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March 16, 2011

Rick Byrd

Ian Clark

Mick Hedgepeth

Scott Saunders


THE MODERATOR: We will go ahead and open it for questions.

Q. I guess I'll start this off the same way the Wisconsin presser got started off. A lot of analysts and people around the country picking Belmont in this game. What's the team's attitude going into this game tomorrow just in general?
SCOTT SAUNDERS: I think, you know, Coach Byrd would say it doesn't put any points on the scoreboard for us. It's nice to have recognition. But yet it doesn't count for much tomorrow.

Q. Ian, how much is it going to help to have played games like Tennessee, Vanderbilt early in the season once you get to this level and against a big, high-profile team like Wisconsin?
IAN CLARK: I think it will help us a lot. Tennessee and Vandy games really help us to play, you know, the SEC schools, some of the powerhouses. I think that us playing them pretty close really shows that we can play with anybody in the country. And I think that those games in particular really help us get ready for the NCAA tournament and the team we're about to face tomorrow.

Q. Ian, I was just curious kind of first impressions when you watched Wisconsin game film for the first time, what you thought about them?
IAN CLARK: I think they're a really good team. You know, I say a lot I think they remind me of us a lot, how they got five guys on the perimeter that can shoot the ball from three. Of course, they're a good team and a big team. And we got our hands full.

Q. When you watch them, when you look at the numbers they do, you know, the free-throw shooting well, turnovers, all those little things, does that jump out at you when you watch them those fundamental things they do incredibly well?
IAN CLARK: It does. We've made that a main point in our scouting report knowing they run the offense really well. They don't rush anything.
Like I said, they're top in the country in not producing a lot of turnovers. So, you know, there's definitely a main point we have to focus on when we go in to play them knowing that we can't have chippy fouls because they're good at the free-throw line or we can't give them the ball because they don't turn it over themselves. So those are really big points for us.

Q. Looking at your stats I see that you put up 319 more three-pointers than your opponents. Do you guys live and die on that thing? Or is there danger in tournament setting going to that too much?
IAN CLARK: I won't say we live and die from them, but our main focus is to get it to our five men. Mick and Scott are really the focus of the offense, as coach would say. I think that when they're feeling, you know, that they really can't produce in there or they're getting double-teamed they do a really good job of kicking it out to our shooters.
We have a lot of perimeters -- I mean a lot of shooters on the perimeter, and we just get it and we knock down shots. We take the shots. We got confidence in ourselves and they have confidence in us kicking it back out to us.

Q. I just want so see if Mick can talk. [Laughter.] Quick question about the depth of this team. Do you think you guys are going to come -- people who haven't seen you play, come at people in waves almost or how is the philosophy there?
MIKE HEDGEPETH: I think it's been a huge benefit for our team this year. Coach Byrd, I've heard him say before, he didn't really try to have that system. It just sort of happened. I've heard them often say he could pick any five guys on our team and the second five would just as easily beat the first five if they were picked.
It's been very beneficial, as far as practicing harder also, which no one really thinks about. Usually we've been able to practice a lot harder this year. I think that's helped us out. Hopefully will prepare us for this tournament.
Like you said, it's good to know you can come in and play as hard as you can for 3 or 4 minutes instead of having to pace yourself like a lot of guys do on most teams. So we stay fresh. I think we average, like, ten guys play over 10 minutes, but no one plays over 25 minutes. So I think it's key for us.

Q. Mick, how does, you know, that last game against North Florida, such a convincing blowout and a great game for you personally, including the last 12 or 13 games in a row that you all have won, how does that momentum play into this game?
MIKE HEDGEPETH: You know, I think it's definitely built our confidence that we've been on quite a winning streak lately. But, also, at the same time, we have to keep in mind that, you know, we're playing a top 15 or 20 team in the country. We're playing Wisconsin, not anyone in the A-Sun. And we're going to have to play very well to be, you know, competitive and be where we want to be in this game.

Q. If you look at the recent history NCAA tournament, I was just looking it up, and 13 seeds have won each of the last eight games in each of the last two tournaments, and there's been a lot of 12 seed wins. What does that say about schools that play at your level and just in general the seeding system in tournament and parity maybe of teams in that fourth seed, third seed, fourth team seed?
SCOTT SAUNDERS: I think it just speaks to the parity in college basketball lately. I mean, looking at a team like Butler making a run to the national title game last year, and they're in a situation that's not too unlike ours.
As far as 13 and 12 seeds in particular pulling upsets lately, yeah, I think it gives us confidence knowing it can be done. But like I said before, it doesn't put any extra points on the scoreboard for us.

Q. Ian, can you talk about the eagerness to actually get out and play again. The Bruins haven't played since March 5th, whereas many of the BCS conference schools played last week, whereas you guys have almost had 11, 12 days off.
IAN CLARK: I think a lot of our guys are excited. This being the NCAA tournament and like you said, we've been off for awhile. I know for me and these two guys next to me, it's our first NCAA tournament experience. I think a lot of our guys would say that, you know, they really probably didn't want to practice as long as we did, but, at the same time, I think it was needed. But I think coming out being ready for tomorrow, I think a lot of our guys are eager and ready and excited to get back on the floor.
THE MODERATOR: Okay, gentlemen, thank you very much. Appreciate it. Good luck tomorrow.
We have Belmont coach, Rick Byrd. Coach, if you can give us some opening remarks, then we'll open it up for questions.
COACH BYRD: Obviously, we're very pleased to be here. When you've been fortunate to go before and missed out a couple of times, I think you enjoy it so much more. This year was a lot like the first year, how it felt. A lot of almost all new guys and get to see them enjoy the moment of making the NCAA tournament is just, it's hard to beat. It's why you do it, I think. So we've got quite a challenge. But we're anxious to play.

Q. I was just reading about your team here in-depth. And is this as good a group as you've put together? And what do you think of so many people thinking you guys will win this game?
COACH BYRD: Well, the second part, I think that -- I appreciate it and I think it's a nod to our team being better than the teams in the past. Because the three years we came before I don't think anyone picked us to win any of those games.
At the same time, I think we all know that analysts, they can't just pick the 1 seed over the 16 and the 2 over the 15 and go right down the line. I think to be a really good analyst they got to pick some upsets. And it's nice that we were chosen. But the committee met and thought long and hard and they made Wisconsin 4th seed and us a 13th seed for a reason.
So we're playing a really good team. A really good Big Ten team. We're, I think, a really good Atlantic Sun team.

Q. How about this team?
COACH BYRD: This is the best Division I program we've had. It's hard to compare. We had a NAIA team in '95 that was 37-2 and that was about as good as you can do. And this year 30-4 was about as good as we can do. You can't throw out the three losses on the road to SEC teams, NCAA teams. But in terms of what was expected of us, we were about as good as we could do.
You look at all the defensive numbers, scoring margin numbers, this is the best team we've had.

Q. Coach, can you just talk about Jordan Taylor and what you see in him as a player that you have to deal with.
COACH BYRD: You know, it's kind of which guy out there is going to beat you. And it starts with him because he's got the ball in his hands so much of the time. He can initiate the offense off a ball screen and then create something for himself. Make it from behind the line. Drive it around you and score it, dish it, or throw it back on the guy who set it for a wide-open three because you are so worried about containing him on the ball screen. It's really difficult to guard because he's strong and smart and doesn't turn it over.
Is there anything that I didn't say good about him? I mean, he is just really, really a good point guard. And the kind of guy you want to have on your team. And, you know, I like a lot of the other guys, but I sure admire the kind of player he is.

Q. Coach, has there been any part of your team that has been even better than you thought it would be?
COACH BYRD: The team as a whole has been better. I don't know that we've -- I think, and I heard Mick talk about our depth and the contribution that that has made to us being a better team. So I didn't think we'd lead the country in bench scoring when the season started. And so certainly the ability of -- when we made the decision to play everybody, and for the guys that some people might have named 9, 10 and 11 to play as well as the guys that might have been named 1, 2 and 3, really made a lot of difference in our season.
But, you know, some guys played better. For example, Scott Saunders has improved quite a bit inside the post. And Kerron Johnson has become a much better shooter and free-throw shooter as a point guard. Those are two guys that get fouled a lot. And I would have predicted them to be 62 or 63 percent free-throw shooters before the season. And they both really improved from the free-throw line. When you got the combination getting fouled a lot and then you make them, that's been a big plus. Bigger plus than probably would think about. Because those guys may get fouled, along with Mick Hedgepeth, I'm sure that's the top three on our team.

Q. Curious, how does a team like Belmont, a school at that level acquire this kind of depth?
COACH BYRD: Every year we try to go out and find young men that fit our school and the style of play we have. I think we're like Wisconsin in that regard. When you watch Wisconsin play, you know he's recruited those guys for a reason, because of their skills, because of their character. Their unselfishness and will fit into their style of play. We try to do the same thing. Even though the style of play may be different.
But I think the real answer to that it's pretty accidental to end up, without a guy like Taylor that you have to have in the game because he's so good, and to have guys at the 9, 10 and 11 spot that really can compete with the guys at the top, and your team's not going to drop off.
We do a plus-minus chart, how the team does when each guy is in the game. And some of the guys at the top of that chart are not the guys that our fans would name in our best five players. But they're effective basketball players.
So I think it's just a matter of here's who we ended up with, and this is who -- this is how it ended up. We need to go ahead and use all these guys. It would be unfair not to play No. 9 and No. 10 because they're almost as good as No. 2 and No. 3.
It's a bad answer, I guess, I don't know, if that's what you are looking for.

Q. Just happened?
COACH BYRD: Yeah, just happened. Most of the good stuff on our team just happens, believe me.
THE MODERATOR: Okay, coach, thank you very much. Good luck tomorrow.
COACH BYRD: Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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