March 11, 2001
JOHN HEISLER: Just a couple of quick notes, we do have starting times for all three of the games that will be played here in South Bend. The first game on Saturday will be Michigan against Virginia, tip-off at 11 o’clock, 11:00 A.M. eastern time. That will be followed by Notre Dame and Alcorn State, that will be at approximately 1:30. Then those two winners will play on Monday night at 7 o’clock Eastern. That game will be televised by ESPN.
We have with us this evening Coach Muffet McGraw, Ruth Riley and Kelley Siemon. We are going to go one at a time here.
Coach McGraw will make some opening remarks and then she will be happy to entertain some questions.
COACH McGRAW: We are excited about being the No. 1 seed. I think that this team has worked extremely hard all year long and to be rewarded for that hard work and how consistently we played all year long with the No. 1 seed in the Midwest, we are just elated with that, excited about the prospect of hosting a great subregional here at Notre Dame and to be playing on St. Patrick’s Day, I think we have put in to play on Friday, but to play on St. Patrick’s Day, I think that is going to be our lucky day so we will have to get out the green nail polish and we will be ready to go.
Q. Before the first UConn game you said you might have to play your players 40 minutes. I don’t know how serious you were about that, but looking ahead to the tournament, do you see extensive play for your regulars?
COACH McGRAW: Well, they are definitely going to get the bulk of the playing time, but we had a great Big East Tournament for our bench. Amanda Barksdale came in, gave us great minutes, averaged six rebounds a game in the three games, blocked about 12 shots, and just had an outstanding performance. And Jeneka Joyce played extremely well. So we feel that we are at least 7 deep, probably 8 with LeTania Severe and Monique Hernandez, we expect to have her back. She had a sprained knee and couldn’t play in the tournament. But we are excited about what the bench did for us in that tournament.
Q. Are you surprised that UConn or Tennessee weren’t knocked down out of the No. 1 considering the experience that you had two years ago?
COACH McGRAW: Well, I thought it was unfair when we were knocked down because of Niele’s injury so I was excited that they didn’t penalize Connecticut because I think your seeds really should be based on what you did during the regular season and they certainly earned the No. 1 spot.
Q. Coming off the Big East tournament you got a little wait here before you play, but coming off of that game against UConn it was an enjoyable game to watch. I am not sure what it was like to coach. But playing them that close at their place and coming down to the wire, does that give you confidence going on to the next step here?
COACH McGRAW: I think it does. We feel very confident in the way we are playing because we came out of that game knowing that we played very well. We did a lot of good things. If it wasn’t for the halfcourt shot at the end of the first half and the final shot, I mean, it was a very, very close game. We feel good about the way we are playing right now. We think we are peaking heading into the NCA tournament.
Q. I wanted to ask you I know you don’t want to look ahead, but when you look in this — in the regional in Denver you are the No. 1 seed and Iowa State is the No. 2 seed and should you guys wind up playing each other in the Regional, you know?? — I know Bill was with you back when you started over there at Notre Dame. I am wondering your thoughts about that, about playing somebody like that possibly down the road in the tournament?
COACH McGRAW: Well, actually Ben asked me this morning what I didn’t want and I said I don’t want to be in a Regional with Iowa State or Vanderbilt. Jim Foster at Vanderbilt is Murphy’s Godfather. He was my mentor. I coached with him at St. Joe’s. I have known him for as long as I have been coaching and that was something I really didn’t want to have to play against some of my good friends. And Bill was with me at Notre Dame my first year. We have been friends since then. He is a great coach doing a great job, but I am just a little disappointed that I have to play two — I only have three friends in coaching and I have to be in a Region with two of them.
Q. I thought you had another friend who is up in Milwaukee. I saw her getting to the tournament last night?
COACH McGRAW: I am so excited for Sandy and her assistant coach. Just great to see some former Notre Dame players and coaches moving on in the tournament. They were so excited. I watched the whole game. I was actually kind of hoping that they’d be coming here in the Sub-Regional but I am just thrilled for them.
COACH McGRAW: I don’t think there is really a lot of difference between the top 4 seeds because you get the advantage of playing at home. That’s really what you are playing for. After that it is all neutral courts. You get the top 16 teams in the country, anybody can win. So I think that really just the advantage is getting that home-court game.
JOHN HEISLER: Ruth Riley is next up. Anybody on the telephone that has questions for her.
Q. Hi Ruth. Home game in the tournament, you have been through this before. What are your thoughts about getting started next week?
RUTH RILEY: I think we are really excited especially to be playing at home. As the seniors, we have five seniors, I think these last couple of home games hopefully are going to be special to us. But at the same time, our fan base here is growing so much and we are just excited to be playing in March right now.
Q. This is your 9th game as I calculate it. 9th tournament game. Can you compare how you feel going into this as an old lady compared to as a kid four years ago?
RUTH RILEY: I think experience is so — I don’t even know how to put it into words, but it means so much especially going into the tournament time. We have a veteran team this year and I think that is helping us a lot just with the mentality going into the tournament. We know what to expect. We know what we are going to see out there. So I think we are pretty relaxed, at ease going into the tournament.
RUTH RILEY: We really didn’t watch any film or anything so we don’t know exactly what kind of players they are. I don’t think height means everything. But I was thinking if we come out and play like we have been playing, we should be okay.
RUTH RILEY: At this point in the season it doesn’t really matter because it all comes down to how you finish in March, so, I think we have the No. 1 seed which speaks a lot for our program here and I think we will find out in April, I guess.
RUTH RILEY: Definitely. I think if you look at the team we had knowing how we did freshmen year going down to Texas, anything can happen in March if (inaudible) like a playoff (inaudible) best out of so many and it is one and you are out, we are not overlooking anyone but at the same time we are pretty excited about the way we are playing.
RUTH RILEY: We were just going to — who was going to be the 2 and 3 seeds in our backyard. We always seem to end up with (inaudible) somewhere along the line so we were kind of surprised that they weren’t thrown in there somewhere. But it will be a good matchup.
Q. Kelley, I ask this of you because you are literate and you have looked at the pairings and sees the name Michigan as a possible second round opponent, Michigan or Virginia. When you see names that prominent in the second round with those histories behind it, what is your reaction?
KELLEY SIEMON: Those are both two really great teams. Obviously I think that the Big 10 has some of the toughest competition in terms of women’s basketball just because they all kind of beat each other and it is kind of like the Big East in men.
Virginia has also been doing a really great job. I don’t think their record really says enough for how good a team they are. But both teams are going to be pretty tough. Obviously we had an assistant coach who was a coach up at Michigan earlier and so I mean, whatever way it turns out, I think we will be ready.
Q. Seems to be a little Big East drive this afternoon. (Inaudible)?
KELLEY SIEMON: I think it’s great as a good team in the Big East to also see some — that many teams that make it to the tournament because it says a lot about our conference and says a lot more about the team that we are. Instead of, I think in the past, I guess a long time ago it was just Connecticut and all of a sudden we crept up there and obviously record last year making it to the Final Four, so yeah, we are really excited about that. I think it does say a lot for our team and for our conference.
Q. Kelley, I just wanted to ask about — just seeing a No. 1 seed there with Notre Dame and having come through the program and see the progress of the program to see Notre Dame get a No. 1 seed, what kind of reaction you had to that?
KELLEY SIEMON: Unfortunately this year it wasn’t as exciting because I think our team as a whole expected it. We have been having an incredible year and not that luck has anything to do with that, we have just been playing some great basketball. So as great as that is, unfortunately it is not as exciting as it was in the past couple of years when we were just hoping to make the tournament and then last year hoping to get that home seed.
KELLEY SIEMON: I just kind of feel like business. I am excited for the tournament and I can’t wait, but that is kind of the way that I feel right now is just — is game. It is great that we are 1, but … Q. (Inaudible)?
COACH McGRAW: They have been like that all year long after the Connecticut game in the locker room — they expected to win. They were happy, but it was not like a surprise. We were immediately ready for the next game against Seton Hall. They have been doing that all year long, they have been focused for every game. We haven’t taken any one lightly. We played well in all the games and it has been a lot of fun but it is definitely — we do have a business-like approach, I think.
COACH McGRAW: Well, for this team, really the sky is the limit. We just want to keep playing and we want to keep playing well. So we are just excited, but we are taking it one game at a time. We are looking forward to playing Alcorn State.
Q. I just wanted to ask you what you know about Alcorn State?
COACH McGRAW: Well, we have looked at the roster and they don’t have anybody over 6 foot. That really makes me happy. I think — I told my husband I wanted to play somebody with a 5′ 10″ center. I think I got my wish. But we obviously don’t have a lot of tape on them. They weren’t on TV quite that often so we don’t have a lot of tape but we will be getting a tape tomorrow. We have got the roster and some notes on them but we will know a little bit more about them tomorrow morning.
JOHN HEISLER: We will have transcriptions of these press conferences.