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March 16, 2012

Vander Blue

Jae Crowder

Darius Johnson-Odom

Buzz Williams


THE MODERATOR:  We'll go ahead and take questions for the Marquette student‑athletes.

Q.  Darius, Jae, what's the strength and conditioning program like at Marquette?  Because you guys seem to be football‑like.
DARIUS JOHNSON‑ODOM:  Our strength and conditioning coach is Todd Smith.  He has a very good pulse on our bodies.  But during the summer, we do a lot of things that takes a toll on our body to get us prepared for a tournament like this.
He makes sure we get our lifting and do a lot of conditioning, whether that's playing football or doing some kind of activity where we can build our endurance.
JAE CROWDER:  Just in the summertime, he just kills you.  I think he prepares us well for times like this, tournament times and stuff like that, for our bodies to be‑‑ we recover pretty well.
I think in the summertime is where we do our most heavy duty stuff.  Like I say, we do a little bit of everything, whether it be playing football, whether it be playing anything really other than basketball, we do it.  I think it prepares us well for this time, and it shows.

Q.  What do you mean football?
JAE CROWDER:  Playing football, like football.  Playing football.
DARIUS JOHNSON‑ODOM:  Running routes for agility.
JAE CROWDER:  Everything.
DARIUS JOHNSON‑ODOM:  See who's the fastest and doing a route, all types of things.  A lot of agility drills that football players would do in the combine.

Q.  To follow up on that, who do you guys play with?  Because Marquette doesn't have a football team.
DARIUS JOHNSON‑ODOM:  We play with ourselves.

Q.  Just you guys?
DARIUS JOHNSON‑ODOM:  Yeah, just us.

Q.  Everybody's talking about Murray, America's team, little school, 30‑1.  You're going to have those UK fans against you tomorrow on top of that.  Do you feel like the bad guys here?
JAE CROWDER:  Not really.  They do have a lot of fans here.  That's expected.  But no game that we haven't played on the road‑‑ we face it like another road game for us.  It's just the NCAA Tournament.
This time of the year, we've got to face it.  So I don't think it are will be a factor to us, emotionally or anything like that.  I just think that they're looking at it like it's a home game for them, but it's a tournament game, and you never know what can happen.  I don't feel like the bad guy at all, to be honest.

Q.  For any of you guys, Murray State plays a very similar style of ball to you.  Does that make it easier to prepare that you're not running into things you haven't seen before?
DARIUS JOHNSON‑ODOM:  Murray State is very similar to us.  Their low post guys are just like ours, very athletic, very versatile in what they do, whether it's scoring on the perimeter or scoring on the low block.
I think it kind of makes it easier for us.  But at the same time, we have to still do the things we've been doing.  We can't change just because we're playing a similar team.  If we stick to that, I think we have a pretty good chance.

Q.  Last year you guys were an 11 seed, got to the Sweet 16.  Three seed, higher expectations this year.  How do you guys combat Murray State playing the underdog role?
DARIUS JOHNSON‑ODOM:  I don't think there's any underdogs in the tournament, or they wouldn't be here.  We were an 11 seed last year, but we all thought that we could do the things that we did last year.
So for Murray State, I don't think they're thinking they're the underdog role.  They're playing a home game.  They're going to have everybody in the building going against us.
When you're playing a team like Murray State, the things you want to stay with is being poised, try to stay mentally focused because they're going to make a run.  I think those are the key things in playing a team like Murray State.

Q.  Talk about Isaiah Canaan.  You guys have seen him on film, and just about the kind of player you've seen on film and what you know about it.
VANDER BLUE:  We watched some film on him earlier.  He's really good with the ball and really good with ball screens.  We have to make sure we're all on point with our ball screen coverage.  The whole team is tied in on defense, and everybody is on help side.  Making sure that we just try to contain him.
He's a great player.  He looks for his shots, and we just have to try our best to make him uncomfortable and get him out of the things he's accustomed to doing.

Q.  You guys out‑rebounded BYU by 12 yesterday.  What's the key to doing tomorrow for a Murray State team that's not highly ranked when it comes to rebounding?
JAE CROWDER:  It's just mentality.  I think we came in with a mindset and mentality we run the ball pretty well.  Part of our game plan, I think we executed well.  It's the same thing as any other team.
We have to have the mentality and the will to go out there and do it.  I think we imposed our will yesterday.

Q.  Vander, D.J. and Jae get so much attention, but if a team keys on the two of them, can a team key on the two of them, or do you guys feel that you have enough weapons, if somebody tries to shut those two guys down but you've got enough other people who can do things?
VANDER BLUE:  Jae and Darius, they get a lot of attention.  I mean, they're great players.  They make big plays.  Respectfully, you can say that's the reason we got this far based on the way we've been playing this season.
I just feel like we have a complete team.  I feel like we're a tough scout because they might focus on Jae and Darius, and the next thing you know, Ty goes off for 15, and Davante comes in and impacts the game the way he did, and there's no way to scout us.
I feel like most teams do put their emphasis on Jae and Darius.  But I feel like, once we start playing the game, it's more than just those two because, as you seen yesterday, there's no telling where the firepower is going to come from.  If Jae gets in foul trouble or Darius gets in foul trouble, we have Todd to come in, Davante.  We have weapons to keep throwing at people.
I feel we catch them off guard most of the times when we're playing in games because a lot of folks put their emphasis and focus on Jae and Darius.

Q.  How important is it for you guys, going up against a Murray State team that's going to have the crowd behind them, to get off to a quick start like you guys did against BYU?
JAE CROWDER:  Of course you want to come out and throw the first punch and make a statement.  They're a team of runs, and they want to go on a run themselves.  I think we'll talk about it much more today in practice and stuff like that.
I think it's very important to come out and throw the first punch, just to make that statement because we know the crowd is going to‑‑ like you said, the crowd is going to be with them.  That's not what we're worried about.  We're just worried about coming out and playing the way we know how to play and give ourselves a chance to come in and get out on top early.

Q.  Vander, you touched on how people kind of see you guys and how everybody's role is.  Junior said yesterday that, as a point guard, his job is to be the general and kind of direct what's going on.  How do you see your role?
VANDER BLUE:  I think my role changes each game.  I'm definitely one of the energy guys to try to get the guys going and make sure we all come out clicking.
People might not know, I'm one of our primary rebounders.  And so I have to make sure that I get in there and bang with the big guys and help out Jae and Jamil Wilson because we aren't that big inside there.  It depends on the game.  There's not one particular role that I have.  It's more that glue guy that has to do a little bit of everything.  And just depending on the flow of the game, that really dictates what I'm going to bring to the game that day.

Q.  The reason I'm going to ask this question is because Coach Prohm was up here earlier and said you guys resemble a football team.  If you guys could play for one football team, what would be and why?
JAE CROWDER:  NFL?  Atlanta Falcons, I guess.  I'd be back home playing in the dome.  I don't like cold weather or hot weather.  I'd like to play in the dome for sure.
VANDER BLUE:  I would definitely play with the Green Bay Packers because we have the best chance of winning the championship every year.
DARIUS JOHNSON‑ODOM:  Carolina Panthers didn't do good this year, nor did UNC.  I'm going to play with the LSU Tigers.

Q.  Guys, is there any team that you played this year that you can think of would be like Murray State?
VANDER BLUE:  If I had to pick a team, I would probably say a team like Villanova.  They're really good with ball screens.  The big men really don't score that much, but they're still really effective.  I would definitely say a team like Villanova with great guard play and big men that really impact the game.
JAE CROWDER:  I would say Norfolk State a little bit.  We played them twice.  They like to get up and down a little bit.  They have good guard play as well.  A good post presence with them.
But I really don't know.  My guess would be Norfolk State.

Q.  What do you guys plan on doing for fun while you're here?  You've been working hard since you got here.  You having a team dinner anywhere nice downtown and do something fun?
JAE CROWDER:  We don't change up too much right now.  We just keep it simple.  We ate out one time since we've been here.  The rest of the time we eat in the hotel.  Just keeping it simple.
You really don't want to have too much fun because we all know this is a business trip.  We look at it as a business trip.  We really want to make a run for it and not try to have too much fun other than winning.
DARIUS JOHNSON‑ODOM:  Personally, I went to the Waffle House last night.  I'm from North Carolina.  There's not too many Waffle Houses in Wisconsin.  Actually, none at all.  I enjoyed that.  If you've been keeping up on my Twitter, I enjoyed Waffle House last night.

Q.  With such a quick turnaround in games, Jae, having a numbers coach like Buzz, could you imagine having anybody better to prepare you in a short period of time in a game like this?
JAE CROWDER:  I think he does a great job.  He takes pride in doing that.  The quick turnaround early in the season, he did fairly well.  I think he really focuses on it and makes us focus on it more than a typical player would do.
I think the quick turnarounds is beneficial to us and our coaching staff in getting us ready and getting us prepared for the other opponent.  I think he's one of the best in the country at doing that for sure.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you very much.
We'd like to welcome Marquette head coach Buzz Williams.  We'll begin with questions from the media.

Q.  Buzz, of your white board stats, field goal percentage defense, and effective field goal percentage defense is a big thing for you guys.  With a team like Murray State, who's one of the best in the country at doing it, does that become even more important for you guys to have success there?
COACH WILLIAMS:  I think you study their offensive numbers, they're top ten in nearly everything, but specifically in efficiency.  So one of the things, I think, that helps their effective field goal percentage is 18 percent of their points come in transition, and of that 18 percent of their points, they shoot 73 percent from the field.
When you shoot a lot of layups and you shoot a lot of dunks, that helps your efficiency in every area.  So our transition defense will be critical, keeping the ball out of the channel will be critical.  Because they're very potent in what they do, particularly their perimeter guys.

Q.  Some people are already throwing around words like Cinderella, darling for your next opponent.  How do you deal with that talk?  Do you just tune it out?
COACH WILLIAMS:  I would say that's what they are.  That's probably what you're saying on your radio station, you know what I mean?  That's just what it is.  I don't know that they're Cinderella.  I don't ever want to‑‑ I think it's kind of like calling teams low major teams or mid‑major teams, I think that's somewhat disrespectful.  They've won more games than any team in the country.
Coach Prohm is on his way to setting head coaching records that have never been set before.  And so they've been ranked ahead of us, I think, every week except one all season long.  They won more games in their league than we did, and they play more league games than we do.  They've won more games overall.
So Cinderella‑‑ it's their home court.  Whatever.  I don't know if Cinderella is the right word.  I think that they're a really good team.  They're deserving of being here.  Their personnel and their staff are evidence of that.

Q.  How are you guys approaching this whole road game scenario?
COACH WILLIAMS:  Same way we approach every game.  Sorry for a bad answer.  We were 5‑4 in our league.  That's three out of four years we've had a winning record in conference play on the road.
I don't know that we will have played‑‑ Syracuse, obviously, holds more people than this.  I don't know that anywhere else that we've played on the road, other than here when we played Louisville, has there been more fans than will be here tomorrow rooting for those guys.  So it's a road game.

Q.  Coach, back to defense.  With Murray State being so versatile offensively, where would you say your emphasis is going to be tomorrow?  Closing off the paint or taking away the three ball?
COACH WILLIAMS:  I think that you have to protect the paint first.  And then relative to the three‑point shot, you have to make sure that every shot is contested.
I think, as potent and as explosive as their perimeter players are, if you take away the three, you're going to give up a lot of layups.  And because you took away the three, it's going to force rotation.  Typically, when you force rotation, that leads to free‑throw makes.  They score 24 percent of their points from the free‑throw line, and that's because the teams are going, hey, you can't let them shoot threes, and they beat you off the bounce, and you're playing your eighth and ninth guy because they're in foul trouble.
It's a balance of them.  You can't let them shoot uncontested open shots from anywhere.  No.3 shoots 47 percent from the three, and that's the worst he's been in his career.  You know what I mean?  There's very few guys in the country that shoot that kind of field goal percentage, particularly from three.

Q.  Is it different scouting a one‑loss team, especially when there's not that much film of them struggling?
COACH WILLIAMS:  That's a good question.  I think what you see is a lot of the rhythm and route to how they have won when you watch a team that's had as much success.  It's kind of like watching Syracuse.  You watch six or seven games, and by the time you're watching the eighth game, you're like, yeah, they just do the same thing over and over and over.
Not to be over‑simplistic, but maybe that's why they win, because they do the same thing over and over and over.  If they're doing that in the game, then it's obvious they're doing that every day in practice.
I think Tennessee State probably played them more zone than most teams.  But that's the only‑‑ that's a very small sample size in that that's the only team that they've lost to.  I don't know that you can put it all on the fact that they got beat because Tennessee State played seven more possessions of zone than some other team earlier in the year.
So I think probably, when you play a team that's had the success that they have, you just get a better feel for this is why they've had the level of success that they've had.

Q.  This was asked of Jae and Vander.  Who does Murray State compare best to?  Jae said Norfolk State, and Vander said Villanova.  What is your assessment for that?
COACH WILLIAMS:  I think No.3 is very Scotty Reynolds like in his ability to create space, his ability to finish with either hand in the paint.  I don't think that‑‑ you know, a little bit of Maalik Wayns, but I think they're more like Scotty Reynolds, Villanova from two years ago is probably what I would say.  Very perimeter oriented.  Post players play extremely hard, understand what they do to help their team.
They score 16 percent of their points on offensive rebounds and post‑ups.  So much attention is given to their perimeter players, and rightfully so.  But kind of like, when we played Xavier last year in the NCAA Tournament, Tu Holloway was involved in 55 percent of their ball screens.  That's a lot of ball screens.  Murray State sets just as many ball screens as Xavier does, and Isaiah Canaan is involved in 51 percent of their ball screens.
I would probably tend to agree with Vander, that they're Villanova‑like, and I think that there's a lot of similarities between them from Xavier from last year too.

Q.  Coach, is it a breath of fresh air for one game to not hear about how undersized you guys are going to be going into the game?
COACH WILLIAMS:  I like that.  We were undersized again last night.  I think we outscored them by 15 in the paint.  It's incredible that that continues to be said and written, but I think that's good.
It just goes to show you that sometimes myths create legends, and sometimes it's really not true.  And the perception versus the reality, it's sometimes not what it really is.

Q.  So Steve Prohm came out and said that he thinks that your team resembles a football team.  How important is your strength and conditioning program?  And then I'm going to add on this extra part.  When Jae, Vander, and D.J. were out here, I asked them what football team they would like to play for.  They answered with Atlanta, the Packers, and then LSU.  What teams do you think they would play for?
COACH WILLIAMS:  There's been several NFL teams that I've talked to that are already wanting Jae to come tryout.  My best friends in the world are football coaches.  I spent a lot of time on the football field at spring football, go to several training camps in the summers.
I don't know if that was meant to be a compliment, what Coach Prohm said, I don't know.  But I will say this, to answer your first question.  I think Todd Smith is the best strength and conditioning coach in all of athletics at any level.  And I spend a lot of time with NFL strength guys and NBA strength guys because I think there's a science to it, and I think that what Todd, as our strength coach does, and Ernest Eugene as our trainer, I think sometimes there's a disconnect between strength and conditioning and injury or injury prevention, but they really need to be hand in hand.
Ernest was the last guy that I hired because I spent a lot of time researching that, and I think the connection and the relationship that Ernest and Todd have with one another is very similar to the relationship our players have with those two guys.  And considering they're the only two staff members that have year‑round access to our players, to an extent, they become way more important than any coach in our program, including me, because they're the only ones that can coach our guys every single day.
And so I think Todd's been unbelievable.  I think part of Jae's progression, part of Darius' progression, if you really study in our tenure here, part of everybody's progression, Jimmy's, Junior's, Chris', Davante's‑‑ a lot of that comes from the strength and conditioning and injury/prevention portion of what they do on a daily basis.
We give our guys weekly calendars every Sunday night after life lessons, and it's a calendar that starts Monday morning at 6:00 a.m. and ends Sunday night at 6:00 p.m., and it's every hour on the hour.  It's color‑coded.
Our guys do injury prevention twice a week for 30 minutes, every player, every week, all year.  I think that's critical.
Guys arrive.  Their bodies are not ready for how we work.  Their bodies are not ready for the physicality of what we do.  I think that there's a lot of depth to this answer, but the value of those two guys is‑‑ I don't know that you can quantify it.

Q.  If you could describe your team in one word, what would it be?
COACH WILLIAMS:  I really like the sound of your voice.  You heard all our students?  I like hearing that southern twang.  Nice spirit, I like that.
Relentless or resilient, depends on the mood.

Q.  Coach, with the exception of everything you were talking about with strength and conditioning, just a quick question.  Can quickness overcome size and strength?
COACH WILLIAMS:  Fast beats big when fast is fast.  I learned that as a little boy, and I believe that, and I coach that.  I recruit that.  I teach that.  Fast beats big when fast is fast.

Q.  Just getting back to the football thing, you mentioned some of your best buddies are football coaches.  Who are those guys, and which NFL teams have you‑‑ have come after you, asked you for advice or whatnot?
COACH WILLIAMS:  They don't ask me for any advice.  I just show up and put a dip of snuff in, put a hat on and some sunglasses and go let's go.
I'm close with a bunch of guys.  Some of which I don't want to say, and some of which it's probably okay.  I talk to Jon Gruden a lot.  I talk to Herm Edwards a lot.  Those guys for whatever reason have been really kind to me.
I like a lot of guys that you probably don't know too, just because sometimes I think, because of the media and the hype and the exposure of certain guys, we get away from guys that really understand how to coach and what it's really about.
It's just what I do.  I think it's hard to progress in any profession, number one, when you aren't supposed to be there.  Number two, when you're young and you're trying to break through a lot of different things.  So for whatever reason, I've just‑‑ I like football.  Grew up in Texas, helped my high school as a coach during the football season, and so it's just kind of been part of my makeup as I progressed.

Q.  Coach, when it comes to scouting Murray State, the other day against Colorado State, you had four members of your staff positioned at different places around the stadium.  How valuable is that to get that much feedback from your staff from that many angles for a game like this?
COACH WILLIAMS:  I think we do scouting a little different than most games, and you probably pay attention to it more than most.
I have an unbelievable staff, and most of those guys have been head coaches longer than I have, and so they're overqualified for their title but undervalued relative to what they give me and my growth and our team's growth.
So how we divide up scouting is a little different than anywhere I've ever worked.  Part of that is because my brain works very linear, and so I need to see things from a linear standpoint.  We practice in a linear fashion.  So as time progresses, our players become very rhythmatic in how they work and how they think.
When we break down scouting reports, when we break down film and how we assess an opponent, it's about what they do.  But it's just as much, okay, this is what they do, and this is how we're going to attack what they do.
And so each of those guys are in charge of certain aspects of the opponent, but they're also in charge of certain aspects of their responsibilities within our team.  So those two things correlate.
When one of my assistant coaches are speaking about Murray State, that's going to be the realm in which they speak about our own team.  And so when they're talking to our kids, our kids know the wavelength that they're speaking on, if that makes sense.
As weird as I am, our players are never out of whack relative to what's upcoming.  What's upcoming today, what we're going to do tonight, what we did this morning, they're never out of whack because they're in the same rhythm and route that I'm in, and a lot of that goes to the work that our assistant coaches do in preparing all of that.

Q.  Buzz, what's it like for you personally, knowing your background, to be in a position to recruit and develop and have the resources to have a top ten team right now and maybe one that's even headed for better things?
COACH WILLIAMS:  That's a good question, Ted.  I think God writes straight in crooked lines.  So I have been asked at times about our budget at Marquette and about my fiscal responsibility there within.  I've never abused it.  I don't get caught up in that stuff.  I work just like I did the first day you met me.  And to be honest with you, I work the same way I worked when I was a college student.
So are we a top ten team?  I don't know.  But I think how we work is that of a group of guys that are just trying to prove they belong.  So whatever that means, does that mean that I get to take a plane instead of driving a rent‑a‑car?  Yeah, it does, but I'm also judged in relation to those guys that are taking those same planes.
So some of that stuff is all relative.  The outcome and the results are the most important piece to it.  But I'm very humbled by the opportunity to be here.  That's one thing‑‑ like how I live, I live the exact same way that I've always lived.  I still save the same percentage of money that I saved when I met you, which is the same percentage of money I saved when I worked at Colorado State.  I still tithe the same percent of money that I always have.
I don't live any different.  I don't act any different.  I try not to talk any different.  I think sometimes, as you progress within the business, people expect or tend to want you to become more political, and that's probably why I'm a little bit of an outlier in that I just do what I believe to be right.  Sometimes that doesn't come across in the right way.
I'm going to speak the truth no matter the forum.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, Coach.

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