Player and coach reactions to NCAA Tournament bid

<strong>Head Coach Stew Morrill</strong>

On second-round match up with fifth-seeded Kansas State: “A 12th seed is a little bit of a surprise. We were thinking an eight or nine seed, 10 at the worst. Obviously, it will be a challenging game. It’s a quick turnaround as well. We have to leave on Tuesday. In some ways, you hope for a Friday game so you have a little more time, but as you looked at the sites, Friday games meant that you were going East. So, Thursday games at least kept us in the West. You are going to get a really good opponent; that is the nature of the NCAA Tournament. When you look at it that way, you were going to get a good opponent no matter what. I don’t know as much about them as I would like yet. We will get on top of that right away and get our film and get ready to go.” On past NCAA Tournament appearances: “What kind of strikes me as a little bit funny is that we are constantly hearing about how it has been 10 years since we won an NCAA Tournament game. Well, we have played some really good teams. Our seeds have been tough seeds. You are playing a lot of BCS teams with big athletic guys, and it presents a lot of challenges. That being said, hopefully our guys will feel a little motivated like they were slighted a bit in terms of the seed, and get ready to go.” On whether Utah State would have been in without winning the WAC Tournament: “That has to make you wonder. It takes you back to 2000 when we won 19-straight games. I talked to the team before the finals of the Big West Tournament; we were 16-0 in the league and got to the finals. I asked the commissioner of the Big West at the time, “Are we in?” And he said, “You are in.” So I told the team before the game that we were in. Just go enjoy the game and play hard. You are going to play better that way anyway. I basically told my team before the finals that we were in. I also told them logic says that we are in. You know all about logic; it isn’t always what it seems. The other part is that maybe we were slotted for a No. 12 seed no matter what happened. It is not a time to be disappointed. It is a time to be excited. You can haggle about your seed. You slot us in a 7/10 or 8/9 game anywhere in there, and you are going to get a really good opponent. That’s just what you are going to get. The last thing you need to do at 30-3 with the year that we have had is be disappointed. I am not disappointed. I am a little surprised; that is what I would say.” On entering the NCAA Tournament as a healthy team: “We are relatively healthy and that is positive. We are also coming off of playing well. We played very well against Boise State aside from a few too many turnovers, but defensively, offensively and on the boards, we played pretty well.” On Kansas State: “One thing I do know about K-State is that they rebound really well, and they are physical. They have a premier guard. All of those things will jump out at you more as you watch them more on tape. We have a veteran team. This is our third-straight time at the NCAA Tournament. It is our third-straight time with a big challenge. Let’s go see what we can do.” On winning as a No. 12 seed against Ohio State in 2001: “We hadn’t won in the NCAA Tournament for about 30 years at that time. Now it has been 10 or so, and I am still here. That is a good thing. When you look at this profession, it is nice to be some place.” On strength of schedule: “There will be all of the critics with all of the answers, but when you understand scheduling you are not getting those teams to play us. I chuckled when Ohio State was the No. 1 seed because they had an opening that fit our schedule. I have known Thad (Motta) a long time, and he just said no we aren’t going to do that. What are you supposed to play top 25, top 50 teams on the road and some of them won’t play you. You are going to help your strength of schedule and hurt your RPI because you are going to lose. Nobody wants to hear that, but you are.” On postseason success: “What is significant to me is that this is the 20th trip for Utah State to the NCAA Tournament, and the eighth time since I have been here. It is the third time in a row. You know you go out of our league and you will see how many times schools have been to the NCAA Tournament in their history. Twenty appearances and eight in the last few years, that is pretty significant to me.” On success of Brockeith Pane: “We have to have everyone play well. That is the strength of our team. Last year when we played Texas A&amp;M, we had a really difficult time against their athleticism and their length and quickness. We had a tough time stopping them and scoring. A guy like Brockeith gives you a strong physical guard that can hopefully make some plays against those types of athletes. But we have to have everybody. Once we adjusted in the Marquette game in 2009, we had a very legitimate chance to win. Hopefully, the Georgetown experience helped our guys with what they are going to see with Kansas State, and in terms of what kind of athletes we are going to see.” On outlook of this season: “There is nothing or anyone that will make me feel bad this year. I refuse to feel bad about 30-3 and 15-1 and conference tournament champs. Last year, I let myself feel bad when everyone wanted to say Utah State needed to win the first round and they didn’t. We are going to try like heck, and we are excited to play. There is nothing bad that can happen. Good can happen; really good can happen, but no bad at this point.” On strong defensive play this season: “In my 25 teams, this has to be my top two or three defensively. They are experienced, mentally tough and physical. They are able to play plenty of defenses pretty solidly. Now when you get challenged all of a sudden with a different level of athlete and length, that really challenges your defense. Hopefully, we can step up and do a good job there. We are going to try to put ourselves in a position to win.”

<strong>Senior forward Tai Wesley</strong>

On getting a No. 12 seed: “I like the opponent that we are playing. I think that we have a chance to beat them. I think that the seed is a slap in the face. I almost feel like we should have lost last night and then Boise State could be playing along with us, and we’d have the same seed.” On second-round match up with fifth-seeded Kansas State: “We could have won three more games and gotten a No. 10 seed. We are looking to win this game, and then win another one. You know if you take out the seed and I feel like we will be ok. We’re playing Kansas State; we are excited about that. They have kind of been up and down all year. We have guys that can defend, and they are kind of guard heavy, so I think that we will be ok.” On the emotion of getting a No. 12 seed: “The second we saw our name up there as a No. 12 seed; it told the story. We were almost confused a little bit, but that is how it goes on Selection Sunday. We are going to the NCAA Tournament and looking to win, and take care of business.” On having NCAA Tournament experience: “We won’t have to say anything. Our experience will show through. We won’t be shell shocked like we have been in the past. We have a little chip on our shoulders now, and we will play like that. We are looking to play our style of basketball, and run our sets and get a win.” On playing close to home: “We like Tucson; we are excited about that. If there were a place that I could have chosen on the map it would have been Denver or Tucson. We do draw a big crowd, and it is always nice to play in front of our people.” On what seed he thought that USU would receive: “I was excited to wear white uniforms again. I thought that we would get a No. 8 or a No. 7 seed, or at least a No. 9 or a No. 10. I guess we will be back in the blue uniforms. We won’t have to recover from anything. This just adds fuel to the fire to go prove them wrong.”

<strong>Senior guard Tyler Newbold</strong>

On getting a No. 12 seed: “We are excited to be in the tournament. All of us wished for a little higher of a seed, but there are a lot of teams that were hoping to get in that didn’t get in today. So we have to be excited with whatever we get. We have to be ready to play Kansas State, and see if we can get a win.” On getting a No. 12 seed for the second-straight season: “It is a familiar spot. Over the years, lots of No. 12 seeds have beaten No. 5 seeds. So you have to not think of the seeding, but think of how we play as a team and that we can compete as a team. We know that.” On whether the seeding gives USU an incentive: “Anything that can motivate us a little more is good. If that can help us be a little more on edge and be even more determined to do what it takes to get a victory, then great. We are going to do what we need to do and do it well.” On facing Kansas State senior guard Jacob Pullen: “When that first came up I thought about that and was excited. You want to play against guys that are that athletic and have that great of a reputation. He is a great player; I have seen him play a lot. I am excited for that challenge. Hopefully, I will be able to guard him a little bit, and do my best to slow him down.” On dealing with athletic teams: “I think that you just have to understand what you need to do to execute. I think that last year against Texas A&amp;M we didn’t screen well. When you are facing a really athletic team that likes to pressure you, you need to be able to screen well to get open looks. That is going to be a big key to the game, running our sets crisply.” On bouncing back from disappointment of seed: “We are all a little disappointed. All of the “bracketologists” thought we might have been a little higher, but they aren’t on the committee either. We have to take this as it is. We can’t change things now. We just have to go in and be ready to play. I think this disappointment is temporary. Tomorrow we will go to practice, and we will all be excited. It is the NCAA Tournament. We are all going to be ready to go. We are going to have fun and play our bests.” -USU-

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