Day One at the NCAA First Four

Blue Raiders welcomed to Dayton, take part in interviews

March 19, 2013 · @MTAthletics

DAYTON, Ohio - The Blue Raider men's basketball team arrived in Dayton Monday around 11 a.m. ET after leaving from Murfreesboro on a charter flight. Middle Tennessee was greeted by cheers and even bagpipes upon arriving at the hotel and stayed busy throughout its first day at the NCAA First Four, participating in press conferences, interviews, practices and much more. Below are quotes from head coach Kermit Davis, senior guard Bruce Massey and senior guard Marcos Knight from the NCAA First Four press conference. 

Q. After last season, you guys set a school record. This year you had to sweat it out on Selection Sunday, and you're finally here. I just want to know how you feel right now.
BRUCE MASSEY: Being here has been great. Finding out we've been selected to make the tournament on an at large bid was a great feeling on Sunday. We're really excited just because we know we lost in the Sunbelt Tournament. It wasn't a 100 percent chance we were here, it was 50 50.
So just getting in and us being an 11 seed, playing a game, shows us respect for our resume and schedule earlier in the season. So it's a real good feeling.

Q. For Bruce, you haven't been here, obviously, in a long, long time, the program hasn't. Do you have to kind of guard against resting on your laurels, to be satisfied just getting here and not trying to win?
BRUCE MASSEY: You're happy to be here, but, like any other team in the tournament, just getting here is not what you want to do. You want to win a game in the NCAA Tournament. That's what it's all about basically.
Every team comes in here with the mindset they want to win. Nobody is satisfied with just getting here and playing the first game and just losing, I don't think. That's not our goal. We're happy to be here, but we're trying to win the game also.

Q. Marcos, 24 hours ago, if somebody had mentioned Saint Mary's to you, what would your reaction have been? What would you have known about Saint Mary's before the last 24 hours?
MARCOS KNIGHT: I know they have a really great point guard. He's one of the top point guards in the nation. I know they're a really hard playing team. They lost three times against Gonzaga, which Gonzaga is ranked No. 1 in the nation all year.
They're a great team. We know they're going to play hard tomorrow night. So we've got to match their intensity.

Q. Marcos, 13 upperclassmen for you guys. How important is that for you to actually have a lot of experience heading into tomorrow's game?
MARCOS KNIGHT: Having a lot of experience is also great for us also. A lot of our guys play a lot of minutes. We've been with each other a lot, and we know each other like the back of our hands. We've been through a lot with each other. We've been through the good and bad with each other.
That's something we hang our hats on, sticking together with each other. But having a lot of experience is great also.

Q. Bruce, can you talk about the last 24 hours, what it's been for you, getting stuff packed? Did you have laundry ready? What's it been like?
BRUCE MASSEY: It's been hectic. I had to wash last night. I went to bed late. It's just been a crazy turn of events, especially we met together last night as a team about 9:30. Our plans, we had to fly out, meet at the school at 7:00, get to the airport about 7:30, 8:00, fly out at 9:00.
We had to do a lot of stuff and watch a little bit of film on Saint Mary's because we didn't know much about them.
Like Marcos said, they have a really good point guard. They play tough. They're really good in their conference. They couldn't get past Gonzaga, but Gonzaga's been good all year. So you really can't be mad at them about that.
It's just been a hectic last 24 hours.

Q. Bruce, I'll ask you, that five minutes after you guys got the bid for Saint Mary's, and you already knew about Dellavedova, the point guard. Is that because he was one of the best in the country or you've seen him on TV?
BRUCE MASSEY: It's both. He's one of the best in the country, and you hear a lot about him, and he gets a lot of TV time just because he is one of the best in the country.
You know he's a good point guard. He gets a lot of exposure. I saw him play against the USA team on the Australia national team. You heard a lot about him, so I knew about him coming in.

Q. The head of the selection committee said that what you guys did on the road was the deciding factor to get you guys in. Can you talk about playing on the road this year. Was there a game or a particular moment that you guys have been able to build off on from on the road?
BRUCE MASSEY: We had a lot of road wins this season, but I know people was talking about we didn't get necessary road wins, like we lost at Belmont, which could have helped us if we'd have won there. We lost at Akron, which could have helped if we'd have won there. They're both two solid teams and won their conference.
Road games this year helped us out, and the committee rewarded us for playing in the road games even though we didn't win them.

Q. Bruce, Kermit and Randy Bennett worked together at Idaho about 25 years ago. Those in the Bay Area know a lot about Randy Bennett. We don't know a lot about Kermit Davis. If you were to give us the one minute, half minute capsule on Kermit Davis, what would it be?
BRUCE MASSEY: Coach Davis is a real live competitor. He's a hard worker. He's tough. Basically, the way you see us play is the way Kermit Davis is. He's tough. He's unselfish. He's really into the team. And that just sums him up.
He's a tough guy. He doesn't like losing. So he gave that to us. So losing comes with it, but you've got to handle it the right way. Coach Davis is a really good person. He's really tough, and that's what we respect most about him.

Q. Marcos, you talked a second ago about how much experience this team has. Saint Mary's also has a lot of experience, but they've been here before, the NCAA Tournament. Are you guys ready for this stage? Do you know kind of what to expect here?
MARCOS KNIGHT: I know it's going to be a really hard we're going to have to play really well in order to beat Saint Mary's. They have a lot of guys that have been to the tournament before, and their coaches have been here before also.
Like Coach Davis always says, if we play to our identity and share the basketball and rebound, we can beat anybody in the country. Whenever our team is right because Coach Davis believes that, and we believe it also. That's something we hang our hats on also, is being tough and defending and rebounding.

Q. Bruce, a lot of people have questioned I know you guys were one of the last four in. A lot of people have questioned if you guys deserve in this tournament. What do you say about that, and do you need to win to show people that, yes, you deserve in this tournament?
BRUCE MASSEY: There's going to be a lot of questions in the NCAA Tournament no matter who gets in, who's out. Every year it's a question about did that team deserve to get in over another team.
We feel like we deserve to get in. I think with 28 wins you deserve to get in the NCAA Tournament. You can't flukily win 28 games no matter who you play against in Division I basketball. So I think we deserve to get in.
As far as tomorrow night's game, yeah, you want to win to put a stamp on there like, yeah, they deserve it, they won their first game in the tournament.

Q. Bruce, Coach was kind of on the hot seat a couple of years ago, and now does it feel extra good that you're able to get to finally an NCAA Tournament for him as well?
BRUCE MASSEY: Oh, yeah, it feels really good, especially to get Coach Davis to the NCAA Tournament. He's been working hard his 11 years at Middle Tennessee. He recruited us, and we talked about it when we first got in that that was the whole goal, winning games and mainly getting to the NCAA Tournament.
That's what playing Division I basketball is all about. We was able to help him these two years get over 55, 56 wins and get an at large bid this year without winning the Sunbelt Tournament.

Q. Marcos, you and Bruce are both junior college transfers. Just what was the lure here, and was this the in the back of your mind, was this what you guys were thinking about when you signed up for MTSU?
MARCOS KNIGHT: Like Bruce just said, before we even got here, we talked about going to NCAA Tournament, and last year we fell a little bit short. Coming to our senior year, me and him did a lot of talking outside of practice about being leaders and being tough again to get Middle Tennessee into a tournament appearance.
They haven't been in over 30 years. It wouldn't be a greater feeling for me and Bruce and the seniors to go out this way. So the whole time this summer we were working, and preseason, get up at 6:00 in the morning and working out, that was something we kept in the back of our minds, getting to the NCAA Tournament, and we're just happy to be here.

Q. This is for either of you. Last time the team was in the NCAA Tournament you weren't born yet. Have you thought about that at all?
MARCOS KNIGHT: We thought about it. We talked about that before we left also. I don't think I even thought about it before the last time they were here. I think it was '89, I think. Yeah.
It was a long time ago, but it feels great to be here. We don't want to be here just to be here. We want to be here to win games. That's something we practiced for all week. The way we played this week has really got us prepared to be able to compete at a high level.

COACH DAVIS: It was a great day for Middle Tennessee yesterday, exceptionally good for our players and our fan base, and it's been very well documented. I told Dr. McPhee, our president, sitting right here, yesterday: I don't know if Middle Tennessee could have gotten more publicity in a week.
I don't know if we would want to do it that way, but it happened that way. But if you ever want to get publicity, get in the at-large bubble and get in on Sunday, and your brand, the MT brand will go across the nation in a lot of different ways. 

It was a great day for our players. We're excited, number one, and it was well deserved. Our team thought they'd be in the NCAA Tournament. I've been on so many talk shows and talked about it, and I'll say it. You have 28 wins, and when you think you have an NCAA Tournament team, you schedule that way. And we had the sixth-best non-conference schedule in the country and the second-most road wins. When you have all those things and everybody says, well, you're supposed to be playing well at the end. We got beat in the conference tournament, and we had the nation's longest winning streak. Our team definitely needs to be here and playing against a very good Saint Mary's team tomorrow night.

Q. Coach, a minute ago Randy Bennett talked about the difference between experience, which both teams have, and NCAA Tournament experience. Is there a difference, and are your guys ready for this type stage?
COACH DAVIS: Last year, when we got left out of the NCAA Tournament, we beat a really good Marshall team at home. We won an out game at Tennessee, a rival game, and played really well and won at Tennessee. The Minnesota game at our place was as good a college game as I've been in in 30 years of coaching, and we got beat kind of right at the end. So I think that's great experience. 

We'll find out tomorrow night. I know Randy's team has been to the tournament, and they've got a point guard who's very well tested in this tournament. But I think you saw two very experienced guys that will play well tomorrow night.

Q. Randy was talking a little bit about your guys' relationship when he was a graduate assistant. He basically said that nobody knew his name and that you kind of looked out for him. What did you see in him 25, 30 years ago that led you to believe he'd have the success that he's had at Saint Mary's?
COACH DAVIS: I'll tell you the first story about Randy's first game. And Randy was young, too. Tim Floyd, hired Larry Eustachy, and Larry convinced him to hire me. Tim had known Randy's dad, Tom Bennett, who's a great man. So our first game, we go and I was trying to help Randy as far as his dressing. He was a bad dresser back then. And I said, Randy, you've got to get some better slacks now. This is not very good. He comes to the first game, and he bought some slacks. He went to some store and bought them, but he didn't have them hemmed. I looked down, and he had stapled the bottom of his pants. I said, Randy, that doesn't work right there. You can't do that. 

He's come a long way. I'm sure his suits are probably a lot more expensive than mine. But we all knew right then. We all knew Randy Bennett was going to be a great coach. We just knew. He was beyond his years because he grew up in a coaching household. I did. So I appreciated coach's sons. He was smart, bright, and no task was ever beneath him. 

What he's done at Saint Mary's doesn't surprise Tim or Larry or myself at all.

Q. I know you guys were selected last night. Was there a different feeling for you when you actually got in the building and walked out there?
COACH DAVIS: In this building today? It is. In the NCAA Tournaments that I've been to, and I've been to two as a head coach at the University of Idaho, it's something how you go practice at Wright State, and that's good. But when you walk into there, you really feel like it's an NCAA Tournament.
I'll tell you, as we've all known for years, how good of a job Dayton does. You walk in the hotel, and our players had a great sense this is an NCAA Tournament experience. They're just so experienced at hosting these types of tournaments throughout the year that, when our guys go out and shoot for the first time, I think it will really hit them that this is the stage they've watched for all their lives.

Q. Coach, Mike Bobinski said on the Selection show yesterday that your road performance was one of the things that got you in here. Can you just talk about what have been the factors that allowed you to play on the road so well all year.
COACH DAVIS: I appreciate that because we had the second-most road wins in college basketball over the last two years and the second-most this year. In 11 years that we've been there, we have the most road wins in the Sun Belt.
I think it's just what Marcos and those guys, we kind of hang our hat on, defending and rebound, try to play with toughness, take care of the ball. And I think we had the second or third most experienced basketball team in college basketball, and that kind of helps that you can go on the road and win at tough places.

Q. Coach, Bruce has had a really good year, especially defensively, but his last game, FIU, he didn't play very well, admittedly so. What's the difference between Deric Hill at FIU, that small quick point guard, and what he'll see tomorrow?
COACH DAVIS: I like Deric, and he played well against us, but this guy tomorrow night is the best in college basketball off ball screens. He's the most experienced guard in college basketball, his position. Randy puts him in great situations. And I don't say this because we're playing them, but it's just fact. In watching the last six games, there's no doubt he's the most impactful player on his college team than anybody in college basketball. Nobody dominates the ball more. He shares it. He's tough. He's an Australian and he played on their Olympic team for a reason, and he's really, really good. So it's really no comparison because they're totally different players.

Q. A bit of a relief, though, to finally be here?
COACH DAVIS: Well, it is. I wanted it for our players so bad. And I wanted it for our fans. I wanted it for Dr. McPhee and Chris because we'd done so many good things at Middle Tennessee basketball, but it's the one thing we hadn't done. At conference tournament, we hadn't had a lot of success in it. We'd been to two or three finals and couldn't get over the hump. So it is. It's a good feeling. I guess it's a relief, you know, but I guess it's more proud that this is where we are and that we're putting the brand out there for Middle Tennessee.

Q. Coach Bennett a minute ago, we asked him about familiarity for your team, and he said it's kind of hard to scout a team in this short of time. His players didn't necessarily mention specifically your guys. Is he playing opossum at all, or is there enough time? Seems like your guys know their personnel pretty well. Which way is it?
COACH DAVIS: I think there's enough time to find out. We started the media part of it now the first time we went to the NCAA Tournament in Idaho in 1989, you're calling a friend, and he's got to mail the tapes by airplane. This is a quick turnaround.
But I'm sure Randy's team trying to get from Moraga to here is a lot more difficult than we were. A big part of that is travel. We met last night about their team. We watched tape on them last night as a team. We watched it today. And we'll be better at it tomorrow.
I think probably they've been on national TV more than we have, and the point guard has a lot of good name recognition. So that's probably the reason.

Q. Coach, to go back to your road performance, is there a game on the road this season or maybe last season that you've been able to use as a reference point as a coach or draw back upon it certain other times?
COACH DAVIS: I'm trying to think. We went to UCLA early last year, and we were 3-0. We knew we had a good team and we won by 20. We just kind of dominated the game. And I think that just really set our guys apart that we were a good team, and it convinced them that we were a good team and gave them the confidence that we could go anywhere in the country and win on the road.

Q. Coach, stats and numbers aside, is there any one thing about these guys' intangibles that's going to get you through this first game when you really need it?
COACH DAVIS: About our team? Like Marcos said, I sit in the back. Just playing to our identity. The physicality. What their strength is is guard play. Our strength is defensive guard play. We've got big college guards, and it's allowed us to win SEC games. And they're a big physical team. What they are is they're a great offensive rebounding team. I think the rebounding stat will be huge in this game tomorrow.

Q. And last thing from me. Your players, none of them were born last time this school went to the tournament. Any thoughts on that?
COACH DAVIS: No, that's probably a good thing. They're excited about being here, and I just think that I heard Marcos' answer, and Kerry Hammonds, one of our player's dad, played on the NCAA Tournament team in 1989. It's a father son thing. That's a pretty cool story line.

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