Vols ready to face Iowa in NCAA tournament



THE MODERATOR: We're joined by student athletes Jordan McRae, Jeronne Maymon, Jarnell Stokes, Antonio Barton, and Josh Richardson. We'll open the floor for questions for our student athletes.

Q. Just Jordan and Jeronne, the veterans, how does it feel now you're in the building and see the NCAA logos? If both of you will talk about your emotions this morning.

Jordan McRae: It's just a great feeling for us on. This is something that we've been working towards all year, and for us to finally be here, it's a great feeling.

Jeronne Maymon: To second what Jordan said, I think it's a good accomplishment for us to finally be able to make the NCAA Tournament. And that's about it.

Q. Jarnell, just you talked about the NIT not being fun. Did it hit you today when you walked in here and see all the blue and all the NCAA logos that this is the NCAA Tournament, you're finally kind of where you always wanted to be in?

Jarnell Stokes: It hit me when we got to the hotel room, got to the hotel and we were able to see some of the things people go through when they get to the tournament. Something I personally never experienced.

But we realize we have unfinished business. So I don't want to get too hard, I guess.

Jarnell Stokes: We saw them in the Bahamas, and I stayed and I watched a lot of their games. I saw them competing with Villanova, one of the top teams in the country now. So this team is very good. They can shoot the ball and they have very good balance in their offense.

Q. Jordan, I guess both teams are in a similar position, came into the season with big expectations, are now in the First Four game in Dayton. Coach Fran McCaffery talked about this kind of being a reset for his team, now it's a new season. Is that kind of how you guys feel as well?

Jordan McRae: For us, it's definitely something new. Everybody's record is like 0 0. 68 teams right now are trying to do the same thing.

Josh, I don't know what your game plan would be, but I assume you'll spend some time on Marble tomorrow. What have you seen from him on film and what kind of a challenge is that compared to some of the guys you faced this season?

Josh Richardson: Devyn Marble is definitely a good player. He's good at creating his own shots, he plays well in transition. It's kind of tough to contain somebody like that that can do so many things with the ball.

But, I mean, I've got my guys behind me to help me if I get off balance or something like that, so I think we should be all right tomorrow.

Q. Jarnell, for you, you tend to play well in games that there are a lot of eyes on you. This tournament is going to be probably the most people that have been watching are you excited about that opportunity? I mean, you've put up some good numbers this year. Do you feel like this could be a showcase of some of the things you've been doing?

Jarnell Stokes: Well, I'm not thinking about putting up big numbers except maybe rebounding. But anything else I'm not really thinking about that. I just want to make the right play, make high IQ basketball plays and defend, rebound, do what my team needs me to win. I'm not really thinking about numbers.

Q. Antonio, you guys have won I think five in a row going into that Florida game, and I don't think it trailed any of those five games. Did that Florida game at all feel like stopped your guys' momentum at all? Because, again, you guys were beating teams so easily up to that point.

Antonio Barton: I don't think it stopped anything. We watched a lot of film on it. We made a couple of adjustments. I think it's more motivation on the bounceback after a loss. We've just got to come in, get a job done.

Q. Jeronne, the last time you guys had these two teams had the potential of crossing each other was at the Battle for Atlantis. Looking back at you guys now compared to where you are now compared to then, how has this team changed and what have you learned about yourselves since that preseason tournament?

Jeronne Maymon: I think we're a totally different team in all aspects from top to bottom. I think we've all improved. If not so physically, mentally more so than anything. So we came a long way, made a lot of different strides and a lot of different directions to reach this point. That's why we're playing our best basketball right now.

Q. For any of you guys, what was it like when you first came to Dayton?

Josh Richardson: We first got to Dayton, well, for me I remember just stepping off the bus and hearing somebody playing a bagpipe. And we were all kind of thrown off like we just didn't really know what was going on. Then we remembered it was St. Patrick's Day, so that was part of it.

We were all excited getting off the bus and like little decorations on the bed, so it finally set in for us that we're here and we just got to come out and play well.

Q. Jordan, can you talk about the pace of play, how important it will be tomorrow, average over 82 a game, no team scored 80 on you guys this year? I know you're not afraid to get out and run, but how important is it you just don't get caught up in going back and forth with them?

Jordan McRae: Just like you said, they're a team that's scoring 82 points a game. So we run the run when we get a chance to. We're not trying to have an up and down battle with them. We're trying to sit down on defense the whole game and limit them.

Q. Jarnell, you've played a lot of close games. I'm sure you expect one tomorrow night. What do you guys need to do to maybe come out on top in a close game because you guys maybe haven't done that as well throughout the season?

Jarnell Stokes: We have to want it a little more than the other team. I feel like Florida game, Florida did a very good job, particularly at the end of the game, finishing us off well, letting our defense lead to offense.

And we just have to make plays, go to what's been working. If they take one thing away, just someone has to generate offense.

Q. Jordan, Jeronne, I don't know if you heard the news, rather not comment on it or not, but Bruce Pearl accepted the Auburn job today. Either of you guys heard about that? What are your thoughts on that, him staying in the SEC and being back in the coaching game?

Jeronne Maymon: We have no comments on the Auburn situation. We're here to talk about Tennessee.

Jordan McRae: What Jeronne said. THE MODERATOR: Fair enough. Any other questions for the student athletes? All right, Josh, Antonio, Jarnell, Jeronne, Jordan, good luck tomorrow night.

We're joined by the head coach of the Tennessee Vols.

Coach Martin, an opening statement, and then we'll open up the floor to questions for you.

COACH MARTIN: Just very excited to be in the NCAA Tournament, great for our guys, great for our program, our fans. Just a tremendous honor. We're excited to be here. We're looking forward to a great game against Iowa.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Martin?

Q. So many coaches talk about the importance of, /he importance of point guard play. Is it even more important than it is during the regular season when you get to tournament time or not, and, if so, what are your feelings on that?

COACH MARTIN: I think it's always important. I don't think that the level raises just because it's an NCAA Tournament, you're still playing against a college opponent.

Even though Iowa's a talented team, I think after 30 plus games, you are who you are. I don't think you can just scrap what you're doing and change.

So for us I think what Antonio and Darius, those guys have been playing well, especially in the last six games.

Even though some games they might not make a lot of shots, they are playing well and they run their team and facilitate offense, getting the ball where it needs to go and defending a lot better.

But, of course, you've got to have talented, good point guard play in order to be successful.

Q. Coach, you see some similarities between you guys and Iowa, not necessarily in styles of play, but just two teams that entered the season with expectations, had some ups and downs but are now here in Dayton playing each other?

COACH MARTIN: I think you can say that. I think two teams that went into the preseason that weren't ranked, whatever the expectations were, we're picked to finish third in the SEC, finished fourth. You go through things through the course of a season.

I think for us, when you have two new point guards in a program and you have three returning starters, a guy all league guy two years ago, he's back in your program. So trying to gel those guys together to get the chemistry right, the flow right, doesn't happen overnight. But I'm glad it's happened for our guys the last six or seven games.

Q. Coach, can you just talk about the importance of pace of play tomorrow; they averaged over 80 points a game. You guys haven't given that many up all season long. How important is it you play your style?

COACH MARTIN: I think for us it's not necessarily control of the tempo, because we'll score the ball, we'll run in transition when we have opportunities to score. But I think for us, playing against a very talented Iowa team, we have to stop them in transition. Similar in some ways to Mizzou, when they get up those wings, we watch film of those guys, some cases they'll score with two or three seconds, going off the shot clock, 31 seconds on the clock, 30 seconds on the clock, put the ball in the rim. Not just their guards running the wings, their bigs do a great job of running.

You have to control it from that standpoint, which is easier said than done, and just really make those guys play in the half court. You have to box out because they're a really good offensive rebounding team as well.

Q. You guys have talked about seeing Iowa in the Bahamas back in I guess it was November. How have you seen them, how are they different maybe now than they were a few months ago?

COACH MARTIN: I don't think they're necessarily different. They're still a good team. I think in some ways they're probably better than they were in the Bahamas. That was a new team.

They probably played four or five games before they got to the Bahamas, probably not the best opponents.

They played well in the Bahamas, went through the grind of a Big Ten season. So in some cases you'll probably think they're better than they were at that point, even though the record might not show as much.

But I think they're a better team because anytime you go in a league of that level in 18 games and you talk about 19 games, tournament game, it's tough. So you learn a lot. You see a lot.

You've got some great coaching in the league, some very talented players. I think a lot of cases they're probably better than what they were.

Q. Can you talk about their depth versus your bench, if you think that's going to factor in at all, they play a lot of guys a lot of minutes, you play kind of three guys, are you looking at playing more, and how important is that tomorrow?

COACH MARTIN: I think we'll go with the eight guys. If there's foul trouble or a situation that takes place, if you can get a guy a few minutes here or there we'll do that.

But for us, we'll play the way we play and whatever happens happens. If we need to make adjustments, we'll make them and they have good depth. I think they've got 10 guys hovering around 15 plus minutes at least, excuse me, 10 or 11 guys and have some young guys very talented as well that played a lot early, probably don't play as much, but they have the pieces to play a lot of minutes.

Q. When you look at Marble, what can he do not only scoring but away when he's distributing and how does he compare with McRae?

COACH MARTIN: Well, I think two different players, though, very talented. Marble's a guy, 6'7", can run some point, play the 2, play the 3, and some cases can possibly play the 4. I'm not sure they play him at the 4, but with his size and his ability to hand the ball, can make shots, crash the glass, great job of catching and shooting. And I think his skill level definitely translates to the next level.

Jordan McRae's case, 6'2" guard that scores in transition, doesn't run the point for us, but different players, but their approach is the same as far as how they score the ball, they're both in attack mode.

Q. I asked the players this, Coach what was it like when you first arrived here in Dayton?

COACH MARTIN: It was great. I mean, just being in the NCAA Tournament on the bus ride, with our guys, it's a fun time, exciting time, not only for our guys, but for our fans, our program, the university.

And to walk in a hotel, to receive the fanfare that we did, it was great for our guys and our program. So it was fun.

Q. With the health issues you had earlier in your life and you beat them and now Coach McCaffery going through a thing with his son, he's going to have to leave, he has surgery tomorrow, does your heart go out to him and how does that, how do you think you would deal with that as a coach?

COACH MARTIN: Obviously I said a prayer for he and his family last night and this morning because at the end of the day this is what we do for a living but it's not who we are. First and foremost, he's a father, and that's the most important thing.

But that's first in his life. Put it in God's hands. And when he coaches his team, he'll coach his team. I think it's a tough thing to deal with in a situation like today you plan the NCAA Tournament game, your players need you, but your family needs you more. So tough thing to deal with.


THE MODERATOR: We'll open up the floor for questions for our student athletes.

Q. This question is for Dev. When you look at what McRae's done on video, what do you see and how does he compare to yourself and are you going to be the one that looks like you're going to have to defend him quite a bit?

ROY DEVYN MARBLE: Jordan McRae is a good guard. I think our games resemble each other a little bit. He's asked to carry a lot of the scoring load for that team, and, yes, I will be guarding him.

Q. Devyn, is it interesting to you that you're playing a Tennessee team that you very nearly could have faced in the Battle for Atlantis, and does it help or hurt? What are the benefits of playing a team that you guys probably scouted and got a chance to see, play in person earlier this season?

ROY DEVYN MARBLE: I don't know if it's any benefits or advantages or anything like that, but it is a team that we were prepared to have to face, like you said, in Atlantis. And the coaches have done a good job in keeping us focused and concentrating, making sure we have the right game plan going into it.

Q. Both Zach and Melsahn, it's been four years for you guys to get to this point. Does tomorrow's game and the preparation for tomorrow's game feel any different than any other game in your career?

ZACH MCCABE: You know, obviously it's a big opportunity being in the NCAA Tournament and an opportunity to play, and I think we just have to focus like any other game, just take it like we've been doing in our routine, every game each year and stuff like that.

So we just have to be prepared and focused and be ready for a great team in Tennessee.

MELSAHN BASABE: To piggyback what Zach said, I give credit to Coach McCaffery and the coaching staff. We're prepared at an elite level for each game whether it's a preseason scrimmage or non-conference, or any game we treat as a very important game.

So obviously the stage is a big stage, and this is elimination setting, but as far as our preparation, you know, the coaches have built the culture of us always being diligent and focusing no matter who you play.

Q. All three, and I'll start with Melsahn on this one, defense has obviously been an issue down the stretch in some of these losses, but also seemed to be kind of lack of communication on defense, not really the high tides or whatever that were there earlier in the season. Is that just a perception, or is there some truth to that, that maybe there's not either as much intensity on defense and the chemistry isn't as strong as maybe it was before February, before you played Wisconsin?

MELSAHN BASABE: It's not perception, because obviously the numbers show that we haven't been defending to our capability. Like you said, we were a really good defensive team. The last two years we've been one of the good defensive teams in the country. I'm going to say as a senior I'm going to start off by letting my voice be heard. I know Devyn and Zach will do the same thing and let it carry out throughout the team. We're just going to play defense the way we're capable of playing.

ZACH MCCABE: It's lack of focus, I think. Not doing what we need to do. And, I mean, it's kind of just killed us the last couple of games. We just got to get back to the basketball we were playing, playing together as one unit, and got to get that back.

ROY DEVYN MARBLE: I think we've been able to make some adjustments. We're communicating better as far as practice, leading up to this point. I think you'll see a higher energy level. If this doesn't excite you and energize you as a player, then I don't know what will.

Q. All three of you, this is the first NCAA Tournament Iowa has played in since '06. Have any former Iowa players reached out to any you, sort of giving you advice or offering their hand at all going into this game?

ROY DEVYN MARBLE: I've talked to Matt recently. He reached out to me. I've also stayed in constant communication with guys like Archie and E. May and Jarryd Cole. So they're all supporting us, and we appreciate it and they've given me different words of encouragement that I've definitely taken into consideration.

ZACH MCCABE: Yeah, same pretty much. I've been reached out by Matt Gatens and Jarryd Cole and Eric. And (indiscernible) actually texted me and just told me to play, just get our team ready to go, play with energy, stuff like that, and leave no regrets out on the floor.

MELSAHN BASABE: I have spoken to Devon Archie as well as Jarryd Cole, but I always speak to them. They're like my big brothers. And then actually Dev's dad, even though he was playing in the '80s, he's been a mentor person I talk to a lot, so that's a former player that I was speaking to just about the stage and how it works.

Q. Dev, your coach is in a tough spot with his personal situation. Do you see that as being any kind of rallying cry for this team, or are you just going to be there and support him behind closed doors, let it go at that?

ROY DEVYN MARBLE: You said something about rattling?

Q. He's in a tough spot personally with Patrick. Is it a rallying point, not rattle, rally behind him?

ROY DEVYN MARBLE: Yeah, of course. Coach McCaffery is our guy. We love him. We're all like family. Pat is a guy that basically at practice with us every day. He's like our little brother.

So I think as a unit we will rally behind it, and hopefully we everything goes well for them. They're all in our prayers.

So I know, like you said, he's in a tough spot, so we're just trying to make this as simple and easy for him as possible.

Q. This one's for Zach and Mel. Tennessee has a pretty good inside player in Jarnell Stokes. What have you seen of him on video and what's your challenge going up against him?

THE MODERATOR: Zach first and then Mel.

ZACH MCCABE: Obviously a big body. Guys we haven't seen in our league. They're very good offensive rebounders, and just on the glass constantly. So it's something we haven't seen.

But I think we're prepared. We know what we need to do. They're great players, and they bring a lot of energy to the game. So we just got to match that and bring even more than we have in the past. So it's just a mindset game and we just got to be aggressive with that.

MELSAHN BASABE: Obviously Jarnell is a very talented player. But like I said, the Big Ten has been pretty good my four years here, so I've seen everything from Sullinger to Draymond Green and Adreian Payne and Brandon Dawson and all those guys. So I'm used to competing against high level big men. And he presents his own challenges, but I think as long as you play them correctly and bring the proper intensity and you've got to realize when that shot goes up, it's going to be a war for the rebound, I think we're able to get it done.

We just got to have confidence in our own experience, our own ability while respecting our opponent as well.

Q. Zach, not to harp on the Battle for Atlantis, but you guys played well in that tournament. How would you compare how you played at that point to these last few games you've been in? Do you think you can get back to that point in another tournament setting?

ZACH MCCABE: Yeah, I mean, definitely it's a different type of environment there and tournament setting, and I usually play my best in tournament settings.

So just got to stay confident, believe in my shots, stuff like that, just getting in a rhythm and just play the best I can.

Now, that tournament was a great tournament for me, and I hope I can continue to play like that in the NCAA Tournament.

Q. Zach, you said you play your best in tournament setting. Is there something different about sort of that format, for all three of you, that makes it easier to elevate your play?

ZACH MCCABE: Just knowing it could be your last game. Every game after that, there's nothing to prepare for after that if you lose. So just brings you full circle what we need to do to win.

And it's a big opportunity for us in the NCAA Tournament. And we look to going on a run and stay aggressive and bring energy like we have at the end of the season.

Q. This one is for any of you three, doesn't matter which one who wants to address it, but after halftime the last four games you guys have given up sizable runs. Is there anything, any common element in the locker room at halftime that I guess kind of a lack of intensity right off the bat? Or what is the common element as far as giving up those runs right out of halftime?

MELSAHN BASABE: It relates to us getting away from who we are in the first half of those games. I can't remember the exact numbers, but we was doing what the coaches had told what we had to do and we were playing great team defense, playing up to our capabilities.

I think when we start giving up runs and stuff, we start going away from what has made us successful and what we're capable of.

So that sample of what you just talked about, those spurts just relate to the whole body of the stretch, which is not that we're not capable, where we're getting away from the things that make us successful.

So I think we need to whenever when we go into halftime just the coaches send their message, repeat what got you here, in the situation when we are up, and if we're down, remember, okay, what gets us out of the hole and what's going to help us win this game. I think that's it.

THE MODERATOR: Any other questions for our student athletes? All right, Melsahn, Devyn, and Zach, good luck tomorrow night.

We're now being joined by Fran McCaffery, the head coach of the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Coach, an opening statement and then we'll open up the floor for questions for you.

COACH MCCAFFERY: This has been an incredible journey for our team and we're just thrilled to be here. I've been here before playing in the NCAA Tournament. Incredible venue here at Dayton. And I'm just so excited for our guys to have this opportunity to play in the tournament.

We've prepared well. I like our professionalism in terms of how we approach getting ready for this game. And that's about it.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach?

Q. Fran, in your experience as a coach and especially tournament time, what's your take on the importance people place on point guard play?

COACH MCCAFFERY: I don't know that I would look at it any differently in terms of this time of the year or any other time of the year. I view point guard play as incredibly important. You look at this game, in particular, and you say, well, it might be rebounding, because they're so good in that area.

It could be transition. They run, we run. It could be any number of things. But I think when it's all said and done, the guy that's got the ball most of the time and his ability to make decisions is going to be critical in terms of who wins and loses the game.

Q. Coach, watching the bracket, pops up you play Tennessee, is there a benefit, anything good about playing a team that you got a chance to probably scout and see over at the Battle for Atlantis tournament earlier

COACH MCCAFFERY: I don't think there's any benefit because both of us thought there was a real good chance we were going to play each other. If we both won or we both lost, we were going to play each other in the second round. So I'm sure they have a scouting report on us. We have a scouting report on them.

But that was so long ago. I remember watching them and watching them recently and saying, you know, how impressed I was with how they've continued to improve, how their team came together. At that time of the year you're sort of not sure, where are we going to end up. Both teams obviously came into the season with great expectation. We both have experience. And typically with experience you have expectation. And fortunately we're both here.

Q. Fran, your three seniors just said the guys you mentioned Sunday, Cole, May, Gatens, those guys, had reached out to them, wishing the best of luck. Is that a sign leadership doesn't end when your career's over maybe and how much those guys want it for these guys?

COACH MCCAFFERY: I do, but I also think it speaks to the character of those guys and how close they are that they've remained in touch with each other.

I think Jarryd Cole in particular really took Melsahn and Zach under his wing and tried to show them how to do it. And so did Matt and Eric with regard to Dev, and you could see it's been reflected in their play and their development.

And I think when you have when you have great leadership, you don't have other issues. If you have issues, you don't get here.

And so I'm thankful to the leadership that came before and hope that those guys feel very much a part of the fact that we're here.

Q. Fran, this game features two explosive 2 guards in Marble and McRae. What kind of challenges does McRae present and is Dev going to when you're in man, is he going to largely draw that responsibility on defense?

COACH MCCAFFERY: There will be a lot of times he does; there will be some times when he won't.

McRae has really been impressive to me. Watched him live, of course, but when he's making 3s, his first step is so quick. He seems to always have his defender on the side of him.

If that's the case, then he can create. The thing about him, he's a scorer. But he also gives it up easy. And I think that's what makes him special. He also will run you down and block shots. He has the ability to guard and take advantage of his incredible length.

He's explosive, but I think his length presents issues at both ends of the floor that make him a guy that I think will ultimately end up in the NBA.

Q. Coach, were you able to work on a situation where you're able to fly back to Iowa City, spend some time with your family and make it back to the game tomorrow?

COACH MCCAFFERY: I was. I'm going to leave tonight about 8:30. So we'll obviously we got here yesterday. We had a meeting, we practiced before we left, so actually had two meetings, a meeting this morning, and obviously we'll have practice today. We'll have another meeting and then I'll take off. And so we'll put everything to bed for today.

Tomorrow, the other coaches will handle the morning meeting and the shootaround. Hopefully I'll be back before the last meeting we have which is typically right before pregame meal or right after pregame meal and be ready to coach the game, assuming all goes well.

Q. Walking off to the plate, I heard you guys laughing behind the scene here. I guess, you know, with the way these last few games have gone for you all, have you noticed kind of a has there been almost a relief of pressure? Are they more carefree than they were when the regular season was ended the way it did, or is this kind of like a refresh button for you guys?

COACH MCCAFFERY: I hope so. I really do. I think there was so much emphasis put on this team's ability to get here, to get into the NCAA Tournament in terms of progression. We all look at progression. 18 wins two years ago, NIT bid. Second round departure, then 25 wins, NIT championship game. The next step is you've got to go to the tournament.

I think without question that was on their minds every time we took the floor. And I think it was helpful at times. Maybe it wasn't as helpful at times. But like you said, once you're here, you know then, okay, we all have an equal opportunity to win a National Championship. And it starts with the first game. And anybody that you play against is going to be really good. And we recognize that and we'll prepare and be ready.

Q. Fran, have you been concerned at all about the communication issues on the defensive end, or sometimes does it seem like guys are talking to each other, a little out of sorts? Have they been ironed out over the last few days?

COACH MCCAFFERY: I don't think that's been the case. I think we've talked quite a bit. Sometimes the recognition isn't exactly what you want. But that's true for every game.

We've had some unique sets of circumstances that happen in games recently that, quite honestly, defy the law of averages. We typically will go after the other team's top guys and try to lock into them, and in a lot of cases it's been other people, which is a credit to the opposition that have made shots against us.

That said, we have to react differently. I don't disagree with that point. I think you're right, and we have addressed a lot of those areas. And I think our practices have been incredibly spirited and intense and focused, and we have already shown that we're capable of playing really good defense. It just hasn't happened in recent weeks.

Q. Is it hard for you not to remember the Siena-Ohio State game when you walk into this building?

COACH MCCAFFERY: It was not hard at all. We're in the locker room next to the locker room that we celebrated in. I remember walking off the floor like it was yesterday. And Coach Francis and I were just talking about it five minutes ago. Great feeling, incredible sense of accomplishment, and hope to enjoy similar experience.

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