Some nice nuggets here....
Q. Cat Barber was just saying that he's so quick that he would advise teams not to press him. Do you expect that Rick Pitino will change his philosophy at this late date?
WAYNE BLACKSHEAR: No. It doesn't matter to us. Chris Jones was just as fast. It really doesn't matter. Our press is designed to wear you down throughout the game, not from the beginning of the game. So we'll just wait and see when the press is on.
Q. Montrezl, you guys were just here a month ago. Any advantage to having just played here? They always said the Dome is a tough place to shoot.
MONTREZL HARRELL: I feel like anywhere you go it's going to be tough to shoot in the beginning because you're not used to the facility. That's what these practices are for. You need the practices to go out there and get a lot of shots up and try to get familiar with the court. Like I said, we played here before when we played against Syracuse, and we really didn't have too much of a tough shooting night. Once again, this is what we have the practices for to get out here and get shots up and kind of get a feel for the gym.
Q. Montrezl, you had one of your lower scoring games of the year against N.C. State in February. What did you learn from that game that can help you out tomorrow night?
MONTREZL HARRELL: It was a tough shooting night for me. If you keep playing the game of basketball long enough, you're always going to have a tough night. But I learned the process of moving forward. Wasn't seeing too many doubles. I see how they was playing me. They had a really a tough D on me to make sure I couldn't get to the basket. I kind of know how they're going to play me, but tomorrow's a whole different game. Like I said, I'll take the tools that my coaches have instilled in me in the game that we played in before, and I kind of got a feeling how they're going to guard me. So just ready for tomorrow.
Q. This is for both players: You had a taste of it this year, how would you describe -- what makes the ACC different than any other kind of basketball? Do you guys follow the other ACC teams that are still in the tournament?
MONTREZL HARRELL: I feel like the ACC is one of the best conferences in the game of basketball this year. I kind of felt like it was kind of one of those remake of what the Big East games was really like: Hard-fought, toughness, battles every night. It was a real intense competition, one of the teams you had to play every night because there was no telling. You could play as well as you could and end up losing the game. It was a real tough-fought conference. We don't really pay attention to any of the other teams in the ACC. That's not our concern. We're focusing on our team, what we have to do moving forward.
WAYNE BLACKSHEAR: Just piggybacking off what he said, just like a remake of the Big East. A lot of teams from the Big East came to the ACC. Every night is a dogfight. No matter what team it is, ranked team, unranked team. You've just got to be prepared.
Q. Montrezl, six of the eight losses that were inflicted on you this year, those teams are still playing. Does that give you any sense that maybe you had a more successful season than was seen from the outside?
MONTREZL HARRELL: Say that again. I'm sorry?
Q. Of the teams that are still playing Sweet 16 -- Notre Dame, UK, North Carolina, Duke -- account for six of your losses. Does that give you any sense that you had a more successful season because of the high level of the teams that beat you?
MONTREZL HARRELL: I really wouldn't say that because at the end of the day, a loss is a loss. It was tough for us to still have to take those losses. Like you said, we did play high-caliber teams. It was a fight every night. But it just goes to show you that throughout the whole year, like the ACC was one of the toughest conferences there was in the game of basketball. As you can see, Kentucky still has -- they are there. But either way, it just goes to show you we play high-caliber teams. A loss is still a loss. We're not going to take anything away from that. This is a new time in the Tournament, and every game matters. It's all about the losses you take in the Tournament.
COACH PITINO: Well, we're excited to be here. Sweet 16, as I always say, the first round, first game is very nerve-racking, and you've got to get by that. And then obviously, if you get by one more, you're in the Sweet 16. Now you've got a game where, if you win, you're one game away from the Final Four. It keeps mounting, and we're very excited to be a part of the Sweet 16.
Q. Rick, Cat Barber was just saying, if he were a coach, he wouldn't press him. Has there ever been a player so quick that you decided against your core philosophy?
COACH PITINO: Well, Duke just pressed them and just won by 20 points. So that throws that theory out the window.
Q. (No microphone).
COACH PITINO: I find that you have to press differently with a player like Cat Barber, but in my lifetime, the guys that -- Isiah Thomas and Magic Johnson, for us with the New York Knicks, had the most difficulty, and teams like Northern Iowa that pass the ball more because sometimes you can wear a player out when you press them, and that has as many benefits as the actual turnover.
Q. Rick, Terry said that he was not pressing, which everyone seemed to say he was doing in February when he had to take over for Chris. So what is the change in his game recently, do you think?
COACH PITINO: I don't think he was pressing either. I think that it's just that you're playing with a backcourt mate for so long, for four months, and suddenly there's a big change, and you've just got to get used to the change more than anything else.
Q. Coach, does being back here in the Syracuse area, does that bring back early memories of your early days, coaching here with Coach Boeheim?
COACH PITINO: When I left 37 years ago, it was still raining, so yes (laughter). I'm going to have dinner with Jim tonight and Juli. The thing that makes Syracuse a great place is its people. You can kid around about the weather all you want, but I met so many great people, still friends of mine today from a long time ago, and I really, thoroughly enjoyed the two years. My first son was born here. Nothing but great memories about this place and the players that we coached.
Q. Coach, I want to piggyback off that, a week ago here at the Dome, Coach Boeheim announced he has three years left. Can you imagine college basketball without Jim Boeheim?
COACH PITINO: Well, Jim, as I said, is a good friend and a great guy, and I don't believe the three years one bit. He's too cheap to retire in three years. No, I'm only kidding. I think Jim is going through a tough time right now, and I think -- one thing I can tell you about tough times is tough people get through them very well, and he will get through it. But, no, it would be very difficult, sort of like St. John's with Louie and Jim with Syracuse and Coach K with Duke. You can't imagine those programs without that person at the helm. But every great thing does come to an end. In Jim's case, we would all miss him on the coaching sidelines. But I do know this, that he's a man of great integrity. I worked with him. There's not an ounce in him that would ever break the rules knowingly. So I know him very well, no different than Roy Williams. These are guys with great integrity. And sometimes you just -- in today's culture, anything can happen.
Q. Rick, kind of in conjunction with that, specific to the NCAA's penalties, what was your reaction to them? And how do you think Jim and Syracuse will handle them?
COACH PITINO: I think Jim already had the press conference to handle that, and I certainly don't need to defend him because he did it quite well himself. I will say this, we all agree -- the NCAA, which we are part of. So when we say "the NCAA", sometimes coaches and people think they're an outside organization. We are the NCAA, and we must voice to them, look, we want to keep our game regulated the right way but not in an eight-year time span. They can't have these Miami investigations and then -- I understand that. Hire more people. We've got a lot of money from March Madness. Hire more people and get the job done in a shorter period of time. Outside of that, Syracuse knows how to handle it. They don't need me to defend him.
Q. Coach, what was the experience like for you to be in the ACC this year? How is it different?
COACH PITINO: I guess we're so used to change. I've been in Conference USA, the Big East, the AAC, now the ACC, and in my time at Louisville, and for me personally, it was great. I've not been to many of these places before. Even though I've been in the business for 40 years, 8 years in the pros and 32 years in college, I haven't been to a lot of these places, and I really enjoyed seeing what it was like. The ACC is like the Big East southern style. Now, we joined in with Pittsburgh, Louisville, Boston College. It's a mega conference right now, and obviously from the Sweet 16, doing quite well.
Q. Kind of a follow-up to that, with five ACC teams still playing, most of your losses were responsible from four teams that are still playing. Does that strengthen you for the Tournament, going in having played all these Sweet 16 teams? And second part of that, as you're in the bubble of the ACC, are you aware of how these teams fare nationally as the season is going along?
COACH PITINO: I don't think our players are, but I am certainly personally because I follow each game. I think that the ACC this year, the upper division of the ACC, there have always been four or five teams that could win a National Championship, certainly go to a Final Four. It's only going to get better and better and better because recruiting heats up each year. A lot of coaching changes have been made in the Big East (sic); new coach at Boston College, new coach at Virginia Tech, new coach at Wake Forest. So it takes time for those people to catch up recruiting-wise.
We opened up the season against Minnesota, a Big Ten school. We played Indiana at the Garden. We played Ohio State. We played Kentucky, then we went through this schedule. Like everything else, when you play that type of competition, we finished the season 24-8 with a double bye. A lot of people felt that we would have a lot of problems. It's interesting, that's what happens when you become very successful at anything; people expect more. Well, I happen to believe that we've had our struggles this year because we've had a difficult time scoring, but the fact that they won 24 games played in that competition means they had to win another way. We've never had problems at Louisville scoring. I should say one other year, the Final Four year, we had trouble there as well. So you just have to find a way to win, and we've found a way to win this year. And we've gotten better the last three weeks from an execution standpoint. So there's many different ways to win, and our guys are finding ways to do that.
Q. Are you more comfortable, or is it less comfortable, when you play a team that you already played in the regular season when you get to Tournament?
COACH PITINO: I really don't think it matters. We know them better, and they know us better. We have great respect for them. They beat us at home. A lot of teams don't beat us at home. It was a close game, and then they pulled away. Hurt us on the backboard. Hurt us off pick-and-rolls. Did a lot of really good things. They're a team right now that can beat you so many different ways. They can beat you inside. They can beat you outside with three-point shooting with their two and three. They can beat you off the bounce with their point guard. They're very physical inside. They can beat you on the break. So many different ways that they can win.
Sometimes NC State is not as well noticed on Tobacco Road as, say, Carolina or Duke, but they beat both of those teams, and they can beat anybody. They're that good. So we know that. I think they know we're pretty good as well. So we just know each other better. The one thing that happens -- when I was watching Northern Iowa on film, I've never been so nervous in a long, long time the way they executed. I was really impressed with them. They're like Virginia on defense, and then offensively they shoot it great. They pass it great. They do so many outstanding things. Then you watch Irvine on film, and you say, you know, we can hurt them here. We can hurt them here. Then you look physically for the first time against a 7'6" person, and you haven't gone against that, and Irvine played a winning game. They could have beaten us. So that's just what this tournament is about.
We know them, and they know us. One of us may make a big change in this game that the other team's not ready for and maybe surprise someone.
Q. Forgive me if this has been asked, Quentin Snider's improvement, what have you seen in him? And what have you tried to bring out in him?
COACH PITINO: The most important thing is defense. He's been struggling defensively. But he got to go every single day against Chris Jones, one of the strongest point guards in the nation, and he got a lot better because of that. Sometimes people like Quentin and Jaylen Johnson don't show how good they are because all they're doing is giving a breather to Chris. They come in before a time-out, play another minute or two after the time-out just to give the guy a breather. Now he's in a different role, and he can showcase his skills a lot more. So he's doing an outstanding job for us. He's improved, but I think because going head to head with Chris Jones every day made him a much better basketball player.