March 25, 2013
On his relationship with Thad Matta:
"Thad Matta is probably my best friend in coaching, he's a guy that means a lot to me, I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for him. We've worked together both as assistant coaches, and I was fortunate to be brought up as an assistant coach at Xavier when he was the head coach. I learned a lot from him and had a great time together, and because of that we know Ohio State very well."
On recruiting against Ohio State:
"We didn't recruit against Ohio State. They're pretty much a machine in that state. They recruit at the very highest level, which is what we are trying to do here at Arizona. We didn't bump heads recruiting. There are so many schools in that area so that wasn't really part of the equation."
On coaching at Miami (OH) with Matta:
"That's when we met, so that would've been 1993 or 1994. We were on the same staff when we played Arizona in one of the biggest upsets in Arizona tournament history. I think we played Arizona at 9 a.m. pacific time and all the way across the country if you remember that, and we had a really good team that year and we were about 30 miles from campus. I'm sure Coach Olson thinks about that to this day. But Thad and I were on that staff together, so that goes way back."
On Thad Matta:
"Thad is a very unique person. He has that quality where you want to follow him, that is one of the many reasons he is such a great coach. The players love playing for him and he has a way of making things fun. He is also one of the most competitive people I've ever met. He has a unique combination, he sometimes puts you to sleep and makes you think that he's not trying when in reality he has that formula where people like him and follow him and he's great at what he does. He's certainly a great competitor. He is an avid physical fitness freak. That's probably a reason why his back situation is what it is today. He would run 20 miles at a time. The physical condition that he is in is amazing to this day. I would've been the opposite, I would've been doing whatever I'm supposed to do other than that. In a funny way, that combination made us get along so well."
On conversations he has had with Matta:
"We talked before the tournament started. Wishful thinking, hoping that we would both be in L.A., but you know how that sounds better than reality, but here we are, and it's exciting. I don't want to make too much of it with my relationship with him because this is about the players on both teams, and there's a lot at stake here on Thursday, and I think both of us know that. I don't think we'll talk a whole lot between now and then, but if I were to lose in this round, I will always pull for him and hope that he does well. This is Ohio State's fourth straight Sweet 16, and you think about some of the players on their team, they have incredible NCAA tournament experience, and they were in last year's Final Four. They're used to big arenas and the big stage, and that's one of the things that makes them such a great team."
On if it was a matter of time that the two would face each other:
"Hopefully, because if you play them it will usually be in the second weekend. The last time we squared off was in one of the greatest games in the NCAA tournament maybe over the last 10 years. I really thought it was going to be Greg Oden's last game, and it looked that way, but they made an incredible shot, and we moved on and they moved on. They went on to almost win the National Championship, but that would've been in the round of 32."
On not being tested as much in the first two rounds:
"You can't read it. I can make the case that in our margin of victory we have a lot of confidence right now, which is a really good thing moving into L.A., that we've played well, and that if you say we haven't been tested its more about the margin of victory than the fact of the competition. Belmont is just an incredible team. We could've played New Mexico who is one of the nation's best teams, but the reason we didn't play them was because the team they played was good enough to beat them two nights earlier. Harvard was our next opponent and I thought we played the way we needed to play against both of those teams. Sometimes when you get in some hard fought games, there's only so much energy in the tank. I think we have a team that is playing well, we're fresh, we're healthy, and we got some good news on Grant Jerrett, for all indications he should be fine, not only for the game, but as important for today moving forward in practice."
On Ohio State's defense:
"They're a great defensive team. It all starts with Aaron Craft. If he isn't one of your favorite players then you don't like college basketball. He has that Tim Tebow quality. At Florida, it wasn't just his performance on the field, but the kind of person he was, and the leadership that he provided, and the competitive spirit that he embodied that spread throughout Florida's football team. Aaron Craft does the same thing for Ohio State basketball. His defense is contagious, and his competitive fire. He's not a great three-point shooter, but when the game is on the line, for example against Ohio State, if you're a betting man, then you're going to bet that shot is going to go in. That's just who he is, an incredible person, student, basketball, and leader. He is the heart and soul of Ohio State."
On the similarities between the two teams defensively:
"They're different. They play ball screen different than us. There probably are some similarities but that makes us much different. They probably have gone to that style because of Craft. Deshaun Thomas is a great player. He reminds me a lot of Shabazz Muhammad. The difference is that Ohio State plays him at the 4, so that puts you in a difficult matchup. He sets a lot of ball screens and is a prolific three-point shooter, an incredible scorer. For us we are going to have to be great with our defense rotation. You can't switch onto him because he's too big for smaller players to switch onto. That being said it's a team effort against him. He's a first team All-American for a reason."
On the fans being an advantage:
"Yes, no question. I'd much rather play Ohio State in L.A. than in Dayton, Ohio. We have to take advantage of that. We have a short trip and we are going to have more fans, but at the the end of the day, because of their incredible tournament experience and the fact that they win Big Ten Championships the way they do, I don't believe that the crowd will effect a team like Ohio State. I think that we will have to flat out be the better team. Maybe the crowd will help us play well, but I don't think it'll impact them negatively."
On Aaron Craft:
"Part of what makes him such a special basketball player is who he is as a person. He's a 4.0 student, an incredible leader and as good of a competitor as you'll find. He puts a lot of emphasis and plays hard on defense, but he's also talented there. There are a lot of guys who play hard, but they're limited. He has exceptional quickness and quick hands and he is strong. His anticipates really well. On offense, he runs the show. It's not about scoring points for him it's about being a point guard, and he is an extension of the coach. All of the things that you can say to give him incredible respect, that's where I'm at."
On shooting a high percentage in the first two games:
"We've been a very good three-point shooting. For the season, we've been around 37% which is pretty good, and we hit a slump for about three weeks where we had certain players at the same time not making shots, that's part of the reason we finished second in the Pac-12. That's a difference between 12-6 and 13-5. I talk a lot about our defense, but we had a period of games where it didn't seem like the ball would fall. Prior to our conference beginning, we came into the Pac-12 shooting really well. I think we have a talented team in that area. This weekend I think we returned to form. We made some threes and we had a number of guys contributing. Jordin Mayes is a good example of someone who is shooting the ball well. Kevin is really shooting the ball well. When Mark takes good threes and knocks them in that helps us as well. Solomon has really been the constant, and same thing with Nick who has been playing with a lot of confidence. I named five or six different players there, and Grant Jerrett. That's one of our team's strengths that we can hit a three at a number of spots."
On the Ohio State game:
"We have to play a great game. They are a two seed so I look at them as one of the top eight teams in the country. If you had to value that they are probably more towards the top four than the top eight. They have earned it, I think they have won ten in a row now. They are playing in the nation's best conference, and they won the Big Ten tournament. They have a number of big players that start on this year's team that played on last year's team, and you look at them as one of the elite teams in the country, and for us, we have to be at that level to beat them. We've done it, you look at the Sweet 16 we've beaten Florida and Miami, and we played Oregon in conference, we know the level we have to play at. I think we're capable but anything less than that won't be good enough."
On who Ohio State compares to:
"They are the best team we have played, and I would put them in the category of Florida and Miami."
On their offensive comparisons between the two teams:
"Their ball moves better than ours. It's more personnel related, but the ball moves better for them. They have a unique team. One of the other things that they are doing recently that has helped their team is they sub and play very small. When they do that they have five players on the court that can pass dribble and shoot which makes it very hard to defend. We have our work cut out for us at the four position."
On Mark Lyons:
"Their front line wasn't as big, so when he attacked it wasn't contested as much, but he played very well. 27 points, and if you look at his shooting percentage and the way he played in both games, and one of the reasons we're headed to the Sweet 16 is because of his overall play. He has great experience in the tournament, Think about the game we're going to play on Thursday, he has played in that game already two times. That's to our advantage, like their team where they have a number of guys who have been in this round, we do too. Maybe not to an extent of Ohio State, but we are depending on those experienced players to perform well. Mark will be a real key in this game."
On Solomon Hill possibly defending Deshaun Thomas...
"I don't know if we can put Solomon on Thomas, maybe we can somewhat. He's big and physical, and I'm sure Solomon will draw him some. Solomon has been a great player for us. I'm just so excited for him that he has a chance to finish his career where he is at a winner. 27 games and in the Sweet 16, and hopefully we will have a few more games left here. He has led our team from start to finish. His intent and his will to win, and how he practices and carries himself. Like Aaron Craft where a lot of his intentions are contagious for Ohio State, Solomon represents a lot of those for us."
On the starting lineup:
"We'll probably start the same way I would imagine. That is misrepresented sometimes though. Throughout the game it really has to be a team effort as a team guarding Thomas, because he sets so many ball screens. He's such an incredible offensive player and a great three-point shooter. We have to rotate to him and do a great job as a team. The thing that's different about him is that he's too big and physical for guards."
On playing against players like Thomas:
"The one difference is that he's so different and unique as a player. It's hard to describe him as a player. On one hand he's a great three-point shooter, and on the other he's big and he's physical and he can score around the basket. He's hard for everyone in the country and he's a reason why Ohio State is who they are and we are no different. We will have to prepare well and it will be a team effort against him."
On Kevin Parrom guarding Thomas:
"Solomon will guard him some with Brandon and Grant as well. It will be a tough matchup for those guys. They've really progressed defensively. He sets so many of these ball screens, when the ball is passed back to him it will be the next guy rotating to him. It won't be a single matchup."
On the officiating:
"It's very consistent in the NCAA. It's the nation's best teams and the best officials. That's what makes it so exciting to be a part of the tournament, especially as it shrinks. You're dealing with the best of the best across the board. It's a great challenge."
On Kaleb Tarczewski:
"Kaleb is really coming along. Sometimes I wish we could do a better job of getting him the ball as he progressed. He's such a great kid and teammate. Sometimes he's open and he would like to get the ball but he doesn't, and it may bother him inside but it doesn't show. He does all the things we ask him to do. He rebounds well and is scoring better, and is shooting a higher percentage from the line. He has really improved through his freshman year and I think the best is yet to come from him."
On Kaleb matching up with Ohio State:
"Hopefully Kaleb can be physical inside where he can score and be the presence that can give us the edge."