Men's Basketball Weekly Conference Call Highlights - Jan. 20

Bob Huggins, West Virginia
On the loss to Marshall
"We came off a big win against Purdue on Sunday. We didn't play with the kind of intensity and we didn't take care of the ball. They played well, they made shots. They made some big shots down the stretch when we made a big run at them. Tom (Herrion) has done a great job with that program. We have to accept full responsibility for what happened."
On injuries
"I think everyone goes through it at some point in time. I don't know if it's been seven but we've had several a couple of different times. I think that if you do this long enough like most of us in this league have you're going to run into something like that."
Buzz Williams, Marquette
On season so far and Notre Dame
"I think our guys have been playing really hard. I think our efficiency and our intelligence continue to improve. I think that's going to be really needed in our next pod of six games. We play two home games and four road games in the next 25 days and we start at Notre Dame, who's 16th in the country this week and played extremely well last night against Cincinnati. Carleton Scott is back which I think completely changes their team, kind of puts them back to what they were when they became to be ranked in the top 25. It's a really difficult place to play. I think they have won 80 of their last 86 home games so like other places in our league it's a really tough place to win. I think they're a different team without Carleton. I think what makes Notre Dame one of the best teams in the country is I don't know if any of their guys necessarily have a position. Hansbrough is a perimeter player Atkins is a perimeter player. I think Martin, Abromaitis, Carleton Scott say `We play on the perimeter this possession, if we need to we can play inside.'"
On Notre Dame's Tyrone Nash
"He's not your typical 5. He can score with his back to the basket, but yet sometimes what they do in their half-court he can initiate offense, try to bring your 5 out on the floor. I just think they have versatile guys who can all do multiple things and they can do that not only offensively they can do that defensively."
On biggest challenges this season
"I think in the first semester it was just all of us trying to figure out how we were going to play and how we needed to play to give ourselves a chance to win. We had several key injuries throughout the first semester and we were trying to incorporate seven new guys into our rotation and four of those guys were playing heavy minutes. I think that since Christmas night we have become more efficient and we understand how it is we have to play in order to give ourselves a chance on both ends. I think we're kind of getting in a rhythm not only during the games but also in practice. We have been healthy since Christmas which has helped that and I think that the experience of those new guys, they're beginning to understand and value what it is that we have to do."
On recruiting junior college transfers
"I think there's been a lot of mention of that over the last couple weeks. I don't shy away from any of that. I'm a former junior college manager so I'm proud of all the guys in our program regardless of how they got here. When you look at when I was hired, we had four seniors on the team and we had three open scholarships. So we were going to have to sign seven guys in our first recruiting class no matter who was the coach here. Fast forward to our current season, we're playing with two recruiting classes. The best way, in my opinion, that we had a chance to create some balance within our roster from a position standpoint and the best way to create balance within our roster from a classification standpoint was to mix in some junior college guys. We only have two true junior college guys that played two years in junior college, Dwight Buycks and Jae Crowder. Darius Johnson-Odom, Joe Fulce and Jimmy Butler were all qualifiers coming out of high school, they did play one season in junior college but they will be able to be here for three years. I think that the mix of high school players, the mix of two year junior college players, the mix of qualifiers who spent their first year in junior college I think we've been able within only two recruiting classes to balance out our roster from a talent perspective but also from an age perspective. I think it's been good."
On loss to Louisville
"What I said after the game was `God answers prayer.' Every day I pray with our team, that our character will be revealed, good and bad. A lot of times your character is revealed when things are great, but most of the times in life, your character is revealed when things are bad. That was a miserable out of body type experience to be a part of the last six minutes at Louisville. Will it come back and haunt us? Potentially, most likely. But can we grow from it and can we learn from it and will it make us better, not just over the course of the next 13 games that we had at that moment in time, but will it make us better throughout the rest of our careers here as coaches and players, will it make us better throughout our lives. Life is fragile, basketball is fragile. Every possession is monumental, every day of life you should be thankful for. That's not just me trying to be a preacher or my trying to act like I have all the answers, I just think that if you want to grow and you want to learn, you've gotta take something from all the good, and take something from all the bad so you can get better."
Buzz Williams, Marquette
Keno Davis, Providence
On the season
"I think as the season has gone on we got off to a real good start in the nonconference part of our schedule and as we got into league play we've had four of our six games on the road and played a couple top five teams in the country. For the most part with the exception of the game against West Virginia those games have been very competitive and we've had our chance to win several of them down the stretch and weren't able to finish them off. I like my team. I think we're going to be a really good team in the future. The question is how good can we be as this BIG EAST season comes into the second half and how many wins are we able to put up on the board as we go into the BIG EAST tournament."
On Louisville
"I think with the matchup coming up against Louisville. I have been able to see quite a bit of them since our last game. I really like their team. I like their ability to shoot the ball. That's a tough matchup for any team when they're able to put out three, four or even five shooters on the perimeter and spread you out. And then shoot often and get into that running type of game. We'll have our hands full but our guys are looking forward to the challenge."
On Marshon Brooks
"I think Marshon Brooks has been very coachable. I didn't have the opportunity to recruit him, he was part of the program when I got here two and a half years ago. But he had played very sparingly as a freshman, had only gotten in about half the games, and not much was thought of him as a recruit or as a player for the future of the team. What he was able to do was to take to coaching and really work on his game. I think the number one thing is that with his ability, his length and his talent he was able to understand that to be a scorer you had to get to the free throw line. So he had to develop some of his moves and he's done that through each year. Not only do that but be a very good rebounder being a guard in this league. So those two things are the reason he's going to be a next-level player and be able to be playing in the NBA pretty shortly. In past years that I was able to coach him he was able to have very successful nonconference games just because of his talent and the speed at which he plays. Then he would somewhat taper off as the BIG EAST season came in and you got against stronger, more physical players, better scouting reports. I think this year the light went off that he had reached a new level when we started BIG EAST play. His numbers improved rather than went down. He was able to understand how to modify his game in order to be successful. I was somewhat surprised because I knew going in that every team would be focused on Brooks being our main scorer. For him to have that kind of success shows a lot about his mental ability and approach to the game."
Keno Davis, Providence
Jim Calhoun, Connecticut
On team's play lately
"I think over the last four games which we've won, particularly at the end of the Texas game and Villanova game we've relied upon one a very special player, in my opinion, as important a player as any player in the United States, Kemba Walker. I think that's allowed us to go on this four-game winning streak."
On Tennessee
"We're going up against a very good Tennessee team that's had some ups-and-downs as far as the scoreboard would show, but certainly not ups-and-downs as far as talent. They're a very talented team. I'm sure the fact that Bruce Pearl has been in-and-out of coaching has been difficult for them. The bottom line is he's going to be there coaching them on Saturday. It doesn't affect me one way or the other. I'm sure he's talked to his kids and he's talked to his assistants. Once again it's the talent on the floor and he's put that program together and that team together, so that's not really a major issue. The major issue simply to us is Tennessee is our last outside game. We're 11-0 outside the conference with some very good wins. Hopefully we can stand up to a very athletic Tennessee team. Then the last 12 games of the year without a doubt there will be a lot of digging and scratching and everything else to get seeding for the BIG EAST tournament which will obviously enhance your chances for the NCAA tournament. With this young team, we're not looking at those 12 games. We're looking just at the Tennessee game and then we'll have the next coming up. We certainly have our work cut out."
On comparison between Jeremy Lamb and Richard (Rip) Hamilton
"He has some similarities in that both look like a 2-iron build-wise. Beyond that, they do both play erect, and it's unusual to see players play erect. I think the big difference would be Rip had an innate ability to see and feel everything around him, whereas Jeremy doesn't do that. But conversely he's an incredible athlete with a 7-4 reach. But there are similarities. Rip is much more cerebral, came with that and developed it into a science that he still uses today in the NBA. Jeremy, I think athletically is more talented. But it is not a bad comparison, certainly as they both can get some special things done. I truly believe that Jeremy has a chance to be a terrific, terrific player for us."
On depth of the BIG EAST
"In the very recent past I think it's more difficult. I do think that Rutgers is more difficult and all of a sudden St. John's is in the mix. I think that USF has as strong and physical a frontcourt as anybody and they're particularly difficult to play down there. Bottom line is that Seton Hall is getting healthier and certainly could have beaten Georgetown the other night and has been right on the cusp of winning games. The point is that a mistake is so finite that a missed basket, a couple missed foul shots, someone makes a three on you, that's going to be the difference between someone in this league. We're going to leave a couple of teams home just because of what this league does to its team's. As we added teams, there's nowhere to turn. There are no games that you can circle and say we're really going to have to play bad to lose this game. Instead if you don't play well you will lose this game. We're not going to get 11 teams in but that 10th team or that 11th, whatever number it may be, those couple teams are going to be very, very good basketball teams who just got buried in a league that is unforgiving. If you get through it then I think you're much more apt to and prepared to advance in the tournament because you're used to playing good people back-to-back within 48 hours and I there's no doubt in my mind it's helped us over the years in NCAA postseason play."
Jim Calhoun, Connecticut
Steve Lavin, St. John's
On Cincinnati
"Cincinnati, similar to Louisville, turns teams over. They apply pressure on opponents and are a very quick, long, athletic team that's dangerous in the open court. So we'll have our hands full with Cincinnati."
On depth of BIG EAST
"As someone who coached and then went on the other side with the media as an analyst, you're aware that the BIG EAST is as strong a conference as there is in the country, and of course it's always cyclical. But this seems to be as strong a year as I can remember for a conference, maybe the strongest ever that I can remember for one particular league. I know a couple years back there was some discussion of 10, 11 teams out of the BIG EAST making the NCAA tournament but at the end of it I don't think that many teams or even close to that many teams went. There's still a lot of basketball to be played, but it appears the volume, the depth of this league is as good as any in the history of college basketball."
Steve Lavin, St. John's
Pat Skerry, Pittsburgh Assistant Coach
Head coach Jamie Dixon was not available due to illness.
On season so far
"We're coming off a great win over Syracuse here at the Pete. Our seniors are really playing well, Gary McGhee, Brad Wanamaker and Gilbert Brown especially. In conference play, as coach has expressed to our guys, we're playing well but it's early. We're only a third of the way through the conference season so there are a lot of tough battles ahead, starting with this Saturday against DePaul on the road. There are never any easy nights on the road in this league."
"It's a great league every year, there are no nights off. I don't think there are any down years. One of the things Coach Dixon talks a lot about is this is supposed to be a down year for our league and it just never happens. I don't think you ever see a down year and I think that stems from great coaches and schools that are committed to winning and a lot of the corridor that we recruit, the whole East Coast has some great basketball players from high schools and prep schools right through the AAU programs."
On Ashton Gibbs
"He's obviously been the latest in a long line of guys here at Pitt under Coach Dixon that have continuously got better. He has great work ethic. He shoots early he stays late, he comes back in, he takes care of his body, he's improved his athleticism. He's really a focused and drive guy. You can tell he's become a much better ball-handler, he can do things off the dribble and get in the lane and find guys. He's become much more than just a shooter."
Pat Skerry, Pittsburgh
Kevin Willard, Seton Hall
On play of late
"Even though we haven't got it on the win column, I think we're starting to finally get back to having a normal rotation. Having Jeremy Hazell back has obviously been huge, now it's just a matter of getting everybody working together for the last half of the season. I think as a team we're excited about where we are, even though we're not excited about our wins and loss. I think our team starting to see that we're finally getting a healthy Herb Pope back, get Jeremy Hazell back healthy, and Jeff Robinson continues to play well."
On Rutgers
"We have a very tough game against Rutgers on Saturday. It's a rival game so we're looking forward to it. Mike (Rice) has done a terrific job so far and we're looking forward to a very tough game."
On playing up-tempo style
"We haven't been home a lot and it's a lot easier to run at home than it is on the road. You have to be careful about running on the road or you might get down 24-2. It's one of these things that as Herb continues to get in good shape and Jeremy gets his legs back, as long as we're home we're going to try to get out there and push it. It's just tough because we obviously can't lose Herb or Jeff."
Kevin Willard, Seton Hall
John Thompson III, Georgetown
On the season so far
"We went on the road and got two BIG EAST road wins. So after having a difficult two-week span, to get out there and get two wins on the road was good. Now we have a few days here to catch-up on some school work and evaluate a few things and look forward to going up against St. John's who beat us up at the Garden a few weeks ago."
On coaching Kemba Walker in FIBA summer games
"He was special for us that summer. Not only was he our best player but he was such a good kid. He does everything you ask him to do. There's no worries about him, then you throw in there his talent and his drive. It's impossible to sit there and say I thought he would be one of the leading scorers in the country. But I'm not surprised at all as to the success he's having."
John Thompson III, Georgetown