March 23, 2009
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"We are happy we are still playing. Our last game, obviously we shot the ball really well and were able to get by a very good Maryland team. Now we move on. We have watched Missouri a few times. We are watching tape now, but I watched them a couple of times during the year. Mike (Anderson) has just done a fabulous job just like he did at UAB. It took time to get the kind of guys that he wanted to have in his system of play. They are playing very similar to that. I know he is proud of his guys and I am proud of mine."
The fact that you coached in the same conference with Mike (Anderson) for awhile and given that he plays an unusual style, can that work to your advantage?
Does the schedule you played this year work against you?
"I think for both of us, the way we play offensively is different. He has an idea of what we are trying to do, and I have an idea of what he is trying to do. We are both going to look at each other's tape and say `Oh my gosh.' I am looking at them right now and that is what I am saying about them; how good they are. Hopefully he is saying that about my team, but I don't know that.But there is an idea of what he is trying to do and how he is trying to make the game look. I think he (Mike Anderson) knows that we are a little different offensively and how we play with this dribble-drive motion. "
"I tell you, if the option were to lose a couple of games I would tell you I would rather be doing what we are doing. Our non-conference schedule was ranked as the eighth-toughest in the country. Over the last four years our non-conference schedule has been rated in the top five overall. We choose to go out and play the best teams in the country, including on the road, going to Tennessee, going to Gonzaga in the middle of our season.
We have had three losses. Two of them are to Sweet 16 teams. The other was a game at Georgetown early in the year when they were in the top 10 and we lost in overtime. We have had some games that were relatively close. But we have just taken care of business. It is what we do. It is how we play.
Our seniors are the winningest players in the history of NCAA while playing a top five non-conference schedule their entire time (at Memphis). Our seniors, I believe, have either won the most NCAA (Tournament) games over the last four years, or they are second. You can't really take that away from us. Our seniors will graduate in May in four years and on time. On top of that, in May we will have had 19 of the 22 seniors to go through this program graduated."
What do you remember of your last conference loss to UAB in Birmingham?
"I remember they had a countdown to the game on a clock in the middle of campus. I remember the tents that were outside. It was sold out three or four months before the game was even played, in other words before the season they were pointing to that game. I remember a very physical game. We got up to a 10 point lead and by the end of the half they were up six. It was a war. They threw a punch, we threw a punch, and they threw a punch.
The biggest thing I remember is that I couldn't get to Mike (Anderson) to shake his hand. So I had to wait until we got into the back of the hallway, and I don't even think I ever shook his hand. I think I called him and said `look I couldn't get down to you.' The other thing I remember is that win put UAB in the NCAA Tournament. It would have been the same with Tulsa this year. The crazy thing is, if I remember right, the strength of our conference now is way better than the stength that year. I think we were ninth of 10th this year. We were 15th that year. This year's league was way better, as a league, than that year's league."
It appears the perception of the league is that it has gotten worst?
"Yea, it is amazing to me. That year we got two teams into the NCAA's. Are you ready for this, we went to the Elite Eight, and if I remember right, they got to the Sweet 16. They beat Kentucky or something. They beat Kentucky good that year. It is kind of like as we win the league gets diminished and it is not fair to the rest of the guys but that is how it is."
In games where you guys have actually tried to slow down the tempo you have been fairly successful, what about the pace of the game coming up on Thursday and how are you going to handle what Missouri wants to do to you?
"We are going to do what we did against Maryland. We are a different team now. You talk about Antonio (Anderson) with 11 assists. You talk about Tyreke (Evans) as a passer. You talk about Doneal Mack and Roburt Sallie. You talk about (Shawn) Taggart and (Robert) Dozier, both who handle the ball and if you foul them they are going to hit free throws. You talk about Wesley Witherspoon and even Pierre (Henderson-Niles). We are going to go. That is how they want the game, and that is how we want the game. So it will be fine. We can play however we need to play. We have shown that we can win in the 50's. We have shown when it is 90-87, we just hope we have the 90."
How well did you get to know Mike Anderson when he was in the league, and what stands out to you about his team?
"He just gets them to compete. Mike (Anderson) and I see each other on the road. There is respect there. Part of it, it was kind of like we were trying to beat them back and they were trying to knock us off our perch. So there was a competiveness there. But there is nothing but respect for him from me. UAB is a hard job just like Memphis is a hard job. They are hard jobs. I respected what he did. He always got his team to play wide open, which is how I get my team to try to play. When you look at our teams and what we have been trying to do, they are very similar."