I think, just to open it up, our team is excited. I often call the NCAA Tournament the greatest show on earth because I believe it is. I grew up around the tournament. My dad was a college coach. I was at Final Fours running around. I watched Bird and Magic. I watched them all.
To be in this tournament is a privilege. Our guys are excited to be here. Obviously, like most games, early-round games, we've got a great game and a great matchup with Temple. So we're here, and we're ready.
Coach, what concerns you most about Temple?
First of all, you've got to start with Khalif and how dangerous he is as a guard. He scores a lot of different ways. He gets to the foul line. As we watched more and more of him on tape, you're trying to find that old-school guard that you can compare him to, and we had a hard time.
We were hunting for World Free or John Bagley or all these guys that were great players because he's a crafty guard. He really knows how to play, knows how to get to the line. We've got to do a good job with him.
And also with Temple, they're fundamentally sound defensively. Get their hands on a lot of passes, deflections, steals. You've got to be really strong with the ball. Obviously, they're very, very good, but I think it all starts with Wyatt.
Mark, for those of us who haven't seen your team as much this year, can you describe the caliber of defender that Lorenzo Brown is?
Lorenzo isn't a big, thick, strong, heavy kind of guard, but he's very intelligent. He's got long arms. He's another guy that can find ways to get a deflection late in the game right when you need it or a steal.
His size helps him, at 6'5". And he's had to guard some really good guards this year. We've played Marcus Smart at Oklahoma State and Trey Burke and Erick Green in our league and Shane Larkin. The list goes on and on of some awfully talented guards, and he's done a pretty good job against most of them.
Obviously, he's got to do that again tomorrow.
I imagine you've been asked this question before, but the 30th anniversary of Coach Valvano and what he did with the '83 team. You were talking about how you grew up around the Final Four. What do you remember about that year, and have you talked to your team about the 30th anniversary and the idea of doing something special on it?
We've not really talked to our team so much about that. I think most of them watched the show that came out, the "30 for 30," which was just fabulous.
There's so much tradition and history and so much reference regularly around our school to 1983. Now this year it's different because it is a 30th year anniversary, but that was magical. It was magical for NC State.
What Jimmy V. did and the run they had and how impossible it was and all the things that had to happen for them to win, it was an amazing thing. So our guys know about it. They watched the show. But I think they're interested in making their own history.
They tasted it last year a little bit. They wanted to do something special. So they're certainly aware of all that, but I think they're interested in trying to make their own mark right now.
How do you see Howell matching up inside against the likes of Lee, O'Brien, and Hollis-Jefferson?
I think that Temple's inside players are probably underrated. I know that their perimeter guys maybe do a little bit more of the scoring, but I really like how those guys play.
They're quick and athletic. They get to the rim. They rebound the ball really well. I think it's going to be a great matchup.
We're not a big team. We're not-- we don't have the 7-foot guys and 6'11". Richard Howell is 6-- we call him 6'8", but he's probably 6'6 1/2", 6'7" maybe.
We're not a big, imposing team. We can be pretty effective. I think those guys are very similar.
Like all of them, they seem to be very good defensive players as well.
After the Carolina game, you had a pretty big challenge there for C.J., and for the most part, he's responded. How do you feel like he's played since then?
I think that Calvin has played pretty well, and I think what happens sometimes, when you're a player that has a lot of expectations placed on him, which he does-- and he's a very good player in my opinion. He is watched so closely at times, and he's picked apart at times.
Other players can afford to have some ups and downs, and he really can't. When he has a down, we all notice it, even me, because my expectation for him is really high
But I think that he's finished the year really well. I think there was a time in the middle of the year when the ball stuck in his hands a lot. He just needed to move it a little bit more and get it back. I think he's moving the ball better now. So I think he's had a pretty good finish to the year.
Coach, obviously, different year, different team in some ways, but what do you-- what can you take from last year and carry over to this team? And is there a different type of message that you have to present? Because in a way this is a different team and this is a different year.
Here's what we all have kind of forgotten just a little bit. Last year the core part of our group, those four returning guys that have played a lot of minutes, at one time we were 5-7 in the ACC, and it was looking pretty bleak for everything. They responded in an amazing way, and we won four in a row.
Then we went to Atlanta, and we were able to win two and a really big win against Virginia. Then we got into the NCAA Tournament, and we were able to win two, and then play Kansas really tough.
And then the expectation rose really high, and nothing that we're ever going to shy away from. Hey, that's where we were picked, and we didn't meet that this year, didn't meet it.
And those guys have a lot of pride. I think they've done some amazing things in two years, but this year needs to be its own year, and they know that. Last year was a different team with the three guys that played a lot who aren't here anymore, and we've got a different group of role players.
So every team is different. This team is different than last year in a lot of ways. It's been different from the first day we got together, and I think they can draw on the experience, the veteran players, but they have to make their own history, this group. It's not last year anymore.
I guess that's the theme. You kind of repeated it twice. That's kind of what the theme is that you're telling them?
It is. This is your time for this particular team. Last year the excitement of getting in, it was right to the wire. Our team happened to be the last team that came on the board, which made more drama in the day.
We could have been in the first two picks, first two names on the board. We were actually the last name to be seen. So all that drama just built.
Then how we played, it just built, and it just kept growing. This year it's much different. Obviously, much different than that. These guys need to create their own mark, their own history, their memories from this particular team.
Obviously, Zo (Lorenzo Brown) and C.J. have both been good at different times. Do you feel like they've really kind of overlapped at the same time, really going at the same time? Obviously Zo's injury kind of got in the way a little bit of that.
Do you mean the fact they were up together and down together overlapped?
I think Zo started the season a little slow. Not to go back to last year, but 15 games last year, they drove the bus for you. Do you feel like this season that they've had moments like that?
Yeah, and I don't know that we've had a lot of moments this year where all four of those guys have been great together at the same times.
I do think here in the last 10 or 11 games-- I think we've won 8 of the last 11; I think I have that right-- I think we've seen more of it, where it seems even in the Virginia game in the ACC Tournament, where really everybody seems to be playing at a really high level. And for any team to be good, that has to happen. For us to be good, it has to happen.
There's enough of them that we've been able to survive if somebody's been in a little bit of a funk and up and down. Hopefully, right now, we can get all those guys playing at a high level here in the tournament.