Tourney Talk: HoopsHD interviews Gonzaga coach Mark Few’s former assistant Leon Rice

Gonzaga was 29-0 a few weeks with only a home game vs. BYU standing in their way of an undefeated regular season…and they finished 29-1.  However, rather then let it ruin their year, they got back on track by beating St. Mary’s in the WCC title game to earn yet another automatic bid to this week’s NCAA tournament. The Bulldogs have now made it to the NCAA tourney every single year since 1999, and this year they begin with #16-seed South Dakota State in a West Region match-up on Thursday afternoon in Salt Lake City. HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to speak with 1 of Gonzaga coach Mark Few’s former assistant coaches (Leon Rice, whose Boise State Broncos just beat Utah by 5 PTS on the road last night in a 1st round NIT game) about his former boss’s sensational history of success.

Gonzaga has made the NCAA tourney in each of Coach Few’s 18 seasons in charge, which is 1 of the longest active streaks in the nation: how has he been able to remain so consistent for such a long stretch of time? He has had a lot of consistency in his staff, which has played a big part in it, and has also recruited well.

Take me through the 1999 NCAA tourney when he was an assistant to Dan Monson at Gonzaga:
Casey Calvary scored 12 PTS including a put-back with under 5 seconds left to clinch a 1-PT win over Florida: where does that shot rank among the most clutch you have ever seen? Casey is 1 of the few guys in NCAA history to have game-winning buzzer-beaters in 2 different tourney games! That 1 was special because it started a very long run of making it to the NCAA tourney every year.

Richard Hamilton scored 21 PTS in a 5-PT win by eventual champion UConn: how close did he come to winning that game, and what was the reaction like when he got back to campus? It was a 1-PT game in the final minute but the Huskies did not make any mistakes and had a great team that ended up winning it all. It has been amazing to see the Gonzaga team rise from essentially a D-2 program to where they are today.

What are your memories of the 2001 NCAA tourney (Calvary had 16 PTS/15 REB and made a put-back with under 10 seconds left to clinch a 1-PT win over Virginia)? That was a scrappy team led by PG Dan Dickau. I remember Alex Hernandez making a lot of big plays for us down the stretch: he was the unsung hero of that team.

In the 2003 NCAA tourney Tony Skinner/Blake Stepp each scored 25 PTS in a 1-PT 2-OT loss to Arizona: where does that rank among the most exciting games you have ever seen? That was a great game because we were such a huge underdog. Blake had a shot at the end of the game that he probably makes 8 out of 10 times but it just rattled out.

What are your memories of the 2005 NCAA tourney (Adam Morrison scored 25 PTS but the Bulldogs missed ½ of their 18 FTs in a 2-PT loss to Texas Tech)? We always told our players that there were 2 things that did not last long: dogs that chase cars and teams that miss FTs! Adam missed a lot of FTs that night but it ended up making him a better player in the long run.

What are your memories of the 2006 NCAA tourney (Morrison scored 24 PTS but UCLA scored the final 11 PTS of the game to clinch a 2-PT win)? We did not have a lot of games that I can remember where we had the lead and ended up losing the game. We dominated for most of that game, which is why it turned out to be 1 of our most painful losses. It was a perfect storm where we went cold and UCLA just could not miss.

What are your memories of the 2009 NCAA tourney (freshman Demetri Goodson only scored 4 PTS but drove the length of the court to make the game-winning layup with 0.9 seconds left in a 2-PT win over Western Kentucky)? That was an amazing game. When we 1st saw him heading up the floor we actually thought that it was our other guard who was more experienced! Goodson had been playing well for us so we put him in and just went with a small lineup. He was 1 of the fastest guys to ever play at Gonzaga.

After winning 11 straight WCC regular season titles, St. Mary’s finally came out on top in 2012 and had a 4-PT OT win over Gonzaga in the WCC tourney title game (despite 22 PTS/13 REB from Elias Harris): has Coach Few made any changes over the past decade as the rest of the conference has finally started to catch up? The quality of the opposing players has seemed to increase so it is hard to continue at such a high level. I believe that it is 1 of the great stories in sports.

He has been named WCC COY more than 10 times during his career: what does it mean to him to win such outstanding honors? The beauty of Mark is that he always deflects the attention and says that it is a reflection of his staff/players, but we have a lot of pride in him.

He has won more than 80% of his games, which makes him 1 of the winningest active coaches in all of D-1: what makes him such a great coach, and do you consider him to be 1 of the best coaches in the nation? There is no question that he is 1 of the best. He has been 1 of my best friends for more than 25 years and I would put him in the upper echelon. He has a great feel for the sport and knows how to win close games.

Call to the Hall: HoopsHD interviews Mark Montieth about Hall of Famer Rick Mount

Last week the College Basketball Hall of Fame announced its Class of 2017, and 1 of the names who made the list was Purdue legend Rick Mount. Although he only played in West Lafayette for 3 years he remains the all-time leading scorer in Boilermaker history with 2323 PTS in 72 games (career 32.3 PPG). A 2-time 1st-team All-American, he led Purdue all the way to the 1969 NCAA title game and scored 28 PTS in a loss to Lew Alcindor and the UCLA Bruins. He was drafted 1st overall by the Pacers in the 1970 ABA draft, and 2 years later he scored 7 PTS in Game 6 of the 1972 ABA Finals to help Indiana secure a 3-PT win over the New York Nets and clinch the title. HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel reached out to Mr. Mount in the past but was politely told that he does not grant interviews, so instead Jon got to chat with longtime Indiana sportswriter Mark Montieth about Mount’s Hall of Fame career.

In February of 1966 Mount became the 1st high school basketball player to ever be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated en route to being named Indiana’s Mr. Basketball: how great a player was he at Lebanon High School, and why did he decide to go to Purdue? There had been high school Olympians on the cover before but Rick was the 1st from a team sport. It was a nice story about a sports hero from a small Midwestern town. He chose Purdue because it was close to his home: he had a hard time feeling comfortable outside of Lebanon. Rick had actually committed to play for Coach Bruce Hale at Miami after being heavily recruited but Purdue’s chief recruiter (Bob King) was from Lebanon and had a relationship with the town’s mayor. There would be caravans of cars heading back and forth from Lebanon to Lafayette to watch him play!

In the 1969 NCAA tourney (the 1st in school history) as a junior at Purdue, he led all tourney scorers with 40.6 PPG and made a “leaping lofter” from the baseline with 2 seconds left to clinch a 2-PT OT win over Marquette: where does that shot rank among the greatest in school history? It has to be way up there because it sent them to the Final 4.  He came off a pick and made his classic jumper off the dribble. I would argue that it is the most meaningful shot in school history given the tourney ramifications.

There were multiple occasions during college when he had the refs adjust the basket because it was not aligned correctly: how much of a factor was his eyesight to his success? The story I heard was that in the pregame warm-up before 1 game he told the ref that 1 of the baskets needed fixing. A former Illinois coach told a story of Rick nailing 30-footers right in front of the Illini bench in an attempt to intimidate his opponents! I am told he is a marksman with a rifle and that he loves to hunt so he certainly has a gift for hand-eye coordination.

He was a 3-time All-American/2-time Big 10 POY: what did it mean to him to win such outstanding honors? I think it meant a lot to him although he was a shy kid so he would never pound his chest about it. I imagine it means a lot more to him today because he is proud of what he accomplished as a player.

As a senior he scored a D-1-record 61 PTS (27-47 FG) in a 1-PT loss to Iowa: how on earth did the Boilermakers lose that game?! It is a reminder that basketball is a team game and that you have to play defense. After the Big 10 introduced the 3-PT shot in the mid-1980s I talked to assistant SID Bob Goldring about it.  We went back to look at the shot chart from the game and we counted 13 long-range shots…so if he had been playing a couple of decades later he would have scored 74 PTS! The ref actually called a technical foul on the Purdue crowd for throwing something onto the court, which also had an influence on the 1-PT game.

He graduated as the conference’s all-time leading scorer despite only playing 3 varsity seasons: where do you think he ranks among the greatest scorers in NCAA history? He would have to be in the top-10, and if you just look at jump shooters I do not think there has ever been a better 1. He could shoot off of the dribble or off of the wrong foot: it was still the prettiest jump shot that I have ever seen. He was 6’4”, which was tall for a guard back in the 1960s, and he had a quick 1st step. He could even dribble deep into the right corner and shoot it over the backboard. Pressure never got to him: he was a clutch scorer. I think he is underrated as a collegian because he was just average as a pro (11.8 PPG in 5 seasons).

After being selected 1st overall by Indiana in the 1970 ABA draft, he made the 1971 West Division Finals before losing to eventual champion Utah in Game 7: how was he able to make such a smooth transition from college to the pros? The draft back then was a joke because they were just trying to survive. The Pacers had won the title in 1970 and would have been drafting at the end of the 1st round, but they just signed Rick because they could. It was a bad place for him because Coach Slick Leonard did not like Rick’s playing style or personality. Leonard felt that management was forcing Rick onto the team because he would help sell a lot of tickets: he actually signed his contract during a live TV broadcast in Indianapolis but Slick did not attend so it was awkward from the beginning. Rick never felt confident with the Pacers and if he had to do it all over again he probably would have gone to the Lakers (who selected him in the 8th round of the 1970 NBA Draft). He also did not like the pro basketball lifestyle of traveling all over the country because he was just a small-town kid.

In Game 6 of the 1972 Finals he scored 7 PTS for the Pacers in a 3-PT win over the Nets to clinch the title: what did it mean to him to win a title? Very little because he did not feel like part of that team. A story leaked out that he wanted a trade so he had already become emotionally disconnected. There is video of the Pacers celebrating in the locker room with champagne but he was just not as excited as the rest of his teammates.

In the 1973 Finals with Kentucky he lost to Indiana in Game 7, and in the 1974 Finals with Utah he lost to the Nets in 5 games: did it just reach a point where he expected to be playing for a championship every single year? His best year was with Memphis in 1975 before he got hurt. He could still shoot when he was on the Colonels/Stars but he was not the focal point of the offense. Rick had actually tried to go back to the Pacers for training camp but only lasted a few days before walking out. Slick was a good-hearted guy and I think he wanted to mend fences with Rick.

When people look back on his career, how do you think he should be remembered the most? Baby boomers who followed basketball in the 1960s still think of him as 1 of the all-time Indiana greats. There was no ESPN back then so being on the cover of SI was the biggest thing that could possibly happen for an athlete. He was such a unique player and so fun to watch: there is still magic to his name.

Tourney Talk: HoopsHD interviews 2 of Michigan coach John Beilein’s former assistant coaches

Last Sunday Michigan beat Wisconsin in the Big 10 title game to earn an automatic bid to this week’s NCAA tournament and complete 1 of the wildest weeks of their lives: I know because I was there! The Wolverines made it to the NCAA tourney in 2016 and beat Tulsa before a 7-PT loss to Notre Dame, and are back again as a #7-seed to face #10-seed Oklahoma State in a Midwest Region match-up on Friday afternoon in Indianapolis. HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to speak with 2 of Michigan coach John Beilein’s former assistant coaches (Mike MacDonald/Dave Niland) about his unconventional defense and long history of success in the postseason.

Coach Beilein is the only active college coach with 20-win seasons at 4 different levels (JC, NAIA, D-2, and D-1) and 1 of a handful of coaches to have taken 4 different D-1 schools to the NCAA tourney: how has he been able to be so successful at so many schools on so many levels? Mike McDonald: He is a great teacher who connects with the kids and knows the kind of players who will respond to his teaching. He has a great work ethic. Dave Niland: He is a great teacher of the game and is very clear in how he wants his teams to play. He can recruit to his philosophy.

He is known for using an unconventional 1–3–1 zone defense: what makes it so effective? MM: That is more personnel-driven: he used it a lot at West Virginia because his players were long/athletic but does not use it as much as Michigan. DN: He can recruit to it so he just finds players with some length and he has played it a lot throughout his career. If you understand zone offense you are going to understand zone defense. There are not a lot of different ways to attack it so if you are not a really good passing team then it is a major problem. He picks his spots with it but he never used it when I was at Canisius.

What are your memories of the 1995 NIT when he was coach at Canisius (Craig Wise scored 9 PTS and grabbed Michael Meeks’ missed 3-PT attempt and put it in with less than 1 second left in a 2-PT win over Bradley)? MM: The whole crowd was wearing red and we were a decided underdog on the road. It was a classic Beilein game where we hung around and made enough plays at the end to win the game.

In the 1998 NCAA tourney when he was coach at Richmond, Jarod Stevenson scored 24 PTS in a 1-PT win over #3-seed South Carolina: how was he able to pull off the upset? DN: His teams have always been hard to prepare for in a tourney situation. It was huge because it was his 1st NCAA tourney win as a head coach.

Take me through the 2005 NCAA tourney when he was coach at West Virginia:
Tyrone Sally blocked Nate Funk’s 3-PT attempt and then dunked the ball with 2.9 seconds left in a 2-PT win over Creighton: how was Sally able to singlehandedly win the game? DN: I was at that game and there was a lot of talent on the floor for both teams.

Mike Gansey scored 29 PTS in a 6-PT 2-OT win over Wake Forest: how does his coaching style change from regulation to overtime (if at all)? DN: I do not think that it changes that much. You might have to adjust if your roster is depleted due to foul trouble so you might do some switching on offense/defense.

His team made 18 threes and was up by 20 PTS in the 1st half of an 8-PT OT loss to Louisville: how on earth did he lose that game? DN: They got off to a great start but every team in the tourney can score so it is not as big a lead as if you were in the 2nd half. You just have to keep playing your game because the other team will start playing with some desperation and change what they do to try and get back into the game.

In the 2006 NCAA tourney Kenton Paulino scored 8 PTS including a 3-PT shot at the buzzer in a 3-PT win by Texas: where does that rank among the most devastating losses of his career? DN: Just look at how many NBA guys were on Texas compared to how many were on West Virginia! The Mountaineers made a late shot to tie the game but it was still a tough ending.

Take me through the magical 2007 NIT Final 4:
Darris Nichols scored 17 PTS including a 3-PT shot at the buzzer in a 1-PT win over Mississippi State in the semifinals: where does that rank among the most clutch shots that you have ever seen? DN: They st up a little double-stack play down low and just ran it to perfection.
NIT MVP Frank Young scored 24 PTS (6-7 3PM) in a 5-PT win over Clemson in the title game: what did it mean to him to win the title? DN: I know that he really valued the NIT for a lot of reasons because his roots go way back: the NIT was always a big deal.

Take me through the magical 2013 NCAA tourney when he was coach at Michigan:
Trey Burke had 23 PTS/10 AST and made a long 3-PT shot with 4.2 seconds left in regulation in a 2-PT OT win over Kansas: where does Burke rank among the best players that he ever coached? DN: He has to be right up there, if not the best.

Tourney MOP Luke Hancock scored 22 PTS off the bench in a 6-PT win by Louisville: what are your memories of that title game? MM: It was gut-wrenching to get that close and lose but it was a great coaching job to get there. DN: It was an interesting game where Spike Albrecht hit a bunch of shots in the 1st half. Rick Pitino is a great coach and has proven it at many different schools because he always gets great players. It was a pretty amazing run by Michigan just to get there but then Burke got in foul trouble during the 1st half. It could have gone either way but he could not put Burke back in the game too early because if the guy picks up his 3rd foul during the 1st half then it would take away his aggressiveness in the 2nd half.

Brains and Basketball: HoopsHD interviews IUPUI Academic All-American Matt O’Leary

There are students, there are athletes, and then there is IUPUI SR PF Matt O’Leary.  On the court he led the team with 68 3PM/6.1 RPG and finished #2 in PPG/BLK.  Off the court he earned a 3.81 GPA while majoring in management and was recently named 3rd-team Academic All-American.  HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel recently got to talk to Matt about this prestigious honor and his in-depth approach to becoming a better shooter.

You grew up in Terre Haute, a city that is home many famous basketball people including Larry Bird/Thad Matta/John Wooden: who is your favorite, and what on earth are the putting in the water out there?! There is a lot of basketball talent from Terre Haute! I think that sometimes people do not realize how much Indiana really is all about basketball. Of the guys you listed I am taking Bird: there is actually a huge statue of him downtown.

You began your career at Loyola Chicago before transferring to IUPUI: why did you decide to switch schools, and what made you choose the Jaguars? A big reason why I transferred was because I just was not having fun there and I wanted basketball to be fun again. Coach Jason Gardner (who recruited me while he was an assistant at Loyola) got the head job at IUPUI so it worked out perfectly.

What makes Coach Gardner such a good coach, and what is the most important thing that you have ever learned from him? He cares about his players, knows how to have fun, and trusts his guys even when we make mistakes. The most important thing that I have learned from him is how to be a better leader. I have learned that reaching out to people and giving them compliments/encouragement (no matter how small) builds their confidence and ultimately makes both them/you better.

As a junior you led the team in REB/AST: how were you able to balance such diverse aspects of your game? I have been described as kind of a point-forward. I had the ball in my hands often enough to be able to make plays for my teammates and I am tall enough to grab some boards as well. Getting assists is 1 of my favorite things to do!

In January of 2016 you had a season-high 20 PTS/9-9 FG/10 REB in a win over Western Illinois: was it just 1 of those scenarios where every shot you put up seemed to go in because you were “in the zone”? I would not say that I was in the zone. I was definitely comfortable out there but my mantra is to always take good shots. Throughout my career I have always been like that so I guess it was just 1 of those nights where the shots I got were especially good and they all ended up going in.

Both your 3P% & FT% went up dramatically from last year to this year: what is the secret to improving your shooting? Throughout my career I have worked extremely hard on my shot, which just was not falling during my 1st 3 years of college when I was only shooting 26 3P%. However, I just shot 46 3P% for the year as a senior so what I have learned works best is this:

OFF-SEASON: Set a goal for how many MADE shots you want to get in during your off-season, then write down how many makes and where you made them from after every single segment to keep track. This made me obsessed with meeting my goals and helped make me get to the gym almost every single day in the summer instead of just 4 days/week like I would do in a normal year.

RULES: Only count makes, use a shooting gun as little as possible and instead get passes from a human being (this will take a couple of managers/friends/coaches who are as dedicated as you are), mix up shooting drills daily and make sure that every segment is a mix of spot shots and shots off of a screen or off the bounce, and focus on having the same form during every single shot.
*Note: made shots that you add toward your goal can only come from your personal extra work.  Open gyms/mandatory workouts do NOT count towards your shot total.
My own extra work that increased my 3P% from 26% to 46%: through 120 calendar days during the off-season I had 9010 made 3s, 1525 shot-fake pull-up 2s, and 1475 FTs, not using a gun or counting open gyms/mandatory workouts.

IN-SEASON: Be confident in your work, shoot when open, and pass when someone else is open! Continue to do extra work on your shot both before/after practice throughout the whole year, and most importantly be confident!

You had non-conference road losses this season to Michigan/Marquette/Illinois/Northwestern: how did you like joining the Big 10, and which of these teams impressed you the most? I love playing against the best teams and I think the best 1 was Northwestern. They were extremely fluid offensively, played tough defense, and shared the ball well. Also, they will never beat themselves.

Earlier this month you were named 3rd-team Academic All-American: what did it mean to you to receive such an outstanding honor? It meant a lot to me. It felt great to be recognized for all of the hard work that I have done in the classroom and on the court throughout my career. God has blessed me with a great path and I am thankful to Him.

You are a management major with a 3.81 GPA: what attracted you to marketing, and what is the key to success in the classroom? The key to success in the classroom is showing up to class/taking notes/paying attention every single day. I always felt that if you do your due diligence during class then the homework/tests will come easy.

You finish up school this spring: what do you plan to do after graduation? I have not decided for sure yet but I am leaning towards playing professionally overseas.

Tourney Talk: HoopsHD interviews Middle Tennessee SR PF JaCorey Williams

Last Saturday Middle Tennessee beat Marshall in the C-USA title game to earn an automatic bid to this week’s NCAA tournament. The Blue Raiders made quite a splash last March by upsetting Michigan State as a #15-seed, and now they are back in the NCAA tourney as a #12-seed to face #5-seed Minnesota in a South Region match-up on Thursday afternoon in Milwaukee.  Earlier today HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to speak with SR PF JaCorey Williams about making a game-winning shot in his hometown and being named conference POY.

You began your career at Arkansas, where you beat Wofford in the 2015 NCAA tourney before losing to North Carolina: what did you lean from that experience that you think can help you this time around? I learned that the idea of survive/advance is so critical: teams will give you their best shot regardless of the name on the front of your/their jersey.

Why did you decide to transfer after that season, and what made you choose the Blue Raiders? My AAU coach talked to Coach Davis 1st and then I talked to him myself. He told me how good I could become if I worked hard and was a good teammate while sitting out for a year. I also worked on my individual skill set a lot.

You play for Coach Kermit Davis: what makes him such a great coach, and what is the most important thing that you have learned from him so far? He never lets up no matter who on the team he is talking to: we are all accountable. We never take any opponent for granted and always stay focused. He taught us that when you are preparing for a game you cannot skip any steps in the process no matter which game it is.

In November you scored a career-high 31 PTS in a 3-PT OT win over Toledo: was it just 1 of those scenarios where every shot you put up seemed to go in because you were “in the zone”? It had a lot to do with my teammates having confidence me, but I definitely had it going that night and just tried to keep making plays to help us win.

You played several good non-conference teams this year like UNC Wilmington/Vandy/VCU: which of these teams impressed you the most? UNC Wilmington can shoot the 3-ball and can drive against bigger defenders: they can play with anybody. Their big man (Devontae Cacok) rebounds and shoots about 80 FG%: you need guys like that on your team.

On February 26 you scored 15 PTS including the game-winning jumper with 5 seconds left in a 2-PT win at UAB (which happens to be the city where you grew up): did you think that your shot was going in, and where does that rank among the most clutch shots of your career? About 2/3 of my shots are mid-range jumpers so it felt good when I released it and I was not surprised that I made the shot. It was big to win the game in front of so much of family/friends in attendance.

Last week you were named conference POY: what did it mean to you to receive such an outstanding honor? It just shows all of the hard work that I have put in since I came here from Arkansas. I have improved as a person/player/leader and let my game speak for itself. I worked hard in the summertime on my ball-handling/jump shot, but if it was not for my teammates then I could not have won that award.

Last Saturday you scored 17 PTS in an 83-72 win over Marshall in the C-USA title game: how were you able to pull out the win after the Thundering Herd cut your lead to 2 PTS with 12 minutes left, and what was the reaction like when you got back to campus? When they cut our lead to 2 we still felt confident because we knew that they would make a run at some point. We then went on a run of our own and then I figured the game would stay in our favor. I was very tired when I got back to campus after celebrating the win but I was excited to see us announced on the selection show.

You have only lost 3 games since Thanksgiving by a combined 14 PTS: how has your team able to remain so dominant throughout the entire season? Coach Davis is not satisfied by getting a couple of wins in a row: he wants to win every game and holds us to that standard. If we are slacking at practice he will call out the leaders to get the whole team going.

How do you feel about getting a #12-seed, and what do you know about Minnesota? I do not mind a #12: we were a #15 last year so this is a step up for us. I know that the Gophers have some good big men, a good PG, and a coach named Pitino so it will be no small task to beat them, but I like our match-up.

Tourney Talk: HoopsHD interviews Princeton SR SF Steven Cook

Last Sunday Princeton beat Yale at the Palestra in the 1st-ever Ivy League title game to earn an automatic bid to this week’s NCAA tournament. The Tigers joined Vermont as the only 2 teams to not lose a conference game all season, and after playing in the NIT in 2016 they are back in the NCAA tourney where they will face #5-seed Notre Dame in a West Region match-up on Thursday afternoon in Buffalo. Yesterday HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to speak with SR SF Steven Cook about being an Academic All-American and the fact that his team still had to win its conference tourney to make it to the NCAA tourney.

You play for Coach Mitch Henderson: what makes him such a good coach, and what is the most important thing that you have ever learned from him? He adds so much value to our program because he was such a successful player here himself. He went to 3 NCAA tourneys and was on a team that at 1 point was ranked in the top-10 in the nation. He taught us how hard it is to win so victory demands that you bring it every day in practice/games: you need a constant drive for success.

In the 2016 NIT you scored 22 PTS in a 5-PT OT loss to Virginia Tech: how close did you come to winning the game, and what did you learn from that game that you think will help you in the postseason this year? 1 of our advantages is that we have so much experience, which has helped us win in so many ways this year. The NIT felt like a big stage last year in a hostile environment, so we will be ready for anything this year on an even bigger stage.

In December you lost SR SF Henry Caruso for the year with a toe injury: how was your team able to overcome this obstacle? We also lost Hans Brase after he re-injured his ACL so those were 2 big hits to our team. It was a hard adjustment early in the season, which is why we struggled a bit, but it allowed younger guys like Myles Stephens/Devin Cannady to contribute in ways they did not have an opportunity to do in the past.

You had a tough non-conference schedule this year with teams like BYU/VCU/Cal/Bucknell: which team impressed you the most? All of those teams impressed us but VCU was probably the toughest team that we faced: it was such a hostile environment at their place due their great crowd. When you face tough situations early on and can look back on those games later in the season it helps you realize what it takes to win.

Your team swept most of the Ivy League awards this year (POY/DPOY/COY): do you think that you went 14-0 in conference play because your team was just better than everyone else? 1 thing about awards is that they tend to go to people on winning teams. There is a lot of talent around the Ivy League but we are a senior-driven team. We play together and can succeed as a cohesive unit, which is what separates us.

In any other year that would have been enough to earn a bid to the NCAA tourney, but for the 1st-time ever you had to win the Ivy League tourney to do so: did you think it was an unfair situation? I would not say that it was unfair. Our senior class always wanted to play in a conference tourney because it gives us more exposure and is 1 of the most exciting parts of March Madness. Playing against Penn on their home court was not easy, but as a competitor it is hard not to love those environments so we were still excited.

Earlier today you scored 15 PTS in a 71-59 win over Yale to clinch the conference title: what was the feeling like in your locker room afterward, and what was the reaction like when you got back to campus? It was unbelievable and pretty surreal for all of us: it has not really sunk in that we went 16-0, which is what we set out to do at the start of the year. There was a lot of hype/hysteria in the locker room so we just tried to appreciate the moment: even though it was just the day before it feels like it happened a week ago! The campus was really supportive with everyone congratulating us when we returned.

You are 1 of several seniors on the roster: how crucial will all of that veteran leadership be to your team’s success? That is what has carried us all year so I think it will continue to be a big factor for our team.

Earlier this month you were named a 3rd-team Academic All-American due to your 3.51 GPA in economics: why did you choose economics, and how do you balance your work on the court with your work in the classroom? I chose economics because it is a subject that has interested me since high school. I love it because it gives you a structured way to solve problems and look at the world in general. It is definitely a struggle to be a student-athlete at times but 1 of the most important things that I have learned during college is time management. You have to plan out your day and make time to fit in everything.

How do you feel about getting a #12-seed, and what do you know about Notre Dame? We are happy with whoever the committee matches us up against. Notre Dame is a great team with a lot of talent, which is why they made it all the way to the ACC title game, and I am looking forward to playing them on Thursday.