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THE MODERATOR: Happy to be joined by Villanova student‑athletes Ryan Arcidiacono and James Bell. Welcome to Buffalo. We'll open it up for questions.
Q. For both of you guys, what did you learn about playing in this tournament from your experience last year?
RYAN ARCIDIACONO: Last year we kind of got off to a slow start. It's great to be back for a second year just because we know what preparation is like the day before a game and the day of a game. So I think that's going to help us out.
As for the game, anything can happen. We were down 20 to North Carolina and came back in the second half, and we were fighting till the end. We just learned about the preparation pretty much.
JAMES BELL: We learned that we weren't going to quit, and we learned that it's a long game. We've got to be ready and focused from the beginning. Playing great teams at this point in the season, and they can jump on us, and it's just how we respond.
Q. You've had a week since you played now. Obviously, you want to keep playing in New York, but is there a positive having that time and kind of get some down time, getting off your feet for a couple days, and then getting back to practice and just having that little break?
RYAN ARCIDIACONO: I know for a fact that we would much rather have been playing in New York, but Seton Hall was a good team. They beat us. We just got back to work and practice. Each day we competed with each other and just tried to work the best we could both offensively and defensively.
But we wanted to get back on the court, and we're happy to be in Buffalo to play Milwaukee. JAMES BELL: We definitely don't want to lose. There are things that we took from that game that will help us now. Everything matters. Everybody counts. Everybody's a great team at this point. We understand that we're going to get everybody's best game, and they've got to get ours. So I'd rather it happen then than now.
Q. James, this is, I guess, your third trip here. You guys are still looking for your first win in the tourney. How hungry does that make you, having been knocked out in the first round or second round in each of the last two times you've been here?
JAMES BELL: It means a lot to me to get a win in the tournament. Being my senior year, you never want to go out. Somebody has to lose their last game, but you never want to go out like we have in the past.
But for us, if we play the way we're supposed to play, win or lose, that's good enough for me. We've just got to go out doing it the way we do.
Q. James and Ryan, did either one of you know anything about Milwaukee before you found out you were playing them? These past few days, what have you learned?
RYAN ARCIDIACONO: I would say, when we found out who we're playing, we're just happy to be in the tournament. We didn't really know anything about them. No one on our team saw them play, maybe one or two guys.
Definitely learned they're a tough team. They're scrappy. They've got a couple of good guards and big men that can play out on the perimeter and play with their back to the basket.
JAMES BELL: We didn't know much about them. Like he said, a couple of us saw them play in the Horizon League Championship. Besides that, we knew they're a great team to get to this point, and we were just focused on learning about them and seeing how they were going to play us.
Q. James, now that you're a senior and this is your last go round, do you feel a little more urgency to do it, have a long run here and really play the way you guys are capable of playing?
JAMES BELL: Honestly, no. I just feel like I, myself, have to get the team to play on the level that we're supposed to‑ playing hard, playing together, and playing smart. If we win or lose, we win or lose. But just my goal, as a senior and as a leader, is to get the team playing how we're supposed to.
Q. When Syracuse and UConn players were in here, they said they missed playing at the Garden in the Big East Tournament. I know it's disappointing for you guys this year, but what does it mean to you to represent the Big East?
RYAN ARCIDIACONO: I think it's just great. It's a great conference. We got four teams in this year. Everyone knows what happened with the whole split up, but I thought we had a great conference.
To finish it off at Madison Square Garden means a lot to everybody. As they say, it's the world's most famous arena. It was a good time up there. It's always fun to play up there. Hopefully, we can get back there, but we have to take it one game at a time.
JAMES BELL: We miss some of those teams, and I would see how they could miss playing in Madison Square Garden. We still have a great league, and it's just an honor to represent the Big East in the way that we are. We've just got to do it to the best of our ability at this point.
Q. James, you said get back to the way you guys should be playing. Can you say more about that and describe what that means for your team.
JAMES BELL: Playing for Coach Wright for four years, he wants us to be tough together and play with a sense of urgency and pride. Sometimes we don't do that at the start of the games. It takes a while for us to get going.
But me as a leader and being it could be my last game, I want to push my team to do that for 40 minutes. If we do, win or lose, it's good enough for us.
Q. Just with JayVaughn Pinkston? Can you say a little bit about what JayVaughn has brought to the team this year and how he's improved from previous years?
RYAN ARCIDIACONO: JayVaughn is just another player on our team who just plays hard. He's very versatile both offensively and defensively. He can guard guards and guard big men defensively, and offensively he can play either face up or back to the basket. He always has to be aggressive to score.
When he's in it defensively, he's a pretty tough guy to stop when he's playing 40 minutes.
JAMES BELL: JayVaughn is another guy that's been in this program for three years. He knows what we're doing almost inside and out. He just gives us more death. He can play the three. He can play the four. He can play the five leading into. JayVaughn just gets what we're doing, and that just brings us to another level, offensively and defensively.
THE MODERATOR: Guys, want to thank you for your time. Best of luck tomorrow. We'll have Coach Wright up here momentarily.
Now joined by Villanova head coach Jay Wright. Coach, welcome to Buffalo.
COACH WRIGHT: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We look forward to seeing your team play tomorrow.
We'll open it up for questions at this time.
Q. Jay, Josh and Kris seem to have had made a lot of progress this last season. What do you see in the progress they made and the confidence that they have? How do you see them fitting in now that this is their first NCAA Tournament game?
COACH WRIGHT: They've become a big part of our rotation. As you know, earlier in the year, Josh Hart came on, he had a little bit of a slump in the middle of the year. And then towards the end of the year, came on strong again. He's been a great spark for us off the bench. He scores. He rebounds. He's a great defender.
And Kris Jenkins is just one of those guys, he lost 40 pounds when he came in this summer. He's just gradually gotten better and better and better to the point now where he's doing a lot of little things. He was not making shots, which is really his greatest strength. He's one of the best shooters on the team. Now he's making shots and really become an invaluable part of our rotation.
So both of them are a big part of our team and hopefully going to be a big part of this tournament.
Q. Taj was just up here talking about how he hasn't won a tournament game since he's been with you. You know, obviously, his legacy is secure with what he's done, but how much do you think he kind of has that hunger to really get one of these, a couple of these, to make a nice run for him personally?
COACH WRIGHT: I think one of the things that happened in the Big East Tournament is I forgot how special this is to the kids because we've been doing this for a long time. But it helped remind me that no matter how many times we've been here to the tournament, to these kids, they want to win games.
Villanova has won a lot of games. James Bell wants to win. It's far more important to these kids maybe than I've remembered. I think it's far more important than any of us know. Especially to those of us that cover it, it's big. He wants to win. They all want to win an NCAA Tournament game, and I think it's a big part of their inspiration.
Q. When I hear you say you kind of forgot about what these games mean to these kids in certain respects, but did that loss to Seton Hall, I guess, maybe, was that the right jolt to the system for maybe you, for this team to sort of get back to what you were just talking about?
COACH WRIGHT: It was. It was definitely a jolt to our system. And not just the loss because Seton Hall played really well. They had a great game plan. They played intelligently. They made big shots. You could lose that game and be okay with it, but we didn't start that game ready to play, and that is the only game all year that we had done that.
I don't know what it was. I don't know if it was getting to New York. It seemed like everybody got awards. Danny Ochefu, Darrun Hilliard, James Bell was first team, JayVaughn Pinkston, everybody got something. Everybody was talking to us about playing Creighton, and we were saying to the guys and to everyone, We've got to play the winner of Seton Hall‑Butler first game.
It must have gotten away from us a little bit, but it shocked us. I can tell those guys learned a great lesson, and I can tell they've got a renewed focus and a fire in them that I think is going to help us.
Q. 30 years ago you got started in this whole coaching thing down in Rochester, and now you're back in Buffalo.
COACH WRIGHT: I remember I recruited Greg from Canisius Prep. I used to come here every night Anchor Bar, get wings. And that kid, what happened? He went to Canisius instead of University of Rochester. Greg Winik, I was in Buffalo for him every night.
Q. Being back in New York, talk about bringing this full circle, 30 years ago Rochester, today Buffalo.
COACH WRIGHT: The first time I ever coached was at University of Rochester. As everyone knows, it's big in upstate New York. We were just talking in the back, Alfred University right here, how big Division III basketball is up here in upstate New York. I think it's bigger than anywhere in the country. Games are on TV. Kids grow up in this area, they want to play Syracuse, Canisius, Niagara, St. Bonaventure. But if they don't go there, they want to stay at these Division III schools. It's big.
I was amazed how big Division III basketball is here. I worked for Mike Mears, still one of the brightest minds in the game. He coached over 30 years, and now he's at Hobart and took Hobart to the NCAA Tournament.
I love living up here. I love the wings. The one in Rochester or Anchor Bar in Buffalo, my favorites, but there's a lot of great spots. Jeff Van Gundy was playing at Nazareth when I was here. And John Beilein was coaching at one. It was a great time. I have a lot of good friends from up here.
Q. Obviously, you have a pretty special relationship with Phil Martelli. How much can you kind of empathize with what he's been through this year and fought through it? And also, how interesting would it be if you end up playing them in the next round?
COACH WRIGHT: You know, in Philadelphia, all of the coaches, it's a really strange dynamic. We want to kill each other in recruiting, in games. We really do. I mean, it could come to a point in the game where you could be rolling on the floor.
But when the game's over, we all do Coaches Versus Cancer together. We all know each other's wives. We all grew up in Philadelphia. We have a great deal of respect for each other and good friendships. We've all been there long enough that we've all had bad years and we've all had good years.
So you feel for everybody in coaching, but when the guys in Philly have a tough year, or especially those guys, I'm happy for them. I really am. I don't want to be over dramatic about it. I want to beat them every time we play them. I'm happy for them. They've got a good team. They do it the right way. They play smart basketball.
I know in Philadelphia, if we played them, it would be huge in Philadelphia. If we played them in the NCAA Tournament and this close, it would be big. No one knows except people who live in Philly how big that would be.
Q. Jay, to kind of build off that what you were talking about with Bob, can you talk to your team about guarding against that premise of playing St. Joe's and what that would mean. In a sense overlooking Milwaukee, you don't want to do that. Do you have to guard against that? That's the fun of this NCAA Tournament looking at the potential matchups?
COACH WRIGHT: No, that's not the fun of the tournament at all. It's really not. It's the challenge of the tournament. And I think the good thing is that, having lost to Seton Hall in the first round, our guys getting to watch film of Milwaukee.
If you watch film on them in their tournament run, you can see Jordan Aaron is a kid from the Bronx who these guys know guys like this. He can just take over a game.
Kelm and Tiby, those guys, they can really score. They're tough. McWhorter, their other guard is really good. They've watched enough film. They can't even think about that. They're very concerned about Milwaukee. Maybe it's a different kind of team, but when you watch that Milwaukee team, you can see we've really got our hands full. They're very focused.
Q. What is it like having to defend against a quick, speedy guard like Jordan Aaron?
COACH WRIGHT: You know, I'm really not excited about it at all. We've benefited probably as much as any coaching staff in the country from having great New York City guards. Even from back in our days at Hofstra, Speedy Claxton, who he reminds me of a little bit, and Corey Fisher and Allan Ray, he can get a shot off any time, and he can make bad shots. Those guys are scary. There could be a night where they miss them, and you're okay. But a guy that can get tough shots and make them is really scary, and that's what he is. He's so quick with the ball that it's hard to double him. That's why I said our guys see that. They have great respect for him. It's going to be a challenge.
Q. Do you see any of Bo Ryan's fingerprints on this team?
COACH WRIGHT: Yeah, a lot. They use all of their players on every spot on the floor. Everybody's skilled. Even their big forwards step out, shoot threes, put it on the floor, pass the ball. I see a lot. They're very tough defensively, pack line defense like Bo's teams.
And then at the end, they always have that one guy that kind of has the freedom at the end of the shot clock to go do his thing.
I think Bo has a reputation of being like a controlling coach when really there's always a guy on that team that's got the freedom to go. Jordan Aaron's like that. I think it's very similar to a Wisconsin team.
Q. Does it feel a little bit like a Big East reunion around here with all the other teams?
COACH WRIGHT: Yeah, it's very cool. My wife, Daryl, the A.D. at Syracuse, and Jim Boeheim, my wife and I spent an hour in the lobby last night talking about the ESPN special "30 for 30" and the old days. It's really cool to see Connecticut people. It's very cool. Q. How much more enjoyable has this season been for you? Not because you're winning and not because you're ranked, but the way this team is playing and the personality they've assumed. COACH WRIGHT: All of us coaches love every year. You love every team. They're like your children. But sometimes you have kids that are like your own kids. You love them. They're a challenge, but you love them. Then you have kids that are just easy. Sometimes they even go under appreciated because they're so easy. That's what this group was like.
It was a really fun year, kind of an easy year, no struggles. Just easy to coach. Fun to be around. They play unselfishly. It's been a thrill.
As I said earlier, if I made any mistake in the Big East Tournament, they were just so easy. I had so much confidence in them, maybe I didn't jump them enough to see it was possible they could be a little overconfident. And I feel bad about that because I want this team to keep playing as long as they can. It's a joy to coach this team.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much. Good luck tomorrow.