March 17, 2010
Q. Can you talk about your role now coming off the bench, if you’re enjoying it or not?
Luke Harangody: I’m definitely enjoying it. Through the course of the season when I went down, I thought my career with Notre Dame may be over. So to get back on the court again, starting, coming off being the sixth man, it’s great. I’ve accepted the role. You know, I think I’m really taking what I can do for this team. I’ll do anything.
Q. When you guys made the switch, when Luke went out, how difficult was it for you guys from a mental standpoint preparing? You had to change the whole game?
Tory Jackson: I think it was tough the first day knowing that he wasn’t going to play. Knowing he wasn’t going to be out there. We don’t have that power, you know what I’m saying, down there. So it was tough. But I think we did a great job of adjusting.
We have a group of older guys, so that was easy, you know what I’m saying? The guys understood. They knew you take some punches like that throughout the season. So you can’t dwell on it.
I think we did a good job of just sticking together. Coming as one. Everybody’s doing everything. Everybody’s doing the little things.
Q. Did Coach Brey have a hard sell for you guys? How did he present that to you guys? And I guess both of you, if you will.
Tory Jackson: I think he just did a good job of keeping it simple for us. Keeping it simple. He didn’t put any pressure on anybody. The offense that he put in, that slow offense, it gave everybody an opportunity to make a move or to do something, but let it be an open opportunity or open shot or whatever.
Just make sure it’s a great shot every time. You continue to play defense on the other end. You can do whatever on the offensive end, just be smart.
Luke Harangody: Yeah, as we were going, I think we were on the road at Louisville, and Coach Brey started to bring this up. Whether I was going to come back or not, we were going to implement this kind of burn offense. Kind of just changed things up a little bit from what we’d done in the past.
As Tory said, he really didn’t put any pressure on us, we just had to go for it right now. Nothing could hurt us right now. We’re on the road, playing a tough team. We put it in and it worked great that night. We did lose in double overtime, but I think guys started to see what it could do for us.
Q. Talk about after making that NIT run last year, this is the next step, obviously, to get to the NCAA Tournament. Do you feel like that postseason experience last year helped you guys coming into this weekend?
Luke Harangody: Yeah, I do. Last year our team making it to the Final Four, it was a big deal. But me and Tory have also been in this position in the NCAA Tournament freshman and sophomore year. We’re used to being here. We’ve made it to the round of 32 before. So we felt what it felt like to be there. So this is not new to us. We know this feeling and what we have to do to get it done.
Tory Jackson: Like Luke said, we’ve been here before. We also have a transfer in Ben Hansbrough that understands the game. So you have three older guys in the lineup that being here, that understands what it takes to win at this level. We’ve got older guys that were here when we made the NCAA Tournament. So they understand what it takes to get here. You just have to be focused and you have to take care of business night in and night out.
Q. What was your first reaction to the different offense? To the new offense when you found out that was the way you were going to be playing?
Tory Jackson: I was quiet, man. I was quiet. I’m not going to lie. It was just I’ve been here three years. This is my fourth year here. So to go from that, the fast paced on offense, to Phoenix Suns type offense, just run and gun, it was different. It was a different pace.
But I really think it made us a better team. The slow down offense really helped me as a player. I’ve never seen where a coach like can create something like that late in the season like that and it works, and it works. That goes to show you how great of a coaching staff he has, and how great we are as student athletes to be able to take that, understand it and work it and do it well.
Q. How does it feel — what did it feel like when you went from a team that was supposedly on the bubble, Luke goes down, to a 6 seed team. Were you expecting a higher seed? Was it a surprise for both of you guys?
Luke Harangody: We saw the 6 seed pop up. We were expecting around somewhere between 8 and 9, so we were very happy to see that. Coach talked about it. It’s a great compliment to how we finished up the season and the run we went on. Especially went into tough road games and in the BIG EAST Tournament as well.
Tory Jackson: Like he said, it showed how strong our run was. It also showed the toughness of our conference. You go on a run like that in our conference, you get rewarded this way. You get rewarded this way. And I think we still got a chance to build and take that momentum that we had going into this and keep rolling.
Q. Will you be glad when you step away from this type of offense?
Tory Jackson: No, no, no (smiling). Anything Coach Brey throws at me, I’m very excited to have. If Coach Brey was an NBA coach, and I know he would probably make a push to give me to make a trade just because our relationship is very, very strong.
I love him. I love everything he does. Anything he does, any choice he makes. The bus ride home the other day, he made that choice. I loved it. So anything he does I’m agreeing with 100 percent.
Q. Can you talk about the decision to come back for your senior year ask how tough it was?
Luke Harangody: Yeah, before the season going through the whole draft process, when it came down to it, I went down as far as I could to make the decision. It was tough, I’m not going to lie.
But the fact to come back one more year to play with this group of guys I’ve been with for four years, it was an easy sell. I wanted my senior year back. I knew 10, 15 years down the road I was going to look back and say, man, I should have came back to be with these guys one more year at Notre Dame. I’m very happy I stayed. I wouldn’t change it for anything.
Q. You talked about how whatever Coach Brey does you’re 100 percent?
Tory Jackson: Yeah.
Q. How did he win such total support from you?
Tory Jackson: He won it a long time ago. During the recruiting process the things he showed me, even watching back then when I was in high school, I always paid attention to how he communicated to his players, how close he was to his players.
He was a guard back in the day. So I’ve seen a few film clips of him, so I don’t want to talk about how old school he was back in the day, but he was the man. So just watching him back in the day I knew we’d have a great relationship.
I think it exceeded what I expected coming in here. I love him like a father, and I think that’s why we gel so much. That’s why I understand what he wants as a team, as a point guard. As his point guard, I understand what he wants.
Q. What school was he playing for in the film clips?
Tory Jackson: I saw some old high school clips. Yeah, I don’t want to talk about that, though. Because he was the old shorts, the short shorts back in the day. It was like the size of my tights now. So he was old school. He was handling the ball like crazy though. He was the man.
Q. Does he talk much about where he played college basketball, and do you know where he played?
Tory Jackson: No, he doesn’t mention that at all. He doesn’t mention that at all. I don’t think he wants to especially how my post up game would be towards him. If he ever mentioned college basketball and us going one on one with each other, you know, he might have to break out the old shorts so he can prove me wrong (smiling).
Q. Neither of you know where he played?
Luke Harangody: He played at George Washington.
Q. Before that?
Luke Harangody: Somewhere down here (smiling).
Tory Jackson: Somewhere down here (laughing). Somewhere.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll start with Head Coach Mike Brey. Few thoughts on your preparations coming to New Orleans, how the practice has gone, and then we’ll take some questions.
COACH BREY: We’re thrilled to be in this tournament. You know, you can’t take this for granted to be part of this. And our senior class, you just talked to some of them. To go three out of four years is very powerful.
We feel we’re playing pretty well at the right time. We’ve won six of seven. We’ve gotten into a good rhythm at the right time of the year. Our preparation for Old Dominion is like preparing for a BIG EAST game because they are built and they are old, and they’re physical like the BIG EAST teams we’ve just had to play 21 games against.
Q. For those of us who haven’t been as close to your program as some of the guys here, would you walk us through the deliberations and the anxieties that, when Luke went down, how did you come to pass with this new burn offense?
COACH BREY: Well, he goes down against Seton Hall February 11th. He kind of tries to talk us into — he misses the St. John’s game that weekend. We lose and we’re going to Louisville, and he has myself, the trainer, and everybody talked into that he’s going to be able to come back.
At that point we’ve lost a couple. Our backs are against the wall a little bit, and he we thought he was coming back. We talked as a staff, and I thought about it a lot. Even last year I thought about it a lot, slowing down offensively. Our league has become so fast, and we’ve added more fast teams with the expansion of the league it cuts against a little bit how we play, because we’ve been one of the leading scoring teams in the league through my tenure. But to survive, I felt we had to try to do something different.
So going into the Louisville game, we thought we were going to have him back. We talked about burning clock and slower possessions and being, I guess you could say, overly patient would be a way of also talking about burn.
Well, then in the shootaround in the Louisville game, he can’t go. So we move forward with that. It’s pretty productive for us. We lose in double overtime there.
But that was a little bit of a moral victory for us, and we needed one at that point; that we played and competed against a pretty good team in a tough atmosphere without him. We had the bye weekend to kind of keep working on what we were doing offensively.
At that point it looked very slim that Luke would ever come back. We kind of started to prepare that way. Just didn’t look like he was going to come back. Bone bruise was going to take too much time. Then winning against Pittsburgh playing that style I think was certainly a jump start for us.
We get on a nice run without him. Carleton Scott gets to start. There’s nothing like starting for a young player to give him even more confidence. Tyrone Nash becomes more of the focus in the low post. I think that made him more confident.
Then he gets a second opinion, and now we’ve got him coming back. Well, I never wanted to announce that he was done for the year, because I always thought something would come out of left field, and it did. The tricky part was getting him back into the mix in Milwaukee or do we do it in Milwaukee? Do we wait ’til New York? I went back and forth on it.
He practiced two days before Milwaukee, looked good, and we decided to move forward with it. But I think it had to be made clear to our young front line that they’re still starting. In our team meeting Friday night I said: You guys are starting. Luke’s coming off the bench. We need him now to move forward tomorrow against Marquette and in the postseason.
I think it says a lot about Luke Harangody as far as with all he’s done for our program to say, Coach, you know, a week ago I didn’t know if I’d ever play for Notre Dame again. I just want to help the team. Let me come off the bench and do what I can do.
I think it says a lot, and that’s been very powerful, too.
Q. For the game tomorrow you expect everything to continue as it’s been with Luke coming off the bench? I know he’s been playing about 25 minutes a game. Do you think he’ll get to a point where he can go 30 to 35?
COACH BREY: I think we’re open to that. You kind of see how the game goes. But as far as bringing him off the bench, that’s our plan to keep going that way. He played 24 to 25 three nights in a row. I think that took a little bit of a toll on him.
But practice was good these last couple days because it’s getting him back into a rhythm. So kind of play it by ear and see. We’re open to anything. But that seems to be a good segment of time for him, 24 or 25 minutes.
Q. (Winning) 6 of 7 would suggest that you’re playing pretty good basketball. Are you the best that you’ve been this season the way that you’re implementing your team right now with Luke coming off the bench?
COACH BREY: Yeah, I do think we’re at our best right now. I think we’re pretty confident. We feel we’re playing well. I was excited that we played Thursday instead of Friday. I want to get back on the court right away and play.
So I think we come here in a very good frame of mind. We know we’ve got a heck of a challenge, and we prepared for Old Dominion like they’re a BIG EAST team. They’re old, they’ve been around. I tried to make the comparison.
We played the Colonial champion two years ago in Denver. In all due respect to George Mason, I mentioned to our guys, they’re much better than George Mason. They’ve led from start to finish. They’re old, they’re built to make a run this year. So we’ve got our hands full tomorrow.
Q. Can you talk about when you changed the offense, how much convincing did it take for all these guys to buy into it? It’s such a dramatic difference?
COACH BREY: It’s a dramatic difference. But when you’ve lost a couple in a row and you’re up against the wall, I think you have a more open audience, so to speak.
Really the key for us to sell that is Tory Jackson. Tory is one of the best leaders, if not the best I’ve been around in 25 years of coaching. And he really runs our locker room and runs our group.
And he has sold my message, really, for the last three years when I’m not around. No matter what that message would be: rebound, defend more, play harder, whatever. He has always emphasized that. So I think he was really a key.
You know, you just can’t make that change unless you have guys that are really good with the ball. We’ve led the nation in assists to turnovers the whole season. And if you’re going to make more passes every possession and throughout 40 minutes, you’ve got to have guys that can do that, and big guys that can do that.
We’re fortunate that all of our guys can really handle the basketball. Then in low shot clock situations we have (Ben) Hansbrough and Jackson that can do things at the end of a clock.
But Tory was very much a key selling it. Winning sold the rest of it.
Q. Tory talked about how close he feels with you. He called you a father figure. Said whatever decision you make he’s 100 percent with it. Why do you think you two bonded?
COACH BREY: You know what, I’ve been coaching and I’ve had a bunch of point guards, and I’ve always been so connected to my point guards. I’ve used them to talk to the team, even starting back with a guy by the name of Tyrone Perry from the Tidewater Warwick High School, not far from Old Dominion in Delaware. First guy I ever recruited.
But Tory, personality wise, energy wise, I think there is maybe a stronger connection than maybe some of the other guys I have. Of course I have Martin Ingelsby on my staff. I felt the same way about him when he ran my team. But he’s our energy, our heart and soul on a daily basis. He’s our voice.
I do shudder to think sometimes next year in practice when his voice isn’t around. I think of that this time of year. But, you know, he comes from a very violent area in Saginaw and it’s one of fourteen children, and he’s got a great family that’s kept him on a heck of a path.
But I just think it’s a connection of two guys that meet each other. He can finish my sentences. That’s how good he is now. I start something, he finishes it. And I’ve really had that for three years. So it’s really powerful when you have a guy of his presence selling your stuff in the locker room.
Q. What got you to Natchitoches, Louisiana, to play college ball? What do you remember about your days there?
COACH BREY: Yeah, I got mononucleosis my senior year at DeMatha. And the only offers I had were the University of Vermont and Northwestern State up the road. Tynes Hildebrand was the coach. And I visited there in March and it was really good weather. And I didn’t want to go to Vermont. I went down there. I liked the weather. And Coach Hildebrand and those guys took great care of me.
I spent three years there, and I always say if he wasn’t let go and I didn’t transfer back, maybe I’d be a high school coach in this state. That’s what I kind of thought I was on the track to be, a high school coach. My dad was a high school teacher and coach. I was around a family of educators.
But it was a great experience. ’77 to ’80. Good people. I still have a lot of friends down here. I certainly love the food, and it’s good to be back in this city and get some of it.
But I stay in very close touch with all those guys. That’s how it happened. A guy from Maryland ends up down there. And, you know, culture change, so on to speak. I did spend more time in South Louisiana than North Louisiana on my breaks. I found out you could have a heck of a lot more fun coming down into Lafayette. Scott, Louisiana, well, there are some good memories there, yeah (laughing).
Q. With the success from the burn offense, do you shelf it after the season? Do you put it into part of your repertoire next season? What is the future?
COACH BREY: That’s a great question. Somebody said how are you going to play next year? We’re going to play to win in this league. This league is survival now with what we’ve done and what we’ve added, it’s flat out survival to try to steal a bid.
I think what we’ve always done is try to evaluate our personnel. Certainly we have a lot of returning experienced guys. And we’ll do what we need to do to win in our league and get another NCAA Tournament bid. If that’s a combination of both, so be it.
I do think we’re built to play both ways. We’re good with the ball. We’ll have a young point guard next year, but he’ll be surrounded with a lot of veterans. Scott Martin comes back off an injury. He’s very talented.
I think we’ll be able to change gears. But I think this group understands we need to do what we have to do to win in the BIG EAST, and what the BIG EAST has become. So let’s revert to that, whatever it is.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports Old Dominion
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Gerald and Marsharee.
Q. I don’t know how much you know about Notre Dame, but you studied them. Just talk a little about the style they played early in the season versus this kind of slow down tempo that they’ve adopted in the last few games.
MARSHAREE NEELY: Well, we heard much about them. You know, it’s a well known team throughout the country over many years. But they play a style that I think we’re like very comfortable with in terms of the way they play and how slow they play and how smart they are on offense as well as defense.
It reminds us of a team in our conference named William & Mary. So we’re pretty comfortable and pretty knowledgeable of what they do.
GERALD LEE: Yeah, obviously they’ve been playing on TV a lot. So we’ve seen a lot of games from them. And we know a couple of their key players, like Harangody is the best player on the team. He scores a lot of rebounds. He’s basically the motor for that team. He gets things going.
Q. A lot of people are pointing to you guys as likely upset picks, basically. Is that a trap you guys have to avoid thinking? I mean, you guys probably want to play with a chip on your shoulder. How do you avoid hearing everybody say Notre Dame’s vulnerable to the upset here?
GERALD LEE: Well, people have been talking about us all season. We try not to pay too much attention to that because it’s only a distraction. We just try to go on the court and play our game.
MARSHAREE NEELY: Like Gerald said, it’s motivation hearing things like that. You tend to play with a chip on your shoulder, like you said. But that’s really big motivation. It keeps you going and keeping you thinking when times are rough during the game how everybody doubts you. You would do wrong, you would do bad in this game, you just pick it up to fight more.
Q. Not that you need more confidence after the way your season has gone. But to go in on the road and beat a team like Georgetown, a Big East team, does that help you heading in and playing another Big East team in the tournament?
GERALD LEE: Well, I think it helped us a lot. It gave us a lot of confidence that we can compete with any team in the country when we run our game and we do the things that we know how to do. Notre Dame beat Georgetown earlier this season. So they’re a very good team, too.
But we believe that we can beat anybody in the country when we’re on our game.
MARSHAREE NEELY: Just like Gerald said, it’s a big deal that they beat Georgetown as well as us, but like he said, I think we can compete with any team. It’s just a matter of our confidence and our heart.
Q. What, I guess, is the confidence level for you guys at this point? I mean, you go through the conference, win that conference tournament, win that. Do you come in feeling like you ought to be considered a threat to move on through here? Is there any do you feel like underdogs, I guess? Or do you feel you have as good a chance as anybody?
MARSHAREE NEELY: No, personally I don’t think we feel like underdogs, no. But underdogs are the teams you have to look out for. Those are the scary teams that have made big noise in tournaments such as this.
GERALD LEE: Yeah, I don’t think we like to think about those kind of things. We just go out there and play basketball. That’s what it’s all about. Just playing basketball.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll start with the Old Dominion head coach. Joined by Head Coach Blaine Taylor.
Coach, just a few thoughts coming into New Orleans, and how the preparation has gone? COACH TAYLOR: I just got done dropping Luke and those guys off at Bourbon Street for St. Patty’s day. Told them don’t miss the game tomorrow; it starts at 2:30 (laughing).
We’re happy to be here. We’ve been in postseason play the last six years, and this will be our third trip to the NCAA. Finals of the NIT. Last year we won the College Insider Tournament. Postseason play is something we expect to do. But obviously the NCAA Tournament casts a tall shadow. It’s such an exciting experience for me. It’s so fulfilling. These kids have put in a lot of work. Our school has been very committed to our program. So I just kind of just pleased for everybody to have this kind of experience.
But we’re not just happy to be here. Obviously, Notre Dame is thought to be one of the top 20, 30 teams in the country if you look at the seedings. The way they finished the season with a flurry, they have some high hopes in this tournament as well.
But I’d like to think it’s a pretty entertaining match up. When I saw the brackets I was excited to be able to stay in the south so some of our fans could have some access.
Obviously New Orleans is a city that’s been through a lot lately, but it’s one of those named cities that’s quite an experience for everybody to come and visit and attend a tournament like this.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Taylor.
Q. A lot of people have seen you guys as an upset favorite, if there is such a thing. How do you guard against that? How can you make sure your guys still play with a chip on their shoulder if people are saying they have a good chance here?
COACH TAYLOR: You’d like just to kind of sneak up on the whole deal. Yet in this day and age, there is so much more exposure anymore. People are more informed. We’re on television 20 plus times. So people get a chance to get a glimpse of you and then kind of respect maybe the schedule you play.
Our league is getting more respect all the time. We had one of the best league races that we’ve had in about 15 years. We weren’t in first place until the 18th game of the regular season race. So all that kind of adds up to where we’re fairly respected.
And I like that. I want our kids to have an expectation that it’s going to be a good game. They don’t beat themselves, we typically don’t beat ourselves. I’d like to think it’s going to be a really good contest.
But obviously they’re favored. The thing that I think about them as being a favorite is if you look at their senior class, I believe they’ve won more games than anybody in the history of Notre Dame basketball in their years. Then what happened to them at the end of the year when Luke got hurt, they showed they have a lot of other good players. Now they have kind of the best of both worlds where they got Luke back and they have all those kids with that much more confidence.
So it’s a program that’s been in postseason play. Has done well in postseason play. Mike’s been around the block. You know, this is my ninth NCAA Tournament at three different schools. But, you know, the kids are the ones that have to go out and play the game.
So I’d like to think it’s a good match up, but there’s a lot of good match ups in this tournament. You just kind of go down and go, boy, that one’s interesting, and that one’s interesting. I’d like to think this is one that will pique a lot of interest around the country.
Q. You talked about the end of the season. Could you talk about preparing for Notre Dame? They said they feel comfortable now with the slow down offense, but also picking it back up if the situation calls for it. How much do you try to balance preparing for the Notre Dame that they were the first 23, 24 games of the season, then the Notre Dame that they were the last six or seven?
COACH TAYLOR: Well, it was quite a departure from the way Mike has played over the years, and it was effective. So I think they probably have a mixed belief in being able to do both.
Now we pride ourselves in being able to play at different tempos. For instance, in our conference tournament, don’t quote me, but I think we scored nearly 90 in the first game, we were in the mid 70s the second game, I believe the third game was in the 60s.
So we’ve had to face some different styles this year playing the likes of Richmond or a William & Mary, Northeastern, some of those types that don’t play quite as fast. Then we’ve had the players that play racehorse basketball with the BCUs and the Missouris of the world. So I like to I think that we can adjust and play either way and be able to hang in there.
I don’t know, Mike would have to speak for himself, but he’s got such a good, experienced core of players. Part of the beauty of playing a little slower is it keeps those guys on the court more. Tory is so valuable at the point. And Luke, is he 100 percent healthy? I think so. I don’t know.
I would think Mike will probably find some middle ground tomorrow, but I’ve got enough problems coaching my team.
Q. Do you put any credence in Notre Dame’s first 25, 28 games? Or do you strictly scout them based on the last four to six games the way they’ve played?
COACH TAYLOR: Well, I kind of look at them through the course of those kids’ careers. I think you’ve got to look at Luke at his best moments when he was Big East Player of the Year. You look at what they’ve accomplished over that time, their style of play for the most part, was the last five or six games.
But when you get into the NCAA Tournament, people don’t press as much. It becomes more of a half court game at times. So I’m not so sure they’re a little bit of a blessing in disguise for Notre Dame. And we’ll have more focus, of course, the last half dozen games probably.
And you’ve got to give them a lot of credit, boy. They won on the road, they won in the tournament. They beat good people. Of course, they were blending Luke back in, and we’ll put more of a focus on on.
Q. Can you elaborate a little on why in the NCAA Tournament teams tend to press less and play more of a half court game?
COACH TAYLOR: Well, sometimes you’re just playing better people. So they’re not as vulnerable to being pressured, for one thing. You get into the half court because people are so good in transition defense and they’re so good on defense
So it just kind of takes away some of the “beat the people down the court” or “take the ball away from them” tactics because you’re getting to the creme de la creme of teams. You even saw some of the better pressing teams, unless they’re just completely committed to it, that are a little more cautious this time of year.
The other element is to play multiple games. In our league, for instance, we play on Wednesday and Saturday. So you treat every game as a single game.
Having been in this tournament before, when you play Thursday and you turn around and play Saturday or play Friday and turn around and play on Sunday, those second games, you see some real fatigued kids.
And part of that is not the physical part of it. Part of it is all the pomp and pageantry of today and all the excitement that surrounds it. Some of it is just an emotional drain. So I think sometimes that changes the tactics, too, because you have to make sure you have a reservoir of energy to compete at an elite level.
Q. We saw a lot of games last week in conference tournaments, close games at the end where a game would be tied or a one point game. The team defending may not guard the inbounds pass. They may not guard the guy throwing the ball in in that situation. They like to play all the guys on the floor. What is your philosophy on that? Do you guard the inbounds pass in that situation or does the situation dictate?
COACH TAYLOR: You talking on the in line or the full court?
Q. Either way.
COACH TAYLOR: I would not put a guy on the ball on the full court. I want the extra free safety back there so you don’t have a one on one situation. On the in line, we put somebody on the ball, but we don’t put them up on the ball. We put them protecting under the basket, so we can cover lay ups and get off the shooters off the screens.
Q. You’re carrying the banner for Old Dominion and the CAA. What do you want the nation to know about your team and your league after this weekend?
COACH TAYLOR: Well, we have a lot of pride in where we’re from. Our kids are an integral part of our campus community and our community at large. There are about 2 million people there and Hampton Roads and we’re the biggest school.
So there are a lot of people watching. But as you look around the country, one of the things that happens to us is we are on the East Coast. So there is the Midwest and the West that tune in to the TV and go, wow. There is some good basketball being played out there. Good players, good programs. They see our facility on TV sometimes and think wow, boy, these guys have it going on.
So probably more of an awareness of the quality that we have. And everybody is proud of where they’re from and what they represent, and we’re no less than anybody.
Q. Do you get a sense of Tory Jackson’s value to this team just based on on watching the handful of games that you’re scouting?
COACH TAYLOR: Well, as you do a little more research, it’s real easy to start talking about Notre Dame and Luke, and then you start talking about the others. But Tory, you go back into Big East history, he’s like fifth in the history of the league in assists. There’s some pretty good talent that’s been rolling through the Big East over the years.
He’s just been so solid, a start to finish guy. He’s capable of having bigger night scoring when needed, but he’s a guy that plays across the board. Stealing the ball, handling the ball, distributing the ball, boarding the ball, he does a lot of different things. He’s just a tough nut.
Q. Is there a team or teams in your league that you’ve played throughout the season that you go to your guys and say Notre Dame is like this team? How do you approach that?
COACH TAYLOR: Well, in a mild way, I think they’re a little bit like William & Mary, now, in that William & Mary will take a little time before they shoot the ball, which Notre Dame is currently doing. Very good three point shooting teams. So those two attributes. And a little more calculating defense, not breakneck pressure. So a little bit. But I’m always reluctant. These guys are like these guys. You can kind of say this flavor is like this flavor, but it’s not exactly the same ice cream.
Q. You’re in a league that could benefit if the field was expanded from 65 to 96 teams. What are your thoughts on that?
COACH TAYLOR: You know, I could be on the national advisory committee for postseason play, because we’ve been in the NCAA, the CBI, the CIT, the NIT, and what I’ve had to argue in all of those is there is enough good teams out there. We played in the CIT and won the championship last year. We played four 20 plus win teams that were very, very good. It just kind of made you scratch your head that there are people that have had really good years. Kids that deserve that kind of opportunity. Fans that can enjoy following it. So there is room.
Now does the NCAA expand? What happens to the NIT? What happens to these other tournaments? Half of college football goes to bowl games. We have 330 Division I basketball schools slugging rats, and right now we’re taking about a third of them.
So there is room, but what happens with the Masters? What happens with the calendar? Does it really benefit is it really going to benefit people the way they think if you’ve got byes and playing arounds and all that kind of stuff with the format. I’d have to see the format until I really agreed with it completely.
Q. You talked about Luke and Tory. But obviously Notre Dame has two other starting forwards now, Luke’s coming off the bench. What is different about those two? What do you tell your kids about those two to kind of try and prepare for guys who really don’t play like Harangody?
COACH TAYLOR: Well, some guys will screen and roll to the basket. Some guys will pick and pop. You know, I liken their front line a little bit to ours in that each of them kind of has their own game. For us, Frank Hassell plays way different than Gerald Lee. Gerald Lee plays way different than Keyon Carter. So there is a ying and yang how they fit together.
As Mike has put that team together, you have a guy that maybe shoots a few more threes. Another guy that carries good weight and gets to the basket more often. Luke kind of seems to do a bit of everything. So I think he has a nice mixture there. They’re not carbon copies of one another, and that’s probably why they fit together so good.
Q. Can you talk a little about where you were this time last year, CIT, to winning the league, winning the tournament and being in an NCAA Tournament this year?
COACH TAYLOR: As I said earlier, the NCAA Tournament is everybody’s first choice. Let’s face it, it’s the big magic act in March.
But those other tournaments are quality. It was a great experience for us. We were one of the youngest teams in the country last year. We got to the first part of January and we were kind of scrambling along, trying to get better. We finished with a flurry, and we finished in that tournament.
Now, that tournament, I think, gave our kids a little more experience and more ambition in the off season to be sitting right where we’re sitting right now. The thing is, we had a bullseye on our back. We were picked to win our league. We were the No. 1 seed in our tournament. So that tournament experience last year in the CIT kind of gave us the wherewithal to handle all of this stuff.
The biggest adjustment I told the kids first day, where we go with our heads will determine how far we go. And the reason we’re sitting here right now is those experiences we have handled in a real heady way, mentally comfortable with the challenge. Knowing we’re human, we make mistakes, but that we can measure up and do some pretty good things if all things fall into place.
Q. Notre Dame’s not a team that goes too deep into its bench very often. I’m not sure as a coach you try to do anything to exploit that in a game. Is that something are there things that you can do to try to make a team go down into its bench where it’s not comfortable?
COACH TAYLOR: I think in the NCAA Tournament you’re more vulnerable to probably fouls than fatigue because the timeouts are so long. You have all the TV timeouts and they’re long. It’s like taking a guy out of the game and putting him back in, those timeouts.
So a lot of times people will shorten their rotation a little bit in the NCAA Tournament because they don’t need to go to the 8th, 9th, 10th guy. That’ll be interesting what Mike decides to do. I’ve got to make some decisions, too, based on foul trouble, performance, and strategy.
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