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Weber, Players Comment on NCAA Tournament Bid


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March 16, 2014

K-State Athletics

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber and selected players spoke to the media on Sunday night to discuss their school-record fifth consecutive bid to the NCAA Tournament and match-up with Kentucky on Friday at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Mo.

Kansas State Head Coach Bruce Weber
On being selected to play in the NCAA Tournament...
 "You feel good about it, but if you are an SMU or St. John's or Georgetown, there are a lot of teams that did not get in and that was the message to our players that they should be proud of themselves. The senior group, four in a row for Will (Spradling) and Shane (Southwell), which is a nice thing, and even as a school we are in the top 10 as far as the streak goes of consecutive appearances in the NCAA (Tournament). So that is a nice honor for our guys, for our program and for our university, and then we get a chance to play one of the top schools in the history of college basketball, It should be fun. I hope our guys are fired up."

On drawing Kentucky in the first round...   
"We were just looking at the eight-nine matchups, you have got a lot of very good teams, like Colorado and Stanford. You can analyze it a lot of different ways. We know Baylor beat Kentucky early in the year. They had some struggles two or three weeks ago but they did play better down the stretch and they had a good game today. We were just upstairs watching it, just as basketball fans watching the games and they have some talent, there is no doubt about it. We are going to have to play. But it does not matter who you play, you have to play good basketball. The important thing for us is we have to do all of the little things that made us successful, whether it was in that stretch in December or when we had some big wins in Big 12 play.  That is just playing hard, guarding the heck out of people, just doing all of the little things that make the difference. If we can do that, I think we will be fine. My message has been `compete' since last week and I think that has got to be the message going into Friday and if we get to play Sunday."

On battling in the loss to Iowa State...
"I think we did. Obviously, they are good and they went on a run and people had predicted them to win the tournament going into it. They are a three-seed, so even nationwide, someone feels good about them. It came down to the last couple possessions and we had our chances. We have had so many should-have-could-have games and now we have to get one. We have to get those games because there is no more should-have-could-haves. We had that last year with La Salle. You can say all you want about it, we have got to get it done. I think our league was really respected by the committee. With seven teams in, we are the lowest with Oklahoma State at nine and everyone else is higher. It has been a very competitive year and I hope we can show that by our play throughout the tournament. For us, it prepared us for whatever we are going to face because we have faced it all in the league and I do not think there is any doubt."

On the experience of playing in the NCAA Tournament...
"It is just a cool thing. Every year, that is what your goal is, to win a conference championship and get into the tournament. Those guys have had the great opportunity of winning a conference championship last year and then being in the tournament four times. It is a special feeling and I told them yesterday that it is the greatest sporting event in the world. I guess you could argue for the Super Bowl, the World Series or a couple other little things. But it goes through three weeks and I have had the great honor and pleasure of getting to the last day. It is a ride that you will remember forever and that is what I told them, I hope they want it because I want it for them. That is the whole thing is to go on a little run and see what happens and I think we are capable of that. Obviously, it is not going to be easy and you have got to play well."

On the play of senior Shane Southwell...
"I was happy because I thought he played well against Iowa State. His back was to the wall and he had not been playing very well. I thought he stepped up. Obviously, on the last possession, he would want to rewind that thing but he gave us a chance for that last possession to mean something. He and Will are what they are. They have been really solid players. I just want them to compete and do what they do. Shane has to do what he does and when he plays smart and hits open shots and passes the ball, he is good. Will (Spradling) has been our steadying influence and Omari (Lawrence) gives us a little spark. No one expects us to win because we are playing Kentucky. Just go play basketball, compete and see what happens."

On his initial thoughts on Kentucky...
"Talent is the number one thing. Youth, they are pretty young. It starts with (Julius) Randle. You have got a big-body guy who can do a lot of things and I have watched him through high school. They have got some size and they have athletes but we are going to have to guard them. Randle is a tough matchup. Any team that has a four-man who can do some things, that makes it tough. Maybe we can exploit some of their weaknesses, maybe he does not get the ball quite as much."

On learning from last year's loss to La Salle...
"I do not think we respected them as much as we needed to and that was obvious by the way we started the game. We went into the locker room at halftime and turned it on. You have got to realize that you have to play every game. It does not matter how good you are or what league you are from. If a team gets hot and gets going like La Salle did to us, we were playing in Kansas City and we were on our heels and they were taking it to us. This time, I think it is a little different. It is Kansas State and Kentucky. This will be the eighth time that we have played Kentucky. Ernie (Barrett) called me already and he is still mad about the (1951) National Championship, so he wants us to get some revenge for him. Last year, we were the hunted, the name team. We are the underdog this year and I hope we play like LaSalle did last year, with great heart, loose and free and go at them."

On the players' mindset going into the NCAA Tournament as compared to last year...
"It was not that they were not excited to be in the tournament last year, I just do not know if they got mentally ready to play La Salle. I do not know what is in their head or in their heart. The first thing that Coach Lowery asked after I did my speech was if anyone was scared. A lot of Texas guys have played with their Texas guys. The kid from Kansas City (Willie Cauley-Stein), a lot of our guys have played with or against him, so they all know each other. It is so different than years ago, pre-AAU, when those kids were shell-shocked by that. We play Kansas every year, Kansas and Kentucky are two of the top programs, and we beat Kansas. We are capable. We just have to do it on Friday, whatever time they set."

Senior Forward Shane Southwell
On his thoughts when he found out K-State would face Kentucky...
"My face just lit up. I was ecstatic because I love playing against great teams and great players. When you are a high school player, you think about certain programs. You thing about Kentucky, Duke and Kansas, honestly and it would be a great opportunity to beat a team of that nature. We played against Kansas, I played against Duke my freshman year, it did not end up the way I wanted it to, but it was something that I looked forward to."

On Kentucky's style of play...
"I have a little bit of sense about how they like to play. We still have to scout them. We still have to watch a lot of film. They are a good team and they have a lot of talent but we have played against a lot of teams with the same amount of talent. Kansas has five or four pros on the court at all times. Oklahoma State has three NBA players, Baylor has two or three NBA players and Iowa State has three NBA players. Everyone is kind of making that a big deal of how much hype they have but we just want to go out there and play against them the way we played against those other teams in our league."

On looking ahead to a possible matchup with Wichita State...
"As the eight of nine seed, to think about the one seed, you are foolish. Honestly with the eight and nine seed, it means that you both had the same type of year. To think about the one seed is foolish. This is going to be a big game for both of us. It will be a hard game for both teams. I do not even know who we would play if we win the first game."

On watching Kentucky play this season...
"They play a lot on TV and I like to analyze teams when I watch them on TV. I do not think the other guys on the team analyze them the same way they analyze Kansas or Baylor when they are on TV. But I have watched them a lot and I pretty much have an idea of what they do on offense and defense. But we still have to watch a lot of film on them to get a better understanding of them."

Senior Guard Will Spradling
On making it to the NCAA Tournament...
"It is just exciting to be in the NCAA Tournament four years in a row. It is something that only a few players in school have done."

On Kentucky's style of play...
"They have a lot of big guys. We like to play small so we have to try to use that to our advantage. We have really got to get on the glass because that is something that we have been struggling with."

On the benefits of D.J. Johnson and Nino Williams playing in their hometowns...
"Every time I went back to Kansas City, I had a little extra boost of energy just knowing that I was home and that everyone was able to come out to the game. I think they will have the same thing."

Junior Forward Thomas Gipson
On the experience of this season has prepared the team for Kentucky...
"I think we have beaten eight or nine teams that made it into the tournament. That being said, we are still young and we have to lead them and I feel like we are doing a good job of that right now. I think the excitement overall will make them take that extra step of playing hard."

On playing in the NCAA Tournament...
"It is a blessing. Unfortunately, the two times that I have been there we lost in the first or second round. I know our young guys are excited for it and I think everybody is going to be ready to play."

On how K-State matches up with Kentucky's interior size...
"We do not have a lot of height but we have girth and depth on our roster, so that helps us."

Junior Forward Nino Williams
On facing Kentucky...
"We have been battle-tested. The Big 12 got seven teams into the tournament so we have played against a lot of different styles. Baylor beat them early in the year so we will just have to see how it goes on Friday."

On playing in his hometown of St. Louis...
"It is really exciting. I get to play in front of family who has not seen me play in college. Being five hours away from Manhattan, we will have a lot of fans who can come watch us play as well."

On playing against a talented Kentucky team...
"I think they are a good team with good size and athleticism but we have played against Kansas, Baylor, Oklahoma State who all have great size and with the way we play defense, we should be able to double-team, help or front over the top. We will just have to figure it out over the next couple of days."

Freshman Guard Marcus Foster
On playing in St. Louis, Mo...
"We were expecting that. We were not expecting to play Kentucky but we were expecting to be there in that area."

On his feelings during the Selection Show...
"I was nervous. I knew we were going to get in but I still had a nervous feeling in my stomach. I am happy that we got in and are playing a very good team."

On facing Aaron and Andrew Harrison and Julius Randle...
"They are pros. I knew from the jump, playing against them last summer that they were going to be pros in two or three years. The Harrison twins are very talented scorers. Andrew takes care of the ball well. Aaron can score and Julius Randle is a monster down there in the paint. We are going to have our hands full with all three of them but I think we can get the job done."

On facing talented players during the Big 12 season...
"Our conference definitely prepared us for teams like Kentucky and teams down the road. We have gone against guys Andrew Wiggins, DeAndre Kane, top players in our league, so it has definitely prepared us."

On playing in his first NCAA Tournament...
"You cannot let the pressure get to you. You just have to go out there and play how you need to play and worry about the team you have in front of you."

Freshman Forward Wesley Iwundu
On playing in his first NCAA Tournament...
"This is what I have always dreamed of. There are some big shoes to fill. There are going to be a lot of tests thrown at us but I think we will be ready."

On facing Kentucky...
"The first thing I thought about was the (Harrison) twins. I played with them in my AAU days, so it is going to be fun. But it is all about business."

On what it was like to play on the same AAU team as the Harrison Twins...
"It was a lot of fun. We had a lot of attention on us. We played one game on ESPN so it was fun through my whole AAU career."

On what the Harrison Twins bring to the table...
"They are very tough and they have a lot of upside so that is one thing that we have to focus on is making it a physical game."

On playing a team like Kentucky...
"Kentucky has been a great program throughout history, so we just cannot focus on the name on the jersey. We just have to prepare ourselves for the game this whole week with treatments and just be ready."

On what his thoughts during the Selection Show...
"It was like a lot of weight was lifted off of my shoulders. I was nervous leading up to our name being called but it was a very good experience."

Sophomore Forward D.J. Johnson
On playing in the NCAA Tournament...
"It is just very exciting to know that we have come a long way. We had a 4-2 or 4-3 start to the season, so it is just good to see how far we have come to make it to the tournament."

On playing in his hometown of St. Louis...
"It is very exciting to be able to play in front of my family and friends back home. At the same time, I know that we have to take care of business when we get there."

On matching Kentucky's interior size...
"I think it is pretty important. (Thomas) Gipson and I are not small guys. We play against each other every day in practice so I do not think playing against their size will be a big deal."