Rod Barnes NIT Press Conference
We thank God for another opportunity to play. I'm happy for our program and this year's team. This has been a tough season, but this gives us another opportunity to accomplish some of our goals that we would have liked to have done during the regular season. One of our goals this year was to win 20 games. Right now, we have 17 wins, and we now have the opportunity to reach that goal. Another goal was to earn a postseason berth, and we did that. We have a tough opponent in NC Charlotte on Wednesday, but our kids are excited about the game. We hope our fans come out and support us on Wednesday. It's big for our program to make the postseason for a fourth consecutive year, and that says a lot about this team and our program.
As of this moment, I don't know much about NC Charlotte. I do know about some of their players because I saw them play AAU ball. During the recruiting process, I also contacted a couple of their players, but ended up not recruiting them further because of some other players we had in the area. They've had a lot of success with their program, and they have got great tradition. It's going to be a tough game, but we're looking forward to it."
Q: Talk about getting a home game.
A: After being in the NCAA Tournament the last three years and then receive our first NIT bid in several years, it says a lot about our program when we get a home game. It should be an advantage for us since we don't have to travel. We don't have to worry about making travel arrangements, and putting our kids on a plane again (after traveling to the SEC Tournament). I think it is going to help us. We'll be in a familiar place with all of our fans. Hopefully, all the advantages of playing at home will help us be successful.
Q: Challenges about playing NC Charlotte with only a couple days to prepare.
A: We're going to have to do a great job of scouting NC Charlotte the next couple of days. We're going to put a lot of hours in the next two days, and make sure we're prepared for them. We are going to try to do our best to prepare for Wednesday's game. We have to sharpen up what we're doing. In our last game versus Florida, we played pretty good basketball for about 25 minutes. But, during the last 15 minutes, we didn't play very well, and that's what has been happening to us all season long. Hopefully, we can correct that and improve. The good thing is that we made the NIT and we get another shot.
Q: What was the feeling like waiting around for the bid?
A: It's been tough. It's my first time having to wait this long so I got very impatient. I was just hoping to get an opportunity to play another game. (Senior Associate Athletic Director) Eddie Crawford called me and told me that we were playing NC Charlotte. After that, I talked with Coach (Rob) Evans at Arizona State, and he had some information on the NIT bracket, so that's how I found out. Since I found out we were in, my phone's been ringing.
Q: When did you find out you were in the NIT in the last hour?
A: I found out in the last 15 to 20 minutes before I got on this call at 10:00 p.m.
Q: Is Coach Evans' team (Arizona State) in the NIT field?
A: Yes, and they are playing New Mexico State in the first round in Tempe.
Q: Is the team looking forward to the NIT?
A: Receiving the NIT bid was very important for this team. Another thing is that our players now have another game to look forward to, and our season did not end in the SEC Tournament. Being a young coach and having the success we have had since I've been here with going to the NCAA Tournament last year and winning a game and then going to the postseason this year, it says a lot for this staff and our kids. We can now say that the last two years we've been to postseason play. We can build on that, and it helps in recruiting. It also gives our program credibility. Going to the postseason also helps me as a head coach. The last four years I've had the opportunity to be a part of a team in the postseason each year (two as an assistant, two as head coach), and I don't know many other coaches in this league who can say that. Most of all, postseason play has been good for Ole Miss. We're back in the postseason again, and hopefully, next year we'll be back in the "Big Dance." This NIT bid will help our program build tradition.
Q: Was playing in a strong conference like the SEC a key for selection to the NIT?
A: I think so. I was very disappointed in the Vanderbilt situation (with the NCAA Tournament) because they played in the best conference in the nation. They had a .500 record in our conference and won a game in the tournament and then get left out of the NCAA is a shame. It's a shame for those kids with the great season they had. I think playing in the SEC helped us get selected for the NIT, and I also think it helped us get a home game in the tournament. I also think playing in the NCAA Tournament the last three seasons helped us. I really believe that our tough conference schedule helped us get the NIT bid.
Q: Do you think John Gunn will be able to help in the postseason?
A: That's a tough question. We'll just have to wait and see. I don't want to jeopardize John's health (Gunn has missed the last nine games as a result of mononucleosis) in any way. I don't want to bring him back too soon because he has such a bright future here. If things work out, then we'll play him, but we're not going to rush him. If we get past the first game, then we'll see if he can play in the second round. We'll just see how he comes along. Right now, he is gaining his strength back, but not gaining a lot of weight. We'll just have to wait and see.
Q: Speculation on the possible NIT match-up with Southern Miss.
A: I haven't heard if they made the NIT or not. Again, the only information I have is that we are playing NC Charlotte at home on Wednesday. I haven't seen a bracket. I'm just thankful we're in the NIT. Being a native Mississippian, I want all the state schools which are eligible to play in the postseason to get that opportunity, and that includes Southern Mississippi. I hope that they are in the NIT. Coach Green has done a great job. We're good friends, and I hope he made it in, but I don't know at this moment. (Editor's Note: Southern Miss was not extended an invitation to the NIT.)
Q: Were you getting worried when Vanderbilt did not get in the NCAA Tournament?
A: Yes, I was. I was wondering with our league having all the good teams it had this year, and yet the best seed our league received in the NCAA Tournament was a No. 4 seed. Then, when Vanderbilt didn't get in, I got worried because I was unsure of what the committees (NCAA and NIT) were thinking about our conference, and whether the NIT thought we deserved a bid.
Q: The team really needs fan support on Wednesday?
A: Any program has to make strides and make progress, and I think the last
three years of going to the NCAA helped us get in this year's NIT and get a
home game. We now need to make a statement to the NIT committee and the
nation that since we have a home game, we're going to have fans supporting
us. We are a program that is going to contend for championships whether
NCAA or NIT, but if we don't get great support, it may be the last home
game we'll get in the NIT. If our fans give us great support this first
game, then it's a strong possibility we'll get a second game at home. We
want to get every advantage that we possibly can, and one advantage is
playing at home. The fans have to do their part. If we get a packed
house, our kids will be excited about that. We've got a lot on the line in
this game because every win helps us get a little better. It helps our
program get national exposure, and helps our young players mature. This is
where our fans have to make a stand. If we want to continue to have a
basketball program on the rise, this is a great opportunity to help us stay
successful. Fans are always asking how they can help our program, and they
can help us a lot by coming to the game on Wednesday.
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