March 16, 2014
• Selection Show Press Conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin men's basketball head coach Bo Ryan, along with senior Ben Brust and redshirt-junior Josh Gasser, met with members of the media Sunday at the Kohl Center following the 2014 NCAA Tournament Selection Show.
Q. Josh and Ben, I guess what was your reaction to the seeding, or probably more the location where you're going to be playing? Do you know anything about these guys at this point? Have you seen them play at all this year?
Josh Gasser: “We're just excited to be in the tournament, first of all, and then being a 2 seed in Milwaukee, I mean, it's going to be playing close to home, just means you did something good this year. You get rewarded for what you've done. But we've been scrolling through our phones a little bit looking up American stuff, and they seem to be a really good defensive team, just looking at the scores, and heard they run a Princeton offense, which we're somewhat familiar with in terms of covering Northwestern (under Bill Carmody) the last few years. So, I mean, it's going to be a tough game."
Ben Brust: Yeah, it's good to be close to home, but we've got to show up when the ball is tipped, and everyone's going to bring it in March, so we've got to prepare the same way we always have. Our coaches do a great job with the scouting report, so they're probably working on it right now as we speak, and we're going to come tomorrow and get ready to go. Ball is tipped Thursday.
Q. Bo, what did you think of the bracket and where Wisconsin was placed?
Bo Ryan: "Well, if you look at the body of work, which they always talk about, I think it was very deserved by the players. The thing I'm really excited about is all the money on travel that our parents have spent, we're fortunate enough to have made the tournament, like in Ben's case, what the parents have shelled out to go see him play in the NCAA Tournament, now the expense won't be quite as much. It won't be anywhere near as much. So it's really neat that the families -- I know Josh's parents will spend a lot. They'll probably take a flight in from Port Washington.
But I really believe the NCAA is going to change how they deal with that. Just as a side note, that parents will be given kind of a travel allowance or some kind of per diem for the -- I think the NCAA Tournament and the NCAA people are going to come to their senses on that and try to help alleviate the travel expenses for relatives.
So for us, it's less expense, great opponent, run good stuff, play tough defense. Just the way the tournament should be."
Q. Josh and Ben, you guys have had some time to digest the loss to Michigan State. I know we talked to you after the game, but has anything changed in your mind about what transpired early and what things you could have done differently, and what needs to change before you take that first game on Thursday?
GASSER: "I mean, come out with the win. Obviously one of our goals was to win the Big Ten tournament. But we didn't come out with enough fire power early on. Like I said yesterday, you dig yourself that big a hole and it's hard to get out of. But today we've looked some stuff over that we need to improve on, and now it's a brand-new season, so we've got to keep looking forward, and things that happened in the past, you have to learn from them, but at the same time, it's in the past."
BRUST: "Yeah, I mean, can't change what happened yesterday, but you can learn from it. Thankfully we have time to learn from it. I'm running out of chances to say that. So just got to get after it when the time comes Thursday."
Q. Was the potential of the ability to stay close to home more important than seeding because the possibility of Milwaukee was out there?
RYAN: "Like I said before, I never know how to answer that because I never pay any attention to anything about seeding. I know some things have been flying around the internet about what I said about chewing on sunflower seeds during baseball games. I guess all the guys heard about that. That's the only thing I know about seeds, and now I know about seeds for basketball now. But there weren't seeds yet, so how can you talk about seeds if there aren't any seeds?
So I never talked about them. Now we have a seed. I don't know how these guys felt. I don't know what they were thinking about. Maybe they were thinking about seeds before we played Michigan State. Were you guys thinking about seeds? No. See, they're okay."
Q. Coach, I think the last two years, I can think of three 15 seeds that have beaten 2s. With the advantage of having a 2 seed and playing in Milwaukee, how do you get your team focused and how do you get out of that mindset that it's a "gimme" game?
RYAN: "Because they won't hear it from me that we're a two (seed). They won't hear it from me that we're playing a 15 (seed). They won't hear it from me that we're in Milwaukee. My guys are pretty smart. I think they know where we're going. I think they know what's at stake, and you have to win more than one game, but you can't win two without winning one. It's all the same clichés that come out all the time. But our guys, it won't be because anybody's overlooked. It won't be because they're not prepared for it. It's just going to be who plays the best 40 minutes."
Q. Bo, this is your umpteenth March that you've been coaching basketball. How would you describe the feeling you get this time of year?
RYAN: “My thing is Justin (Doherty) asked me how did you know where you were playing when you were in Division III? I told him, I really couldn't remember. I think we got a phone call, and it wasn't by a cell phone. I think the office got a call. I'm trying to remember.
Tom (Oates), you were covering us back then and I did have a rotary. How did they let us know back then? It was just a phone call, right? Because I've forgotten. Is Saul (Phillips) going to Buffalo? Robbie's (Jeter) going to Buffalo. The '95 team beat Steve Alford's team. Platteville beat Manchester in '95, and Robbie was an assistant with me, and he's going back to Buffalo. There is a little side story for you.
But when I called Saul today, he said he was going to San Diego whether they sent him there or not. But then he goes, sure enough, right before we hung up, you know they'll send us to Spokane, and you say that is where he ended up, right?
Now how did I get to that? Oh, the umpteenth time. Okay. Well, I was thinking about it at the other place. We didn't get to go at Milwaukee, and we weren't there long enough to do it.”
Q. You've been through March so many times and been coaching --
RYAN: “I live through them. I tell them that. This is their time line. I've been fortunate enough to have been in these situations before. They've been in, some of them fortunate to be in four years, Josh is four years, but he had one year where obviously he had to redshirt. But you only get to do this for a couple years. I'm lucky as a teacher and a coach I get to try to help them through it. But I'm always excited for them. I live through them, really."
Q. Josh, I know it was a long time ago, but the last time this program played Milwaukee in the tournament was '04. Do you have any recollection of that? Were you there, by chance?
GASSER: “I was not there, unfortunately. It would have been nice to be there. Who is on that, Richmond or something? Yeah, that's right. That's pretty much all I remember. At that point in time I was just trying to imagine myself playing in it, and I never thought that would happen, but fortunately I'm here."
RYAN: You wanted to play at Richmond?
GASSER: It felt like that. But, no that's pretty much all I remember. I wish I could have gone, but now I getting to and actually play. So it's nice.
Q. Josh, you've known for a while this team is going to go into the NCAAs. But given the injury, given the rehab, is it fun to kind of get back into this which you missed last year when these guys went to Kansas City?
GASSER: “Yeah, I love it. This time last year was definitely the hardest time for me, you know. A couple weeks after the injury were tough, but I think the hardest part was watching our guys compete in championship-type moments and not being able to help at all. So now just knowing that I worked hard to get back and help my team win something, that's just what I worked for. Now that I'm in this moment, it's all about trying to take advantage of that and trying to have some fun with it."
Q. Josh and Ben, I know, Josh, you didn't play, but you were still part of the team last year. Is there anything that you've learned from last year's experience that you can kind of integrate in approaching this tournament this year to avoid the result that you had last year in that first round?
BRUST: “It's March. Teams didn't get here just by the luck of the draw; they got here with hard work over the whole year. So whoever you play is going to bring it. It's not just going to be given to you. You've just got to go out there and take it. Last year we didn't make enough shots as the game happened. Just got to be the aggressor and the one making the statements. You can't be on your heels.
Q. Bo, you said a couple minutes ago that you lived through the players. I know you've talked about Josh's comeback before. But what kind of level of satisfaction do you get in seeing him come back and help his team achieve what it's achieved so far to this point?
RYAN: “Well, he's doing okay. He could help us in more ways. But I say it so many times, it's not that you want to say it gets old, but Josh feels old at times. You ever see him after he tries to take some of those charges and gets up. I think I'm ready to put him in a home. But what he brings is just a guy who plays -- he just plays. It's not like he's playing for anything other than I think he just likes to beat people. I think he just likes to get into them. I think he likes to be the one that's on top. Be the one that when it's over, like, okay, I got my licks in there. I'm okay. I played my hardest. I tried to help my team win. We did some things.
He's not a guy that's ever done anything for himself or tried to bring any attention to himself like jumping the desk and things. I don't get to jump him very often, so when I do get a chance, I make sure I jump on that and take advantage of it. But just to me if I'm playing, then he's playing with me on a team, I'm playing harder. I just think it has that affect with the team.
For me, he'll just be one of the guys that you always remember for his grit and toughness. But he still has some things to learn. He'll always remember that in case Josh hears this."
Q. Are you familiar at all with American's Coach Mike Brennan or do you know anything about the Eagles at this point?
RYAN: “I don't know -- a little bit of knowledge is dangerous, as they always say. I'm not going to say that, and you guys prove it every day. That was him. You didn't hear him mumble that? Okay. A little bit of knowledge, Princeton background, offense background. I don't know where he went to school, but they run a lot of stuff that's tough to guard, good reads. But you don't get into the tournament unless you have something going for you, and they have that. They beat a pretty good Boston U team, a real good Boston University team, and only held them to 30-some points in the game. So that gives you an idea. So it doesn't surprise me that they put American up against us in that match-up. That's not a surprise."
Q. Ben, going off of what Coach said earlier about family, had a chance to sit right in front of your family yesterday, and they're an awfully supportive bunch.
RYAN: "God bless you. My condolences."
Q. Going off what he said earlier, how big is it for you to know that it's drivable, everybody can come? You don't have to worry about plane tickets, how big is that for support?
BRUST: I mean, it's cool. I'm happy for my dad because he does a lot for my family in terms of getting hotel rooms for them and taking care of them which is really great. But I went to a couple of the freshmen right away, something I'm getting used to, "You using your tickets?" Because I want to make sure I can get my whole family there, because it's fun to have them there for this March run."
Q. Josh and Ben, I know you guys follow along with this. Have you looked at the bracket and formed any opinion of maybe it's a good opportunity for us, that kind of thing? Do you allow yourself to do that? Look at the whole bracket, like the region?
GASSER: I'm just glad to be in the tournament. I don't really care about all that stuff. American's the only team that's going to be on our minds and should be. So it's fun to look at that other stuff, but it doesn't really matter for us, necessarily."
RYAN: "When you were in high school, did you fill out brackets, guys?"
GASSER: "I filled out about a hundred brackets."
RYAN: "Not in college though? Just wanted to get that in."
GASSER: I think everyone envisions all these different scenarios happening, but it only happens if you actually do it out there. It doesn't matter unless you get the job done when you're out there.
Q. You both talked about Josh not liking to lose. You know him as well as anybody on the team. Are there any private competitions that you guys have, how much does he loathe losing to you or anybody?
BRUST: "It's a competition with everything, which is good. There is some carry over there. Even going back when I was a freshman, Josh was a guy who played as a freshman. I was a freshman. So I got to learn what he was doing to get out there on the floor. It was like, okay, so he's doing this right and this right. I better take notes on what this guy's doing because it's obviously working and he's getting out there to help the team. I also got to learn from guys like Jordan Taylor, and Jon Leuer and all those guys. So it's a good learning experience. Learning from guys who have done some good things in this program and trying to take that and kind of use it all?"
Q. Ever beat him at anything?
BRUST: "Ask Coach about that Mario thing."
RYAN: "What's that Mario thing?"
BRUST: "A video game. Do you want to come over and play?"
RYAN: "Is it spaghetti and dinner? It sounds like a restaurant, Mario's. I'm very serious, what is it?"
BRUST: "Racing, it's a game."
Q. Are you a believer in the length of your tournament run often depends on favorable match-ups?
RYAN: "If you take yourself out of what you’re coaching and just get over there and look at all this and you know certain things, there are some teams that are better match-ups for other teams. Does the score always indicate that at the end? No, but it increases chances. But what those are all the time, just don't know. But, yeah, and how a team is playing coming into it.
Did those three games in a row against top-10 teams last year, something that no one has ever done, played three top-10 teams and then go into the tournament, was that an effect on us? I don't know. Ole Miss was a tough match-up because they definitely have a shooter, they had a scorer that you had to extend on, and they had physical guys. They were strong, but that was last year. I'm just saying. So match-ups, we're looking different if in the first game we could have been matched up against this team or that team. I don't know.
But I do know if I weren't a coach and I know what I know looking in, I would say oh, for that team. And I do have some buddies who act like they're calling me to congratulate me on coaching a team that's getting into the NCAA Tournament, and I usually wait, wear a little stopwatch. About five minutes into the conversation, hey, Bo, what do you think about UCLA against -- you got to know some of my buddies from back in Chester, Pa. How much are you putting on this one? I'm not telling you anything.
You guys can imagine. Oh, by the way, what do you think of Arizona? Hey, I think Arizona's a nice place. It's hot. But I found that out a long time ago. Two people in here might have heard this or I've got to tell them. You got time, guys? Got all your homework done?
So I'm in high school. I go down to the faculty lounge. Everybody's putting their pens and papers up. No, this is a true story. So it's 1975, '76 or as I used to tell my dad, you mean the other ones weren't true? I go down to the faculty lounge and the guys are in there. Some of the other teachers are hanging out, and all of a sudden the phone rings from one friend. It was a rotary, and Coach Ryan, it's for you. And it was Bill Cofield in '75-'76, saying he had an interview, would I go if he got the job, blah, blah, blah. Yeah, I'll go to Wisconsin. Well, how's Virginia doing? How you guys doing? Are you pumped up? You made the NCAA Tournament. You're not going to believe this. One of the Walkers lost 12 pounds. He's got the flu so bad. I can't remember who they're playing. And I'm like, get out of here. That's too bad. Boy, that's tough luck. I know Coach Howland's got to be disappointed.
I get off the phone. What was that? I said, oh, that's a coaching buddy of mine. It's all legal, Patrick (Herb). It's okay. He's nervous. And they go, oh, really? What's going on? I said oh, their best player, this guy, we know Wally Walker, he's from Pennsylvania. And this is in a Pennsylvania high school. I tell him the flu story. Week or so later I've got guys, hey, where do you want to go for dinner? We're taking you out for dinner? Oh, man, okay, where we going? I'm like what is the occasion? I'm thinking my birthday is in December, what's going on?
Five guys go you have no idea how much money we made. I go, made on what? We bet against Virginia. That was -- I learned never, ever, ever talk, and you guys go over this all the time. We tell you that in the video and all that stuff that it is absolutely amazing what kind of information people try to get right now. I'm not saying anything. But that's how I learned, and they never did take me out for dinner because I left for Wisconsin the next week. They still owe me one."
Q. Ben and Josh, how much do you feel like seasons are defined by what teams do in the NCAA Tournament? Does that add extra pressure this time of year?
GASSER: "If you want to be remembered as being a good team, it's always nice to perform well in March. The goal is to win, so the more games you can win, the better your team will be, I guess. Ultimately, we all have our roles, and the team goal is to play as many games as we can. So we're just going to try to take it one game at a time, one possession at a time, and see how far we can take this thing and I think we'll be all right."