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March 19, 2011
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Marquette student-athletes Darius Johnson-Odom, Jimmy Butler, and Jae Crowder. Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Each of you have played for a variety of coaches since your youth days. How would you each characterize or describe the style or approach of Coach Williams?
JIMMY BUTLER: I think he's big on competing and being the toughest player that you could possibly be. Obviously each one of us has a different talent set, but Buzz makes sure that we're tough every day in practice and every night and every game.
JAE CROWDER: Buzz is one of the toughest coaches I've played for. I think every day he expects the best out of you, which past coaches may slack each day when they come to practice or anything like. That but every day he wants the best for his players and he's big on character, which is great for our program to become a better player. So he's one of the best coaches I've had.
DARIUS JOHNSON-ODOM: I think Coach Buzz is great understanding how his guys feel as far as being players. He knows when you're having a good day. He knows when you're having a bad day. He's just like one of us.
He does a great job knowing when we feel tired or when we're ready to go. He's just a coach that expects the best. And he's going to motivate you to be the best player on the court and off the court. And he does a great job of helping us off the court being people, just being normal people and giving us a chance in this world.
Q. Last night you guys didn't want to get ahead of yourselves with Syracuse playing Indiana State. It's official now. What were your thoughts when you would get a Big East rematch already in your second tournament game?
DARIUS JOHNSON-ODOM: We didn't want to make it official, but now we know we're playing Syracuse, and they're talented. They have great guards, great posts. They're very long, very athletic. And their 2-3 zone disrupts a lot of things that a lot of teams do on offense.
But for us, we have to still do what we do best, and we know they're going to make a run. It's probably going to come down to one possession.
And it's for us to withstand their run and see how we come back at 'em.
JAE CROWDER: We're excited to get this matchup again. We had it earlier in the year. We're grateful that we came out with the win. We feel we can compete with them. Some people feel like we got away with one at home. So we're looking forward to the matchup. It will be a great one. Another Big East game at the mutual site playing for the Sweet 16. So looking forward to it.
JIMMY BUTLER: Like Jae said, the Big East game at a neutral site. It doesn't get any better than this. We've got to prepare for it like we prepare for any other game. But obviously we've played them in January, late January, and we came out with the win. So we just gotta get back to doing what we did to make that possible.
And when it comes down to it in the end, I think the team that guards the hardest and gets back in transition is going to win the game.
Q. It's happened only a handful of times that any Big East teams have matched up in the NCAA Tournament. There's going to be two in this new-proposed third round. Is it more exciting playing a team that you know so well that you've been fighting with all year, or is it going to be kind of more neat to play another Xavier-type team that you're not going to see year in and year out?
JIMMY BUTLER: I think that it's going to be harder, because obviously Big East team, we played them before so they know what we're capable of doing. But at the same time we know what they're capable of doing. They know each one of our players and their type of game, because they've scouted us before. So it only makes it easier for them. They know our style of play better.
It's Big East basketball, so they know what to expect for the most part. But I can't say I'd rather play any other team. I want to play the best teams we possibly can to prove that we're a good team. And I think Syracuse would be a definite good matchup.
JAE CROWDER: At this point in the year, you're just looking forward to playing different teams. But since it's coming back to a Big East game you look forward to it because you know it's going to be a tough battle game throughout the whole game.
So you look forward to it. And we try to -- we try to prepare yourself for the game, but it's another Big East game, which we've been in a lot of close ones, so we know it's going to be a real close game. It's going to be down to the wire so looking forward to it.
DARIUS JOHNSON-ODOM: I think it makes it much easier for us to prepare for. We definitely know what Syracuse does, they know what we do best. I think it's going to be, you know, a hard-fought, low-scoring game, because we all know what we can do. They all know what we can do.
For us to be playing another Big East team, we just go into it as big another Big East game. It's just at a neutral site.
So for us, our preparation is the same. We just have to figure out ways where we understand that we can come out with a win.
Q. For all three of you, you all came to Marquette from -- whether it was another school, junior college, community college. Why Marquette? And then what about all that makes it -- your team unique? Because I think there's five guys on your roster, seven including the two redshirts that have come from other places.
DARIUS JOHNSON-ODOM: For me, I always loved how Marquette played, even when Coach Crean was here. But Coach Buzz has been following me since my high school days, and he made sure that I ended up here at Marquette.
And I don't know if I can speak for the other guys, but I'm definitely glad I made the decision to come here. I learned a lot more than basketball.
And Coach Buzz, he's just a great coach. He's going to get the best out of you. And I think he has helped me grow as a person.
JAE CROWDER: The history that Marquette has basketball-wise played a great role in my decision. I have a great relationship with the coaching staff, which played a great role in my decision as well.
When you put those two things together, it was like a no-brainer for me. And of course I became close with Coach Buzz throughout the year last year, so just that history that Marquette has played a great role in my decision.
And what makes this team special is you have a lot of guys that really have to work for a lot of stuff. Coming out of high school things wasn't given to us, so we understand what hard work -- the real definition of hard work. So you put those guys together, you're going to get a great ball club. So that's what makes this group of guys special.
JIMMY BUTLER: My decision to come to Marquette was real big because the family atmosphere. Coming around the guys whenever, before I signed, you know, everybody was so different, but I think that's what drew us so close together.
And on top of everything, Buzz is a really great coach. But it's not always about basketball with him. He's real big on life. And after basketball, you know, what are you going to do? And he just wants to make sure that we're the best father and the best husband that we can be in the future.
And so with a coach like that, who thinks way further ahead than just basketball, that's real big, because everybody wants to be the best at what they could possibly be in life as a whole.
Q. Jae, the first meeting between you and Syracuse, you jumped out to a big lead. They came back. And you kind of held them off. Given that in earlier games with Louisville and Notre Dame you let them slip away, how big was that game as far as confidence and setting the tone for the remainder of the season?
JAE CROWDER: That game was huge for our program as well. As you notice, Marquette hasn't had a win against that team since they entered the Big East. So we knew that going into the game we just wanted to get that first win.
That was a great energy booster for our ball club. That was momentum we took all throughout the Big East. The win was huge for us. The win was huge for myself, as well, to get that confidence to go out and play the rest of the Big East season. So that win was big for us.
Q. Jimmy, going into the Xavier game and last night, you talked about Tu as the catalyst of Xavier's offense. Heading into the game tomorrow against Syracuse, is there someone you're focusing on, one player more than the other?
JIMMY BUTLER: Truthfully, I really don't know. Buzz hasn't told me who I'll guard yet. They have a lot of big players on their team, a lot of players that can do a lot of different things. So after watching a lot of film and seeing who does the most for them, I think I end up guarding that player.
But I definitely think I'll guard 1 through 4 throughout the whole night and just mix it up, just to see what kind of problems that I can cause.
Q. You played really well the first times those teams matched up in Milwaukee, and I'm wondering was it something about the way they guarded you in that game or was it something about the way you played in that game?
JAE CROWDER: It was just our game plan to attack the zone. We knew there was some openings in the zone because of their length. We knew we could get in between, in the middle of the zone.
So the way they played the zone, the way we attack the zone forced me to be open to have my teammates find me. But that was a big game and a big game plan for us to execute it, and I felt we came out and executed it and I was a part of it.
Q. If anybody remembers best in that first game they had come back and tied you, I think, with like a minute or so to go, and you guys had a timeout. You came out of the timeout and hit a 3 in the corner. Was that play designed for that? Did it just happen that way or what was going on in that huddle, and what were you setting up there?
JIMMY BUTLER: The play was actually for D.J. And we knew that everybody thought that D.J. was going to shoot it on the opposing team, on Syracuse. And D.J., just being the player he is, he just found the open guy, which just so happened to be me in the corner. And he made the pass to the open man and I just happened to knock down that shot. But that's the type of player D.J. is.
He knew all eyes were on him, so he accepted that and he just passed the ball, and shot one in.
DARIUS JOHNSON-ODOM: Yeah, the play was drawn up for me. But with them being so long and athletic in that zone, you know, I'm running to the corner. So somebody's going to be open. And I figured they was going to trap me and Jimmy happened to be open in the corner. And big players make big shots. And Jimmy knocked it down.
Q. Jimmy, I know you guys were well aware that Xavier was a very good team for a first-round game. But when you guys saw the bracket, did any part of you look ahead and see the possibility of playing Syracuse in the second round, a Big East opponent, and did you have a reaction to that at the time?
JIMMY BUTLER: You know, we try not to look too far ahead. But obviously we looked to see that if Syracuse was to win, and if we were to win, that we would match up.
And so you always have to keep that type of stuff in your mind, but at the same time you don't want to think too far ahead. But now that it's here, we look at it as another Big East matchup. We know each other real well, and at a neutral site, this is the type of game that you want to have to make the Sweet 16.
Q. For all of you, their bigs, Melo and Jackson, could you talk about the problems that they possess both offensively and also defensively when they rotate them and you guys have to either defend them or attack them in the paint?
DARIUS JOHNSON-ODOM: Those guys are two tremendous post players. Rick Jackson, Defensive Player of the Year, he changes a lot of shots in the paint. And he's outstanding as far as posting up and getting the easy points for his team. And Fab Melo, who has turned it up these last couple of weeks in conference play, and he played very well last night.
For those two guys to be playing that well for their team, it's an extreme boost for them. But for us, we have to find ways to take them out on both ends. We've got to utilize our quickness and our athletic ability in their zone for us to get easy buckets.
And hopefully we can get them in foul trouble ourselves, but we've got to find a way to get around those guys and make it hard for them to defend us and put pressure on their offense.
JAE CROWDER: Their guys' length, offensive rebounding and defensive rebounding plays a major role in their success. Those two guys play half of the game, 50/50, in the middle of that zone.
So that length messes with the team's strategy and whatsoever. So all this rebounding and all that plays a major role in their success.
And, of course, Rick Jackson's leadership ability that he's been through everything plays a role in helping Fab out a lot. So as far as rebounding and their length plays a major role in their success.
JIMMY BUTLER: I think those are two really great post players. They're really big and can alter shots and get offensive rebounds and things like that.
But I think we come into every game undersized, not as big as the opposing team. So we just fight and try to get every loose ball and try to secure every possession that we can. I think that's what it's going to come down to, taking up space like we practice every day in practice and not letting them tip the ball themselves, and just fighting as hard as we can each and every possession.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. We're joined now by Coach Buzz Williams. Opening statement, Coach.
COACH WILLIAMS: We're thankful to still be here. You know, we have experience playing Syracuse. I think they're playing much better than they were when we played them. We played them in our 11th game of Big East conference play.
I think they're very talented. I think they have four or five NBA players on their team, some of which come off the bench. Coach Boeheim is one of the few guys in the history of college basketball that have been inducted in the Hall of Fame and they're still coaching. I have great respect and admiration for how he goes about things.
And we'll have our hands completely full from the beginning.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. Sunday, the big question after you guys learned about your playing Xavier was the fact you played them a year ago. How much does that help in game prep? Well, now you're facing a team that you played two months ago and you see a lot on film on, you're very familiar with. In a short turnaround like this, how helpful is that for you as a coach?
COACH WILLIAMS: I think obviously you have a much higher level of familiarity with them just because they weren't a mirror opponent. But so much of our preparation, regardless of Big East opponent, our guys are going to see tape of Syracuse playing Notre Dame when we're preparing to play Notre Dame. That's just kind of part of it.
And I think our kids, just because they're in our league, they pay attention and they know about their guys, they know about the zone, et cetera, et cetera. So I think on a quick turnaround there is definitely a level of familiarity; that there's some things that you don't have to cover, personnel-specific, because they already know.
Again, like I said against Xavier, I don't know that any of that necessarily ensures victory or defeat. But at least there's some preparation that's already taken place in a quick turnaround that you don't have to go back and redo.
Q. When you came out of Oklahoma City and started as a young assistant at Navarro, would you say you had modest career ambitions or big career ambitions?
COACH WILLIAMS: I was a student assistant at Navarro from '90 to '92, and then I was a student assistant at Oklahoma City University my junior and senior years, '92 to '94.
The first job that I took was a high-paying job. It paid$400 a month in a dorm room, and that was at the University of Texas at Arlington. It's a long story in how I got that job, but from the beginning of my first day of college until the last day of college, any college coach that I met, regardless of title and regardless of classification, from that point forward I wrote them a letter once a week. That's before the iPhones and Internet and Twitter. And I was 17 when I enrolled in college.
And I didn't know anything about college basketball, to be honest with you, but I knew how to say yes, sir, and no, sir. I wasn't scared to work, and I knew that being polite and being honest would at least give you a chance.
And of the 425 coaches over the course of my college career that I met, one of them was at the Final Four in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1994.
In January of '94 I went to the financial aid office at OCU, and I used to steal stationery and envelopes from a lady there so I could write letters. I said, I need a loan. She said, You don't qualify for a loan. I said, I need some sort of loan. She said, Why? Because I want to go to the Final Four.
And she gave me an emergency student loan for $1,200. I bought a suit, a shirt, a tie, a belt, a pair of socks and shoes and a roundtrip plane ticket to Charlotte, North Carolina. Paid for it all in cash. I arrived in Charlotte on a Thursday afternoon, with zero dollars in my pocket, dressed with what I bought at Bachrach, and as many colors of construction paper with my resum√É¬© on it that in essence said I knew how to sweep the floor from corner to corner. And for three consecutive days and three consecutive nights I stood in the lobby of the Adam's Mark Hotel in Charlotte and passed out every resum√É¬© that I could.
On the Saturday night of the semifinals, one of the coaches that I knew told me about the job at UTA. And so every hour on the hour until Monday afternoon before the championship game, I went to the house phone and left a message for the head coach at UTA.
I flew back on Monday night. And when I got to Oklahoma City, I got in my car. It was a 1974 Ford Courier pickup that had a U-Haul box on it that I sold the box for $500 so I could afford the truck for a thousand, paid for it in cash, and I drove from Oklahoma City to Arlington, Texas.
I took the first exit at Arlington. It was West Park Row. I exited and I stopped at a Shell station. And back then they had phonebooks. Arlington's a big city, and Eddie McCarter, his name was in the phonebook, and I went in there and asked the convenience store attendant if she happened to know where this street was.
She halfway guided me there. This was without a GPS. I got closer. Stopped at three other convenience stores. I set in my car until about Tuesday night in front of Eddie McCarter's house. He drove up Tuesday night, drove in his parking garage, and when he got out of his car I got out of my truck.
And I don't know if you would call it a truck. It was more like a red wagon. I bought two-by-sixes and drilled them to the chassis of the truck and then stained it kind of a dark cherry wood stain.
And when he got out of the car, I got out and I said, Hi, Coach McCarter, I just wanted to say one more time how much I really want the job. And he said, You have to be the craziest son of a bitch I've ever seen. And I said, Coach, I wanted to tell you one more time that I wanted the job.
Now, understand, this is April the 6th. I don't have a degree. And so he invites me in his house and he said, I don't really know what else to tell you. I said, Coach, you don't have to tell me anything. I know you don't know me. I'm just telling you I want the job, and I'm telling you I don't care who you can hire, nobody will work harder.
That was on a Tuesday night. I turned around and drove through the night back to Oklahoma City. He called me on a Friday after visiting with the AD. The AD's name was B.J. Skelton. He came from Clemson. And he told me that the AD wanted to talk to me over the phone and if everything went fine he would hire me.
So I talked to the AD on that Saturday morning, and Monday I went to the registrar at OCU, who sang the National Anthem before every game, and I handed her a microphone like this, minus the NCAA logo, and I said -- I called her Aunt Nell. She looked like the African-American lady from the hit show "Give Me a Break."
And I said, Aunt Nell, I got a job. She said, Boy, that's great, Buzz. I said, Well, they don't know I don't have a degree. And she said, What do you mean? I said, I've dreamed my whole life to be a Division I coach, and I'm going. And I start next Monday.
And so whatever you have to do, if you need me to go to the president, you know, I can go to the president, because I steal letter envelopes and stationery from the secretary. I need to get out of here because I start next Monday morning.
And so I was enrolled in 15 hours. I was magna cum laude at that moment in time and I went to every teacher, some of which gave me the grade I earned up until that point. Some of which I had to finish projects, book reports, whatever, tests. I would take zeros on it. I would do the best I could. I had four days.
And I told Aunt Nell, I'm going to pull up in a U-Haul on Friday afternoon and I'm going to have an 11-by-13 frame in the front of this U-Haul truck and it's going to be blank, and I'm going to honk the horn and I'm driving the truck all the way up on the curb into the stairs, and I'm going to walk up and I want you to give me my diploma. That was on Friday afternoon at 4:30.
I got in the U-Haul and drove to Arlington, had no money, had nowhere to live. I slept in the U-Haul in the parking lot of the athletic office until Monday morning at 8:00. Monday morning at 8:00 I walked in there and I said, I'm here. That's how it all started.
So I don't know if you would deem that to be modest or not. But I can tell you that you can't create a story such as that. There was zero exaggeration in what I just told you. And for me to elicit those facts as verbatim as I did, you can't exaggerate anything like that.
Only God could author something of that magnitude, and I tell our kids, I've told everybody, I'm living the dream 1,075 days into being the head coach at Marquette, bigger than any I've ever had as a kid. And I'm unbelievably humbled and grateful for the opportunity.
But I don't know what the right adjective would be to describe what I thought or what my dreams were. I just knew that the only chance I had as a non-player, as no one that was connected to anybody associated with anybody in college athletics, was to wake up early, be very hard and diligent and effective and efficient in my work, to always tell the truth and to always try to treat people the right way.
And that's not a secret. And that's just kind of how it's played out. And I just wanted to be the head coach at Navarro some day. I never thought that the day I would be hired as the head coach at Marquette that I would hire the guy that I worked for at Navarro, and he's arrived here somewhere. He was 76 years old. He was a college coach for 50 years. He's not Gene Keady at Purdue, and I'm not Steve Lavin at St. John's, but the stories are similar. It's just we're from the country, and it's worked out the way that it has.
Q. This question's going to pale in comparison to that last answer you gave. From January 29th to now, you said Syracuse is playing better basketball. What aspects do you think they're better at?
COACH WILLIAMS: Well, I think Coach Boeheim's changed his -- the roster hasn't changed, but I think he's doled out minutes a little bit differently. I think that that's probably enhanced the effectiveness of their zone. I think they're much more effective in their zone.
I think that they were struggling a little bit. I think Fab Melo has continued to progress. I think No. 5 has gotten better, literally, per game.
You know, their guards -- their guards have always been good. But I think that there's much more continuity within what they're doing offensively. I think they're playing much more together, relative to the slides in their zone.
And, I mean, we were 5 and 5 when we played them. And then when we beat them, I think that was the first time in Coach Boeheim's career maybe that they had lost four in a row. I'm trying to think back statistically if that was the exact number.
But I think that they've rebounded from that, and it's almost dog years ago, but I just think that they're playing with a much higher level of confidence relative to what they want to do offensively, and I think that they're much more on the same page within what they're doing defensively.
Q. I was wondering what your feelings are at playing another Big East team so early in the tournament, and does it at all take away from the tournament feeling?
COACH WILLIAMS: That's a really good question. I haven't earned enough equity to say anything that really counts. But I told one of our assistants, when we were leaving The Garden, after Louisville beat us the way they did, I'm so thankful that we don't have to talk about or prepare or play against a Big East program until next Christmas.
And so on Sunday we're doing the Selection Show and they show Xavier first, they're the higher seed, then they show us. Everybody's like rah, rah, rah, and then the next team that pops up is Syracuse.
And, you know, I think the committee has probably taken some undeserving shots. I don't know that if you really look at it mathematically, relative to the resum√É¬©s of the other teams that are in the tournament, if you're going to take 11 teams from the Big East, I don't know that on the S curve and all the things that go into that, I don't know if mathematically you can arrange it in such a manner that no Big East teams would play another Big East team until the Sweet 16.
I don't think that that's necessarily fair to the rest of the teams in the tournament either. What I just told our guys was is we're playing in the NCAA Tournament. We'll be one of 24 teams remaining when we wake up tomorrow morning. And in order to get to the Sweet 16, we have to win a Big East game on a neutral court. That's what it is.
I do like the feel of we're playing a new team and the things that go into playing a new team, I think your players are -- there's a level of attentiveness that's probably more so than most, because everything's enhanced because it's the tournament.
But similar to what Todd said earlier, there is familiarity because we played Syracuse. I wish -- Syracuse is really good, but I don't know when UConn and Cinci play today, but one Big East team for sure is going down today and one Big East team is for sure going down tomorrow, and that's just the way it is.
Q. Jimmy Butler talked about the possibility of guarding 1 through 4 tomorrow. And I know he's a guy who can guard a point guard one day, power forward the next, and has done that through the season. What does his versatility mean to you guys and what do you need from him tomorrow?
COACH WILLIAMS: I think his versatility in large part has allowed us to be able to continue to be playing today, just to be frank. Because he is -- he didn't say that in an egotistical way, I know I wasn't in here, but that's the truth. He guards 1 through 4. And tomorrow he'll end up guarding 1 through 4.
The problem with Syracuse is all four of their 1 through 4 are really, really good. And so it's kind of a pick-your-poison-type deal. But being able to have switchables, I've always believed in. But being able to have the switchable that's as intelligent as Jimmy has kind of turned the tide for us, because it allows us to hide some of our deficiencies, but it also allows us to enhance some of the things that I think that we do well.
And it allows our guys probably to have more of a defined niche defensively because of Jimmy's ability to adapt to whatever it is that we're doing.
So just like every other day -- somebody used the word linchpin yesterday. I think that's a really good word, because that's kind of what he is.
Q. You've got the five junior college guys that play quite a bit and are impact players. Can you describe how that came together? And also, given your story, do you have I guess a little bit of a soft spot for guys who maybe have to take that extra step to get to this point?
COACH WILLIAMS: Yeah, I like guys that have had to ride on 15-passenger vans. I like guys that when they order they just use a number. I'd like No.2, the combo meal No.2. I like those kind of guys. I think recruiting, as things have evolved, tends to spoil kids. And within the culture that I coach in on a daily basis, spoiled kids really struggle with dealing with me.
With then having said that, to answer it a little bit more precise, when I took the job there were four seniors on the team. And there were four empty scholarships. Jimmy Butler was the first player I've signed as a head coach. Jimmy did not have to go to junior college. I put Jimmy at a junior college. He was a qualifier out of high school.
Joe Fulce is the only player, the only high school player that I've ever known of that signed three national letter of intents. You only have to sign one. Whatever you sign thereafter is null and void. He's not smart enough to know that. But he signed when I was an assistant at Texas A&M. He signed with me when I was the head coach at New Orleans. He signed when I was an assistant at Marquette, and then by the time he got to Marquette I was the head coach.
D.J.O. was a qualifier out of high school, but he was hung up in the clearinghouse, which is why he ended up having to go junior college.
The two true, they had to go junior college, players that are on our roster, Dwight Buycks, who is from Milwaukee, the first player from Milwaukee to play at Marquette since 2003, and then Jae Crowder, who was National Player of the Year and won a national championship last year at Howard.
But all of those guys were junior college All-Americans. First-Team. And Jae was National Player of the Year.
So we've signed pretty good players. I think there's a little bit of a -- they're more apt to identify with where I'm from because I was on that same path that they were. I just wasn't a player.
And coaches like to help coaches when they know that the coach that they're helping was raised in the same way they were. And every one of those guys' coaches were extremely kind to me and were rooting for us because of how we were going about things.
Is that the way to build a roster long term? I don't know. But I never say this either. Our whole team, our whole team was the second youngest team in the Big East. The reason why is because our whole team is comprised of two recruiting classes. That's not healthy at all.
That was the state of the program. And I don't mean that in a negative way. If Coach Crean would have stayed, it would have been the same. It was the state of the roster relative to their classification when I was hired.
So I think if you look at our recruiting class this year, it's probably much more typical versus atypical. And hopefully we can continue to kind of do that the right way. But I'm never opposed to signing a guy that's been on a 15-passenger bus and ate at McDonald's pre and post game, and thankful to get one cotton T-shirt, not a Dri-FIT.
Q. Jae Crowder has started for you early in the year. Now he's coming off the bench. Can you talk about that move and what he continues to give you?
COACH WILLIAMS: He's a really good player. I said early on, he would end up being the heart and soul of our team. I still believe that. The games when he's played well our team has played well.
I probably was not justifiably fair to Erik Williams throughout the course of the season. I think that he has continued to grow and continued to improve, and I think allowing him to start gives him a peace of mind where he's better and more effective than coming off the bench.
And I also think that as things have transpired, it's helped Jae. We struggled when Jae would get in early foul trouble. He would always get a foolish first foul. That would then put pressure on Erik that he was not necessarily ready to endure.
So if Erik's able to play until the first media time-out of each half, and he's effective on both ends of the floor, now not only does he help us, but now Jae has more of an impact and he can play with more of a free mind because fouls are somewhat negated to an extent.
So we've jumbled up the starting lineup because I don't really care about it, to be honest. I care about who finishes more than who starts. But I think that that roster change has helped both of those players, thereby it's helped our team.
Q. Facing Xavier you talked about their ball screens, the two players, how much offense they got out of that, 25 of their points from the free-throw line. That seemed to be your focal point. For Syracuse, is there two players that you've got to focus on or an area that brings those same types of statistics?
COACH WILLIAMS: Yeah, I can probably rattle off more statistics than you want to know. As I said, whenever it was when I was asked, I try to temper that because it comes across like I'm auditioning for "Rainman," you know, Dustin Hoffman.
I don't mean any of that in an arrogant way. I think you can skew numbers to make it fit whatever you want. You know what I mean? Coaches do that all the time, politicians do it all the time.
I do it for our kids to understand better. I think the best teachers in any profession are those that create stark pictures in their mind. All I try to do is try to create pictures in our players' minds of this is why this is so important.
And I do a lot of that with numbers. Guys, you understand that one of every four points that Xavier scores is from the free-throw line? Do you understand that? And then I break that down relative to our team.
So like our game against Syracuse, we attempted 33 free throws. We're going to win the game. If you knew no other statistic, we're going to win that game. We made 24. We made more -- we made 17.8 free throws per game in the 21 Big East competitions that we played this year.
That's why we're still playing. Jimmy's a good player. D.J.'s a good player. Jae's helped us. All of those things, all that stuff is true. We're still playing because we made 17.8 free throws per game.
Our opponents in those 21 Big East competitions attempted 18.2. That's an incredible number that over the course of 21 games in the best league in the country our opponents attempted seven more than we made.
And that's the crux of what we want to be about. That's why we emphasize paint touches. We want to get 48 paint touches per game. We average that, because if you get paint touches, you're going to force help. If you force help, it's probably going to trend towards a foul. If it trends towards a foul, the clock stops, you get free points. You put -- at some point in time, similar to last night with No. 10, you change their team because of foul trouble, and it negates any transition baskets.
And so like Coach Haskins used to always tell me when I was a kid, it's always transition, out of bounds and free throws. Well, if you stop all of that, now the game becomes a half court game.
And so when we shoot, if we're making 17.8 free throws per game, at least we're ensuring that that next possession they're going to play against a set defense.
So, you know, you look at their box score last night, they scored 25 percent of their points from the free-throw line, Syracuse did. They're going to win the game. They're going to win the game.
So there's a lot of statistics we use, some of which I never mention, but some of which just by the guys that track us kind of understand what's important to us.
Q. With all your transfers and your juco players, other Big East coaches have tried that, coaches that are no longer with programs have tried that, and it hasn't worked. Why has it worked for you at Marquette?
COACH WILLIAMS: Because it's Marquette, probably. The administration of Marquette, they understand the deficiencies that I have. That's really important.
Again, I'm very transparent. And dealing with you guys, I'm very transparent and everybody that I deal with. And I think that regardless of your plight to Marquette, mine is just as obscure as many of our players.
Just being frank with you, I'm not supposed to be the head coach at Marquette. Honestly. But you look at all of the coaches that are in our league, Coach Boeheim's in the Hall of Fame. Coach Calhoun is in the Hall of Fame. Before Coach Pitino retires he'll be in the Hall of Fame. Before Coach Huggins retires he'll be in the Hall of Fame. Before Coach Wright retires he'll be in the Hall of Fame. There ain't but ten teams left. You know what I mean?
So what is the niche? What is the niche of me? What is the niche of us? What is the niche of Marquette? Coach McGuire, Digger Phelps, and one other one, are the only three coaches never to have coached their entire career and never been a part of a league.
So I'm hired. I'm 35 years old. I'm 365 days removed from anybody associated with any media contingent of saying publicly in any sort of way that I just committed career suicide. And I'm being named the head coach at Marquette. And we have four returning seniors, three guards that are really good, and we have four open scholarships, and we got four guys that are not included in that mix that are half scared of me and don't know if they want to stay.
Well, we have to field a team, you know what I mean? We have to have a team. Well, now Jimmy Butler has scored over a thousand points and 500 rebounds and literally he could have graduated in December. Now he's not a juco guy. Now he's a Marquette guy. But when we signed him he's just some obscure junior college guy. Buzz is from Texas. He called one of his boys, he signed him. D.J.O. last night went -- he's one of 43 players that ever played at Marquette that scored a thousand points. He scored a thousand points in two years. That's the fastest in the history of Marquette. He's still got a year left. Now he's a Marquette guy.
But two years ago it was this guy we signed in the spring, and it's like who is this guy? Which is is the same thing that they said when Marquette hired me: Who the hell is Buzz? I think that edge that I'm answering your question with is kind of that same edge that I helped create with those guys, and it's the culminating effect.
Is that good enough to win a national championship? I don't know that. I think there's got to be more balance in your roster. I think there has to be more balance relative to can you take a redshirt, can you take a transfer, can you take the best junior college player in the country, can you sign the best player within 100 miles of your campus. That's what -- in Wisconsin, how many high major players is that state going to produce? You better get him. But then if you get him, it better work out, relative to the other pieces of the puzzle.
So if you're at Syracuse, I don't think you have to take a juco guy. If you're at Villanova you don't have to take a juco guy. They're recruiting the players that they're going to play in the burger game, can we get to that point? I hope so. But it's the chicken or the egg, which comes first, do you sign good players and win or do good players want to sign with you because you're winning. It's the balance of that.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
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