Several North Carolina players, including Kendall Marshall, Tyler Zeller, Dexter Strickland, and Harrison Barnes, spoke with reporters the day before UNC's Elite Eight showdown with Kentucky.
The second-seeded Tar Heels and fourth-seeded Wildcats will face off at 5:05 pm with a berth in the Final Four against UConn at stake next weekend in Houston.
This is for Tyler. Ever since about, I don't know, six or seven weeks ago when Tyler Hansbrough was back in town for a game, it seems like your play is more physical, getting more and-ones and you get fouled and the ball gets to the rim a little more. Is that a signal point when things started to change?
TYLER ZELLER: Tyler, he's always been somebody I played against and learned from. But I don't think it had anything with him coming back. I think it was just kind of going through the season and I think I just started to become more assertive towards the end of the season and progressed from there.
This is for Kendall: Can you talk about the similarities or differences with your counterpart in Brandon Knight and what you have seen so far?
KENDALL MARSHALL: Brandon, he is a talented special player. He made a lot of big-time plays. I think he showed throughout his career what kind of player he is. He's the anchor of the team, the point guard, keeping them going. Two big shots in this tournament to keep the season alive, and I am looking forward to going up against him.
Dexter, in the first game were there any possessions you can recall where you ended up on Knight? If so, what do you remember about it?
DEXTER STRICKLAND: All I can say he is a special player. And I remember he likes to drive. I played him before and I think the adidas Nations Camp and I pretty much knew what type of player he was. And like I said, he's a great player. And there was some plays down the stretch where he drove to the basket and got and-ones and stuff like that. But I think we just got to go out there tomorrow and just play supportive defense and play the way we have been playing.
Are there any possessions where you actually ended up with him?
STRICKLAND: Off the screens and guard-to-guard screens. And Larry Drew pretty much played defense on him the whole game, but throughout the game there has been a little bit of switching and stuff like that.
Dexter, given what's happened to this team in the last 17 months, are you surprised you're one win away from the Final Four? And if not, why?
I am, especially the season we had last year. And just to have the season we had this year, it is a great feeling. We had some losses throughout the season. You know, with Larry and Will and stuff like that, but I just think that brought this team together even more. And the team chemistry I think is at an all-time high and I think it is key to our success.
This is for the three players that were here (at North Carolina) last year. I was wondering if you can talk about it, the three players and Tyler touched on it, what you learned last year you might have been able to take over to this year?
ZELLER: I think the basic thing we learned is how bad a season can go. Before the ACC we did all right. But the ACC play started and we plummeted. And then the NIT we were able to turn it around. But you can learn a lot based on how focused you have to be in every game, how prepared you have to be. And then the consequences of not doing that.
I think there were times we didn't prepare for games as well as we needed to, or we didn't take our scouting report and put it into the game. And you could tell in the game that we weren't prepared for the game. And they had advantages, which they shouldn't have had. So you learn a lot of things, and then I think we have done a great job of staying away from making those mistakes this year. And then just trying to do as much as possible.
STRICKLAND: I would same the same thing.
JOHN HENSON: Same thing.
This is for Harrison and Tyler: Coach has twice said Kendall gets the ball to you in the right position. Can you talk about the right position and what that entails?
ZELLER: The right position is when he throws me the ball and there is nobody within five feet of me (Laughter). No, when you are posting up you always have a certain frame of which you have an advantage against your defense, or just a place that, I mean, a difficult pass to make in which you can get the ball on the post and make a move. So it entails a lot of things and it is a very complicating thing. I can't really put a sentence on the right time, but it makes our jobs so much easier when we get the ball and we catch the ball cleanly in a position where we can score.
HARRISON BARNES: As a perimeter player Kendall does a great job of getting me the ball close to the three-point line opposed to earlier in the season. They were close to half court or 10 feet off the top of the key. So it makes it difficult to attack and difficult to get into a good shot. What Kendall's penetration does as a shooter, he allows me to get into a rhythm which allows me to make a lot more.