NCAA Tournament Press Conference Coverage
March 19, 2009
Q. Kalin, before or right when this pairing was announced, had you even remembered of Robert Morris before? And just how has that changed in the last few days as you are getting ready for this?
Q. This is for Raymar. People talk about upsets and, you know, these 2-15 games. Is all the heat really on you, though, in that for a school like them, just to get here is a victory, to a large degree, and all the pressure is on you. If you go out and beat them by 25 or 30, you are supposed to. If you lose, it kind of looks pretty bad. That said, is heat all on you and not on them?
Q. Travis, what's practice been like since the Big Ten tournament got over and has intensity changed or ramped up as this thing has gone forward? How would you describe that?
TRAVIS WALTON: I think our practices have been great. We have been excited. It is a new season, as Raymar said. Whenever you come into the tournament, you know, no matter who you're playing, the seed in the tournament, you are excited for it because every team comes in 0-0. Every team, especially the smaller teams, they won their conference, they have their hands up. We are looking forward to a new season and a great new start.
Q. This is for Goran Suton and Raymar Morgan. How do you guys feel physically? Goran, you had the knee problem back in December. Raymar, I saw you at Purdue and you were not feeling well. So where are you add physically?
Q. For any of you guys. What does 21 bring for them, Chappell? Obviously the best player in their league. Not to kind of put him in one of your games, but could he play in a Big Ten game? And what does he do on film that you've seen so far?
So it doesn't really matter where he plays at or where he's from, we know he's a good player and we have to look at him like we look at somebody who is playing in the ACC or the Big Ten.
RAYMAR MORGAN: Like Travis said, Chappell is a great player. He adds a lot to his game. He is very versatile, he is a strong guard, he shoots the 3 well and he goes off the dribble. So, like you said, he's a threat wherever you look at him, in every category. So we're just going have to have play him tough.
Q. Raymar, can you talk a little bit about your AAU days with Jimmy, what they were like and what kind of player he is and what kind of player he was?
So I think forcing with a lot of pressure, we can make him do some things that he doesn't want to do.
Q. Have you guys talked during the week about this?
Q. What do you say on the floor?
Q. Who is the better player on that team?
Q. Did I hear right, were you playing against that AAU team, also?
Q. I guess for any of you guys, obviously the Big East has gotten a lot of pub going into the tournament about being the No. 1. It seems the Big Ten, if anything, a lot of doubters out there. Do you guys feel that there is a sense that you want to prove that hey, you know, we're from the Big Ten and we belong here as much as anybody else?
So I think we don't really care what people think and we just want to take care of our business, and, you know, hopefully the Big Ten will do well in this tournament.
KALIN LUCAS: Yeah, the same thing Suton said, the Big Ten, I don't think we get our respect that we should. But you know what I think it is, some good teams in the Big Ten - I mean Penn State, Penn State was a good team and they didn't make the tournament.
Q. I think a lot of people see the losses this year and don't know exactly what to expect from you guys, even though you obviously have a lot of talent. Do you guys know what to expect from yourselves in this tournament? Is there any curiosity? Or are you pretty confident in what's going to happen tomorrow and the rest of the tournament?
It is a new season and you can't really look at that and worry about what people are saying and what they feel about our losses, because our losses come to Northwestern who beat a Florida State pretty good or different teams like that. So pretty much we just have to come out here and play basketball and then look forward to what we - to how we feel.
And we're feeling pretty good. You know, we're excited about the tournament, about playing Robert Morris and the different teams that's here. We just have to look forward and not worry about everything else that's going on.
Q. This is for any of you guys. Last Sunday when you saw that you were going to play Robert Morris, did you guys know where Robert Morris was? And if you did, what did you know about them?
TRAVIS WALTON: Robert Morris is where Five-Star at. So, yeah, I know where it was a little bit because I played at Five-Star. So it was kind of I went to the Five-Star and that's where it was at.
Q. This is for Raymar. Travis mentioned a couple of days ago after practice the kind of sacrifices that you've made on this team. With your health, all of that - kind of putting stats aside, knowing that you weren't going to get some of the post-season awards because of everything that you have been through. What does it mean to be around these guys now, be healthy, and kind of get a chance now when you absolutely need to to show this team's potential and have you be a part of it after what you have been through?
MODERATOR: Okay guys, thank you. We'll go ahead and excuse them back to the locker room.
Joined on the dais by Michigan State head coach, Tom Izzo.
Q. Tom, Raymar just got done saying that he thinks this team's playing their best basketball over the last two practices. Have you kind of seen a little bit of a giddy-up in their step?
But I think everybody's aware of, you know, kind of some of the things we've been through. And we've had a couple of good practices. And I think, you know, we didn't play as bad on film as I thought over the weekend. We just didn't make shots. And when you don't make shots, sometimes that happens.
But even though it is a crazy statement, I kind of have to agree with him. We've had some good practices and I think guys are very focused in on what we have to do. And now we have to play the game.
Q. Speaking of Raymar, Tom, how has he looked recently? And what do you think you can get out of him, specifically in this game?
But his defense in practices has been unbelievable, too. He's starting to rebound now every time. So, I'm expecting big things out of Raymar and I think we'll need big things.
Q. Coach, do you talk about any of the 2-15 games before, Coppin State or Hampton or Santa Clara? I know it is foreboding to do so.
But, you know, this tournament is so much about matchups and so much about, you know, maybe how you're playing, but maybe who you're playing that we've been beaten by the 9th place team in our league at home, and we have beaten some very good people on the road.
So I can use our own experiences. I don't have to look at others to kind of see where we are. I think our players are starting to learn more and more that it's not how good you are, it is how good you play on a given night. And I haven't stressed that. I haven't spent a lot of time on it.
I have talked about a 1-16 is going to go down sooner or later, and I say that just because of the parity in college basketball when you start looking at it, and we talked about this the night of the Selection show. You start looking at teams like an Arizona, you know, as a 12 or 13 seed. It shows you how deep it's getting. And you know, I look at Boston College and USC being a 7 and 10 seed. There's parity all the way through right now and I think everybody is starting to realize that.
Q. Talking about just these last few days of practice, is there any other player that you've seen just kind of really step up even more, take it to another level? Just someone who may have put . . .
Q. Coach, Brian Gregory was talking earlier about his involvement with you and Michigan State. What's your reaction to what he's done at Dayton?
I am very impressed with what Brian has done. And I watched his team last year. And unfortunately, and this year, too, he had a serious injury again. But last year when Chris went down, Chris Wright went down, and he lost another player, I think, too. He's battled through some things. I thought he had a tournament team last year if everybody would have stayed healthy after beating Louisville and Pittsburgh, and not getting in. I felt really bad for him last year.
But I'm impressed with the job he's done and yet it doesn't surprise me. He was one of the best assistants I've ever had.
And, you know, he went to Northwestern and Kevin O'Neal. And he's kind of been through it all. And each has a little military background. So I'm pleased for Brian. I am ecstatic for Brian. But it doesn't surprise me. The guy is a class guy. He works his tail off. He's got a good staff. And I think he's building a program there that's going to get back to, you know, the Donaher days, not that whatchamacallit did a great job, too, building it back, but that is a program that should be there every year, and I think it will be.
Q. Tom, Raymar said he pretty much - he was in here and said he wants to show the world kind of what they've been missing with the fact that he is healthy now. Him saying that, is that kind of un-Raymar like? Has he maybe grown and matured and maybe looking to be a little more bolder and confident now after what he has been through?
You know, Ray, I think he is feeling some confidence. And, you know, some people have to tone down their cockiness and some people have to tone it up. There is a happy medium to both and Raymar is on the downside. If he is saying that and feels that way, I think that is half the battle. But visually I've seen a big step in Ray, especially this last week. The last couple of weeks, you know. And just getting comfortable back into things. Especially our break, where he can go with it. The offensive rebounding.
You know, as well as he was playing even a couple of weeks ago, he was making progress. The offensive rebounding is just starting to come back to him more and more on a consistent basis and he could be a great one.
So, you know, I'm glad to hear he's feeling good about how he has practiced and maybe progressed. And now the finishing topper would be to do it in a game. And he has made some progress in games, and I think he will hopefully this weekend.
Q. Tom, you guys get to the hotel early last night, you go all day, all night today. You are going to go all day and all night and tip off at about 10:00 Eastern time tomorrow. Is that long wait a concern to you or you just chalk it up to it is what it is?
And there will be a lot of excuses for things, but that won't be one of them. It really won't.
Q. At this point of the year you usually are what you are as a team. But given everything you've been through, is there a greater curiosity on your part about how are they going to be? Who is going to show up tomorrow and the rest of the tournament?
Q. Tom, when the brackets came out on Sunday, other than Garf having his camp there, what did you know about Robert Morris, and also what did you know about Mike Rice?
So I had been on the campus a lot of times, as you said. But did I know as much about, you know, the league and everything? When I was at Northern Michigan we played Mount St. Mary's and I was watching that championship game and they were Division II then, and when I was an assistant I laughed because we played them in the NCAA tournament and now they are competing at this level.
But, you know, I didn't know as much about them on a day-to-day basis. But he's definitely done an incredible job there. He's definitely got good players and he runs a lot of good things. And I think they are a very solid team.
So everything I've heard about them, his teams have been well coached. And coming from that Pittsburgh system, which I think has been a lot like ours, or ours has been a lot like theirs over the years, I think he's got a bright future, that's for sure.
MODERATOR: Okay, well, if we don't have any further questions, thank you.
COACH IZZO: Thank you.
at the official