March 14, 2011
Head Coach Geno Auriemma
On Jen Rizzotti and Hartford:
"I'm happy for them. Coming from 1-9 to start the season to here, that's a tremendous accomplishment for them. The way the NCAA does things, so much of it is regional, I don't think there's any surprise they were sent here. I'm thrilled for her and for her players. The fact that we have to play them - well you have to play somebody. This time of year you don't worry about who you are playing"
Is it harder to play a former player this time of year?
"No. That stuff only goes so far. It's like playing Temple last year. My players don't know Jennifer. The kids that play for me, they were in grade school when Jennifer played here. They don't know about that stuff. They just want to play in their first NCAA game. Just like last year - and they knew Tanya (Cardoza). They loved Tanya, just like I do. But we have an agenda here. We've got work to do."
About the bracket:
"It really doesn't matter. I was just telling the players. It really doesn't. What the seeds are and what number and who's in your bracket - you gotta play whoever you gotta play. You're going to have to play some good teams sooner probably rather than later. That's the NCAA Tournament. For anybody to say that's an easy bracket or that's a hard bracket - that's disrespectful for some teams that made it this far. With the geography thing, I'm kind of expecting that if we were in the Philadelphia Region, that Duke would be No. 2. I'm a bit surprised with DePaul being No. 3. I thought they'd keep them closer to home out there in Dayton and that area. Other than that, there weren't a lot of surprises."
On the amount of teams selected from the BIG EAST:
"It's great that nine got in. They were saying that if No. 9 got in, then No. 10 would get in. But I guess Syracuse got left out. I was a little surprised. I was hoping we'd get 10. I don't know what the rational was for not taking Syracuse. I think they finished .500 in our league. Clearly we're the best league in the tournament. We got nine teams in the tournament. That's more than a few of the leagues combined and there's a few good leagues out there too. I was surprised though. I'm glad we got nine. I think the most we ever got before was eight so I'm thrilled we got nine. I'm thrilled at some of the seedings too."
On winning it all or the season being a disappointment:
"I think that's pretty accurate the way it is right now. It takes me back to 1994. We played in the Regional Finals at Rutgers and lost to North Carolina and they went on to win the National Championship. We finished 30-3. On the way to our bus a fan clapped me on the back and said, "Don't worry coach we'll be really good next year". (Laughing). I was taken back. I think we are even beyond that point now. Winning 30 games is not a big deal. Going to the Sweet 16 is not a big deal. Going to the Final Four is not a big deal. Winning the National Championship is it. Even when I go to events at the Final Four and coaches come up and say to me, "Congratulations, you had a great year". Thanks... That's all I can say ya know. Thanks... That's where we are. I try to make the kids realize how significant it is. How special it really is. We know how hard we had to work to put ourselves in this situation."
On facing Jennifer Rizzotti in the first game:
"It's cruel. March is a cruel month - especially for us Italians. Bad things happen in the middle of March. History is not kind to Italians in the middle of March."
On the lack of depth going into the tournament:
"If our freshmen play great, I don't have to worry about our depth. If the freshmen struggle then depth is a problem. That's why you can't go in with any preconceived notions. We know what we have to do. Some of these kids have never been in this role. We'll see how they handle it. We talked about this with our team. Tiffany (Hayes) has never been in a situation that if she plays lousy, we could lose. Last year if she played lousy we were gonna win anyways, just not by as much. Kelly Faris has never been in that position either. She didn't score last year in the semifinal or the final and we won. Then you got the two freshmen who are hopefully oblivious. Hopefully it never dawns on them that this is the NCAA Tournament. Hopefully they think this is the high school tournament. I'm gonna try to convince them that it is."
On facing Jennifer Rizzotti and Hatford in Storrs vs. Hartford:
"I don't think we've ever played them here have we? It's like when Jamelle (Elliot) came in. I accused Jamelle. I said, "Hey Jamelle, are you giving me the C-Viv treatment (Rutgers coach Vivian Stringer)? You come out with like five seconds until game time. You putting yourself in the same shoes as a Hall of Famer, what are you doing?" She said, "No, every time I tried to come through the door I started crying. I had to go back." I don't think it will be like that for Jen because she didn't spend 17 or 18 years here. But I think when Jen comes back there'll be a lot of memories, lot of emotion. She'll get a bigger ovation than I will. That's always been the case at the XL Center. I don't know why that would change here. People remember her. Connecticut basketball started with Jen and Rebecca (Lobo), Jen and Jamelle. People remember that and they always will."
On the job she's done at Hartford:
"She told me at the beginning of the season that she really liked these kids. She thought they were gonna be good and she enjoyed coaching them. Then when it started the way it did, I think she was a little surprised. I know for sure she didn't expect that."
On going against someone you like and having that history:
"It's two different emotions. One - when we weren't the favorite and we had to play Virginia. It was like, man I want to beat their butts so bad because I want to prove to my old boss that I can coach. It's completely opposite emotions when you've got the number one team in the country and you're playing against a team that you know if you leave your starters in and you don't care, then you'll win by 70. The feeling is completely different. Any time I've coached against Jen, Tanya, Jamelle my feelings always have been that I hope they play great. I hope they play the game of their lives. I want them to be proud of themselves and the job their doing. At the end of the game I want them to feel great about beating Connecticut. If they don't win, there's no moral victories, but you want to be proud of the way you. play I want them to be able to feel proud of playing their A-game."
What was it like seeing your name up there on the bracket?
"It was exciting, it is going to be a good tournament. I think we are ready and I am just excited to get started and get the games going."
What do you think about playing against Jen Rizzotti?
"I think it will be fun. I played for her for the USA team, so I know how she coaches and it will be nice seeing her. I went to one of her games earlier this year, Hartford vs. Albany, and they are a good team. I'm excited."
Do you feel confident going into the tournament?
"Definitely. I think you have to go into the tournament feeling confident. If we go in confident and play as well as we can I think we will be okay."
What are your feelings going into the tournament?
"It is just really exciting. Especially as a freshman, you always dream about playing in this tournament and I have always watched the selection show and this time we were actually part of it and actually going to be playing in the tournament. I am just eager to play."
How was it hearing your name on the selection show?
"It was exciting. It was great to hear our school and all of the other BIG EAST schools that made it in. We are in a great conference and seeing all of the BIG EAST teams in the tournament is great."
Do you feel pretty confident going into the tournament this year?
"I think you have to feel confident. You lose and you are done. Every team has their seniors and you always want to go out with a bang and you want to win for them. It is different from last year though, last year things came easier and we had more people and players. This year it's not that, we have to go out there with what we have and so far this season we have been able to do that and push through a lot. I think we ended the regular season pretty well and we are confident, but there are still a lot of great teams out there this year."
What are some of the challenges you see going into the tournament?
"There are great teams out there and having a short bench could be a problem for us, but we can't use that as an excuse. Coach told us that every team is that way and every team is banged up. It is tournament time and everyone is going to have that tournament mentality now."
How much have Bria and Stefanie impacted this team?
"That is one of the main things that people have been commented about, is that Bria and Stefanie have stepped up as players and the role that they have, I can't imagine having that role last year. They have had to really step up and lead this team and we are all very proud of them. We know all of the obstacles that they have had to overcome this year and we are very proud of them."
How nice is it that you don't have to travel for the first round?
"It is really nice. I keep thinking about last year and it was just a ton of traveling and even just to have one round at home is nice. It is much easier to deal with class when you are at home also."
Is there any more meaning to you that any game could be your last?
"I feel like I play that way all the time, I'm sure it will be something that I will think about, but I think the way we prepare and how we have created good habits of playing high intensity basketball all the time we will be confident in what we can do during this tournament."
Did you pick up any notes on how you can pick up your game from the analyst talking about how Stanford was able to defend you?
"That didn't tell me anything new, we have one of the best analysts as our head coach. Since that game we have worked really hard as a team and I have worked really hard personally to be better and to be able to play under great defensive teams like Stanford."
Have you talked to the freshmen about what to expect coming into the tournament?
"I think the amount of focus that we continue to practice with is the main thing that helps. They have shown all year that they can play in the big games and under high pressure situations. That won't be new for them, it will really be what you do before you step on the court. The practice and the preparation, having your mind right and once that horn sounds it is just another game. We just need to make sure that we stay together, and that is something you learn on the court."
What will it mean to get a third title as a senior?
Are you confident that you guys can pull this off this year?
"Definitely. Especially the way Bria and Stefanie have been playing. Kelly has been playing great lately, we are going into the tournament confident. I am confident in our team, the previous two years we have had players like Tina Charles and Kalana Greene who we looked up to. Now I am a junior and I'm in their role. We are riding high right now, we have had a couple good games lately and we are confident now."
What is it like being able to play at home during the first round?
"It is going to be great. It will be a home court advantage for us and hopefully our fans come out so that we can give them a show and hopefully two shows so that we can move on to Philadelphia."