Mike Brey and the Notre Dame basketball team will play in the first basketball event in the new Lucas Oil Stadium when they play Ohio State there on Dec. 6.

Men's Basketball Press Conference Transcript (March 16)

March 16, 2008

COACH BREY: We’re honored to earn a 5 seed. We’re excited. We understand that there are a lot of people that don’t get to play in these 64 teams. So for our guys, we understand that in George Mason you have a group that has remnants of a Final Four run, a team that knows how to win, and basically it’s like a BIG EAST game, preparing for this basketball team.

But we’re honored and thrilled to be playing in this thing. You count your blessings because basketball is a fragile thing, and to be back in it as a 5 seed, we feel good about it, and I told those guys today I thought it’s the best résumé any of my teams have obviously put together going into this thing as far as their regular season body of work.

Q. Congratulations, Coach. When you talk about remnants of their Final Four team, what are the remnants? What does that give them?

COACH BREY: I think it gives them confidence, there’s no question about it. I think it’s a confident group that certainly two years ago they were a magical story, and last year had a good year, came up a little bit short, and this year I think finished third in the regular season but got on a run in the tournament down there in Richmond to win it.

A very confident basketball team. You know, you watch enough basketball during the year, you catch everybody. I remember watching them play Villanova in Orlando in the Milk House Classic I believe it’s called, and I actually caught a game against Delaware, was just checking out my old school one night, and Delaware had a great win beat being them in overtime in Newark. Just happened to watch that.

So good defensive team, know how to play, rebound the ball well, but a group that’s played together and has won together for a while.

Q. Just a simple one from me. What do you want the message to be? You usually have a message you like to take to the guys. What will you talk about?

COACH BREY: Let it rip. We’re going to go to Denver and let it rip in the Rocky Mountains, have fun playing and going for it. We’re not holding back. I think that’s how this group has played most of the year, attacking and going for it, not playing safe, and certainly that’s how I want us to get out of the gate on Thursday.

Q. What do you hope they learned from last year?

COACH BREY: I just think the experience of being in the tournament. If you think about it, none of the kids that went to Spokane had really experienced the NCAA Tournament, the press conferences, just all of this that started really an hour and a half ago. And I think there is some experience curve to kind of be part of that.

Now we’ve got, you know, seniors, junior, sophomores, all have been part of this thing and understand it, and I think they’re a little more prepared to — I guess focus, maybe not get distracted by it. That would be maybe the biggest thing.

Q. What was your reaction to being sent west again, and when is the last time you’ve been in Denver under these circumstances?

COACH BREY: We’ve got Billy Hanzlik out here, and I spoke at his clinic a couple years ago, God, I want to say two, three years ago. He’s got a beautiful basketball facility which we’ll probably use to practice in. But I’ve got to get him on — my assistants have been talking to him throughout the evening.

We have a great Notre Dame contingent in Denver, and when I was out there at the clinic, the head of the alumni club was really putting pressure on me, wanted us to play Colorado in the Pepsi Center because we haven’t really been out there for anything. I think we’ll have a real good ND group out there watching us.

Q. I wondered if you could kind of expand on your team and how it’s come together since the loss in the BIG EAST tournament, just the general attitude as you get geared up for this second season.

COACH BREY: Well, nobody quit after the game Friday, so we’ve got everybody still here. I think for us we were very disappointed. We went in there wanting to advance and prepared like that. We ran into a heck of a basketball team in Marquette. But our group has been very resilient and has bounced back from things. This is a group that’s never lost two games in a row all year, so they obviously have resiliency and can move on and learn from experiences, whether it’s a win or a loss.

We’ve had very good practices Saturday and today, and again, once you wake up on selection Sunday and you know you’re getting a bid, man, you’ve got a lot of bounce in your step and you’re excited and ready to play the next season.

Q. This might be a question you’ve answered probably 100 times before, but the keys to that first round game, when you want to be mentally prepared, what are those keys?

COACH BREY: You know what, we’ve been 3 and 1 in first round games since I’ve been here, and probably the three we’ve won we’ve gotten out of the gate attacking offensively early in the game. And it’s probably not a coincidence that this team when it gets out of the gate like this offensively, it usually then has a pretty good rhythm throughout the game.

Q. Is a 5 seed kind of what you foresaw?

COACH BREY: Yeah, I didn’t want to get too caught up on all the bracketology and everything. Yeah, I thought we’d be in the 4 or 5 range. I think one of the tricky things the committee had was placing eight BIG EAST teams in this bracket so they don’t run into each other too soon. That’s probably part of it.

Again, I thought we’d be in the 4 or 5 range. If we were lower than that, I think I would have been a little surprised quite frankly. But looking at the 4 5 line, I don’t have any arguments. We’re thrilled to get out there and play.

Q. Do you know much about Mason?

COACH BREY: Yes, know Jim very well. He’s a good individual, one of the really well thought of guys even before he had the magical run with George Mason. Jim Larranaga is one of those lifers in this business who’s done it the right way, worked his way up, had a great run at Bowling Green.

As a matter of fact, he was very instrumental in recommending Anthony Solomon, my first assistant here, because Anthony was his assistant at Bowling Green. Jim is now in the Washington area. I run into him a lot.

When he was at Bowling Green and I was at Delaware we were both under Reebok contracts, and they took the coaches together and wives, and I got to know him very well there. But I think one of the really well thought of guys in the business, and he’s obviously had a great run at George Mason.

Q. You talked about experience. Kyle has none, so going through something like this…

COACH BREY: We’re not going to take him. We’re going to redshirt him and see if we can get him back for the postseason.

Q. What will you talk to him about experience as far as everything he has to handle going out there?

COACH BREY: For him I don’t want to overanalyze it. I think when you’ve played — I was more worried about his BIG EAST regular season résumé and how he got started in the BIG EAST than the NCAA Tournament. If you’ve played 18 games in our league and you’ve been a first team all league guy, quite frankly, my worrying did a lot of good because he only dropped 30 in the second BIG EAST game here. He was really nervous about that, huh?

I just think when you’ve played 18 and now you go 19 BIG EAST games in a lot of different atmospheres — certainly where when we go on the road the fans sometimes like to get on him a little bit. I think he’s really ready for this, and I just don’t want to analyze it too much. I just want him turned loose.

Q. You kind of joked that you were happy not to play another BIG EAST team and you were sort of analyzing (inaudible). Does that sort of help maintain that frame of mind?

COACH BREY: Yeah, I think because of their style of play and they’re tough kids, again, I haven’t really dug in and concentrated on them, but I’ve watched enough of them in a couple games, and I know their personnel, they’ve got tough kids. They’ve got some older kids and they’ve won together for a while. I think they’ve got good physicality, you know, and I think they’ve got physicality similar to a BIG EAST team. That’s probably why I made the comparison. I mentioned that over there in Legends. I was impressed with how physical they are on the front line.

Q. Did last year’s first round loss give you the motivation for this year?

COACH BREY: I think it’s probably a great motivating force for this group. As well as they did last year, they felt they left some unfinished business on the table in Spokane. Having said that, we know we lost to a very veteran team that had been to the tournament and tasted it a couple more times than us.

But I think after the regular season we’ve had and then most — this whole nucleus played in the NCAA Tournament last year and went through the practices and went through this week, I just think you’re more prepared now to be successful and maybe not wide eyed a little bit.

Q. The résumé this team has put together, what’s different from the one five years ago? You’ve played a difficult non conference schedule?

COACH BREY: I think so. Again, it probably doesn’t have the sexiness of all the top 10s in the early season run, but I think over the course of 18 league games and what’s happened in the BIG EAST, I just think this group probably has a better résumé overall than that team. That’s saying a lot. That team got to the Sweet 16 and had a great run in Indianapolis.

This team was more consistent in January and February than that group. You know, that group sputtered a little bit down the stretch in the regular season and lost in the first round of the BIG EAST tournament, as well. But I think the overall body of work, I think this group, having gone through an 18 game schedule and winning 14 of them, I think it makes them maybe a notch above as far as their résumé.

Q. (Inaudible.)

COACH BREY: Yeah, I don’t — I mean, probably. Maybe there was a little bit of a feeling that we should have been a higher seed, and that’s a mistake. I think I tried to talk to people around our program and certainly our players because there’s so much bracketology out there.

You know, we’re going to be honored whatever seed we get, and don’t get disappointed because somebody on TV has been saying you’re a lock to be a 4 and you end up a 6.

Maybe there was a little bit of that, you know, how come we’re not — and I think we’ve done a better job since we’ve come back from New York to say, look, here’s what I think, but whatever we get, we’re going to be there and we’re going to be ready to go.

Also that group really maybe didn’t know how to react. It’s the first time they’ve all been in the room together, and as much as I tried to talk to them about it, how do you react. It was great having our students there with us to do that. I thought that was good because you felt like you weren’t able to talk to them after the Syracuse game, and then the St. John’s game was during spring break and they were great for us. So we had a nice nucleus of people and we decided in New York that we’d do that, and I thought our marketing people did a good job and celebrated that.

Q. (Inaudible.)

COACH BREY: Well, I know him. You know him, you know Campbell, those guys. I mean, they’ve won together for a long time. They’re really, really good players. You know, he’s a heck of a basketball player. He basically took on Connecticut’s front line and everybody else’s front line for the month of March and did a pretty good job with it. Now, he had some other help, too.

That’s what I mean about the physicality and the maturity of a number of guys on their team, him being the most.

Q. (Inaudible.)

COACH BREY: Different team, different group. You know, certainly our guys respect and know what they did two years ago. But it’s a different nucleus and a different group, and I think you concentrate on that.

Quite frankly, you know, I think you’re at a time of year where you’re just not watching a whole lot of the opponent, and you’re more concentrating on yourself and being sharp. I don’t want to overdo it with our opponent.

Q. How do you go about coming out sharp, the way you want to do that because you haven’t played that often?

COACH BREY: You know what we’ve done with this group, we’ve scrimmaged a lot. These last few days we’ve played a lot of five on five, and really throughout the season part of our practice regimen to be to go a lot of five on five and let them play. It’s a group that loves playing together, still after probably today may have been the 90th some practice. It’s a great conditioner, and I think for this group it’s been better for me to coach them out of five on five and get them playing.

You know, I think it keeps you sharp because you’re getting up and down the floor for an hour, hour and 15 minutes, and you’re not standing around and walking through or doing a whole lot of breakdown drills. We’ll do a few, but more of it at this point is playing.

So I think we can simulate getting games in by tomorrow, just a lot of five on five. Tuesday and Wednesday we will — the open practice, one of the things I’ve always liked to do is go live. We may only get 30 minutes, I can’t remember, we were talking about that. It won’t be a lot of time. So we’ll have to go from a practice facility to the open practice, which is required.

A lot of people at the open practice kind of shoot a little bit and kind of walk through. We’re going to go live and get up and down that floor. I want to let them get a feel of playing on that floor for about 15, 20 minutes.

Q. And just take me through the schedule for the next 24 hours. How do you go about…

COACH BREY: Yeah, our assistants now, with our satellite, we probably have five tapes of George Mason. I checked with (assistant coach) Rod Balanis. We’ve got a lot of people taped. Our managers do a great job of taping throughout the season. They’re working on some things. One of them will have Mason, one of them will have Washington State and one of them will have Winthrop. We’ll get back together tonight about 10:30, spend about an hour and a half just talking about it.

I want to get out of here by midnight. We’ll get a good night’s rest and then we’ve got plenty of time tomorrow to get ready and we’d like to get to Denver to practice on Tuesday afternoon. That’s our hope if we can get travel squared away where we can get two practices out there in Denver.

Q. A few times this year you’ve had two games in three days. (Inaudible.)

COACH BREY: Yeah, I reference back to that. We’ve been pretty good on the Thursday Saturday swing. The first home stand with West Virginia and Connecticut, and there was another one, maybe Providence. We had two Thursday Saturdays here that were really good. So I think our guys — I would love to be able to simulate that rhythm again. That means we got the job done Thursday, and then our Friday preparation will be no different than how we prepared for a league game here between West Virginia and Connecticut.

Q. Can you talk about the eighth bid? You were thinking that would be…

COACH BREY: I’m thrilled.

Q. Do you think the payoff will be…

COACH BREY: I hope so. I said that before we went to the BIG EAST tournament. I’d say the majority of coaches complained about the 18 game schedule. But I think we’re going to have some good talking points, and I’m sure our commissioner will have them all lined up by the meetings in May, that 18 league games just kept the power of the league playing each other and dragging some people up there with us.

For example, you think about West Virginia’s game on Big Monday with Pittsburgh was their 17th league game, and that was a big win for them. You know, Syracuse had a great crack at Marquette the last game of the season. They didn’t do enough then in New York, but there were more shots for the guys on the bubble to get shots at the guys already in. So we dragged ourselves up in there, and we certainly did that in New York a little bit, too, Villanova and West Virginia.

Again, we’re locked in I think contractually for a couple of years with 18 games. I’ve always liked it because I like our consistency during the regular season, but if it’s getting us eight bids consistently, I don’t think many coaches can complain down there in that room in Jacksonville.

Q. This is way down the line, but is there any motivation even in the very back of their minds about who you would get in Raleigh, North Carolina?

COACH BREY: Well, it would be in Charlotte. But you know what, probably so, but I’m sure in their minds that’s the farthest thing from our minds. We talked about it. You look at it like we’re playing the Denver Open. There’s four teams in the NCAA Tournament as far as my guys are concerned, and I’ll put that bracket up on the board tomorrow. We’re in the Denver Open, four teams playing there in the Pepsi Center, and if you can win the Denver Open then we can talk about the Charlotte Open.

Q. For a guy who mentions karma every once in a while, every now and then, the last time you were a 5 seed, have you thought about that?

COACH BREY: Oh, yes, I’m burning the incense, man, absolutely. I mentioned it to our guys right after the selection show, about the last time we were a 5. We got to the Sweet 16, so no question, I did mention that to them.

THE MODERATOR: We have senior captain Rob Kurz here, so we can take questions — see if there are any questions from those on the line.

Q. I remember you talking last year about remembering back the year before about the work it took to get there. What do you remember about last year, first round, and kind of how did that factor into this week?

Rob Kurz: I think last year the whole experience of being in the tournament for the first time was great for us. I feel like we learned a lot from that, and for us returning guys, I think we’ll have a slightly different approach to how we handle things this time.

Q. Mike talked about distractions and focus. I mean, at that time did you feel that or is that kind of one of the things when you look back, like maybe I wasn’t dialed in as much as I thought I was?

Rob Kurz: I felt like we were, but being in the tournament for the first time, you know, we were kind of wide eyed. It was a new experience for us, but we’ve been through it, and I feel like that will be different this time. We’re excited to play. We worked hard to get where we’re at, and we feel like we have a really good chance to make a run in the tournament.

Q. You mentioned Coach changed a couple things. What do you think has changed the most? What do you think is different going into this game?

Rob Kurz: This time around? I feel like we’ll just approach the game maybe a little bit differently. I feel like having played in the tournament last year, we know what we need to do to be a little bit more successful and to win a first round game. I think we’ll talk about those things for the next couple of days, and once again, I think we’re just excited. I feel like our experience last year has really helped us.

Q. Do you feel the seeding you got, is that about what you expected?

Rob Kurz: One thing Coach said before the selection show is we’re not going to get caught up into what seed we were. We’re happy to be in the tournament. It’s all kind of overrated. The thing is, no matter who you play, you’ve got to play a good team. It doesn’t matter. To have a 5 seed is a great honor and I feel like we earned that. It’s nice, but it doesn’t matter. We still have to go out and win games.

Q. Can you talk about just the emotions of when you come up on the screen? It seems like for everybody there was a lot of oohs and aahs as you got selected, and then you see Winthrop there at the bottom.

Rob Kurz: Yeah, we were excited to have our name called so early and to be a 5 seed. I mean, for us we obviously have a bunch of good teams in our bracket, and George Mason has a really talented team. They made the deep run a couple years ago, and obviously if we’re lucky enough to beat our first round opponent, we’ll get a chance to play either Winthrop or Washington, both great teams. It’s a great opportunity for us and we’re excited.

Q. In the back of your minds do you want to play Winthrop again to maybe get revenge?

Rob Kurz: The only thing I think we’re thinking about is winning that first round game, and whoever wins that game, if you’re lucky enough to win the first round game, we’ll worry about who our second round opponent is at that time.

Q. They’re obviously a different team with different guys on there. (Inaudible).

Rob Kurz: I remember I thought they had great balance inside and out. They had a bunch of great shooters and they had inside guys who could score efficiently, and they seemed like they were very well coached, played with great chemistry, and I think they have a really good team again this year. I don’t think we’ve seen them that many times, but we know they’re a great team and we’re going to have to play really well to beat them.

THE MODERATOR: Next up is going to be Tory Jackson, sophomore guard Tory Jackson.

Q. Can you just walk through the experience Rob talked about, being a little wide eyed last year? Just talk about what was your experience going through it?

Tory Jackson: I think last year I was a lot more satisfied with making it to the tournament, coming in freshman year, you know. But it was a great stage to be out there and play — going out there, you always want to win, but I felt like the things — the way we’re going in this year is a lot different, a lot different.

Everybody is focused. We didn’t really want to worry about who we played, we just wanted to worry about our mindset. We really talked about going in here with a different attitude and being hungry. You’ve got to be hungry throughout this whole little marathon thing going on.

Q. Do you think you have more hunger going into this one?

Tory Jackson: We talk about it a lot. I know me and Kyle, we talk about it a lot, going in with a different mindset, being hungry and being one of the best back courts in the country. And talking to the other players, I think just hearing how everybody — everybody is anxious to get out there and play. Everybody is ready to go out there.

Last year we left a lot out there, and it was a good game. We came back, but it was just one of those days where we didn’t bring our all. I feel like we’re not going to give no excuses this year, and everybody is going to go in and they’re going to play tough and fight until the end.

Q. Are you satisfied with the seeding you got and where you are?

Tory Jackson: I really don’t get too much into that seeding stuff. I don’t pay attention to it. I just really worry about who’s our opponent that first round. That’s who I really think about, going in there and figuring out how we’re going to win this game.

Q. Coach Brey talked about this being the Denver Invitational; you’re going out to a four team tournament. Is that the mentality you go into this with, and how hard is that to maintain when you know it’s 64 teams and what’s at stake?

Tory Jackson: Yeah, I think that’s how we’re going to go into it, with that same mindset. He put it in a good way. A lot of people may look forward to trying to make it to the Final Four and stuff like that and look past other teams. We don’t go in with that mindset. We go in with who we’ve got to play first, this George Mason team, and how we’re going to beat them. We’ve got to clean up our mistakes that we had in the regular season and just go in there and leave it all out there on the floor.

Q. Can you just talk about the overall excitement this time of year? You got to experience it last year, and now to be back there as a sophomore? Things probably can’t get much better.

Tory Jackson: Yeah, I’m very excited being a sophomore, making it again to the tournament. It’s a good accomplishment. You’re always very excited to get there. I joked around with the seniors and some of the older guys; they said me and Luke Harangody was spoiled because we didn’t have to go through that season where you didn’t make it, or you’re always on the outside looking in.

You know, we can tease them a little bit about it, and we’ve got to have fun. When we have fun we’re playing at our best. I feel like we’re going in there with a lot of momentum. I feel like we’re hungry this time.

Q. Put the season in perspective. We talked all year about how people underrated you guys or what you accomplished to go into this tournament a 5 seed and how proud you are of what you guys have done this year.

Tory Jackson: For us to be playing in this NCAA Tournament really says it all. There’s a lot of teams out there on the outside right now looking in, wishing they would have did something else to make it. I feel like we really took care of our business, the goals that we set for ourselves. We accomplished them, and we did a little extra to get where we are, to get this 5 seed.

I feel like we got what we deserved, but now we can’t just be satisfied with this. We’ve got to go in, and this is a whole another season right here, and we’re starting from Game 1, which is against George Mason.

THE MODERATOR: Next is going to be sophomore forward Luke Harangody.

Q. Congratulations, Luke. I just wanted to get your reaction to going out to Denver, and everybody that’s talked so far has talked about maybe trying to do things differently than you did last year. Can you maybe talk a little bit about that?

Luke Harangody: Yeah, you know, going into it I think we have a different mindset. We talked about before that we’re more of a veteran group now. We know what to expect. We know how to control our emotions now, and we know the whole gist of it now, what to expect, and how everything is going to be laid out for us.

Q. How is this team different than last year’s team, particularly with Kyle?

Luke Harangody: You know, I think as I said before, a lot more mature, a lot more — we’ve been there before, so it’s a veteran group and we know what to expect.

Q. You guys said that you reached a lot of goals this year and kind of exceeded expectations in that sense, but I know you wanted to do more in the BIG EAST. How much do you use that as motivation?

Luke Harangody: Yeah, it was disappointing for us to lose in our first game there in New York. But I think as we talked about with Coach, it would be better to make a run in this tournament than the BIG EAST tournament.

Q. How much do you hate this part and how much are you looking forward to just getting out there?

Luke Harangody: That’s part of where I’m having the most fun, probably not in here right now. I wish the game could come a lot sooner than Thursday, but it gives us time to prepare and get ready for a great George Mason team.

Q. Just talk about your mindset going into this weekend and how much last year helps individually, having gone through that experience once before?

Luke Harangody: It helps a lot. Like I said before, just going out there the year before. I think Tory said, we were just kind of as freshmen last year we were just kind of happy that we got in the tournament. Now this year we’re hungrier to do more and have more success out there. I think as this group has grown, I think we know we can have that kind of success.

Q. You sort of touched on it, but last year you only played like 17 minutes, only four points. Have you thought about that at all?

Luke Harangody: I have thought about that before, and it was probably not one of my best games last year, and I’m looking forward to getting back there and getting another crack at another NCAA Tournament game and sort of have a little — I don’t know, redemption probably maybe because I had to look at that the whole off season, having that four point, one rebound game. That was a long time to think about it.

Q. Did you see much of Mason this year?

Luke Harangody: I think they played in a preseason tournament in Orlando. I think they played against Villanova or somebody out there. We saw them play on TV one time, and I just remember them being — I knew at that time they could come out of their conference and be a tournament team. They’re a great team.

Q. You were in high school when they made the Final Four.

Luke Harangody: Yes.

Q. Do you remember watching that?

Luke Harangody: I do remember that. I remember probably mostly the Connecticut game, how well they played there. They had some great players on that team, and I know they’ve got some guys coming back from that team, so that tells you they have leadership on that team. That tells the younger guys where they’ve been and what they need to do to accomplish that.

Q. You’ve said a couple times you know what to expect. Last year what happened that you didn’t expect? What about being a first timer maybe caught you off guard a little bit?

Luke Harangody: I think the emotions, just the excitement of the whole thing, just being at the NCAA Tournament was kind of crazy as a freshman, just the overall — I don’t know how to explain it, really. Now I’m going to come into the game more comfortable and just readier to play basketball and ready to take care of business. We’re not going out there just because it’s the tournament. We’re here to do a lot more than we did last year.

THE MODERATOR: We have one more player. It’s junior guard Kyle McAlarney.

Q. Just your reaction going through this for the first time, what was it like for you to have to sit there and watch? And talk about your overall emotions the whole day today.

Kyle McAlarney: I was very excited the whole day just to get to the selection show and see where we were picked, who we were going to play and where we were going. I was very excited because sitting where I was last year, missing out on this whole experience, I think the experience is what I missed the most rather than just the actual game and what they went through. Just the actual idea of going to the NCAA Tournament and being there and seeing your name come up on the screen, it’s — I’m very proud of where we are and where we were picked, and I’m very happy.

Q. Where did you watch the show last year?

Kyle McAlarney: Home. I watched it at home, my house. Nothing special. I just wanted to see where the guys were and everything, and I talked to them after that. I think, like everyone talked about before, we definitely have a different mindset going in this year.

Q. Where were you at last year emotionally by this point that you were able to at least watch the selection show? You were at least doing a little better than you were?

Kyle McAlarney: Yeah, I was — at this point in the season it was hard. It was still hard for me to watch this team go to the NCAA Tournament and lose in the first round when I know that we could have done better and I know that I could have helped them maybe go farther or win that game.

You know, at that point I was just trying to make it through that rough time and trying to survive. When I look back now, I’ve really come a long way, and now that I’m here, I’m really just enjoying the whole experience.

Q. Do you feel like a guy — you’ve never played in the NCAA Tournament, and a lot of your teammates have. Do you feel like you never have, or because so many of them have, and that was your team…

Kyle McAlarney: You know, since I’ve been back, every game I’ve tried to just think about where I was last year, and it’s really helped me focus on the game at hand and just concentrate on the moment and where I am at this point because I went through a very hard time with not being able to play in those games. And being in the tournament this year, I mean, I don’t feel like I’ve been there already, but I just feel like I’m so much more mature than last year that I don’t think being there is going to affect me.

Q. Where did you watch the selection show last year?

Kyle McAlarney: In Mass, at home, on my couch.

Q. Coach talked about how last year they were happy just being there. How do you avoid falling into that trap, too? They’re going for the second time this year. You coming for the first time, do you have to make sure you don’t fall into the trap of being satisfied?

Kyle McAlarney: I think I’ll adapt to the mindset, and I think their mindset and their state of mind will be very contagious and it will run throughout the whole team, me and the freshmen who’s never been there before. I think it’ll be very contagious, so I don’t think it’ll be — I don’t think I’ll fall into that kind of trap.

Like I said before, I think I’m more mature than last year, whereas I don’t think it’ll affect me at all. I’m very happy just to be playing and get through the BIG EAST season and play on this team. It’s been a lot of fun, so going to the NCAA Tournament, I’m very excited about it, and I don’t think that’s going to hurt me.

Q. You’re one of the older players on the team, yet the less experienced. Is it kind of a balancing act of being a leader and also learning from the guys at the same time?

Kyle McAlarney: I think so. I think it is, yeah. It’s a little weird, like you said, being an upper classman. But everyone else went through the NCAA Tournament thing, and I never did.

But like I said, being where I was last year and being here now, I mean, I’m so much more mature and ready to handle that. You know, it just led me to be more focused this whole year, and I think it’s only going to continue throughout the tournament.

Q. Were you able to watch the whole game?

Kyle McAlarney: Yeah, there was games where I would just turn it off because I would be frustrated and it would kind of bring me back to a state of mind that I really didn’t want to be in, and it was a very depressing time.

I think I might have actually got through the whole game just because it was the NCAA Tournament. It’s just a different atmosphere and different experience.

Q. (Inaudible.)

Kyle McAlarney: No, it never occurred to me, no. Actually when I was in high school, I wasn’t a big college basketball buff, so I didn’t really know a lot of schools, and I never even heard of George Mason until I played them in an all star game late senior year of high school. And then freshman year I got to watch them make the Final Four run, which I thought was very impressive.

Q. (Inaudible.)

Kyle McAlarney: Not at all, not at all. We’re not a team that buys into all that stuff. There’s been upsets for other kind of seedings, too, and I mean, we don’t want to buy or look into that too much. We just want to focus on what we need to do to win the game and what we need to do to be successful and not have what happened last year happen this year.

You know, looking into all that, I think that can be a distraction, so I think we’re just focused and we’re going to scout this team like we’re doing pretty much a BIG EAST game.

Q. You’ve talked about all your friends with a chip on their shoulder and thought you weren’t going to be able to do what you were able to do. Do you take that mentality into the tournament, that if you lose, people start saying they weren’t that good again, that those critics might come back?

Kyle McAlarney: Definitely. I think before every game we kind of use that as motivation as a group. I think we play better like that and we play like we have nothing to lose, and we do play like we have a chip on our shoulder.

So going into the NCAA Tournament, we lost in the first round last year. I think it’s only going to motivate us and help us more and help us focus. I think it’s going to help us.

Q. Overall, is this all just surreal, how far things have come?

Kyle McAlarney: It is, it is a little bit. Like I said before, where I was last year I just tried to think of, and it really helps me stay grounded and stay humbled and really focus on where I’m at, in the moment, and focus on each game at hand, and it really helps me.

So I think that the excitement that I have going into the tournament, going to Denver, is going to help me just play loose and go out there and have fun.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, everybody.

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