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NCAA MEN'S 2ND & 3RD ROUNDS: PORTLAND


March 14, 2012


Bradford Burgess

Troy Daniels

Shaka Smart

Darius Theus


PORTLAND, OREGON

Q.  Can you talk about last year, playing them and what value, if there is any, in that game for this game?
BRADFORD BURGESS:  They're a well coached team.  They have a great group of seniors.  They've led them the whole season.  They're playing at a high level.
It's just going to be a great challenge for us.  We're pretty familiar with them just because of last year.  But when the ball is tipped up tomorrow it's not going to make any difference, it's going to be the better team winning.

Q.  Last year you didn't play as much in the NCAA tournament as the guys to your left did.  Does this have a special meaning to you to be here and starting tomorrow, and obviously you'll have a lot to do with the outcome?
TROY DANIELS:  Definitely.  It's just a privilege for me just to come here and do what I can for my team.  Last year I was obviously on the bench.  But to see these guys be successful, I just want to get out there right now.  But it's just a great feeling, so I'll be ready.

Q.  Could you talk about, tell us how the situation is different, now having the experience of last year, but also being out here in Portland?
BRADFORD BURGESS:¬† Last year I think we played ‑‑ we played Wednesday last year, so today we would have been playing our first game and then we played Friday.¬† A lot of guys have first game jitters, we're all going the other side of the country, with the time difference.¬† We've got a lot of things going into the games.
But at the end of the day, it's just another basketball game.  We're just going to have to prepare ourselves, the same way we do always, and just be ready to go.

Q.  At the beginning of the season Bradford was kind of the only proven scorer you guys had back.  How big a key for how much you guys have improved is it that the rest of you kind of stepped up more offensively and helped him out more over the last few months?
TROY DANIELS:  You know, we knew coming into the season Brad was going to be a big scorer for us.  We knew we had to step up.  He couldn't do it my himself.  The coach was getting us in the gym at nighttime, just getting in and working.  Our freshman stepped up, too.  So we knew we were going to have to help Brad and that's what we did this year.

Q.  You have seen VCU point guards over the last five years have big impacts in this tournament with Eric and Joey, now it's your turn.  Talk about whether it's pressure or motivation, or what's going through your mind now that you're going to be starting at point guard?
DARIUS THEUS:  Not too much pressure.  It's a lot of motivation just to go out there and just show people what I can do and show people I can help this team and just do my job and do my best leading this team to victory.  And I've had help from the previous guys.  So it's motivation to me to show that I can do the same thing previous point guards have done at VCU.

Q.  Talk about Wichita State on tape.  Are they a better basketball team than the one you prepared for last year?
BRADFORD BURGESS:  Yeah.  They've been playing at a high level all season.  They've been in the top 25.  They're well coached.  They have experience.  They have a great group of seniors who are playing at a high level together.  They're battle tested.  They've been through all phases of the game.  And they'll be ready for tomorrow, just like we will.

Q.¬† You've obviously had some tough match‑ups with point guards recently with the conference championship.¬† Can you talk a little bit about your match‑ups tomorrow with Ragland and Tour√© Murry with Wichita State?
DARIUS THEUS:  Ragland is a great senior point guard and so is Murry.  With Murry on the wing, he's such a great player also.  But we're just going to do just our best to prepare and be locked in and focused on those two guys, do whatever we can to get the job done.

Q.  When you have a basketball team like Wichita State that you're preparing for, and you prepared for them obviously last year.  They're so diverse in the way they score, they score the basketball 7, 8 guys deep.  How do you go about pinpointing an area against a team?
COACH SMART:  That's what good teams do, they can score from a variety of ways.  I think with a team like Wichita State you have to start with the point guard and the center.  Those two guys for the Shockers happen to be first team all conference performers.  And two guys that have really, really improved since we played them last.  That was the biggest thing that I noticed when we were watching tape.  Those guys went from very good players last year to the class of their league this year.
That's where we start.  But like you said, they have a lot of very other talented players, you can't ignore those guys.  They have guys on any given night can lead them in scoring.
We've just got to do a good job overall defensively taking away their strengths.  You can't always take everything away.  But our team, when we're really locked in, does a nice job of following the scouting report and taking away at least the team's first option.

Q.  How much value is there in last year's game and last year's game tape?
COACH SMART:  Not so much the tape, because our opponent is different and the game is so much different, but I think the experience from last year.  I think the fact that we do have several guys on our team that have played in six NCAA tournament games and won five of them is something that they can draw on.  They know that there's going to be some nerves early on.  There just is when you're playing an NCAA tournament.  I think they can help our younger guys that haven't been here.
They also have winning experience to draw on when the game gets close, when they face a little adversity.  They know what it takes to battle back and find a way to win.

Q.  Is there anything different that you were telling your guys in the last couple of days compared to how you were preparing them a year ago going into the first four?
COACH SMART:  Obviously their opponent is different, so that's the biggest difference.  In terms of our approach, not really.  Not a whole lot different.  We had an extra day to prepare.  Last year we played in the first four and we had to play on Wednesday.  This year we play on Thursday.
So last week was very, very different in that we knew we were in the NCAA tournament, we were just waiting on our seed and our opponent.  In terms of preparing for this game, very similar approach for last year.  We know we're going to have to play very, very well to win.  Our guys are excited.  And you want to be playing your best basketball in March.  I think we played very well in our conference tournament and excited to get back on the floor.

Q.  How much better is the Wichita State team this year than the one you faced last year?  Are they very similar?  There wasn't too much to choose from between the two squads last year.
COACH SMART:¬† They were really good last year.¬† And they're really good this year.¬† I would say probably the biggest difference is they're even more experienced this year.¬† And guys like Ragland and Stutz and Murry and Smith, so many seniors, those guys have an extra 30‑some games of experience.¬† They won the NIT.
Those guys are a whole year better.  And it's not like each of those guys didn't make major improvements individually.  I would say that's probably the biggest difference.  I think it was J.T. Durley was a really good player last year, so he presented obviously some challenges.  But now with Stutz being their main big and adding Carl Hall, those guys are challenging, as well.  Very good team.
You don't become a five seed in the NCAA tournament without being a terrific team and having a terrific regular season and they've earned it.

Q.  We were talking in comparison to last year.  Last year for you was kind of a crazy run here.  Can you talk about how much you've grown as a coach and everything else on and off the court, all that stuff?
COACH SMART:  Well, a lot of people ask me what changed about me since the Final Four run, and really nothing changed about me.  More than anything my wife and I had a baby girl five and a half months ago, that's been the biggest change since last year's NCAA tournament.
It was a great learning experience for me as a young coach.  What you try to do certainly at my age is get better every year, learn.  There's a lot that I have to improve on.  And I think what last March did was it really exposed me to a lot of different coaching styles, a lot of different situations that we encounter that were challenging, but we found a way to overcome.  We found a way to win five NCAA tournament games.  I think anytime you get stretched like that you grow.
Now we're here this March and get another opportunity to play again a terrific team in Wichita State.  And our goal simply is to advance.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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