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NCAA MEN'S REGIONALS SEMIFINALS & FINALS: PHOENIX


March 21, 2012


Jae Crowder

Darius Johnson-Odom

Buzz Williams


PHOENIX, ARIZONA

Q.  I was just looking at a mock NBA draft, and there's only three seniors predicted to be picked in the first round.  And some people think that there aren't very many good seniors playing college basketball these days.  I wonder if you could talk a little bit about how being a senior gives you an advantage or helps you this year?
JAE CROWDER:¬† First of all, you know, seniors ‑‑ as I was saying, have been around the block, because they've been around and they know how to live on and off the court.¬† So I think that's the advantage a senior has from a freshman or underclassman at this point in college basketball.
I think there's a fair amount of seniors out there that really know how to play basketball and can play basketball, not just in talent, but play overall and play basketball and have talent all in one.  I think there's quite a few of them out there.
DARIUS JOHNSON‑ODOM:¬† I think the senior class are guys who are built to play now at the next level.¬† They've been here for four years.¬† They went through hard times and they have matured as a basketball player, because they were able to go through those things.

Q.  When you think back to how your college career started, even high school, with not a lot of offers, just what comes to mind, what jumps out to you about the journey you've taken to get to this point?
JAE CROWDER:  Just how much I've grown in that time period.  I've been in a lot of different places, different states, been away from home, so I've matured in the sense of on and off the court.  Through all of I've been through, it has helped me tremendously to grow as a person.
So I don't regret the road I took to get to this point, at all.  I think it's a blessing that I got this opportunity to play basketball at this level.

Q.¬† It would seem like this match‑up would be a lot of fun to be a part of, because both teams want to run it up and down the court.¬† Can you talk about that, just playing Florida and what kind of style of game you think it will be?
JAE CROWDER:  I think, of course, both teams like to get up and down.  We just finished a game, we were playing against Murry State, they liked to get up and down, as well.  We can adjust to any kind of tempo there is to play.  We played slow and the more half court offense at BYU in the first round.  I think we showed we can play a lot of different tempos.
I think it will be fun to get up and down as well.  But to get up and down, it's more structured and we know how to play with the fast pace tempo.  And we've adjusted to it pretty well.
DARIUS JOHNSON‑ODOM:¬† I think Florida has a great team.¬† They do a lot of things well in transition.¬† They shoot the three ball extremely well from all positions.¬† For us I think we know when to play fast and we know when to play in the half court game.¬† I think that's the difference between the two teams.¬† And I think like Jae said, our structure has a lot to do with it.¬† We have a lot of guys who are very athletic and versatile in what they do.¬† I think that's what helps us, as well.

Q.  You've shown the ability to do a lot of different things on the court.  Two questions, one is:  What's the most important thing you do for the team?  And the other is:  Is there any similarity between your game and Draymond Green's game?
JAE CROWDER:  I think what I bring to our team on the defensive end, the versatility to guard one through five.  With our ball screen coverage, we can do a lot of different things.  And I think that helps our guards out a lot knowing that you can pass your man off to a guy like me for the rest of that possession.
And I think me and Draymond Green play similar, because we have the same type of leadership.¬† I think he's a great leader.¬† That's what I've tried to do this season.¬† I think we both can drive the ball pretty well, if we get the bigger guy on us.¬† And if we get the smaller opponent on us, back to the basket, our game is pretty well well‑rounded.¬† That's where we both have some similarity.

Q.  Your coach got kind of YouTube famous after dancing after one of your dunks.  He was dancing again after that West Virginia win.  Do you think you're going to see some more sick moves from your coach?
DARIUS JOHNSON‑ODOM:¬† There's no telling what you might see from our coach.¬† He's very enthusiastic about what he does.¬† I think that's why a lot of people love him.¬† When you have that much energy, to show your guys that I'm here for your guys, the coach just wants to win because of the stuff he has been through as a coach and his players, I think it's a joy to see.
I don't take it as any disrespect.  I don't think he does, either.  But he just gets very happy and emphatic in what he does.  How couldn't you love a guy like that?

Q.  We know what your coach thought about the game against Louisville in the Big East tournament.  It's obviously jarring to lose at the beginning like that.  What did you learn from that game that helped you last week?
DARIUS JOHNSON‑ODOM:¬† I think everybody knows in our program when we don't play with energy we're not good at all.¬† And that was the main focus, the main thing.¬† And that's something we can't be talking about going down the stretch is our energy and how hard we play.¬† That's one of the two things that we do very well.
And when we're able to hook up like that with a high intensity of energy and when we're just playing hard, then the results are pretty positive.  So I think that's what we took from that game against Louisville.

Q.  When Otule got hurt and Gardner has been in and out, your bigs really took a hit.  Did you ever despair that you might not be able to sustain what you did last year, having to play small almost all the time?
JAE CROWDER:  I think that helped our team grow up as a whole.  We knew when one guy fell, someone would have to lift them up.  When two guys fell, we knew we'd all have to step up our game to a high level.  And I think our younger guys had to mature faster.  And it helped us as a team.
DARIUS JOHNSON‑ODOM:¬† When Chris went down, I think everybody was pretty sad because of Chris's previous injuries.¬† It took a lot of guys a long time to get over it, just because of how hard he has worked.
Davante, he filled his role incredibly.  He did a great job of wanting to play, wanting to compete and wanting to be a better person on the court and a better player.  When he went down, I think we all knew we were going to have to step up and play big.  We didn't have anymore big guys left.
I think the young guys did a great job learning their role and understanding what they needed to do to help us win without those two guys.
COACH WILLIAMS:  We're thankful to be here.  Like the warm weather.  Just finished our real practice and excited to be able to continue to play.

Q.  One and two against the Southeast, is Florida similar to either of those teams you lost to or are they a lot different?
COACH WILLIAMS:  That's a good question.  I would say they're probably different.  Similar relative to athleticism and length.  Similar in they're deep.  But I think their styles of play are different.  I think Florida plays different than Vandy or LSU.  I think they're different.

Q.  Just curious, how do you turn it around from sort of peeing on your leg situation to playing pretty well within the span of a week?
COACH WILLIAMS:  Just wake up and go to work.  We're not perfect.  I'm not perfect.  Our players aren't perfect.  And so regardless of outcome, whether it's win or lose, we still have the same protocol and the same itinerary the following day, the next day, the next day, just continue to work and try to improve and try to get better.

Q.  Your players talked about how great it is to play for a coach that gets as excited as you do on the court, and how passionate you are.  And the dancing that was done on YouTube, do you think we're going to see more dancing in the next little bit?
COACH WILLIAMS:¬† No, my dancing career is over.¬† That was unprofessional.¬† I have apologized repeatedly.¬† I was on as many nationally syndicated radio shows as I've ever been on in a 48‑hour span following my emotional response at West Virginia.¬† I've apologized.¬† Continue to apologize, will continue to apologize.¬† It was not the appropriate thing to do.¬† It was not the representation that I have been hired to have for Marquette.¬† And so I apologize.

Q.  How do you compare yourself to the other coaches in this region, all of whom obviously have made it to the Final Four and gone beyond that and won national titles?
COACH WILLIAMS:  I wish that would have been a question on the SAT, I wouldn't have had to go to junior college.  The word association on the SAT, I would have gotten that right.
Coach Donovan has won 27 NCAA tournament games.  Coach Izzo has won 37.  Coach Pitino has won 40.  All of them have won National Championships.  All of them have coached in the league or decided they didn't want to coach in the league.  And the league that I should be in is the Lone Star Conference, a Division II league in Texas.  I should be an assistant in that league.
So I don't belong.  I don't compare.  Those three guys are the ultimate example of what this business should be about as people, the ultimate example of what they should be about as coaches.  So I have great admiration for them.
I have studied them throughout my career as guys that you yearn to be somewhat like.  So relative to Buzz, Donovan, Izzo and Pitino, which one doesn't belong?  That's the easiest question to answer.

Q.  I know how close you try to keep with your former players, try to keep in touch with all of them.  Have any of them reached out to the team or you like Jimmy or Zar [Lazar Hayward] and given advice to the team?
COACH WILLIAMS:  I talk to those guys every day.  I've talked to the bad players I've coached every day.  I talk to Jimmy every day, talk to Zar every day, Joe Fulks texted me every morning when he wakes up, Mo Acker, who is overseas, somehow has figured out how to text.  I don't know how that works, whatever country he's in.  I talk to all those guys.  And not just the guys I've coached at Marquette.  Guys that I've recruited and coached throughout my career.
So I think I mentioned to our kids last week, it's not your mantle, it's not Buzz Williams' mantle.  It's not Jae or D.J.'s mantle, it's our mantle.  And that mantle represents a lot of people.  A lot of people that have played here, a lot of people that have graduated from here, a lot of people that care about who we are.
And so I can't speak specifically to what our players or the consistency of our current players and former players, but I would say that it's probably closer than you would anticipate.

Q.  Can you talk a little bit about what concerns you the most about Florida as you prepare for them?
COACH WILLIAMS:  I think they're really, really good.  I think a lot has been made of how many 3's they shoot and how many 3's they make.  Their perimeter players have shot 53 percent of the shots that their perimeter has shot have been 3's.  And they've made 37 percent of them.  They make a lot of 3's and they make a lot of dunks.
A lot of that comes from transition.¬† If it doesn't come from transition, it's going to come from the ball screen.¬† And I think that Coach Donovan has been ahead of the curve relative to college basketball in doing a lot of the same things that are done in the NBA.¬† They reverse the ball ‑‑ we reverse the ball top side typically off the pass.¬† And they reverse the ball side top side off the ball screen.
And so if you can slow them down or stop them in transition your ball screen coverage has to be superb.  Because if it forces you into rotation, they're either going to make a dunk or an uncontested three.
I think the thing that probably, and what I've studied thus far, and we've got a long way to go, but they rebound 38 percent of their misses.  So that's a very high number.  So long shots equal long rebounds.  But if they're shooting 37 percent from the three, and 56 percent of the shots that those guys shoot are 3's, but yet they're rebounding 38 percent of those misses, that's really, really good.
There's very few teams ‑‑ everybody knows that they lead the country in three‑point field goal makes, but there's very few teams that have that offensive rebounding percentage that at the same time have those offensive efficiency type numbers.¬† So it's as potent an offensive team as I've studied this year.
And that speaks to Coach Donovan and his staff and the guys that they've recruited.  But it also speaks to their development of those guys and then their style of play and how it enhances their talent.

Q.  So much of the attention in college basketball goes to freshmen and sophomore players who are headed to the first round of the NBA draft.  Your team is led by seniors.  I just wonder what's the benefit of that?  What advantages does that give you and your team to be led by guys with that kind of experience?
COACH WILLIAMS:  That's a good question.  I'm not sure if it's an advantage or not.  I think that it's hard to replicate or replace experience.  And regardless of how talented you are, I think the older you are, if you are talented, the older you are, the more experiences you have been through.  And I think that that wisdom is beneficial to everybody within your organization.
I have no problem with guys that are one and done or two and done.  I just haven't done a good enough job signing those guys.  But at the same time I'm very thankful for the leadership of Darius and Jae.
Last year's team ‑‑ our team last year was comprised of two recruiting classes, which from a coaching perspective is about as unhealthy as you can be.
So this year's group, we're not necessarily young, but the leadership of our two seniors has been paramount to our success.

Q.  Can you talk about conditioning and how big a role that might play between the two teams, neither bench is super deep?
COACH WILLIAMS:  Yeah, they'll play more guys than we'll play.  And you may look at the box score tomorrow when you're writing your story and say that's incorrect.  They will play more guys that will play more meaningful possessions than our group will.  Injuries have changed our rotation throughout the season.  And those injuries still have an impact on our team.
But I think that within how they play, per possession, we average more possessions than they do.¬† Which, you know, I think when you get ‑‑ when you're playing past spring break, I don't think the games ever just turn into a circus, I don't think it's going to completely turn into that.¬† But your conditioning can never be in question.
And I don't think within how they play that you, in the times that you've watched them play, conditioning has ever been a problem.  And I don't know how much you've studied us, but I don't think, because of how we operate, I don't think conditioning has ever been a problem.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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