March 13, 2012
2012 NCAA First Four Press Conference
Cronin Center | Dayton, Ohio
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
CALIFORNIA HEAD COACH MIKE MONTGOMERY
On the mental state of his team given the tough finish to the regular season
"We're happy to have an opportunity. Obviously, it wasn't a given, as it turns out. We're just happy to have the opportunity. As I told our team yesterday on the practice floor, there's 280 Division I basketball teams not playing in the NCAA Tournament, so we've got to relish the thing a little bit. I don't think anything that we've not done recently has been from lack of effort, so it was all we can do is go out and put our best foot forward and play hard, and play the kind of basketball we need to win. It was a long trip, yesterday, in terms of just getting here and logistically, so hopefully, the day off today and we can have good crisp practice tomorrow. South Florida is a good team. They're physical. They're strong. They've obviously tested having played in a conference that obviously was very well thought of, with ten bids out of the league, so we know they're going to be ready."
On his team having tried too hard in recent losses
"Well, if you look at it from the standpoint of the kids, as John so adroitly pointed out, the three losses in the last four games, the first two were for the conference championship, on the road. The third one was for the Pac-10 championship in a neutral. So it's not -- they're not givens. They were hard games; games where people were very competitive. Here, it's kind of a reward for the job that these kids did for an entire five months. I mean, they're here. They've earned that right. And now, it's lose or out, and they know that. Not that there's not a lot riding on the game, because there certainly is, but it's a different sort of feeling, and maybe there's less pressure from the standpoint of, geez, if we win this, we win the Pac-12; if we win this, we go to... now, it's let's just go play."
On comparing his team's defense to that of USF
"I think it's smart. You can win with defense. They've got some really good athletes. They've got some size. They've got some strength, and in that league, I don't know that right off the top that they probably felt that they were going to have the most talent of anybody, at least. I know they've not been in the league a long time. So you're in a league that's got great basketball history. So Stan figured, look, let's go defend, first. Let's use our size, our strength, maybe our length, and try and defend and give ourselves the best chance to win. And that's obviously worked for him. The other thing I would say, if I'm not mistaken, I think Stan worked for [Tom] Izzo at Michigan State. So after about ten minutes there, he probably figured out that he better know how to play defense. So, to his credit, they've done that."
On no longer playing familiar foes when the NCAA tournament begins
"If you have things that you like to do, by the time you get to the second game in a conference or a third game in a tournament, you know, they're going to take away certain things. They're going to work real hard. I don't know that in a one-day prep or maybe two-day prep, which is what we've had, that you're going to kind of have to go play, straight up. So you maybe feel like whatever you do best, you might get a chance to do it every now and again. And maybe there's the issue of how you're treated. Maybe South Florida feels like, gosh, we're not one of the premiers, or people don't treat us as one of the premiers in the league so you don't feel like you get a shake. I don't know. Those things are all kind of coach-speak. But, yeah, you're going to go out and play and hopefully you're going to get a chance to do what you do. You're not going to have people jump into spots that before you even get there necessarily, the scout's going to be a little bit more difficult in terms of the prep time, so it kind of clears that away a little bit and allows you to just go play.
On USF point guard Anthony Collins
"Point guard is really good. He kind of stirs the drink. He has the ball in his hands an awful lot. He's great at splitting doubles. He's really good in the paint. He's a very good mid-range player. He's an okay three-point shooter, but that's not really what he does, just based on the number that he's taken this year. But they run a ton of pick-and-rolls, with big, strong screens, and he's able to take advantage of that and get in the paint, and he's over 50 percent when he gets there. So that will be a tough matchup. Victor Rudd was -- I mean, he's a Southern California kid or at least California kid. We watched Victor in high school. He was at Arizona State. We know all about him. He's very, very talented, can score it in bunches, and that's a tough matchup. He's taken the majority of the threes for them. Inside, they're big, strong. Obviously, we've watched -- and of course you're also talking about Big East basketball. They want position. They're going to get it, and bodies fly, so we're going to have to be pretty solid down inside there. They're going to have a size advantage, inside. They don't play above the rim, necessarily, inside, but they definitely can earn a spot and hold it with good, solid low-post play. It's going to be a tough matchup for, say, David Kravish and maybe [Bak] Bak in there just from the standpoint of size, and really a couple of them can step away and shoot the ball. The kid off the bench -- and I'm not going to try names; I'll probably mess them up -- that's not starting at the big, he steps away and shoots the ball. He's their second three-point-shooting kid over 40 percent. Fitzgerald, I think is his name. And so, they're big and strong inside, and they like to go in the paint. We've talked about getting a body on people, and we've kind of been used to being pushed first and then trying to react back, and it will help us a lot if we could try to get a body on somebody before we get pushed underneath.
On the players' attitudes as the tournament begins
"Well, again, I think that goes back a little bit to the amount of pressure. I mean, we've been pretty roundly criticized for being here winning 24 games. It's like we worked really hard to get where we are. We worked really hard to have a chance to win the conference, and I think at this point they feel like they've earned the right to be here and maybe the pressure's off. I mean, I'm not going to tell you that we're not trying to win a national championship, but I think they recognize that the odds of that happening are not very high, so let's go out and relax and try and just play; and hopefully, that's the attitude we have, and hopefully it will open up the basket for us a little bit."
On USF's defense
"Well, they protect the basket. I think first and foremost, you're not going to get in the lane very easily. And if you do, you're probably not going to remain standing when you get done. They move to the ball pretty well. They protect the paint. They protect the basket. They protect fast break opportunities by getting back on defense so that you don't get the high-percentage stuff off the break, and they're not going to give you a lot of second shots just based on their size the fact they can defensively rebound the ball. So those are things that you try to get because they're high-percentage things. So that puts a little more premium on shooting the ball from outside. So we're going to have to be able to make shots. That having been said, they're not going to give you wide-open looks, but if we run our offense, we think we can get some good scoring opportunities. But obviously, the ball's going to have to go down, which is about performance, which is always what it's about.
Jorge Gutierrez, Sr. G
On what the team can improve on as the NCAA tournament begins
"I think we need to be a little more aggressive. We saw tape on USF, and we know they're pretty physical, pretty big. So I think we need to help each other be physical, physical as well."
On Cal's defense against USF
"Like I say, we watched a little bit of tape, and one of the characteristics is that they're physical. They're in a great conference, and they're big. They're physical. We just need to match their intensity and play together.
On whether South Florida resembles any team Cal has played, this season
"I don't think so. I think it's going to be the first team that -- we thought it's going to be a real challenge on the physical side of the game. We're excited for the challenge, and we'll see what happens."
On the team's level of fatigue at this point in the season
"This is a new season, I feel like. This is a challenge for us, and I think the playing time or practice time, it doesn't matter at this point. We're excited to be here, and we're just going to play the way we do."
On whether the tournament is more important, now, because it is his senior year
"I feel like it's important to all of us. It could be our last game, but we don't see it that way. We just came here to compete and to have fun. We're just trying to enjoy the moment."
On appearing more relaxed, today, than in previous weeks
"Yeah, I mean, we made it. Every team in the country feels like they're glad to be here. And, like I said, we're just trying to be fun, trying to enjoy the time we still have together as a team."
On the lack of respect for the Pac-12, nationally
"I don't think it matters anymore. We get a chance, and we get a chance to prove that we can play with anybody in the country. And, like I said, we're just here to have fun."
Harper Kamp, Sr. F
On what the team can improve upon as the NCAA tournament begins
"I think we just need to play with a better amount of confidence and just get back to doing the things we know we can do well."
On Cal's confidence level entering the NCAA championships
"I think the last few games of our season were pretty tough. We're playing against teams that know us really well and are able to play against us and get a chance to play against us, offensively, so we've just got to get back to things we were doing during the beginning of the season; just setting up our cuts really well, offensively, and helping each other get open; helping each other gain some confidence and just see the ball go in a few times and just keep up our aggression."
On having played with USF G Victor Rudd previously
"Not from high school, but I do remember [him] -- I think he was at Arizona State University, and I do remember him from there, yeah."
On how Cal matches up with the USF frontcourt
"They definitely do. Still, watching film, but from what I've seen so far, big guys, physical guys, and guys that really work hard to get position. I think that's one of the things that I've always focused on trying to do as a big, so it's going to be tough... going to have to work throughout an entire possession, because they like to use the shot clock, and it's just going to be one of those games we're going to have to grind it out, down low."