Friday, November 21, 2014
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Jay Wright says his Villanova players have 'a confidence level about them, even though they probably shouldn't'

Courtesy of ASAP Sports, here's a transcript of Villanova's press conference ahead of Friday's NCAA tournament game against North Carolina in Kansas City.

Jay Wright says his Villanova players have 'a confidence level about them, even though they probably shouldn't'

Courtesy of ASAP Sports, here's a transcript of Villanova's press conference ahead of Friday's NCAA tournament game against North Carolina in Kansas City.

Q. James, you have some great wins and then some losses that you wouldn't think you would lose to those teams. Talk about the inconsistency, why you think it's happened.

JAMES BELL: We try to focus on what we do as a team and sticking to our core values.

Some of those losses that you wouldn't think we would have is from not executing what we do well enough to get the job done.

With our inconsistencies, that's what we try to focus on, not letting that happen, playing together, playing off of each other.

If we do that, we believe we'll be successful. 

Q. Ryan, North Carolina is a good three‑point shooting team. It's not been one of your strengths this year, guarding the perimeter. What can you do differently? Why has it been a little bit of a struggle?

RYAN ARCIDIACONO: They definitely shoot the ball well. In practice earlier today we were working on it, that's what we've been trying to do these past couple days, just trying to get better at defending the three‑point line.

It's not like we've tried to change anything. We're going to stick to what we do, do what we do better, defend that three‑point line that much better than we did before. 

Q. Are you aware of the recent history of NCAA tournament games against North Carolina, the game in '05 where they got beat on a controversial call, then '09 in the Final Four?

MOUPHTAOU YAROU: I watched the game against North Carolina in '09, the Final Four. I don't remember the '05 one. I wasn't here yet.

But we don't really worry about that. We all focus on the next game. We try and get better as a team, keep doing what we do, like James and Ryan said.

RYAN ARCIDIACONO: I kind of have been a Villanova fan my whole life, so I'm pretty familiar with them both.

I just remember Allen Ray's walk, I think that's the call you're talking about. Just the '09 game in the Final Four was a tough one. North Carolina had four or five NBA players on their team, so they were a tough team. 

Q. Ryan, is it surreal to have grown up watching these guys, Scottie Reynolds, to be sitting here now being a part of that NCAA history for Villanova?

RYAN ARCIDIACONO: Yeah, it's been pretty crazy. Like I said before, I was growing up always watching Villanova basketball. To be here now, it's just been unreal. To think it's only my first year, hopefully there's a couple more years to come. Hopefully I can continue the success that the previous guards have had and just try to work on my game to get better, to try to be like them. 

Q. James, North Carolina has two pretty tall three‑point guys, Bullock and Hairston. What do you see from them and what kind of problems do you think they'll present?

JAMES BELL: They have great guard play. The two guards you're talking about are P.J. Hairston, Reggie Bullock. Great shooters, great defenders.

Like you said, me, Darrun, the rest of the guards, we got great responsibility. But at the end of the day, it just falls on just doing what we do, like we say. We're going to repeatedly say, we just got to focus on the little things: staying in the stance, jumping to the ball, being aware of who we're guarding.

It's just a matter of not letting them play harder than us. 

Q. You won by getting to the tournament. How do you get into the mindset of we're not just happy to be here, we want to win some games?

MOUPHTAOU YAROU: I think we struggled a lot at the beginning of the year. Nobody on the team quit. We stay together. We kept listening to Coach Wright, the other coaches, keep working hard.

After that, we beat, like, three top‑10 teams. That's the same thing we're going to keep doing: focus, playing efficient, doing what we do, playing Villanova basketball, enjoy. If we win, we win.

JAMES BELL: I feel like we can't just be happy we're here. It's an honor to be here, but we've got to focus on the game.

By the game, we have to focus on playing how we're capable of playing and to the level that we're capable of playing to.

We just have to stick to what we do. I mean, it sounds simple, but it's very complicated. It's a big task for us. 

JAMES BELL: Ryan has come in from the first day and attacked everything we do. He has a big heart, listening well. He's willing to do whatever it takes.

As a Villanova basketball player, that's what you have to be willing to do, all the tough things. You have to be mentally tough, physically tough, and just understand what this is. It's bigger than the game of basketball. I think as a freshman, he gets that.

It's something that's not easy to do, and not many freshmen at Villanova do it. When you come in with a mindset like he has, it's easy to do.

MOUPHTAOU YAROU: I think he said he was a Villanova fan all his life, so he saw Scottie play, he saw Corey Fisher play. He came in with the same mindset. He's playing like a senior. I enjoy playing with him. He's doing a great job.

THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much. Good luck. We're joined by Villanova head coach Jay Wright. If you could make an opening statement.

COACH WRIGHT: Thank you. Great to be in Kansas City. Great to be in the NCAA tournament. To play this Carolina team, it's going to be challenging, a lot of fun. It should be a great game. Our guys are fired up to be here.

It's nice to see a lot of friendly faces out here, a lot of Philly people with La Salle. We congratulate La Salle on their win. We're very proud of the La Salle Explorers. The Villanova Wildcats are excited to be here with them.

Q. That La Salle is here with you, you know what John has been through over there, to see what they've done, how cool is that?

COACH WRIGHT: It is. It's really cool to have them here. John and I texted last night.

As you know, in Philadelphia, we take great pride in Philadelphia basketball. When we're playing each other, we want to beat each other bad. But anything else, we work together on Coaches Versus Cancer, we're friends throughout the year, and we like to see each other do well.

We really believe if the Big 5 schools are doing well, kids in Philadelphia are going to stay home to play there, games are going to be important, Philadelphia basketball is going to be important.

They played great last night. They really looked good. They look like a team that can win some games in this tournament.

Q. How do you go from a team that if you don't beat Georgetown, you're maybe not in, now in four days got to get over that, now we want to go win basketball games? Is that tough?

COACH WRIGHT: Every situation has been a challenge for us this year because it's new to this group. I think you and I have talked about this, but Mouphtaou Yarou is a leader, James Bell is a leader and a go‑to guy. It's all new. The rest of the guys, being starters and playing is all new.

Everything has been a challenge, but they've taken every challenge as an opportunity. I can see the way they're preparing this week. They're doing the same thing.

We had a great practice this morning. We're going to go in here and shoot now. I can see their focus. I can see their confidence.

So they've really impressed our staff with their ability to take on every new challenge.

Q. Every year is different, every team is different. What has it been like to bring this group to the NCAA?

COACH WRIGHT: Like I said, I was looking around last night in our team meeting, not a lot of guys have played here. I talked to Achraf Yacoubou, as if he had played in this before. He said, Coach, we didn't go last year (laughter).

I don't realize how many guys haven't.

But this group, because of the leadership, has been a really enjoyable group to go through this process with. It's Yarou, it's Bell, it's Arcidiacono, the guys you saw here. The chemistry of the group has been outstanding.

Q. Carolina has four guys who can really shoot from range. It's not like one guy you have to focus your attention on. You've had some difficulty with perimeter defense this year. Are you going to try to do what you do better or show some wrinkles?

COACH WRIGHT: It's definitely going to be do what we do better. That is an area we have struggled all year, is defending the three‑point line. So, of course, this is the way it works. Who do you get in the NCAA tournament? The only Carolina team that ever has relied strictly on a three‑point line (laughter). That's the way it works.

We feel like we've got a good scheme. We just feel like we have not executed it through the year.

Seton Hall game, we really struggled doing what we wanted to do. We didn't do what we wanted to do well. We have to do a better job of that.

Transition defense, defending their threes, is really important. They're really good at it. Hairston within their offense can at any time find a three. Even if they're running something for Bullock, he can find one. I think this will be as good a three‑point shooting team as we've played all year.

We've practiced against it. At the same time, if you leave a guy like McAdoo alone inside one‑on‑one, he's very effective. I think that's what makes them good.

Q. Your tournament history against North Carolina includes the game in '05, with the controversial play at the end. How long did it take you to get over that? Do you see any similarities at all with this young group and that young group?

COACH WRIGHT: Yeah, you know, a lot of interesting things. All the Villanova fans, the 'Nova Nation, as soon as we got Carolina brought up that game. I don't think there's anybody that remembers that game except Arcidiacono, who grew up watching Villanova. The rest of them, they don't even know.

The similarities that that team, I think it was our first team that went to the tournament, so everything was kind of new to them. But even though everything was new, they had a confidence about them that we really felt as coaches.

That's the similarity. This group has a confidence level about them. Even though they probably shouldn't, they do. That's what made that team in '05 really effective and advance to the Sweet 16. That's what I think this team's greatest strength is: their confidence.

Q. Tony Chennault got the hardship transfer because of what he was going through at the time. How has he dealt with that and what has he brought to your team?

COACH WRIGHT: I think the transfer for Tony was going to be very seamless because he was coming back home to Villanova. We knew him his whole career. Until the tragedy with his brother's death in the summer, then it became a very difficult transfer because he was there, his mom was alone now, there was no one in the house with his mom. I think it really affected him all summer and through the beginning of the year. I think it really did.

He might, within the last month or so, be coming out of the other end. I know he's always concerned about his mom. He'd go home to check on his mom. He really struggled picking up what we were doing. But I don't think his head was completely there.

The last month or so he's been playing good basketball for us, made us a much better team. He's probably the guy I haven't talked about enough. He's just that kind of guy. He's a blue‑collar guy, a typical Philly guard, doesn't want attention, wants to do the dirty work and win. He really has made a major impact on this team the last month or so.

Q. To the outsider who would see a 17‑point home loss to Columbia on your résumé, Seton Hall, then Louisville win, Georgetown win, when you had to win, have you ever had a team, I don't know the word, schizophrenic? Is it due to their youth? How much growth did they show by dealing with all that and coming out the other end?

COACH WRIGHT: You know, every team has its own dynamics, its only personality. I've never had a team like this. I've had a young team that has struggled and been a little inconsistent, but I don't think they've had the incredible accomplishments that this team has had, and at the same time has as poor a performance as this team has.

I think early in the year we probably could have seen this coming when we had the great game against Purdue in the Garden, then the next night against Alabama. The coaching staff was sitting there saying, Who is this team? In the Purdue game, we were saying the same thing. Who is this team?

They've just had incredible accomplishments, and we've had some great disappointments. That's just the personality of this team.

But as I said earlier, their confidence never wavers. Their ability to be coached and get better never changes. That's the personality of this group.

Q. You were talking about the highs and the lows, unexpected losses. Do you think your guys learned from those?

COACH WRIGHT: Yeah, I definitely do. I think we've learned a lot this entire season. We talked to the guys about the fact that early in the season, we were picked 12th in the Big East. We lost to Saint Mary's‑‑ oh, that was the year before, we lost to Columbia. Saint Mary's coach, still in my mind.

After that game, everyone said, This team's bad. The greatest thing I think they learned is we define what we are and where we are. Even after the loss to Seton Hall when everyone said, They're out of the tournament now, it didn't affect these guys. They learned, We're going to define ourselves and keep getting better every day.

I think that's something these young guys are going to keep with them for a long time. Even after this last Louisville game, we've rallied around, we've been here before, we're going to come back and play great against Carolina.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
About this blog
Soft Pretzel Logic is Philly.com's college sports blog, with a primary focus on the University of Pennsylvania. You'll also see coverage of the Big 5, other major college sports events in the region, and the annual Penn Relays track and field meet.

Reach Jonathan at jtannenwald@phillynews.com or 215-854-2330.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
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