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March 23, 2012

Jim Boeheim

Rakeem Christmas

C.J. Fair

Scoop Jardine

Kris Joseph

Brandon Triche


Q.  Coach, how do you feel your guards match up with Aaron Craft ahead of this game?
COACH BOEHEIM:  We'll find out.  I don't give scouting reports.

Q.  For Jim and Scoop, going to write something on Dion tomorrow.  I'm curious how you've seen him develop, and has he been a challenge to coach at all?  And Scoop, I know you've known him since he was this tall.  Can you reflect a little bit on his development and how you've seen him grow up?
COACH BOEHEIM:  Well, everybody is a challenge to coach in one way or the other.  You know, I think he's come a long way.  I think he's worked really hard.  I think he's learned, as all sophomores do, that freshman year is a learning year, and I think he went through a lot of different experiences last year.  But I think he's gotten better.  I think he's still working.  I think he still has lapses on the defensive end.
I think it's kind of humorous when I hear analysts talk about players and why they should be in the game, and they only think about offense, and yet if you ask each one of those analysts which is the most important thing, they'll say defense.  Well, our two best defensive guards are up here, right here, and that's still, I think, the most important part of the game at this stage of the season.
And I think Dion really plays best and is most explosive when we try to keep his minutes in a certain area.  All three of our guards can score.  I'm not concerned about them scoring.  They all can score.  But I think Dion is getting better.  I think that he's still got a ways to go defensively, and that's normal.  He's still just a sophomore.  But I think he's had a tremendous year, and I think he's had a great role on this team.
SCOOP JARDINE:  Like coach said, Dion really worked hard this whole year and accepted his role and played it to the best of his abilities.  I think that's what made our team about‑‑ when he accepted his role and was able to come off the bench and play it well, it helps us as a team.  When our best scorer is coming off the bench and accepting his role and leaving his ego at the door for the team to be great, you can't ask for nothing else and ask for a player to do more.  He's always been talented since he's been young.  And the thing I like most about him is he's really‑‑ he's doing less talking and more playing and really performing at a high level, and that's what we need out of him.

Q.  Rakeem, Jared Sullinger mentioned you guys know each other from AAU.  How excited are you for the challenge to take him on down low?
RAKEEM CHRISTMAS:  Very excited.  Played in high school.  It's a good match‑up and just can't wait to play him again.

Q.  Jim, obviously you have an unshakeable faith in the zone, but how do you get these guys to buy into it the way you do, especially when most of them have played only man to man through high school?  And since Derrick Coleman, have you had any player suggest that you need to get into a man to man?
COACH BOEHEIM:  First of all, they buy into it because they want to play (laughter).  There's no‑‑ and even though Derrick talked about it, he was one of our best zone defenders ever.  You make adjustments.
But these guys know what we do, what we're about.  They work hard at it, and it's always funny to me, I never hear anybody yelling at Mike Krzyzewski to go back and play zone.  Why is that?  He's such a good coach, you don't question him?  Is that what that is?  Really?  Somebody shook their head down here.  Okay, that means I'm not a good coach, so you can question me.

Q.  This is for Rakeem and for Chris.  You talked a little bit about Jared Sullinger and that you have known him since playing in high school.  What particular challenge does he present down in the low block?  And Kris, I imagine he's going to need some help down there, and what kind of help do you think you might need to give?
KRIS JOSEPH:  It's going to be ‑‑ James and C.J. are going to have to help us.  It's going to be the weak side man on the back of the zone that's going to be able to help the most when he gets the ball down low.  You know, if Rakeem does a good enough job we won't need to.  But it's going to be our job to definitely give him a lot of help there on the backside.
RAKEEM CHRISTMAS:  He's a big body and just going to keep the ball out of his hands.  Basically that's it.  If he gets it in there, we have Kris and C.J. and them down there to help me.

Q.  Over the years at clinics or something like that, whenever you are discussing the zone, do you ever point as an example one reason why you do like the zone, the last possession last night, things like that?
COACH BOEHEIM:  Well, yeah, I do.  There's a few advantages to playing zone.  I mean, we play zone because we think it's our best defense overall to win the game.  But at the end of games, you'll see at least half the time in a close game, there's a foul called on a drive to the basket because that's what people will do.  They'll try to get to the basket and they'll foul because you're playing man to man.  Very seldom is somebody going to go to the foul line and beat us.  That almost never happens.
And with limited time on the clock‑‑ I mean, if you look at the game last night, Wisconsin never made a basket in 15 seconds.  And when they got up the court, that's what they had, 15 seconds.  So the odds‑‑ I mean, if you were that kind of a guy, thinking about the odds, we were about 100 percent to win the game last night.
There's other reasons, too, that zone is good.  A guy gets two fouls in the first half, I don't take him out.  We can protect him.  So I keep my best offensive player in the game the whole half.

Q.  If you would talk about Ohio State, the concerns they have, and what you've seen when you've watched them, not only last night but in Pittsburgh last weekend?
COACH BOEHEIM:  I saw them early in the year when they destroyed Duke, and I thought, they're going to be there at the end of the year, when I saw that game, for sure.  They've got the inside presence.  They've got a great point guard.  They've got great scorers.  They've got tremendous size and physical strength and rebounding.  They've got all the tools to be a great team, and they are a great team.  I think they're the best team I've seen all year long in terms of total makeup and what they do.  Their point guard is an unbelievable player.  But their whole team is perfectly constructed to be a great college basketball team, and they are.  We know that.  We know it's a very daunting task to play them.  You know, we've prepared for it.  We're ready to play them.  I hope it'll be a great game.

Q.  Ohio State was talking earlier about rallying around adversity and what they meant by that was in February pulling together when they were struggling.  Your team has had adversity, as well.  Do you look at adversity as a rallying point for the team?  Has it made your team better?
COACH BOEHEIM:  I don't think about those things to tell you the truth.  This is a team, the adversity this year with losing Fab a few days before the tournament started, two days before, was obviously very difficult.  It was difficult to lose a teammate, difficult as a coach to lose a great kid who's really developed as a player.
We were fortunate that we had Rakeem and Baye who have played this year at center, and we didn't have to find somebody who hadn't played.  We had two guys.  And we have veterans around them who can help them, and so it was a little bit easier in terms of overcoming that adversity.  Still a big loss.  But we play with what we have.  If somebody gets hurt or injured or somebody is not there, we're going to come and play with what we have, and these guys have done that.
All year long they've been good in tough games, tough situations.  They've made defensive plays if they've needed to; they've made offensive plays if they've needed to.  It's been a very‑‑ the best team I've ever had as far as getting every win out of a season you can get.  They have done that.  And it's been a great team from that point of view.

Q.  From what you saw out of him as a player and perhaps any conversations you had while he was at Syracuse, what's your impression of Greg Paulus and what he can bring to a program?
COACH BOEHEIM:  I've known Greg since he was in about eighth grade.  He's a great player and loves the game and a great football player and basketball player, and I've always enjoyed conversations with him over the years.  He's a great kid.  He understands the game.  He'll be a tremendous coach.

Q.  This question is for Kris:  You guys are going up against Deshaun Thomas who is one of the tournament's leading scorers this year.  You've played players who are on hot streaks scoring wise and shooting wise, with Wisconsin last night.  How tough is it to break somebody out of a rhythm when they've been going for a month like this, playing so well?
KRIS JOSEPH:  We've just got to get out on him, make him uncomfortable out there, don't give him any easy looks.  That comes from a team effort.  Our bumps have to be crisp and the defensive end has to work well.  We'll just know where he is in the zone, locate him at all times, and make it difficult for him to get his shots off.

Q.  Coach, what's the mindset and your message to the team going into this one?
COACH BOEHEIM:  Well, I know this won't sound right, but I try to prepare this game like we did the first game or the tenth game.  We want to be prepared, know what they're going to do, know what we're trying to do, and go out and play the way we play.  We make adjustments every game no matter who we're playing, so we'll try to make those adjustments and try to keep it at that level.
They know how important the game is.  I mean, we don't talk about that.  We just try to prepare ourselves like we would for any game that we've played this year and make sure we are going to play our game as best we can.  That's all you should do in tournament situations.

Q.  You knew your shot hadn't been falling in the games coming in, and I'm sure you wanted to make a contribution.  How rewarding was last night's game from your we perspective?
C.J. FAIR:  I mean, it was big for me.  Early in the game I got an easy pass from Dion to get me going for the dunk, and just seeing the ball go in off an easy bucket.  I think that gave me confidence and got me going for the rest of the night.
COACH BOEHEIM:  It wasn't me working on your shooting the other day?  That wasn't it?  Oh, geez.

Q.  Despite being the No.1 seed in this bracket, you guys have talked about having a target on your back all year, and the early line is Ohio State being favored.  Does that bother you in any way?
COACH BOEHEIM:  Well, we didn't know about it, first of all, because we don't look at those things.  And second of all, Ohio State is a tremendous team.  There's no question about that.  And we're not concerned about those things.
We've been in the Big East for a long time, and every team in our league wants to beat us.  That's nothing new for us.  We're used to that.

Q.  This one is for Brandon.  They have all these big guys, everyone is talking about the defense of their point guard.  What makes him such a tough defender from what you've seen?
BRANDON TRICHE:  You're talking about Craft?  I think he's just one of those guys who's always up on you.  He's good with his hands.  He gets into the passing lane.  He pretty much just makes it tough, sliding left and right.  He's one of those guys who never gives up.  He's one of those guys who helps others, dives on the floor.  I think if we're able to protect the ball, we should be fine.

Q.  From the games that you watched just as a fan and the film you've watched, what have you seen of Deshaun Thomas?
COACH BOEHEIM:  He hurts you outside and inside.  He shoots the ball and just makes everything.  Every time I watch him play, he makes every open shot he gets.  Mid‑range; he can go get it on the boards.  He's a great player, a really great player.

Q.  Temple used to have a lot of success running the zone, as well, under Chaney.  Have you ever talked with him and discussed the zone?
COACH BOEHEIM:  I have talked to John.  John and I sat‑‑ Bo Ryan sat behind me and John Chaney sat next to me for about 15 years at the Final Four when neither one of us had a team there, so we were watching the game.
I've talked to John over the years, but not a lot in depth on the zone.  But he's the best zone coach that I've seen.  I think their zone was the toughest to play against any zone I've seen over the years.  And even before that when Don Casey was there and then when Harry Litwack started the 3‑2 zone at Temple.  They've always played that zone.
But we used to have a lot of zone defense in our league.  We don't have it anymore.  But back in the day when I was younger, everybody played some zone.  So we saw a lot of zone.  Villanova played the match‑up, and two or three teams played 1‑3‑1, so we saw a lot of zones.  Temple's was always one of the best.  Villanova's match‑up was probably as difficult as any zone defense that I've seen.
You know, I haven't had real in‑depth with John about it.  But his zone was a tremendous defense.

Q.  For all the stuff that's happened off the court, for these guys to get this opportunity and this chance tomorrow, how happy are you or proud are you?  Do they deserve this kind of chance?
COACH BOEHEIM:  Well, I think the players have focused on the season from the beginning.  I think what goes on off the court affects me more than it does them.  Some of the stuff happened 100 years ago, and some of it happened seven years ago, whenever it happened, and they're not involved in it, so it's not their concern.
The thing they had to go through was losing Fab, which was difficult, to lose your center.  I think‑‑ I guess we had practice at it when we lost him during the year, and maybe it was a little easier to adjust this time to it.
But the players have‑‑ what I look at in our team is no Syracuse team has ever won 17 games in the Big East.  Only one other team won 17 games in this league.  It's a very difficult league and it's proven throughout this tournament.  We won on the road in Cincinnati and Louisville and NC State.  Two of those teams are still playing.  They've accomplished an awful lot, and so they deserve obviously being in this tournament, and they've played well in the tournament.  They've had a tremendous year.
I don't subscribe to the theory that you have to win this or win that in the tournament to have a good year.  I mean, that's common opinion, but‑‑ and we want to do well in the tournament.  But if you can have a great year in this game like this team has had, I mean, they can look back on this year and be very proud of what they've done.  They've played great this year, they really have.  A tremendous year.

Q.  At this stage on the brink of a Final Four, this group seems very loose.  Do you see any pressure on this team with so much at stake?
COACH BOEHEIM:  Well, I think pressure is relative.  I think we want to play.  We want to go out and play and lay our game, and that's what we do.  That's what we've done all year.  We don't put pressure on ourselves.  We try to go out and play the way we've played all year long.  We've been playing for six months now and practicing and working toward getting to this kind of a situation, this kind of a‑‑ this is what players play for.  They've been playing their whole life.  They've played in championships.
My son lost a championship last week, and he was crying after the game.  He's 12 years old.  It was important to him.  That's good.  It's good for that.  And these kids have been doing that since they were 12 years old, so they're used to big games, playing in championship games, summertime championship games, state championships.  Now they've been through conference tournaments and conference regular season championships.  All these kids, they've been playing all their life.  To get a chance to play in a regional final, they're excited about it.  They should be.  They're ready to go.
People always used to say I don't know how Jack Nicklaus can make that three‑foot putt or four‑foot putt to win The Masters.  I couldn't do that.  You're right, you couldn't do it because you're not Jack Nicklaus.  Do you think he worries about it?  He thinks I'm going to make this putt because this is what I do.
These players, this is what they do.  They want to play in this game.  There shouldn't be any pressure.  Just go out and play.  If you're the best team, you win.  If we'd have lost last night, they wouldn't have had anything to be ashamed about.  They played the best they could, and the guy makes a shot at the end, we lose.  That happens.  That's the game.  You get to this level in this tournament, there's nobody that can't beat you.  Nobody.

Q.  Your observation of Coach Matta and what he's done in his eight years at Ohio State?
COACH BOEHEIM:  He's a great coach, he really is.  He's a great basketball coach.  He can change defenses.  He changes offenses.  He's very adaptable coach.  He's had all different kinds of teams, ones that won all kinds of different ways.  He's one of the very best coaches we have in college basketball by a lot.  I mean, he's at a very top level of coaches in this game, what he's done, how he coaches.  He's just a great basketball coach, period.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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