VCU Press Conference Transcript

COACH SMART:  Proud of our guys.  Really battled, played hard.  I thought we did a much better job defensively in the second half.  But then again, so did Indiana.  You’ve got to give Indiana a ton of credit for the way they battled.
We took a lead, I think we were up as much as 8 and they really fought back.  Cody Zeller, some huge, huge plays down the stretch, which was a big difference.
The shots that we got late in the game, I feel good about those looks.  I feel good about the guys that were taking them, they just didn’t go in.  And that’s basketball, sometimes that happens.
But, again, I’m proud of our team.  I really believe that not so much relative to what we thought, but relative to everyone else’s expectations, this team had an unbelievable year, and really overachieved in a lot of ways.
Really, right now I feel for Bradford Burgess, our only senior, as this is obviously the last game of his career.  And it sucks to end it this way.  But you’re talking about one of the best players ever at VCU and a guy who, even though his career is done with us, has a very bright future in the game of basketball.

Q.  Could each of you talk about your part in the last possession and what you were looking for and then what you ended up with?
DARIUS THEUS:  Well, came off the drag, Zeller had switched out to me.  And we worked on it every day just to attack the big.  When I attacked him, Rob stepped in and Rob had a wide open shot.  We take that shot any day, it just didn’t fall tonight.
ROB BRANDENBERG:  Yeah, basically what Darius said.  Darius did a good job attacking the switch.  And Darius put a lot of pressure on defense, and my man sagged off of me.  Darius made the right play, we work on it every day, hit me for a wide open three, it just didn’t go in. 

Q.  Can you pinpoint what Indiana might have changed in the second half to slow you guys down?
DARIUS THEUS:  I wouldn’t say too much slowing us down, but they just made big plays down the stretch towards the end of the game.
And I give credit to Zeller.  He made a lot of big plays down the stretch, down the stretch towards the game.  We had a good run going, but we just couldn’t sustain it and they just made big plays.

Q.  Did it catch you off guard at all that Sheehey was actually going to shoot and that he wasn’t going to pull back and hold for the last possession?
DARIUS THEUS:  Yeah, it was surprising that he shot it.  But he’s a great shooter and he was wide open, so why not take the shot.  But that was a big play for him.  And credit to him knocking down a big shot.

Q.  I know it’s a little difficult right now, but how long do you think it will take you before you appreciate where you guys were as a team in November and where you are standing today?
ROB BRANDENBERG:  It’s tough to talk about right now just because this loss, this really stings.  We were right there, but we didn’t make enough plays.  But once time goes on, we’ll be able to look back and appreciate each other and appreciate the season we had.  I’m not sure when that time will be, but it’s going to take some time.

Q.  What made Indiana such a good team tonight?  What qualities did they have that present a lot of challenges to teams?
COACH SMART:  Well, first of all, they’re very well coached.  I think their game plan is very well conceived.  They ran some good stuff.
And then I thought they had a lot of guys that stepped up and made big plays; Christian Watford with the four 3’s he hit, I think it was three in the first half and then one early in the second half, those were daggers.  We were playing really good defense and we were there, just not there enough.  And he stepped up.
When you combine a good system, a good attack with very good players, that’s how you get a dangerous team.  That’s what Indiana is.  I thought late in the game, the last four or five minutes, Cody Zeller, he said, I’m going to make plays.  And he really did a good job, first of all, catching the ball where he wanted it and then making plays and getting to the basket and either getting to the line or finishing.

Q.  You just talked about it with Cody Zeller, I think he had ten points in the first like 13 minutes and you guys held him to 6 points the rest of the way.  Is it just like bearing down, is that how things changed there in those final minutes with him?
COACH SMART:  I thought he was terrific at the end, actually.  We tried to do everything we could.  He’s a good player, you’re not going to hold a guy like that scoreless.
I think the key for him at the end of the game was he was able to catch the ball right off the elbow.  And that’s not something we typically allow big guys to do.  We’ve got to do a better job denying that.  When he caught it, he made some great plays, he put our defense in a tough spot and got to the rim and that put us at a disadvantage.  He’s a good player.

Q.  Obviously you turned down an open three for the win, but was the goal to go for the win instead of trying to force overtime?
COACH SMART:  No, not necessarily.  We just wanted to get a good shot.  That’s a play that we run in those clock down situations all the time.
I told the guys in the locker room they did a phenomenal job of executing.  But it’s not surprising.  This team all year long has ‑‑ more than any team I’ve ever been around, has done a phenomenal job of trying to do what we asked them to do as coaches.  We’re not perfect, but the guys really executed the plan in that play.
Rob got a wide open shot in front of our bench.  I’ll take that shot again every day of the week, it just didn’t go.  And Troy’s three‑point shot the possession before that just didn’t go.  We were 9 for 30 tonight from three, which is more 3s than we normally take.  But most of them were very, very good looks.  And we just didn’t make enough.

Q.  If somebody had told you before the game that you would force them into 22 turnovers for 23 points would you have bet the farm that you would have won that game?
COACH SMART:  Yeah, it depends on the other factors in the game.  They shot 67 percent from the field in the first half.  So even though we turned them over ten times, they made two‑thirds of their shot attempts if we didn’t turn them over.
Yeah, definitely if we knew we were going to force them into 22 ‑‑ I thought we could turn Indiana over, I thought it was something we could have success with.  But that’s not the only element of the game.  You’ve got to sustain your half court defense, which we did not do very well in the first half.  We did a better job the second half.  And then you’ve got to put the ball in the basket.  We only scored 19 points in the second half and obviously that wasn’t quite enough.

Q.  The players are usually resilient, they bounce back fairly quickly.  How long will it take you to get over this game, not just thinking about this was the game that sort of got away, one that you could have had that got away?
COACH SMART:  I don’t know.  A long time.  I don’t deal very well with losing.  But it’s part of life.  I told the guys in the locker room afterward that we’re not going to feel sorry for ourselves.  We’re not going to say woe is me.
For everyone on our team, except for one guy, this is an opportunity to learn and improve.  Like you mentioned, we had our chances in this game.
I’m not so sure ‑‑ I guess you could say it’s one that got away.  I wouldn’t characterize it that way, I would say Indiana made some big plays down the stretch and we weren’t able to make some shots.
But as far as how long it will take me, forever.  I don’t get over games like this.  I didn’t get over the Butler game last year.  You’ve just got to move on though.  What’s done is done, just like the other day we won and move on.

Q.  Did you and Tom have kind of a heated exchange during the long delay, and at the end it looked like you guys had a warm exchange?  Could you tell me what was going on there?
COACH SMART:  No, we didn’t have a heated exchange at all.  It was nothing.
As far as after the game, I just congratulated him and told him that I think he’s got a great team and he does an unbelievable job.  He’s someone that ‑‑ I think his head coaching career kind of coincided with me getting into coaching or the other way around.  So when I first got into coaching he was a new head coach at Marquette.  He’s someone that I’ve always followed and admired.
And this is the first time, obviously, that I’ve got the chance to coach against him as a head coach.  I just wished him luck.
I think Indiana deserves a lot of credit for the guts they showed at the end of this game.  They could have quit, but they really, really battled.  They fought through some adversity.  And they won the game.  And that’s what you have to do to advance this time of year.  And I think that’s a testament to the players, but also Coach Crean and his coaching staff.

Q.  You guys scored four points in the final 12:30.  Other than just missing good looks, was there something you did or they did that sort of helped the offense dry up there?
COACH SMART:  I’m sure we’ll watch the tape and see certain things that we could have done better.  It comes down to being able to put the ball in the basket when you get certain opportunities.  I think we got some good looks ‑‑ I know we got some good looks that I certainly would take again.
There were a few possessions that we ‑‑ where we didn’t execute particularly well, where I think there was one shot clock violation, there was a couple other ones where we didn’t get great looks at the end of possession.  Yes, a lot of that has to do with Indiana and their defense.  I thought they really bear down.
But we’re a good offensive team.  We’re not a great offensive team.  We haven’t been all year.  We’ve gone through stretches where we have lulls.  It’s not for lack of effort.  It’s a combination of two things:  No. 1, the ball maybe not going down as much for us; and then No. 2, the other team putting together some really good defensive efforts.

Q.  I can’t imagine there’s anyone else who would have won at the foul line with just under a minute left than Bradford and those shots didn’t go down.  Will you say anything to him to comfort him?  What will your words be to him?
COACH SMART:  You know, words are hollow after a game like this.  There’s not a lot you can say.  But I told him, I told the team in the locker room how proud I am of Brad.  He’s one of the best players ever to play at VCU.  He’s had a record‑breaking career.  And I also told him his future is very, very bright.  Even though his days playing at VCU are over, he’s got a lot of basketball left to play and he’s somebody that we’re never going to forget.
He really held our ship together all year long.  And he’s reason No. 1 why our team got better and better and better all year long.

Q.  Given where this team started at the beginning of the year with so much turnover from last year, losing four players ‑‑ five players with Toby Veal, how much of a success do you consider this season, given where you started and how much promise you think this group has moving forward?
COACH SMART:  It’s hard to call anything a success after a loss.  So I think that’s probably a question that’s better answered a week from now.
We’re 29‑7.  We beat a terrific Wichita State team, we won our league tournament.  Relative to other people’s expectations, not mine or the team’s, but what other people thought I think we overachieved.  We go into every single game expecting to win and expecting to advance and we didn’t do that today.  So it stings.  It hurts.
But I do think, yes, overall the season, it was a good one and it’s one that we’ll look back at and feel good about the progress we made as a team, that’s probably the biggest thing.
As far as the guys coming back for next year, this should be an unbelievable motivator for them.  They should be ‑‑ they should have a picture in their room, maybe I’ll give it to them, of the scoreboard or maybe of one of the last‑second plays in this game to motivate them, to help them understand all offseason long, we want to get back to this place, but we want to advance.  We want to go further.
After tomorrow there’s only 16 teams left in the whole country.  So you’re talking about pretty rare air.  But I think if we continue getting better and we improve and we make progress we’ll have the opportunity to be successful once again.


  1. There needs to be a Zebras Press Conference Transcript. I just re-watched the recording. There has been a tremendous amount of poor officiating this year but this game blew the lid off anything previous. It was like playing the Badgers x 2. We played 5 against 8 again last night. No wonder their defense is so vaunted and effective when grabbing, holding, hooking, reaching in, elbowing, aggressive bumping, blocking, jumping into a rebounder, even stepping on feet and two-hand hand checking is allowed to be part of the game and never reigned in by an official. The flagrant foul call on WS is and will be for sometime a festering sore for college BB. ESPN will feature specials on it and in the end wear out their recorded clip. I believe AD’s of mindful coaches across the collegiate geography have to officially assault their conferences and the NCAA about letting these officials allow aggressive coaches create this environment. It is snowballing. I watch many IU games with a friend who is an ex-official(HS) and even though he is IU partisan he sees in detail(he sees the game at a slower speed than many of us) many more things than I do to support what we all see in the big picture. VCU’s(low seeded) unrealistic run last year and almost again this year is a farce, is a scam allowed to be an advantage when ignored by the refs.

  2. To continue HC’s points:

    1) the Flagrant 1 rule as written right now is a festering sore because….

    It actually promotes more physical play and dangerous situations. If I’m a coach and I know that our players will not be peanlized for crowding an offensive player and eliminating the space between us, then I’m going to coach my players to get right up in their grills. There are 3 potential outcomes and 2 of them are positives for the defense. 1) if the offensive player rips the ball through the body “below the shoulders” the refs could call a reaching or blocking foul; 2) in that same scenario the refs could let it go and defense gets a steal or jump ball; 3) the offensive player instinctually rips through where there is space to do so – above the shoulders – and is called for a Flagrant 1, which gives the defense 2 FT’s and the ball (even if the defense themselves are called for a foul!). Clearly this is a terrible rule, creating an distinct advantage to the defense and ironically fostering an atmosphere of more physical play.

    2) VCU’s NCAA Tournament runs have been a scam…

    Well, I certainly agree with all the points made by Clarion about last nights officiating. I have to admit I only watched bits of VCU’s first game, so I don’t know what they were allowed to do there. But if they had won last night this year’s run would be a scam – perpetrated by the referees who get caught up in trying to look even-keeled as an mid-major Cinderella-type tries to make an upset run. Heaven forbid that in the round of 32 there is a situation where one team is called for twice as many fouls as the other creating an enormous FT disparity and a blow out win… Even if that’s what’s happening. And you don’t want to be the refs under the microscope for stealing a victory from the poor underdog like in the Syracuse debacle. So we’ll just alternate foul calls and act like both teams are doing the same thing out on the floor. So YES, if VCU were in the Sweet 16 this year it would be a farce.

    However, last year’s team had about no similarities to this year’s team. Last year they were a very good and efficient offensive team led by veterans. They ran a trapping full-court press, but they were a scratch-and-claw defensive team in the half-court. This year’s team was so much less talented that they had to bring the game down to that level to compete. They got good at it. They earned a reputation not for being thugs, but for being great at what they do. The refs then buy into the fact that how they play is legal. Voila… You get last night’s atrocity in reffing. But I digress…

    My point here is that last year’s VCU team didn’t play the same brand of physical basketball that this year’s team did, and while they may have benefitted from questionable refereeing – I can’t remember last year’s games that well – it wasn’t the primary reason they made the run.

  3. HC; I agree with your opinion regarding the performance of the refs and the need for them to be held accountable. I’d love to see tim go in front of the media and have to explain some of their terrible calls or non-calls. /the system is way out of balance.

    And it’s not just the refs that officiated IU’s game against VCU. I was watching another game, with no dog in the fight, and was howling at the TV for the terrible officiating on display. When the refs just let the fouls go uncalled, it really benefits the teams prepared to play “hack and crack” defense. That crap is not good basketball, it’s just rough recreation-league play with better athletes. And these refs are allowing the game to disintegrate to the garbage offered by the NBA. It’s not basketball the way the great game was meant to be played. In my opinion, the influence of TV money has had a significant impact on the way the games are being called.

    And please, someone explain to this old guy when taking a step or two, jumping up, coming down with the ball, and then jumping up again stopped being traveling? I’ve routinely seen players getting away with this. If that’s not traveling, then what is?

    The refs are just terrible and I think TV’s influence is at the root of the problem.

  4. “I think Indiana deserves a lot of credit for the guts they showed at the end of this game. They could have quit, but they really, really battled. They fought through some adversity. And they won the game. And that’s what you have to do to advance this time of year. And I think that’s a testament to the players, but also Coach Crean and his coaching staff.”

    Well said and a classy comment in the post-game interview. I don’t think this guy will be VCU’s coach much longer. Bigger and better opportunities are probably calling his agent today. He has done well!

  5. I thought VCU looked very gimmicky. Smart will need a better half court offense if he goes to a power conference like the B1G. Those teams will eat up the system he runs now. It works at the mid-major level. I think they wore their starters out by the end of the game.

  6. Docdave, VCU scoring just 19 points in the 2nd half and only 4 in the last 12 minutes supports your thoughts to a T. At least 9 B10 D’s could have caused that to happen in any given conference game. I still say Buzz Williams to Illinois. He is the real deal without gimmicks. Although he does dance. Remember the away game at West Virginia?

  7. Smart sometimes comes off as arrogant to me, but I thought his post game comments were very classy. He also had that “Wow, great game smile” on his face when the game ended. I think he’s just truly passionate and believes in his team. Can’t fault a guy for that.

  8. Love the idea of Pat Knight at Illinois. That would be great. I really like Smart’s passion, just don’t think he has his system completely ready to go for the big time. I feel like he would have a Keno Davis or Tommy Amaker experience if he jumped now. It seemed like we were better than them the whole game, just couldn’t get things rolling. There whole game was turn you over and make easy baskets. If that didn’t happen, then run a terrible half court offense and chuck a three. There half court defense was very suspect as well. They were grabbing and pushing the whole time. That over-and-back towards the end almost caused me to blow a gasket.

  9. Yeah, I didn’t realize you could push a player across the time line. Jordy should have been awarded his forward progress.

  10. Illinois may need Knight, but they won’t hire him. The administration and AD would be subject to way too much criticism for hiring a coach with a losing record. PK needs to rebuild his coaching resume at his current school, while Illinois will go for an established coach with a winning record. S. Smart would be a better bet than P Knight.

    I wonder if P. Knight is going to suffer from the same problem his father faced toward the end of his career; RECRUITING. A lot of highly talented High Schoolers just don’t want to play for a coach who has a reputation as a hard-ass, no-nonsense disciplinarian. There are too many other schools and coaches that are far more tolerant. It should be interesting to see how his career develops. Who knows, self-discipline and quality education may make a comeback.

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