Quoting Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon and student-ahtletes.
Friday, March 18, 2011
Q. This is for Gary McGhee. Gary, is it meaningful for you to play against an Indiana school? And I suppose you played against Matt Howard in high school. And do you know anything about their other post, Andrew Smith?
Gary McGhee: Yeah. It's definitely meaningful to play against an Indiana school. A great tradition in the state of Indiana for basketball. So anytime when you get to play against a team, that's really good. And I played against Matt Howard. Throughout my career in high school, we were in the same conference. We battled, and there were other posts. Andrew Smith is a really good player.
Q. If I could just follow up a bit on that, Gary, could you I guess kind of recall what age or grade you were when you and Matt first came across each other and what you remember about your relative size and fitness level? Were you guys similar to now or a lot of changes since then?
Gary McGhee: There's probably been a lot of changes probably in both our games. It was around my freshman year of high school, made conference play for high school basketball. He was a slim kid; I was kind of big, kind of chunky kid. And now we're a different players, both improved tremendously. So it's going to be different being on the court tomorrow.
Q. Did you kind of reshape yourself, I guess, under Jamie Dixon at Pitt, or was this like junior/senior year of high school?
Gary McGhee: I was definitely under the Pitts program and certain conditioning program with Tim Beltz, a lot of running and lifting just transformed my body.
Q. Gilbert, talk about the Butler team which you are going to be facing tomorrow?
Gilbert Brown: Butler is a very experienced team. They have four returning starters from that Final Four team, the national championship team that they had from last year, and they really, really show a lot of confidence out there with Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard. And even the young guy, Andrew Smith, I think Smith and Howard really play off of each other and it makes them a better team.
They're a very aggressive team defensively and offensively, so we really have to focus in on practicing, prepare for what they're going to go and do out there.
Q. Gilbert, this is for you. Do you feel like your best basketball for this team is still ahead of you guys?
Gilbert Brown: Without a doubt. I think everybody's confident going into this game. I think that Brad has his best games ahead of him, as well as Gary, and everyone else on this team. And I feel that a game is just going to come up where we're going to rolling on all cylinders, and we're just going to put one of our best performances out there.
I'm very confident in everybody on this team, and I think if we can just stick together and continue to make the right sacrifices for this team, that we're going to go come out on top.
Q. Any of you guys, when you're playing Butler, do you just look at them as a No. 8 seed? Do you know their history, and do you have to respect that a little more than you would perhaps any other 8 seed given what they've done in this tournament?
Gilbert Brown: I think when you look at Butler, you definitely have to respect them like a little bit more. Just being the national championship game last year speaks a lot of them. And having those players back from that team really means a lot to their program and where they stand as a program. They have a great coach and a lot of developed players that have been playing in college basketball for a couple years, so you have to prepare for them extensively and just really be prepared for a battle.
You seen the game against Old Dominion. They really were battling out there on the boards. It was almost like a traditional Big East game the way they were playing.
It's going to be a challenge. It definitely is. Every game from here on out is going to be a big challenge. We really have to prepare mentally and physically for these games.
Brad Wanamaker: Knowing the history of their school and they're basically America's team now. And it's going to be a battle, as Gil said. It's going to come down to who win the battle on the boards. As you seen last night, doubling in on the tip in with Matt Howard.
Q. You guys have probably heard over the course of last year as well about how you guys beat each other up and that that may exact a toll when the NCAA's turn around, that you don't have enough to finish. What do you think about that, do you think that it's a blessing or a curse that you guys have to go through, what you do during conference play, once tournament time starts?
Gary McGhee: Going through the Big East schedule is definitely grueling, every night going up against teams that just get after each other throughout the whole game. It's just very tough during the season, but getting to the post-season, I think it helps us out being used to going through that and just good for us going down the stretch.
Brad Wanamaker: I think it's a blessing just to come up and play a team like Butler who's very physical and who gets to the floor and who get after it. They bring it to you. So it's definitely going to seem like we're playing in a Big East game.
Gilbert Brown: It's definitely a blessing to be able to go and play against that competition day in and day out during the Big East schedule. It definitely prepares you for the tournament and the type of conditions in the game that you're going to be in.
Q. Guys, does it help at all or has Jamie talked to you about the fact that he coached Shelvin Mack? And I know Gordon Hayward is not there with him anymore, but the fact that he coached Shelvin a few years ago along with Ashton. Maybe does he know his style of play? Has he talked to you guys about that at all, that he coached him in the under 19 team?
Gilbert Brown: He really hasn't brought up anything about Shelvin yet, him being coaching him in the USA team. I know Ashton has mentioned some things about him and how -- his style of play. So maybe when we get out there and are able to go over Butler's team plays, he may bring up some of the things that Mack does on the offensive end.
Q. This is for all you guys. Senior leadership can never be overstated. Could you all talk about that in general and, in particular, the two guys that are sitting with you, what they bring?
Gilbert Brown: Brad is just a tough competitor. He brings that winner mentality to the game and he's just overall a great basketball player. He brings every aspect of the game, whether it be scoring or rebounding or play-making capabilities.
And G brings the toughness and the heart to the team. He has an attitude where he doesn't quit, and he's relentless when he's playing defensive and rebounding basketball.
And I think when you have those type of players on your team, it really shows a lot, especially to the younger players, how to strive for more.
Brad Wanamaker: Just going off what Gil said, Gary brings that no-quit to us. He's the lead out there on the defensive end especially. He gets us going.
And Gil, just being here maybe a year longer than me and Gary, gets us going. He knows a lot and he's seen a lot, so he keeps us motivated and tells us what we need to do. He's more the vocal leader.
Gary McGhee: Chiming in on that, Brad just brings us, just on the court, just being a vocal leader and just helping us out, getting us in the right spots.
And Gil, just having the experience, helping the younger guys to get to where they need to go.
Q. For Brad, given how much depth you guys have on your team, how is it that, at least seemingly, it's got a constructive purpose, whereas on a lot of college basketball teams, it can -- you can have kids transfer or people get frustrated with playing time. It seems like in your case, Coach Dixon has taken all these talented players and gotten something good out of it instead of just a lot of frustration and people leaving.
Brad Wanamaker: I think it's more so the relationships off the court. When you got a good relationship with players on your team, it don't involve a lot of basketball. And we know that we stick together and everybody shows up each and every game, we could go deep in a tournament and it definitely is a key in any game your play.
Q. You guys are friends?
Brad Wanamaker: Yeah. We family. We call each other brothers. Anytime you're that tight on a team, the sky's the limit.
Q. Gil, this question is for you. You mentioned that you think the best basketball for this team is still lying ahead of you. What do you think some of the facets of your game that have been missing over the last few weeks or a month or so?
Gilbert Brown: Just going back to previous games before our last game and the losses, what we really missed was ball control and just controlling the turnovers that we had in certain games. That really played a factor into some of our losses, as well as rebounding and team defense. I think those are what makes this a stable program.
When you see Pitt basketball, you expect rebounding, you expect defense. And in the game that we lost this season, we really let down ourselves and our coach when we had mistakes on the offense end turning the ball over, or whether it be being tied on a rebounding battle or even losing it.
Q. Can you guys build off that as well, Brad and Gary?
Brad Wanamaker: That's most definitely key, defense and rebounding and take care of the ball. But the thing we've been lacking lately is taking the tempo of the game in the first half. A lot of teams bring it to us early, and for us to be successful here on out, especially facing a team like Butler, you start with the first tempo of the game and get it going early.
Gary McGhee: On that, I feel that we just have to come out and have a better start early off in the game, control the glass, as Gil and Brad said, and just take care of the ball and we should be fine.
Q. Brad, you used the phrase America's team, and that's probably something that everybody's already thought of. Is that something you guys would use as just something extra for tomorrow, or do you discount that as a motivation for you guys tomorrow?
Brad Wanamaker: No. Being an American team, ain't got nothing to do with us. We motivated. We're ready to go out and play. We've been hungry since losing the first round in the Big East. So we're ready to play, and being the American team got nothing to do with it.
Q. The rest of you guys feel the same way, that it's not going to be something you think about, that America's rooting for the other team tomorrow?
Gilbert Brown: Not really. It may actually benefit us. I think we thrive in being in an underdog role when people don't expect us to succeed. So it plays in our heads and we want to go out there and prove everybody wrong that thinks different.
Gary McGhee: I think everyone wants to see the upset, as you can say, the AC were the 1 seed, so that might be what America wants to see is the upset.
We just want to come out there and play our game, and we know what we have to do.
Q. You mentioned the UConn loss last week. How does that motivate you going into tomorrow and throughout the tournament, and what did you take from that loss, that you might be playing a chip on your shoulder, with something to prove? How do you use that loss to fuel you?
Gilbert Brown: I think just going back and looking at that loss that we suffered at the Big East Tournament, it really showed a lot of what we need to improve on.
I think UConn really took it to us and they fought for it and they essentially just wanted it more. And like where they were getting the loose balls and all the offensive rebounds down the stretch that we usually come up with, and that was key, because in a game like that and in the games from here on out, they're going to be close. And whoever gets those loose balls, those offensive rebounds, those little key plays, are going to be the ones that come out victorious.
So I think we really been stressing on treating every possession like it's your last, every play like it's your last, because if you don't come out there with that intensity and the other team does, then you're going to fail.
Q. On the opposite end of Butler maybe being America's team, do you guys ever feel like you're overlooked for everything you've accomplished? You kind of operate outside of the spotlight a little bit it seems.
Brad Wanamaker: Yeah. You look at -- Pitt program has always been overlooked. But we take that as motivation, especially playing against a team like Butler. As we said, they're America's team. So it just motivates you more. People depend on us to lose this game, so we're very motivated and we're ready to play.
Gary McGhee: Yeah, as he said, we just want to come out and just prove everyone wrong sometimes. People don't give us the credit that we deserve, but we just want to come out and get the win.
MODERATOR: Any other questions for the Pittsburgh student-athletes? Okay. Guys. Thank you.
Pittsburgh Head Coach Jamie Dixon joining us on the podium. Coach, quick opening statement with regards to heading into the third round tomorrow night.
COACH Jamie Dixon: Okay. Preparation here, we'll practice a little bit later on here as we get ready for Butler. Familiar with them, able to go through their stuff and know what they do. Very physical team, a team that takes great pride in their defense and their physicality. Team defense I think the best way to put how they play and really try to keep penetration in front of you, and a physical post not letting the ball inside, at times full fronting and using their bodies to prevent that.
But obviously a very good program and been good for a lot of years. And Brad's done a great job. Brad's a good friend, and obviously Shelvin's a guy we coached at the USA basketball and know very well. And Ashton and him were able to play together, and we really have really two point guards or ones and twos for that team, so I know they're close as well.
MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Dixon.
Q. You've been through the conference when it was smaller and through expansion. Do you think it's come out stronger in the end. Is it more difficult and why might that be?
COACH Jamie Dixon: Yeah, I think so. I think it's amazing. When it came together, I think people thought it might be the demise of the Big East and how it went to the 16 teams. I think a lot of people thought that way. And it's only strengthened itself.
I think really we've made each other better, and I think the numbers clearly show that with getting 11 teams to the NCAA Tournament. I know every conference is biased and think they have the best conference, but I don't even know if that was up for debate this year in what we did in the preseason tournaments.
When you get to the NCAA Tournament and the seeds, we get sent to different regions, different things occur. I don't know if that's the best thing that you can go by. But I think we've far surpassed in the every way basketball-wise, and I think football-wise will be the same thing. And I think as a conference, it's regained its footing in every aspect, and it's really headed in the right direction and where great things are to come.
Obviously basketball, we've set ourselves apart, I think, from everybody, but I think the same thing is going to happen for football. We're going to raise the level as well.
Q. Coach, a lot of times when college basketball teams have a lot of depth, it doesn't necessarily go to a constructive end. Some players transfer or the chemistry goes south. How have you kind of taken all of the players you have who legitimately contend for playing time and channelled that to what seems to be a constructive end and gotten the good out of that?
COACH Jamie Dixon: I think that's a very good point because oftentimes we're asked about our team and why we've had the success we've had and how we've done it. And I think the point you make is we have been able to play a lot of guys and keep those guys and not only have them transferring.
I think it's all of the things. I think it's the type of kids we recruit. I think it's the school, the university. I think the kids like our place, our university. They like going to school there. So I know you're supposed to talk in basketball terms, but I think there's a lot of different things that go into it.
And I think they see themselves improving, they see the team improving, and they see the goals that we have. And oftentimes it's the guys you recruit, coming from the right place and coming -- recruiting the right kids who want to win first, want to win first and know how to go about doing that.
So a lot of that factors in, but I think the bottom line is that our kids like playing our program, they like going to our university, they like the City of Pittsburgh. Most of our kids are from different areas. Won't do really have any players from our area. We've only had one really in the last seven, eight years. So that's something that we really have to look into in great deal and do great research on and get a lot of questions answered before they get there. But I think bottom line is they like the university, they like what we do.
Q. The players were up here a few minutes ago saying that they feel -- they can't find a little motivation from Butler being, as they said, America's team, but they also said that they're drawing as much motivation so far in the Tournament from losing the way they did to UConn last week. Do you see one or the other or both or neither being a big factor as you guys take the floor tomorrow?
COACH Jamie Dixon: Well, I think we like to say different ways that we're trying to be motivated in different events or circumstances. I just think this group is -- they've really committed. From the summer, we did a summer trip last spring, all the time and effort that we've put into it, I don't know of one thing more than anything in what -- our guys all come from winning programs, high schools.
They're used to winning here at Pitt, and I just can't see one motivating factor for them.
I think they just -- they've won state championships, they've won the Big East championship this year. They believe that they have the ability to play on, and I think that's really the most important thing and their most motivating factor.
Q. Coach, just a little bit of a follow-up on what David just brought up. You could not have lost the Big East in a more highly publicized way, and a lot of teams might hang their heads. These guys are just pissed off about all that. They talked a little bit about that. Can you kind of explain to me the mental makeup of these guys, and especially your seniors?
COACH Jamie Dixon: Well, we won the Big East Conference. And as I said, when we won the conference championship, I said it will be the first time any team has won a conference with 11 NCAA Tournament teams in it, and probably be the last time too. So we accomplished great deal. Beat a lot of good people to win that championship.
You want to win every game or goal. Our next goal was to win that Big East Championship Tournament, but lost it, lost a tough game against a very good team.
But I think at the end, we knew there was more to come and the NCAA Tournament is it, but we also know you have to take business in your first -- take care of business in your first game. And we've seen in the past, what's happened beforehand has very little to do with it. And it's really, we're all starting with a clean slate, just like we went into the Big East Tournament. We had a great year to win that conference obviously, but everybody's equal at this point. And we understand that, and what we've done in the past has nothing to do with what we need to do tomorrow.
Q. You mentioned recruiting. Can you think back to your recruitment of Brad and what stood out about him?
COACH Jamie Dixon: It wasn't like we were on him real early. When I say real early, it was his junior year. I remember in the spring first seeing him play. But really, the summer going into his senior year is -- I really followed him a lot and just one of those guys -- those are the guys that love to recruit. We watch them play a lot. And especially in the summer, we'll see them game after a game for about a two-week stretch or 20 days. And there are certain guys that you like.
Most guys you like as it drags on you like less and less that you see. The guys that you like more and more, those are the guys that are going to become players. And he maybe not warrants so long or he wasn't ranked high early on, he wasn't a guy that everybody thought would be the level that you needed or the type of player you needed.
But as we watched him play more and more, I loved everything he did each day. It seemed to grow. And so I think of him in that regard. And when he came to Pitt, I just knew he was going to be a great player. And I've said a couple times where I was so sure he was going to be a great player, I may have been a little bit harder on him as a freshman because I had such great expectations and hopes and beliefs in him. And I guess they did come true because he could have been I guess Big East player of the year, he had to be about as close as you can get to without not getting it on the championship team.
So Chevon Troutman was another kid like that we recruited, and I saw that each day he was more -- I don't think he was getting Big East recruitment, but more and more I watched him play, you just knew he was going to be a really good player. When you watch them play 20 straight days and you like him more and more each time, those are going to be the guys that seem to work out best for us.
Q. You mentioned 11 teams from the Big East and the other game that's going to be here is sort an odd byproduct of that, two teams from the same league playing this early in the tournament. I wonder if you could talk about that as a symptom of the league's growth and just sort of an unfortunate side.
COACH Jamie Dixon: I think this is part of what's happened with our league and that we're going to talk about the 11 teams and they'll talk about how many are left in the Final Four or the Elite Eight or the Sweet 16, and now we're playing against each other. So that's why you can't really look completely at how this thing falls out.
But the conference -- and what we did I think in the preseason as far as what we did in all the major tournaments and then how we played out all the way through the Big East Conference, I think it's -- like I said, I think we've made each other better. I think we've -- you say that, you hope that that's going to be the case, but we've strengthened each other with the quality of teams that we brought in the universities, and our university has just grown in every way because of -- at the same time. And I think being part of this conference has helped in that too as well.
So I think we're still heading in the right direction. I see teams that maybe aren't in the NCAA Tournament from our conference building because of it as well.
Q. Jaime, any sympathy or Mick or Jim, having to face a team that probably knows them very well tomorrow? And does it make it any easier or tougher when you're opponent is so familiar with you and vice-versa?
COACH Jamie Dixon: You know you are going to play somebody good. We were -- I guess we saw it coming. I guess we saw it coming. It was going to happen with 11 teams, knew it was going to happen. I have great respect for -- Mick's a good friend. Coach Calhoun is a good friend, so you got me on a bad spot there. I can't root for anybody.
But we do root for our conference teams, and it's something that I guess had to happen. I don't know -- I didn't know it was going to happen twice and this early. But it's just something that's a byproduct of being really, really good and having 11 teams in there.
And you know what? We can't complain about it. We gotta just keep doing it and try to get as many teams as we can to the Tournament. And we just -- there was no real debate. There was 11 quality teams that deserved to be in it and are in it.
Q. Coach, Coach Stevens was up and talked about seeing Gary as a recruit and he had fallen in love with him and said, I knew he was going to a BCS school, so we gave up. Were you as enamored with, say, Gary as you were with Brad?
COACH Jamie Dixon: Gary was a different thing, kind of a real -- the story on Gary was we were recruiting one player, and we saw -- knew the name. We didn't recruit Indianapolis or Indiana too often, but saw him play against DeJuan Blair in a game down in Orlando, and that's where we saw him. And he was a kid that -- I thought he defended DeJuan as well as anybody had that summer. And DeJuan was a little bit under the radar, and I guess Gary was too as well.
But we just liked the things -- I really liked the defensive presence. He really wanted to be at Pitt. He had a real hunger. He liked what we had done. For all the right reasons he was interested in us. He liked the development of Aaron Gray and he had become a NBA center. And that was something that he brought up to us first rather than us.
And so he knew he had to get better, he knew he had to develop. And oftentimes, that's a good place to start. Sometimes guys don't think they have to get better or develop, and he did, and he's paid the price with hard work and a great, great willingness to listen and get better.
Q. From what you've just said, I can't imagine that Matt Howard was ever on your radar as a young person, but could you share any thoughts you have on how he has developed at Butler and his value to the Butler team at this moment?
COACH Jamie Dixon: I'm not sure of his whole career, I don't know how it all -- I think he pretty much came in there pretty productive from the beginning, as we know. But he's a guy that does a lot of things for them. And defensively, he's very physical. I know they need him on floor. I see the times he's been in foul trouble, and it seems they do a lot of things to try to keep him out of foul trouble.
But he's a key defensively and offensively for what they do. He's unique in that he can play inside and outside and I think he's a very experienced guy that gives them -- I think he gives them a lot of confidence with how he plays. But he's physical, he's tough, and he's just very experienced.
Q. The mid-major has really made a run obviously with Butler going to the national championship last year and then George Mason going to the Final Four, and they've just been competitive in the tournaments recently. Why do you think that is, and do you think that the one and done or players leaving early is the biggest reason for it?
COACH Jamie Dixon: A couple things I think, that's obviously not even one and done, but just guys going early. Guys around here are seniors. We're talking about seniors. I think there's more good players out there. Used to be 15 scholarships. Now it's 13 scholarships. I think all those things coming together over time is going to bring about different teams going to the tournament.
But I think as anybody knows, if you get in now, I think as we've seen, there's so many close games that you saw yesterday. I don't think anything can be a surprise anymore. There are certain programs that maybe they play in a mid-major so-called conference, but they've been doing it long enough that they aren't really a mid-major team and they have everything that goes with -- hate to put those terms on teams, but, you know, certain programs at certain leagues have done it for long enough that they have resources, they have the players, they have their tradition to play with anybody in the country.
Q. I know you answered the question with the Big East teams beating each other up in regular season play probably a million times just this year. But how much validity do you think there is to that? Do you think that maybe it's just because of all the teams that lost early last year? Is there a possibility that that could be a factor during the NCAA Tournament?
COACH Jamie Dixon: You know, I haven't quite gone with that one. People have asked it. There's a couple things to factor in. First of all, we got two teams playing against each other today -- or tomorrow. That has something to do with it. I think we're always put in different regions because we have so many of them so we've been spread out. We've been put out west more than we've been put out anywhere else.
So we're playing in different sites. Oftentimes our seeds are adjusted because we have so many in our pod or so many in our region. So a lot of things factor into it as well.
But I just don't see how what we did two weeks ago factors into what goes on today or next week or anytime during the NCAA Tournament, whether it be yesterday or today. I just have a hard time doing that.
These teams are all playing good people. I was watching Butler against Cleveland State today. So everybody's playing against good people. I think ours may be a little bit deeper conference. But I just think there's more things, like I mentioned earlier, that may have a factor in it as well.
And at times we beat each other. No other conference has had to play against somebody else in their conference and been knocked out. I think that eventually those add up.
Quoting Butler head coach Brad Stevens and student-ahtletes.
MODERATOR: We have from Butler, Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard, and we'll open up the floor for questions right away.
Q. Matt, you've a long run with Butler, a lot of different things, but I'm just wondering if this season is any different because you know it can end Saturday, it could end next week, it could end in two weeks, but it's going to end.
MATT HOWARD: In that case, it is different. Probably just the fact that any of these games could be the last one. But it doesn't change from a competitor's mindset. You still want to win every game. And in that way it's different, being a senior, but still want to win them all.
Q. Whether this is your last press conference, whether it's your last basket, whether it's the last time you play with Shelvin or whatever it is, that it may be the last time for a lot of things.
MATT HOWARD: Yeah, that does make it a lot different. It's sort of crazy to think that the next one could be the last one. So you want to make sure in every situation you're as focused as you can be in all the meetings that we have and all the practices, and I don't want to have any regrets in that way.
Q. The exhilaration of the game-winning shot last night, was that still present when you woke up this morning? What was the feeling like this morning getting up, having pulled that off?
MATT HOWARD: It's great to still be going, but my mindset this morning when I woke up was thinking about breakfast. That was about it. I moved on. Obviously that's something maybe after the season that you'll remember, but it's Pittsburgh now.
Q. When you were growing up as a younger player, did you come across Gary McGhee much in Indiana? And if so, could you talk about your journey together and what you see in facing him I guess tomorrow, tomorrow night?
MATT HOWARD: Actually, I was in the same conference as he was in high school. So yeah, we've had a lot of battles over the years, and he's huge, he's a very imposing figure, and he really plays hard. And that's been true in every game that I've played against him. And I guess it's sort neat in a way that we're meeting again in the NCAA Tournament. It's the first time since high school.
Q. Do you remember if it was ninth grade or tenth grade?
MATT HOWARD: It was all four years. He was a four-year starter at his high school and I played quite a bit as a freshman and actually played against him in that game and then started against him the last three years.
Q. Shelvin, you played under Coach Dixon in the USA Basketball team. What was that like? And how much are you looking forward to facing him tomorrow?
SHELVIN MACK: I had a fun experience with him. Also playing along with Ashton Gibbs, he was also on the team. Because Dixon is a great coach. He's very different than different than Coach Stevens. That's kind of unique. But I'm looking forward to tomorrow, and this is a great opportunity for us to go out there and compete and just get out there and play.
Q. Can you guys talk about there were two schools that are almost different than any others when you get to this time of year, and you guys and Gonzaga. And you're not included in the super powers. You're not mid majors. What does it mean when you guys come into a tournament every year and you kind of have to prove yourself to people, but it's like we already know what's going to happen because of the way you guys are?
MATT HOWARD: Well, I think we always believe in ourselves and I think Gonzaga would say the same thing. So it doesn't really matter to us if people believe in us or not. We're going to believe in each other and go out and compete the best that we can and we want to win and we think that we can win, so that's how we approach it. And if we have to prove ourselves all over again, that's fine.
SHELVIN MACK: It's not that much different. Me and my teammates we played AAU basketball before so we are kind of used to playing against those types of guys in the major conferences. And also, for me, I spent a most of my summer playing with guys, so it's not that much of a difference. But just go out there and compete and being the underdogs, we just gotta take it how it is.
Q. What have you seen in this Pittsburgh team?
SHELVIN MACK: We noticed they're very physical, kind of play similar styles with hedging all the owned balls. They just are a bigger version of us, we believe. They're very -- like I said, very strong. We got a box out every play and we know it's gonna be a hard-fought game.
Q. Shelvin, expand a little bit on your relationship with Ashton since playing with him. Have you stayed in contact, and if so, in these last 48 hours, have you had any correspondence with him about the game?
SHELVIN MACK: I talk to Ashton a lot throughout the season. We Skype a few times, every now and then, and just wish him luck, to see how things are going on. I texted him a few times when he was hurt with his injury.
I had the opportunity to Skype him last night but I don't want to Skype him, just -- I'll just wait until I see him on Saturday.
Q. Shelvin, another question on Ashton, do you expect to draw the assignment of guarding him, and did you pick up anything a couple years ago when you were his teammate that might help you in that regard?
SHELVIN MACK: I don't know what the coach has in mind right now. One thing I picked up, he's a competitor and he's going to compete every single play. I tried to take things from that, he's going to play hard. I know what Coach Dixon expects from his team from playing for him, so I know it's going to be a very physical and hard-fought game.
Q. For Matt, I wanted to ask about rebounding. Can you at all explain how Butler outrebounded ODU last night, even though we all saw it. And I guess as part of the question, I'm wondering, what part do you believe of rebounding is just desire and what part is tactical?
MATT HOWARD: There's a little bit of both. You have to have desire to keep going and going and, you know, a lot of times you're going to get hit. And so you have to take those hits.
But there's also positioning. There's a lot to it, like you said tactically, where you position yourself in a place to get a rebound. We take that as a challenge when we're playing a team that's really good at rebounding. We want to see if we can outrebound them. And that was a major goal and we had a lot of guys step up and really have some really good rebounding games off our bench that I'm sure a lot of people didn't expect.
Q. Pittsburgh's a top seed, guys, but should they be fearful of Butler given the past? We all know what Butler has done in this tournament. They're the number one, but should they be the guys that should be looking out?
SHELVIN MACK: I wouldn't say that. Pittsburgh's a great team. We're also a great team. It's the NCAA Tournament. Everyone you play is going to be pretty good, so I think what we did last year really doesn't matter what we did this year. We learned that through the our conference play this season. So I wouldn't say they should be -- they should fear us, but it's going to be a hard-fought game.
MATT HOWARD: I think anytime you play someone, there is something healthy about having a little bit of fear. But I think even in our position, they're going to be confident playing against us, and you have to be confident playing against them. So I highly doubt that they fear us at all.
Q. Matt, talk about how Andrew Smith may have helped you this year. Last year you were at the five spot a lot and had some tougher match-ups. Having a big body and the role that Smith has played this year, talk about how maybe that's helped your game.
MATT HOWARD: It's helped quite a bit. His development has been really key for this team. And not just for me, but he does it great job down low. And my body isn't necessarily built to play huge guys every single game.
So the fact that he can go in there and do that and I'm able to guard guys more like my size does help quite a bit. Especially in the long run. And you really start to feel that this time of year.
MODERATOR: Any other questions for Shelvin or Matt? Okay, guys. Thank you. Making his way to the podium, Butler Head Coach Brad Stevens. Coach, if you could make an open statement about your thoughts heading into the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
COACH BRAD STEVENS: I think obviously Pittsburgh is a great team. Pittsburgh is the No. 1 seed for a reason. Certain it was probably in the discussion. I don't know, I didn't really pay attention enough to how it worked out. But who the overall No. 1 seed in the tournament would have been, I'm sure they were obviously one of four discussed and they look to me like they could have been the one.
So a lot of impressive things about them, and our guys know that we're going to have to be on top of everything to have a chance to win.
MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Stevens?
Q. Coach, the emphasis today seems to be on the next great freshman and who you recruit. But as coach, can you explain in general what seniors can do that, no matter how talented, a freshman cannot do, and in particular your seniors?
COACH BRAD STEVENS: Well, I think that the irony of last year's run and the year before where we went 26-6 with three freshman starters is that's not really how it's been at Butler. It's mostly been third and fourth year players that get experience, learn along the way, sometimes the hard way, and then become very good as juniors and seniors because they're prideful kids, smart kids, and want to do well.
I certainly think there's a lot of value in older players, and I think there's a lot of very good older players. Pitts got some really good older players.
And I think when you look at it across the Final Four last year, for instance, there were a lot of veteran guys. Even though our team was pretty young from the standpoint we started three sophomores, there were a lot of guys that played in a lot of big games. And I don't think you can substitute that experience. I think that experience is certainly helpful. And there's no question about it, as you get older, your sense of urgency rises. And because you know it maybe the last time you play, especially for seniors.
Q. Brad, you mentioned something about seeding, but given that, is this sort of the round of 32 where seeding starts to become less and less important, although the 1 seeds I think have won about 88 percent of the time in this situation bracket, new format?
COACH BRAD STEVENS: You know I'm a stat geek so you didn't need to share that with me. I think seeding can certainly be viewed as very important. There's no question about it. And 1 seeds have always done -- obviously never lost to a 16 seed. And they've always done really well in the second round. So there's no question that we have our hands full. We're just trying to be one of those 12 percent.
Q. You got obviously a couple of starters in the lineup who went through everything last year, one who's now coming off the bench, Ronald. And I was wondering how that change came about, and how you approached it and how he has handled it and done the things that he's been able to do.
COACH BRAD STEVENS: The first time it happened, he cut his hand on the scorer's table at Youngstown so he had stitches and didn't practice the next day, and so Chase started in his place. And I liked it. I liked what we were doing with that group. But a couple games later, Matt Howard had a concussion, so Ron was right back in the startling lineup and we started four guards, and basically looked like a men's league team out there with four guys 6'2" and under playing.
But after we got everybody healthy and got everybody back, we just felt like Ron on this team, one of his best attributes is he has everybody in the room -- he raises the energy level of everybody in the room. So when he's on the bench to start the game, everybody's engaged. And when he comes off the bench, we get a spark.
And you bring him and Zach off together, they really compliment each other well. So that was the reason why we did it.
At that time we were searching for some different ways to attack this thing because we weren't having as much success as we would have liked, and the one guy that you knew could handle it from an emotional standpoint and from a mental standpoint was Ron. Ron wants to be a coach. He's a team-first person, and I think it says more about a guy to go to do that than maybe most people recognize. And I think so it's just another feather in his cap, and it's been well documented what kind of person he is.
Q. Coach, I wanted to ask you about rebounding. Sort of two thoughts. Could you sort of briefly explain how it was that your team out-rebounded ODU, and then speak to the importance of doing something similar against Pitt and perhaps talk about how much of rebounding is sheer desire versus athleticism or tactics.
COACH BRAD STEVENS: I think that is desire certainly a big part of it, but you can have all the desire in the world on the defensive glass, and if you don't have position, you're in trouble. And so we have to do -- everybody talks about us out-rebounding old dominion. We really did a poor job in my opinion on the defensive glass. They out-rebounded us on that side.
We had our best offensive rebounding game of the year, partly because we were very active towards the ball, partly because they were in a zone and we moved the ball pretty well and it got us position.
And so I do think that we've gotta be a lot better on the glass tomorrow than we were yesterday, and it may not be validated in numbers if we are. We may not outrebound them, but we've got to be a lot better getting a percent -- the correct percentage back on the defensive glass. If you give them 40 percent back, they get four out of every ten shots, you're probably going to get beat.
Q. Brad, I don't know if McGhee and Andrew Smith will end up going against each other one-on-one, two guys from Indiana, but could you kind of comment on Andrew's evolution this year? He has really sort of really taken on a role of becoming kind of a go-to guy and seems to embrace that and is one of the guys who seems to improve week to week. And that seems like a little unusual, even for young players, that they're able to make such a steady ascension and improve their play that regularly, as he's done in arguably in the two most important games of his life, the last two, he's performed really well.
COACH BRAD STEVENS: Guys with very good athleticism and/or guys with great size don't improve in baby steps. They improve in leaps and bounds if they're going to improve. It's kind of something I've always believed. So if they're willing to improve, if they're willing to invest to improve, if they're going to be accountable enough to improve, then they will improve in leaps and bounds, and that's what has happened with Andrew.
And you mentioned the other -- Gary McGhee has done same thing. I watched Gary as a high school player, really liked him, thought he was going to be a really good player. But I think he'd being first to tell you -- and I've talked to Coach Dixon about it -- he's really blossomed there. And he's done a wonderful job. Coach Dixon and the staff has done a great job.
They kind of have done it -- you talked about us at Butler having older guys. I think Pittsburgh is a great example, kind of like Purdue, where they may not have guys that were top 25 in everybody's eyes or McDonald's All Americans in everybody's eyes, but they're good, good basketball players. They get older and now they're one of the best teams in the country. It's pretty impressive what they've done.
Q. Coach, has what Butler has done in the past a positive thing going into a game like this against a No. 1 seed? I know confidence might be important, but is your past record valid coming in?
COACH BRAD STEVENS: The record and the games themselves don't have any bearing on tomorrow. But the experience hopefully you can use in a positive way.
And what I mean by that is the game ends yesterday. We have 20 hours to prepare for our practice. We know how -- when we want to do film, we know our guys understand how that process is going to work, we know what we're going to do in practice, we know how much we can do, how little, how much we may not be able to do because we played in a physical game yesterday, and we can kind of gauge that 48 hours in between games and prepare appropriately. I think that's really important.
And then I think guys, having the experience of playing these back-to-backs in the NCAA Tournament is a big deal, and we're one of the few leagues around that plays back-to-backs in our league. And so it's something that we've really done all year.
Q. Just a quick follow-up on McGhee. When you were saying you had seen him as a young player, could you just tell us a bit about the circumstance? Were you scouting Matt Howard and happened to see him or vice versa and --
COACH BRAD STEVENS: They were the same age. They didn't play in the same summer team, but you see everybody throughout the course of time. And to be real candid, I thought Gary McGhee was going to end up at a BCS school, and we didn't think we'd have a shot at him. And that's what's happened, and he's had a great career.
Q. You guys have been very pretty good at predicting this and that regarding the tournament with where you might go, what you might end up doing. Did you think you'd end up with an afternoon game? Were you surprised to get the night slot? I was wondering if that was another extension of that, that since Butler was playing a No. 1 seed, that that was considered an attractive pairing and sort of another, as you said, validation of the Butler brand, that they would put you on in prime time. Seems something like they could have slotted you elsewhere.
COACH BRAD STEVENS: The last thing that I really probably think about is whether or not it's prime time, because I don't know what necessarily prime time is from the television. I'm more concerned about, okay, how do we structure our day.
Again, today and tomorrow, I liked it from the standpoint that we have over 48 hours between games. I thought that was a really good thing, and Pitt does too. And so I think both teams will be fresh and ready to play, and I think it will -- obviously we've got a lost respect for them, and we're just excited to be playing tomorrow. If they want to make it at midnight, noon, you know, 3:00 a.m., I don't care. We're excited to be part of it. We really are. And it will be fun to play at night, that's for sure.