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March 20, 2008Arizona's Kevin O'Neill, Chase Budinger, Jerryd Bayless and Jawann McClellan answered several questions from the media on Wednesday. Here's a complete transcript.
Q. Have you seen Joe Alexander, did you happen to see him on TV or have you seen him on tape? If you could talk a little bit about him.
CHASE BUDINGER: Yeah, I was able to see him in the last couple of games. I was able to get some footage on him on some tapes. He's a great player. He's been playing extremely well the last couple of games, really been shooting it really well. Has extreme confidence right now. He's going to be a handful for us.
We just hope that he doesn't have one of his typical games like he's been having. We really need to focus in on him.
Q. Can you talk about the team being not only at full strength injury-wise, but also having fresh legs coming into tomorrow's game, and how that benefits you guys. Can you talk about running up and down?
JAWANN McCLELLAN: I think it's real beneficial. We haven't been healthy in a long time. Now that we have everybody back, it's very important that we have our legs up under us, especially for tomorrow against a team like West Virginia, that's already hard as it is, going out and playing a team like that.
Once we lost after the Stanford game, it was kind of like it played a good part in us losing. We don't like to lose, but we got to rest a couple of extra days. And hopefully it will show on the court tomorrow night.
Q. This has been an unusual season for your team in a lot of ways. How did each of you handle the circumstances, the coaching situation and the distractions that may have caused?
JERRYD BAYLESS: I think we all handled it very well. Everybody knew the whole situation that was going on with Coach Olson, he took his leave of absence. But I think it showed the character of our team how well we handled it. And we started focusing on basketball. And I think we had a pretty successful season, and hopefully we can continue to do that.
CHASE BUDINGER: The biggest thing is we all like to play basketball. The coaching change kind of came on us kind of suddenly. But that didn't do anything towards us as players. We all like to play basketball. We all wanted to grow as a team, so that's what we did.
The biggest thing that we did was really stick together as a team and pull together for each other. I think that really helped us in the end.
JAWANN McCLELLAN: Like Chase said, we love to play basketball, and this is what we do. This is why we came here, no matter who is the coach or not. Of course we wanted to play for Coach Olson, and that wasn't the case. I think we did a good job of handling that all year.
All the other teams, it didn't matter what was going on inside our house, but we still had to go out there and play the game. They didn't care whether we were down or who was injured or who was the coach or not, we still had to go out and put on that Arizona jersey and play basketball, and we did a pretty good job of that all year long.
Q. You played a bunch of teams from different conferences this season. Is the Big East much different from what you saw every night in the Pac-10 or is that overrated a little bit, the different styles in the different conferences?
JERRYD BAYLESS: I think every conference has their distinct style that they use. I don't think we played a team from the Big East this year. We really haven't experienced what they do.
But going into the game we're expecting them to be physical and play hard. That's what we've seen on film on them so far. They're a pretty good team. If we go out there and play hard and play well against them, I think hopefully we can look forward to victory.
CHASE BUDINGER: Like what Jerryd said, each conference has their own identity. We did have a lot of non-conference games against various different teams. And I think that's going to help us in the end. We're able to match up against every type of style. We're just going to come in tomorrow, really just focus in on their style.
JAWANN McCLELLAN: The Big East is a lot different from the Pac-10. It's a physical conference. The Pac-10 is more of an up and down conference. But we expect them to be physical. But we can play physical, too. That's the difference between Coach O'Neill. We had a tough preseason, I think. All the preseason games, win or loss is going to help us prepare for a team like West Virginia.
Q. I was wondering if you could point out a couple of things that maybe concern you when you break down the film on West Virginia, what do they do well that you guys will have to handle?
CHASE BUDINGER: They cover real hard. A bunch of guys, they like to back door. They move well without the ball. Alexander is the main focal point of theirs. Most of their players will run for him. He's a great passer, as well. So even when we try to maybe double him or focus in on him, he's a very good passer and he's able to find free people. That's what I think is most dangerous about him.
Q. After last season can you kind of talk about this season's postseason as far as being in the tournament and kind of the one and done essence of it and having to -- is it more about X's and O's or the tenacious capacity you have to have out there when you talk about being won and done in the tournament?
CHASE BUDINGER: The tournament is a completely different season. Every team comes into the tournament zero and zero. And that's how you have to look at it. For us as a team, we've just got to come in here, play hard and not think about the past games or anything like that.
It's pretty much all about getting hot, that's what I think. This is a time when you're playing your best, when the team really comes together, it's when chemistry plays a big part. And that's a big part of breaking down their team.
Q. Does it make a difference to you as much as you played this year to have this full week? And by the way, how is your back?
JERRYD BAYLESS: Yeah, it does make a little bit of difference, I feel a lot fresher than I have been the whole year. It definitely makes a lot of difference. Right now my back is fine and I feel ready to go.
KEVIN O'NEILL: We're obviously looking forward to playing. We're healthy, which is good news to us. We have been for about three or four games. Had some time off after losing the Pac-10 tournament. Had good practices.
We know we're playing a quality opponent, coached by a quality guy in Bob Huggins, who I happen to think is probably the most underrated coach in America at any level.
So we know what we're in for. We're in for a tough game. We know we'll have to play great basketball. But we are also looking forward to getting out there and playing tomorrow night.
Q. I have a couple of questions. First, can you outline the injuries you guys did have? Second, could you compare, contrast, your coaching style to Coach Huggins. I know you guys are friends and all that.
KEVIN O'NEILL: Bret Brielmaier was hurt from December 22nd on, our starting power forward. He's just now back healthy. He was out 13 games. We lost Bayless for four games right after Christmas. And then we lost Nic Wise for eight games during the Pac-10 season.
All of those hit us pretty hard, especially the guard play. Those are really our only two true point guard/two guard type players on the roster. It was a little bit difficult without one of those guys, the other guy was under a little bit too much pressure or strain, whatever.
I think Bob and I believe the same things that playing hard, not turning the ball over, sharing the ball are all really important things. We've known each other for a long time. I was obviously gone to the NBA for seven years, and didn't spend much time around the college game, but I've always stayed in touch with Bob.
I think he's done a wonderful job with his West Virginia team. They appear to be a team that's improved every month and that says a lot about him and his players.
Q. When you look and try to scout their offense, do you almost have to throw out all the tapes from the first three months of the season, since Alexander has become so much more a focal point the last couple of weeks?
KEVIN O'NEILL: What they've done with Bob's five out motion, I don't know what he calls it, what he's done is different points during the season he's gone to his hot hand and gotten guys like Alexander and now he's playing great, he goes to those guys.
The basic principles about the offense are about the same, they're more set oriented it looked like early on. But they all understand sharing the ball. And they all understand who's playing great right now. If you watch their games during the year, especially from the middle of the year on, I thought it probably isn't just Bob, but the players, if somebody is hot, they find them. And they don't mind giving the ball up. They share it. They make the extra pass.
So when you look at Alexander now, he's playing so well. They're going to go to him. We know that. We need to be prepared to do our best to slow him down.
Q. When Bob was in here he made a point of saying they don't have a post man, they can't break it down off the dribble, do you think that's just coach talk or do you see flaws like that?
KEVIN O'NEILL: I think the elite teams in the country, all of us have some flaws. Like I'd like to have Brook Lopez, that would make our inside game better. It's just everybody is a little bit like that.
It doesn't stop them from being a very good basketball team. They're stronger as a group than they are individually. And that says a lot about their players and their style and their system.
So I had a chance to watch Bob's games, they're probably not as bad as he says or thinks they are. If they're that bad, if they don't want to show up tomorrow, that would be all right, too, I'd be okay with that. But I'm sure they're going to show up and play a heck of a basketball game.
Q. How much more prepared are you on the defensive end compared to two months ago?
KEVIN O'NEILL: You know, now that Nic is back, we're starting to get better defensively. Some of our numbers are a little bit deceiving because we didn't play a real soft, non-conference schedule. We got 43-5 for the year, which isn't bad in your first year playing man to man. We played so many good people in non-conference we didn't get a chance to hold X school to 28 percent or X school to 31 percent.
I think we've improved over the year. And now with Nic back we're an average to a little bit above average defensive team. We're not a good defensive team by any stretch yet. But eventually if your guys keep playing man they'll get there.
Q. Have you used the word "airspace" at all this week, it's been one of your mottos?
KEVIN O'NEILL: Our whole thing is we want to make sure with a guy like Ruoff, we've got to make sure we're in his airspace, take away open 3's. Same with Alexander, he doesn't get a shot at a ton of 3's. But if you don't get up and play him, he's going to shoot up or take one dribble and take a jump and shoot it.
All of our guys are going to have to be ready to have a big multiple effort game to take away initial shot and take away the drive, to be able to help on the weak side. For us the first thing we've got to slow them down in transition -- with our transition defense, and force them in the halfcourt to shoot contested 2's.
Q. What's the week been like? Is it a big advantage in your opinion having the whole week since you played Stanford to rest?
KEVIN O'NEILL: No more than they have. They've had basically the same amount of days. I think they lost on the same day we lost, if I'm not mistaken, to Georgetown. Would that be right? Yeah, it would be. So they lost on Friday, just like we did. Did we lose one day sooner?
KEVIN O'NEILL: We had 24 hours more. I don't know if that helps or not. Both teams should be pretty well rested. Both teams should be ready to play their best basketball. And hopefully it will be a great basketball game.
Q. You haven't done this tournament thing in awhile. Has it been fun compared to NBA playoffs or whatever?
KEVIN O'NEILL: I think if we win it will be fun. Anytime you win I think it's fun. Everybody always talks about, Boy, I'm not having much fun. Usually people say that when they lose.
I would almost guess that UCLA's players had a lot of fun this year, they were 31-3. And I think the more you win, the more fun you have. And the less you win, the less fun you have. The fun about basketball is winning.
But it's like I guess a playoff atmosphere in the NBA. I'm assuming the crowds will be the same. I guess I'm not really sure. I would say that that's probably the case. If it's as exciting as NBA playoff basketball, then it will be really exciting, so I'm really looking forward to it.
Q. A lot has been made about the relationship you have with Bob. What's it like for you to face a guy like that that you're friends with off the court?
KEVIN O'NEILL: We played against each other before. I would cheer for Bob from afar. He's one of the guys that I do stay in touch with in the business. And he's a guy that I think the world of. We have been friends for a long time, both on and off the court. I was glad to see the job he did with West Virginia. I'm glad to see he's back home where he feels like he belongs. If he's happy, I'm happy for him.
But once we get out there we're both going to try to win, obviously. It's not like I'm going to tell our guys, Go ahead and cut the screen so Ruoff can do the three. Looks like Bob needs to catch up down there. It's not going to be like that. We're going to try to beat each other's brains out, obviously. And then afterwards hang out or say hello or do whatever.