March 17, 2003
Head Coach Lute Olson:
What do you see in Vermont?
"They have good size, they do a lot of high-low. They have the Player of the Year in their conference, who is a sophomore and does a really nice job. They have a big guy inside who takes up a lot of space, reminds you a little bit of Rob Little of Stanford. They have good balance, very much a team concept as far as roles are concerned. They play the roles very well. They play man-to-man, they play some 2-3 zone and they do press full court after made free throws and violations. By the time you get to this point of the season, you've seen pretty much everything everyone does. There isn't anything that they do that we have not faced. We had an excellent practice, working strictly on our stuff last night. We'll put in the Vermont stuff today with the scout team, working on what we'll do covering their personnel and what they'll do offensively and defensively."
How was last night's practice?
"Last night's practice was an excellent practice. It was not long, but it was spirited and the guys were really focused. We could see that they were well rested and it didn't look like anybody had any aches or pains. I was very pleased with the practice and I felt like they (the players) were too about how they had competed."
How does the team approach its bracket?
"At this point, we have one-game seasons. And you hope you get another opportunity for another one-game season. We don't care who else is on our bracket, right now all we care about is Vermont."
How will Jason Gardner rebound after a poor shooting performance against UCLA?
"Jason (Gardner) is a competitor. It's very difficult to go through a season without a down night. But all that is in the background. All we have to do is look at what's ahead of us."
What type of style do you expect Vermont to run?
"They have a medium-type tempo. They will run the break, but if they don't get the opportunity they'll run some good things in the half court. A lot of the things they run are similar to some of our set calls, so it's not going to be a long preparation or a different preparation. They've been a man-to-man team more than a zone team. But in their semifinal game, they played probably 80 percent zone. And in their final against Boston University, they played primarily man. They are a team that can adjust and will adjust to the team that they're playing."
What do you know about playing in high altitude?
"The thing that concerns you if you're playing in altitude is if you don't have good depth. That should not be a problem for us. The only way, they say, that you can deal with altitude is if you're there a long time in advance and this is not long enough."
How do you handle freshmen at this time of year?
"The biggest thing is that you can't make this any different form what you've done all year. The seniors called a meeting prior to practice last night and I'm sure that they just tried to let them know that this is just another game. You can put a title on it, but we've played a lot of games throughout the year and it's a continuation of what we've done all year."
How important is the video department at this time of year?
"The video department is obviously really important. As soon as we found out who we were going against, we were able to pull out the semifinal and final games of their tournament-their two most recent games. We're able to get started immediately, if not you'd have to overnight it and it would have gotten here sometime this morning. But by then, Coach Tention has a scouting report and had done the break down."
How much parity do you see in the NCAA Tournament?
"All you have to do is take a look at the fact that seven of the top nine teams lost last week. The parity and the competition points out how balanced things are. If you're wondering why did this happen in tournaments, tournaments are generally held at neutral sites. Winning at home is a whole lot easier than winning at neutral sites."
What mindset do the seniors take into the tournament?
"The biggest thing for the three seniors is that this is it as far as your college career is concerned. Everyone wants to go out on a high note. These seniors have had a remarkable run. When I look back at last year and what they were faced with, those three guys with five freshmen, that was one of the most amazing years that I think I've gone through in my coaching career-to see the job they did, the kind of leadership they had to provide and not just leadership by example but leadership off the court and communication. When we look back at this group years from now, it's going to be a group Arizona fans are going to remember for a long time because of their accomplishments."
Arizona Player Quotes
Senior Luke Walton:
How will the team approach the Catamounts of Vermont and the tournament itself?
"Everyone has to know that with every game, that could be it. I think everyone is going to be a lot more intense and a lot more focused. They (Vermont) look well coached and well disciplined; they have a real solid big man down low. We're going to have our work cut out for us. I think we'll know a lot about them by the time we play them."
How will your NCAA Tournament experience in Salt Lake City affect you?
"(Having played in Salt Lake City in 2000) will help us. Being a No. 1 seed (in 2000), I don't think we were as ready as we should have been and we lost to Wisconsin. We were a young team and we had a beat-up team that year. When you lose a game, you learn a lot from that. That was one of the biggest games we lost and that will help us out experience-wise."
Will it affect you if the crowd gets behind the underdog?
"With you being a top dog, everyone wants to see an upset. Everybody on this team loves when the crowd is on them and when we see the signs. It just motivates us to go out and play that much better."
Do you have any personal goals or expectations for the tournament?
"I'm just looking at the tournament like I want to win the thing. Personally, if I don't average that many points but the team is playing great, that's great. The only thing in mind is winning. I don't think I need to score a ton of points, but I definitely need to be involved in what's going on."
What is the key for Arizona?
"We have to be mentally tough every single game. We're talented enough, deep enough and strong enough to go all the way through."
Senior Jason Gardner:
What do you think about the West Region?
"The tougher the bracket is, the tougher we'll play. Hopefully, I'll come back with a better shooting night. That was one of those nights where the ball wouldn't drop. I wanted to win the Pac-10 tournament and make a statement. We haven't been getting the credit for our wins that we deserve. Everybody has been talking about other teams. But that will take care of itself. If we keep winning and get to the Final Four, everybody will be talking about us."
How is the NCAA Tournament different from the regular season?
"The tournament is a whole different life now. In tournament time, it's one and you're done. Your mental focus has to be there. We're a top team, I know our focus is going to be there. There's a lot going on outside of basketball-so many fans from all over the country are there, a lot of media there, in the games there's a lot of luck. A lot of things go on in the tournament. Each game there's the possibility that they have a good night and you have a bad night."
Is it a positive that Arizona has so many players who can score?
"When you try to prepare for our team and you say 'Let's shut down Luke,' 'Let's shut down Channing,' 'Let's shut down Salim,' there are so many different scorers on this team and on any given night anybody can get you. Andre (Iguodala) can come off the bench, Hassan (Adams)can come off the bench or if Ricky (Anderson)'s having a good night, we have so many players who can score. I think that is one advantage we've had all year long."
Do you enjoy this time of year?
"I love it. I get a lot of phone calls. Everybody fills out their bracket. Everybody watches college basketball, wanting to see a bunch of upsets and buzzer-beaters. There are a lot of close games, you see everything in the NCAA tournament."
What do you think of the media analysis and predictions you have seen so far?
"Everybody has their thing that they think other teams need to do to beat a certain team or picking who is going to go how far. Everybody has their opinion, but our main focus is that this team has got to stick together and everything else will take care of itself."