March 14, 2010
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The Notre Dame men’s hoopsters are headed to New Orleans.
Mike Brey’s Irish (23-11) are coming off one of the more successful late-season runs in Notre Dame history. The Irish have won six of their last seven games heading into NCAA play (three over ranked opponents), matching a similar end-of-regular season streak from 2007 when Brey’s club won its last five regular-season games, defeated Syracuse in the BIG EAST Tournament before falling to Georgetown in a BIG EAST semifinal for an identical six-out-of-seven run. Before that, you have to go back to 1988 when Digger Phelps’ team had won eight of its last nine and stood 20-8 heading into the NCAAs.
Notre Dame’s men’s basketball team, seeded sixth in the South Region of the 2010 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship, takes on 11th-seed Old Dominion (26-8 and the Colonial Athletic Association champion) Thursday (March 18) at 11:25 a.m. CDT (12:25 p.m. EDT) in a first-round game in New Orleans, La., at the New Orleans Arena (capacity 17,188), based on NCAA pairings released tonight. If Notre Dame advances, the Irish Saturday would take on the Baylor (#3 seed at 25-7)-Sam Houston State (#14 seed at 25-7) winner in a second-round matchup.
The other games played in New Orleans feed into the East Region: top-seeded Kentucky (32-2) vs. 16th seed East Tennessee State (20-14) and eighth-seeded Texas (24-9) vs. #9 Wake Forest (19-10). The top six seeds in the South are #1 Duke (29-5), #2 Villanova (24-7), #3 Baylor (25-7), #4 Purdue (27-5), #5 Texas A&M (23-9) and #6 Notre Dame.
The Irish previously have made five NCAA appearances in the Brey era:
- In 2008, the fifth-seeded Irish defeated #12 George Mason 68-50 in a first-round game in Denver, before losing a second-round contest 61-41 to #4 Washington State.
- In 2007, the sixth-seeded Irish dropped a first-round Midwest Region game in Spokane to 11th-seeded Winthrop.
- In 2003, the fifth-seeded Irish defeated Wisconsin-Milwaukee in an NCAA first-round game and fourth-seeded Illinois in a second-round matchup (both in Indianapolis) before falling in a West Regional semifinal to top-seeded Arizona in Anaheim, Calif.
- In 2002, the eighth-seeded Irish men defeated Charlotte in the first round in Greenville, S.C., before falling to top-seeded Duke in the second round.
- In 2001, sixth-seeded Notre Dame defeated Xavier in the first round in Kansas City, Mo., before dropping a second-round game to third-seeded Ole Miss.
Notre Dame’s men are making their sixth NCAA visit in the 10-season Mike Brey era and the 30th in school history (30-33 record). The Irish played in the NCAA Final Four 32 seasons ago in 1978.
The Irish are making their 11th straight postseason appearance (NIT in 2000, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2009). That’s the best streak in Notre Dame history in that category – besting the next best run of nine straight from 1973 through 1981 (one NIT, then eight straight NCAAs).
Notre Dame receives a very limited allotment of tickets for the NCAA men’s games in New Orleans, and there is no anticipation of any public sale. Tickets to the New Orleans games, as of Sunday night, were available through ncaa.com.
Notre Dame has never played a postseason game in New Orleans – but the Irish have played in the in-season Sugar Bowl Tournament in New Orleans in 1954-55, 1955-56, 1969-70, 1992-93 and 2001-02 (the Irish are 7-2 in that event, winning titles in ’54, ’55 and ’92).
The NCAA began seeding teams in its 1979 tournament – and in those previous 14 years in which the Irish have participated, here’s how they’ve done at the various levels (11-14 overall, 5-5 under Mike Brey):
1979 – 2-1 as #1
1980 – 0-1 as #4
1981 – 1-1 as #2
1985 – 1-1 as #7
1986 – 0-1 as #3
1987 – 1-1 as #5
1988 – 0-1 as #10
1989 – 1-1 as #9
1990 – 0-1 as #10
2001 – 1-1 as #6
2002 – 1-1 as #8
2003 – 2-1 as #5
2007 – 0-1 as #6
2008 – 1-1 as #5
Multiple appearances have been three times as a #5 (4-3), twice each as a #6 (1-2) and a #10 (0-2).
— ND —
An interview with:
BERNIE CAFARELLI: Welcome everybody who is here. We have in attendance Head Coach Mike Brey, senior, Luke Harangody, Ben Hansbrough, and Tory Jackson. What we’ll do is a Q & A first with Head Coach Mike Brey, then Luke Harangody, Ben, and Tory. We’ll take questions from those on the line first, then we have people who are here in attendance, and then we’ll take questions from them.
Q. Just wondering what you thought about the 6 seed? A lot of bracketologists had you guys a little lower than that. How do you feel about that? I don’t know if you saw any of it forthcoming a little bit?
COACH BREY: I told our guys they’re really to be congratulated on earning a 6. We thought it was a heck of a run that we finished with. It’s probably even better than we thought to earn a 6 seed. So I think it was really powerful how we finished. We’re really proud of that. I think it says a lot about what this group did to put us in that position.
Q. Can you talk about what the run does now for the tournament? Does it give you confidence? What is the key to the run you made?
COACH BREY: I think we’re a very confident team heading to New Orleans. A lot of momentum. Feel good about ourselves. You know, I think we’re a very confident team that can’t wait to play. I’m glad we play Thursday instead of Friday so we get back out on the court. We feel we’re playing pretty well.
Q. Calling about the style of play you guys have adopted and used so well here for are this front. Is this one of the better styles for the NCAA Tournament where things will be tight and everything will get close the farther you advance?
COACH BREY: I don’t know about that. I mean I just think it’s something that we’ve embraced and it’s really helped us. It’s been successful for us. It’s made us more efficient on the offensive end. It’s made us better defensively.
I think it’s something we truly have embraced. I think we’re prepared to play in a tournament format given how we play. But I think it is a style we really believe in because we’ve seen success with it.
Q. I’m curious if you might not have wanted to play on Friday given the impromptu road trip you guys had coming back from New York or you don’t think that’s going to have of much of an effect?
COACH BREY: I don’t think that has any effect. Our guys slept most of the way. Young bodies bounce back pretty quick. I think it was good for us to get pretty much two days away from the practice routine yesterday and today. We needed some rest playing three games, three exhausting games mentally and physically in New York. I think we got just the amount of rest to get back to practice tomorrow.
You know, this time of year when you see your name flash up and you’re in this bracket, that’s really refreshing in itself.
Q. I wanted to ask you I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to do much homework on ODU. Looks like a bit of a grinded out almost like a Pittsburgh. Your thoughts on your opponent at this point?
COACH BREY: Good comparison. Pittsburgh is a good comparison. I watched them play one time because you I wanted to watch Georgetown early in January. They beat Georgetown not at the Verizon Center but at McDonough Gym. Five players back, 10 of 11 guys back.
Their big guys are the guys they throw the ball into, rebounding the basketball, beat you up on the backboard. We’re basically playing a Big East team physically. Good athletic ability. Wanting to grind you, half court defense on the backboard and half court offense.
I told our guys this is the second time we’ve played the Colonial Champion. We played George Mason last time. They’re a lot better than the George Mason team we played, the Colonial Champion we played two years ago, no disrespect to George Mason, they’re much better. This is a team that’s played together longer. They’ve been the best team in their league all year and have backed it up.
Q. A couple keys then?
COACH BREY: Well, it’s Big East preparation. I like the fact that it’s Big East preparation. Hand to hand combat in the lane. Can we win the backboard challenge? We’re going to have to play a good post defense and help with our perimeter in there. Then on that other end be efficient offensively because they’re a team that is in very good position, so you have to move them around to get a good look.
Q. Just wondering if you could talk about the region as a whole?
COACH BREY: No, no. All I know is we’re in a mini tournament in New Orleans and Baylor and Sam Houston State are on the other side. We’ve got our hands full with the Big East game and Old Dominion. If we’re fortunate enough to win the New Orleans Open, we’ll have to come back on Saturday and beat the winner of Baylor and Sam Houston State. Very good teams. I don’t even know who else is in that region.
Q. Could there actually have been I don’t want to say benefits from losing Friday night? But you got off the court Saturday and it didn’t hurt your seed. Nobody got hurt Saturday because they didn’t play.
COACH BREY: You could make some argument. There is no question. We talked about Friday shoot around, if we could win on Friday, we had a chance to play for a championship. I told our guys, you know, I’ve always dreamed of our program playing on Saturday night in New York.
I still would have loved to have gotten there and dealt with the collateral damage today and tomorrow. You know, having said that, that did not happen. We were a little tired, I think, in the West Virginia game physically and mentally. So these two days I think will really help us be energized by practice tomorrow.
Q. When you were tired, where did you see that showing up? What parts of the game did you notice, okay, we’re not doing what we should?
COACH BREY: You know, maybe getting to a couple of loose balls that we got to the first two games. Just maybe getting to a few of those. Maybe a little bit of legs on our jumpshot, too. That’s probably where I thought we looked just a little bit fatigued because we invested so much to get Seton Hall. We invested so much in the Pittsburgh game.
Q. Your opening statement about the excitement of being a 6 seed?
COACH BREY: I think it’s a heck of an honor. We’ve been caught up in the midst of the run to finish the season. Obviously, we feel it’s a very good run. It it’s better than we thought inside the locker room to be rewarded with a 6 seed, very powerful.
Q. Can you talk about the nerves of being the second to the last team. You know you know you’re in, but is there a point where you’re like okay, what’s going on here?
COACH BREY: I was sitting next to Luke and Ben and Tory, and the only thing I said it got late and I said he what time does that NIT show come on, you know, just in case.
But if we didn’t have such a good finish, I would have been sweating more. But I felt very confident. And as all the 8 and 9s started to disappear, we started to think our body of work and our finish was better than we even thought.
Q. When you get to the final did you think maybe you were the 11 instead of a 6?
COACH BREY: I didn’t think we’d be an 11. But I started thinking 6, 7 range as the 8 and 9’s disappeared.
Q. You always talked about never taking an NCAA bid for granted. Can you cherish this season and this run given how far the team has come?
COACH BREY: Absolutely, Tom. For us, I was telling our staff. Like Arizona went 25 straight years until this year. They’re just flat out spoiled, their fans. That’s unbelievable. To be part of this thing, and it’s so hard to get to this thing. It’s very hard to get to it more now given the league that we play through to get there.
Fully aware of the decade before I got here. I told our guys about our history. To really cherish this and you know be proud of it. It is something you’ve really earned. And to finish like you finished to get into 6 seed range is I don’t know if that’s ever been done before. You know, to play from off the map two and a half weeks ago and really just an after thought, to a 6 seed is has got to be a little bit unprecedented in the history of finishes.
I’m really proud of our group. Again, I love the momentum we have heading into this next tournament.
Q. When you were leaving New York the other day did you think; okay, if we can get an 8 or a 9, we should be in good shape with that?
COACH BREY: I really thought we were in 8 or 9 range, yeah. I didn’t tell our team that. But as I talked with our staff that night after the guys left, I said don’t you think we’re in the 8 and 9 range at this point? Especially how well we played against West Virginia too. It was a great game, and everybody watched it.
But I don’t think I gave us enough credit for this run in the midst of what was going on. I was caught up in the middle of it. Certainly a 6 is a very powerful statement from the committee.
Q. Knowing that you’re going into the NCAA Tournament, how much did that make that ride much longer?
COACH BREY: We were flying. That was like, you know, the guys I’m sure it felt like 25 hours, but for the staff, it was no problem. It’s one of the great feelings is this weekend you know you’re getting in tonight. That’s a heck of a feeling in this business.
I’m in this business a long time. When you wake up this morning and you know you’re going to flash up there and you’re not sweating and you’re going to be part of it.
Q. You thought you were in the 8, 9 range, but now you’re a 6 and you have the opportunity to even get to a regional. You win your first game and then play a 3. How psychologically is that different than if you’re an 8 or 9?
COACH BREY: That’s a great point. I was thinking walking in here, I believe we’ve been two 5s, three 6s, and an 8, correct. And the five previous ones, again, we’ve always been the higher seed. We’ve been the up upset pick. I would say by noon tomorrow, we’ll be the upset pick again. Believe me, we will. But those other four times, both 5s, two of 6s and we’re 4 1 in first round games. I’m proud of that. Winthrop got us. And Winthrop deserved to get us. They were old and good, and older and better than us at that time. These guys were puppies when they beat us.
But we’ll be the upset pick tomorrow by noon. Those guys will hear it. All on our boys on ESPN. By noon, yeah, it will be by noon tomorrow.
Q. Go back to saying you were off the map and then all the way up to a 6 seed. Was there a game or a moment where you thought, man, we’re probably not going to make it? And what game did you say maybe we are going to make it?
COACH BREY: We lost to St. John’s at home. I was a little concerned because we’ve been so good here, and we kind of fought back. I thought I had it won when Abreu hit the shot on the baseline. The shot the kid hit on their bench was amazingly challenged. Tory was all over him. When that goes in, you’re wondering what’s in the cards for you. You fight like heck.
You’re concerned about your group’s psyche and everything, and you’re not sure about Luke coming back. And you’re wondering psyche, and you lost at home, and where are you going, what are you doing? That was one we were concerned about. You know, you’re wondering.
Then when we beat Pitt here, you know you felt the whole complexion of the locker room was different, you know. You can just feed off that energy, a group that believed a little bit. We still didn’t think we were going to have Luke back at that time. I’d say those two.
Q. Just talk about your reaction when you saw the 6 seed? Were you surprised at that?
Luke Harangody: I was. I think what Coach was talking about earlier, I thought we were in the 8 or 9 range, but to see us get a 6, that’s tremendous. It just goes towards what we did at the end of the season, what these guys did. It was fantastic to see us that high.
Q. After now you’ve got a chance to step back from New York, how do you think, where do you think you guys are in this sort of reintegration process where you’re coming off the bench? I mean, where is that now that you can take a step back and look at what you did in New York?
Luke Harangody: I think we’re great as a team, with myself coming back in the lineup, and myself getting back in there. Everyone’s used to it now. I’m used to the flow of the offense, and what we’re doing out there.
I didn’t think we had a problem with it. First game we came back against Marquette. The guys were more confident that Coach Brey knew what he was doing putting me back in the lineup. So with the confidence we have coming from New York, we can’t wait to play Thursday.
Q. Talk about what the feeling is for you personally to be there, as you said before going to the Big East, you said, hey, I may never get to play again. Now you’re at the dance. Obviously, it’s something you came back for your final year for to get to?
Luke Harangody: I’m ecstatic right now. I didn’t think you know a couple times during the year whether they’d make it to the tournament or not. Especially as a senior, it’s a great feeling to see your name pop up on the board on Selection Sunday. It’s an amazing feeling. I couldn’t be happier.
For the seniors on this team, for us to go out with three out of four NCAA Tournaments, that’s tremendous.
Q. I think you can an analogize the way you guys played as wait a lot of teams advanced in the NCAA Tournament just kind of stunning the other team with the Pace of play at least how you guys are playing now. Was there something gained from playing that way in a tournament atmosphere specifically in New York? Do you think you can directly translate the effectiveness of the burn offense and everything to the NCAA Tournament?
Luke Harangody: Yeah, I think the way we went in New York with the mentality of the burn easily can be crossed over into the NCAA Tournament. It’s a great way to go about it. As you said before, a lot of teams in the NCAA Tournament have gone about something like this. It worked great in New York. We were able to slow ourselves down, make great decisions and continue to play day to day. I think it’s just given guys on the team a lot of confidence for the way they played. It’s allowed guys to slow down and make better decisions.
Q. Can you comment on the bus ride back and what that was like?
Luke Harangody: At first a couple guys on the team thought it was a joke. I think everyone was in shock when they heard a 12, 13 hour bus ride home from New York. I’ve never been in a car longer than five hours. It was interesting.
We made the best of it though. We played cards, watched movies and kind of bonded if you want to say that.
Q. How much easier was it that you won 6 out of the last 7 rather than wondering whether you were in or not?
Luke Harangody: Yeah, if we’re coming home on that bus after losing the Big East Tournament knowing we’re going to the NIT tournament, it’s a little different trip home. But Coach talked about it earlier, knowing that you’re in the tournament makes it that much easier taking that bus trip.
Q. I guess your emotion is tested when you’re the second to last team selected as well. What was going through your mind? Were you almost wondering what the heck’s going on?
Luke Harangody: You start wondering. Me and Ben, Tim Andree were joking around a little bit. We were starting to get nervous. We were just glad to see our name pop up on the board. We were excited.
Q. Is there a point where you (no microphone)?
Luke Harangody: I think the time that Coach Brey talked about it. St. John’s loss at home, a place we rarely lose, you start to look at the games we have coming up. It’s going to be a tough stretch.
And I think for me when I saw it, I think this group was against Louisville on how they played down there. I think they started to get confidence. They came home to face a tough Pittsburgh team and got that win in there. And I think they started thinking, hey, we can play with anybody.
Q. Are you 100%? Are you focused?
Luke Harangody: No comment (laughing).
Q. Are you heal knee in terms of where you were against Marquette and where you are at the end of the tournament? What is your conditioning level?
Luke Harangody: It’s getting better every day. Every practice it’s getting a lot better. From Marquette to Seton Hall, I think I noticed a huge difference. But then again, playing three games in three days probably wasn’t the best for me where my conditioning was at.
I think everybody on the team was a little tired. Myself personally, my legs were starting to feel it by day two. So to have a week off or two days off is great. Hopefully I’ll be back in the shape I was before I got injured Thursday.
Q. In terms of the mental aspect of where you were then in terms of the confidence you had in the knee and everything else to after going through the wars the last two weeks?
Luke Harangody: Yeah, getting back in there again, against Marquette I was a little nervous. I hadn’t been out there in a while. But mentally now I’m 100%. It just goes back to me getting used to my game again. Doing the things I could do before I got injured and before I took four weeks off.
Q. What is it about the NCAA Tournament that you still remember from the last time as far as the atmosphere and everything else that’s happening?
Luke Harangody: It starts today. Getting with the guys and watching the selection show. It’s one of the biggest things you’re going to look back 20 years down the road and remember. You get to New Orleans, the atmosphere is tremendous. You have that open practice. Guys are excited. You’re the talk of the town. It’s the great place to be especially for a senior.
Q. What did you learn about those guys on the bus?
Luke Harangody: You could learn there are a lot of guys that could easily sleep in any environment. Jon Peoples slept 12 of the 13 hours of the entire trip, so that was pretty impressive. But I learned some guys on the team can really cheat at Cards. But that’s about it.
Q. Was there a point where you wanted to get off and fly home?
Luke Harangody: I was ready to take the bumpy plane ride from step one. But I think we made the right decision getting out of there when we could. We wanted to get back here today and get another day of rest. But there was no prouder moment last night at 1:30 in the morning when we pulled back into South Bend.
Q. How do you think the way you guys are playing right now, the style, the burn offense helps being an equalizer in a tournament setting?
Ben Hansbrough: Well, I think one of the things it’s done and will continue to do in the tournament is we have controlled the tempo of the game. Slowed the game down a lot. You look at how long we have the ball 28 minutes compared to our opponents, 12 minutes.
We’ve really been controlling the ball, making great decisions. It’s almost like we’re comparing our decision making to theirs in a way, with us leading the country in assists to turnover, I think that gives us the advantage. With the decision makers we have on the team and the people that have the ability to make shots like we do.
I just think it’s almost like we’re saying well, make better decisions than we are, and I think that’s how we get on our six game win streak, and we were able to beat West Virginia.
Q. Can you just talk about what the run did as far as confidence wise. The fact that most of you thought 8, 9 feet, now you’re a 6. What’s that mean to you guys?
Ben Hansbrough: It’s huge for us. At one point we were 6 and 8. And the last league game we lost was Louisville. I believe that’s right. Now we’re 10 8 right now. We ended up 10 8. We won two games in the Big East Tournament. I just feel like we can beat anybody in the country right now. West Virginia has proven they’re one of the elite teams in the country. They almost got a 1 seed, and we were right there.
I think the way we play, we can beat anybody in the country. And I think we kind of proved that and it got us to where we were. I mean, we were not even in the tournament and all of a sudden being a 6 seed in the matter of three weeks, two and a half weeks stuff like that? It really bounced us back and got our confidence going.
Q. Is that charted?
Ben Hansbrough: No, no, that wasn’t charted. But I’m guessing off the top of my head. Especially with the way Big East teams play. They’re used to coming down and trying to get a run and gun style. You do that, well, now we’re going to make you guard us. 27, 28 seconds whatever it is. And we may control the ball and have more possessions than they do.
Q. I asked Luke, are you the type that has never allowed yourself to think we’re not going to make the tournament?
Ben Hansbrough: Obviously you think about that, especially when you’re 6 and 8 you think about the long run. And that may be what helped us make our run. We had our backs up against the wall. We knew what we had to do. And we faced a little adversity and we made a change.
Q. Do you remember what game it was when you felt like you were over the hump?
Ben Hansbrough: I think it was Louisville. We should have beat Louisville, we really should have. Are we were right there. Then after that game we just kept on building and building and building. We took one of the toughest places in the country to win, Freedom Hall, to double overtime. We were right there. We should have beat them, but I think that was one of the changing games.
Q. Was that considered a good loss because your team came out motivated?
COACH BREY: Yeah, I’m not sure it was a good loss. But it definitely proved something mentally for ourselves.
Q. What did you see in the locker room after you got back from Louisville that had changed because you were able to hang with Louisville and take them into double overtime in Freedom Hall?
Ben Hansbrough: I’m not sure much in the locker room changed, but as far as on the court went, a lot of people can say, okay, well, our season’s done. I’m just going to try to get mine. Now it’s all about me. That’s not something this team did. We went to the spread offense, really shared the ball. We just tried to play together and get these W’s collectively.
Q. What did you enjoy most about the NCAA Tournament and wanting to get back after sitting out before?
Ben Hansbrough: The NCAA Tournament is what every college basketball player wants to make it to. We put ourselves in a great position and now, Like Coach Brey said, we just want to go like a little weekend tournament in New Orleans.
So we want to go there. It’s a heck of an atmosphere. It’s a blast to play in and probably the best atmosphere in college basketball that you can be around is the NCAA Tournament. So definitely looking forward to it.
Q. Can you be more positive coming from losing on Friday night, having that Saturday off and still not losing a seed out of it?
Ben Hansbrough: I don’t think so. I really would have loved to play for the Big East Championship, so I don’t take any positives out of it. But Coach Brey does a great job getting us rest anyway. We’ve got Dr. Jerry, the chiropractor who is really good with us. Getting our legs under us. He’s done a great job with that. This team’s got a lot of heart. So I think we would have been ready regardless.
Q. In terms of struggling early, late in the run and early in the tournament, yet how did you mask what the fatigue really did to you and still come out and play well against West Virginia?
Ben Hansbrough: Like I said, I think our hearts weren’t really tired, so we kept battling through and fighting. It wasn’t about fatigue, it was more about will. And that ultimately led us to, you know, having a chance to beat West Virginia, the 6th ranked team in the country.
Q. Talk about getting a 6 seed after this run, and how much do you think it speaks to what you guys did in such a short period of time?
Tory Jackson: It’s an honor to have a 6 seed, especially with what we’ve been through early in the season. We had our ups and downs. But we did a great job of not giving up and just continuing to fight and play the season out. We’ve been blessed with a 6 seed.
Q. How do you see the pace you guys are playing at, the burn offense, et cetera, being an equalizer for you guys if maybe you can keep close to West Virginia for the entire game?
Tory Jackson: I love the offense we have. The offense we’re playing right now. Just because it helps us, especially us guards, Hansbrough and I make better decisions.
If we’re not going 100 miles per hour, we’re not making too many mistakes. So it just helps us slow down and see the game a lot better. It gets us great possessions every time. So this offense has been a key for us.
Q. You said you love this offense, but you probably liked the other one, too. When you do the opportunity do you savor those moments a little bit more? Do you put your head down and go for it a little bit more?
Tory Jackson: When you win it, it doesn’t matter what offense you’re playing. You’ll be playing the elementary swing and shoot offense, whatever, and just be scoring like crazy. If you win it, if that’s what it takes to win, you’ll love any offense.
The offense we’re playing now really helps our team. We do take advantage of those fast breaks that we do have. We do an excellent job executing on them. The other day we didn’t do a good job especially myself on finishing in the fast break. When they come they do a great job finding a person and knocking down open shots. But the burn offense has been key for us.
Q. As competitive as you are, did you reach a point where you thought you weren’t going to make the NCAA Tournament?
Tory Jackson: I’m a positive guy. I try to stay as positive as I can. I try to let my team know that I have a chance every time. But when I’m at home in my apartment I may look at the wall and think, man, we’ve got a long way to go. We try not to show the team that. But especially a senior leader, if they see that, that he’s down and he’s not positive about things, really don’t know how things are going to go and how they’re going to play out, they kind of give up.
So I think it really helped that we had great senior leadership this year. The younger guys saw positive things and they continued to work, too.
Q. Was there a game you thought in general that you proved your right to be in the tournament?
Tory Jackson: There was a game in the streak where I thought things changed. That was the big thing for us. The Louisville game they mentioned it before, Hansbrough and Harangody, that game was key for us. Coach Brey wanted to use that burn in that game whether Harangody was playing or not.
So going into that game, that was our first time testing that out. It was awesome for us. I really thought that was a key turn around right there. And to play in that type of environment and have a chance to win at the end, who knows if we got a shot up at the end, anything could have happened. We could have gotten fouled, won the game. Anything could have happened we just couldn’t get the shot off. That was a key, key turn around for us, and we just continued to build from there.
Q. Talk about how the offense treated you physically, in terms of is it more demanding the things are centered around you, or was it more wide open, up and down, more demanding physically?
Tory Jackson: It may seem like it’s centered around me, but to tell you the truth, there’s five guys out there on the floor. It’s centered around all five of them. Anybody can create. When you’re moving the ball around. If you’ve got a wide open shot, you take it. It’s centered around everybody. When we throw it in the post if he’s one on one, take it. It’s us, you know. Just be patient, be smart. If you’ve got it, you’ve got it. We’re just being better with our decision making as a team as one. I think that’s what helps the most.
Q. But is it more physically demanding than earlier or is it less?
Tory Jackson: Yeah, I think it helped save me. It helped save me. It helped save the team. It helped save all of us just because it’s not asking too much. It’s not asking you to go run, get down, score 30 points. It’s a balance scoring every time you see it. You’re getting help from everywhere, every position. I think it’s less demanding on all of us.
Q. And you’re not off the floor very often. So how did you hold on night three compared to night one?
Tory Jackson: I’m a 22 year old kid, man. I’m a 22 year old kid. I’m not 49 or 50 years old playing this game. I’m going to continue to play while I can. I’ve got the legs God blessed me with, just me breathing. So as long as I’m playing, I’ve got the opportunity to play, I’m going to go out there why not play 40 minutes every night?
Q. What was going through your mind when every other school’s name was coming up?
Tory Jackson: To be honest, if I would have took off my shirt and squeezed it out, I probably could have filled a bucket. There was a lot of sweat. I was sweating like crazy.
But it kind of helped me out, too. Just because you see all the 8 and 9 seeds go, and it was kind of like, man, the body of work we did for each other, especially towards the end. It showed, and you’ve just got to be thankful for it. Especially in this league.
Q. Does this last 36 hours with the long drive back, and having to sweat it all out during the selection show?
Tory Jackson: Yeah, the selection show was very exhausting. The bus ride was the fun part. I was very excited. You can ask the guys I’m the one that hates flying, so when they said we have to take a bus ride I was like yeah, yeah, and slapping fives. And everybody was jealous and all upset.
But I was the one smiling. I thought it was hilarious. But I was laughing at everyone. Yeah, you’ve got to ride, baby. I thought it was funny.
Q. When you guys talked the last couple of days on the bus, were guys talking maybe a 9, 10, possibly a 7?
Tory Jackson: To tell you the truth we were on that bus ride 12 hours, not once did I hear anything about us talking about seeding and everything. We talked about throwing wet tissue balls at somebody’s head or spitting gum at somebody. We had fun.
It was a fun ride. That’s how we connect as a team, you know. We teased each other. We played around with each other. We had fun. We don’t stress out about all that other stuff. We’re here, we’re kids. We let the coaches stress out. That’s their job. We’re just out here playing, having fun and doing our thing. Like I said, our coaches do a great job of taking the pressure off of us.
Q. New Orleans warm enough for you?
Tory Jackson: Warmer than South Bend. Anything’s warmer than South Bend right now. I love South Bend, but I’m probably going to love New Orleans a lot more. I’ve got family out there, so it will be exciting.
Q. Coach talked about you being a leader of this team and the guys in the locker room even when things are going bad. To get to this point, is there a certain satisfaction that you’re one of the main guys that helped pick this team up to get where you are?
Tory Jackson: I’m very happy to where we are. To be a senior captain, I didn’t do this alone. The coaches did a good job of helping me out. So whatever they said about me being a great voice and everything, like it started with then, too. I think we have a great group ask a great staff like that around me: Coach Balanis, Coach Solomon, Coach Ingelsby, and Coach Brey himself. All those guys helping me. All those guys around us to help us out.
It’s a lot of positive thought. It doesn’t start with me. I’m just one out there doing what coach is doing. To me, I’m the point guard. I am a point guard in the locker room, point guard on the floor. I’m a general out there and trying to be the coach on the floor sometimes and just help out.
If I have to be positive or if I don’t have to score, if I have to pump everybody up and don’t score a bucket, that’s what I’m going to do. If I have to lead by example, that’s what I’m going to do. I think that is the key thing about it and what satisfies me most. Where we are now it took a lot and I’m just thankful.
Q. With all of your brothers and sisters will you have a car trip like that bus drive?
Tory Jackson: Yeah, man. It reminded me of the old days. The old school days when I was a baby. All the family just piled up in the old big body van and just crack jokes on each other. All the brothers would be beating each other. The sisters get the front. They’d get teased for being just spoiled all the time, and the boys would have fun with each other.
We teased the coaches on the bus. We cracked a lot of jokes on the coaches. Just talking about Coach impersonating him was hilarious, like the things he does. So we had a lot of fun with that.
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