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March 21, 2014

Archie Miller

Devin Oliver

Vee Sanford


THE MODERATOR:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Welcome back to day three here at First Niagara Center.  Joined by Dayton student‑athletes Devin Oliver and Vee Sanford.
Guys, congrats.  Thanks for being here.
We'll go ahead and get started.

Q.  Vee, I don't want to assume, so just for clarification, how does that shot rank in terms of big shots you've ever made in your life?
VEE SANFORD:  It was a very big shot personally, but kind of just getting that out of the way.  I want to focus on tomorrow.  That's the main thing.
As a team, we want to focus on tomorrow.  It was a good win, but now it's Syracuse we've got to focus on.

Q.  How difficult is it to come off a high like that?  I don't know, 24‑hour rule about celebrating before looking on to the next opponent.  You don't really have that.  How do you get past it when it's such a big moment in your life?
VEE SANFORD:  You just got to have a business approach, the whole advance mentality.  Enjoy the moment while you can, but it's on to the next.
I feel like with the team, we have a business approach to everything, which is helping us focus in on the next game.

Q.  Devin, you know kind of what it's like to have some success, surprise some people dating back to your high school days at Kalamazoo Central.  What's this year been like for you leading right up to yesterday?
DEVIN OLIVER:  It's been great, me being a senior along with Vee.  Three other guys that I came in with in my recruiting class all left after our freshman year.  Then last year it didn't live up to what we wanted it to be.
So for this team, this team that I'm a part of this year, to finish up like this, it's just a great feeling.  There's no group of guys who deserve it more.  We're going to continue to try to advance.

Q.  Devin, Jim Boeheim talked about there's really no surprises when another team tries to work on the two‑three zone.  What do you guys expect him to do tomorrow against that?
DEVIN OLIVER:  I think the most important thing is just to continue to do what we do.  The zone is the zone.  I mean, it's basketball.  The zone's going to be there.
So I think we've just got to focus on what we're trying to do as a team, play physical and play aggressive.  You know, don't just settle for launching threes and playing around the perimeter, but doing what we got to do to get the ball into the interior.

Q.  Talk about Coach Miller and what makes him so special?  What makes you guys want to play so hard for him?
DEVIN OLIVER:  Coach Miller, he's one of those guys who's just an everyday type guy.  I think that really spreads to the rest of the team.  He's not really the big‑time jokester or anything like that.  Every day is a serious and business‑like approach.
He's a guy who, you could tell, that he has passion.  He had passion when he played, and he shows his passion in practice.  You know, if someone messes something up, he'll hop in the drill and go for a couple of minutes.  He's not afraid to show his passion for the game.
I think the most important thing is he's all about winning, you know, winning and togetherness.  But more than anything, winning because that's the most important thing is winning.
VEE SANFORD:  Going on what D‑Mo said, he's a really passionate person about the game.  It's something that I've grown to understand throughout my three years being here along with I feel like, if he had the opportunity to play the game right now, he would.  That's how passionate he is about the game.  I feel like that gives us a good vibe and an understanding on what our goals need to be.

Q.  Does he ever talk about his time as a player, because he was a really good player?
DEVIN OLIVER:  Yeah, if we're practicing and a couple of guys missed a shot, he brags about how he would have knocked that shot down.
I mean, not specifically.  He more so talks about being tough and nasty in the game.  He said that he used to do that.
But some of his passion as a player spreads to us, which is good.

Q.  Vee, you're a guy who played at Georgetown for two years.  So what's it like going up against a team you used to be rivals with?
VEE SANFORD:  Yeah, it was a big rivalry, Georgetown‑Syracuse.  I'm just looking at it as another game.  I'm a Flyer now, and I'm just happy for the opportunity to be playing in this game.

Q.  Anything you learned from watching Syracuse in Maui and playing at Georgetown?
VEE SANFORD:  They're really good, a long team in the zone.  You can't slack off.  They like to get it out, the whole roster is pretty good.
DEVIN OLIVER:  Just to add to what Vee said, they're a good team.  They pride themselves on being really long in the zone and forcing turnovers and getting out on the break.  They've got some athletic guys.

Q.  You guys have been in 15 single‑digit games.  Do you guys thrive in those kind of games?
DEVIN OLIVER:  Well, you know, it's funny, last year we lost about eight or nine games.  Like between all nine of those games, it was like a total of 10 points, something crazy like that.  So we went through it last year, we just happened to come out on the losing end of it.
But this year after the first initial game when Jordan Sibert hit the buzzer beater at IPFW, I think we have the confidence that if we have it close in the final four minutes that, if we stuck together as a team, we can pull a win out.

Q.  Syracuse has had one less single‑digit game than you guys.  You both are very similar in that regard.
DEVIN OLIVER:  Yeah, Syracuse started the year off very well.  They're a good team.  They have a lot of veteran guys on this team, and then a freshman who was very composed near the end of the game.  So it's no surprise that a lot of their games have finished up close, but with them pulling out the wins.
THE MODERATOR:  Appreciate your time, guys.  Good luck tomorrow. 
Joined by Dayton head coach Archie Miller. 

Q.  Coach, what did you learn about Syracuse while watching them in Maui?
COACH MILLER:  They're big.  They're really, really well coached and good.  We didn't spend a ton of time watching them, just the eye test because the Maui games are back to back.  Saw them really one time because we played Cal and they did, as well.
Obviously, the size and the length and the zone can consume you if you let it.  I think offensively they have a lot of guys individually they can isolate on you, really talented.
But it's a typical Syracuse team.  They're very good, and they're very big.  You're going to have to be organized.  They thrive on the steals.  They thrive on the defense creating offense.
Down the other end, they really have some game changers in terms of Cooney, Fair, and they're really good off the glass at times as well with Grant.  We have our work cut out for us.

Q.  Coach, yesterday in the first half, I think it was like seven‑minute, maybe a little bit longer stretch of continuous basketball, no media time‑outs, no nothing.  How does a stretch like that affect the play on the court?  How does it affect you as a coach?  Does that change anything that you do?  Did it change your mindset?  Because it's very rare that seven minutes go by without any sort of stoppage or whistle.
COACH MILLER:  Sometimes when the four‑minute medias go over, guys are gassed, more so on offense when they're not running the floor, than they do on defense.  During those stretches, guys are trying hard.
I think where they rest the most on those stretches when they're gassed is running the floor on offense.  You're looking to get subs in the game.  You're hoping to get to the media as fast as you can to get the subs.
We've had a few games this season where that's happened.  It goes five or six minutes, and you almost have to get all five out.
You just keep an eye on it.  I think it suffers more on offense than it does on defense.

Q.  And just as a followup if I could, what does that say about the quality and the high level of play during yesterday's game that there was that much time eclipsed with no stoppage, no whistle, no foul, or nothing?
COACH MILLER:  Both teams obviously have been through the battles, and I think the guys on the floor are conditioned at this point to play as many minutes as they possibly can.  I also think the stage, the adrenaline that's out there now, that helps you.
One thing about the NCAA Tournament, when you do get a couple of medias, they're longer than normal.  So you get a little extra rest.
I thought our guys handled it well.  I thought we played all the way through the finish, just like Ohio State did.

Q.  Coach, in the nonconference, you guys saw a lot of zone.  It's not Syracuse's zone, but is there anything that you can take from those experiences to prepare you for tomorrow?
COACH MILLER:  Yeah, I mean, obviously, your team has to evolve as the season goes, and you want to improve on everything.  I didn't think we saw a lot of zone in the A‑10 this year.  Usually, you see a little bit more.  In nonconference, I don't think we saw a lot of man‑to‑man.
So we've corrected things.  I think we have a different way of attacking the zone now as we did in the nonconference.
The main thing for me is we want the team to be confident in what we do.  We're not going to change a lot.  One thing is we have to amp up our pace of play.  When we play against the zone, we have to play as fast as we do against the man.  That's the comfort level of our kids.  That's the one thing we've got to do tomorrow, that game's got to be on the run.

Q.  Archie, a lot's been made about your conference affiliation.  We've got three sort of Big East teams here tomorrow playing.  How much does that really matter, and how much is it really just about you building a schedule and a program?  Does the conference affiliation really matter to get you here?
COACH MILLER:  I think the conference is always something that you take great pride in being in.  In particular, I think the Atlantic 10 is underrated.  Since I became the head coach at Dayton, I can't recall the numbers, but I'm going to say with six this year and at least four back‑to‑back years, that's 14 automatic bids, or 14 NCAA Tournament seeds, opportunities in three years.  There's very few leagues that can do that.
And I think Bernadette has done an amazing job with the defections and some of the conference alignments.  The Atlantic 10 is as strong now as it ever was.  As it goes down the line and you look at the programs there, you've got great coaches, and you've got great players that are a little bit older.
I think there's a little chip on your shoulder when you're in the Atlantic 10, usually because you're constantly left out of the BCS talk.  I'm not sure how many other teams got six bids.
But when you build your schedule and you're building your program, everything is revolved around the strength of your conference and what you're trying to do.
For us, we're trying to be where we're at right now.  To do that, you have to play a national schedule to the best of your ability.  We've tried that.  We had to take the next step in our league, which we hadn't done in a while.
I think this year, getting ten conference wins, being right there for maybe a bye, we were a lot more confident this year in a good league.
So for us, we're building a program.  This is where we want to be, and we have to build around our league.  I think right now the great thing is we can build a schedule around an at‑large bid league.

Q.  It's a later start.  Is that a relief to you to have a 7:10 start as opposed to like a noon start?
COACH MILLER:  Yeah, we get to last a little longer than everybody else throughout the days, you know what I mean?  A couple games go by, you're still alive late in the day.
I don't care when we play.  We're excited to play in general.  I think a 7:10 tip in here, the environment with Syracuse being here is going to be one heck of a scene.

Q.  With all the distractions, all the attention the Flyers are getting around the country today, how do you make it just about basketball the next 24 hours?
COACH MILLER:  Stay with what we do.  We don't talk about anything.  There's enough coverage right now on television.  They can hear it.  There's enough.  We don't have to talk about anything.
It's around them all the time, whether they're reading Twitter, whatever they're going to do, they're going to be around noise.  For us to bring up noise, that's not what we do.  We don't talk about anything other than the job at hand.
Proud of our guys for the way they've handled, in particular, the last month.  I thought coming into yesterday we did a really good job of being ready to go.  I want to be ready to go on Saturday.  So we're going to stay with what we do.

Q.  Coach, I noticed your dad is up here making the trip, not with Sean in Arizona.  I know he hates the cold up here in Buffalo.  What does he bring here for you just to have your dad around.
COACH MILLER:  He's my dad.  He spent just a crazy amount of time with us growing up.  To me, hopefully, he's enjoying this as a father.  He's really not a coach anymore.  He's around our guys.  He's around my daughter.  I'm just happy that he's able to see us.
He spends a lot of time, obviously, through the ranks here with Sean and a couple of his big runs.  It's good for him to see, so to speak, the success that we've had.  He's been in Arizona the last couple months.  He obviously saw how their run has been going.  He's caught us at a really good time as well.
I'm just happy he's here to see it.  It's always good to watch him be around us.

Q.  Coach, one of the ways you're distinct from Syracuse is to the extent you use your bench.  I thought maybe you could explain how that's come about.  Obviously, style of play plays into it, and what are the pros and cons of it?
COACH MILLER:  When we started off this season, we were going to be an unfamiliar group.  Early on, we weren't going to have very good chemistry.
We had four freshmen that turned to sophomores.  Brought in three new freshmen.  Four guys sitting out.  That's nine players who haven't played many games.  It was going to be difficult to figure out the rotation.  We had two seniors stepping into lead roles.
We were very new to one another.  To be honest, it was trial by error early.  We didn't have a rotation early that was comfortable.  We almost lost to IPFW at home in our home opener because we literally had ten individuals that didn't know what was going on.
I thought very early what we needed to become was a group that could beat you a lot of different ways with a the lot of different people.  To do that, we had to trust a sacrifice like a Vee Sanford made, like he's going to take a step back and go on the bench and come in with Scoochie Smith because he's a freshman.  You get a little more ball handling with Scootch.  We try that out, and lo and behold, that got those guys in sync.
A guy like Kyle Davis can come in and win you games.  Kendall Pollard needed to develop.  We weren't real deep in our wing spot.  We needed to keep him coming.
What you do is file them in there.  Irregardless of rotation, you file them in there, and, bang, you have a good game, and that helps you get through the season.
Our depth has been basically a quest to keep our team together.  The camaraderie we have is a big deal.  It's why we've gotten to this point is because our guys like one another.  They're together.  They're tough.  We have good camaraderie.
We've been able to practice at a high level late in the year, which is tough because we have guys getting in the games.  The secret sort of the method to what we've done is there's a the lot of different guys that can help you win the game, and that's just kind of the way we do it.

Q.  What about from your perspective allows them to keep teams from playing fast and getting transition baskets.
COACH MILLER:  I think one thing is obviously, you know, they get back.  They get back.  They get set.  Sometimes people act like you've got to beat the zone down the floor.  Sometimes those guys are running to the same spot 70 times in a game.  They know what they're doing.
But part of it is, obviously, I think, their size.  They have great size, and quickness and length.  And I do think that sometimes when you play against a zone for 40 minutes, it changes you a little bit.  You want to execute.  You don't want to shoot quick.  You're not going to get the same looks you're going to get against the man‑to‑man.  It's different.  It takes more time as well.
Sometimes you can push it as fast as you want.  You're just not going to get anything because the same looks you usually get aren't there.

Q.  And can you get into the 60's again?
COACH MILLER:  The 60's?  I don't know.  They do a great job of holding you down.  Yesterday I thought we'd have a hard time scoring against Ohio State, and we did, but we were able to win because of our defense a little bit.  I think tomorrow will be similar.
I don't know what the score of the game is going to be, but I know this, our defense has got to be just as good as it's been the last two or three weeks to play against them.
THE MODERATOR:  Coach, good luck tomorrow.  Have a great time.

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