Pitino: We are coming off a tough loss to Notre Dame played probably our best half offensively and defensively of the season and in the 2nd half didn’t match it. We are playing (on Wednesday) one of the hottest teams in the ACC right now, Syracuse is playing great basketball and it should be a great challenge for our ballclub.
Q: On the pressure you guys bring, do you think it will be a little harder to disrupt their guards with the two fifth year seniors with a lot of experience?
Pitino: To be honest with you we haven’t come with a lot of pressure this year. Because we’ve been teaching a lot of different things, we lost about 85% of our lineup and it’s been a slow process teaching so we really haven’t come with a whole lot of pressure so I don’t think that they (Syracuse) need to be concerned.
Q: Do you have an explanation for poll volatility? Is it better for college basketball?
Pitino: This is the first time in a long time for me personally being an observer. I really can’t make a pick, people will do it but from a coaching standpoint I can’t make a pick for who is going to make a Final Four. In other years you could say a Louisville or a Kentucky or a Kansas or a Duke or Carolina whoever is good that year… Michigan in that one year….this year I can not do it. Although Villanova is having a spectacular year and Jay Wright is as good as it gets I couldn’t say that they are a Final Four team. Nor could I say Kansas or ya know…there are certain nights. There are no dominant big men in the country this year, it is going to come down to, and it really has come down to anyway with the exception of the Anthony Davis year…to great back court play. The Napier and for us it was Russ Smith and Peyton Siva. For Michigan it was Burke. It has been great back court play that has carried teams to Final Fours with the exception of being maybe the Anthony Davis or Karl Towns a little bit. But there is not that type of big man out there. If you look at great back courts you can probably come up with the answer but there are probably quite a few of those. I think it’s a lot of fun, I think you’ll see a lot of 12, 11, and 10 seeds upsetting the 4s, 5s, and 6s. It’ll be a crazy year.
Q: Can you remember a Syracuse team with this kind of shooting depth? How difficult does that make them to defend with 4 guys that can knock it down?
Pitino: What really makes it difficult is Lydon because he steps out as a back-up Center and they can play five out on the perimeter. That really makes it tough. Not only are they great shooters but they shoot it with NBA range a normal shot for them is 8 feet behind the line. It looked like Boston College had a chance to beat them then all of the sudden it turns into a 12-13 point rout just because of incredible 3-point shooting in transition. So this is one of the better shooting teams depth-wise from four spots that I’ve seen in quite some time. It’s very difficult to prepare for them. And then Roberson is having a great year inside.
Q: On coaching against Jim Boeheim.
Pitino: Jim is a good friend. I don’t necessarily like coaching against him he’s too damn good for that. But I do think preparing for their zone makes you a better passing team. This year the defense that you have to play against them is very difficult because of the way they can spread you. Syracuse is getting better and better and better. They are one of the hottest teams in the country right now in terms of the way they are playing. They are definitely a tough out come tournament time because of the way they shoot the ball. They rebound well, they shoot well they are great in transition. They’ve always been an excellent defensive team. They are averaging a high number of steals. So they are very impressive. But I don’t know if there is anything in particular I like about coaching against Jim.
Q: What is it going to take to muscle your way to the top of the ACC?
Pitino: The toughest thing we are going through right now is (and what I’m trying to do is) get them to be just as disappointed in a loss as gracious in victory. We are playing for very little right now and the guys played really hard the last two games but you can see that it is weighing on them a little bit emotionally that they are not going to be in the tournament. So we are just trying to keep our perspective, keep working hard. Also I want to get a look at some other guys right now that…I got a good look at Matz the other night I was very impressed. Want to get Deng Adel some more minutes, want to get Donovan Mitchell some more minutes, so sort of want to look at some guys who haven’t played as much.
Q: About shooting, tough shoot week in two losses, how much is you and how much is the defense?
Pitino: It’s all of the above. In the 1st half we shot 48% we held them to 39% and in the 2nd half we had some wide open shots, Damion Lee had some wide open shots a couple of other guys took some challenged shots due to good defense. But going back to Virginia, Virginia is a unique basketball team and I’ll tell you why. They don’t give you anything off the pick & roll. They also can guard you 1 on 1. They are one of the few teams in the country that can defend you 1 on 1 without a lot of help. Virginia makes you not only struggle to get a good shot, but you’ve got to be extremely patient and now with the 30 second clock. I knew once that 30 second clock came in I could see Tony’s (Bennett) face he didn’t like it at all but I knew it would make his defense even better because it takes time to get in there and get a good shot against Virginia. So I’m very impressed with Virginia’s defense always have been. But everything you said it’s really a combination. And sometimes when you come in at halftime and you shoot a good percentage the other coach is tearing paint off the walls saying “You can’t play that type of defense and come away with a victory.” And they come out in the 2nd half and play much better. So it’s the adjustments that coaches make that can have teams play better.
Q: On being out-rebounded at Notre Dame.
Pitino: We blocked out OK, a few of our front court players did have their rebounding numbers the past 4-5 games that they normally get. But Notre Dame is a pretty good rebounding team. Notre Dame is a little bit different than they have been in the past. Jackson is one of the premier guards in the nation, they are a lot better at driving the basketball than they have been in the past. Not quite as good of a shooting team as they have been but they drive it much better and they rebound it much better. Our rebounding numbers are down a little bit but I still want to give credit to the teams we are playing against they’ve done a really good job in that area.
Pitino begins at 1:21:00