THE MODERATOR: Questions for our student athletes.
Q. Vander and Junior, the way Syracuse plays zone defense, is that almost a one off preparation, compared to the way you prepare for other teams?
Junior Cadougan: I mean, we played Syracuse before and we play against a lot of teams that play zone against us this season and that obviously prepares us to play Syracuse anytime we play 'em. Because we will be in the comfort zone by then from the teams we played zone against.
Vander Blue: I think it's definitely helped us playing once already and beating them and like Junior said, we played against zone pretty much all year. Not too many teams have played us man to man all year and we're comfortable against Syracuse's zone.
Q. Vander, about a month ago you played Seton Hall, it was kind of a big night. Did that spark these last two months right now for you? Did you gain some sort of confidence from hitting that point or anything?
VANDER BLUE: I wouldn't say that sparked it. I guess it's just the longer you are playing, the better you should start playing, I would say. I just wanted to help the team as much as I can and being one of the leaders on this team I know what the guys expect from me and I've been mentally and physically locked in these last couple of months because I wanted to do something special for Junior and Trent.
Q. Junior and Chris, one of the Coach Buzz Williams's philosophies is he wants to get to the free throw line as much as possible. How do you carry that out? How do you get fouled?
Chris Otule: I would say that our game plan is to get the ball in the paint as many times as possible over and over again, each possession we call the paint touches, you guys are familiar with that term. Our goal is to just have more free throw makes than the other team attempts and if we can do that, we're going to win the game, so hopefully we can do that tomorrow.
JUNIOR CADOUGAN: We try to emphasize going into the game to get the ball turning, you know obviously if you try to beat a team on the first side, it would be harder for you to get to the free throw line or get paint touches as Chris said, so what we're trying to do going into the game is to get the ball turning, get the defense in rotation, then attack the paint to get fouled or get an easy shot, a great shot, not just a good shot.
Q. John, compared to the guys on either side of you and some of the guys who aren't up on the podium, you've flung under the radar a little bit, yet you've been able to start the year after an injury. What's the season been like for you in that regard?
Juan Anderson: I'm just here to play my role and help these guys out. I feel like I bring energy to the team. It was unfortunate that I did have injuries last year so it's kind of like I'm a freshman playing in a sophomore year, because I wasn't able to play a lot this year but at the end of the day, like I said, I'm here to bring energy to the team, rebound, play my role.
Q. Trent, you were telling us last week about this is new to you. Can you talk about this experience of going through this and how does it compared to what you expected it to be like?
Trent Lockett: I don't know if I can compare it to anything, given that this is my first post season experience. It's been a great one, but we don't at the present time to stop here. I think yesterday really solidified that we can do something special, and we had a good day of practice today and we're looking forward to the game tomorrow.
Q. Junior, what is it you guys have been playing in the NCAA Tournament all these different teams that you've never seen before. How does it change your mind set that now you're going to have to play one of your conference rivals that you've seen tons of times in your career, does that change your mind set?
JUNIOR CADOUGAN: Going into the Davidson game we didn't know that much about Davidson, and obviously we're playing against Syracuse who we have seen before and who I've seen a bunch of times. So going into the game, I can help the guys like Derrick Wilson, Derrick has been doing a great job stepping up and being the back up and taking on responsibilities, and for me to show him, you know, things on offense and things on defense against Syracuse a team that I've seen a bunch of times could help us a lot. When I'm not in the game with the second unit and stuff like that, just helping Derrick out a lot, being the next general on the team could help us a lot.
Q. Chris, Davante goes 6 9, 290, something like that, what's it like guarding a guy like that in practice? Do you watch other teams try to guard him when he's in the game and you're on the bench and laugh?
CHRIS OTULE: Davante is an incredibly talented person and in practice we make each other better, because I'm known for defense and he's known for offense and we can make each other better in practice each and every day. He's an incredible player and he scores easily and it's amazing to watch him. When we get a chance to play together it's even better. It's happened before.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, guys, you're dismissed. Good luck tomorrow. Questions for Coach.
Q. Buzz, how are you?
COACH WILLIAMS: Good, you all right?
Q. If Marquette wins, it will end Syracuse's tenure in the Big East, it will be their last game. If Syracuse wins, they will get to keep playing as a representative of the Big East for another game. Your thoughts on these two Big East teams colliding, what does it mean for the league and what would it mean for you guys to win and go to a Final Four by beating them?
COACH WILLIAMS: I wish we weren't playing each other. Maybe if we were in different regions, maybe we could both continue to play. I guess I haven't thought about it in that regard. When I think about the Big East, I think about Coach Jim Boeheim, I think about Coach Calhoun, Coach Pitino, Coach Thompson, Sr., so I haven't thought about it like that. Obviously I don't necessarily mean this negatively, but whoever wins tomorrow as much as they're playing to say we are a part of this league, they're playing to win for all the people in the locker room to advance and continue their season, to play in the Final Four, and those are memories that will last a lifetime and lives are changed when you get to this point in March, when you're still playing.
Like Trent said, everybody wants to continue to keep playing.
Q. Buzz, do you think a young coach could come in and play exclusively zone from the get go and establish a career that way or is that a little risky?
COACH WILLIAMS: I've studied Coach Boeheim. I think he's way smarter than he gets credit for. I think at this point in his career he's probably hard to get to know and I can completely understand that in my five years of tenure at Marquette, it somewhat makes you cantankerous. I've done a little research. He was not exclusively zone when he started his career and I've tried to find people with knowledge about what sparked that change and it was an immediate change or did it go, we were 100% man and then the percentage just began to tilt until it eventually became exclusively zone and how long of a period of time was that. Coach Raftery has been a good guy to give me info on that, because he was coaching at that time. I think your question is good. I don't know. Maybe if you were at a one bid league institution, where maybe you weren't track and had followed. Don Maestri was the head coach at Troy for 27 years and could be easily sitting up here, he did unique things. Don Meyer, a Hall of Famer, he did a lot of unique things, but those guys learned their craft not having media like this.
So I would maybe say that depending upon where that coach was, it would probably be more difficult. If you study the numbers on Coach Boeheim's success at Syracuse, I don't know that you can necessarily contribute offensively it to the zone. A lot of it has to do with who is playing the zone and a lot of it has to do with the shots they get offensively from their zone.
So I think there are residual benefits to playing a zone but for a guy to do it full time, young, and at a high level, I don't know that you'll see that.
Q. Jim Boeheim did mention when he made the switch, he said some Division II team in an exhibition game beat him about four or five years ago and that's when he made the switch. Getting back to the zone you guys have seen it a lot this year for obvious reasons. Is there something different about the way that Syracuse does it beyond the fact that they play it all the time with their length, for example?
COACH WILLIAMS: Obviously their length causes problems no matter what type of defense they would be in but because Brandon Triche and Michael Carter Williams are so long that when you try to initiate offense above the free throw line now their back line is above the first hatch and everybody keeps saying "get it to the high post" you guys know that, coaches know that, players know that. You can't get it to the high post when there are five guys standing within 9 feet of one another, from top to bottom.
So when that bottom of that zone is above the first hash mark, now all of the sudden you've cut off 8 feet of the floor. Now their length it just overwhelms you because there is nowhere to go only backwards. In the NCAA Tournament teams have shot 16% from three, and I would say that if Coach Boeheim told you this, a lot of that zone is statistics based. Over a 40 minute game you're not going to make enough threes to beat us and if you do, over the course of my career you're not going to win enough games to alter the fact that I'm going to be in the Hall of Fame.
So you have to get that zone to shift, but before you get that zone to shift you have to make 'em play from the 3 point line to the baseline. If you don't, it's going to end up being a bad possession. When you start bad offensively in a zone possession it's typically going to end bad.
Q. What does Trent represent to you this year, considering how he came into Marquette?
COACH WILLIAMS: He's everything that you would want a student athlete to be. Like 100%. Every single day, exactly what you would want a student athlete to be.
I have two sons, 10 and under and they watch too much TV and too much Sports Center, but Trent Lockett is a guy that if they turn out to be like him as a human being then my wife and I have done a good job at parents. He is the most diligent worker, the most consistent worker that I've known in my 19 years of coaching and I've only coached him one year.
I think for him to come in through the situation that he did for our kids to accept him in our culture as a 22 year old graduate student, speaks to that. That's because he's a worker and that's why he fits here.
Q. Given how he did get there, the delicate nature that he did, when did you say, okay, time with compassion is over with and time to go to work and how did you put the screws to him?
COACH WILLIAMS: I'm way more compassionate than you would think off the floor and I have zero compassion on the floor. In the lines the game is pure, so no matter what has been written or what you're ranked, whether it's shirts or skins on national TV, whether it's Elite Eight or TV game inside the lines the game is pure. I coach that way.
Off the floor I'll do anything that I can to make sure that our kids understand that I love them and care for them, not as player but as people. I think my relationship with Trent is along that line. I mean, I don't holler and scream at him any different because of the nature of where he transferred to Marquette than I holler and scream at Steve Taylor who is a freshman, I holler and scream at 'em all the time, it's an equal opportunity deal.
Q. I saw you out there during the Syracuse game scouting, they were out there during your game scouting. Because you guys know one another so well, is this game won and lost on the court tomorrow night as much as it is what you witnessed and saw last night trying to find the one thing that's different or that they did or you did?
COACH WILLIAMS: I think they're playing better than when we played them, and when you're playing two games a week once you play that opponent, you really don't get back to them other than keeping up with did they win or lose, unless potentially they're in your bracket in the conference tournament.
We had the same scenario two years ago when we played Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament. I don't want to play Syracuse again. Well, you know them and you know their zone, I know all that. I don't want to play 'em. I would rather play somebody else. But it's part of having so many good teams in our league that go to the NCAA Tournament.
I don't know exactly what you can accomplish the day in between the Sweet 16 and the Elite Eight from a physical nature. I think a lot of your practice is mental and a lot of your learning on the floor and in the conference room is mental.
Q. How much emphasis do you put on that scout that you did last night? Do you take a lot of stock in that or just say, okay, they're do get same things or different things?
COACH WILLIAMS: We have watched their last six games. How we handle scouting is probably unique to some organizations, but our kids know what to expect when it comes to scouting. My staff has been incredible. This year and in years past, for that matter, in scouting. I'm over the top on the analytics involved as a team, as an individual. So it just adds to the sample size. I don't think that it necessarily changes the course of it one way or another, it's just another good game and you know when I first got into coaching you could watch teams in person. When I was in college, I would go watch as many games as I could. I think I'm better watching it in person than I am on TV. I think it's hard to see how physical Durand Scott is, watching him play Pacific, watching him play Illinois, but then you watch him 6 feet in front of your bench last night and you're like, holy smokes. So when you get to watch them in person that's healthy for me.
Q. Buzz, when you played Syracuse earlier in the season, Davante Gardner had a great game. Do you expect to be able to get something like that out of him again or do you think they Syracuse has a game plan for Davante and they're not going to want him to score 26 and you have to find a different way.
COACH WILLIAMS: I don't think they wanted him to score 26 when we played them. He played really well that night, you're right. I don't think he will play that well again, and that's only because he's never played that well before or since. So he played incredible. But we do need him to play.
If you look at the games where we've won, the games where we've lost, Davante is a big pendulum swing in that so he's important to our team for sure.
Q. If you were to win tomorrow
COACH WILLIAMS: You work with Zags?
Q. Unfortunately, yeah.
COACH WILLIAMS: Boy.
Q. If you were to win tomorrow night, advance to a Final Four you would join exclusive company that have done that. Can you talk about your feelings like potentially joining Jim Boeheim, Pitino, Calhoun, Thompson?
COACH WILLIAMS: That's why I had to go to a junior college, they have that word association, like on the SAT, if that question would have on the SAT I would have gotten that right. I don't belong. Not to not answer your question, I don't view myself in that regard, I don't have a lens introspective of who I am. That's not why I do this. Obviously I'm humbled to be in this position and I'm not doing it for the outcome I'm doing it for the lives that are changed because of the experience.
Maybe at some point in time in my career maybe I will think like that accident but I struggle with enjoying and being absorbed in the moment in that regard. I absorb and enjoy the moment to get better and to improve and to figure things out, but I never look at things that way.
That's only because if you were to look at my path to this point, there is no possible way that you could say that I would have ever gotten to this point, much less get to the point that you're talking about.
Q. Coach, your research is legendary. I wondered if you have any connection to the close call like you had with Davidson and then having a deep run, if you were the first to do that.
COACH WILLIAMS: I'm not sure how that would correlate I haven't studied anything like that, but I'm sure that's happened. Has there been a team that goes the to Sweet 16 winning by 3 points. I don't know, you know if there has been, that's a small number, has there been? Do you know the answer to that?
Q. Syracuse famously won in 03, they trailed by 17 in the second round to Oklahoma State and came back and beat 'em and the rest is history?
COACH WILLIAMS: That was what Coach Sutton was at Oklahoma State?
Q. Correct, famous for the line "These macadamia nut cookies are delicious."
COACH WILLIAMS: That's what Coach Sutton said? How about my man he says if you want to talk to our players it's by the media buffet.
Q. That's how you're going to get people there. You survived a game, you become better because of it?
COACH WILLIAMS: For sure. I think that the close games, the game against UCONN when Coach Autry was coaching our team, I think the game at Pitt when Davante threw it at the band, in the zoo, that went into overtime, I think the game at the Garden against St. John's, the game against Davidson and Butler, I'm missing a few, the game against Butler when we lost earlier in the year, I think all of those things grow you up. Even when you lose I think they grow you up if you're looking to learn in the right regard.
I hope that we can play well enough tomorrow that we're in that same situation with Syracuse.
Q. If you were in the same situation on this stage, would you play the Jake Thomas card again?
COACH WILLIAMS: Yes. I think Jake can shoot. The times that Jake has played, he's