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March 16, 2012

Bradford Burgess

Troy Daniels

Shaka Smart

Darius Theus


Q.テつ How important is it for you guys tomorrow to get a good offensive game out of Juvonte Reddic?
DARIUS THEUS:テつ I think it's very important for him to come out and play and just to show his skills against Zeller who is like a pro.テつ It's a good opportunity for him to show how good he is.

Q.テつ Why do you feel you guys are so much better defensively this year than you were last year?
DARIUS THEUS:テつ I just think the guys really have a commitment to defense.テつ And we showed last year that defense wins games.テつ I know coach really put an emphasis on it this year, that we've really got to put a hundred percent of our energy on defense.テつ He gives us a lot of freedom on offense.テつ He wants us to be very committed on defense.テつ And I think that's what it is this year.

Q.テつ Even when you guys are not forcing turnovers necessarily what does your defense do to unsettle offense?
DARIUS THEUS:テつ They just try to ‑‑ defense just try to speed them up.テつ Some teams like to walk the ball up the court or they just want to play at a slow pace.テつ If our pressure can speed them up a little bit, it can really take them out of their offense.テつ If we're not forcing turnovers, then we're speeding offenses up, they're not used to doing that, we're just trying to pressure as much as we can to speed up the offensive team.

Q.テつ Athletes at your level in general are pretty confident.テつ You guys seem to be supremely confident, and it's like the idea of losing never even crosses your mind.テつ I wonder how you develop that attitude and did you learn much of it from the players who preceded you last year?
DARIUS THEUS:テつ Yeah.テつ From last year we were with a great group of seniors last year, and they told us about heart.テつ You've just got to have heart to play the game of basketball.テつ And it comes with confidence.テつ A lot of players have confidence.テつ That's just what you want to have within yourself.テつ And you also get confidence from your teammates.テつ It comes from each other and comes from within yourself.

Q.テつ With a team like Indiana who has kind of been comfortable playing at a faster pace, like you said before, do you guys change your defense at all or do you just kind of adjust to them being able to play that fast?
DARIUS THEUS:テつ No, we don't change anything at all.テつ We want to bring our style of play into the game.テつ We're going to pressure.テつ We're going to be very aggressive, like we always have been.テつ We're going to try to force turnovers like we have been doing all season.

Q.テつ Would you mind addressing the confidence question, because you've come along the last two or three years?
TROY DANIELS:テつ That's something that Coach Smart really emphasizes in practice, just going out there and playing aggressive, loose and confident on the offensive end and playing our havoc on the defensive end.テつ That's just something you have to have within yourself.テつ Knowing you can go out there and do it.テつ If you don't, you're not going to have the great results that we have.テつ And we have guys that believe in themselves and believe in our teammates and we're able to go make plays.

Q.テつ Can you talk a little bit about what it's like to be the Cinderella of March, what the run was like last year.テつ How has that changed the program there at VCU?
TROY DANIELS:テつ It was a great run we had last year.テつ We're trying to start that run this year.テつ It's great for the community.テつ Great for VCU.テつ And really great for us.
Touching back to the motivation standpoint, it was just a lot of people were doubting us, and we're very motivated.テつ And it helps us win in games, late in games.テつ We know a lot of people are against us, we just want to use that as motivation.テつ We want to start this run this year, so we're looking forward to it.

Q.テつ Is it possible for a mid‑major like VCU to ever shake that Cinderella tag when you do well in a tournament?
TROY DANIELS:テつ I have no idea.テつ We can be the Cinderella, we don't have to be the Cinderella.テつ We are just going to go out and play hard every game in the tournament, because everybody wants to win.

Q.テつ Can you talk a little bit about Coach Smart's style, what makes him unique, from a player's perspective what makes him a successful coach?
TROY DANIELS:テつ He really just emphasizes in practice that we're great.テつ And he really instills that in us.テつ He makes us feel like nobody can stop us.テつ He builds confidence in us, first of all.テつ And then we work on our defense more than we work on our offense.テつ Offense will come if we play aggressive, confident and loose.テつ The defensive end and us being confident on both ends of the court is really a testament to Coach Smart.

Q.テつ Last couple of years you guys have beaten UCLA, USC, Kansas.テつ What did those schools mean to you as basketball kids growing up?テつ Do the names on the front of the uniform, does it mean anything now when you're going up against a school with a history like Indiana?
BRADFORD BURGESS:テつ Those schools that we looked up growing up, those players that came from those programs, they went on to do great things in college and in the NBA.テつ We aspire to be like those guys.テつ When we get an opportunity to play against those guys, we just see another opportunity to be the team.テつ And we did a great job of that last year.テつ And hopefully we continue that this year.

Q.テつ In what ways is this team similar to last year's team and in what ways is it different?
BRADFORD BURGESS:テつ Really, the only similarity is the name on the jersey.テつ We lost a group of guys from last year's team that did great things.テつ But this year we have a new nucleus of guys who are stepping up and doing great things for this team.テつ Our defense is one of the best.テつ We've done a great job of getting teams out of what they do.テつ And hopefully we can continue to do that.

Q.テつ Why do you feel you guys are so much better defensively this year than you were last year?
BRADFORD BURGESS:テつ I'd say our focus.テつ Coach does a great job of keeping us focused on stopping teams and getting them out of what they do.テつ Last year we had so many offensive weapons.テつ We didn't focus as much as we needed to on the defensive end, we tried to almost outscore teams sometimes, and that hurt us last year.
This year we've done a great job for a majority of the season getting teams out of what they do, and enforcing our havoc style defense on them.

Q.テつ There seems to be no self‑doubt among the players on this team.テつ The shots you took late in the game last night came, just your second shot of the second half, and you were one for like six on your 3's before that.テつ What is it about you guys that gives you that confidence and where does it come from?
BRADFORD BURGESS:テつ It just comes from within.テつ We're a confident group of guys and that's the only way we want to play is with confidence.テつ And that's the only way coach allows us to play.テつ If we're not playing confident or loose or aggressive on the court, he doesn't want us out there.テつ And that's what he's saying to us all the time is to be aggressive, confident and loose on the floor and just play your game.
And I just had an open shot at the end and I made it.テつ And Darius had a play at the end, and he was confident in making his shot, and he made it.

Q.テつ At what point in your career did you decide that going to pressing, trapping, havoc style was the way to go for you?
COACH SMART:テつ I just always liked the press, even going back to when I played in high school and college.テつ I was fortunate to work for quite a few coaches that had a lot of know‑how about pressing.テつ And sometimes it comes down to who your influences are.
And I worked for three coaches specifically that I think were terrific, are terrific pressing coaches, Keith Dambrot at the University of Akron, Oliver Purnell I worked for at Dayton and at Clemson.テつ And those Clemson teams, to me, were as good of pressing teams as any in the country.テつ And then I worked for Billy Donovan at Florida, as well, who everybody knows is a great pressing coach.

Q.テつ Does it also help that the press was already established at VCU before you got there.テつ You had guys that kind of knew how to do it to a degree.テつ Did you have to change a lot or was it established that they knew how to play it?
COACH SMART:テつ They didn't press the same way that we press now, not taking away from anything they did.テつ But we did, we had to install a completely new pressing system.
But I think to your point, there were some guys that had some pressing concepts already built in, Anthony Grant did a terrific job, getting guys to play hard.テつ Getting guys to extend ball pressure.テつ And that's what pressing is all about.
So when we got there a few years ago, we put in our presses and we've kind of built the system from there and continued to evolve it.

Q.テつ Your players seem to have no self‑doubt.テつ They seem to never think that they're going to lose.テつ And you talk about playing aggressive, confident and loose.テつ How do you instill that in them?テつ Is it something that starts in the recruiting process when you see new players or do you develop it once they get there?
COACH SMART:テつ We talk about it a lot.テつ Basketball is a game that these guys have been playing for a long time.テつ They've made winning plays for years and years and years, but now they find themselves on this grand scale of being in the NCAA tournament.テつ But that shouldn't change anything, nothing should change in terms of what they want to do.
I know we're playing the Hoosiers, but I'll reference the movie "Hoosiers," they talked about in the movie, the baskets are still ten feet.テつ The court is still the same length.テつ Nothing has changed.
So I think for our guys, as coaches we try to instill a lot of confidence in them.テつ Let them know they can go play their game.テつ Our No. 1 rule on the court is to play hard.テつ And if guys follow that rule, which I think our guys do a pretty good job of doing, then I'm all about allowing them to let their hair down offensively and go attack.

Q.テつ When you guys are playing, have a short turnaround like you do tomorrow, how much of an advantage is there to playing a unique style?
COACH SMART:テつ Well, we'll see tomorrow how much of an advantage there is.
One of the reasons ‑‑ there's a lot of reasons that we play the way we do.テつ But one of the reasons we play with our style is because it's different than what teams are used to practicing against in their own practices and playing against throughout the course of their schedule.テつ In the case of Indiana, it's a Big Ten schedule and whoever they played in the non‑conference play.
So in theory, our style is something that will be new for them to see tomorrow.テつ Sometimes that works out, sometimes it doesn't work out.テつ But we practice the way that we play every single day.テつ And in theory that should be an advantage for us.テつ Hopefully our guys can turn theory into practice.

Q.テつ To follow up on that, Gregg Marshall from Wichita State said they used six guys in practice and press.テつ Is it possible for an opponent to replicate what you guys do?
COACH SMART:テつ You can do certain things in practice, but I don't think completely.テつ Just like if we play against a team that runs the Princeton offense, it's next to impossible for us to replicate that.テつ We're just not a Princeton offense team.
We can't replicate Cody Zeller.テつ He's one of the best big guys in the country.テつ We don't have anyone we can throw out there on our scout team and say, he's going to do what Cody Zeller does.
I've never been big on that, putting six guys out there.テつ I understand the concept, but there's certain opportunities that are going to be there when there's five guys out there and when you put a sixth guy it's a little bit artificial.
But I think what that does is maybe addresses the mindset of hey, there's going to be people flying at you, there's going to people all around.テつ If we can break the press with an extra guy, then we're going to be fine against five guys.
It's much more mental than it is anything else.テつ And for us in certain games this year that's where we've had an advantage is mentally we've really been able to get teams on their heels.テつ If we can be the aggressors, usually we have a really good chance to win.

Q.テつ You were talking about Cody Zeller and not being able to replicate him.テつ How much of a tough match‑up is it with the press and with him being able to run the floor so well?
COACH SMART:テつ Yeah.テつ I'll tell you what, just watching him on tape, he's as good as any big kid that we've played in the three years I've been at VCU.テつ And the scary thing is he's only a freshman.テつ His future is extremely bright.テつ He's going to do terrific things at Indiana and beyond.
You talk about him running the floor.テつ We definitely can't give him easy baskets in transition.テつ I would guess that one of the things that they'll try to do is get the ball in quickly after makes or certainly on misses, get the ball outlet quickly and then look for Zeller running to the rim.テつ If you can get the ball in extremely quickly before the press is set up, then that's one way to beat pressure defensive teams.
So for us, that's going to be a big point of emphasis.テつ We have to get in the press quickly and make sure we get back and take away layups from him.

Q.テつ The nation has gotten to know you and your program a little bit over the past couple of years.テつ You've spent a few days in Portland now.テつ And as of last night there's a vacancy in the head coaching position of the Portland Trail Blazers.テつ So I guess the question is:テつ When are we going to see you throw your hat in that ring?
COACH SMART:テつ Never.テつ You want me to elaborate on that (laughter)?
A couple of the fans last night after our game asked me that.テつ It's unfortunate that in this business there's so much change in coaching, and Nate McMillan is a phenomenal coach.テつ But I guess in the NBA that's commonplace for during the year coaching jobs to change hands.
But I'm in the moment right now at VCU.テつ And I love it at VCU, I'm just excited about our opportunity against Indiana tomorrow.

Q.テつ Are jobs like that something ‑‑ is that appealing to you, that NBA position?
COACH SMART:テつ The question was:テつ Is the NBA job appealing to a college coach?テつ I can't really speak for anyone other than myself.テつ Certainly there's a lot of college coaches that have looked at the opportunity to go to the NBA.
For me, I've never thought about it seriously.テつ I'm just a 34‑year‑old guy at VCU.テつ I played at Kenyon College.テつ That kind of stuff is unreal to me.テつ I just try to do a good job with our team here and hopefully things will work out.

Q.テつ The Hoosiers attributed some of their success yesterday to getting out here early and their preparation.テつ I'm curious what stands out to you about your team's preparation in particular in these instances where you have a very short turnaround?
COACH SMART:テつ Well, I think you can get there early and you can fall flat on your face.テつ Or you can get there late and not play well.
So I don't think it's so much about when you get there, for us.テつ Maybe for other teams it is.テつ I think in the book, the "Art of War," it says the first side to the battlefield normally wins.
It's all about how you look at it.テつ But it comes down to having your guys, when you get on the floor, locked in on what they need to do.テつ And for us when we got to Portland, the first practice we had, we practiced over at Portland State.テつ I thought it was just okay.テつ But then I thought about it when the practice got done.テつ And it's a five and a half hour flight, our guys had been laying around in the hotel for awhile.
So, again, it's all about once you take the floor for the game, are you in the right frame of mind?テつ Are your guys ready to execute the game plan?テつ With the short turnaround, there's so many things that you try to cram into your guys' heads, especially with a Tom Crean‑coached team.テつ They're probably putting in ten new plays as we speak.テつ We can't know everything that they do.テつ We just have to have three, five, seven key aspects of what they do that we're trying to take away.

Q.テつ Since you already got a coach question, you've obviously been mentioned for various actual college jobs, Illinois among them.テつ Have you given any thought to that?テつ Is it a distraction to hear your name starting to come up when you're getting ready for an NCAA tournament run?
COACH SMART:テつ No and no.テつ I have not given any thought to it.テつ And no, it's not a distraction.
It's pretty easy actually while you're still playing just to focus on the task at hand.テつ We talk to the guys all the time about being in the moment, letting go of the past and certainly not focusing on the future, because you don't have control over those things.
There's a lot of things that in the past that we certainly would love to go back and change.テつ I think all of us here.テつ And there's a lot of stuff in the future that we'd love to mold and shape and control.テつ But all we can control is what we have today.
And that's been our motto as a team all year long is to own today, focus on today.テつ Today is all about preparing for Indiana.テつ Tomorrow is about playing Indiana.テつ And then we'll go from there.

Q.テつ Troy Daniels said that in a practice you're always telling the players that they're great and it's something you're trying to instill in them.テつ So are your practices just sort of big love‑ins filled with pats on your back and everything or do you have to do it in a variety of ways?
COACH SMART:テつ I wouldn't call them love‑ins.テつ I would say ‑‑ you know, I'm a pretty positive guy.テつ But I'm also very energetic and very demanding of our guys.テつ I think we talked about this before, you try to get the best out of your players.テつ You're trying to get them to where maybe they don't know that they can go.テつ Sometimes that requires a pat on the back.テつ Sometimes it requires a hug.テつ Sometimes it requires a swift kick in the butt.テつ So you just have to do what the situation requires.
We've got a lot of young guys on our team, and even someone like Troy who is a junior barely played at all, he was sitting and watching last year this time when we were making our NCAA tournament run.テつ So we've got to help those guys understand how great they can be.テつ And particularly Troy, I'm always telling Troy I think he's the best shooter in the country.テつ I want him to believe that.テつ I want him to feel that.テつ And well, last night he tied the school record for made 3's in a season.テつ I think there's something to breathing life into these guys and letting them go out there and play.

Q.テつ You've given us the first Sun Tzu reference.テつ I know you collect quotations, I read that someone.テつ Any particular quotations you've rolled out in particular for this postseason?
COACH SMART:テつ I use them pretty sparingly with the team.テつ Those guys get tired of that stuff.テつ They're not into quotes like me.テつ You learn in coaching it's not about you, it's about the guys you're working with.
No, I haven't rolled too many out.テつ We joke around, our coaching staff, we use different quotes.テつ I think there's a Shakespeare quote, everyone wants to talk about the past, Shakespeare said what's won is done.テつ Soul's joy lies in the doing.
We've used that at times because everyone wants to talk about last year's Final Four run, but that's done, that's over.テつ It's all about now.

Q.テつ Can you elaborate on that a little bit, talking about getting over the run from last year.テつ You said you've moved on, it's in the past?
COACH SMART:テつ Yeah, we're over it.テつ No disrespect to the media, but it's pretty much the media that continues to bring it up.テつ Which is fine.テつ Everyone has a job to do and it's a compelling story.テつ But as a team we moved on a long, long time ago.テつ The guys all have their rings.テつ They all have ‑‑ when they go in our arena at home there's a banner up there that says 2011 Final Four, Houston.
But nobody really sits around in their room and dwells on it or is watching tapes of last year.テつ It's all about the opportunity that we have now.テつ And there's 32 teams after tonight that have a chance to win a National Championship, 32 teams.テつ And there's 300‑some teams in Division I basketball.
So to be around, to be alive at this time of year in the NCAA tournament is such a special, golden opportunity.テつ So why would we take any of our energy and focus on the past?

Q.テつ Bradford talked about how last year you guys had a lot more offensive play makers.テつ And how this year you guys are really focused a lot more on defense.テつ How much better is this team in implementing your system?
COACH SMART:テつ Defensively?テつ Yeah, much better.テつ I think we're much better defensively than we were last year.テつ Last year's team could be good on defense at times and we were at times, but nowhere near the level of focus, game in, game out, for a 40‑minute period, as this year's team has.
Because we're not as good of a shooting team, we have our stretches where we score really well, where we shoot really well.テつ But we really depend on our pressure defense.テつ We depend on our ability to stop teams in the half court and I think that's what's allowed us to win 29 games.

Q.テつ Just curious, the success your conference has had with you guys and George Mason, are you surprised you haven't gotten the benefit of the doubt on Selection Sunday as a league that maybe the A‑10 and the Mountain West has gotten at this point?
COACH SMART:テつ I'm not surprised.テつ A little bit disappointed about that.テつ I think Drexel is a team that definitely deserved to be in the NCAA tournament this year.テつ I'm not on the selection committee, so I didn't have a vote.テつ Anytime they have the season they have, winning 19 games, finish first place in a very competitive league, I think they should have been included.テつ But they weren't.テつ And unfortunately, that's what happened to us as a league.テつ We only got one team this year.
I do think if you look over the past several seasons the teams from our league that have been given the opportunity in the NCAA tournament have really taken advantage of it and done well.テつ So hopefully in the future we'll continue to do better.テつ We'll continue to get more teams in the tournament.テつ And I think as we get teams in the tournament we'll have an opportunity to advance.

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