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NCAA MEN'S REGIONALS SEMIFINALS & FINALS: BOSTON


March 23, 2012


William Buford

Aaron Craft

Thad Matta

Lenzelle Smith, Jr.

Jared Sullinger

Deshaun Thomas


BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS

Q.テつ This is for Thad and for Aaron.テつ We're going to write about Aaron's defense tomorrow.テつ I am wondering if he came in with that mentality and if you could speak to how his defense obviously had a huge impact on the game tonight.テつ And Aaron, you're obviously the son of a high school coach.テつ Just wondering how your defensive mentality developed coming up.
COACH MATTA:テつ Yeah, you know, when I watched Aaron play, the first time I saw him and I kept watching him and watching him, I felt probably the best thing he did was moved his feet and kept guys in front of him.テつ I think from the standpoint of what makes a great defender, I think intelligence and desire, and he has both of those, and then obviously some God‑given abilities.テつ But he takes great pride in what he's doing every single possession.テつ That's why I've said it all year, he's the best defender in college basketball.
AARON CRAFT:テつ Yeah, you know, it started when I was growing up.テつ Like you said, I had a coach for a father, and just being around the gym all the time.テつ I had older brothers, so we would play one‑on‑one.テつ I couldn't score too much because I was a lot smaller, but I could frustrate him if I was playing defense.テつ That kind of is what I hung my hat on, and it carried over, and it's something I enjoy doing.テつ I take great pride in it, and I trust in these guys to be behind me regardless of who I'm guarding, and it's awesome to have that kind of trust in these guys.

Q.テつ Jared, with Fab Melo out, you're a little bit different and Syracuse is a little bit different inside, and what do you know about Rakeem Christmas and Baye Keita, and are you going to be essentially begging for the ball tomorrow during the game?
JARED SULLINGER:テつ With Fab Melo out, obviously the biggest defensive Player of the Year, obviously that's a big‑time loss.テつ I've know Rakeem ever since we was young in AAU, so I know Rakeem likes to block shots, and he's physical.テつ And Baye, he's a good shot blocker.テつ So I just know it's going to be a very physical game.テつ Whoever wins this game is going to be in the Final Four, so everybody is going to give it their all.

Q.テつ This is for Will and Deshaun.テつ Watching Syracuse over the last few games, the three‑point shot has kind of been a weakness in terms of their defense.テつ Are you chomping at the bit to get out there and hoist up some threes?
WILLIAM BUFORD:テつ It's not our game plan just to get some threes.テつ We want to move the ball against their defense.テつ The threes certainly count, but we do want to move it and work it inside out.
DESHAUN THOMAS:テつ Yeah, our guards are trying attack in the middle and dump it down on the baseline.テつ It's more than just shooting threes.テつ We're just going to get in the zone and get easy shots, and if it's in range.

Q.テつ Thad, how much has Deshaun matured as a player?
COACH MATTA:テつ A lot.テつ And I think from the standpoint of you look, and he came in with the mentality of being a scorer, and the one thing in the two years he's been here, we've talked a lot to him about there's so many other ways that he can affect our team in a positive way.テつ I think back to last year defensively, he was trying so hard, but he had to think everything through, and now he's playing and he's just reacting.テつ And I think from the standpoint of‑‑ the play I think it was against Gonzaga last week where he had a hot hand and he caught in the corner and he had a good shot and he kicked it to Will for a wide‑open shot, I kind of said to myself, he's arrived.テつ He understands.テつ So it's been a pleasure.
You know, the biggest thing is he's a prideful young man and he wants to do well for the team.

Q.テつ For Jared and for Aaron, there were perceptions all over the place about what it means to get to the Final Four, what it says about a team and a season.テつ From where you guys sit, what does it mean?
JARED SULLINGER:テつ It means a lot to me.テつ But I mean, one of the team's goals was definitely get past the Sweet 16, which the past two years we lost.テつ So that was definitely one of our goals.テつ But now we're just trying to keep the train rolling and hopefully we can make it to that spot.
AARON CRAFT:テつ Yeah, it's just something that we're trying to make the most out of.テつ It's a team goal for everyone when they start the season to try to get to the Final Four.テつ I think the best thing that we can do now is enjoy it, enjoy it together.テつ But understand it is going to be a basketball game.テつ They're a great team.テつ It's going to take a great team effort from us to hopefully play another game after this.テつ So just enjoy it as much as we can, see if we can execute tomorrow and see where it goes from there.

Q.テつ Coach, you talked about Aaron's defense a little bit.テつ Have you thought about which of the Syracuse guards you're going to play him on, perhaps Dion Waiters when he's in the game?
COACH MATTA:テつ All of them (laughter).テつ No, I think that's one of the challenges you have when you play a great basketball team, and that's who we're playing tomorrow.テつ Match‑ups.テつ And I don't think‑‑ with so many guys, the ability to make plays, we're going to have to‑‑ throughout the course of the game, make a lot of changes.テつ So I think all these guys will be guarding somebody different at a different juncture of the game.

Q.テつ Aaron, what do you think when your coach calls you the best defensive player in the country, and do you agree with him?
AARON CRAFT:テつ I love Coach, and I think he's called to do things like that, and he's very proud of us.テつ But when it comes down to it, I know it's not just myself out there guarding guys.テつ It's all five of us together, and even when we have subs in there, it's those guys, as well.テつ Just with the system that the coaches have put in place, it puts us in positions to help each other and believe in one another and trust in one another that if I do get beat there's someone behind me to help me out.テつ That's very comforting out there when you need to, and I think we do a great job staying connected out there and guarding everyone the same.

Q.テつ Aaron, you talked about it yesterday how you guys lost some close games when other teams really showed a lot of toughness and you guys backed up.テつ But then you said since the Big Ten Tournament, you guys have really stood your ground.テつ What's been the difference in this NCAA Tournament for you guys in terms of winning those close games?
AARON CRAFT:テつ I just think we've stuck together.テつ Throughout the year we have had some letdowns, and I think in those letdowns we've pointed fingers at one another where we kind of splintered apart, and ever since the end of the season throughout the Big Ten Tournament and now, I think we've done a good job of staying positive.
Every team we play now is a good team and they're going to go on a run.テつ We're not going to hold a team scoreless.テつ Just sticking together, just understand there's always a lot of game left and a lot of time.テつ Just stick by one another, stick with our system, and hopefully we can play as well as we can.

Q.テつ Jared, with your passing ability, how critical is that to pass out of the post in the zone?テつ Are you conscious of where Deshaun is with the way he's going, and also, do you feel like there are opportunities to get open on the baseline behind it?
JARED SULLINGER:テつ It's very critical, but in their zone, they don't really double‑team the basketball.テつ Hopefully I can make a play out of that.
But I'm always conscious of where Deshaun is and Will and Lenzelle and Craft because they're my outlets sometimes when they double‑team the post where I can't escape dribble.テつ I'm always focusing on where everybody is at, at a certain time of the game.

Q.テつ What are some of the benefits for the team and for the program to have a guy like Greg Paulus on the staff?
COACH MATTA:テつ Who?テつ (Laughter).
No, I think‑‑ I've known Greg for a long, long time, tried to recruit him out of Syracuse when I was at Xavier.テつ He is going to be a phenomenal coach someday.テつ I remember when Greg came in to see Ohio State last spring, we walked into the gym, and I said to Aaron, he was the one in the gym, I said, let me introduce you.テつ He goes, "I know who he is."テつ They've got kind of the bond being a quarterback, that sort of thing.テつ He's been there.
It's funny that he played his last college game in this building for Duke, and then playing quarterback at Syracuse.テつ He's such a well‑rounded young man, and the things that he's been through at 25 years of age, not a lot of people can say that.テつ I love having him around, and he's done a tremendous job in his role for us.

Q.テつ This question is for Will.テつ Especially since the Big Ten Tournament, Deshaun and Jared have been scoring a lot of points.テつ As a scorer yourself and when you see them putting in a lot of points, does that change your approach at all?
WILLIAM BUFORD:テつ Not at all.テつ I continue to stay aggressive, keep doing what I'm doing, just doing whatever I can do to help my teammates, passing the ball, rebounding, playing defense.テつ As long as we win it, I'm happy.テつ So if they can change doing what they're doing, I'm happy.

Q.テつ Aaron, it's been said that teams that play against you think that you're a royal pain in the rear end and that you're the kind of guy that teams hate to play against.テつ Your teammates say that they love having a guy like you on the team.テつ What's your take on that?テつ Do you think it's accurate?
AARON CRAFT:テつ I hope so.テつ You know, that's whata goal of a good defensive player is, just to try to take another player out of his rhythm and hopefully he doesn't feel as comfortable as he does in other games.
But when it comes to these guys, I like having every one of these guys, wouldn't trade them for anybody.テつ We've been through a lot throughout the summer and spring and even throughout the season.テつ We get along.テつ We've had our ups and we've definitely had our downs, but we stick together, and it's been a lot of fun.

Q.テつ Lenzelle, I know last night Coach Matta talked about‑‑ just talked with you back in Columbus about making sure your mind is right for games like this and thinking about team things and not just getting yourself going.テつ What's the difference for you when you do have your mind thinking that way, and obviously we saw last night the difference you can make?
LENZELLE SMITH, JR.:テつ I guess I have a tendency to play well when my mind is right.テつ I come out and tend to do the things that we require to win.テつ I know my role on this team, and I try to play that as best as I can.

Q.テつ How important is a versatile forward like Deshaun going against the zone?
COACH MATTA:テつ Well, very, very important, because I think that you look at kind of the climate of college basketball now, and it's really shifted to skilled four men and guys that can really stretch the defense.
I think the great thing Deshaun has is he cannot only stretch it but he's driving the ball.テつ The last month of the season, he's really putting it on the deck and doing a better job there, but he can also post‑up.テつ He finds seams, and then he's a very prolific rebounder on the offensive end, as well.

Q.テつ Syracuse has struggled against zones so far this season on offense.テつ Have you considered playing a zone defense against the Orange tomorrow?
COACH MATTA:テつ You know, not really.テつ We're into Game 30 whatever it is.テつ We kind of are who we are from the standpoint, and I'll be honest with you:テつ Going against a zone this week‑‑ we felt like Cincinnati was going to play us like they did last night, the first half zone, and thought there was a chance we'd play Syracuse, so we went against zone in practice and left with a ton of confidence on offense because the zone was so bad, so we weren't going to do that.

Q.テつ Thad, when Wisconsin is making 14 three‑pointers against Syracuse last night and Jim still sticks with the zone, have you ever seen anybody with such an unshakeable faith and a defense that maybe isn't man to man?
COACH MATTA:テつ No, I heard‑‑ I don't know when it was, a couple years ago, whatever, and I thought it was the greatest answer I've ever heard from Coach Boeheim.テつ Somebody asked him what do you do when somebody gets really hot against your zone and they're making threes, how do you know they're not going to make them against man to man?テつ I think he has his philosophy, and he's only won 900 or however many games he's won.テつ It works for him.
You know, watching that game last night, he struck true to what he's done.テつ Fourteen threes, you might say, hey, that's good enough to get the job done, and last night it wasn't.テつ I think the fact that Wisconsin only turned it over, what, six times or whatever it was, they put themselves in a position to win the game.

Q.テつ Thad, the common way to attack a zone is to play high‑low with your bigs, and with Jared being‑‑ Jared is obviously a very good passer, but you haven't seemed to subscribe to that theory in the past, attacking them like that.テつ I know you like keeping Jared close to the basket.テつ Is that why you don't attack zone high‑low?
COACH MATTA:テつ I'm trying to think, because I think we have done some high‑low.テつ One is we haven't seen a ton of zone for a steady diet.テつ Obviously moving him around, high, low, inside, outside, kind of the same with Deshaun, that tandem there is something we definitely need to do in tomorrow night's game.

Q.テつ Thad, you heard the question I posed to Aaron about how he's perceived by other teams and his teammates.テつ When you think of him, what's the first word that pops into your mind, and we've seen him obviously in games, disrupt a game.テつ Do you have a memory, whether at practice, whatever, where you saw him do something that said, that guy just wins?
COACH MATTA:テつ Well, that would be the word that I would use is winner.テつ You know, I don't know if there's a memory‑‑ I think just the overall persona that he came into Ohio State with is something that we'll‑‑ I think will be talked about for as long as I coach, because he came to Ohio State, and I think he kind of assessed the situation that he was walking into and said, what do I have to do to help this basketball team win.テつ If you look at last year's team, he chose and said, I'm going to defend and I'm going to take care of the basketball, and I think I'll have an opportunity to play.
That would probably be it.テつ I don't know if there was one defining moment where I said, he's going to be a winner or whatever.テつ But it was just, I think, his approach to practice and the pace and intelligence he comes in with every day.テつ He probably leads the film room in, "coach, can you please rewind that" as we're watching film because he wants every advantage he can get.テつ And as a coach you know he's in there thinking.

Q.テつ Jared, you said last night that your team is two types of team, you have the blue collar team and the cool guys team, and last night in the beginning of the second half you played like the cool guys team when Cincinnati went on that big run.テつ What do you need to do to be the blue collar team for a complete 40 minutes?
JARED SULLINGER:テつ Realize what's at stake, realize this is a chance to go to New Orleans.テつ And also knowing that it's win and advance or lose and go home, and as long as we understand that, I think we'll have the blue collar team tomorrow.

Q.テつ Thad and Jared, did anyone hear from Lighty or Diebler or Dallas or anybody after the win last night?テつ And I know they're overseas.テつ But if not, what do you think those guys are thinking now knowing that you guys did get that done last night when you fell a little short last year?
COACH MATTA:テつ Well, I haven't checked my phone.テつ But I think from the standpoint, I know those guys are proud, and I'm‑‑ I feel their excitement just from what they've‑‑ the texts and calls throughout the course of the season.テつ I think they knew this team had it in them.テつ I think they knew this team had a lot of work to do.テつ I know that wherever they are, they're happy.
JARED SULLINGER:テつ I know for a fact that Dallas, Dave and Jon is very excited.テつ They've been rooting for us this whole year.テつ Before I took my Twitter vacation, they always‑‑ Dallas and Dave was always tweeting me, talking about, good game, or stuff like that.テつ I know wherever they're at, they're cheering hard.
DESHAUN THOMAS:テつ Dang, nobody texted me.テつ But I'm sure they're happy for us.テつ We made a step into the Elite 8, and I know Dave is always tweeting me during the season when I had good games and saying, keep killing and keep doing your thing.

Q.テつ Aaron, I ask you this because obviously you're a very good defender.テつ Syracuse plays a zone and they have to get the players to buy into it.テつ From a player's perspective, what would it take to get you to buy into playing zone?
AARON CRAFT:テつ If coach told me to do it.テつ But they have a coach that has a great rテδゥsumテδゥ, and I mean, he sticks to his philosophy like we said earlier.テつ I think those guys buy into it and they see‑‑ there are times where it looks like they're kind of matched up and they're playing a little bit man to man, but they just have a little bit more help than you usually do in man to man defense.テつ If they all continue to buy into it, and with their length, it's a very effective defense, and it's helped them be successful throughout the year.

Q.テつ Aaron, there was a play last night you guys got called for a backcourt violation, and you picked up the ball and you were about 20 feet in front of the Cincinnati band, and you just stood there for a few seconds.テつ Did you realize the response you got from them?テつ Were you aware of what was going on?テつ Or if not, what were you thinking at that moment?
AARON CRAFT:テつ I heard a little bit of yelling, but I didn't hear too much.テつ Nothing specific.テつ And I was just trying to‑‑ just trying to relax a little bit.テつ I think we started playing at a hectic pace, and that was definitely in their advantage.テつ We started turning the ball over a few times where we shouldn't have, and that kind of fueled their run.テつ Just taking a second to take a step back and refocus, not lose our minds out there and just get our guys together, understand there's a lot of time left.テつ We don't need to rush anything, and we'd be all right.

Q. テつDeshaun, you've been really consistent all season long, but over the last month it seems like you've taken your game another step, taken it to another level.テつ Was there any specific thing that switched for you?テつ Was there a moment?テつ Has the game slowed down for you?テつ What exactly has happened in the last month?
DESHAUN THOMAS:テつ Just being in the gym, getting shots up, just having fun.テつ I mean, going in practice, playing against our second string, just playing it like it's a game.テつ Everything has been clicking.テつ I mean, the shots have been going in, the defense has been well, and I've just been out here playing hard.

Q.テつ Coach, last night's game for Syracuse went down to the final possession, and most of these games in the tournament do.テつ Should this game go to the final possession, who on your team do you want the ball in their hands?
COACH MATTA:テつ You know, tough decision.テつ It would probably be more on a read of what we feel is working at that time.テつ Yeah, I don't know if I could say this is exactly what we're going to do if it comes down to the last possession because so much can transpire throughout the course of a game that we'll hopefully be able to pick up some things that are working offensively for us, and it would probably be a variation of that.

Q.テつ Deshaun, your reputation coming in, I'm sure I'm not telling you anything you don't know, is as a gunner or a scorer.テつ Was that ‑‑ did you resemble that or did you resent that?テつ And how difficult is it to change?
DESHAUN THOMAS:テつ I don't know.テつ I love to score.テつ I mean, high school I really‑‑ that's what‑‑ coaches had the ball in my hands 110 percent of the time.テつ That's what I do.テつ I always joke with Will, that one assist I have a game will be to him, and it would be a game changer.テつ I love to score.テつ I'm sorry.

Q.テつ (No microphone).
DESHAUN THOMAS:テつ It's not that hard now by watching other players like Jared pass the ball, double‑team, and it feels real great watching him do that because I'll be like, I want to do that, I want to pass the ball, let me see who can make the shot, I want to get an assist.テつ And it will be to Will.

Q.テつ You said last night when these guys first got together, you never thought they could win 30 games.テつ What did you think‑‑ why do you say that, and what did you think when you saw them?テつ Was it because they were too young?
COACH MATTA:テつ I was telling somebody earlier this:テつ I think one of the biggest challenges this team has had to overcome, they were cast into a light before the season even started of what they were going to be.テつ And it was unfair in my mind because you lose three starters, and you had so many unknowns on this basketball team.テつ You know, really coming in, we knew that Will could make some shots, and Jared could score in the post, Aaron could play defense.テつ Other than that, I didn't know what else was going to happen with this team.
As I watched them unfold, we struggled early in terms of kind of mental toughness in practice, finishing out a two‑hour practice with the intensity it needed to be, which prompted me to say, in mid‑December, this is the worst practice team I've ever coached.テつ And they can tell you, I told them‑‑ it was probably mid‑December I said, fellows, right now, you're a round of 32 team.テつ That is what it is.テつ We're going to be out in the round of 32 unless some things change.
To their credit, I think that they understood the importance of all the little things, and that was always the challenge for me, to get them to understand the little things.テつ They've done the work.テつ They've done the job, and they've put us in this position.テつ But saying that last night, I didn't know early on if we could have 30 wins.
What turned the corner for me was the night, that Tuesday night, when we realized up in Chicago we've got a chance to win a share of the Big Ten championship.テつ And you win the last two games on the road, and it seemed like it sort of came together there.

Q.テつ Thad, as you started the season back in November, if you can think back that far, what was your vision for how this offense would produce, who your go‑to guys were, and especially maybe in the last month since you guys have recommitted yourself to sharing the ball and getting great shots?テつ What's your vision now for‑‑ how has it changed since November as far as who can produce for you?
COACH MATTA:テつ Well, I think you go back to, let's just say, Florida‑Duke in November.テつ We did a lot of good things.テつ We still see clips from those games of great ball movement.テつ The thing that I wanted was the consistency.テつ I don't think we've ever had a team, maybe with the exception of when we had Evan, we put the ball in his hands a lot and let him play with it.テつ But I think the beauty of this team is having five guys out there that can have spurts of scoring and finding kind of the hot hand, finding the area where we can attack them.テつ That's proven to be pretty good for us.
I love the fact that Deshaun had 20 at halftime last night, Will had 20 or whatever it was in the second half against Michigan State.テつ You know, just kind of the spurts that this team can put on is how I want them to play.

Q.テつ You heard me ask the players what getting to the Final Four means, what it says about a team.テつ And obviously every team that's here has had ups and downs, and you learn, and you're a product of all that.テつ But tomorrow it just comes down to, you win, you go.テつ What do you think it says about a team?テつ What does it mean?
COACH MATTA:テつ Well, I think it says you're obviously a great basketball team.テつ As you look at the parity across the board in college basketball, I think it says that you're playing your best basketball at the right time of the season.テつ It's always hard because it's such a long season.テつ Getting your guys to play in this stretch is something that can be challenging, because quite honestly, this is ‑‑ one of the biggest fears I have is just our guys dealing with all the hoopla and being in there in their uniforms doing a press conference, keeping the focus where it needs to be, and that is tomorrow at 7:05, being prepared and ready to play its best basketball.
Does that answer?

Q.テつ Do you want to take another shot at it?
COACH MATTA:テつ I'm sorry, this is coffee in here.テつ I'm trying to wake up.
But I also think it says a lot about your program when you get to a Final Four.テつ Eight years ago when we got to Ohio State, we set out to build‑‑ try to build a national contender on a year in, year out basis.テつ And obviously it kind of puts a stamp of approval when you get to a Final Four.

Q.テつ I think you said last night that playing UC's zone helped prepare you a little bit.テつ In what way, because Syracuse's zone, that 2‑3 zone, there are variations within even that zone; is that correct?
COACH MATTA:テつ Yeah, strictly from the standpoint of seeing zone.テつ If you look at the last 21 Big Ten games that we played since late December, some teams play zone, but they're not what I would call zone teams, with the exception of maybe a Northwestern.テつ But that's even a match‑up, they'll play man out of it.テつ So you don't see that steady 20 minutes of it.テつ And I think that's what I was alluding to in terms of helping us.

Q.テつ How is their zone different, Syracuse?
COACH MATTA:テつ Size.テつ Size.テつ And they play it more obviously frequently.テつ Cincinnati had shown a lot of man to man prior to it.

Q.テつ Do you think Buford is in a shooting slump?テつ Stats would indicate that he is.
COACH MATTA:テつ Yeah, I think stats would‑‑ it's easier said than done.テつ We're going to try to get him off‑‑ just because I think the offense we run, to say, okay, Will, you're going to shoot four of the first eight possessions for us, it never seems to work itself out that way.
The great thing I think about William is he usually bounces back, and hopefully the odds say tomorrow some higher percentage will be going in for him.テつ But yeah, we need Will to play well.テつ I give him a ton of credit.テつ I thought last night defensively his defense was maybe the best he's played in his time at Ohio State.テつ If he keeps doing the other things, we'll be in good shape.

Q.テつ When you were a player, what would you do to try to snap out of it?
COACH MATTA:テつ I was probably more along the lines of extra time.テつ I'd just try to get as many rhythm shots as I possibly could, just to get that rhythm back and get the flow back.テつ I didn't have very many off nights (laughter).

Q.テつ You've had a conventional coaching career in terms of movement up the ladder at different schools.テつ Jim Boeheim walked on 50 years ago and he's here 50 years later.テつ In your profession how much is this a topic of conversation, say, at the meeting and the Final Four?テつ And number two, where do you rank Syracuse in terms of the pantheon of great college programs?
COACH MATTA:テつ Well, I'll start with the second one first.テつ I think from all the time that I've been around the game of basketball, Syracuse has been a pillar of stability in college basketball.テつ I view Syracuse as one of the elite programs in college basketball.テつ I mean, they just have stood the test of time, year after year after year.
The fact that Coach Boeheim has been there.テつ In a lot of ways I envy that because I think one of the hardest things I've always said about the coaching profession is you want a place where you can call home for your family, and that's hard to do in this profession.テつ You know, my children are 13 and 11.テつ They've lived in Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Columbus.テつ For him to be at the place that he's never left, I think it's a tremendous feat.テつ I envy him for it.

Q.テつ Jim Boeheim has talked multiple times this year about how important it is to have seniors, Kris and Scoop.テつ How important do you think it is to have seniors with experience in the NCAA Tournament?
COACH MATTA:テつ I think you look at the teams that are successful usually have a great corps of seniors that have been through it.テつ I can remember when we played Syracuse in the Garden four years ago, and Scoop was a freshman.テつ I've always said this to our teams:テつ I can't create a drill in practice to give you experience.テつ As I said, we lost a tough game to years ago in the Sweet 16 to Tennessee.テつ William Buford is the only guy on this team today that was in that game.テつ Yeah, I'd like to have some more experience out there, but we're going to go with what we've got.

Q.テつ You've known Jim a while, and Syracuse has had to endure a lot of off‑the‑court issues this season, as I'm sure you're aware.テつ Can you imagine what Jim and his team have gone through, and do you think it's Jim's doing that they've been able to be successful despite all that?
COACH MATTA:テつ No question about that.テつ I know‑‑ I don't know everything that they've been through, but for him to lead this team, you look at all the distractions that can take place just if nothing is going on, and what he has been able to do to lead this team, 33 and 2 and coming out of the Big East, it's incredible.テつ And I think it's a tribute to him.
You think about how many times he's had to address this basketball team throughout the course of a season, the beginning of practice, end of practice, meetings, whatever it is, and obviously he's saying the right things to get them to play at this level.

Q.テつ How do you feel that the Elite 8 run last year, and coming up a little bit short, but that type of experience that you guys gained, will be able to help you going into this game?
COACH MATTA:テつ Well, you never really know until it's over.テつ If we're fortunate enough to win tomorrow night, I'll have a great answer for you.テつ But I think that so much of this tournament is good fortune, and we've had some good fortune throughout it.テつ But you lose a heartbreaker last year, and you know that that resonates in guys' minds throughout the course of the offseason.
As a coach when you have guys returning, you want them to take the positives and the negatives out of the course of a season and motivate them to have a great offseason.テつ And I think that happened for our guys.テつ So their being in this position, I give them the credit for everything they've done to put us here.

Q.テつ One of the common ways to attack a zone is through the high post, and Deshaun seems like the kind of guy who can do that.テつ How comfortable are you with him as a decision maker in that position?
COACH MATTA:テつ Very comfortable.テつ I think that he has good vision.テつ The biggest thing is everybody says you've got to attack the high post.テつ Well, they do a real good job not letting you attack the high post.テつ And I think from that standpoint, getting the ball in his hands, and just probably making sure that if it is the high post, that particular possession we're trying to attack that he understands his reads when he catches it.テつ That's the hard part of a quick turnaround is getting guys to understand if the ball comes from here, you're looking there, if it comes from there, you're looking here.テつ Those are important things for us to get in the next two days.

Q.テつ I don't know if you were asked about Dion Waiters earlier today, but what challenges does he present?テつ And also, for a guy as talented as he is, he often doesn't come in until the seven‑ or eight‑minute mark.テつ What challenges does it present to the coach, Jim Boeheim, and the player, for a guy who's that good to have to wait and be a bench player and back up the starting guards?
COACH MATTA:テつ Well, I think that he is‑‑ number one, he's just a tremendous basketball player.テつ I think you look at every great basketball team, and everybody has a role to play, and I'm sure Dion has accepted this role.テつ He's like my guys; they all want to score 25 points every night.テつ But putting winning first, and what he brings when he comes into the basketball game is just a tremendous boost to what they're doing.

Q.テつ You talked about Greg Paulus earlier doing a great job for you and everything, but do you ever walk into the film room and catch him with a football game on?
COACH MATTA:テつ Yeah, no doubt about it, but it's funny because I love watching football with him because he can tell you what's going to happen, when it's going to happen, why it's going to happen, the coverages.テつ And I sat with him a couple times at Ohio State games this year and honestly learned a ton.テつ He's got a great mind obviously for the game of football.テつ And I do know this:テつ There was nobody rooting harder for Syracuse in year than he was.テつ I think he feels like he's got a great part of that program, and he loves the staff and his teammates.

Q.テつ A striking fact about this team is that you basically have a rotation with six players.テつ Is that something that depends on how your team is built this year or is that something more of a philosophy, you have to give such big minutes to the starters?
COACH MATTA:テつ Yeah, it's funny because we've probably used our bench more this entire season than we have the last couple years.テつ In last night's game, it was more predicated on what we needed and when we needed it.テつ We probably didn't get the guys as many minutes as they normally do.テつ But I love the fact that we've got guys that can come in and contribute, and quite honestly one of the most gratifying things with this team is watching all of our players throughout the course of the season and thinking about the futures they have and obviously get them as much experience is a good thing for us.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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