs in one way or another.
And I don't know if we're exactly the underdog, but I agree -- I can understand why people -- there's a lot of question marks we have right now. It's not just Kalin. But when we didn't have him last week, the second half of that game, the last two and a half minutes of the first half and the second half, I thought we grew up a lot.
I think we learned we had to rely on other people, and I think if nothing else through some adversity brought us even closer together. I've been on these guys about having each other's back. And that was a game we did. And we played very well that whole game.
The last two or three minutes, hey, give credit to Maryland. I mean, we were walking on our heels a little bit. We were playing some bizarre lineups a little bit. But Maryland and Vasquez did an incredible job. Gary did a great job just keeping that press on us, and it finally wore us down where he was just pressing after free throws. He started pressing, which was a smart move. And we handled it a little bit.
We even built the lead up, but then we started to wear down just like good pressing teams do to you. And I felt like we earned the win but I thought we were lucky to win the way it ended.
So we're going to have to play without Kalin. And sometimes you can get by in half of a game. But then the next week, when a team gets the game plan for you, without him, it becomes even harder.
And that's the challenge I put to our team: We're going to have to rise up because it's going to be even harder.
Q. You covered a little bit of this earlier, but when a program builds a reputation, as yours has, of invariably being ready for March and finding another level, what's the most important thing you have to do and you have to give them as a coach to build that kind of reputation?
COACH IZZO: I think it starts in really in about October. I mean, I've always scheduled to be kind of brutal early. I've stuck to that, even when I've lost players to the NBA. I've stuck to -- I said if you're cocky early and you play Texas down there you're going to get it knocked out of you.
And I think we were a little cocky this year, if you want the truth. And so we scheduled well. I think that's one thing we do. Not panic as the year goes on. Realize that it's a long season. It's a marathon, not a sprint. And you want to be perfect every game, but I don't get caught up in that as much.
I want to be good enough to win our league, which we're knocking on the door each year. But, you know, I don't know, I guess when you do what we've done, I enjoy listening to the players that have left, because they're all calling back in March and you gotta make a run, Coach. We've got this bet in the locker room, the NBA guys, there's so many cool things that happen.
I think our players start believing, other players. It's not me that has to sell it. It's them. Or when they come back for a football game or know Magic is flying in and they know all those things, that's exciting and it's cool, and it's fun.
But I still give the credit to the players that have been there and left for staying in touch, for my staff who has been really good. And I just try to convince them that it's a marathon and we're not going to let the people in the community or the media or anybody tear you down. I'll do that good enough. But then in tournament time, I think I try to build them up. I just don't want to do it too early. So March seems like a good time to start.
Q. You touched on this a little bit about maybe the difference between Northern Iowa and for lack of a better term some other mid-majors. Is the biggest thing that they've just got a really good big guy? Seems like against Kansas that was really the thing, maybe turned it into a game. They had a big guy that could really settle things down in the middle a little bit. Could you comment on that?
COACH IZZO: The big guy is good. And I don't know if you have a feel for Bill, if he's 1 for 9 from the 3 and he hits two 3s in that game, 1 for 9 for the year, that's hard. But I think those forwards, those brothers are really good.
And they have such size. 7-foot, 7-1, 290; you're 6-8, 6-9, 255, 250; you're 6-6, 255. That's odd for a lot of mid-major teams. Usually they're smaller, like when we played George Mason, they were a lot smaller.
And teams like that. But that's probably where they differ, and yet they don't just have good big men, they've got guards that can shoot it. And you put the combination together, and then some experience and some guys that played together and they're very well coached, you got yourself one hell of a team. And I think that's what they've got.
They're unknown to a lot of people. And that's what makes it hard for even us. You can see a lot of film, but then you have to -- like I'm seeing -- like I'm telling my assistants every bit of film I watch I want the roster of that team. What does Creighton have? What does Illinois State have, what sizes are they.
You have to figure out how to get a comparison to play against you. How strong are these teams? How tough are these teams? There's so many different factors that go into try. I think they'd have an easy time scouting us than we do them.
But that's the fun of the challenge. And I think they're every bit as good as they deserve to be.
Q. Because Northern Iowa is not a traditional tournament power, and an unknown like you said, did you wonder if you would have any trouble convincing your team of what they do well and how good they are?
COACH IZZO: No. And I'll tell you why. You know, we played Kansas twice last year. Once at our place and once in the tournament. And in the tournament really they handled us pretty good. We found a way to win at the end. But they had a 13-point lead in the second half. And our guys know how good Kansas is.
And Nevada-Las Vegas, Lon Kruger was in the Big Ten. Very good coach. So I was able to share those two things with them. And that alone told you that this team's got to be good, because they played against good programs, well-coached programs, a team that has got two or three players that have already won a national championship and the star now in Collins and Aldrich and other players that have been to Sweet 16s last year.
So I don't think -- we have two issues here. Number one, our guys know the health of our team. And I think they know the way our season went. A little bit more unconventional, a little bit more not as smooth. And so cockiness hasn't been a problem since the first, maybe, month.
And then I think seeing a team do what they did against the team that they played against I think helps. So that's not been a problem, at least to my knowledge.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
End of FastScripts