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March 20, 2013

Dana Altman

Arsalan Kazemi

E.J. Singler


THE MODERATOR:¬† We're joined by student‑athletes Arsalan Kazemi, a senior forward, and E.J. Singler, also a senior forward.

Q.  Could both players respond to this:  The seedings raised a few eyebrows, when your seed was announced.  Are you using that as motivation in this game, and how did you feel about the unexpected low seed?
E.J. SINGLER:  I don't think we really even thought about it.  We were just so happy we made it.  We didn't feel like positions, don't mean that much to us.  So we're just so happy we made it, get the opportunity to play.  And we're just so happy about the opportunity.  We don't really care about the position.
ARSALAN KAZEMI:  We didn't care about who we're going to play.  There are 64 teams out there, they're all really good.  And Oklahoma State is going to be a really good team we have to go out there and face and give everything out there.

Q.  For both you guys, how different is this team when you have Dominic back in the lineup and how much better are you with him?
E.J. SINGLER:¬† Obviously Dominic is a big part of our team.¬† You could see that in the beginning of the year.¬† But being out eight weeks, obviously it's going to take some time for him to get back to where he was.¬† And I think he's going to get better each and every week ‑‑ each and every day.
So you'll see steady improvement with Dominic.  But he's just going to help us with just another point guard.  We just have another point guard to handle the ball and help out John.  He's going to help.  And we're really going to need him in this tournament.

Q.  For both you guys, E.J., if you'd start, can you compare Oklahoma State to anybody you guys have played in the PAC 12, and even if you can't, could you tell me what jumps out on tape when you see them play?
E.J. SINGLER:  Well, we really haven't watched that much tape on them yet.  So we're going to do a lot of that today.
But just from going over some of their plays, they run a lot of plays like California, and we've seen a lot of the plays that they have run.  But actually watching film on them, we haven't seen a lot, so I can't really say that much.
But play‑wise, they run a lot of sets like California.
ARSALAN KAZEMI:  Watching film on them, they're first of all, they're really an athletic team, and as E.J. said, they run a lot of stuff similar to California.  And that's about it.  We don't know much about them yet.

Q.  For both of you, you guys have had turnover problems at times this year.  In the games you've had those problems, what's been the biggest issue?
E.J. SINGLER:  Yeah, you're right, turnovers have been a big problem this year for us.  I think it's just being careless with the ball, and maybe trying to force some stuff.
We've just got to be strong with the ball, make plays for each other.  And throughout the year when we did that, made plays for each other, and just make simple plays, we're really, really good.
So that's a big focus for us in this tournament is limiting our turnovers and just being strong with the ball.
ARSALAN KAZEMI:  One other issue is I think excitement.  As you see on the championship game, I think, we started the game and we were really excited and that caused a lot of turnovers for us, so we just have to be under control.

Q.  You just mentioned the excitement, Arsalan.  For both you guys, how do you temper that and stay composed, being in the NCAA tournament for the first time?  Obviously, I imagine, there is going to be a lot of excitement tomorrow when the game starts.
E.J. SINGLER:  Yeah, definitely there's going to be a lot of excitement.  This is the first time for a lot of us.  But, you know, once the game hits, we've just got to realize that it's just another game and just play like it.
We've played so good in the tournament, in the PAC 12 tournament, it's going to be the same thing.  We've just got to realize it's just another game and go out there and play our best.
ARSALAN KAZEMI:  I agree with E.J., we've just got to go out there and play like we played in the tournament.  That will take the pressure off a little bit.

Q.  You talked earlier this season about fans back in the home starting to follow NCAA more with you playing.  Do you see much reaction this week or what are you hearing from family and friends?
ARSALAN KAZEMI:  Yes.  My mom was watching the championship game on ESPN.  We have ESPN back home.  Well, a lot of people started following, and especially when we won the championship game, I think there was a big picture of the Oregon Ducks in the newspaper back home.  They were following it.

Q.  When you played in Los Angeles, you had a lot of people turn out to see you, you said there were a big community down there.  Much here in the Bay Area, do you expect it or know many people?
ARSALAN KAZEMI:  Well, generally I know there are a lot of Iranians that live in the Los Angeles area, but I don't know anyone here.  I'm not sure, they might come and show up, but I'm not aware of that.

Q.  For E.J., two things:  One, how much does Marcus Smart jump out at film when you're watching, what sort of talent do you think he is?  Another thing, back to the seeding thing a little bit, the other PAC 12 teams got pretty rough draws, too.  And the regular season champ was sent out of the area, No. 6 seed.  Do you think there's still a negative perception about PAC 12 basketball?
E.J. SINGLER:¬† To answer your first question about Marcus Smart, obviously he's an unbelievable talent.¬† You know, he has great size as a point guard.¬† And I think that's where he's a match‑up problem just on how big he is and how strong he is.¬† But definitely we're going to have to get after him.¬† I think Johnny and DA will match up with him good.¬† I think they can pressure him out on the floor and make him do things he hasn't done all season.¬† So I have confidence in our point guards going up against him.
And to answer your second question about the PAC 12, I don't know, I think the PAC 12 had a really good year this year, but, you know, I'm not sure how we stacked up against other conferences in the preseason.  All that matters is how we do right now in the tournament.  So we have the opportunity to make a name for ourself and for our conference in the tournament and that's what we should do.

Q.  E.J., you've been with this program through the coaching change and NIT, now you're here in San Jose.  Have you taken time to think about the journey and what it means to be here in the NCAA tournament?
E.J. SINGLER:  I've taken a little bit of time, I'm sure, once everything is done, you know, I'll look back at it and realize, you know, the journey and the accomplishments.  But right now we're just focused on, you know, Oklahoma State right now and trying to get the win, you know.
Just winning the PAC 12 tournament feels really good, but we feel like, you know, we've still got a lot more to accomplish.  We're just excited to get the opportunity to play and we can't wait for Thursday.

Q.  Can you guys talk about your size advantage, what it appears, anyway, across the front line, Arsalan, playing Oklahoma State?
ARSALAN KAZEMI:¬† We understand that they start ‑‑ their starting lineup ‑‑ they have a good size, but when they take their big men out and they go small a little bit, we're going to have a size advantage.
They're a good team, they're going to play four out and one in.  We've got a size advantage, but they've got the size advantage on the offense, because that way our power forward has to go out there and guard their probably three guard.  So it's going to have a problem for us.  But we're going to work on it and it's going to be good.
E.J. SINGLER:  Like Arsalan said, when they go small, I don't see really it playing that big of a part on having mismatches because we do the same thing.  Arsalan can play the five.  I can play the four.  Ben coming off the bench can play the four.
So we can go small, too.  So I don't see it as a problem.  I think when they go small we can go small, too.
THE MODERATOR:  We'll continue with the opening press conference for Oregon.  We're joined by head coach Dana Altman.

Q.  Do you think that there was a disrespect to the PAC 12 on not just yours, but the seedings and the draws and the travel that came out of the schedule?
COACH ALTMAN:  No.  It's an inexact science.  I'm sure that they crunched the numbers, whatever they came up with, you know, it is what it is.
You get to this time of the year, you're going to face good teams.  Travel is part of college basketball throughout the season, especially where we're located.  So it's not that big a deal.  You've just got to go play the games.
We're going to play a very good basketball team in Oklahoma State, but it's a tremendous opportunity.  And we've got to go win basketball games, that's what it all boils down to.

Q.  Obviously big win in the PAC 12 tournament, can you take us through the season and say is this the most confident your team has been all year, coming off that into this event?
COACH ALTMAN:¬† Bob, we started off tremendously.¬† We were 17‑2.¬† And we were really playing well.¬† It's one of those things where I didn't say much to the team because I just wanted to leave them alone and let them keep growing.¬† We were playing very, very well.
And then Dominic Artis, our freshman point guard, went down.¬† And we went through a period there where defensively we really improved and we stayed steady on the boards, but we went 5‑4.¬† Lost three games on last‑second shots.¬† So it was really tough.
But the guys bounced back.  And DA has slowly come back.  But he's put tremendous pressure on himself.  I keep telling him it's a lot different for a freshman to come back after five or six weeks off than it would be for a junior or senior.  He doesn't have any experience to draw from.  He's never been injured.  So it's been really tough on him.  And at times he's struggled with coming back.
But I think he and Johnny together, Johnny's growth during that period where he took over for Dominic, those two guys together are playing pretty well.  We were on our heels the last weekend of the season.  We were going for the regular season championship and we didn't handle that very well.  And we didn't play well on the road the last two games.
But the conference tournament we were aggressive offensively, we were aggressive defensively.  And we were pretty good on the boards.  So we're playing pretty good.  Our guys feel pretty good about themselves.
Again, we know that Oklahoma State presents a tremendous challenge for us, but we feel like we're playing pretty good basketball and now it's just a matter of carrying that from the conference tournament over to the NCAA tournament.

Q.  Marcus Smart gets most of the headlines for Oklahoma State, but can you talk about Markel Brown and how important he is?
COACH ALTMAN:¬† They are a one‑two punch that is really going to give us problems.¬† Defensively we're going to have to be on top of our game.¬† Brown can explode, like he has in a number of games, and just take over the game.
Marcus deserves a lot of the credit, he sets up all the guys on the team.  He makes everybody a little bit better.  You have to pay so much attention to him that he makes everybody a little bit better.  And that's what good point guards do, they stir the drink.  And he does a tremendous job of doing that.
But Brown can take over a game.¬† His athleticism is really good.¬† His mid‑range game, I like the way he puts the ball on the deck and gets to any spot on the court to create a shot.¬† Which is something every coach looks for, a guy who can create his own shot, in a mid‑range game he can get to the three.¬† Can get all the way to the basket.¬† He's a tremendous athlete.
He'll be a tremendous challenge for us.¬† That back court, Smart, Brown and then Forte off the bench, those three guys, and they really complement each other very well.¬† One is a tremendous shooter, one has the mid‑range game, and Smart makes them all a little bit better by his penetration and by the fact that he's physically imposing at 6‑4, 220, 25 pounds, he just physically can take games over.

Q.  Just wondered about, you haven't played in this arena, but you've been in the area before, and if that is a level of comfort for you guys?
COACH ALTMAN:  I don't know.  You know, it was a short trip.  That helps a little bit this time of year.  We came off those three games Saturday.  I was hoping we wouldn't play until Friday, just to give us an extra day.  But being close and not having a lot of travel we were able to charter down here, which really helped.
We haven't played in this arena.  I'm anxious to get on the floor, we haven't been here.  I'm hoping we're in the area, we've got some alumni in the area, and the Ducks will come out and we'll have a little support.

Q.  Marcus Smart obviously has a lot of size on both Dominic and Johnathan.  What are the keys for them to be able to defend him when they're matched up with him?
COACH ALTMAN:  DA and Johnny are both real competitive young men.  And so they'll battle.  We're going to have to give some help, though, they're just undersized compared to Marcus.  But that's probably every point guard in the country.
So they're going to have to do a great job.  They're going to have to give him as much problems away from the basket.  Johnny is really quick, I think DA is quick.  So I think they're going to have to use their quickness to keep him away from the basket as much as possible.
But we're going to have to give help.  We know they'll run some things to post him up, they do a lot of different things for him and we're going to have to give some help, no doubt about it, he's bigger and stronger.

Q.  You had some turnover issues this year.  Do you expect them to press more than they usually do?
COACH ALTMAN:  Don't know.  Our turnovers haven't come in pressing situations, they've come in the half court.  It's been an equal opportunity for us, our post men turn it over, everybody turns it over.
If they press more, that's fine.  We're used to the press.  We haven't pressed as much lately.  Early in the season we pressed a lot.  When DA went down and our depth at the guard spots went down, we kind of got away from the press and became more of a half court defensive team.  But now that DA is back, we've tried to press a little bit in the conference tournament.  I think we'll probably press a little bit.  They'll press us.
So it doesn't matter.  The full court game suits us pretty good.  And it suits Oklahoma State.  Both of us want to get up and down.  It should be an entertaining game.

Q.  What do you think of the Cal and UNLV game?
COACH ALTMAN:  Well, it's interesting that they're playing again in the first round.  They had a tremendous game early in the year.  We were able to go to Vegas and were in a close game.  And talk about close games, Cal hit two shots at the buzzer to beat us both times, or in the last seconds.
It's going to be a good game.  Crabbe and Cobb are tremendous competitors and awfully good.  I think Cal's inside game has come along since then.  Birch is an addition to UNLV.  So I think they're both better than they were in December when they played.  So I think it will be a great game.
Crabbe and Cobb are such a big part of Cal's team, getting those guys under control is essential to beating them.  And Vegas is, you know, they've just got a lot of players and big players.  And Anthony Bennett is special.  We spent a lot of time chasing him around last year.  He's proven to everybody he's a special, special player.

Q.¬† It's been a long time but you had some great battles against Oklahoma State in the early '90s.¬† What do you remember about those games when you were at K‑State and Eddie was in Stillwater?
COACH ALTMAN:  I usually remember Eddie Sutton's team kicking our ass, that's what I remember.  Eddie was unbelievable to me.  I was a very young coach at the time and he was really good to me.  Not on the court, but off the court.  He had some really good teams.
We got him once up there in a game that we trailed the whole thing and ended up getting him.  But for the most part they were better than us.  They were bigger, more physical and got the better of us.
So my memories of Oklahoma State aren't very good, but as I mentioned, Eddie was really good.¬† I was 30, 31 years old and he could have big‑timed me pretty good and he never did.¬† He was always very sincere and has kept in touch and was very, very good to me.

Q.  When you became coach you kind of reopened Oregon recruiting in northern California and the Bay Area.  Can you talk about how important this area is to your program?  Is there a gain being in the area for the NCAA, not just a regular season game?
COACH ALTMAN:  You know, it's a big area to us, Bob, because it's close, and really good basketball area.  Some AAU programs, the soldiers and just good basketball in this area.  So it's close, tremendous talent, a populated area that we've got to get into.  So it is an important area for us, there's no doubt about it.
DA coming home, I feel good for him.  And he's excited about it.
So we just need to continue to recruit this area.  It's a very important area for us and hopefully it will go our way.  DA is a big part of that and hopefully it will continue.

Q.  Your guys haven't been on this stage, they haven't been to the tournament.  You have, obviously, as a coach.  So what do you tell them about how to handle it?  Arsalan was saying he thought in the beginning of the championship game they were a little too amped up.  How do you tell them how to deal with what's going to come tomorrow?
COACH ALTMAN:  I think the biggest concern is guys trying to change and do too much, you know.  They're so excited about playing they just try to do too much.  Hopefully our guys will settle down.  The first eight minutes is going to be important for us.  We need to settle down.
I'm not sure Oklahoma State hasn't been in a couple of years, either.¬† So both of our teams will be pretty excited about playing.¬† That first four‑minute segment, the second four‑minute segment is going to be important for us.¬† Two freshmen starting in the back‑court.¬† A front line that's got experience, but not NCAA experience.
So it will be interesting to see how we calm down and settle down and get off to a good start hopefully.  And everybody just play within themselves.  We've had success with everybody having a certain role, just staying with that and not trying to do too much.

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