University of Washington coach Mike Neighbors on the Final Four

Wednesday, all Final Four coaches were interviewed by a national media panel. Below is the transcript of the conversation with University of Washington coach Mike Neighbors. The second to last and third to last questions are mine.

THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by Washington head coach Mike Neighbors.

MIKE NEIGHBORS: Thank you so much for everybody sitting in on the call today. We could not be more ecstatic here at the University of Washington to be representing our city, our university and the Pac-12 in the Final Four, in Indianapolis starting this weekend.

We’re obviously on a magical run. You don’t enter this tournament as lower than a 3 or 4 seed usually and make it to the Final Four. So we’ve been overwhelmed with the excitement that’s surrounding our team right now, and we’ve got a lot of great stories, a lot of great kids. And we’re just looking forward to sharing that with anybody to help continue to grow our game and can’t wait to get to Indy.


Q. I would like to start by asking for those of us here on the East Coast, may not be familiar with the West Coast Pac-12-style of play. Coach Rueck at Oregon State said it’s more of a defensive conference than what we’re used to seeing out east. Is that a fair statement?

MIKE NEIGHBORS: I tend to agree with Scott. It’s really, really hard to score on opponents in our league. But I would turn around and say we’ve scored 85 points in our last two games and 74 in pretty hostile environments — at Maryland, at Kentucky, and then against Stanford. So I think the balance is what’s really made our league special this year. It certainly makes Oregon State special, and I think what makes us special as well. Having been — I’m from the Midwest, obviously, I think y’all can tell from my accent. I’m not from the West Coast.

But having been in those areas, I can tell you that the Pac-12 does really, really force you to be creative offensively because the teams and the coaches are so good at scouting and preparing their teams that your offense has to get to its option A and B or past A and B and get to option C and D to be effective, especially this late in the year.

Q. First of all, you guys played Syracuse back in November, down in Las Vegas. You suffered a tough four-point loss. What do you draw from that game when you head into Sunday’s game in Indianapolis? We’re familiar with players like Kelsey Plum, she’s racked quite a few points in the tournament, Talia Walton and Chantel Osahor. But how big has her impact been since Brianna Ruiz’s injury?

MIKE NEIGHBORS: The Syracuse game that we played over Thanksgiving — they were really, really good then. They’re even better now. At that point in time that was our toughest opponent that we had faced. They have a really, really unique style of play that during the holidays, that was around Thanksgiving, and we didn’t have access to our men’s practice team. So we had a really hard time trying to simulate the pressure that they put on you, the stress that they place on you for 40 minutes.

And they really dominated us. The score looks close, but if you look a little deeper than that, they were up on us 19, and we had to really fight and claw back to even get that thing even close down the stretch.

We hit some shots late. But they really dominated us. The score is not near as close as what the game was. As a result of seeing them face to face, I’m a Top 25 voter in the USA Today poll, and I have consistently had Syracuse in my poll 10 to 12 spots higher than what everybody else has, throughout the year, because we had played them.

I’d pick my votes on Monday and then the poll would come out on Tuesday and mine would be the outlier. I would be really high, because I have had to play against them. And I’m really excited for coach Q. He’s a friend of mine. We’ve been texting ever since those games in Vegas, drawing back to each other on how those games against each other have helped us down the line against our conference opponent and it’s helped us in the tournament.

So I hate to see them in the tournament at this stage of the game, but the fact that we’re in Indy, I think it’s been great that we could both get there. As far as Alexus goes, look this story up, because it goes deeper than just coming in after an injury to one of our starters. She came to our program as a walk-on. Started at the University of Colorado as a walk-on. Some circumstances there didn’t afford her the opportunity to continue to even be a walk-on there. So we lucked into her.

Her sister ran track at our university here and knew that we were looking for walk-ons. And Alexus came up. I met her. I’d never even really seen her play basketball. I talked to a couple of people. But I just liked the kid.

We rode around on a golf cart. I showed her campus. I knew from that little golf card ride that she was somebody you wanted on your team. She came as a walk-on, earned a scholarship after one year. She earned a team captain after the next year. And then now when her number has been called on as a starter, has just excelled in that role and just continues to have really a truly storybook finish to her career.

Q. With all of her accolades she’s accumulated over the years, would you consider Breanna Stewart among the greatest or even the greatest women’s college basketball player ever?

MIKE NEIGHBORS: She’s got to be in the conversation. You know, having not coached her, I think the one person that could probably begin to split the hairs between the great ones that will be Coach Auriemma. I would certainly have her at the top of any argument that I was a part of.

And if they are able to complete a historic four-year run, it would be hard to debate that she’s not. I remember seeing her as a young player coming up knowing that wherever she went for college that team would have a decided advantage for the next four years.

And when you have an impact on the game like she has, because I am one of these people that’s not buying into this whole UConn doing what they’re doing is bad for the game.

It’s been great for the game. It’s raised everybody’s level up to where we have what we have this year — three new people in the Final Four because we’ve all been able to use their success as a little part of the formula to get there.

So she would certainly be in my argument of the top three or four, and I would defer to people who have actually coached her and been around to probably settle the argument.

One more thing, a couple of years ago Geno introduced the notion of potentially lowering the rims in women’s basketball and then this kind of came up again a couple of weeks ago when Elena Delle Donne kind of said that she would also like for the rims to be lowered. But then this week Diana Taurasi said she would not want to happen. I was wondering if you had an opinion on the matter?

MIKE NEIGHBORS: I do. I don’t want the rims lowered. I think it creates too big of a challenge for the game to continue to grow at all levels. Because some schools simply wouldn’t — at the lower levels — simply wouldn’t be able to have — it’s hard enough to find facilities now much less to find facilities with certain sized goals.

Here’s what I am for. And I’m for this in both sports. And I think it’s the easiest, most cost-effective, least-damaging to our game. Just make the rim a little bit bigger. If we want more offense, just make the rim 1 inch bigger on each side. It wouldn’t be any different to mount. It would be a cost of nominal amounts to every place that plays basketball. The ball would go in more often.

But, again, I don’t think our issue is offense. I know soccer is one of the most popular sports in the world and those guys still think 1-0 is a great game. I don’t understand it, but they do. I think there’s a lot of other things we’ve got going on against us.

But if we truly want to improve offense and get more scoring, then let’s make the rim bigger so more shots go in. Dunking, whatever that’s worth, maybe adds entertainment value, but I still feel like on the women’s side our game is about the engagement, the relationships that are built between our fan base and our players. And I think we need to continue focusing on that, finding ways to engage better with the fan base that we do have, and not worry so much about those people that aren’t fans. Let them go support whatever sport they want. But let’s take care of the ones we do have and get them to bring more people to the table to help grow our game.

Q. Wanted to follow up on Alexus Atchley, you mentioned her story and how you knew at first that you wanted her on your team once you met her. To go from playing around 140 minutes her first two seasons combined at Washington to more than a thousand by the time she’s done. How does that actually happen? How does she get to a place where she can play a thousand minutes for a team that’s in the Final Four?

MIKE NEIGHBORS: She learned what we do. Not only what we do, but why we do it that first year. She came in. She did everything that was asked of her.

We build our program around skill development rather than trying to just outrecruit current players on our roster year after year. We recruit kids and we develop kids. So she came in with that attitude and developed. She just kept getting better and better and better.

Coach Castro would come up after workouts and say, wow, Alexus is really coming on, she’s really getting this. Once she learned why we do things, you couple that with her being a great teammate, and her confidence grows. And I believe she was on the verge of doing this last year, and she pulled a hamstring.

And we all know how nagging that injury can be, especially for somebody who relies on their athleticism as much as she does. So about that time this opportunity came last year she was injured as well. And that really, really set her back.

So once she got healthy, she came back, again had a tremendous, tremendous offseason — skill development sessions. And then when the opportunity came, when Bri went down, she’s just not looked back and has continued to improve in every aspect of the game — offense, defense, leadership as now a senior captain, going all the way from being a walk-on to a senior captain. That’s where the increased minutes have come.

Q. Do you remember the conversation or how you told her that she was going to go from walk-on to scholarship?

MIKE NEIGHBORS: Yeah, I do, very vividly. We were at our end-of-the-year banquet, and she had received an award that was voted on by her team. As she was coming up, getting her award, we said we have one other announcement. We just want to let Lex know that from this point on she’s a scholarshipped member of our team from now on.

It was a really cool moment around her teammates. They all rallied around her. And then ever since she’s just skyrocketed.

Q. I’m curious about a couple of things, first with the quarter change this year, do you like it? And has it helped you get your kids a little more rest on this run when you guys don’t go super deep into your bench? How has that affected your play this postseason?

MIKE NEIGHBORS: Two things, yes, I absolutely love the quarters because we are a big proponent in two-for-ones and also three-for-twos. We look at another level past two-for-ones. We start looking at that under a minute, 1:20, 25, we’ll try to get two quick shots so we can get more opportunities offensively. And that’s a number we chart. And so far we’re plus-71 in going two-for-ones or three-for-twos.

So it’s been a huge focus for us. Our group really executes set plays well. And I think we’ve been able to make up a lot of ground on some, in some situations with that rule, now being able to do it four times a game rather than just two.

And as far as the rest goes, without a doubt we wouldn’t be able to, our style would not be near as effective without that extra rest we get two times a game. Although we lose a media timeout and a timeout, the quarter rest is very, very impactful on us playing a very tight rotation.

Q. So you were kind of the person that created, that went to the spring meetings a couple years ago and said we’ve got to up our conference RPI, here’s how we’re going to do it. Does this all go back to — you’re a statistics and analytical junkie. Have you been studying it for a while and did you just think this is the necessary steps for us to keep going?

MIKE NEIGHBORS: Yeah. I was fortunate in that I had all the data pretty much already done, because when we were at Xavier, we were having a really hard time earning the seed in the NCAA Tournament that we thought we deserved. We would go through our league undefeated and do everything we were supposed to do and we’d end up with an 8 or 9 seed, which we all know is the death game — the 8-9 seed. So Kevin knew I was into analytics.

He wanted me to take the summer and study scheduling and see what it would take for us to become a 2 or 3 seed which we all know statistically is the best route to a Final Four. So Kevin and I were friends. I don’t think he understood how deep I delve into things when I’m assigned something.

But I came up with about a 32-page analysis of scheduling on what a 2-seed schedule looked like, a 3 seed, a 4 seed, 5 seed and all the way down. So we were sitting on that thing and we were able to put together a schedule that gave us a No. 2 seed and a No. 3 seed in the subsequent years.

When we got out here, I was still the assistant coach and Kevin told me at the Final Four — I think it’s when we were in New Orleans, but I’m not positive — he said, hey, there’s going to be a meeting and I think that the league is trying to implement a minimum RPI standard that we should schedule. And that’s a great thought. But it’s actually kind of counterintuitive to what actually produces the results when it comes to the RPI.

So I had this — I turned that report into something for Kevin to take to that meeting. Well, then after we got to that point that he told me his wife was pregnant again and he wasn’t going to the meeting so I was going to have to sit in.

And I was scared to death and told Kevin, I’m not going to say anything until it looks to me like it needs to be said. And that moment came and we shared the data. And we discussed it for a little while.

I think Chris was on the call. She was in there. You know, there was some great conversation, and we talked it through. But the main thing was the data was just data. And it was going to sit there unless the coaches bought into it and believed in it. And for the next year or so I would get phone calls from them about the data — explain it, talk me through this.

And you know everybody raised their game. We got the schedules that we needed all the way from the top to the bottom of our league. And this is kind of that tipping point year where all 12 of us pretty much had it right. There was a couple things along the way — scheduling is incredibly, incredibly hard on the West Coast.

That’s the one thing I had never factored in because I didn’t understand how hard it is to get teams to come play in Seattle. We’re so isolated. How hard it is to get people. Tara has a hard time getting people to come play at Palo Alto. But it took some time, but everybody really did care about the league.

This wouldn’t work if the coaches didn’t truly care about helping the league get multiple bids and good seeds. That’s what happened, and it’s been a lot of fun to talk to all these coaches and have conversations with them, and for that data to become a plan. Everybody’s got a lot of data, but it takes a lot of people for it to become a plan.

And I was just really excited that all the people rallied around the thought and added their input and their ideas and it turned into something that’s obviously been a lot of fun for us to see building and then now, of course, see come to fruition, it’s a lot of fun.

Q. I don’t want to diminish or imply that your run here was easy, but when you guys — he said something earlier, last week about getting to this point of the tournament, you could say to your kids, look, we’ve been through the Pac-12. We’ve played Oregon State. We’ve played ASU, UCLA. Was there an attitude when you started the tournament of maybe this will be easier than conference play because we’ve already been through the toughest conference?

MIKE NEIGHBORS: I use the word easy, yes. I did. But I didn’t mean it easy. I didn’t mean easy. I meant easier than trying to play three games in three days in the Pac-12 Tournament. And just the ruggedness that our league had this year.

But our team believed it. They would look at the film and say, Coach, that kid reminds me of Nirra Fields or this kid reminds me of Quinn Dornstauder.

There’s no situation that we have faced in the four rounds of the NCAA Tournament that I can’t point directly to a game in the Pac-12 season or the tournament that we faced the exact same thing. And I think all of our coaches can say that.

We have a different style of play, different schools. All equally capable of winning, and that’s what is so great and I think what has made us a tough out when it comes to the NCAA Tournament.

Q. Wonder if you could sort of compare, you and Coach Hillsman in some ways have some similarity in your backgrounds in that you both coached successfully at the high school level. Then you were an assistant at a lot of different places before you got the chance to be a head coach. It seems to me like you guys have a lot in common from that standpoint of learning a lot in a lot of different places and different people and then bringing your own expertise to it.

MIKE NEIGHBORS: I have a lot more swag than Coach Hillsman does. I don’t carry my backpacks to the game but I do have them. There are a lot more similarities that people don’t know about.

But Q and I have been friends for a long time, as, like you mentioned, assistants getting started in the game about the same time. And then the shared past of not your normal path to being a college basketball coach. He’s been somebody that I’ve bounced ideas off every time I see him on the road.

We’re very, very different people. I’m from the South. I’m from the back woods of Arkansas, and he’s obviously not. So it’s been cool to see that you can do it a couple of different ways and still find a certain level of success.

We’ve probably texted or emailed at least once every two weeks ever since we faced each other down in Vegas.

And we both — I feel like, he’d have to answer it for him — but I feel like that game has been as big of any in us drawing some thoughts back on what we needed to do to achieve in the tournament, to face a pressure-type team, to face all kinds of pressures. And it certainly has helped us.

So I think it’s great for our game. It’s great for young coaches out there that are coaching at the high school level or the junior high level or just breaking into being a restricted-earnings coach, a part-time coach, a volunteer coach. If you do your job and you keep your head down and really care about the kids, which you can tell how much he cares about his kids and how much they care about him, and I hope the same’s true for us, that you can make it.

You don’t have to have a resumé or a pedigree that sets you up. You can get it done with hard work. And I hate it that we have to play against each other, but at the same time I know that one of us will be playing for a national championship on Tuesday, and I’m really excited about that.

Q. The time you went to Arkansas and started there, when Gary was there, how much did that impact — I feel like he’s been one of the more influential people in women’s basketball — just having that exposure to him and what he did with the Arkansas program back then?

MIKE NEIGHBORS: I’ve always been right-time, right-place guy. I happen to be from the state of Arkansas. He happened to have been coming in from Stephen F. Austin and revitalizing our university program there about the time I was getting involved with women’s basketball as a high school coach. So I started attending his camps, volunteering, working at those things.

And I worked my way up from, you know, station director to building director to somebody he would talk to off the court and call me as a high school coach.

I never had any Division I players as a high school coach. None of my players ever played Division I. They were good players, went on to some Division II. I didn’t have that in with him.

When he learned of my desire to be a college coach, he gave me some really good advice and really hard words: You’re not going to get into this thing the way you’re doing it; you’re going to have to try some other things.

So I tried for like six years to get him to hire me. And he finally had a spot to offer me. And when that opportunity came, I jumped at it.

I took a $58,000 pay cut. Went from being a high school coach to being his director of ops and getting his Diet Coke on a day-to-day basis. That’s all I did the first couple of weeks, I was his Diet Coke guy. But the things I learned not only from him, but sitting on that couch with Vic Schaefer on the defensive side and watching Kelly Bond at a young age become a recruiter, being around Amber Shirey, just how she treated people, I was in the right place.

I mean, I had four mentors and friends that got me off on the right path going down this chase to become a college coach. And I don’t think it would have happened for me had I not gotten a start under somebody like Coach Blair, who is obviously concerned with growing our game and giving back to the game and making sure that if you do that, then the game will give back to you eventually.

And I think this is kind of living proof of that, if you do give to the game it will give back to you.

Q. Are you hearing from coaches in other conferences? Do you think the formula that you developed obviously resulting in two Final Four teams might spur some more interest in doing the kinds of things that you’ve been doing in the Pac-12; and how much of an issue do you think non-conference scheduling still is in the women’s game?

MIKE NEIGHBORS: I have heard from some people. And I’m not sharing it. I kind of feel like it’s proprietary to us. The Pac is — they listen to it. Obviously it’s not proprietary. Anybody can do the research.

I’m not going to let them off the hook and just hand it over to them. I’ll have conversations with them, but hopefully we can kind of keep it between us right now and let other people do their research.

Here’s the thing with non-conference scheduling: There’s a lot of excuses out there. I hear them year after year after year, that they won’t play us or this team won’t play me or I can’t get a home game.

Well, I don’t believe that because at Xavier we were able to do it. Now, what I’ll tell you, it’s incredibly hard and you have to be willing to do some things that really kind of scratch your head a little bit and go that year we went and played at Michigan State, at Florida, at Duke, at Stanford, at LSU. You have to do some things, play some two for ones, maybe you don’t play them on a home floor.

But non-conference scheduling is a huge part of not only preparing your team for the tournament, but for the RPI; because, again, I’m a math guy but the one thing I know for absolutely sure, once you get in your conference, your RPI’s going to be 50, 500, because you’re going to have a winner and loser every night. If you don’t do in the non-conference what you need to do, the simple math of that formula works against you.

So you better schedule really good opponents that you can beat, that each team can beat, doesn’t have to be the best of the best, but each team needs to schedule teams that they can beat and then go out and do it. So it’s an easy formula to talk about, it’s an easy formula to write down.

It’s another thing to execute it and get 12 coaches in the same league to agree upon and then execute. But it’s certainly doable. I don’t believe any excuse that I hear about non-conference scheduling being impossible. It’s not impossible.

It’s really hard. And we ask our players all the time to do things that are really hard. So I think we have to, as coaches, try to do the same thing to give them a chance to do what we’re going through, and I’m glad that it’s worked out.

If this thing would have flopped and failed and we didn’t have any teams in the Elite Eight or the Sweet 16, it would be a different conversation. But it’s obviously worked out.

Q. Are the excuses coming from the power schools that don’t want to play, don’t want to go down and play a really good mid-major, or is it the other way around? I’ve heard both sides of that coin.
MIKE NEIGHBORS: You know, I think it does happen both ways, Wendy. There’s no doubt that it does. But I don’t think — it’s not a cut-and-dried rule. I can tell you right now, we have, and I have personally called a number of the mid-majors and offered to play and they don’t want to play us.

Oh, yeah, that’s happened numerous times. Now, I know that it happens the other way, because when I was at Xavier, Kevin told me start at the top and just start calling people. And I called everybody and I got not only nos but I got some hell nos. No way. Stop calling me. Please stop emailing me. I still save — I’ve got them. It happens. I know that. But if you tried hard enough, long enough, you eventually run into somebody that needs a game and you’re the only one left.

And that’s what happened — I still remember Van Chancellor having the conversation when we got LSU on the schedule, and we agreed to a two-for-one, and we played at their place twice and our place once.

And the time we went down there he walked down our bench and he said: I think I’m going to have to talk to my scheduling coach because I thought we were playing Xavier of Louisiana. I didn’t realize we were playing y’all.

It can be done. I do understand that it goes both ways, and I know there are coaches that have had experiences of being avoided, because we were that way. But there’s a lot of schools out there and it’s hard. I’m not telling you it’s not hard. It’s incredibly hard to do. And it’s scheduling after you hire your staff and after you recruit, that’s the next most important thing that you do. And it’s a 24/7, 365-day-a-year job. And if you’re only working on, scheduling certain parts of the year, you’re going to get behind.

Those games are going to get swept up before you are working on yours and then you’ll hear nos because people are full. There’s only mid-major powers to go around and only so many BCS level schools to go around. It becomes a supply and demand thing.

Q. Do you think you’ll get more hell nos now that you got to the Final Four?

MIKE NEIGHBORS: It’s already started. It’s already started. We got a couple we thought we had games with. A couple people thought Plum was a senior. They found out she’s a junior now. We should’ve had the contract signed. I’m afraid we’re going to lose them.

Scheduling gets harder. But that’s a good problem to have. And again you’ve just got to keep working at it and make sure it works out for your particular team.

Q. Quick question about the sharing of the responsibilities. Midway through the season got a little video play of Kelsey Plum drawing up a play on the board and then you kind of giving her the go-ahead. It seemed like this team kind of came into peaking here at the Pac-12 Tournament and then it just surprised everybody almost as much as anyone else maybe from the University of Washington organization. How do you share the coaching responsibilities with your players? Like I know it’s obviously not a dictatorship, but how do you work that out, how do you draw that line and how does that play into great coaching?

MIKE NEIGHBORS: They’re my best resource, in my opinion. Film’s there. Experience is there. All those things we use as resources as coaches. But your players are the ones that are doing it. They’re the ones that are having to go through it.

Wow, if I’m not using them, you know that’s like throwing out your greatest resource in you all trying to report a story. That just didn’t make sense to me.

In that particular game, the video that you’re talking about, earlier in the game Kelsey had been talking about how a defense was kind of shading to her side and playing the ball screens.

We were trying to have the conversation while there was a live ball and it just simply wasn’t working out very good during a live ball. So during the next timeout I had the board in my hand she just grabbed it from me and started trying to draw up what she was explaining.

Of course the Pac-12 Network, as Johnny on the Spot as they always are, caught it and edited it in there. Then she kind of gave me a little atta boy on the way out that got a lot of publicity, which I think that little 15-second clip certainly encapsulates how I treat all of our players.

Chantel Osahor got us out of defense on Stanford. Coach, we have enough legs, I think we can guard them in man. Let’s go. And Talia Walton, I’ve got a mismatch, this kid can’t hold me. I sometimes have to get it interpreted because I don’t know what hold me means or this kid — their language about I got a mismatch.

But if I don’t listen to those kids who are out there doing it and have been doing it, then I think I’m losing my greatest resource and I’m also — I trust them. I mean, they’ve earned my trust. I hope I’ve earned their trust. We don’t care who’s right. We just want to get it right. And that’s kind of been a thing that we’ve said all along. We don’t care who is right, let’s just get it right.

That gives kids confidence to speak up. It’s okay if you’re wrong, it’s okay if we don’t use your idea but don’t stop talking about it. It’s who we are. I work better that way.

I know that 99 percent of the time I’m the dumbest guy in the room and I need help and I want input from every single person that cares and these kids care. So I listen.

Q. Obviously just kind of seems improbable as far as basically you guys are using seven to eight players to get into this Final Four. What do you think separates you guys from other teams maybe on a mental level as far as getting there? Like what enabled you to take that final step into the Four?

MIKE NEIGHBORS: Most of the kids that are playing significant minutes have been here for three years, have been in the program. And they literally know why we do things now. Not just what we do or how we do it or when we do it. They know the why parts of it. And I think when you can get to that level of — I was a high school teacher. That was to me when your player — when your students know why things are going on, that’s the highest level of understanding and learning.

And I just think our kids have a really good understanding of what we’re trying to get accomplished. They have input in it. So they have ownership in it. And they really, really care about each other. That was that little vibe we had. We knew we had a special vibe earlier in the year. We couldn’t define it. Didn’t know what it was.

But through the adversity that every team faces with injuries or whatever you face, if they care about each other, they tend to find a way to get through it. And late in the year when we found out we were given a .2 percent chance of making it very deep into the tournament, that became a little bit of a draw, too, they’ve kind of rallied around that.

Q. Do you think in some ways your semifinal is going to be two programs that haven’t been to the Final Four before as opposed to the other side? I’m wondering if you think that’s sort of a cool thing to have two first-timers going against each other and in some ways does that make it a little bit — neither one of you has that edge of having been through the whole process before?

MIKE NEIGHBORS: I think it does. I’m glad that we’re not facing somebody that understands how to negotiate all of the things that the book says we’re going to be doing once we get there. There’s a lot of responsibilities that we’re not used to having to go through. It kind of started here yesterday.

We had a press conference here that was full of cameras and reporters. We haven’t even had one of those here and we know that’s going to magnify us.

So it is a little bit beneficial that we’re not facing an opponent that’s been through that and will be going through it the first time as well.

I think it’s good for our game, especially in the year when UConn’s dominance has drawn a lot of controversy — conversation, I would say. Even from people that don’t normally follow our game.

I think it’s great that we’ve got three teams in here that did knock off the teams that were expected to be there and creates a unique matchup. It’s going to be the nightcap of the early game. So I’m glad we ended up — they’re calling it the upset side of the bracket. It’s kind of cool.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.