MSU Spartans
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Women's Basketball
2009 NCAA Tournament Women's Basketball Selection Show
 
 
 

 

 
 

March 16, 2009

Head Coach Suzy Merchant

Opening Statement...
Well obviously we are excited. First and foremost, we're excited for the Big Ten. Having five teams get in just proves to me what a rugged conference it is. We're excited for the opportunities for the Big Ten and certainly for ourselves. We're looking forward to playing here in Breslin [Center] and having our fans here. We're going to play a really challenging game in the first round against Middle Tennessee State and look forward to it and getting back to work. It's been a while since our last game and I think our team is looking forward to putting a game plan together to know exactly how we're going to handle them defensively and offensively. We're going to get back to a little normalcy around here and we're looking forward to that and the opportunity to be one of the last ones standing.

On what she knows about Middle Tennessee State...
I know they have a very, very good player in Alysha Clark, she's averaging 27 points and 10 rebounds per game. They were 28-5 overall and won the Sun Belt Conference. They are a very, very good team top to bottom, but I think it starts with her [Clark].

On hearing their name get called out...
We expected to see our name up there so the feel was different, it was just a matter of who we were playing, and we certainly knew at least where we were playing. It was nice knowing that we didn't have to worry about where we were going. We certainly knew we were going to be here it was just a matter of who we were playing. It was a good feeling. It's exciting to see your name up there, get the seed pairings, and go forward.


On playing someone that doesn't know all the ins and outs of the team...
It is, especially since it's the first year the women went to an 18 game schedule, and that was new. I think we really beat up on each other. You mentioned scouting reports. You could play someone two and three times and you're right, they know you inside and out, what shoulder you like to go over, etc. Certainly we're going to try and find that out with our opponent, but at the end of the day it is nice to get outside of the Big Ten and have an opportunity to play someone else in a different region and with a different style of basketball.

 

 

On the other teams coming to East Lansing...
Obviously you're excited about having a No. 1 seed come through here. Right now, honestly, I think we're just really looking forward to playing that first one and that's most important in our minds right now.

On getting the No. 9 seed...
Certainly losing in the quarterfinal against Wisconsin was something that affected our seeding. Had we done a little bit better there, our seeding would've been different. The fact is, we're one of the 64 teams. We belong there and we're going to make a play. I'm proud of our kids. We've had a lot of adversity, especially when you look at that point guard position. You can lose at a lot of positions, but when you lose a point guard and you lose Brittney Thomas as last as we did late in the season, it takes a lot of time for kids to develop and different people to play those positions. I'm really proud of the kids that have stepped up and put themselves in a position to be playing in the NCAA Tournament. This team could have easily taken a step backwards and instead we took a big step forward, beating Ohio State the next day and obviously Indiana, Purdue and some other teams. I think that our kids are ready for the challenge and are excited about where we're at.

On getting practice during their time off...
It has given us an opportunity to focus on ourselves and especially player development. We were on spring break this last week, so they had a lot of time and we had them in the gym twice. One of them was an hour of shooting and working on individual skill development. I think all of our coaches, and probably even some of our players, will tell you that I've seen a difference in us. We've also been just practicing against each other. There's nobody else here to go against in our scout team. To me that's been a nice addition to for them. They probably disagree with me on that, but I've actually liked seeing them compete against each other.

On having Duke and former head coach Joanne McCallie come to East Lansing...
Certainly we have an understanding that Coach McCallie did a great job here, and she left to go to Duke. I don't think that's a secret. She recruited a lot of these kids and some of them played for her. You say that's a white elephant, but I don't think it's a white elephant, I think it's reality. You're not going to play anybody in the NCAA Tournament if you don't win the first one. For us, all we really need to do is focus on the first game at hand. Given our situation, with our injuries and what not, that is all we have done, especially down the stretch. We have put a game plan together and have our kids playing as hard as they can. When they fight, and they scrap, and they work hard together, they find a way to make things happen. Our focus isn't on the next one. In the NCAA Tournament that's a recipe for disaster.

We played in the NIT Tournament last year in Breslin and it was survive and advance mode. If we lost, we were done. So we have some good experience not only in that mentality. That was a young team last year, and the second piece of that was that we did it here in Breslin. Hopefully we can take that experience of survive and advance here in Breslin and carry it over. Our focus is just going to be on a good Sun Belt Conference team in Middle Tennessee State, and whatever happens, happens.

On being able to play at home...
Well I think it's great, especially whenever you can play in the comfort of your own home, as they say. There's a reason why Michigan State is hosting now and in the past is because we've got great fan support and administration in Shelley [Applebaum], Mark [Hollis], our President [Lou Anna K. Simon] and everyone that truly believes in this program. The community support is a testament to what the uniform these kids wear means to them when they run out there. Is it an advantage? Sure. We don't have to figure out where we're going and how we're going to get there. We can sleep in our own beds and get ourselves ready. I'm really excited about the opportunity to play in Breslin and I think that should mean something to these kids.

On how she will handle playing Duke as Michigan State's new head coach...
They're [Duke] a No. 1 seed. To me, is it extra pressure? I think you want to beat everyone you play against, I know I do. I don't really look at the person on the sidelines, I look at the team that we're playing and what we can do from a strategic standpoint to put our kids in the position to be successful. Whatever our game plan is, I think it starts and ends there. The emotion of the game, if you're a true competitor, you're just going to compete at a level that's going to get you a victory at the end of the day. Our focus is, no matter whom we're playing or where we're playing, it's just going to be on making sure our kids are prepared, that we have the best game plan and we fight like crazy every single possession. If we do that, great things happen for the team.

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