Men's Basketball Weekly Conference Call Highlights - Jan. 27

Jay Wright, Villanova
On game against Providence
"We had a very difficult game last night. Providence College with Marshon Brooks, (Gerard) Coleman and Vincent Council just dominated the game. They just did a great job of controlling the tempo and handling our pressure. They only had seven turnovers. They got to the foul line and made big shots. We played a hot team that's playing extremely well. We battled, we just couldn't seem to make shots. Now we have to recover. We have the Hoyas coming into town, which is going to be a really tough test, they're playing great basketball. I thought we were aggressive. They suckered us into a lot of one-on-one play. It wasn't any selfishness on our part, it was just the way they guarded us. They didn't help. They just stayed with guys. They left us in one-on-one situations and we just settled for the first shot."
 
Things team needs to work on
"Our offensive execution and our transition defense. That's another thing that we've needed to work on all year. We're getting slightly better. We did a good job of it against Syracuse. But in this game they got the ball to the foul line and got an open jumper every time."
 
Is the BIG EAST too tough for its own good?
"We do talk about that every year. If you're talking about getting the most amount of teams to the NCAA tournament, it probably does affect us. I think over time the selection committee will understand how good the league is and maybe they'll change their perception on what a ninth or tenth place team is in this league. They still had to be a part of a league where every team is a good team. Going into this game we were tied for first and they were in last place and they beat us pretty handily. It was a surprise but not to anyone in the league. Everyone in the league knows if you come up here and play Providence and they hit 3s like they did and play like they did, they can beat anyone in the league. They're a good program and have great tradition. I love that about the BIG EAST personally. I don't like losing last night but overall I like that in the BIG EAST."
 
On keys to playing in the BIG EAST
"What you have to do in this league is just look at it one game at a time. It's really a challenge. You can't separate the Providence game from the Georgetown game. Meaning one can't be more important than the other. You have to get wins wherever you can get them in this league. The other thing about this league is you always have an opportunity to redeem yourself. Meaning if you had a couple bad games you're going to play a nationally ranked team so if you play a good game you have a chance to beat a nationally ranked team. You're going to get those games at home. You always have an opportunity to get big wins and that's a positive."
 
On coaching Kemba Walker with the USA Select Team
"Every day we scrimmaged the national team and he had a day where he went for, I think, 28 points. Everybody just said, `Wow.' Everybody realized this kid is on another level. After that week or so in Vegas, we picked 10 guys to go up against the national team in New York. We needed a guy to go against Westbrook and Rose and the likes of those guys every day and he was the first guy we picked."
 
Jay Wright, Villanova
 
Stan Heath, USF
On game against DePaul
"Both teams are in similar situations needing wins and need to win badly. So I expect both teams to come out and play very hard. We've got to handle the pressure. It's kind of been an Achilles heel for us, the turnover bug. It's really important tonight that we do a god job handling that pressure and being aggressive against it."
 
On comparing BYU's Jimmer Fredette and Kemba Walker
"I'm one of the few lucky guys, I guess you can call me lucky, to see them up close. The funny thing is we played both teams and lost to both teams in overtime, so it was quite a war. They're both special, gifted, talented guys. I love the way both of them lead their basketball teams and when their teams' are in a little bit of trouble and need a play, need a basket, both guys deliver at a high rate and are very successful at doing that. Obviously I see Kemba a little bit more, because not only do we play him, but we get a chance to watch all his films because we're preparing for another team and UConn may have faced that team so I see a lot more of Kemba. But the one experience I had with Jimmer, he's got some extra things. The long-range shot, the bounce, the ability to move around and free himself up in different ways. I know the BIG EAST, how good it is, how talented it is, how good the coaches are, and we can't take anything away from that. It's as high level as it ever has been, especially this year. But sometimes you think that because it's BYU and they're in the Mountain West that it's not quite the same. Let me just make sure that everybody's clear: Jimmer Fredette is for real. He's the real deal. He can play anywhere and put up major numbers and production anywhere in the country."
 
 Is the BIG EAST too tough for its own good?
"I guess at the end of the day, this year it's probably deeper and stronger than the five years I've been in it. It's always been good but now you're possibly looking at 10 or 11 teams (in the NCAA tournament). I think that the answer to the question will probably be answered at the end of the year. We have 16 teams, if at the end of the year we have 10 teams in the NCAA tournament then I don't think it's too good for its own good. Because you're looking at over 50 or 60 percent of your teams getting in the NCAA tournament. So I think that speaks volumes that it's ok. Normally you want to be at about a 50 percent clip. But if we can eclipse that then I think we're ok. If all of a sudden we're beating each other up left and right and we're down to seven teams or six teams that that's not good. I think the only thing we have to be careful of is the seeding situation. Sometimes you have a team that should be a 1 seed or a 2 seed but because of the strength of the league and how good the teams are at the bottom that could beat you, does that take away from a team getting seeded a little higher? That may affect how deep they can go in the tournament. But I think from a numbers standpoint, I think we have the potential of getting 10 teams in the NCAA tournament, which would be phenomenal."
 
Stan Heath, USF
 
 
Mike Brey, Notre Dame
On Pittsburgh game
"Certainly it was great for our group to get a road win and to get a road win in a place like Pittsburgh. I thought our captains did a great job setting the tone and establishing our style of play. It's great to get halfway through the league with six league wins. At the end of the day it still counts as one but it gets us to six league wins. We have a chance to get a little bit of rest, get some guys refreshed."
 
On changing routine to win at Pitt
"One of the things I made sure of was Carleton's hamstring was feeling good. Instead of practicing on Sunday we got out of town and practiced Sunday evening. Of course we were lucky to have anyone open up for us because the Steelers were playing. I was worried because we were checking into the hotel as the Jets were checking out. We did change the routine, we practiced there. Our road losses were places that were tough to play. We didn't over analyze them. We just tried to be a little better concentrating for 40 minutes. Again having Carleton back was very helpful."
 
On importance of the win at Pittsburgh
"I know it counts as one win, but we all know math-wise it could count a lot more. We've had some really good wins to date but nothing like that one. It could be a jewel on the resume."
 
Mike Brey, Notre Dame
 
Mike Rice, Rutgers
On Cincinnati
"Four-point game with five minutes left. I think Mick's (Cronin) balance and depth had an effect on some of our guards. We made some simple mistakes and got in our own way a little bit. Credit Cincinnati's constant attacking pressure that led to some of our mistakes. We didn't make shots from the perimeter last night which always hurts us because we're a perimeter oriented team. Cincinnati had a hard-fought win.
 
On close games
"I loved the way we defended. I thought we rushed some of our shots. We have to be a team that searches for great shots, not good shots. I know that's coach talk. Jonathan Mitchell at some point in time had a crazy play, gets an and-one and could have cut it to two. He misses the three-point play, they come down and we make a defensive mistake. We're knocking at the door, we're not kicking it in as far as some of the opportunities we have in games. We're not real discouraged watching the game. We can't shoot ourselves in the foot during the game like we did."
 
On Dane Miller
"It's about relentlessness that he's taken upon himself to be our defensive leader. He literally saved us six points off of their transition. It was two-on-ones, three-on-ones and he just came from nowhere. He saved us six points alone on those kind of remarkable athletic, relentless plays."
 
Mike Rice, Rutgers
 
Oliver Purnell, DePaul
On USF
"They're a team that's obviously talented inside. They have great rebounding prowess which is an issue for us. They play an awful lot of really good teams close. They're a talented group. The points in the paint are something we're very concerned about. They're much bigger and stronger than we are. They struggle taking care of the basketball. Hopefully that's something we can get to and exploit. Certainly we're expecting a close ball game coming down the stretch. It could come down to the last six minutes."
 
On BIG EAST
"We had the same issue when we were in the ACC. You don't get credit for playing each other in conference play. It's crazy. The BIG EAST may be the strongest conference I've ever been a part of in terms of a given year. Maybe the strongest ever. It's crazy for the teams in this league, for six or seven of them not to be high seeds. Anyone who makes the tournament out of this league should be a high seed just because of the strength of the conference. The number of good teams is incredible."
 
"I think this year it's pretty obvious that the BIG EAST is as deep as any conference has ever been. I don't think there's any comparison in terms of the BIG EAST being the best league in college basketball."
 
Oliver Purnell, DePaul
 
Mick Cronin, Cincinnati
On game against Rutgers
"As everybody knows whenever you win a game in our conference you have to be happy. I thought our guys played great in the second half especially. It was a good hard-fought win for our team. We're just fortunate to get another win and stay undefeated at home. We'll turn-around and get ready for a tough West Virginia team on Saturday night."
 
On key to defense
"We're an older team. I've had a chance to coach these guys and get them trained. We play a lot smarter on the defensive end. Playing hard is overrated. If you don't play hard you're not going to win anyway. We've played a lot smarter this year defensively. We haven't fouled nearly as much. Our foul numbers are way down. In all three of our losses we've fouled too much. We're able to defend people without fouling. We do a really good job of executing a game plan. But you have to have a veteran team to do that. As a coach you have to understand that if you have rookies or freshman that those kids are going to make mistakes. You can get mad at them all you want but they come from high school where they didn't guard anybody and they're at the highest level of college basketball. The fact that we play veteran guys has us playing a lot smarter on the defensive end of the floor."
 
On BIG EAST race
"To me it's the same way every year. There are a lot of good teams. Everyone wants to predict and see how their teams going to do. You've got to take it day-by-day. If the last five days have taught us anything, you can't pencil in who you think is going to win every game. The teams in the first three spots of our league have all lost games. Syracuse lost three in a row, Pitt lost Monday, Villanova lost last night. Those three were the consensus top three by everyone in the BIG EAST. So you just don't know what's going to happen. As a coach you just worry about winning the next game and trying to get better. If you aren't getting better you're in trouble because there are too many good coaches and players in this league. You have to improve and evolve as a team and that's where we try to keep our focus."
 
On coaching in the BIG EAST
"As a coach, what I've learned is you have to be careful what you do to your team in October, November and December. If you expect them to grind through this BIG EAST and have them fresh at the end of the year, you have to be careful what you do to them in practice, in work-outs and the way you make your schedule."
 
Mick Cronin, Cincinnati
 
Jim Boeheim, Syracuse
On loss to Seton Hall
"I think sometimes when you lose people look for some energy issue or effort issue. I think we have good effort, good energy. We made a great comeback against Pittsburgh, really good comeback against Villanova. We could not get back against Seton Hall. The last six minutes we were down 25 and Kris Joseph scored all his points and Brandon Triche scored six or seven points so we were still trying but we just didn't have it. We didn't play well and Seton Hall did. They played extremely well and made some difficult shots. Sometimes that happens in basketball."
 
On recent losing streak
"We go to work every day at practice. We knew there would be tough times in this league, there always have been. Nobody is going undefeated in this league. Last year the winning team lost three games. You're going to lose games in this league. You have to practice, you have to work hard and get prepared for the next game. There's no magic formula or no magic lecture or talk you can give. You have to go back, you have to work hard. Our young players have to get better. That's what we'll be focused on doing."
 
On Scoop Jardine playing for the select team
"I think it helped him. I think any extra work you do playing against great players helps you. I thought he had a very good year last year. I think the summer helped him. I think he's come back and he's played well. Obviously he knows he could have played better the last couple games, but overall he's had a real solid start to this year.
 
On toughness of the BIG EAST
"It is what it is and you can't worry about that. You know that everybody in this league can play. There's no easy game. It's just part of the league. It's what you're in. It's what you do. If you're an offensive lineman in football you know the other guy is coming at you and he's going to hit you hard. Our league is like that. It's going to be tough. It's going to be a battle every night and you just have to be prepared for it."
 
On Providence's Marshon Brooks
"Last year I thought he was really good. They had so many offensive weapons last year that they had a lot of guys that were good. He still was good but he wasn't the focal point among some really good offensive players. This year he's the focal point. He's a tremendous player because he can do so much off the dribble. He can get to the basket, he can get to the free-throw line. He's having a terrific year."
 
Jim Boeheim, Syracuse
 
Rick Pitino, Louisville
On recruiting
"The most difficult thing is to find out about the attitude of the player because you're so restricted in your contact. You have to rely on other people's opinions quite a bit. There are times when you take players who aren't mentally prepared for college basketball because you really didn't get an opportunity to correspond with them enough. It happens that way. You hope you don't make too many mistakes."
 
On strength of the team
"I think the strength of our ball club since October 15th has been our attitude.We have a great attitude. That's the one strength of our ball club. We lack a lot of things, but attitude makes up for a lot of shortcomings that we do have. It's been a pleasure to coach these guys. It's really been a lot of fun."
 
On Preston Knowles
"He's had a good year. He scores in bunches. He's improved his rebounding, we have to get him to improve his passing and setting screens. He's had a good year but he definitely has a lot of room for improvement."
 
On difference in preparation during season
"We go down 15 minutes per month in our practices and we go down five minutes each month in individual instruction. We do shorten it. When you get into the season, it's mostly mentally preparation, film watching, it's not as much on the court. Especially in the BIG EAST, it's such a grind that mental preparation is just as important as physical preparation so you spend a lot of time really watching film and trying to figure out what you're going to do against your opponent and make sure your players understand personnel on the other team."
 
Surprised about Connecticut
"Being that they were picked 10th I am a little surprised. A lot of the times one player (Kemba Walker) will get a lot of credit and it's much deserved, he's one of the best players in the country. But they have other good players that aren't just playing up to their potential but beyond what some people thought. Connecticut is a really good basketball team. They go on the road and they've had some great wins at Texas and in Maui. They've played great basketball all year."
 
Rick Pitino, Louisville