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March 14, 2012
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the University of Montana student‑athletes.
Q. Will, Wisconsin's kind of known as a grind‑it‑out defensive team. Can you guys be successful playing that kind of game?
WILL CHERRY: Probably so. You know what I mean? They're a good half‑court team. We're obviously‑‑ I watch games a little bit from this year, and they're grinding it out. I think they're the number one defensive team in the country right now, and that's what they're known for, grinding it out. They've got good players over there.
I think if we have to, if we're forced to play that game, I feel like we can do it. Our coaches will do a good job.
Q. What do you have to do then to be successful in that kind of game?
WILL CHERRY: Hard‑nosed defense. I know both teams are good defensive teams in the country, so I feel like that's what it's going to come down to is defense, and making key stops as it comes down the stretch in the last four minutes of the game.
Q. Will and Kareem, I wondered if you two could address what you think the match‑ups will be between you and Wisconsin's guards Jordan Taylor and Gasser. I know, Will, you like to force turnovers, but they don't turn the ball over.
WILL CHERRY: I think my coach will put me on Jordan Taylor. Just point guard on point guard, just trying to make it tough on him. He really turns the ball over. His assist to turnover ratio is out of this world. He's one of the best in the country at his position when it comes to that. Just me trying to make it tough on him. Trying to make tough jumpers.
If he's making those all night, then I did my job. So as long as I can make it tough on him up and down the court, then I feel like I've done my job making him take contested three‑point shots or jumpers, or contested lay‑ups down the lane, I think I did my job.
KAREEM JAMAR: Yeah, he'll be guarding Taylor. He's the best guard, defensive "Player of the Year." And Taylor's their best offensive player, so that will most likely be the match‑up, and I'll guard the other guy.
Q. Derek, how does this feel versus two years ago when you were in this game?
DEREK SELVIG: It feels good. I think people are giving us a little more attention now just because of the year we have. But this is a great team we're playing. Big Ten's the best conference in basketball, and you know, I think we have a good shot just because we have more experience.
Couple years ago we were a little younger, and we have some guys that have been to the tournament. Three of our starters were at the tournament a few years ago, so it feels good.
Q. Will, what do you think is different this time for you guys?
WILL CHERRY: I want to say‑‑ I wouldn't say we were star‑struck, but it kind of felt like we were happy to be there for a little bit. I know me as a freshman, that's probably one of the most exhilarating feelings you can have, fresh out of high school to make it to the NCAA Tournament as a true freshman.
One of the first things I did on the practice court was I kneeled on my knees and touched the NCAA logo, because how many times do you getting to there as a true freshman? This year it's more about business. It's a business. I'm approaching it like a business. I'm here to take care of business. I'm not so much star‑struck that we made it to the NCAA. This year, it was expected. So when I step on the court for practice, it's going to be business. That's all that's on my mind. I let go of the other stuff.
It's always a great feeling coming to the NCAA. But this time around it's more of a take‑care‑of‑business deal than just taking it all in and enjoying the moment.
Q. Derek, one of the Wisconsin assistants said they recruited you a little bit. Can you tell me how much or how deep that relationship was? Did you ever consider Wisconsin as an option?
DEREK SELVIG: I think I remember getting a call, but nothing too serious. I had calls from Big Ten schools, but nothing serious.
Q. Derek and Will, I know you guys are big watchers of college basketball. You're in kind of one of the iconic facilities in all of college basketball. What do you know about this place, and how does it feel being in one of these venues?
DEREK SELVIG: It feels good to be in a venue like this. I've never actually seen or been in here, but I've heard about the stadium. It feels like it's just going up and up. It just feels good to play in an arena like this. I think we're going to make the most of this opportunity.
WILL CHERRY: I've heard stories about this. It's one of the most terrific arenas to play in. You've got a high altitude, so we're kind of used to that playing in the Big Sky for all these games.
But I mean, I walked in here and it's crazy. The arena's nice. It's sunny outside. The girls locker room is nice, nicer than some boys locker rooms. So it's crazy. I wish I could be in a facility like this every day.
But we kind of take it all in, but at the same time, like I said, when it comes down to it and we step on the court, it's all about business.
Q. Mathias and Stew, as upperclassmen, what can you impart on the younger players on this team what to be ready for when they do hit the floor?
MATHIAS WARD: Just make the most of the opportunity like Will said earlier, you never know when to come back. This is a great opportunity for them to go out and play on national television and play well for their university and for their families and everyone they know. So just kind of soak it all in and don't take it for granted.
ART STEWARD: Yeah, don't take it for granted. When you take your chance, take your chance at it, and do good at it, and that's pretty much it.
Q. Will it be something that happens in the locker room, or will it be a subtle thing? How will you talk to the younger players about it?
ART STEWARD: Just tell them once again don't take it for granted. Be ready. Don't just sit there and be like oh‑‑ take in this moment and enjoy it.
MATHIAS WARD: I'm sure Coach will touch on it in our pregame speech. Just to be here to play basketball, and do the same things we've been here all year to be successful and try to put ourselves in a place to be successful tomorrow?
Q. Mathias and Derek, you two obviously shooting the three‑point ball that is something that Wisconsin's bigs can do. Just talk and maybe explain that match‑up and playing against a team that also has that same kind of style.
MATHIAS WARD: Yeah, they're obviously great inside out. I think they have a size advantage on us, so it's going to be important for us to limit their touches, I think. That's going to be a big key to the game for us as bigs.
DEREK SELVIG: I think it helps because we guard each other in practice, so we're kind of used to the pick‑and‑pop, pick‑and‑roll type stuff. It will be an interesting match‑up with them too. Just kind of excited for those match‑ups.
Q. Statistically they have an incredible record when they average 59 possessions or less in a game. 60 or more, and they're like 10‑6. Is there anything you guys can do to increase the number of possessions and speed up the tempo of the game?
WILL CHERRY: I mean, try to pressure them as much as we can. Make it tough on them. I know their bigs 1 through 5, that whole team right there they're good passers. If we can try to use our length on the defensive end and our speed and athleticism against them, I feel like that could kind of speed them up.
But like I said, they really turn the ball over, and they're always under control and they have so much poise and character on the offensive end, it can get kind of tough. But we'll do the best that we can with some switching of D's and trying to confuse them, trying to get some easy buckets and rebounding basketballs so we can get out in transition and get some easy buckets.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Tinkle.
Q. These guys really like to play a grind it out, low number of possessions game. Might you guys be able to do anything to speed that up and get it into a tempo that's more conducive to what you do?
COACH TINKLE: You know, I think we might try to scheme to do that, but they're awfully good at it, and a lot of teams over the course of the season have tried to change the tempo without success.
They're really good, but obviously we feel like we can't let them settle in and play at their tempo. We've done things throughout the year to try to change the speed of the game, and obviously, we'll have to try to attempt to do that tomorrow.
Q. Coach, how is having Freddie on your staff the last few days helped you prepare for what you're going to see tomorrow?
COACH TINKLE: I know there's a lot more pressure on him than me going into this game because he's supposed to know it all, so we'll see. It does help. It does help. He's very familiar with their style of play, and then what I think is just as important, is maybe the tendencies of Coach Ryan and the adjustments that he makes. So I think it is a key.
Q. For those of us on the Eastern side of the divide, could you just talk a little bit about the league? If you were describing the Big Sky to people in terms of travel, oddities we might not know about, how would you describe this league to people who don't know about it?
COACH TINKLE: Well, it's planes, trains and automobiles a lot. Our geographic footprint's kind of all over the place. Some of the airports are very small. We don't charter, so it's commercial all the way. But it is a very good brand of basketball. Lot of good coaches in our conference.
Typically, it's a little bit of an undersized league. Montana and maybe Weber State are the two exceptions and usually have a good sized team. Though this year we're a little bit undersized ourselves.
But it's real similar on a smaller scale, maybe to the Big Ten, quite honestly. It's disciplined, high‑percentage basketball by and large.
Q. What feels different this time than two years ago when you were here?
COACH TINKLE: I think this year we probably expected to be here. Couple years ago we were trying to build our deal a little bit. Had a great performance in the Big Sky tournament. Kind of surprised some people to get there.
But I was very impressed with the way we performed two years ago. Now we've got, I think, four or five guys that were part of that experience combined with a pretty young group. They're helping to keep those young guys in check and keep them in perspective.
I guess it's not such a surprise this time out. We know we've got a huge hill in front of us in Wisconsin, but our guys are very comfortable in their skin this time around.
Q. Is there one match‑up or statistical category you feel you could win that will give you the best chance for victory?
COACH TINKLE: Well, I think we really, one of the big keys is defending the three‑point line. Wisconsin likes to shoot it. They've got some capable shooters. Looking at their statistics in games that maybe they haven't had as much success. They haven't shot it quite as well.
But that doesn't mean they're just a perimeter‑oriented team. They'll post 1 through 5, much like ourselves. They like to get to the free‑throw line. That's going to be another key. We've got to be able to get there ourselves, then rebound the ball.
Everyone's going to talk about the Taylor and Will Cherry match‑up. Will, we know is a great defender, but Taylor is a great player himself, and we'll probably use a different combination of guys on him over the course of the game.
Q. I was going to say everybody is kind of looking at the Will versus Jordan Taylor match‑up. Is there another match‑up though that you feel might be key to your success?
COACH TINKLE: I mean, if I had to pick, I'd say all five, but the two big guys. I think Derek, for us, is going to have to play well. Berggren kid can shoot the ball for them. He steps out. He can post it. Kind of the X‑factor. Evans is a tough guard. I think a tough match‑up for us at the 4 spot. He can step out and shoot it and post‑up. He's a little more athletic, maybe, than our power forward.
All across the board they're tough. They're skilled. They're determined and disciplined. A lot of the same things we've said about our club over the course of the season.
Q. I don't know if you watched either of those games from Dayton yesterday, but I'm assuming that you know what happened in those games. Do you think these games will serve as a lesson to people on both sides that games are not over, frankly, after what happened yesterday?
COACH TINKLE: Certainly, certainly. I think if you're the team that maybe finds yourself down in the second half, you can give the rally cry that, hey, teams are coming back, and let's get this thing tight. Maybe we'll make a play down the stretch to pull it out.
Conversely, if you're the team fortunate enough to have a double‑figure lead, you're going to want to keep the pedal to the metal and not relax. It's March Madness. I'm pretty sure you were at Salt Lake several years back when we beat Nevada and faced Boston College in the second round.
A lot of exciting things happen this time of year. There is the pressure of postseason and knowing that there's no tomorrow. The team that usually can put that aside and do what they've done over the course of the season to be in this position is going to be the successful one. We hope that maybe we're in that position tomorrow.
Q. I know you're a student of the game, and this is kind of an iconic arena. What do you think of when you think of The Pit?
COACH TINKLE: Just the tradition. They've had so much success. The fan support here is second to none. A lot of history. You look back to some National Championships way back when, so a lot of basketball. Great tradition here and some miraculous things happen. So that's some of the things that we're sort of thinking of as we came down here.
Q. Is there any advantage to the fact that you guys regularly play at elevation? I don't know whether the Badgers have or not.
COACH TINKLE: Yeah, we're always asked that question when we play in Colorado and Flagstaff. We really don't bring it up to our guys. You know, Tark always says elevation doesn't matter. You play indoors. But maybe it is a little bit of an advantage. We're at roughly 340 feet in Missoula. We play at elevation. So if we're looking for any advantage, maybe that's the only one.
Q. Have you talked to the team at all about the difference in the physical nature in the NCAA Tournament and the difference in how a game is officiated at that level?
COACH TINKLE: Well, thankfully in the Big Sky Conference we get a little bit of everything. So it shouldn't be a surprise. But, yes, as you talk about the price of poker goes up, our guys have been made aware of the fact that the players are going to be deciding the outcome of this game. It is a physical nature this time of year.
I feel we're very physical on the perimeter, and we've got some guys in the post that can bang a little bit. So that's going to be a real test to start the game, because I know Wisconsin's a very, very physical team, 1 through 5, and we're going to have to be ready to take that on and deal with it.
Q. With your daughter in the NCAA Tournament this weekend, what's it like in your family?
COACH TINKLE: Well, I know my wife and other two kids, they're here. It's a tough deal. It's a juggling act. We don't get to see her play near enough. Worked out a couple years ago at San Jose after we were knocked out by the Lobos, I was able to stick around and watch the first two rounds in Palo Alto. We have been able to get to the last few Final Fours.
It's a balancing act. It's tough on my wife trying to get to all three kids' games and support my team. But it sure is an exciting time.
I don't know how many times it's happened when somebody tried to look into it two years ago that the head coach of a men's team is in the NCAA Tournament while his daughter's playing on another team in the NCAA Tournament. So exciting times, and certainly she's watching us from afar, and vice versa.
Q. I heard Derek Selvig say he played quarterback on his football team in high school. I'm assuming you got a chance to see him play at some point. What was it like to watch a seven‑footer play?
COACH TINKLE: It wasn't pretty. He wasn't that successful. No, we did get to see him play. They tried playing him on the line. He was their punter. He was their quarterback. He's a great athlete. And he was 6'9" at the time, but they threw a lot of swing passes. I'll put it that way. They didn't want him in the back field for very long, so they got it out of his hands pretty quickly.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports