Video, quotes: Mike Woodson, Rob Phinisee react to NCAA tournament draw
Indiana coach Mike Woodson and Rob Phinisee met with the media on Sunday night to discuss the team’s NCAA tournament draw.
Watch the press conferences below:
Q. Obviously you said a few times this was going to be your first go-around with this. What was it like waiting that long? Obviously you guys were one of the last teams to make it. What was this whole experience like, and are you surprised you ended up in a play-in game?
MIKE WOODSON: I mean, again, at the end of the day we’re in. Got to play the play-in game. That’s my only concern right now. We’ve got to go and start studying, getting ready for Wyoming, and get our guys ready to go tomorrow in practice and get on a plane and head to Dayton to play Wyoming.
Q. You stated this is a goal. How gratifying is it to make the field in your first season, and what does it mean for the players?
MIKE WOODSON: Well, again, this is not about me, it’s about our program and the work that these players have put in this season to get to this point, and now we’re here. We’ve got our marching orders this evening, so now we’ve got to start prepping and getting ready to play Wyoming.
Q. You mentioned it being about the players; how gratifying is it for you to look them in the eye and help them be a part of what for all of them was a first-time NCAA Tournament appearance?
MIKE WOODSON: Well, again, that’s what it’s all about. You come to college — if you come to college to play basketball, you come to try to make the tournament and get an education.
A lot of these guys have been sitting on the sideline for some years watching NCAA basketball being played in March and never really knowing what it’s about. Now they get an opportunity come Tuesday to play in the tournament and win and perhaps move on to Portland, Oregon, to face Saint Mary’s.
I think it’s a beautiful thing. I’m so thrilled because these guys have worked their butts off to get to this point, and I want to see them move on. I want to see us continue to win. That’s what it’s all about.
Q. I know you said all your focus now goes to Wyoming, but do you do anything differently just maybe mentally or physically preparing your guys on the possibility basically of having to go to Dayton to try and win that game, knowing if you do, you’ve got to make a very quick turnaround on a long flight to get to Portland?
MIKE WOODSON: Hey, listen, it’s what it is. At the end of the day we’re in. We’ve got an opportunity to win a game and advance on.
This is what you play for. This is what you come to school to be a part of if you’re playing basketball.
It’s not going to be hard for me to get these guys to understand what’s at stake here. We’re in the tournament. We want to try to stay in the tournament. That’s what it’s all about.
Q. As a player, what is it that makes the NCAA Tournament so special beyond just the chance to compete? What is it that makes the atmosphere, the energy so special?
MIKE WOODSON: Well, again, in my case, playing here at Indiana, our fan base is like no other fan base. You’re playing for a national title. You’re trying to get to the big dance where you get an opportunity to possibly win a title. I mean, that’s what it’s all about.
With that being said, again, you don’t come to school just to come to school and play basketball, you come to try to win a national title, try to win a Big Ten title. We fell short in that area this season, but it was a nice run for our ball club, and now we’ve got to start getting ready for tournament play.
The stakes are even higher because nobody wants to go home. Once you put that uniform on and go out there on that floor and start competing for a national title, the games become even tougher, I think.
Q. You just played three games in three days. Now you obviously have a very quick turnaround here. How did you guys survive that physically, and if you could update us on Jordan and Trey and what’s going on with them.
MIKE WOODSON: Well, I think I don’t know about Jordan, I think Trey is going to be fine. We’ve just got to — listen, we weren’t one of the schools that was thrown in there where we played Friday or Thursday, they give us three or four days to prepare. Hey, they put us where we’ve got to play our way in, and it’s Tuesday.
Mentally I’ve got to get these guys — I just met with them, and hey, it’s a quick turnaround. We’ve got to get ready to play Wyoming. It’s just that simple.
Q. Can you just talk a little bit about your excitement level? Obviously potentially being your last season here going into potentially your last few games and finally breaking through and getting into the NCAA Tournament.
ROB PHINISEE: Yeah, super excited. Just not knowing if we were going to be in the tournament going into the Big Ten Tournament was huge. Just those two games were huge for us, and everyone is just looking forward to going down to Dayton and playing against Wyoming because everyone knows we haven’t been to the tournament since 2016 so it’s huge for our state, huge for our fan base, and everyone is just looking forward to it.
Q. How would you describe this feeling? When you’re watching, I imagine you guys probably thought you were safer. Did you get nervous? And what was your reaction knowing that you were in but you are going to have to play in Dayton in two days?
ROB PHINISEE: Yeah, we were super nervous, just super anxious just because we were the last region. Every time a region came up we thought we were going to get chose, so we were the last region, everyone just super anxious about it. But yeah, everyone is just super excited, and now we just have to get right to work and get ready because quick turnaround against Wyoming in Dayton, and guys are just super excited and ready to go.
Q. I think UCLA came out of the First Four last year. Is that something for you guys to hang your hat on and talk about as a team?
ROB PHINISEE: Yeah, I mean, that was something that was actually spoken even before the Big Ten Tournament, how like our season is not over yet and no matter what happens you can always make a run at the end of the season.
Yeah, we know what happened last year with UCLA, and right now we’re just focused on Wyoming and just looking forward to that game.
Q. How much has the confidence level of this team changed in just the last couple of weeks?
ROB PHINISEE: So much. Just that Michigan game, that first half, everyone saw the first half, but then the second half, just since then everything has changed. Everyone is building off that momentum. Even though we had a tough one against Iowa yesterday, everyone was still building off that momentum because we’re playing really good basketball right now and we feel like Tuesday we want to play just because we’re playing really well right now. Yeah, we’re just going to carry that over to Tuesday.
Q. You guys are the group that gets Indiana back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016. Why do you think this group was able to do it? What were the big keys for you guys getting this done this year?
ROB PHINISEE: I would say togetherness. It really started in June when we came together and then leading into that Bahamas trip, I feel like that really helped us, just being able to practice together and just going out of the country and just experiencing different things.
I feel like we’re a really tight-knit group. Guys get along on and off the court. I feel like everyone at the end of the day just wants to win, so that’s why I feel like we’re winning this year.
Q. As it turned out you guys absolutely had to win the two games this week to get in. How gratifying is that, that you guys after losing seven of nine in the regular season found that resolve to get that done?
ROB PHINISEE: It’s super satisfying. Our goal was to win the Big Ten Championship going into it. I mean, I feel like all of our losses this year we could have won. Everyone knows we can compete with anybody in the country, and like you said, those two wins were huge, and we’re just going to carry that momentum over to Tuesday.