NCAA transcript: Rams might be called ankle-biters, but execute well, play hard
March 14, 2012
THE MODERATOR: Our first team up, we'd like to welcome the Colorado State Rams. Head coach Tim Miles. And our players today, junior Wes Eikmeier, junior Dorian Green. If we can begin, we'll have microphones on both sides of the room.
Q. If you guys could talk about your season a little bit. Is it a pleasant surprise that you're here? Just talk about the highs and lows and how you got to this point. This is for both guys.
THE MODERATOR: Wes, please, if you could start.
WES EIKMEIER: You know, I don't think a lot of people outside of our locker room really had a lot of expectations this year. You know, we lost a lot of the majority of our scoring last year. Expectations outside of our locker room weren't very high.
But at the same time, we were very confident this year going into the season. We have a lot of experience at guard. And across board, we've got guys that play a lot of college basketball. But other than that, we've had you know, ups and downs like any team this year. We had a really tough preseason schedule. I think it was in the 20s or something, the RPI rankings, strength of schedule.
We had our ups and downs, like I said, and then we had a really good conference season. So excited to be here.
DORIAN GREEN: Basically, what Wes said. We've just got a bunch of close guys, good team chemistry, and guys that just play hard and got a lot of heart. We've been called everything from like ankle biters to scrappy all year long. We always talk about we don't look like the best team in warmups, but we come out and play hard and execute well.
Q. Wes, when you look at this Murray State team, just kind of how do you feel you match up with them now that you've had a chance to study them for the last couple of days?
WES EIKMEIER: I think we match up pretty well. They're pretty guard oriented, and they don't have a lot of size inside which that's kind of what we're like. Across the board, they have guys that play a big chunk of minutes like we do.
Styles of play a little different. From our league, we draw comparisons to UNLV, the way they get up and down the floor and the way they pressure the ball and deny passing lanes.
I think our conference season and the teams that we've played against will have prepared us really well for this type of matchup.
Q. Can you explain your journey to Colorado State, your personal journey, how you got there a little bit more?
WES EIKMEIER: Sure. I committed real early to Iowa State after my sophomore year of high school. I don't have any regrets about leaving there. And I knew a couple of the players here at Colorado State before I got here, Jesse Carr from Nebraska and also Greg Smith was committed when I made the transfer. So I knew those guys from high school back in Nebraska.
They had nothing but good things to say about Coach Miles and the coaching staff at Colorado State. Once I took my visit, it was a really good fit, and I couldn't be happier to be around this group of guys and the coaching staff. I'm really happy about it.
Q. What was your relationship with Jesse like? You played AAB ball together?
WES EIKMEIER: Correct.
Q. And just the fact there are four Nebraska guys.
WES EIKMEIER: Jesse and I got along really well early on. I think it was after our freshman year when we first met, the summer after that. And just a lot of time in the summer playing together and getting to know each other really well. That relationship carried on throughout high school and into college.
Greg and Dwight, I actually knew from seventh and eighth grade when we played in Omaha from the same area team or whatever. Those tight knit relationships don't come around very often in Division I basketball, so it's kind of a unique situation.
Q. Guys, could you just talk about how you balance being excited to be here with the task of actually winning now that you are here?
DORIAN GREEN: We talked about that the other day at practice, just not getting overwhelmed by everything that we see here because this is our first time being here. So it's a lot of just focus. We talked about just having a good mentality and coming out just ready to compete and not being complacent with the fact of just being here.
So that's definitely one thing we're trying to balance because it is a new experience. So we're trying to take it in, but at the same time, still knowing that we're here to play basketball and to win two games this weekend.
Q. Have you seen the attitude of the team following that, just business like attitude here?
WES EIKMEIER: Yeah, I think the coaches have done a good job of kind of preparing this just like any other road game and a tournament that we're used to playing in. So overall, I think we're ready to compete.
Like I said earlier, we have some guys with quite a bit of college playing experience. So right now I like where the team's mind is at.
Q. Dorian, can you talk about what this team has done down the stretch, what the biggest difference has been in the last month of the season versus early in the year? It seems like you guys are really kind of gelled and are playing at a different level now maybe than you were.
DORIAN GREEN: I think it started when we actually lost those two games at TCU and at Boise. A lot of people looked at us like we had no chance to make it to this point. We played kind of with a lot of desperation.
We really came together, and we just knew we were going to have to battle each game. So we've taken just a game by game approach. We've been really business like, I think.
We just knew we were going to have to come together collectively and get things done. We just played better defense and just moved the ball on offense. I think we played more as a team than we had on both ends of the floor than we had the previous games of the year.
Q. Murray State's been a media darling, I guess, or maybe just a college basketball darling, flirting with the undefeated record, being a small school, and you guys come in as, A, an underdog, and, B, probably everyone wants to see Murray State win. What's your mentality like thinking about it in that aspect?
WES EIKMEIER: I think we're kind of used to this situation. We've kind of been looked at as kind of an underdog all year long. I know that the gym's probably not going to be in our favor tomorrow. I know they're pretty close to here.
Our conference tournament kind of prepared us for that a little bit. Our fans are outnumbered, as they are every year down in Vegas. So we're used to this kind of atmosphere. We're going to try not to let that stuff get to us and just concentrate on our game plan and the way we've got to play to win the game.
Q. Dorian, when you look at their frontcourt, what do you see on tape that's impressive?
DORIAN GREEN: The guard play is really good. They can shoot the ball well. They're always aggressive and on attack. They pressure the ball on the defensive end. It's going to take five guys on the defensive end to stop them. We've got to play as one on the defensive end.
Offensively, we just have to move the ball and be aggressive and attack them. When they're pressuring us, we have to be able to drive and create plays for each other. Especially on the defensive end, it's got to be five guys just flying around and guarding the screen and roll and boxing out and finishing possessions.
Q. Do you see yourselves on tape when you see them a little bit? The numbers sort of match up. The size sort of matches up. Do you see glimpses of yourself when you're watching them?
DORIAN GREEN: Yeah, a little bit. They're not extremely oversized. We are like that too as far as that is concerned. They play a little bit faster than we do, I think. They pressure a little bit more on defense. Just kind of looking on paper and just looking at them, we match up we feel like we match up pretty well with them.
THE MODERATOR: Any other questions for our student athletes here? All right, guys. Thanks for your time.
THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Colorado State head coach Tim Miles. We are going to open it up to questions from the media.
Q. Coach, would you just talk about the mind state of your team, how serious are they taking the task at hand?
COACH MILES: I thought we had a good practice. I think the guys are dialled in. Their attention level is really good when it comes to watching plays and actions of Murray State, they're starting to recite exactly what's going on, and that's always a good sign. But that's kind of what you'd expect too.
Q. Coach, talk about how the mindset of coming in here, and it's almost a home game for Murray State, but your guys, Wes and Dorian, were kind of talking about they're used to being the underdog, the underrepresented as far as fans, when they go to Las Vegas and things like that. Is it the place to be as the underdog, or do you talk about that?
COACH MILES: The underdog is always the place to be. We have not addressed it. I know they've fielded questions before. They have a way better answer than I have. I just let them speak for us on that one.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about Donte Poole and what he brings? Obviously, his relationship with the school.
COACH MILES: Donte is a kid that we've known for a long time. When I took the job, we've recruited him, signed him, and he's such a good shooter. He's a great kid. And his family's awesome. I'm just glad to see him do so well. He's a really tough player.
He gives them a nice one two punch with Canaan. Canaan gets a lot of praise rightfully, but that's a nice one two punch, you know. And Donte is a really good player, great transition, shoots it so well. That will be a tough matchup for us. We're going to have to get to him.
Q. Because of the way he the style at which plays and the way he plays, he obviously would have fit well with you. Do you see a similarity between them and the Rams?
COACH MILES: I always told him, you'll get any shot with me. You're going to love it. Donte is a young guy that there's certainly some things out there that I think offensively especially that are similar with both teams. And he's the kind of kid, though, any environment he's going to be in when he's on the offensive end, he's going to be a valuable weapon for a team.
Q. Coach, if you could talk about the journey for a second for people who don't know your team very well. It looks like you've been through a bit of a roller coaster ride, lots of wins early, went through bumps in the middle of the season. Just talk about how your players have developed and maybe how your team is than it was earlier in the season.
COACH MILES: When you talk about the journey from five years ago, I'd go into convulsions. So we're going to stop at that that and talk about the season.
We've had some injuries. Pierce Hornung did I pronounce that right? I was close. Pierce Hornung, is one of our best defensive players in our league. You need to see him play. Tomorrow when you see him play, you'll see his value to our team.
But he gets a concussion during the Stanford game when we're up 13 points, and we lose that game. And then we go 3 3 after that without him. Lose to Southern Miss at home the very next game, and then we lose to Duke and Northern Iowa, and we were just okay. That was the biggest problem I thought we had.
And then actually in our league we were okay. We had one little hiccup where Wyoming, we'd come off an eight game win streak in Wyoming, and New Mexico just boat raced us. That was just kind of a gut check time, and we were pretty good after that.
Q. Coach, I saw the celebration video where you talked a little bit about Isaiah Canaan and called him a pain in the butt. What is it about him that poses maybe a matchup problem for you all, or what do you really have to look out for?
COACH MILES: Hey, I say a lot of stupid stuff, so just the beginning. Isaiah is so we had to go against Jimmer Fred et last year, who was player of the year. There's a lot of similarities in terms of there's some things you can do. You can do everything you want, and it's still not going to be good enough.
He's still going to be able to score the ball and take over a game, and that's the greatest concern. Murray State has a lot of talent, they're well coached, they play great defense, they're very tenacious. But then you add him on top of that, and that's why they're whatever and one. I don't even look at it. I just know it's more than 30.
That makes him generally just a real pain in the butt, and that's not going away.
Q. Tim, can you talk about just what it means to be on this stage in your fifth year from where this program was when you took it to being here now today?
COACH MILES: This particular stage is higher than I thought it was going to be. I'm hoping I don't fall off the damn thing. Seriously, you could really get hurt if you go off this. Clearly, my feet are above your head. So that's high. That's the literal part.
The stage is great. It's good for our program, obviously. It brings some validity to what we've been saying for years. Kelly, how many times you've heard me say our goal is to win the NCAA well, that's the goal too. But go to the NCAA Tournament and win when we get there.
You kind of roll your eyes at me because we're 4 12 in the league, and we were. But that's still the goal. That's still what we're trying to prove.
And to be here is great, but we're here to also win. We're here to prove our worth and show people that we're a legitimate program and we're going to be around for a long time.
Q. Coach, your players just a few minutes ago said that they described themselves as ankle biters a little bit, and they kind of wore it with pride. What's the best adjective that you can think of to describe your team?
COACH MILES: I've said it all the time, those guys are a lot better than I am. Take their quotes and stick with it.
They're right. I don't know who used that. I think maybe Tom Kinsler of the Post used the ankle biter term. I think it was Chris, maybe it was Tom, though.
I think they kind of like that. That's painful. If you get bit down there, that's no good, especially without a sock. We'll see when we can get them.
Q. Coach, I'm told that you're a Smarty Jones fan, which certainly plays well here. Can you just tell me about that and the ball cap?
COACH MILES: In 2004, I was at North Dakota State, we were a Division II program and going to Division I. The president of the university invites everyone over for a Kentucky Derby party. You draw a name, and you get a horse, and I got Smarty Jones. Smarty comes around the corner and wins it.
Then we hear the story. The trainer was never in the Kentucky derby, never going to go to the Kentucky derby until he got a horse in the race. They won, and that's the story I heard. I thought, wow, we're going to Division I, that's a pretty good deal.
When I go as a horse, I want to get to the Division I tournament. I want to do the same thing. Went around, bought a Smarty Jones hat. Went around and told our guys at North Dakota State that. So we got ahead Wisconsin when we were nationally ranked, ahead of Marquette when we were nationally ranked. And I took the job at Colorado State and brought the cap with me. I wore it around just to remind me, when we get to the NCAA Tournament, we've got to have a horse in the race.
Just by chance, we end up in Louisville. I thought that was pretty cool karma.
Q. Coach, do you have much of an idea of how much you're going to be able to get out of Greg.
COACH MILES: I think Greg will help us. I think he'll be able to play. He's definitely slowed by it, and Greg will tell you the last thing he wants to be is slower. But at the same time, he'll be able to get on the floor and be productive for us, I hope.
THE MODERATOR: Other questions for coach?
COACH MILES: Thanks.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.
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