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March 29, 2006

South Carolina Head Coach Dave Odom
Opening statement:
“We are delighted to be playing in the finals Thursday night for the second consecutive year. That is a big thing for our team, school and our state. Madison Square Garden is a great place to be playing and a great place for college basketball. We are honored to be playing a really good Michigan team who is playing their basketball since early January. It looks to me like they got their timing back. They are very deep. They play as many as 10 or 11 players. They keep running them through there. Usually we are a big personnel team, but there are so many players to learn.”

On Tommy Amaker:
“I do want to compliment Tommy Amaker for the coaching job he has done at Michigan. Not only this year, but his entire time there. It really has not had a year yet where there hadn’t been some sort of cloud over the season. He came in with the probation thing and he worked his way through that. This year it looked like it was going to be a great year for him and it has turned out to be a very good for him. He held his team together when all those injuries occurred. He has done extremely well. He is one of the bright, young coaches in the country. Certainly he is a fine of a gentleman as there is in college basketball. I know the University of Michigan is proud to have him. Tommy and I go back to my days at Virginia when I was an assistant there. Tommy and I were talking two days ago about when I went to his house to recruit him. We had a pretty good team that year. We ended up going to the Final Four that year. I remember making the drive from Charlottesville to Fairfax. I had been working on Tommy pretty hard. I knew it was between us and Duke. He is really come along and has done a marvelous job of coaching. He is a real credit to the profession. It will be an honor to go against him and certainly one of the great universities in the country.”

On Tarence Kinsey:
“He obviously gives us points and excellent defense and timely rebounds. In 365 days, what has happened to that guy in the last year, from a basketball standpoint has really been amazing. He is hitting more pressure shots more often. What has really blossomed for his has been his leadership ability. A year ago was Carlos Powell’s team. One of the issues for our team was going to be the leader. There was a huge question there. I am not sure we did it early. When the pressure was on in January and February, he has held this team together. Tarence never wavered in his ability to lead in a positive fashion. He continued to believe in what the coaches wanted to do, he believed in his own ability and more importantly he continued to believe in his teammates. The way he practiced, the way he talked to them, the way he related to them. He really spoke louder than anything. It really what college basketball is all about. It is what college is all about. It is the way college basketball is supposed to be. You are suppose to come in as a freshman and struggle. That is the kind of progression he has had. Got no time as a freshman, played a little bit sophomore year, junior year he is starting and hits the winning shot at the NIT and now senior year he is starting. That is the way it is suppose to be. That is a beautiful story.”

On Renaldo Balkman:
The best thing about Renaldo Balkman is that he is unpredictable. That is also the worst thing. When you look at him, you wonder what his game is all about. You will have a hard time describing it. He runs, he jumps, and he seizes the moment. Then the worst of that is also true. If the stars not aligned, he sits with me. I will also tell you this, the night he sat with me, we weren’t playing for the championship at Madison Square Garden. My guess is that he won’t be there next to me, he will be out there on the court.”

On his team’s lack of depth:
“On the short term I think it is an advantage. It can be an advantage to have less people on the bench because you have fewer problems. You don’t have as many people vying for points, minutes. In the long haul you don’t want that. I think it can be an advantage.”

On Michigan:
“I think we know how Michigan wants to play style wise but can we stop them. I don’t know. The way Michigan played Old Dominion will have no bearing on tomorrow night’s game. In college basketball it is always about style and how styles contrast. I don’t know about Old Dominion’s style but I know ours. My guess is that it is going to be low scoring. We are not going to give up a lot of points. We are not giving up points, I will tell you that. Whether we score enough points to win, I don’t know.”

Michigan Head Coach Tommy Amaker
Opening statement:
“Certainly we are very excited and thrilled for the opportunity to compete for the NIT championship. We realize that getting to this point is such a significant accomplishment for any program with the history and tradition of the NIT. It really is a big thrill for our team, particularly for our seniors. I can’t say enough about the job they have done. I think it has been well documented how much they have done for our program. It is very fitting that we have an opportunity to compete for a championship in their final game in their final year. We are really happy about the progress we have been able to make in the later stages of the season to get to this point. We realize that our challenge is going to be a very difficult one with a good South Carolina team. Just watching them compete and play last night, this is a team that is on the verge of many good things this season as well. They are fearless on the backboard. I have a lot of respect for what Coach Odom has done with that South Carolina program. We are looking forward to the match up between the last two champions. It will be very exciting basketball.”

On this team compared to the Michigan team that won two years ago:
“I think it is always different each year. With a different group of players you have a different team. Two years ago we were fortunate enough to come out with the title. We were fairly young with a youthful exuberance and excitement about our program. I think this year the kids have been mature. We start five seniors and that is something that we are very proud of going into this NIT tournament. Anytime you get an opportunity to play for a championship, where something is on the line and you have a chance to raise a banner, you have to feel good about it. It has been a different set of circumstances that allowed us to get to this point. Different set of players and faces. Hopefully we can utilize this opportunity we have in front of us to the best of our abilities.”

On South Carolina:
“I think they are athletic. They are a very athletic team. They are long and rangy. They are a very confident team. They aren’t as deep, but those kids that are out there know they are going to be out there. They are quick. Their team speed is outstanding. They have been on a tear as of late. They were on the verge of winning their conference tournament, but just came up a little short. They put on a tremendous performance last night. They are a very confident group. They play very well together.”

On starting the seniors:
“We wanted to start our seniors. I thought I owed that to our kids and our program. We were going to go as they go. When we got into postseason play, when we got into this tournament we told those guys we were going to as far as they take us. I made that decision right away. I thought that was something that brought us together. Everyone knew they were going to play. The seniors have been able to lead our team. Their leadership and maturity and having ownership in the final stages of their career has made a little bit of a difference for us this part of the season.”

On last night:
“We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well from the perimeter. The main thing about us last night was that I thought we defended well. If we are defending, we can create some offense from our defensive. We also got on the offensive glass and created some offensive opportunities.”

On the seniors:
“I am biased to our seniors. I am very much attached to that group of players. They are the type of players you always want to be in your program. They have done anything and everything we have asked them to do. The fact is that they lead this team to this point and we thought we owed that to them. They earned it; we didn’t give it to them. They have earned everything in their careers. Tomorrow night we have a chance to raise another banner. For them to win the last game and have two NIT championships and that would be a phenomenal achievement.”

More on South Carolina:
“They are unique and different. Their front line guys can rebound it and lead the break. They are not necessarily looking for a guard. They are that skilled. They push the ball out. That allows their team speed is even quicker or faster. They are not thinking about getting it to a guard on an outlet, they are pushing it themselves. They are unique. They were spreading the floor and finishing and attacking. I am not sure we have faced a team like that before.”