Everything Rick Barnes Said About Louisiana, NCAA Tournament Monday

Everything Rick Barnes Said After Tennessee Jumped To No. 2 In AP Poll

Rick Barnes Olivier NkamhouaTennessee HC Rick Barnes and F Olivier Nkamhoua. Photo By Ian Cox/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee coach Rick Barnes met with the local media Monday before his team departs for Orlando, Florida and the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

The Vols enter the tournament struggling and landed a four-seed. Tennessee faces Sun Belt Tournament Champion Louisiana in the opening round of the tournament.

Here’s everything Rick Barnes said about the Ragin’ Cajuns and the Vols’ draw Monday morning.

More From RTI: Scouting The Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns

On Tennessee’s mindset entering the tournament

“I think they are like any team this time of year, they are excited. We know this is the time of year where college basketball takes center stage. I thought and I told them last night what Clark Kellogg said at the beginning of the show last night, every team that is playing in this tournament earned their way into it. These guys certainly have done that. I really do believe they are excited about playing. I like to think these couple days here will help us get where we need to be health-wise. I think they are excited. They have been in it before, the older guys. The younger guys not so much. They know what it is about.”

On Josiah-Jordan James importance offensively

“Based on your statistics, I would say that is important for our offense. He is important not just — again, what we need him to do is impact winning and he can do that certainly defensively as well. I think Josiah(-Jordan James) and every guy we put on the court is important to us.”

On getting healthy this week

“I think it just — it is tough for Jo to go back-to-back games. It is tough on him because of where he is right now. He is doing whatever he can to help us play. Santi (Vescovi) certainly has played a lot of minutes this year. Overall, I think we are like most teams this time of year, a little bit of time off helps us all probably. These guys, I know they are excited about playing.”

On what his team has learned playing without Zakai Zeigler

“I do think so. What I think the biggest thing is, again, you go back to our last game. We had two breakdowns just details in the last three minutes that were critical. We went under a ball screen, which we don’t do. Then we point-switched and gave up two threes. They made the shots. They were contested. This time of year, I don’t think many players need much daylight. Overall, I do, I think our guys know what we have to do. You look at what we have done in the month of February and what we have had to work through. We have been in really every game with a chance to win it. We just have to find a way to close some of them out.”

On what stands out about Louisiana

“I have known Bob Marlin from certainly my time in Texas and his time there. Bob is a terrific basketball coach. A great offensive mind. His teams always are so sound. I think we have played them once or twice since we have been there. Jordan Brown, we recruited here. He is a McDonald’s All-American and a high-level player. Bob has done a terrific job with him, getting him and putting him in areas on the court where he can be really effective. Really good footwork. Knows what he is doing when he gets the ball. He has got good shooters around him, good point guard play, a really good facilitator. If you are in this tournament, you are good and you have had success. You ought to feel good. You ought to feel confident. I just have tremendous respect for Bob and what he has done with that program.”

On balancing practicing hard and having fresh legs

“I think everybody has got their ways of doing it. We have to do what we have done. Our players, we trust them. The things we ask them to do, we have done it. There is a balance. We have been at it for a long time and the main thing right now is that we give them the best chance to be fresh and healthy when we go on the court and play.”

On turnovers in the SEC Tournament

“Well, I can be honest with you, a couple of those weren’t turnovers. They were fouls that shouldn’t have been turnovers. But that is part of it. But the way we started the game after looking at the tape, we had five turnovers and two of them were not turnovers. We should have had the ball back and had two fouls. We know we have to take care of the ball. We know we have to do that. That is important and this time of year with where we are, I think our guys know that. Obviously, we did a better job once it all settled down.”

On what makes Louisiana hard to defend

“Really good concepts. He puts his guys in great position to score the ball. He knows where he wants guys on the court and he gets them the ball where they need it and have a guy inside that can score a lot of points and got shooters on the outside. A point guard that knows what he is doing and who to get the ball to and when to get it there.”

On stopping big man Jordan Brown

“It will be a team effort with everybody. We don’t go in, but we are going to have to work hard with doing our work early and not letting him get the deep position that he wants. He has such terrific footwork. We are going to have to work hard and get other players to help where we can. It is all about our guys trying to do the work early and not get as deep as he wants to get it.”

On getting to the basket with Zeigler

“We need that. We do. We need to be able to get downhill and get there and get fouls on people. But then the key there is we get there, can we make the right play from it. Again, we’ve had some good drives in some of the games that we’ve had here. Again, I go back, offensively, I think we can do what we need to do there. But we can’t have the defensive lapses especially late in the game. Even at the end of the first half, even though Jahmai made that long three to give us a three, that was a major breakdown on the perimeter (on the previous possession). You can’t do that. Regardless of what the score was in the game, almost every game — Auburn, Missouri — those are one-possession games. You can go back, which one you want to pick. We’re not going to be perfect. But there are certain ones, we spend a lot of time working through them. You can’t breakdown. We’ve done that too much here lately.”

On this team being good at taking scouting reports to the game

“It’s important. And you what, it’s got to go to another level. It does. The concentration has to get ratcheted up. Every game you want to see that. Even when I talk about, from our point of views, our details, guys still make shots. They’ve still got to make shots, and teams have done that. We just have to make sure it’s on our terms. That’s where the detail comes in. Our guys really, I do think, concentrate and work hard with the scouting report. Knowing that this time of year the game slows down some because now there are timeouts. So I would expect, again, this time of year, you’re here because you’ve been successful. You don’t ever take it for granted. But now this is a time of year that I don’t think you change a lot. You’re going to prepare like you have everywhere along the line. I think if you do change a lot, you kind of send the wrong signal to your team. I want them to be confident, to know they’re going to be prepared. Then go in and play.”

On his reaction to the No. 4 seed and being placed in the East Region in Orlando

“I don’t have any thoughts on it. I’ve always trusted the (selection committee). I think they’re under a great deal of scrutiny. And all I know is this, we got seeded because of our body of work, and these guys certainly deserve it. It goes back to what we talk about all year long. Every game is important. Every game is an NCAA game. Starting from the time you walk on the court, whether it’s your first home game against whoever, those tournaments (early in the season). Every game is an NCAA Tournament game. I always think it’s funny when you hear those talking heads on TV talk about how if Carolina would’ve won a game in December they would’ve made the tournament. Yet they question our seed. Well, it’s because of what we did in December and January, put us where we (are). These guys, where we are, I get it totally. That’s where I would probably put it. Even though we haven’t won the wanted to in February, we’ve had some issues we’ve had to deal with, but they fought. We deserve where we are. And now, like everybody, it starts 0-0 and it’s a four-team tournament this week in Orlando for us. And we have to be ready.”

On the defensive lapses lately and if those were happening earlier in the season

“They happened. They do happen. Even games you win, those type of games. Like I said earlier, this time of year, you’ve got to be more alert to them. It’s certain guys that you talk about. Some of it, it’s post guys learning they’ve got to get away from the basket and step out there on switches. It goes back to personnel. Again, we haven’t played a perfect game all year. Like I said, this time of year, you’d like to see less of that, obviously. You have to give our opponent credit for making those shots.”

On if he automatically is going to sit a player with two fouls or if it depends on the flow of the game

“The flow of the game and where we are. We’ve had this year where we’ve had guys sit. Like the other day, Santi with two, because of where we were in the game, he needed some rest anyway. So it worked out like that. We’ve had games this year where I think Zakai had picked up some early fouls, I think going back to the Ole Miss game early in the year, and we felt like the game was getting away from us. Or maybe Santi here at home. We put him back in and he scored two buckets for us. So it’s based on where we feel we are in the flow of the game.”

Author: Ethan Moore