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March 17, 2014
THE MODERATOR: Introducing the players from North Carolina State University, Jordan Vandenberg, Ralston Turner, and T.J. Warren.
Q. T.J., it's been kind of a whirlwind since you guys found out you were in the field. Can you walk us through what you guys have been doing since you watched the Selection Show last night?
T.J. WARREN: We got in this morning. We've been preparing for this tournament. We're excited to be here and we're ready to play, so we're really excited for it.
Q. T.J., Semaj told us last night you were roommates at Brewster. Could you talk about your relationship with him and the times you guys had together.
T.J. WARREN: We were teammates at Brewster my senior year. We have a good relationship. I'm familiar with his game. He's from Cincinnati, so it's not too far from here. So it's going to be a lot of fun to play against him in the NCAA Tournament. Really looking forward to it.
Q. How would you describe his game?
T.J. WARREN: He's very athletic, very quick, got a good size for a point guard, can finish out the rim very good. He's a great player. So looking forward to getting out there with him, so it's cool.
Q. More of a group question for the three of you. How does the familiarity of playing here last year help you guys in any way, knowing the facility?
JORDAN VANDENBERG: That question is more directed to T.J., because I didn't play when we came here last time and Ralston was redshirted. And Ralston was redshirted. But, T.J., if you want to field that question for me.
RALSTON TURNER: Like he said, I wasn't here last year because I redshirted. But despite that, we'll be ready to play.
T.J. WARREN: What was the question? Oh, it was my first time. I was a freshman last year, so it was a great opportunity to be able to play in the tournament. So looking forward to being back here.
For all you guys, did you go into the Selection Show knowing that the First Four was a possibility, and what was your initial reaction when it popped up on the screen?
JORDAN VANDENBERG: We didn't know what was possible, to be honest with you. We got texted at like 2:00 to come in the Dail Center and have some pizza and watch the show.
We came in there not expecting much. You could see from the video, we're all sitting there slumped in our seats. When our name was called, we all got really excited. We didn't know what was possible.
We're fortunate enough to have this opportunity, so hopefully we can make people proud and make people think it was the right choice to put us in this tournament.
RALSTON TURNER: We had no idea whether we'd get in it or not. We had hope and we had faith, but we still really didn't know. But we huddled together and we saw our name come up. We were very excited, so hopefully we can make some noise.
T.J. WARREN: It was a big mystery just waiting. They kind of called us early. So we're going to take full advantage of it, show that we belong here. And we'll get as many wins as possible in this tournament.
Q. For any of you guys, what did you know about Xavier, if anything, when you saw their name was paired with you on the show?
JORDAN VANDENBERG: We didn't know much. We know they're a solid basketball team. We know this isn't an easy game for us to go into.
As soon as that name came up, we knew they played pretty solid the whole year. They had a good couple of games with Creighton.
So we're not expecting to go out there and just blow out this team. We expect to have a good, hard match, and hopefully we have a good result for ourselves.
RALSTON TURNER: I think that they're a team that play really well. They get into their offense well. They have a great player in Christon. So obviously he's a tough matchup.
But we're excited about the opportunity to play. So hopefully we'll be ready.
T.J. WARREN: With Xavier, we know they execute very well, defend pretty good. Obviously they've got Semaj, so we'll be prepared for it and be ready to play.
Q. T.J., you've gotten a lot of accolades nationally for the season you've had. In your world, what kind of season do you feel like you've had?
T.J. WARREN: I feel like I've had a terrific season. Credit to my teammates to allow me to lead this team the best way I can.
And we're in a tournament now, so it's a great opportunity for us to lead the way. It feels pretty good, and all my teammate have my back.
Q. For you guys, how good has T.J. been this year?
JORDAN VANDENBERG: I've known T.J. for a little over two years now. It's been good to see him take a leadership role in this team. He was a great player last year, but he's now had to take a more predominant role on this team.
He's a true team player. Yeah, he scores a lot of points, but he's more willing to pass the ball if someone's in a better position.
He leads the team both vocally and performance‑wise. It's an honor to watch him play. He does spectacular things every game. And without him, we wouldn't be here. So I'm just thankful for having him on the team.
RALSTON TURNER: It's been great playing with T.J. this year. In my opinion‑‑ I said this some weeks back‑‑ he's the best player I've played with to this point in my life.
So I'm proud of him. I was here last year, so I've seen his growth. And he's done an excellent job.
Q. For all of you fellas, for about maybe the last 10, 12 games, Coach Gottfried has been preaching about the NCAA Tournament being the greatest show on earth and a great privilege to play in this thing. How much was that a motivating factor toward the end of the season when you guys were put in the position where you had to keep winning?
T.J. WARREN: We just wanted to take one game at a time. We understood our backs was against the walls leading to the end of the season. It was just crunch time for us.
We just had to prepare for every game like it was our last. It's good to be in this position right now.
RALSTON TURNER: Definitely, it was on our minds. Especially there late, we knew it was something we wouldn't have a chance to do. So we went into games knowing that we needed to try to finish them off to give ourselves this opportunity.
JORDAN VANDENBERG: Going into the second half of the season, we knew we had to perform a lot better. We had to close games better, know our defensive assignments better.
We knew that the NCAA was an option for us, so we just had to come together as a team and prove that we were a tournament‑worthy team. And I think we proved that in the second half of the ACC season and the tournament.
Just like good to have the opportunity to be here. It's my fifth year at NC State. So I'm proud of my whole team. We brought it together at the end, and now we have an opportunity to show everyone how good we are.
Up until this year, when Xavier went to the Big East, they were in the same conference with Dayton. In the two decades, pretty heated rivals. Do you expect to have the home crowd or the crowd behind you here tomorrow night, and how beneficial would that be as opposed to just being a straight neutral court?
T.J. WARREN: It will be great, I mean, having a mutual floor for both fans. We're here to play basketball, so we're not really worried about fans so much.
RALSTON TURNER: It would be nice, but I think right now we're expecting them to have a good turnout. They're just down the road from Dayton. So we'll treat this as if it's probably a road game for us.
JORDAN VANDENBERG: I feel the same way Ralston does about the game.
Q. T.J., what are your memories of the game last year against Temple?
T.J. WARREN: It was pretty tough the first round, losing the first round. Don't want to repeat that.
But it was great to be out there last year. My first time, like I said before. This is a new tournament year, so looking forward to turning things around and going forward in the tournament.
Q. T.J., you know Semaj from Brewster. We talked about that. More and more guys are going route, prep school or something like that. How was that beneficial to you and your process?
T.J. WARREN: It was great for me. It prepared me for this level, and I'm playing with a lot of great DivisionI players. Everybody was excited to play DivisionI basketball. And it just prepared me a lot for this level.
And anybody who is willing to take that route, I respect that.
THE MODERATOR: Any other questions for players? Gentlemen, congratulations making the NCAA Tournament. Good luck tomorrow.
Up next we'll have NC State's head coach Mark Gottfried.
Introducing NC State's coach, Mark Gottfried. If you'll begin with an opening statement, then we'll open up the floor to questions
COACH GOTTFRIED: Our team is very excited to be here, and I'm excited for our guys. We've got a lot of young guys and guys that hadn't played a lot of college basketball.
And so I feel like our players played their way into the tournament. So I'm proud of them for that. Obviously we're going to play‑‑ everybody in the tournament is obviously very good and a good team. So we've got a great challenge playing Xavier.
But our guys are excited. They've got a lot of enthusiasm and anxious to play.
Q. What were your thoughts as you were watching the Selection Show and what were you thinking was going to be the destination seating‑wise or if your team was going to be in the bracket? What was going through your mind at that point?
COACH GOTTFRIED: Well, we weren't sure, obviously. We knew we were a team that was close. But you just don't know exactly what the committee is thinking and who it may come down to and what the deciding factors might be.
But I did feel like we put ourselves in a position where we were in the discussion.
And the one thing I do believe in and I think over the years ‑‑ I've listened to the committee members that have served on the committee, I've listened to the chairs of the committee, and over and over again I've heard them say that you gotta choose to play good teams in the nonconference.
You obviously gotta win some games, but sometimes when it comes down to you're trying to compare two teams that are both good, good teams, deserving teams, the one thing that can separate that sometimes is how you chose to schedule and did you win away from home and those type things.
So even last year we had a group for two years at NC State. We had four starters that started just about every game for a two‑year period, and we lost that whole group. And there were times where I thought, boy, we might need to really soften up the schedule and maybe play a little easier schedule and get some‑‑ maybe some more wins.
But in the end I always believed that if you got yourself in a position, kind of like we were, right here, the schedule is one thing that can tilt things into your favor.
So I was hoping those things were going to come true for us as we watched the show last night.
Q. T.J.'s had a great year. From someone's who watched every play five times, how good has he been?
COACH GOTTFRIED: T.J.'s been spectacular. I think what I've enjoyed the most is watching him mature and grow up. And we forget he's just a sophomore.
And you look at how he's improved. And last year he was a really good freshman player. He improved his foul shooting, improved his 3‑point shooting.
He's improved his demeanor. He's matured. He's growing up. He's still a young guy. And he's also learned how to accept the fact that he needs to play well for us to have a chance, and he knows that.
And sometimes that comes with maturity. Sometimes you're not ready to do that. Like even the beginning of the year, we came up here and played Cincinnati, I think our second game, and he wasn't comfortable all the way just yet with that. I think as the season wore on, he began to be more comfortable.
So he's had a terrific year. I think he's had an All‑American‑type year obviously. He's been ACC Player of the Year, and he's deserved it because I think he's played at a high level all year long.
Q. When we asked coaches from leagues like Albany's about the First Four they always say they prefer this event be just four games between at‑large schools, like yourselves, and they obviously want to let the 16 seeds just go on to the second round. So I'm just wondering what your thoughts on that were, how you feel about a change to the event to make it so it's just a game between at‑large teams.
COACH GOTTFRIED: You know, I don't know. I don't really care too much. I think when you're in it, you're in it and you need to be excited about it.
There are some college student‑athletes that never have the opportunity to play in the greatest show on earth, whether it's Tuesday night or Thursday night or whenever it might be.
And so you cherish that. And I truly believe this is the greatest show on earth in sports. I don't think there's anything like the NCAA Tournament.
And I've got a son that's getting ready to play college basketball. He's coming to your town, by the way, to play at Siena. I hope he gets to play one day in the greatest show on earth. I don't care what night it is. I don't care if it's the First Four. It's a great thing to be a part of.
You've got to earn your way in. Teams are good. Everyone in it is deserving. So I think that's the approach I have with it, and I'll be excited to play whenever it may be or however they want to do it.
Q. With the addition of Pitt and Syracuse in the ACC, how much tougher has it made the conference, especially your schedule as it already was hard?
COACH GOTTFRIED: I think it just took a great league, made it greater. And we get Louisville next year as well.
So the emphasis and the commitment to basketball. All of our sports are important. Football at our place is very important, baseball, all of our sports.
But basketball in this league, it's exciting. And you bring in some teams like that that have made a commitment at their schools to be good, they want to be in the tournament. They want to be in the Final Fours. They want to win national championships. You're bringing that kind of a group into an already great league, it does a lot.
It helps your strength of schedule. It helps our strength of schedule in the league. It makes it tough. Now you've gotta go play at Duke, at Carolina, at Syracuse, at Louisville, or Notre Dame, Pitt, those kind of games, or play them at home. It adds a lot to what is already, I think, a really difficult schedule and a difficult league.
Q. What are your impressions of Xavier and what do you think are some keys for you guys in tomorrow's game?
COACH GOTTFRIED: I think they're really good. And I think in the games that I've watched on tape, they really execute their offense really good. Semaj Christon is a terrific player. He's a handful to try to stop because he attacks you in so many different ways. He gets the ball in the break. He's tough to guard there.
They do so many things in the half court for him and some pick and roll things and try to create mismatches.
The big guy inside is as skilled and talented as a player that maybe we've seen. He can really pass out of the post. I think that makes him dangerous, because when the ball goes in there, they do a great job cutting and moving and those things off of him.
But Chris has done a great job with this team. They've got some guys I think that have improved a lot. Guys I watched in high school and watching them now saying, wow, they're better. So he's done a great job with them.
Q. Anything for you guys?
COACH GOTTFRIED: I think when you get to this time of year, there's a lot of things you want to take away from your opponent or expose maybe offensively. But I think the most important thing is that you've gotta do what you do really well.
Like we've got to execute our offense really well. We've gotta defend them with our principles.
You only got one day to prepare, and so it's not like you're going to have a thorough, full scouting report with your team where they're going to grasp everything in one day.
But you've gotta be fundamentally sound defensively in how we defend and how we do things. But you've gotta execute your offense.
John Wooden always used to tell me when I was out at UCLA: Your ability to execute your offense from the top of the key to the baseline and your ability to guard somebody from the top of the key to the baseline usually determines how good you become.
So for us this time of year we've gotta be good in those areas.
Q. Despite your turnover, just the natural way things go with college basketball, different team this year, but is it beneficial at all to be back in the same venue where you started last year's tournament, any additional comfort level?
COACH GOTTFRIED: You know, I've been asked that a couple times. I don't think so. Tyler, T.J., and Jordan, on our team, those three guys were here. We were here. I don't get to play, so that doesn't help.
But I don't think so, really. I think we have so many new young guys, this is a new experience for them. We need to make sure that we're not just excited to be here, because when you're young sometimes that's what happens, you just‑‑ you're so giddy that you're here.
And we need to have some maturity about that, which I think our guys will. So I don't know that there's a real advantage for us having been here last year.
THE MODERATOR: Any other questions for Coach? Congratulations on making the NCAA Tournament. Good luck.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports