Prior to a first-round game with Minnesota, Xavier coach Chris Mack met with the media at the Bradley Center. Here is a transcript:
Question: Coach, can you talk about preparing for a team like Minnesota, who I think they're one of the few teams if not the only team in the tournament that doesn't have an all-conference player. Not one player that you can focus on to try to shut down. Does it make it a little more difficult?
CM: I think anytime you're in the NCAA tournament, no matter who you play, you're generally unfamiliar with that team when the selection comes out on Sunday night.
But we've done our due diligence to make sure we understand who Minnesota is. And as you mentioned, they're a very balanced team; both with who scores for them, but also from inside and out. And I look at their team, and I think they're better than the sum of their parts, and really made a heck of a run in the Big Ten tournament.
I don't think there's any one guy that you can key on. And we know they're a big challenge, and our guys are excited and ready to go.
Question: Jason said that Minnesota reminds him of Charlotte. Can you talk about that and what challenges that Minnesota presents?
CM: Well, we talked to our guys to make sure that you're trying to compare teams so they understand maybe what Minnesota's mission is on the offensive end. And I think when you use Charlotte as an example, he was simply talking about a lot of their high-low looks during the course of in the half court. They'll play twin towers a lot, Iverson and Sampson. They'll hit one at the top of the key and look for the other. So Charlotte does that a lot. But I wouldn't necessarily say that they're very similar to Charlotte, but for our post players, it's a similar type of understanding going into the game.
Question: Can you talk about how important Jordan Crawford has been to your success this season, and did he maybe surpass your expectations?
CM: I don't know if Jordan necessarily surpassed my or our expectations. We knew Jordan was a heck of a player. We didn't see him day one this year. He practiced with us all last year. So our staff, the players on our team, they knew what to expect.
Like every player on our team, he's improved as the season's gone along. I think early on he would probably admit, and he took some ill-advised shots, and I still wanted him to have that freedom. As the season has gone on, I think he's done a better job picking and choosing his spots. But there's no question he's our best player. I think he's one of the best players in the conference. We lean on him a lot on the offensive and defensive end. But we're not relying on him. But there's no question he has the ability to take over a game.
Question: Did he impress you with the way he conducted himself when he had that year lay-off and he was practicing? Obviously, it wasn't a lay-off, but his attitude and work ethic.
CM: Sure, you don't battle a ton of adversity, at least in the course of practices and whatnot, when you're a sit-out. He knew he had to sit out, and that's awfully tough. But you don't ride the highs and lows of winning and losing when you're a red shirt. Certainly you feel bad for your guys because those are your teammates. But you're not living and breathing every game because you're not allowed to wear a uniform.
But he did a great job. He improved. I think obviously his 3-point percentage this year as opposed to his freshman year, I think he's rebounding the ball extremely well. Like a lot of guys that sit out in college basketball, he's gotten better. And our team's better because of that improvement.
Question: You have been exposed to the NCAA setting and venues over the course of your career, but it's different this time. You are the man. What's that like? Can you talk about that?
CM: I don't know if I'm the man. I get off the bus and I've got my four-year-old and three-year-old and they're screaming at me to get their camera and stuff like that. So I wouldn't say I'm the man.
To me, and maybe it should be more of a story line, but I just feel like it's business as usual. I've been in the NCAA tournament a lot as a player, as director of operations, as an assistant coach. And other than me standing a whole lot more during the course of the game, I just feel like Xavier's used to being in the NCAA tournament. And we're excited like we always are, and we'll be ready to go on Friday. Don't make anything bigger of it than that.
I think good players make good coaches. Roy Williams is a really good coach. He's not playing in this tournament. The same with Ben Howland. I'm blessed to have really good kids, kids I enjoy coaching that have done a really good job, improving as the season's gone along.
Question: On the subject of somebody who makes good student-athletes, could you talk about Sister Roseanne Fleming?
CM: People around college basketball don't know what Sister Fleming means to our program. Every team, every program around the country has an academic advisor. That's their job. It's not Sister's job.
It's her passion. It's what she's done at Xavier since 1985. We've never had a player complete his eligibility and not get their degree. And we've graduated 77 kids in a row. Sister Fleming's the biggest reason why. And the kids that we have in our program understand that and the kids who we recruit understand that. Xavier is not for everybody, but that's one of the reasons that makes Xavier so special is how we care about our kids off the floor. And she's a huge part of that.
Question: Can you talk about Jason Love and just how far he's come and kind of what he's meant to your program and what his leadership means to you this year being a senior?
CM: He's amazing. He's absolutely amazing. Mario Mercurio, Director of Basketball Administration, pointed out that I think Jason scored in his freshman year two more points than our current freshman Jeff Robinson. It's amazing where he's come.
And I am so excited for him. He's the all-time winningest player in the history of our program. Our program has had a lot of really good players. He's done it by example. He's not the most vocal kid in the world. He never will be. But he's carved himself quite a legacy in an incredible program.