Men's Basketball Weekly Conference Call Highlights - Feb. 10

Jay Wright, Villanova
On Rutgers forward Jonathan Mitchell
"Jonathan Mitchell is a great kid. We recruited him out of high school and he went to Florida. I'm not surprised coming out of Bob Cimino's program that he's one of those guys that gets better, and better, and better every year and becomes one of the best players in the conference as a senior. He's also a great kid. Seeing him after the game, he was humble. He makes an incredible shot to win the game and a huge free throw and you see him in the press conference after the game and he's a humble, nice kid, very classy."
 
On Pittsburgh
"What's so impressive about them is the guys in this game learned from the group in 2009 that we played in the final eight. We said it back then and we still believe it now, that group was a Final Four team. Either one of us could have won that game. I think this team might be better just because of the depth. Depth and they have a little bit more skill level overall. That's kind of hard to say because both of them were great teams. Wanamaker is incredible, Brown's becoming incredible. I love McGhee. You can argue that McGhee is as good as anybody they've had in that spot. They're just an outstanding team and I definitely think they're Final Four caliber."
 
On looking to win the BIG EAST regular season
"You obviously have to coach it one game at a time. Within our program, we always feel like where we finish the regular season in the BIG EAST speaks to how good of a team we are. Not how we do in the BIG EAST tournament. Not how we do in the NCAA tournament. Even though we understand that everyone else evaluates us that way. I just believe that what you do over the course of a season within your conference really shows where you are as a program and as a team. The regular season is very important. The team that wins it, I think, really is the best team."
 
Jay Wright, Villanova
 
Stan Heath, USF
On Notre Dame
"I don't know how everyone else looks at it, but for me personally I think Ben [Hansbrough] is the straw that stirs the drink. I clearly think he is the emotional leader. He's the guy when things are tough that will make plays and step-up. He helps a guy like Tim Abromaitis, he helps a guy like Carleton Scott or Tyrone Nash. I do think those guys are terrific players. I just think that Ben has that extra ingredient that every coach likes to have in a leader and a point guard that can make Notre Dame that much better."
 
On Jonathan Mitchell
"Sometimes I look at guys like Ben Hansbrough and Jonathan Mitchell and sometimes coaches and programs get criticized or critiqued because players transfer and they leave and go to another spot. Those guys are perfect examples of kids finding a fit for them that works. Jonanthan you can tell is playing like a senior on his last leg. He's playing inspirational basketball, he's stepping up for his team, he's making big shots. He played very well against us. He's a very difficult match-up. He plays in and out, he's got such a strong, physical body and he makes hustle plays out there on the court as well. He's having a very good senior year for them. That was good to see a senior like him that's been through a lot win a big game like that against a very good Villanova team."
 
On the BIG EAST Championship
"I think at this point in the season, we're excited about the Garden. It's our one opportunity to get to the NCAA tournament. Maybe in some ways it's long shot but we have to sell it and we have to work towards it. I think the best thing we can do is try to win some games and improve seeding. The better your seed is, the better chance you have of lasting a little bit longer and going through the gauntlet up there. That's our focus right now is finishing strong, taking it one game at a time. Outside of the Syracuse game we've been in every single one of our basketball games. I think long-term, big picture for this team since we only have one senior is learning how to win. If we can make that next progression of learning how to win close games, I think that would do a lot for our team and our future."
 
Stan Heath, USF
 
Mike Brey, Notre Dame
On Scott Martin
"This nucleus of four guys won together last year. Scott Martin being added to that group, you couldn't be adding a smoother piece because of his all-around basketball feel for the game. He's an amazingly underrated defender too. He rebounds the ball for us, he knows how to play and screen and cut and play off of people. I thought our transition was quick and good early back in November because Scott Martin's basketball IQ was so high."
 
On Ben Hansbrough
"The natural evacuation of the senior class that was the winningest class in our history, [Tory] Jackson and [Luke] Harangody moving on and Hansbrough being the voice and the leader and really wanting that responsibility, started in the summer. Being the voice, being the leader and carrying that over into `what does my team need to do'. I think that has given him the confidence to play at a high level. We've figured out where to put him in spots to take full advantage of him. Whether it's to play off the ball when Eric Atkins is handling or to have the ball in his hands and make decisions for us. A lot of it started because it was his turn to lead, his turn to be the voice."
 
On Jonathan Mitchell
"We recruited Jonathan Mitchell out of high school and out of Florida. We're 0-for-2. I love him. What he did here last Sunday, we almost didn't get out of there with a win. He played fabulously. Caught a little bit of the game last night, Villanova-Rutgers, and not surprised to see what he's done. Really confidence guy, a senior, a smart basketball player, a skilled guy. I've always loved him and I'm glad he's a senior so we don't have to play against him anymore."
 
Mike Brey, Notre Dame
 
Mike Rice, Rutgers
On game against Villanova
"Last night was a win for our seniors who will not let us quit, who will not let us stop improving, who continue to fuel the energy and the passion that our team plays with. I'm very fortunate to have a group like Jonathan Mitchell, James Beatty and Mike Coburn. We've been close a lot of times. It was a crazy two minutes but it's more than that. It was the culmination of a lot of hard work and a lot of great practices."
 
On Jonathan Mitchell
"It's unbelievable how much he's grown. He's always been an unbelievable kid. His parents raised him unbelievable. He's starting to come outside of himself more. When guys make the same mistakes in practice, you need seniors to jump on them. Eventually, I don't care what team it is, they start to tune you out. If the seniors don't voice displeasure or voice an opinion, it just doesn't work. He's starting to do that, he's starting to take more ownership of this team. That's the growth I always thought he had. He always had tremendous skill level, a great knowledge of the game, but his biggest development has been his leadership and coming outside himself and being more vocal. He's one of the guys I'm always going to remember. Everyone knows where this team was picked and no one thought much of it including J-Mitch. Every single day he refuses to listen to anybody. He's going to get the best out of this team and the best out of himself. He will always be the guy I owe the beginning of success to."
 
On the BIG EAST Championship
The BIG EAST is crazy. You don't know what's going to happen. Game-by-game, player-by-player, possession-by-possession - anything can happen in this league this year. The lower half, they have talented players. Whether it's Jeremy Hazell, Augustus Gilchrist or Jonathan Mitchell, you get a couple guys going hot that night and there's going to be some upsets. Like anything, every day we're trying to improve. Attack our weaknesses. I know it's coach speak. It seems like it every year but I have a tough time believing it's not going to be a special year for the BIG EAST in Madison Square Garden."
 
Mike Rice, Rutgers
 
Ron Bradley, DePaul Associate Head Coach
On the team's play
"I'd say the staff overall right now is generally pleased with the progress and improvement of this group especially recently. Obviously we're looking to get over the hump here. We knew coming into this year there would be a significant learning curve for our players in terms of learning our system and instituting that and even for the coaches to a large degree. This is our first time through this league. It's a brutal league obviously. We're just learning the systems and strengths and tendencies of these other teams. This is the first time through for us. Enjoying a little bit, getting through the second time on some of these teams knowing some tendencies and what we're looking at going into the game as opposed to a first-time opponent for everybody; players and coaches, the whole program. We're pleased with the progress."
 
On the freshmen
"We're really pleased with the progress of our freshman. I think Brandon Young and Cleveland Melvin have received a lot of minutes this year. I think they sort of hit a wall a little bit at some point once we hit BIG EAST play, really had to obviously step it up. I think lately they're getting their second wind and really playing well and learning what it takes to play in the BIG EAST. Moses Morgan, who has received quite a bit of increased playing time lately, has really helped us. He's shooting 41 percent in the league from the 3-point line and that's so important in today's game."
 
Ron Bradley, DePaul
 
Jim Boeheim, Syracuse
On game vs. Georgetown
"We really came off a good road trip and did not play well offensively last night. We really took a step backwards offensively. Had a good defensive game but did not get the things done offensively that we need to."
 
On Louisville's defense
"It's a good defense. They do a good job in both man-to-man and matchup zone. They mix them up. They're a good defensive team. You have to move the ball and get good shots and you have to make some shots."
 
On Louisville and Rick Pitino this season
"They've done an unbelievable job. He's had a lot of injuries and they've played right through it. They've just played tremendous basketball, I think."
 
Jim Boeheim, Syracuse
 
Mick Cronin, Cincinnati
On game vs. DePaul
"Just like everybody else we're just trying to scrap and find a way to win in our conference. I'm happy with the win against DePaul. I think too many teams in a scenario when a team is expected to beat another team due to their records, a team like DePaul doesn't get credit for playing the way they played in the second half. Their team made a lot of shots. They played extremely well on the offensive end. They are to be commended for their play. Instead of people wondering why you didn't beat them by `x' amount of points. So we're happy with the win."
 
On Yancy Gates
"He's no different than any other guy on my team. Simple rules. I think Hubie Brown said it best: You're going to know when to pass, when to shoot; You're going to play hard on every play; You're going to play defense and rotate or you're not going to play for us and we don't care who you are. I don't ask him to do anything I don't ask the other guys to do. Just try to be the best player you can be every day. Make sure we're giving our best effort and giving ourselves the best chance to win. That being said, Yancy is a guy tha,t when he plays well and he gives us some inside presence on both ends of the floor, obviously it makes us a better team. But we have some other guys who have played well. Ibrahima Thomas has really played well in our last few games and really taken the pressure off some other people. He's getting the ball in the basket around the rim. I'm really happy for him."
 
On game vs. St. John's
"Huge game for us on Sunday and obviously for St. John's as well. The bulk of the teams that are in the middle of pack right now, you're scrapping and crawling for every win you can get. Trying to find a way to make sure you have a winning record in the BIG EAST conference. It's a lot easier said than done."
 
Mick Cronin, Cincinnati
 
Rick Pitino, Louisville
On Preston Knowles
"We win as a team, we lose as a team. Preston did not play particularly well. He tried to carry a team on his back. What happened was we had 14 assists in the first half, which is a lot, by each person using each other. But it's more a product of someone who has not practiced due to a hamstring injury. He's trying to do things he did before the injury, and without practice that's not going to happen. He's not the reason we lost the game. We lose as a team. We didn't play good team defense in overtime. We didn't execute the way we should have executed. He's a hard working young man and he's certainly not the reason we lost the game."
 
On coaching this team this year
"This team has been very rewarding to coach because of the amount of effort they give. It's been a very difficult year in terms of managing this team because of the amount of injuries we've had. I've had probably more missed time this year from nine different individuals that I have in three or four years combined. It's been very difficult to manage practice. It's been very difficult to manage games. But it's been very rewarding to see guys step-up, play well and compete. We've had great comebacks, we played Georgetown to the wire on the road, we played overtime with Notre Dame, we had double overtime at Connecticut. So we're a hard-working team that's getting the most out of their abilities and as a coach that makes you most proud."
 
Rick Pitino, Louisville