Oregon, Iona, Rhode Island and Creighton were the first four teams to take the court of Thursday’s open practice. See what they had to say about tomorrow’s NCAA Tournament matchups at Golden 1 Center.
Oregon (3) vs. Iona (14)
Iona (Sam Cassell Jr., Jordan Washington and Coach Tim Cluess)
Q: Sam, could you talk about your season and what it’s like coming across the country?
Sam Cassell: It was a good season, up and down season, but we stuck together throughout the season. We won our conference. That was our main goal during the season. The big guy right here [pointing to Jordan Washington] led us the whole season right here. We were his supporting cast. We’re just happy to be here.
Q: Jordan, your initial reaction watching Oregon, you mentioned them in transition. They lost one of their big guys and they have only had one game without him, but what do you think about the Ducks?
Jordan Washington: Man, we’re going to run fast and play hard. They like to run fast like we do, so we’re going to play hard and try to top that intensity.
Q: Coach, what is the attitude that you’re trying to manage or how do you have them going into it?
Tim Cluess: We have a tremendous amount of energy as you get close to this game and you don’t want them to use it all up before the game. They were very excited in our workout that we had earlier today, so not overdoing it on the practice court, showing them a lot of video, talking about it, letting them enjoy the moment, making sure they’re getting proper rest, proper food […] When we get to the game time making it about one play at a time and one possession at a time and don’t make it about a bigger picture than that.
Oregon Ducks (Tyler Dorsey, Jordan Bell and Coach Dana Altman)
Q: How has preparation this week been different without Chris [Boucher] there for you?
Jordan Bell: It’s been very different. I have to try to be even more aggressive on the defensive end and offensive knowing that he’s not coming in to sub me out or come play with me during the game. Just trying to stay out of foul trouble, me and Dillon Brooks being smart on the floor. Also trying to get as much conditioning in as I could during the last couple of days, knowing I’m going to have to play more minutes and everybody is going to have to step it up a little more.
Q: Iona plays a similar style. They like to run, shoot threes a lot. How dangerous is that where a team gets hot from outside and can run with it?
Tyler Dorsey: It’s very dangerous. They play four out and one in most of the time and most of their guards can shoot 40 percent from the field. So containing that and running them off the line. Watching them, they are pretty similar to Arizona State, who we played in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament, and they shoot a lot of contested shots and tough shots and hit a lot of threes. So it’s dangerous, but we’ve been preparing all week for that.
Q: Is Iona part of the challenge? The fact that they were in the tournament last year, they got a couple of transfers who played in this tournament that you figure they come in here not as awe struck as some 14 seeds might be?
Dana Altman: They’re not going to be awe struck. They played Iowa State last year, and they got a very competitive team. They’re going to space the floor and shoot a ton of threes. […] So our perimeter defense is going to be challenged and we don’t have Chris there to protect the rim and push out like we traditionally do. We’ve had a very good defensive team on the three-point line and a big part of that is the guys’ security to go out and run at shooters knowing that somebody was protecting the rim. […] We know we’ve got our work cut out for us. There is no doubt about that.
Rhode Island (6) vs. Creighton (11)
Rhode Island (E.C. Matthews, Hassan Martin and Coach Dan Hurley)
Q: What does it mean to you guys to bring Rhode Island back to the tourney for the first in a long time?
Hassan Martin: It means a lot to me, especially my last year here, going out as a warrior hasn’t been done in almost two decades, and not only to get to the tournament but to win the Atlantic 10 Championship. It is something I will never forget and I’m excited to start this tournament.
Q: E.C., a year ago when the NCAA games were in Providence you went to watch Buffalo with Coach Hurley. What did you learn from that experience and take away from it that made you want to play in it as well?
E.C. Matthews: Nothing like it. I was a fan in the crowd, but seeing the amount of people there and the level of play and how hard the teams play and how every detail you’ve got to be really focused and put your all into it. It’s a blessing just to be a part of that. I think our team, we’re going to feed off that very well. We’re going to play hard. We’re going to play very hard on Friday.
Q: Coach, as you look at the Creighton matchup what’s the biggest challenge with defending them?
Dan Hurley: […] The best offensive team we will have played this year without a question. Greg McDermott, the stuff they run, the nuances of it, he looks like he could be a tremendous NBA coach based on how good he is on offense. Foster is a potential pro. Justin Patton is a lottery pick, and Thomas is a great player and they surround those three with shooters and they’re an underrated defensive team. They’ve adjusted since Watson has been out. They found themselves. It’s going to be a heck of a game for us to stay close in and hopefully have a chance to steal.
Creighton (Khyri Thomas, Cole Huff, Marcus Foster, Coach Greg McDermott)
Q: Marcus, when you look at this south region, how tough is it? Seems like every team 1-16 has some sort of a threat and could easily find themselves in the Final Four.
Marcus Foster: There is definitely a lot of competition out there, but it’s the NCAA Tournament. This is the time of year when everybody is going to be playing their best basketball. Everybody in the tournament is going to be a great team, no matter what region you’re in. So you got to be prepared and be ready to play every night.
Q: Cole, how soon did you realize how good Patton was going to be? He had a meteoric rise when he got to Creighton. What was it like watching him on the floor?
Cole Huff: Just going back to last season, his red-shirt season how hard he worked and for the skill set that he has as such a tall guy, being seven foot, it was obvious to see the sky is the limit for him. I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t surprised when the season started just how quickly he put it together. Since we got the ball rolling I think he has kept building his confidence and he’s playing great basketball.
Q: Looking at Rhode Island’s tapes, what stands out the most to you and what will be the toughest thing for you in that game?
Greg McDermott: I think they’re one of the better defensive teams we’ve seen all year, and their numbers certainly support that. Forty percent defensive field-goal percentage, 29 percent is all they’re allowing from the three-point line. Not only is their three-point field goal percentage good, the number of three-point shots that you can find against them is rather low as well. They’ve only lost two games since the last week in January, so they’re playing well at the right time and were a team that really was banged up with injuries throughout the first two-thirds of the season and as they’ve gotten healthy have found their stride.