March 10, 2002
OXFORD, Miss. -
OLE MISS HEAD COACH ROD BARNES
I would like to thank God first. I am excited and it's like I got a shot in the arm. I feel rejuvenated. We have been feeling like we were in the tournament, but until you hear your name called, you just wonder. We got to that last bracket and I was sure that we were going to be in, but I was ready to hear our name. I am thankful and our team is excited.
We got a great match-up against UCLA. It is a great opportunity for us. They have a tremendous amount of tradition and respect for their program across this country. Every little kid and coach that have been around the game recognize the things they have done. When you are talking about UCLA you are talking about not only some of the greatest college players, but also some of the greatest professionals that have ever played the game. We are excited about that opportunity.
We are not really concerned about where we are going. We know we are going to Pittsburgh, but it did not matter to us. The only thing I was hoping for was that they would keep us in the United States. It seems like we are going to be there, so we do not have any problems going to Pittsburgh.
Q: What does playing a decorated team like UCLA mean for your program?
A: I think it is great for our program because it gives us another opportunity. We get a chance to play another program like when we play Kentucky, but we usually only play them once a year. To have the opportunity to play a program of UCLA's caliber does a lot for our program. It could not have been a better catch for us for where we are. We are trying to build tradition and trying to get into the tournament every year. Everybody is going to be picking for UCLA to win because they have all of the tradition, we already know that. But it is an opportunity for us, if we win, to get more publicity and recognition than anyone else in the field unless you are playing Duke.
Q: After losing to South Carolina, did you figure an 8 or 9 seed was inevitable?
A: I thought maybe we could somehow get to a seven seed, after Mississippi State won the SEC Tournament title. That was team we had beat earlier this season. The SEC Tournament finals had two Western Division teams, so I thought maybe it was possible. I thought we would "back-door" to a seven seed. I almost thought we were an eight or a nine and then I thought a ten might not be a bad seed. When you start talking about a ten you might not get in, so then I thought we will take an eight or a nine, either one of them.
Q: After watching the SEC Tournament this weekend instead of playing in it, did it kind of energize your players and let them see that anybody can win these tournaments once you start playing?
A: I think so. The thing I think our guys also gathered from that is that South Carolina played so well. They played hard. That was a team that beat us by two points. I think our guys realized, "That could have been us." It wasn't about seeding, it wasn't about that kind of thing, but that could have been us. I have been talking to our guys over the last couple of days and I heard some worries about if we were in the NCAAs or not. I think tonight, after actually hearing it, you could see some guys relieved and some smiles and hugs. I know these guys and they are going to be excited about getting on the court tonight and definitely getting back to the floor again. I think it is a great seed and match-up for us because you don't have to fire guys up to play the UCLAs, the Dukes or the Kentuckys.
Q: Talk about the state of Mississippi having three teams get into the NCAAs and were you surprised that Mississippi State received a three seed in the South region?
A: I am never surprised by anything in this business. Like I said earlier, I felt like we were in but we had to wait until the last bracket. I was definitely ready for our name to pop up. People have underrated Mississippi State all year long, just like they underrated us last year. You can expect those things to happen. If both of our teams keep winning and getting to the NCAA Tournament, people may quit underrating our teams. We have to deal with that until we can change things and that is what we are trying to do here at Ole Miss. We are trying to change the perception that it is a surprise that we are in the tournament. Most of the nation will be surprised come Friday night if we beat UCLA. We have beaten Alabama, Kentucky and Florida over the last few years, so why should anyone be surprised? I am not sure, but people will be. I think it is great that three Mississippi teams are in the tournament. I think it speaks volumes for the kids in our area. I think it means a lot for our state to have three teams in. I have said this before, but I will say it again. I am Ole Miss first, but I want our state to always do well.
Q: Is the eight or nine seed a spot you want to stay away from?
A: Yes, you kind of want to stay away from it. We did not play our way into a three or a four seed or higher and those are the teams that have the advantages. As I look at the bracket, I do not think being a seven or a ten seed would have been any better that what we got. I would hate to face an Oklahoma or an Alabama in the second round too. In the position we are in, that is the same thing most people are in unless you are a one or a two seed. The bottom line is you have to play everybody. McNeese State is going to be a good team, and they have to play Mississippi State in the first round. I do not know if I would rather have Mississippi State's situation. If they beat McNeese State, they have the possibility of having to play Texas in Dallas. They were supposed to try to regionalize the tournament according to your position, but I would never want to play Texas in Dallas.
Q: Obviously you would like to play closer to home for fan support, but what do you think of Pittsburgh?
A: I think a couple of things. UCLA will not be in their backyard either, so we both will be traveling. We are two teams that have played well during the year, but have not really been that consistent. I am just glad we are not playing them in Sacramento or someplace like that, that is really close to their home. For those guys to get to Pittsburgh and our fans to get to Pittsburgh, it will be tough. This is about as neutral as it could possibly get for us. We have to take every positive thing out of this situation we can. We have them on a neutral court and we have a situation where they are a storied program. The table is set very well for us. Again, if we can win we would most likely play Cincinnati. That would be another situation for us to look at. I would rather play Cincinnati than Duke, although I would rather not have to play either one of them. When you start looking at the bracket, you start thinking we have it bad. But then you can look at Mississippi State and see that they could potentially be playing Texas in Dallas. It will not be a neutral site in Dallas if Texas wins I can guarantee that.
Q: Talk about Justin Reed and how he has helped get you this far this season.
A: Justin is a guy who is really maturing and becoming a great player in his own way and on his own time. We have been going to him and he has really stepped up the last 10-12 games and really played well. He is a nice player. He is the first player who we recruited that was really a national recruit so we are very fortunate to have him. UCLA has a bunch of Justin Reeds. I have seen Jason Kapono play this year and Dan Gadzuric. We have one of those guys where UCLA has three or four of those guys.
Q: UCLA has trouble with defensive-minded teams. Do you think that will help you in the game?
A: I think they are going to come with their game. I think UCLA is a team that, if they play well, can beat anybody in the country. There is no question about that. We are a defensive-minded team and that is why we are where we are. Hopefully it will help us, but I am sure those guys are excited about playing and they will come at us with their best game. They are a strong offensive-minded team and we are a strong defensive-minded team. Hopefully it will be in our favor, it will be our type of game. If it is an offensive type of game, we know they have some good scorers and it will be tough for us.
Q: Have you seen UCLA play much this year and will you contact Coach (Rob) Evans (Arizona State)?
A: We have enough tape on those guys at this point. I have not seen them play that much myself, but we have plenty of tape on them. We are looking forward to getting in their tonight to see what we need to do. I will talk to Coach Evans about being excited to be in the NCAA Tournament and that kind of stuff, but we will not discuss game plan stuff. I talked to him last year when we played Arizona, but I did not ask him about Arizona. We talked about preparations and travel, but not player specifics or anything like that. I would not feel comfortable if he called me about Alabama or Mississippi State, so I will not do it either."
Q: Talk about how Justin Reed's summer experience has made him a better player.
A: I think it really helped him because he got the opportunity to play with and against some of the better players in our country on the collegiate level. I think he got an opportunity to get a lot of experience. Some of those guys were great basketball players and most of them were older than him. Being around them all the time and learning a whole lot from them was a great opportunity for him. I think he brought back a lot of confidence to our team after an experience like that. As a result, it showed up down the stretch. He is really coming into his own and trying to lead our basketball team.
Q: Compare Justin Reed with Jason Kapono.
A: They are two completely different players. Justin Reed is more of a power player who can do some things inside and outside. He is more of a 15-feet-and-in player right now, although he is extending his game. Hopefully next year he will have three-point range. Jason Kapono is a scorer. He has a knack for it. He shoots if off the glass better than anyone in the country. He can score in a lot of different ways. He can shoot the three, he can shoot it off the dribble and he can shoot free throws. He is a complete player when you are talking about offense. Defensively, he understands position. He is one of those guys who has been considered an All-American candidate, so there are not many weaknesses there. I think a big difference between the two is their knowledge. Jason knows a little bit more about the game at this point than Justin does. He has also played more ball. They are two very good basketball players."
OLE MISS PLAYER QUOTES
Sophomore forward Justin Reed
Q: Talk about UCLA's offense and compare it to Ole Miss' style of play.
A: They are more of a run-and-gun team. They like to get up and down the floor and like Coach Barnes, said we are more of a defensive-minded team. We like to get into our sets and make the game five-on-five. They like to take it out quick and get down and score. It is going to be a hard challenge for us, but we are going to go out ready to play.
Q: Do you think UCLA has seen a defense like Ole Miss before?
A: I do not think there are too many teams in the country that have seen a defensive team like us, but we can't really make any early predictions on how the game will go. We will have to wait and play the game.
Senior guard Jason Harrison
Q: How much have you seen UCLA play this year?
A: We have caught a lot of replays on FoxSports. We have seen quite a few games because the Pac-10 is always on television. If you are up late at night, you are going to see UCLA. They are a great team, but we feel like we can compete with anyone in the country. They have been on television so many times we have a had a chance to notice some of their strengths and weaknesses and we can identify some of their key players.