March 21, 2005
USC hosts UNLV in the second round of the NIT Tuesday night in the Colonial Center at 9 pm. USC Head Coach Dave Odom spoke to the media on Monday afternoon about the game.
Odom started the press conference with an opening statement:
“When I thought about the teams we’ve played this year – who UNLV compares to – surprisingly the team I came up with that they remind me of is ourselves. They remind me of us from a size standpoint, a quickness standpoint and a style standpoint. I hope that does not make (UNLV Head Coach) Lon Kruger and his team mad. I do think that he has designed his team the way a team should be designed. They have five very talented starters and they play nine-10 deep. Offensively, they play pick and roles, they shoot the ball well from the perimeter, but they run the ball more than we do. They are quick. Defensively, they pressure in the front court and the back court. It’s a job very well done. He has done a very good job, he has his team under his thumb and they appear to be very comfortable in the way they are playing. In the last 4-5 games it appears their game is on the rise. They are playing their best basketball of the year. They scored 89 points against Arizona State and played very very well.
“When you look at Vegas you know we will have to play some of our best basketball to win or at least be in the game. Their guards are different than Miami. They play very unselfish basketball and can beat you in a lot of different ways. Miami’s guards control the game and as their guards go, so goes the fortune of the team. Because UNLV goes 8-9 guys deep, they can beat you in a number of different ways. They have two of the better 6’7 players (Beck and Blankson) that we will have faced this year. They both move the ball well and are very versatile. They are very skilled. If both teams bring their ‘A’ game, the game will be very tight. We will have to be ready to play tomorrow night.
MEDIA: You said Vegas’ game is on the rise right now. How do you feel about your team’s game right now?
ODOM: Our game is coming back. I guess we are on the rise as well, but maybe not as much as Vegas yet. The last two-three weeks of Vegas basketball they have been playing very well. We are playing better basketball right now than the last 2-3 weeks of the season. We will start the same line-up as we started in the last game (forwards Powell, Kinsey, Wallace and guards Kelley and Trice). Our legs were as fresh yesterday in practice (Sunday) as they have been in the last month.
MEDIA: What kind of crowd do you expect?
ODOM: One of the things Gamecock fans get excited about – they get excited about ESPN, national TV and Sportscenter. They really get excited about television games. I think the students are more likely to come at 9 pm than at 7 pm because of they have their studies done, they have eaten – they will have themselves ready. I look forward to a very good crowd. The NIT brings out a different type of crowd because people who come really like basketball. They are excited we are in the tournament. They also don’t get their regular reserved seats so different people are sitting different places. They get different seats because it’s first come, first serve.
MEDIA: What kind of emotions do you expect from your team?
ODOM: Find an even keel for the team is the key to advancing in the NIT. It’s easier to get their attention in practice when we play a better team, a better league, a bigger name. The team knows more about Vegas than they do about the Mountain West Conference. Half of them were probably pulling for us to go there, but the Vegas name has their attention.
MEDIA: Have you talked to your team about the big name teams that aren’t playing now (that have lost and are done)?
ODOM: No, not really. I haven’t really had a chance to do that and that is not something I do. We start post-season with about 100 teams and in one week you are down to 16 NCAA teams and somewhere around 24 NIT teams left. So we are one of about 40 that’s left at the Division I level. I think they think it’s important to be put in select company. We know there are 16 teams competing for the NCAA Championship. We aren’t looking to compete for that, but we are looking forward to it to play some really good basketball and finish the season feeling good about ourselves. There were days when teams turned down NCAA bids to play in the NIT but no longer. It is a long and storied event with great heritage. I told them the other day ‘if we are going to play in it, let’s give it our best effort because it’s the right thing to do.’ They have responded very well.