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NCAA Sweet 16 Press Conference Transcript: Pittsburgh (March 25, 2009)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009 , Posted by Christopher Byrne at 7:57 PM, under , ,

Athens, GA (Mar 25, 2009) -The Sweet 16 Teams are getting ready for their games over the next two days. Part of that preparation is sitting down with the media. Here is the transcript of the University of Pittsburgh press conference, as provided by the NCAA.

Q. Tyrell and Sam, welcome to Boston. I just wanted to ask you a
little bit about DeJuan Blair and if you could comment about what he's
meant to you on the front court and what presence he lends to your

TYRELL BIGGS: DeJuan has meant a lot to us. Physically he takes up
space in the middle, rebounds well and just a great teammate.

SAM YOUNG: I think that question is pretty obvious. He brings a lot
of intensity, skill level for his size and quick on his feet and good
hands. He's an overall big presence.

Q. I guess there's a couple of ways you can look at how you have run
through the first couple of games. You can look at it as you barely
squeaked by and got to the Sweet 16 or took the opponent's best shot
and are still here and at the Sweet 16.

LEVANCE FIELDS: We look at it we survived. No game is guaranteed in
the tournament. Being No. 1 seed, everyone is gunning for you. We
think we did a great job taking the team's best shot and making plays
we needed down the stretch to win the game.

Q. Levance, can you talk about Xavier and what concerns you most
about them in this match up?

LEVANCE FIELDS: Their size. They're really tall at every position.
So we've got to do a great job of boxing them out and not giving them
second chance opportunities. We also pride ourselves in getting out in
transition. The team that wins the battle of the boards most likely
will win this game.

Q. Sam, can you talk about going through the Big East and it being
arguably the best conference all season and now you see all the
success the teams have had so far in this NCAA tournament. Just talk
about going through that meat grinder of a year.

SAM YOUNG: I think the Big East is definitely the best conference in
college basketball. I think this year the teams that are in the
tournament were well prepared to come to the tournament and advance.

Q. There are a lot of expectations for this team to be the first
Pitt team in a long time to get past the Sweet 16. Have you blocked
the pressure out or does it motivate you guys as you go deeper?

LEVANCE FIELDS: Every year is a different team. We're well aware of
it, but at the same time it's a different year, different team. We're
just going out there to play. We feel if we out rebound and don't turn
the ball over we'll have a great chance of winning the game. That's
really what we're focusing on, nothing about the past and what Pitt
hasn't done, but what we can control, what we can do on Thursday
against Xavier.

Q. If you could just talk a little bit about the pressure Xavier is
going to put on the perimeter, they have a lot of great perimeter
shooters. How do you guys get ready for that?

LEVANCE FIELDS: Same way we do with every team, close out under
control, high hands and not try to let them get a couple of open runs
to get them going. Make sure every shot is contested. And over the
long course of the game if you do that, more often than not they begin
to miss.

Q. Levance, can you talk about the physical nature of this team and
your ability to respond to physical teams throughout the course of the
season, and maybe in the tournament, as well, and how much of a toll
has it taken on you guys. And B, how do you feel coming through it

LEVANCE FIELDS: This team is really tough. It starts from the first
day of practice. Our practices are very intense, very tough. Guys
leave bleeding most of the times just from drills we run. And it gets
you ready for the games. And for us, we're used to it, like I said,
from practices. If we have to go through the games it's kind of second
nature. We like to play like that.

Right now everybody is a hundred percent. DeJuan had a little fall
the last game, but he's fine. So everybody is good.

Q. Tyrell and Levance, most of your games with about eight minutes
to go the other team is still in contact with you guys. Do you guys,
though, have the sense that in those final eight minutes the way that
you play, the way that you guys practice, that that's where the game
is going to be determined?

LEVANCE FIELDS: You know, it's not how you start, it's how you
finish to win games. With us our biggest thing is we're five minutes
to go in the game, we want to have a chance to win. If we have that
opportunity, we feel like we have more than enough weapons on offense.
And if we all have our heads in the game on defense, we can get it

We just want to make sure we worry about what we can do as far as
offensively and defensively. And if it's a close game, once again, we
feel we have enough weapons to pull out a win.

TYRELL BIGGS: We know every game is going to be tough. There's not
going to be a lot of blowout games, that's just not really our nature.
So we kind of expect that it's going to be kind of close. But we're a
grind out team, and we come through at the end and grind it out.

COACH DIXON: Obviously looking forward to our game tomorrow against
Xavier. We know how good a ball club they are. We know the history of
their program. Very familiar with a lot of their players.

While we haven't gone against them, we know a lot of their guys. And
our guys are very familiar with their guys, as well.

Had a good workout today, this morning, and then we'll get out here
on the floor. We're looking forward to the opportunity.

It's great to be here in Boston. The guys were excited to be in this
Regional and we're excited to be playing here. It's a good been a good
trip and our guys are looking forward to it.

Q. You grew up in Hollywood. I was just wondering

COACH DIXON: Small town.

Q. I wonder about the Hollywood script, Sean Miller coaching against
his alma mater.

COACH DIXON: Yeah, I didn't give it much thought. Obviously he had
coached there, too, as well. So he was there coaching as well. And the
guy we're good friends. We've talked from the time I got there at
Pittsburgh we talked. I've been there now ten years. And I can
remember talking to him about his more so when he coached there,
things that he learned from there and things they could have done
better and things that he had learned.

He's always been a friend and a guy we've talked we talked a number
of times this year before now, we haven't talked since, until just
now, since the match ups.

But I think obviously he's a proud alum, and we're proud of him at
the University of Pittsburgh. So he is a good friend and I think it's
but I think once we put the ball up in the air, I think everybody
knows that both teams are going to be thinking only about trying to
take care of business.

Q. Just staying with Coach Miller for a minute, just as a follow up,
do you have appreciation for what he's built and kept going at Xavier?

COACH DIXON: Obviously you think about the coaches that have been
there, Skip Ross or Thad Matta, I mean Pete Gillen, just to name a
few. And then Sean. There's obviously something going on over there
that they know what they're doing administration wise.

But it's great to see him doing well. I think he knows he has one of
the best jobs in the country, as I know about mine and the job we have
here at Pittsburgh. I think that's something that coaches know. That's
one of the best jobs in the country. Everybody I talk to in that
league tells me it's the best job in the league, by far, which makes
it one of the best jobs in the country. So it's something that he's
done a great job.

He brings in very good players, they redshirt guys, they get
transfers, they just do it in a variety of ways. And that's how you
continue to have guys waiting in the wings. And I think that's what
they've continued to do year after year.

Q. Coach, a guy like Bradley Wanamaker has come along this year, and
increased minutes. He just mentioned meetings you had with him this
summer, asking him to accelerate certain aspects of his game. Talk
about how far he's come from his freshman year, basically.

COACH DIXON: I think, first off, he's a great kid. He's a very
positive influence on the team. He's a great teammate. And he's a
winner. He won at Roman Catholic. And he won really carried the team
on his back to win the city championship there, the Catholic
championship. And then won the Alhambra Tournament at the end of the
year. He's obviously a winner.

He had some struggles last year, as all freshmen do. And I think
times I oftentimes apologize to him because I was so sure he was going
to be such a good player. He's a guy I watched a lot in high school
and wanted him and knew he was going and maybe I would have been maybe
a little too hard on him, because I expected so much out of him. I
just think he's competitive, he's tough. He's a great kid, good
student. He's going to be like three quarters of the way to graduating
after two years. He's just a great, great kid.

The one thing we talked about in the summer was just or in the
spring, we talked about guys, what they can improve in is just
shooting the ball. And more so, I don't care about you making it, just
you've got to shoot the outside jump shot, which will open up the rest
of your game. I think that was the biggest thing. I didn't make
pressure on him to make the shot, just shoot it. Sometimes he was
overpenetrating, using his strength, that's what he did in high
school. Just taking the open shot is going to open up a world of
things for him offensively.

Q. Last two losses I believe were West Virginia and Providence.
Which one did you get more out of? Coaches like to say they want to
build from their losses a little bit. Can you talk about those two.

COACH DIXON: We had four this year, and I remember them all very
vividly and clearly, so that's the problem with coaching or anyway how
I look at it. We don't seem to remember the 30 wins as much. That's
something I've got to work on over the next couple of years.

I think two different games, two different teams, one on the road,
one on neutral court. Neither one we played well. That one was very
clear, anybody could figure it out. You can't play well every game.
And I think hopefully we're beyond that now.

West Virginia, we got some foul trouble, Gilbert wasn't playing,
Levance got hurt, wasn't practicing prior to that. That was a game
where we Providence, we were just bad early. Really a bad half. We got
outscored by 19, I think, in the first half and we outscored them by
ten in the second half. That came down to one bad half.

You don't want to get down 19, I figured that one out. We had a
really bad half on that one. That was just things that were
unexplainable, things we hadn't done all year.

Q. Being in the Big East and going through that competitive
schedule, how much of an advantage, if any, does it give you over a
team that is in a mid major conference, maybe didn't have maybe quite
that level of competition?

COACH DIXON: I don't know, it's as far as I don't think there's any
advantages, really. You've got to play against good people, I think,
in any conference. And you're going to play tough road games in any

Ours was at a high level this year, I think no one can deny that.
But that's two weeks ago, three weeks ago. It's where you are now and
what you did early on is not that important.

There's 16 good teams left, very good teams. It may build in some
ways character with the teams you play, but at the end of the day it's
who is playing well two weeks, three weeks after the conference is

So everybody you can learn from losses, you can learn a lot from
wins. And feeling good about yourself is a good thing, too. If you're
getting a lot of wins in the conference, that can go a long way, as

Q. When you and Ben Howland arrived in Pittsburgh, the program
wasn't terrible, but it did not have a strong basketball association.
Was there something you could tap into at Pittsburgh that could put
you on the road to where you are today?

COACH DIXON: Yeah, obviously that was ten years ago, I've been at
Pitt ten years. Our first two years were a struggle. We got beat up.
We had a lot of losses. I can remember our first conference game at
St. John's. Back then every team in the conference was put on ESPN,
national TV twice, so we were excited. We only got two, you were given
two, no matter how bad you were. We were excited we went to St.
John's, and we were down 41 9, I think, at halftime. You better learn
quick at that point. And that's what we figured out.

The thing I've always said is that you learn from the teams that are
winning. And when we got there, Connecticut just won the National
Championship and I looked at them and what they had done and how they
had done it and tried to take some things. I always said that about
Coach Calhoun in Connecticut and what they have done. It seemed that
defensive rebounding was something they did well, and something we
prided ourselves on ever since. That was one part of it.

You talk to people that have had success. You talk to people who
have been at Pitt. You talk to Sean Miller, when he was an assistant,
what he learned through their struggles. And Jimmy Christian, former
coaches, Troy Weaver, coaches that had been there. And just trying to
figure out what you can learn from previous.

And you go in with an open mind. You go in, I think, as I you go in,
you don't think you have all the answers, I think that's important.
Oftentimes people come in and think they have to have all the answers.
I didn't have all the answers. We're just trying to learn and learn
from people who had success and learn from other people's failures,

Q. There's been a lot of conversation, especially down in the south,
who has the best conference this year. Your conference has five here
in the Sweet 16. Do you feel like the Big East has set the bar as the
best conference this year?

COACH DIXON: You know, obviously someone else is going to say
differently from some other conference. We're all looking out for
ourselves in a lot of ways. But I think our numbers I think it was
hard to live up one thing I've said since the year was over, we had a
lot of hype going into the year about how good this conference would
be, we talked about it being the best conference in history. Rarely do
coaches in their exaggerations ever come into being true.

It seems like this conference came as close to living up to
expectations as they could, and that's hard to do with the standards
we had talked about and with the expectations that were set.

Again, we have five left in the Sweet 16, three No. 1 seeds, I think
that speaks volumes. But at the same time I don't want to take
anything away from any conferences in the country. There's great
basketball teams everywhere. But, again, getting five here says a lot.

Q. You said a moment ago you could learn a lot from your wins. What
did you learn from the first two in this tournament?

COACH DIXON: I guess it reinforces things. We didn't rebound well in
the first game, and the second game we got better, and out rebounded
our opponent by 20, that was something, I think.

I think it was what we learned was we can win really that Oklahoma
State game showed we can win offensively, we can win defensively in
the second half. That was an interesting game, because you had two
teams shooting, knocking down shots the first half. And the second
half became a grind it out defensive affair. And we played that way,
as well, played successfully in that half, as well. You learn you can
play two different ways this time of the year.

Q. Really high expectations for this team to be the Pitt team to get
past the Sweet 16. Has that affected your players, is that an issue
you addressed, it seems they're blocking out and focusing on what they
need to do the next game?

COACH DIXON: This team is different than any other team. And again,
that's Sweet 16 is an accomplishment. If it was if it wasn't, teams
would have got there more than we have. And there's only two that have
been there more than we have the last eight years, Duke and Kansas
have been there more than us. There aren't any buys into the Sweet 16.
I think maybe it's forgotten.

Yeah, I think this team is different than the previous team from
last year, and it's definitely different from the team six years ago,
five years ago, four years ago. All the times we've made it we have
different players, we're playing different teams. And at the same time
we know we have a very good opponent to play tomorrow in Xavier.

Q. Pitt is one of the few schools that has teams alive in both the
men's and women's tournaments. What are your thoughts on that and just having the school in the spotlight in such a favorable way?

COACH DIXON: Yeah, I think how many, I didn't get all the scores
last night. I don't know how many are left. But it's something that we
had I think we're very proud of. I know at one point during the year
our football team was ranked, our basketball team and I think our
women's team was in the top 25. And I think we're the only school in
the country there were two schools at that time to do that.

We have great leadership from our chancellor, Chancellor Jerry
Cochran and Steve Peterson. There's commitment to athletics, there's
support throughout the city, the University, the community. And we
really want to have a very balanced and all encompassing athletic
department. We have a number of teams. We feel the resources, equal
resources to men's and women's athletics, equally well, and we take
great pride in it. I think it's something our administration has made
a commitment to and are very proud of the success and everything. We
have track and field championships, wrestling, the swimming wins every
year in the Big East. We take great pride in our entire athletic
department, and we're just a small piece of it.

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