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March 16, 2011
MODERATOR: We have the student-athletes from Old Dominion here. Darius James, Frank Hassell, Kent Bazemore, Keyon Carter, Ben Finney.
They'll open up the floor for questions for the Old Dominion student-athletes. Please raise your hand if you have a question.
Q. To any of the athletes, what do you think about the stigma or the -- maybe it's a good thing -- playing Butler in the opening round, knowing what they've done in the past?
DARIUS JAMES: They've got a good program. We have a good program as well. We're not too worried about what they did in the past, you know. You gotta come out, focus on this year. You know, they still have a good team, but we have a good team, too, so it's going to be a fun game tomorrow.
Q. Hello. Frank and Keyon, last year this was kind of new to you guys. What did you guys learn from the experience of playing in a tournament a year ago that you can kind of bring to the table this year?
FRANK HASSELL: Like Coach always say, this tournament have all good teams. And last year we kind of got our feet wet and played the best of the best and show that we could actually play with boys and actually we belong there.
So, I mean, this year we're going to take the same mentality and look to go win some games.
KEYON CARTER: Same as Frank said, this year is different because we all know what to expect going into the tournament. Last year, it was kind of feeling-out process, but we know what to expect from everything from the police escorts to the fancy locker rooms to the intense game prep. And the competition is all par. All the bad teams are at home watching now.
Q. Maybe for Frank and Ben, what has made Old Dominion's zone defense so effective, and do you play zone almost all the time or do you switch up defenses frequently?
BEN FINNEY: Basically we try to keep our opponents on their heels. We switch defenses depending on the team, and I man-to-man and zone also. This is similar because we have the same, like, we have the same -- we do the same thing basically. You're defending your area.
FRANK HASSELL: Our zone defenses are really -- Coach switches them up, and Darius, he's kind of the head of the pack on the court, so if he sees something offensively or defensively, he switches it up.
We go really 50 percent man, 50 percent zone. Sometimes people don't realize what works to our advantage. But like, either each Coach or Darius, they really make the calls on what they feel and we just go with it.
Q. For any of the players, the tournament hasn't even started. There's already talk about how you all match up against Pitt. It's pretty heady stuff but a little bit dangerous. If you all can talk about how you're actually approaching the tournament.
KENT BAZEMORE: One game at a time. Can never look at that far ahead. You get tripped up looking ahead so we just take it one step at a time.
With this game, this game here tomorrow is a really tough game. It's indicative of the Virgin Islands tournament where we had a real physical game against Saint Peters. Once we got past that game, the other games were, like, slightly easier because the physicality, they're off a little bit.
So it's definitely going to be a good game tomorrow and after that game, you can ask us about the second game.
Q. Keyon, we all know your energy. Did last year help you know how to channel it in this situation and will you draw upon that experience tomorrow?
KEYON CARTER: Oh, yeah definitely. In tournaments as this, though, when you lose, you go home and every possession counts. Being sound on defense is one of the things I really worked on this past season. Not going for every steal, letting the ball come to me some.
And definitely last year down the stretch, you know, my decision-making maybe cost us the game. So definitely this year, I really channel that. I can really channel that and make better decisions.
Q. Guys, talk about your experience and how old you guys are. I don't know who the youngest of the five of you is, but and just how much it means this year when maybe the talent disparate isn't quite as great. Darius?
DARIUS JAMES: I'm the oldest. No, I'm just joking. But we have a lot of experience on our team. All of us up here are seniors and Keyon's a red-shirt junior. So I don't think there's any type of game we haven't been in. We've been behind and fought back. We have been ahead and we've been someone trying to come back into the game. So anything that's presented to us, we know how to handle it because we've basically been there before.
BEN FINNEY: To add to that, brains over brawn. Experience goes a long ways in games like this. We can bait the young guys, and they'll shoot a bad shot; we'll go down and get a good one. Things like that.
These guys right here, like he said, we've been through a lot. Four years, five years for some of us. So, I mean, we're ready.
Q. Are you the youngest?
BEN FINNEY: Definitely. 21. Ben's 28. Keyon's the oldest.
MODERATOR: Another questions for the student-athletes? Last two.
Q. Keyon and Frank, can you guys draw upon -- and I hate to refer again to Butler, but can you draw upon what they did last year, knowing that a team that came in as an underdog went so far?
FRANK HASSELL: Not really. I mean, that was a good team last year, but last year is last year. I mean, yeah, we -- a lot of us may look at them as inspiration kinda, sorta, but this year, just a whole other team. We just looking to do what we do. We're not worried about anybody else, last year, what happened before. We just come in here, playing our game, and we know what we gotta do to win this game.
KEYON CARTER: I think the biggest thing we can draw from is knowing we beat a good team that made it to a national championship. Obviously lost to Duke last year, but that's the only thing we take away from it, knowing that we beat a really good team.
Last year we beat Notre Dame, but they couldn't say that they were in a national championship game the year before and Butler can.
MODERATOR: Take last one down here.
Q. Yes, for Frank or any of you, you really, looking at resumÃ©s on paper, Old Dominion's resumÃ© is better than Butler's in just about every metric you can come up with. Were you guys offended or dismayed at all by your seeding, or is that old news? Are you kind of indifferent to that at this point?
FRANK HASSELL: Not at all. We're not worried about seeding. That's a number to us. And on paper, what you do on paper doesn't really matter. And we don't really look at resumes. At the end of the day, you gotta play on the hardwood, not on the paper.
And as far as seeding and all that and the Selection Sunday, we're not worried about that. Like Coach said before, we're just worried about location and we want to play close to home. That's all we're really worried about. We got our location, so we're going in just ready to work.
MODERATOR: All right, guys. You guys are all set. Thank you. Good luck.
We're now joined by Old Dominion Head Coach Blaine Taylor. Coach, if you could, an opening statement about heading into the NCAA Tournament and the excitement the team may feel.
COACH BLAINE TAYLOR: Well, I was joking with our players in the hallway that I probably don't even need to go in here because they did such a good job.
And I really believe they probably did. I wasn't here, but I think that speaks --
MODERATOR: They did.
COACH BLAINE TAYLOR: Thank you. I think that speaks to their comfort level of being in post-season play and being in front of cameras and on podiums.
The joy of being here obviously is something that everybody says: Hey, we're happy to be there. But I really think we're more than happy to be here because we've been in post-season play so many times. We're very respectful of how challenging the tournament is and how good the teams are. The 8-9, 7-10, 6-11 match-ups are probably as compelling a games as there are in the first rounds of the tournament. We know quite a bit about Butler. Out of respect, knowing Brad and Barry Collier, their athletic director, known him for years and watched Butler's program grow.
But our team has had a series of years. This senior class, our '08 class and '10 class won 94 games, and this class is sitting on about 97 right now. So it's a group of kids that have been down the line and they're very excited about being here, but I think their comfort level is pretty good with being here.
MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Taylor?
Q. Blaine, you guys -- last year no one was I guess expecting as much of the team as you were. This year people are sort of already thinking about what it might be like to see you guys play Pitt. Is that a different mindset and how do you sort of guard against thinking about that yourself?
COACH BLAINE TAYLOR: Well, if you get ahead of yourself in this tournament you're not going to get ahead. And I think the fact that you're in an 8-9 game, you're not -- when you're a 16-1 -- I've been a number one seed in a different school -- you're kind of looking ahead a little bit because the percentages are that you're probably going to win. In this game, you're talking about pretty much a toss-up.
Now, do we have a chance? Certainly. Does Butler have a chance? Certainly. Looking ahead would be a mistake on our part. And I think our kids respect their ability to do things on into the tournament, but if you look at Butler last season and they return eight guys that were on that team that are playing significant minutes, they've certainly got the ambition and thought that they can advance through the tournament also. So it's -- that's where it's a good match-up. It's not their first rodeo and it's not our first rodeo either.
Q. You talked about the comfort level that your players have. They mentioned that too, just not being wide-eyed at things like the police escorts, silly little things that are kind of different when you get here. How critical is that to be able to just wash out all the nonsense and just focus on the game when you have a team that's been through the ringer so far?
COACH BLAINE TAYLOR: Well, it's interesting when you haven't been there before to see. I've been here so many times. I'm double digits being to the NCAA tournament. First time I remember we were in the south, and all of a sudden, those motorcycles pull up and the guys are all going, hey, man, and it's like there was a chase scene out of a movie. They didn't know they were there for us. And then you get a little more comfortable with all the stuff that happens on a day like today where I told them there's a lot of down time, but when it's time to be someplace, you need to be there, you need to enjoy being there, and there's times when you need to go to work.
So there's a certain amount of street smarts that go with performing at a high level in league basketball, and I'd like to think the schedule that we've played, I like to think the league race that we were involved in, the tournament that we had to win, certainly has prepared us for this setting.
Q. I think I overheard yesterday you were going to be watching the '07 tape on the bus trip up. And I know personnel have changed. Is there enough stuff similar style-wise, stuff to glean from watching that that you guys can use?
COACH BLAINE TAYLOR: Well, a few years back we were coming up here to play Georgetown, and we were on the bus and you're going to kill time, so you're going to watch some movie or what are you going to do? So we didn't narrate it. We didn't watch it in a strategic fashion as much as just kind of threw it in and just out of curiosity watched.
It was interesting to see these two fresh-faced red-shirts down on the end of the bench, Keyon Carter and Frank Hassell sitting there cheering like two little sixth graders.
So yeah, there's style. They've get a different coach, different players. We've got different players, but it was an interesting match-up to watch. They won fair and square. Played a great second half. Of course that team advanced pretty deep and could have gone deeper with a couple whistles going their way in the Elite Eight game I believe.
Q. I wanted to ask you what Butler did last year and what George Mason did a few years before that, what does that mean, not just for those particular programs, but for every program like that?
COACH BLAINE TAYLOR: Well, the non-BCS -- because BCS in my opinion is a football term, not a basketball term. But the non-BCS schools, feel like we can certainly compete. We have an uphill battle, sometimes resource-wise, sometimes just perception-wise.
But I think -- here's an example. I believe there's 20-plus number-one ranked teams in the country that have been beaten this year. And that just kind of speaks to the parity through the top tier, and I think that parity stretches down.
I think there was an awful lot of conjecture on bubble talk this year, even with an expanded field and that just shows how much you can argue one team over another.
But I'd like to think that the glory days of really having the upset specials that are for real, that kind of make it fun to watch. The old Indiana Boys State Tournament, you know, the kind of stuff you make moves out of, that's what the tournament can become at times.
Q. Coach, can you elaborate on the effectiveness of your zone defense. A lot --
COACH BLAINE TAYLOR: Don't play zone.
Q. How about your rebounding?
COACH BLAINE TAYLOR: Don't do that either. Where you from? Indianapolis Star?
Q. Yes, sir.
COACH BLAINE TAYLOR: You been watching film of Brad?
We play a lot of different defenses. Last time we played Butler, we played primarily man five years ago. Because of an experienced team, we've been able to maybe expand the number of looks that we can have. Really haven't determined just exactly how the game will unfold tomorrow and what we will do.
Obviously it's hard to dodge being ranked number one in the country in rebounding. Every game we go into, the other team, that's all they work on all week is rebounding, rebounding, rebounding. So we're used to having that target on our back.
And I would point this out about Butler. If you look at these two strengths, they are one of the -- very clever offensively, skilled, experienced, one of the harder teams to guard around, and their numbers are very solid. They've been also rebounding. They're plus three or four rebounds a game, which is pretty good.
And so I don't see great advantage in those areas. We're going to have to create advantage in those areas.
Q. Coach, the teams that made it this year, the at-large teams caught a lot of criticism from a lot of the national commentators you heard a lot about. Did VC really deserve what it got? And did George Mason deserve the seed it got? From your perspective, how much of a difference is there between a league like the CAA and maybe even a league like the Horizon from where Butler is and the big six conferences?
COACH BLAINE TAYLOR: There are some non-BCS schools that have just as big a beef, if you want to start getting really honest. And, you know, I certainly respect -- looked at the NIT field. We've been to the finals of the NIT one year. There's a lot of good teams in some of these other tournament fields.
I guess I'll be honest to a fault. When they expanded the tournament to 68, I don't think they figured, well, we're just going to bring in a bunch of more BCS schools. I thought there was a balancing act where they brought in an extra BCS school or two, but they also brought in an extra non-BCS school or two.
And if you look at the at-large burst, the non-BCS schools got a record minimum. I think this year, seven, I believe, if I'm not mistaken.
So I think there might have been a consciousness that we're going to take the top two deserving BCS schools and maybe the top two non-deserving BCS schools or why did we do this. If it's just another way to expanded the tournament for the BCS schools, that's not what the intent was, I don't believe.
MODERATOR: Other questions for Coach Taylor? Think we have the time for two more.
Q. Coach, you mentioned seeding. On paper it looked like Old Dominion's resume probably exceeds Butler in almost every category. Were you disappointed in your number nine seed? Are you indifferent to that? Or were you more happy to come to Washington rather than to have maybe an unfavorable seed?
COACH BLAINE TAYLOR: Just so happened, the year after we played Butler last time, the chairman of the NCAA committee was from our league. And so I asked him, and -- why we played Butler, because that year, there was, like, four games where the non-BCS top schools were pitted against each other and we knocked each other out and didn't get a chance at the BCS schools.
So they started explaining this S curve, the locations of where people are going. I like to think on paper we would have been a higher seed, but putting that tournament together is not an easy task. And if you go to a lower seed, let's say you're a six or seven, maybe if you could advance to the second round, maybe you would miss that number one seed, I'm sure that Brad and those guys will say, well, if we win, we've got to play Pitt probably. So there's all that conjecture.
But I always say the pairings and the seedings and all that stuff, they are what you make of it. And then if you can beat some of those other seeds, you become that seed.
Now, that would be the opportunity that would present itself to the winner of our game.
MODERATOR: Any other questions for Coach Taylor?
Q. If you were asked this before, forgive me, but have you talked to your kids at all about using what Butler did last year as an example of what you could do this year?
COACH BLAINE TAYLOR: Not really. I mean, I think our kids look around and probably hear it from enough different angles that the non-BCS schools can maybe jump on a storybook ride that would be very rewarding.
I think anybody that is a non-BCS situation watched that and watched Mason's run with kind of an adventurous nature, and I haven't really used that as such, and I probably am better off because we gotta play them now.
MODERATOR: All right, Coach. You're all set. Thank you.
COACH BLAINE TAYLOR: Thank you very much.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports