Chat with BracketBusters Participants
A total of 13 BracketBusters games will be televised on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN360 Friday and Saturday. For a complete television schedule, click here.
NOTE: Click on player name to be directed to start of that particular chat.
Below is a list of Thursday's guests (all times Eastern):
Noon -- Charles Lee (Bucknell)
Leads Bison in rebounding (6.0) and steals (54); 2nd in scoring (12.3)
12:30 -- Lamar Butler (George Mason)
Leads Patriots in 3-pointers (48); 3rd in scoring (11.5)
1:00 -- Paul Miller (Wichita State)
Leads Shockers in scoring (13.0), rebounding (6.6) and FG% (51.9)
1:30 -- Joah Tucker (UW-Milwaukee)
Leads Panthers in scoring (16.2); 2nd in rebounding (6.0)
2:00 -- Randal Falker (Southern Illinois)
Leads Salukis in rebounding (7.5), FG% (54.0) and blocks (39)
2:30 -- Ben Jacobson (Northern Iowa)
Leads Panthers in scoring (14.2), assists (3.5), 3-pointers (49) and steals (45)
3:00 -- Head coach Mike McConathy (Northwestern State)
Led Demons to only NCAA Tournament berth in 2001; 17-6 this season (10-1 in Southland)
3:30 -- Anthony Winchester (Western Kentucky)
Leads Hilltoppers in scoring (18.5) and 3-pointers (63); 2nd in rebounding (5.7)
4:00 -- Romeo Travis (Akron)
Leads Zips in scoring (13.8), rebounding (6.4) and FG% (51.2)
4:30 -- J. Robert Merritt (Samford)
Leads Bulldogs in scoring (17.5), rebounding (4.7) and 3-pointers (90)
Buzzmaster (11:56 AM)
Scott (Newark, NJ)
Charles! What made you choose Bucknell over any other schools recruiting you? Did you foresee a big turnaround from middle-top of the Patriot to Top 25?
Charles Lee (12:00 PM)
There's a couple reasons. The great academics. They offered a great deal academically, my parents are into that and so am I. The coaching staff also promoted the school very well. They had a great game plan in place. They saw where they wanted the university to go, and it looked like a great system that I could fit into.
Dennis Damaschke, Bucknell- 1976, Charlotte NC
for Bucknell's Charles Lee: Bucknell (and the other Patriot League schools) is better known as a great academic institution than as nationally ranked college basketball powerhouse. You have spoken about your personal experience freshman year when you chose to sit out basketball during the second semester to concentrate on "getting it together" academically. Looking back how did that experience shape you? and your relationship with your teammates and coaches?
Charles Lee (12:02 PM)
I think that experience was a bad experience, but had a lot of positives to go along with it. First, I learned to mature really fast. I came into school a little younger, so it took me some time to mature. But with help of my coaches and teammates, I was able to grow up real fast. The previous players who were here before me, sat me down, gave me some confidence and really played a mentor role in my development as a student. When it first happened, I was really concerned what my parents would say. But they were really supportive and that helped me a lot!
Aunt P, The Nations Capital
I'm bias (so viewers be patient with me)but Bucknell could not have been so successful without you. You are not only a winner 4 the Bisons but a winner with the family too. We are proud of U and love U! Go Bisons!
Charles you are having a very memorable College career, and Your Family is very proud of your accomplishments. How many different positions are you asked to play during the course of the game, and has that affected your game...pls explain
Charles Lee (12:04 PM)
I actually embrace it. I think it's a great chance for me to learn a lot about the game by playing different positions. Certain situations call for me to play certain positions and anyway I can help this team, I want to. So I play each one as hard as the next one.
Todd W. from Scranton, PA
Question is for Charles Lee. I've been to a couple of games this season and I have noticed how close your team is on the court. I am also a former BU football player and have heard through the grapevine that you guys are really tight off the court as well. How much of your success over the last two years can you attribute to this close bond?
Charles Lee (12:06 PM)
A lot of our success is attributed to this bond we have. Good teams usually have great chemistry and chemistry is something that this team has really shown. We've learned to trust each other, and to have confidence in one another.
Drew (Philadelphia, Pa)
Charles, congrats on a great season so far. Your squad is one of the few if not only have played both Nova and Duke. How do you see them matching up against each other? Also, as a player at a mid-major, does it bother you that most non-conference teams refuse to play you at home?
Charles Lee (12:08 PM)
That's a good question. I'll attack the mid-major first. It comes with the territory that a lot of the major teams don't want to play you at home. We've proved to be a good opponent on the road as well as at home. Teams are going to fear a team that's able to win on the road and pick up extra momentum at home. But we love to play and really don't mind if we're playing more home games or more away games. Since I've been at this university, we haven't played a lot of home games, so we're definitely used to that.
Charles Lee (12:09 PM)
Duke-Nova would be a great game to watch and I'd definitely tune in. Villanova has some really quick guards who can score at any time and big guys who complement them. Duke is a very sound team with great role players and a good inside-outside game, something that Nova kinda lacks. For me, it wasn't easy guarding any of their players but I'd love to see them play because they match up really well.
Charles, what do you think about your matchup against Northern Iowa on Saturday?
Charles Lee (12:10 PM)
We're very excited for our matchup with UNI. They're a great team in a great conference. And we're looking forward to going to their place and hopefully pick up a big win on a nationally-televised stage. This is definitely an opportunity we want to take advantage of.
Alex (Allentown, Pa)
Hey Charles, how is the campus of bucknell? What is the best part about playing basketball at bucknell?
Charles Lee (12:12 PM)
I think the best part about playing ball here is the great relationships that you build. As a basketball player, you're very well recognized, not only in town, but on campus. People welcome you with open arms and are always willing to sit down and talk - from professors to strangers, you can find lots of quality people to make lifelong friends with.
Helene Hoffman Coal Twp, Pa
Charles Lee - I sat nextto your uncle at a game. I hear he played for the Dallas Cowboys. When did he play?
Charles Lee (12:13 PM)
I'm gonna answer that's a good question. I don't remember the year. But when he came out of college, he went to camp with them, but decided to pursue other avenues and worked in the secret service for years. I guess I need to do more research on that.
Nate Poulin, West Chester, PA
Charles, congrats on a tremendous season so far, keep it up. I was wondering if you have a special ritual for your pregame warm ups that gets you into "the zone?"
Charles Lee (12:15 PM)
I don't really do anything every game except for after the National Anthem I pray, because I'm thankful to be able to play another game and to be blessed with the skills to play this game. I think that with all the hype that goes on during the game, it's college basketball, and I get hyped and I'm in the zone no matter what.
Mike Parker Chicago Illinois
As a player at a Patriot League institution, how difficult is it to balance academics, travel, basketball and social engagements? How do you budget your time to accomodate all these things? thank you for your answer, Good Luck vs Northern Iowa this weekend, I'm taking the drive.
Charles Lee (12:16 PM)
Thank you for taking the drive. We can use as many fans as we can get. It's very tough to balance all those things. But with maturity, you realize the time that you need to allot to every aspect. At Bucknell, they make it easy for you - the teachers are very understanding and are always willing to work with you when you have travel arrangements.
Brandon (Lawrence, KS)
Hey Charles, thanks for ruining my entire spring and summer last year! If you got to choose, where would you seed your Bison if the choices were 5-10?
Charles Lee (12:19 PM)
Oooh. Well, first we apologize for ruining your summer and spring. We don't really focus on where we would seed right now. Coming out of the Patriot League, we don't expect any at-large bids, so first and foremost, we have to focus on winning the tournament. If we can do that, we have to leave the seeding up to those that do that.
Kid Smith (Thurmont, MD)
This question is for Charles... I have been watching ESPN The Season religiously... I was wondering what it is like to have the cameras following you around?
Charles Lee (12:20 PM)
It's different. When I first came to Bucknell, we couldn't even get anybody to come to our games. So it's definitely a big turnaround and a big adjustment. But it's something we've been enjoying and taken it in stride. One thing I was impressed with our team about, was while the cameras were following us, I thought we did a great job of being ourselves. I think the world got to see the real Bucknell guys and not a bunch of phoneys.
john (perkasie, pa)
Charles, I'm sure you're going to hate having your career end at Bucknell at the end of this season, but you guys are starting to develop a great winning tradition at Bucknell. What can you tell us about next year's recruits ?
Charles Lee (12:22 PM)
Thus far, we have three guys committed to come here next year. All three are great students and have a lot of upside on the basketball court. Steven Tyree, Pat Behan and Zach (I can't remember his last name) - all three will be great additions to this team next year, and they'll have some great leadership to follow behind next year as well.
Are there any big time programs that you would have chosen over Bucknell if they had pursued you harder?
Charles Lee (12:23 PM)
Perhaps. But they didn't, so I'm very happy with the decision I made. Not a day goes by that I wish I had made another decision.
Michael M. Vienna, Va.
Charles. "RAY BUCKNELL" First let me say congrats and I listen to every game with my wife and 3 month old daughter dressed in her "real kids wear orange" Bucknell gear. My wife had a question but since she is taking care fo Lil' Katie I will ask for her. Lately we have noticed that the team seems to start of a little slow and eventually comes around and pulls off a W. Is this by plan (are you just wearing the other team down) or does it just take a while to get into the groove. Thanks and Good luck this weekend The whole family will be watching. You can do it!!
Charles Lee (12:25 PM)
Thank you for your continued support. And our sluggish starts is something we're addressing as a team. It's nothing that we planned out, especially on the road, you hate to see yourself fall behind early. But if we expect to be a good team, we have to overcome the early deficits and we have so far. Going into this weekend, we definitely feel that it's going to be important to get off to a good start.
What's up, Charles. Your Bucknell team is one of only five to win at the Peterson Events Center. What, if anything, as an opposing player, do you make of the Pitt team and their chacnes this year?
Charles Lee (12:27 PM)
From what I've seen so far, they're a very good team. I think that a lot of their young guys have come in and made an immediate impact. I think they have a chance to be a great team. They have a great coach, good leadership at the point in Carl Krauser. And they really go out and play hard. I wish them the best of luck!
Question for charles: I was wondering if your were single?
Charles Lee (12:28 PM)
I'm gonna pass on that one. That one would get me in lots of trouble.
Charles Lee (12:28 PM)
OK, I'll answer that....I'll just say no.
Charles Lee (12:29 PM)
Thanks for all your questions. Thanks for your sincere congratulations and Go Bison!
Buzzmaster (12:31 PM)
Dawn: Vienna, VA
Lamar: How huge is it to you personally that MASON is getting votes in the AP and ESPN polls?
Lamar Butler (12:32 PM)
It's huge for me and the team, just to be a part of history. This is the first time that we'll be in the Top 25, so it's something we'll remember forever.
Josh (Fairfax, VA)
Question for Lamar Butler: Lamar, Things seemed to get a little heated last night in your win over Drexel. Your teammate Tony Skinn was ejected from the game which would cause him to miss the WSU game, but I understand Mason is trying to get that ruling overturned. Have you heard anything on the matter being overturned, and how will it affect your team if it does not get overturned?
Lamar Butler (12:33 PM)
I haven't heard anything, and coach will probably brief us at practice. Obviously, Tony is a big part of our team, but that's the great thing about basketball. One of us won't be able to replace Tony's points, but collectively we can and we'll have to step up on Saturday.
Arash: Great Falls, VA
Lamar, I'm a student at GMU and just wanted your take on what you think you and your teammates have to excel at this Saturday in order to come out on top against Wichita State.
Lamar Butler (12:34 PM)
I would say defend and rebound better than we have. They have a good big man in Miller and a good backcourt.
Dan (Culpeper, VA)
No question, just want to say congratulations on an immense season and good luck Saturday against Wichita! I've followed Mason basketball for 10 years now, and this is the best team I've seen Larranaga coach so far.
Lamar Butler (12:35 PM)
Coach Larranaga is an excellent coach and this team is hungry after what happened last year. We just worked really hard and listened to coach on how we can get better as a team, and it's showing right now.
Nick DeSimone: Fairfax VA
I'M READY TO SEE YOU HEAT UP AND DROP 30 ON WICHITA STATE THIS WEEKEND! TIME TO TAKE CARE OF SOME BUSINESS.
Lamar Butler (12:36 PM)
They give me the shot, I'm gonna take it. But I'm gonna do whatever the team needs me to do to win.
Joey Butler(Fort Washington, MD)
To Lamar Butler Jr.: I'm his brother, I'm the starting Point Guard at Mount Saint Mary's Question: Did all those one on one games in the backyard help you with your game at George Mason?
Lamar Butler (12:38 PM)
Oh man. Actually, it did. I love my brother to death and I'm proud of him. He used to try to beat me up and I would try to bully him. And he helped me get to George Mason.
Mike, Fairfax VA
Lamar, you always hear about NYC and Chicago as being basketball hotbeds, but with Georgetown, George Washington, Mason, and usually Maryland having good teams, do you think the DC area is under rated in churning out top players and teams?
Lamar Butler (12:40 PM)
Oh, I would say so. You look at Steve Francis, Joe Forte, Keith Bogans, Delonte West, Eddie Basden, Mike Sweetney (a HS teammate of mine), Jarrett Jack. There's a lot of NBA players in this area and it definitely should get a lot of respect.
Lamar, How are John Vaughn and urbina doing during there recovery..will Vaughn be the same player he was as a freshman?
Lamar Butler (12:42 PM)
Oh we will. He's been doin sprints for the last week and a half. As far as individual work, he should be back on the court by the end of the year. Jesus looks faster since the surgery and they play one-on-one all the time, we call it the handicap game. No one has seen the fresh Jesus, he's been hurt the whole time he's been here.
Matt J: Fairfax, VA
How will the Witchita State half court defense affect our ability to shoot from the perimeter? Also, some students hear you give haircuts... is that true??
Lamar Butler (12:44 PM)
Yeah, I do give haircuts, just give me a call. With any good perimeter defense, you won't be able to get a shot early, but we work until we get the shot we want. You just have to be patient.
(Mom)Ft. Washington, MD
For George Mason's Lamar Butler--Dear Son, no doubt that you've had and continue to have a successful year as a player at GMU. You have developed into a wonderful young man that all are so proud of. Your success would not be possible without Coach L, others from the GMU coaching staff, and Coach Dad! THANK YOU...GMU! And the best is still yet to come. What are some of your greatest memories or highlights at GMU. What's next on the horizon?
Lamar Butler (12:46 PM)
My best highlight...wow...when I played my first collegiate game, I was like 'wow, I'm really here at college'. I owe everythin to my father, he worked with me from the day I was born, and Midnight Madness was this year's highlight because I got to give my shirt to my dad. I'll have to wait until after the season to see what's in store after the season, but you'll be the first to know, mom!
Cristeven (Alexandria, VA)
My question is for GMU star, Lamar Butler: Congrats on getting that 20th win this week. How has Coach Larranaga kept you and your teammates focus in a competitive CAA conference this season? Keep up the good work and hope to see the Pats on Selection Sunday!
Lamar Butler (12:47 PM)
Thank you! Even though we've won 20 games, we don't have any banners in the gym yet, so it doesn't mean anything. This team is focused to put some banners up in the Patriot Center.
Who do you think will win CAA player of the year?
Lamar Butler (12:48 PM)
I would have to say it's a tossup between Gary Neal and Jose Juan Barea. Barea requires your entire team to check him. And I didn't get to play against Neal with a foot injury, but I've seen highlights and he's very good.
Kurt: Vienna, VA
Lamar: Who will be the X Factor when we get the W in Kansas on Sat.
Lamar Butler (12:50 PM)
Will Thomas. He doesn't get a lot of credit, because of Jai, but his defense in the post and rebound ability is excellent for a sophomore, but he doesn't get the credit he deserves...so I'm gonna give it to him now!
Who is toughest opponent in the CAA and comment on the strength on the league? Best place to play in the league?
Lamar Butler (12:52 PM)
No doubt it's UNCW. There team defense is excellent and their motion offense, they have so many plays you can't completely scout them. And they're tough mentally, which is an excellent combination to have. Best place to play - I like hostile environments, so I would say Wilmington is the best. I love talking to the fans, hearing what they have to say.
For Lamar Butler, Lamar, Are there any of coach Jim's "Thoughts for the day" that have stuck with you, or that you have found useful during a particluar game?
Lamar Butler (12:54 PM)
During a game...that's a good one. I wouldn't say during a game, but over the course of the season. The first one he gave us on the first day of practice was 'Begin with the end in mind'. That's probably one that sticks with me, because it's a journey and you have to take it one step at a time. You have to remain calm, poised and keep your head level.
How does being a celebrity at school affect your interaction with non-athletes that treat you like their hero?
Lamar Butler (12:55 PM)
I wouldn't use the word celebrity, but it's fan. The fans here are amazing. They love George Mason and they love basketball. I love talking to the fans and seeing a fan smile means we're all doing our job as a team and it makes me feel good.
Cathy - Melbourne, FL
Lamar Butler: Lamar, GMU Class of 89' down here in Florida. I follow you guys on the internet and am real impressed with the team this year. How does it feel to be a part of a team that can make GMU history? and what other schools recruited you out of high school? GOOD LUCK...
Lamar Butler (12:57 PM)
I flirted with Maryland a little bit, drew some interest from Georgetown...Tony Bethel and Drew Hall were already going there. I almost committed to Xavier, but Skip Prosser left and went to Wake. GW recuited me and T.J. Thompson but Penders sat out a year and went to Houston, so here I am.
Lamar, how hard is it to find that balance between school and your bball career? i.e. keeping the grades up while focusing on games.
Lamar Butler (12:59 PM)
I don't think people understand how hard it is. It's like a job, you go to the weight room, study hard, get some extra shots, next thing you know it's 8:00 and you have to eat, study some more and you go to bed at 1:00 and get up the next morning. Coach really teaches us to do what's important and get your priorities straight.
Lamar Butler (1:00 PM)
We really appreciate the support. The fan base has drastically improve over the years. Even in the down years, they were there, but this year it's been great. Keep up the support and we're not done yet!
Buzzmaster (1:00 PM)
Teresa (Wichita, Ks)
For Paul Miller: What has been the most memorable game you have played in over your career at Wichita State? What are your plans after college?
Paul Miller (1:02 PM)
The most memorable game is either the Florida State game in the NIT my sophomore year or the most recent game with Creighton. As far as my plans, I'm looking to go play somewhere professionally. After that, I will hopefully get into commercial real estate.
Peter (Boulder, Colorado)
Paul - Did you go to a big man camp last year? You've improved so much, especially in your aggressiveness, I just wondered what you did to progress so quickly?
Paul Miller (1:03 PM)
I worked hard in the summer and in August I went to a big man camp in Las Vegas. It gave me some confidence and some things to work on and improve my game.
Brad (Chicago, IL)
Paul, we already know the Valley's RPI is extremely strong, does that make these games that much more important for the conference since the tournament committee looks at the RPI as one of their tools for selecting at large teams?
Paul Miller (1:04 PM)
I think teh BracketBuster is a good way to measure ourselves against other conferences. It takes us out of conference and puts us against an opponent that doesn't know us very well. On Saturday we'll have a bunch of Valley teams playing against other conferences. The more games that we win, the better we'll look. For the other teams trying to make the tournament, it will make them look better.
Dave (Orlando, FL)
Question for Paul Miller: Paul, I'm a Shocker living in Florida. It's been a long time since WSU basketball has generated this much buzz. It's great to see. How is the city responding, and what is Coach Turgeon doing to keep things focused on the prize? Go Shocks!
Paul Miller (1:06 PM)
Basically, the team has evolved and grown, the city has embraced the team. We're selling out the games. It gives the players a big lift. It gives us a homecourt advantage. Coach has done a good job of keeping our heads level. No matter what everyone else is telling us, we have to keep listening to him. As long as we do that, we're going to be fine.
Chris D. (Wichita, KS)
Question for Paul Miller: The Paul Miller bashers (not I) say you are clumsy and slow and you can't defend an athletic big man like a Paul Davis or James Augustine. Do you have anything to say to them?
Paul Miller (1:07 PM)
I don't know. I guess I say, those players are good and it's hard for any one person to stop them. I've never been one to take interest in what other people say. It's more what the coaches say. And that's what I focus on.
Miguel R (North Haven,Ct)
Question for Paul Miller. Great Season thus far with more work to put in before we can celebrate. At what point this season did you feel this could be a special season for the ShockerNation? Thanks
Paul Miller (1:09 PM)
I think since the season began, we had a feeling that this could be our year. I think we believed that. It's not just something we've been hoping for. That's helped us produce our results so far. There's lot of stuff we want to accomplish. We have three big games left and we're focusing on them.
Dan (Wichita, KS)
Paul, two words: student section. What does it mean to you to have so much support from your fellow students?
Paul Miller (1:10 PM)
The student section has been great. Not just this year, but probably the past three years. They've given us a lot of support. It's gotten more popular to go to the games. As a college student-athlete, it means a lot to have our fellow students cheering for us. We want our university to be recognized and be successful.
Chris (Denver, CO)
Paul, Where's the toughest place to play in the Valley?
Paul Miller (1:11 PM)
I'd say the place is Southern Illinois and a close second would be Creighton. You feel confident going in, but it seems like you look at the scoreboard and you're not winning.
Bob (Tysons Corner, VA)
Question for Paul Miller. How do you plan to defend against GMU big man Jai Lewis 6' 7" 275lbs?
Paul Miller (1:12 PM)
We haven't gone over our scouting report yet. He's quite a load down there. He's got a huge body and is aggressive. I imagine we might have to double team him to take his effectiveness away.
Dien Truong (Wichita, Ks)
Question for Paul Miller. How good do you think PJ will be by his senior year, and how do you think the team will do without you next season?
Paul Miller (1:14 PM)
The team will be fine without me. We have some guys coming up that are going to be able to get better and go into next year. We definitely have the players to replace me. PJ, the sky's the limit for him. He is a great defender. Offensively, he can go a lot of things. If he continues to work hard and improve, who knows how good he can be. He might be league MVP.
Paul (Wichita, KS)
Paul, how's it feel to be on the winning side of the buzzer beater?
Paul Miller (1:15 PM)
It feels great. Our teams have been a victim of 5-6 buzzer beaters in my time here. To finally come out on the winning end, it just feels great. It's one of my most memorable games in my college career.
Jason (Wichita, KS
You guys were picked fifth in the preseaon MVC poll, did you guys take that as a slap in the face and if so, how has the team used that as motivation? GO SHOX!
Paul Miller (1:16 PM)
It's been one of our rallying points the whole year. We looked at that going into the season. I don't think it's a slap in the face, looking on paper, we have a lot of good teams in the Valley. But at the same time, we use it as motivation as a chip on our shoulder. Let's prove these people wrong.
Ryan (Wichita, KS)
Paul, you get to practice against Ryan Bradley every day in practice. How do you think he is progressing and do you feel he will be ready to play a major roll next year?
Paul Miller (1:17 PM)
Ryan's improved everyday this year. He's learning a lot. I see Ryan as being a guy that will be able to help this program out. He's got a great work ethic. He comes to practice with a great attitude. If he keeps working hard, he will help this team in the future.
Jonathan P. (Wichita, KS)
Paul, how excited are you, with two games left in The Valley, that you guys are in the driver's seat to win the regular season title?
Paul Miller (1:18 PM)
This is the spot you want to be in. You want to have your destiny in your hands. I think it's an opportunity that I've been waiting for for four years. To go into the last two games and be able to win a championship is what I've been dreaming about. If we stay focused, we'll have a chance to do that.
Jay (Wilmington, NC)
Paul, how much of an impact do you think it will have on George Mason Saturday to not have their top player (Tony Skinn) in the lineup?
Paul Miller (1:19 PM)
I haven't heard anything about not having their top player, so I don't know. But any team that has one of their top 5 out of the lineup, it's going to have an impact. It'll change what they do.
Jon Wichita, KS
Paul Miller, Since you did not get to contribute as much as normal in the Creighton game will this motivate your play against GMU? How will you approach a good team that you are not really familiar with?
Paul Miller (1:21 PM)
I think the Creighton game, I was in foul trouble most of the game and they played a zone the entire game. That limited our effectiveness inside. Depending on what kind of defense GMU plays, that will influence my role. I will approach this game like I do every other game. I will do whatever I need to do to help the team win.
Mike (Wichita, KS)
Paul, speaking of league MVP, there is talk you will probably win it if the Shox do win the Valley title.. How important is that to you and if you don't win it, who should?
Paul Miller (1:23 PM)
To me, the only thing I'm concerned about is winning the Valley title. When I came to WSU, my goal was to help WSU get to a championship. Whatever achievements anyone on our team gets, will be secondary to the championship our team could win. This league has a lot of great players. You have 4-5 teams that have played outstanding and each team probably has 1 guy that could get that award. I don't know who should get it. I look around and there are plenty of good players. Whoever they go with, they can't go wrong.
Paul, Who are the best centers you've faced in the MVC?
Paul Miller (1:24 PM)
The best centers are Grant Stout from Northern Iowa is a really good one. They have Erik Coleman, who's a good player. Anthony Tolliver of Creighton is an outstanding player. And Patrick O'Bryant of Bradley, being 7-feet tall is a tough matchup and a good player.
R. Kelley, Wichita
Paul, terrific year so far. Kyle Whelliston (ESPN) said that Wichita State is the 'ultimate lunchpail squad.' The stat's for the squad are pretty well dispersed among team members, and you generally play 8 deep most games. Is the team well rested at this stage of the season and ready for a run?
Paul Miller (1:26 PM)
Yeah, we've been able to avoid injuries so far. I think our team has been really balanced. We've had several different people lead us in scoring. Whoever's hot could be our go-to guy for that game. Coach recruits players that can do a lot of different things. He's done a good job of meshing players well. We're able to go out and play basketball. Whoever scores, scores. It's not left on one person's shoulders to get the job done.
Ryan (Wichita, KS)
Paul, I know you have been focused on each game at the time. But, since I don't get to ask this question often I will ask now LOL. Should you make the NCAA tourney is there any team in particular you would like a chance to go up against?
Paul Miller (1:27 PM)
No, there's probably 20 teams I'd like to play. I don't have one choice, but I'd just like to be in the tournament, regardless of who we play. I haven't been in the tournament in my career.
Clint (Berkeley, CA)
If you had to describe the MVC to someone who wasn't familiar with it how would you do it?
Paul Miller (1:29 PM)
I would describe it as skilled players and great coaching. Our league might not have the biggest, tallest, strongest players, but we have players that can pass, shoot and dribbled the basketball. We have coaches taht have great systems. That makes for great teams and a great conference.
Bryan (Southern Illinois)
Paul, as a Saluki alumni, congratulations on your outstanding games against the dawgs. With that being said, which team in the valley do you feel has the best defense?
Paul Miller (1:30 PM)
I would say as far as the defense as a whole, you have to look at Southern Illinois as a team that can really shut it down. Their guards are relentless at pressuring you. I think that Northern Iowa has a great defensive team. They have a great game plan and execute well. It makes it hard for teams to do what they want.
Paul Miller (1:31 PM)
Thanks for all the questions. I think the MVC is a great league and I'm happy that this year it's been able to get some national attention. Hopefully this Saturday we'll be able to showcase our league and show how good it is.
Buzzmaster (1:32 PM)
Our thanks to Paul and the folks at Wichita State! Next up we have Joah Tucker from UW-Milwaukee.
Thayer (Wilmington, NC)
Joah Tucker (1:36 PM)
I think with a combination of the returning seniors and a new good coach, I think we have a great shot. I think the experience we got last year was priceless.
Hey Joah, with Butler gaining the inside track for the regular season Horizon League title you must be worried about playing for an NCAA tournament berth at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Joah Tucker (1:37 PM)
That's definitely why we're trying to get the tournament here. I don't know if it's sealed that it will be there. If it is, unfortunately, we'll have to go down there and fight it out.
Hey Joah, Tough loss last night. How important will the health of Adrian Tigert be if you guys want to make another run in the NCAA tourney?
Joah Tucker (1:38 PM)
I think his health will be very vital to our success. He does a lot of things for us. We don't have a guy on the bench that can do the things he can do. His contributions are very important.
Nathan (St. Louis, MO)
Joah, What type of style do you expect from Missouri State, and what are your thoughts on the Missouri Valley Conference, comparing it to the Horizon? I'll be at the game this Saturday, hopefully we can celebrate a W at McGillicudy's after the game. Go Panthers!
Joah Tucker (1:39 PM)
I actually played in the MVC my freshman year, so I'm familiar with it. I'm just excepting a solid team. I'm not sure what style they'll play but they'll be ready.
Who is your coach this year after Bruce Pearle?
Joah Tucker (1:41 PM)
The coach is Rob Jeter this year. After learning one style for three years, it's a transition. We're moving on and learning. With me being a 5th year senior, I'm kind of set in my ways, but we meet in the middle and mesh and that's all about winning games.
Missouri State seems to be a great match-up for your panters, who do you see being the biggest threat for the bears?
Joah Tucker (1:42 PM)
I think the MVC is set to get multiple teams in the tournament. Any matchup we can get will be good for us. Some of these teams we've played so many times, everyone's used to the personnel. It'll be good to get out and play against a different team.
Joah, First off, it's been a joy watching you play and progress over the last three years ... thank you! Playing the swing offense this season, what has been the biggest adjustment for you and/or your teammates? Also, do you feel there was an "unrealistic" expectation on you to put up 20-30 ppg this year after your fabulous performance in last year's NCAA Tournament? Most if not all of your numbers are up this season, yet there's a perception out there that you are having an "off-year." Thanks again, Joah ... and here's to another successful March!
Joah Tucker (1:43 PM)
For me, the adjustment is finding the way to drive. It's so packed inside, you have to find a lane to the basket. I like to drive. It's more packed in the middle with our offense. We spaced it out more in the past. So I'm working on a different aspect in my game. It's been difficult at times, but it's helped me polish my game up.
Joah Tucker- What was that run like in the NCAA Tournament last year? Do you think that experience will help you this year?
Joah Tucker (1:45 PM)
I think the run was amazing. Coming up as a kid, everyone watches March Madness, it's something you dream about as a kid. It did tremendous things for our program and my teammates and I. Some guys go for 5 years in college and don't get the opportunity to go to the NCAAs.
Krieg (Fond du Lac,WI)
Joah, How do you think that this years team compares to the team from last year that made the sweet sixteen. Go Panthers!
Joah Tucker (1:46 PM)
I think we match up nicely. We had 7 seniors returning. We're missing two guys from last year. We matchup well with that team.
Michael (Milwaukee, WI)
Joah, what are your plans for after you graduate
Joah Tucker (1:47 PM)
I'm getting my degree in marketing. I only have a few credits remaining. I'm going to take basketball as far as I can take it.
what is it like playing big time schools in there gym
Joah Tucker (1:48 PM)
I think when we go to the so-called high major schools, it just shows us what their place is like. But here in Milwaukee, we have some nice facilities. At the big schools, there are more season ticket holders. But we like the atmosphere in Milwaukee. One thing that I noticed too is that the media rooms are a lot bigger. A lot more cameras.
Mr. Mom (Stuck In A Snow Drift, WI)
Joah, who do you think is the Panther's toughest matchup in the Horizon League.
Joah Tucker (1:49 PM)
Our toughest matchup. Hmmm. I would probably say Wright State. They have a talented big. They have a point guard that's extremely talented.
Hey Joah, How much disappointment would you feel if the panthers would not make the NCAA tournament?
Joah Tucker (1:50 PM)
It would be a huge disappointment. You can't set your standards any lower than last year when we made the Sweet 16. If we didn't make that, it would be a huge disappointment.
Chris Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Joah, have you and Chris Hill and A.T. felt like you guys really have to step it up this year in a leadership role. Since you have had success last year and the younger guys look up to what you have done?
Joah Tucker (1:52 PM)
Most definitely, we felt like we had to step up. We've had some new guys. We help to educate those guys for now and the future. When I came, we had a lot of older guys to teach me. It's our job as older guys to teach the younger ones. There's a lot of stuff from playing games, that you can see developing. You try to teach that to the younger ones.
Jake in Milwaukee @ Uwm
Who do you think is your biggest rival in the horizon league? (UWGB grad)
Joah Tucker (1:53 PM)
Green Bay is a big in-state rival. Their gym is always packed. As far as rivals, it would be Green Bay. I think I've lost twice there. I don't know if I've won up there.
Jose Los Angeles, CA
Joah, What ever happened to Rick Stimac and your other teammates from the Wisconsin Playground AAU team?
Joah Tucker (1:55 PM)
That's funny that that came up. My coach moved from Milwaukee. I still keep in contact with him. My cousin is at Hawaii. Jason is playing at Wisconsin. We had the two Dieners. I don't really know what year you saw, but I played with a travelling group of guys when I was 6-8. A lot of my teammates are around Milwaukee these days. Got their degrees and are just working. But a lot of us went on to play D-I basketball. We used to play a team from L.A.
Kaz (THE UWM)
Joah, if the voting was right now, who do you feel would be Horizon League Player of the year?
Joah Tucker (1:56 PM)
I think they would have to pick a player off the first-place team. I would hope it would be me. I've worked hard to put myself in that position, but that's up to the committee.
Hey JT who are your room mates?
Joah Tucker (1:57 PM)
We actually live in a house with 6 teammates: Chris Hill, Paige Paulsen, Mike Bendall, Jason McCoy, Boo Davis, Kevin Massiah. We call it the White House.
Kevin (New York)
Who is your pick for Player of the Year? Morrison or Redick?
Joah Tucker (1:58 PM)
I think it would give it co-player of the year. Those guys are doing unbelievable jobs for their teams. I watch those guys a lot. I think someone would be cheated if they only gave it to one. They're fighting back and forth for the scoring title. There's no better time for co-players of the year.
Dan ( Milwaukee, WI)
Joah, what do you feel are your weaknesses as a team, and what are you going to have to do to shore that up to make another run in the tournament?
Joah Tucker (2:00 PM)
I think we could improve on defense, our communication. Overall toughness. We have some guys that have been there before and know what it takes. Something that we've experienced in our losses is coming up with big plays. We really need to work on that.
Joah Tucker (2:00 PM)
Thanks for the inquiring about UWM basketball and Joah Tucker. Go UWM.
Randal Falker (2:02 PM)
Randall...You have shown tremendous improvment since last year. Heck since the beggining of the season. What has been the key to you lifting your game??
Randal Falker (2:03 PM)
First of all, the guards are getting a lot of attention and that helps me out, and I've been getting healthier and take care of myself, and playing smarter.
Russ (Jacksonville, FL)
Randall, What is the biggest thing that you need to do to stop La Tech's big man? THIS GUY IS A MONSTER (He has put up Gawdy numbers)? GO DAWGS
Randal Falker (2:04 PM)
Definitely play strong. Block him out. He's a great player and I have to start preparing today and match his intensity all game long.
C. Dean (Wichita, KS)
Hey Randal Falker, do you catch a lot of static pertaining to Greg Focker (Meet the Parents/Fockers) and how similar your name is?
Randal Falker (2:05 PM)
All the time. They chant at me on the road and they are trying hard to get into my head.
Clint (Berkeley, CA)
Randal, first off congats on another great season. With such a young team, who is the leader in locker room?
Randal Falker (2:06 PM)
I'd say Tony Young and Jamaal Tatum. They've stepped up this year.
Matt: Champaign, IL
Randall: Have you had you're vertical jump measured? Why do you wear #14? Any significance?
Randal Falker (2:07 PM)
I wear No. 14 because it's the first number I ever got. My vertical? Measured it once and it was about 31 inches. I was a little tired, though!
Russ (Jacksonville, FL)
Randall, Can you discuss the impact of having made the Dance the past few years, and even though this team is young, you have been there before, and the experience that this team has? GO DAWGS
Randal Falker (2:08 PM)
That experience is going to have an impact. We know what the competition is like, and every game is like the last game because one loss could determine whether or not you get into the tournament.
Ryan (Wichita, KS)
Randall, the Valley is strong this year obviously and could get 4 or 5 teams in the big dance. What teams do you see as having the best chance in the NCAA tourney?
Randal Falker (2:10 PM)
Wichita State, UNI, Creighton, maybe Bradley. Indiana State has been beating people. Tough league top to bottom and a lot of teams have a shot.
Hey Falker, do you play March Madness 2006? And how cool is it to be yourself in the game?
Randal Falker (2:11 PM)
I don't play a lot but a lot of people tell me about it. I'm more into racing games and first-person games. That's my style.
Randal, despite the loss at Bradley on Tuesday, how do you feel about this team and where you are at this point in the year in what was supposed to be a "rebuilding year?" GO DAWGS!!!!
Randal Falker (2:12 PM)
We have a good team and had some setbacks, but we've always believed we could be good and just kept playing hard. That's our biggest asset, our competitiveness despite the ups and downs.
Matt (Champaign, IL)
Who is the toughest big man in the Valley that you go up against?
Randal Falker (2:13 PM)
Has to be Paul Miller. He's big, strong and can shoot. He has the complete package and can dominate. We have a good big man but he gave us trouble.
Francis (Springfield, MO)
Randall, How long does it take to do your hair?
Randal Falker (2:14 PM)
If I do it myself it'll take around two hours. If I get some help it's about the same. But it's easy to keep up and I don't have to do it often.
Go Salukis!! Randall, what do you feel is the biggest concern for your team to reach the tourney?
Randal Falker (2:16 PM)
Being consistent in how we defend. We have to stay focused and keep up what we've done so far this year, not have any letdowns because one loss could be very bad for us.
Brady (Omaha, Nebraska)
For the past three years SIU has owned Creighton. The last time they won was in the MVC tournament championship game. With Creighton's recent success in St. Louis what do you and some of your teammates feel about meeting up with them again in the conference tourney - worried or confident?
Randal Falker (2:17 PM)
You can never be overconfident in this league. Anyone can beat you and you never know who will, so you have to go out and focus hard in every game and not be distracted.
Matt (Champaign, IL)
Your free throw shooting has certainly improved this year, are you taking a different approach or is the improvement just a result of more practice?
Randal Falker (2:18 PM)
Coach helped me with my free throws and I changed a few things to make it a better shot overall.
Randall, it seems that you shoot more often left handed than right, with the exception of free throws. Is there a reason behind this?
Randal Falker (2:20 PM)
My left hand is actually a little bigger than the right, and shooting things like jump hooks is a little easier that way. Around the basket I prefer the left, but I can still make them with my right!
Mom & Dad Falker
Randal, Mom & I are really proud of your maturation and success as a student & player. We pray you will continue to grow both on & off the court. Our question is.... Has all the bike riding paid off? Go Salukis!
Randal Falker (2:21 PM)
Yeah. I now have my legs down the stretch when I need them and a lot of that has to do with Dad and his 40-mile bike rides in the St. Louis heat. It's paid off!
Kyle ( Wichita,KS)
Randal!,Im From Wichita And How Do U Think YOu Match Up With There?
Randal Falker (2:23 PM)
We worry about everyone right now. But as far as matching up, they are a good team all around and both teams have their strong points, so it'll just come down to which team does a better job making shots.
Would you say that the weight room has been a second home for you since you have started playing at the college leval? Plus do you think it has changed the type of player you are
Randal Falker (2:24 PM)
Definitely. Where I play you need a lot of strength, especially because a lot of guys are bigger than me.
Mark Woodridge, Illinois
Randal, First off congrats on a great season. Describe the play of Bryan Mullins and how he's stepped up and in to the starting rotation.
Randal Falker (2:26 PM)
He had a tremendous affect on our team. He runs the point and can get open shots for guys, and I expect great things from him now and in the future.
Randall, With all this attention for your great play in the post, do you feel more pressure when you get on the court to produce more rebounds and points than in the past. I really like your positive attitude after losses. I think it is a strength to not be too low or too high. Keep up the great work.
Randal Falker (2:27 PM)
I'm just trying to do what it takes to win. If that means rebounding, scoring or playing good post defense I'll do it. Whatever it takes.
Troy (St.Louis, MO)
randal, whats your favorite post-game meal?
Randal Falker (2:28 PM)
I always eat chicken breasts with potatoes. That's our thing. Thank you all for talking to me and I hope to see you down the road!
Ben Jacobson (2:30 PM)
Justin Dougherty ,Iowa
Ben Jacobson, How much of a difference does Eric Crawford make to the team, coming back from injury?
Ben Jacobson (2:31 PM)
It's given us a good lift becauase he does so many things and is one of our most complete players. He's not 100 percent yet but we're glad to have him back and hopefully he can work back into game shape soon and be at full strength.
Chris (Denver, CO)
For Benny J: Congrats on the great season so far!! The Panthers are in the thick of one the most hotly contested conference races in the country, is it hard to step out of the Valley to play Bucknell right now, or is this a welcome change of pace?
Ben Jacobson (2:33 PM)
We just take it one game at a time and over the last two games we've had some heartbreaking losses when we had the chance to win. It'll be good to get our minds off the conference for a little while, to get on national TV against a ranked Bucknell team.
Todd (Springfield, MO)
This is for Ben Jacobson, If you had to pick a team besides your own to win the MO-Valley conference tournament who would it be and why?
Ben Jacobson (2:35 PM)
Wichita State has a very talented, balanced team with a quick point guard and some good shooters. Paul Miller is good inside, too. Creighton is well-coached and can take you out of what you want to do, and SIU plays with a lot of pride and intensity and have been able to win a bunch of games with defense. They all have a shot.
Micah (Cedar Falls)
Hey Ben, great season so far. The entire teams 3 point shooting has been down the past few games and is that due to tired legs from playing so many minutes this year or is everything feeling good and they just arent going in. Good Luck on Saturday! GO PANTHERS
Ben Jacobson (2:37 PM)
It's hard to say exactly why that is. Guys have had to play extended minutes with Crawford out and we have a bit of a short bench anyway. We've had some other guys down, too, and we've fought through some adversity, so that might be part of it. We might also just be in a cold streak. But we've still been able to win some games and hopefully these tough losses will help us here down the road.
TC (Cedar Falls, IA)
Hey Benny, I was wondering what the mood is in the locker room after two straight losses?
Ben Jacobson (2:38 PM)
We were pretty down after the last loss but we didn't let it sink in too far. We can't worry about what happened in the past and we're just excited about the game this weekend. And we still feel we have a good chance at the NCAA tourney so we're just looking at the next game and that's all.
Benji (Cedar Falls, IA)
Benny, as you approach the end of your collegiate career, what will you take greatest pride in about your time in CF?
Ben Jacobson (2:40 PM)
A lot of things go into that. All of the firsts are huge: 3 straight 20-win seasons, hopefully three straight NCAAs, a conference tourney title. We've done a lot of things no one has here before and that sense of pride has come to a head this year with the first ranking in school history, the fans and the hoopla. There's a lot about my career I can be proud of.
Nate (Hiawatha, KS)
Ben, if you had to pick, what is the loudest place you have had to play in during your career? Also, where is your favorite place to play on the road? Or maybe the answer to both is the same.
Ben Jacobson (2:41 PM)
In conference I'd say Wichita is as loud as it gets and I've played well there and we won there the last two years. Out of conference Iowa State is as rowdy a place as we've played.
Trory (Waterloo, IA)
Ben, of all the games you have participated in at UNI, what game has proved to be the most memorable?
Ben Jacobson (2:43 PM)
The wins over the state schools are always good because they are such intense rivalries. But the most memorable and meaningful is winning the conference tourney title in St. Louis when I was a sophomore. We wouldn't have made the NCAAs that year without that win and maybe not even last year. It helped us build some momentum and gave us some idea of how good we could be.
Nick (Topeka, KS)
Ben, what are your plans after graduating from UNI? Have you been offered to attend the draft camp?
Ben Jacobson (2:45 PM)
I'm going to pursue a basketball career as far as I can. I've been invited to a couple pre-draft camps and I'm excited about that, but I'm not thinking about that right now. We have some important things to do before this year is over but after that I'll give the NBA a shot, and if that doesn't work out I'll probably end up playing overseas.
Good luck against Bucknell. In your career, who is the best guard you have plaed against in the MVC?
Ben Jacobson (2:46 PM)
There has been a lot of good ones. One that really sticks out, though, is Kyle Korver from Creighton. And Kent Williams from SIU was a good one, as well as Nate Funk from Creighton, who is from my home town and who I know well.
Jeff (Cedar Rapids, IA)
Ben, Can you talk about how it feels to come on to the floor in the Dome now as opposed to when you got here.
Ben Jacobson (2:48 PM)
It's unbelieveable how much the atmosphere has improved and that means a lot to me. The things we've been able to do the last couple of years are a reason for that and it's incredible to go from 2,000-2,500 fans my freshman year to 10,000 against Missouri State. It's incredible the way things have turned around for us.
Ben, as a Wichita State fan I will be glad to see you graduate. You always seem to play your best against the Shocks. I just want to say it has been a pleasure watching you play and wish you good luck against Bucknell! My question would be this, how has the Valley changed in your four years at UNI as far as talent and perception from outsiders?
Ben Jacobson (2:50 PM)
It's gained a lot of respect and I think the main difference is that we've gone from everyone trying to beat Creighton and SIU, but now we have five or six title hopefuls every year and it's incredible to see that kind of balance. And that's allowed teams to do so well in non-conference and that has helped us gain a lot more national attention and respect.
Garrett (Normal, IL)
Ben, Having made the tournament before and being a mid-major is there an added pressure matching up against more prestigious programs?
Ben Jacobson (2:51 PM)
I don't know if there is added pressure. Maybe a sense of urgency on our part. We've been close to winning a tourney game the last two years and now we want to get back and win a game there. We're taking it one game at a time but we're excited and ready for the NCAA tournament.
Brent (Boone, IA
Benny, what is the hardest part about being in the spotlight while having to maintain academic duties as well?
Ben Jacobson (2:53 PM)
I think it's difficult for everyone, and I don't think all the increased attention makes it any different. It's hard for all players to balance games, practice, road trips and classwork. It's difficult and it takes a lot of effort.
Schnebels (Omaha, NE)
Ben, whats the feeling going to be like playing the last home game in the UNI dome and your final home game? Good luck the rest of the season.
Ben Jacobson (2:54 PM)
It'll be an emotional night for me. It seems like my time here went so fast and we were as successful as any team that's been through here. It'll be special and I'll remember it for the rest of my life. And I think we'll send the Dome off on a good note.
Nathan (Waterloo, Iowa)
Ben- Who is the best defender in the MVC? Good luck on Saturday!
Ben Jacobson (2:55 PM)
The best defenders I've faced are Little and Crawford every day in practice. They've pushed me hard to become the player I am and that's been big for me.
Laura (Waverly, Iowa)
Do you get a lot of attention for students on campus? Good luck against Bucknell!
Ben Jacobson (2:57 PM)
It's neat at times. It's cool to know people are recognizing what we're doing here and taking note. Four years ago you wouldn't hear much about us and it's been great to see that change. You can really tell the students are excited about what's going on here.
Ben Jacobson (2:58 PM)
Thanks to everyone who tuned in today and thanks to all our fans. We're going to be back after the close losses!
Johnny, Baton Rouge
Mike McConathy (3:01 PM)
Actually, we were 11-17 two years ago. The difference is 7 of them have been together for four years and one more for three years.
Mike McConathy (3:02 PM)
Experience would be the main thing.
Don (E. Springfield, PA)
Coach McConathy: After last season's disappointing loss to SELA in the conference tourney, do you feel any added pressure to get to the Dance this year with your talented and deserving group of seniors?
Mike McConathy (3:03 PM)
I think there's always pressure to get back to a position to get back into the NCAA tournament. I believe our team has taken it in stride. We've been very competitive in many games. There is added pressure, but they're taking it in stride.
Tom (Erie, PA)
Coach -- How is it that you're able to juggle your rotation so well? Is your team that selfless? I'm very impressed by that.
Mike McConathy (3:04 PM)
I think you have to realize who you are as a coach and as a coaching staff. So what would seem to be difficult for some, it's more of a second nature. We've done a great job as a staff of selling the guys on playing as hard as they can when they're on the floor. Our players are very comfortable with that. There's no one that stands out.
Trey in Bossier
Coach McConathy- Tell us about the mid major pressure that many mid major conference members face of almost having to win the conference tournament to get a NCAA Tourney bid. Good luck Saturday and "WAC" Utah State.
Mike McConathy (3:06 PM)
Thank you. The pressure's are pretty big. You have to understand who you are and understand you have to take care of each game along the way. Look at the big picture. What's successful at the mid-major level may not be successful at the high level. You just have to accept that we're not in a heavy market area, but we're providing young men an opportunity to play and get an education.
Bobby Biddle (Park City, UT)
Coach, congrats on a great season so far and good luck after Saturday night. I am fascinated by the Iowa State game where you guys got cheated out of a point by the officials. Did you ever get an explanation or an apology from the referees or whoever supervises the refs? I saw the ACC suspend refs for calling a bad T. Seems like to me the stripes in the Iowa State game should have been given the rest of the month to figure out what a missed FT looks like. And do you think that outcome hurts the Demons when it's time to hand out seedings in the Big Dance, or will the selection committee be aware of what happened and that your team actually beat Iowa State but just didn't get credit for it because of the "Phantom Point."
Mike McConathy (3:08 PM)
No, we never did. We never really got an explanation. I did some research on what kind of error it was. I think the officials were probably remorseful that it happened. But there's really not an opportunity for dialogue for officials and coaches. I think it's one of those things that you wish never happened. It's just human error. Officials can make them as well as coaches.
Tony (Shreveport, LA)
Coach, how underrated and how good is Southland basketball?
Mike McConathy (3:09 PM)
I think Southland basketball is very good. You've got talented athletes, who may be undersized for major programs. You've got extremely good coaches. When you take the combination of talented athletes with good coaching, I don't think it gets the respect that it deserves. Sometimes we have to play schedules that are taxing on the front end.
Coach, you guys played some tough out-of-conference games earlier in the year. Texas A&M, Hawaii, Oregon State, Oklahoma State, Wichita State. How does playing teams like that help later in the year?
Mike McConathy (3:11 PM)
It helps you because you won't play one in any venue that's any harder in the ones you've already played. The downside might be that after playing in those tough venues, it's hard to get your guys up for playing against places where it's not known for their basketball.
Zack (Saline, LA)
Coach, With all the seniors being gone next year. Do you feel your team will be on a down year or do you have enough talent to be competive in this up and coming league?
Mike McConathy (3:13 PM)
I have an 11 man rotation and five kids are coming back that are playing good minutes. We feel like we have five really good players plus we have three players redshirting. We signed a 6-8 guy and Damon Jones, who scores 30+ now.
You obviously recruit well, but how difficult is it to target players that you can realistic get to come to NSU?
Mike McConathy (3:14 PM)
Our recruiting is probably different from other schools. We try to get our base from Louisiana and can fit our program. We don't get into recruiting battles. We choose our battles and understand who we can get and can't get. We want guys that want to be here. Happy players will make us successful.
Coach, how does it feel to have the team off to its best 23-game start? Go Demons!
Mike McConathy (3:15 PM)
It's a great honor for our kids to get off to this start. When you look at our schedule, it's pretty remarkable. It says something about our teams being able to stay focused. We still have a lot of work left to do.
What does playing in the Bracker Buster mean for your program?
Mike McConathy (3:16 PM)
It means that we have been placed in a category of teams that are considered to be playing at a high level. That opportunity to go into a tough venue gives us a chance to show what we're made of.
Coach, I know you've got a tough road game tonight, but have you been able to see any tape on Utah State yet, and if so, what are your concerns?
Mike McConathy (3:17 PM)
Yes, we've watched some tape on Utah State. They're well coached. They shoot well. They execute well. They run so many different sets. They're very very good.
Kobe, LA, Ca
Coach, why are you still at a small school, i think you track record shows you are a great coach!, Got any interst in the openings at major schools, such as Missouri, or Indiana?
Mike McConathy (3:19 PM)
I always appreciate the opportunity to be considered for things. I'm a firm believer that I'm in a position that I should be in and be successful. I'm always interested but I want to make sure that I'm in a position to be successful and be realistic about those opportunities.
Chris ( Arkansas)
Coach, What team in the Southland Conf. Tour do you fear the most?
Mike McConathy (3:20 PM)
It would probably be Sam Houston and Lamar and McNeses. The one that's playing the best is Stephen F. Austin. I answered that one by saying I fear everybody don't I?
Coach Mike, talk about the demeanor of your team. I saw them a couple of weeks ago, and I was really impressed with the poise of your team. Not a panicky bunch. Cool and collected. Is that a trait of yours as well?
Mike McConathy (3:21 PM)
I think that I got a lesson from my wife on this. She told me that if I remain calm, the team will be calm. I've worked hard because my team knows me and my body language. I've worked hard on being as poised as possible. Any situation, I think it's important to understand body language and what image we're putting off.
Coach, if you could play any team in the country right now, on a neutral court, who would you play and why?
Mike McConathy (3:22 PM)
That's a tough one. I guess you'd want to play one of the best. You might as well see where you fit on a neutral court. Villanova would be interesting, because they have a smaller lineup. I think Jay Wright is a phenomenal man and a coach. That would be an intersting matchup.
Coach, how close are you to a couple of other Louisiana Tech basketball grads from your era, Tim Floyd and Jim Wooldridge?
Mike McConathy (3:23 PM)
I'm extremely close to them. Jim had surgery the last few weeks and I left some messages for him. Tim I talk to also. I carry my part of the banner for my alma mater.
Wes (Baton Rouge)
Coach: Your recruiting budget probably equals what Rick Pitino spends for dinner. What was the key in building your program and what will you do to maintain your success?
Mike McConathy (3:25 PM)
Knowing who you are and who you have the ability to recruit. We do have a good program and town and university. We accentuate the positives in that are to move it forward.
Donald (Bossier City)
Athletic Directors at smaller schools like to schedule away games that will make a lot of money for the athletic budget but are almost a guarantee to be a loss for the coach and his record. How do you feel about that?
Mike McConathy (3:26 PM)
I think that goes back to knowing your landscape and who you are. At our level, you have to go play those games. That's just a practice that's out there. A lot of the high D-I's stay home and schedule those games. This year, it's been a bigger problem for us, because of the Katrina situation. We had a period where we couldn't spend any money.
Mike McConathy (3:27 PM)
Next year in football, Baylor, Kansas and Ole Miss are three teams our team will play. There's not really any sense in complaining or begrudging the situation. You just deal with it.
Mike McConathy (3:28 PM)
We like to say thanks to be here and to all the Demon fans out there.
Buzzmaster (3:28 PM)
Thanks to coach.
Buzzmaster (3:28 PM)
Jamie (Cleveland Hts.)
Anthony - Do you think you and your backcourt mate at WKU, Courtney Lee, are underappreciated on a national level because you play in the Sun Belt? You two are ridiculous!
Anthony Winchester (3:30 PM)
I think we probably are. But for us to let people know that we can compete on a national level and that we are just as good as anybody, we have to get to the tournament. We have to keep winning.
Joe (Madison, OH)
Anthony: How much do you know about NAU? And with such a short turnaround, are you concerned you won't be as prepared as you'd like?
Anthony Winchester (3:31 PM)
We haven't had a chance to talk about them much because we have a game today. It's going to be tough that we are gonig to play with a short turnaround. Hopefull we can come away with two wins.
John (Bowling Green, KY)
Anthony, I am a WKU senior this year and just want to say thanks for all you have done for the program. Who do you idolize your game after?
Anthony Winchester (3:32 PM)
Umm. Growing up I was always a Larry Bird fan. But I think everyone tries to be their own individual player. I just try to play hard and do the little things that I need to do.
chris (louisville, kentucky)
Anthony, when you committed to Western Kentucky did you ever imagine getting to the big dance?
Anthony Winchester (3:33 PM)
When I committed, they had been there for 2-3 years in a row. I knew that I was going to a program that had a lot of winning tradition. They were ranked in the polls. We've been through a transition period and I think coach is going to get back to that status.
Which team in the Sun-Belt do you fear the most, and Why?
Anthony Winchester (3:33 PM)
I probably have to say Lafayette. they have two good players. Any time you play them, you have to expect that they'll play their best game. It's becoming a rivalry with them.
Anthony Winchester Talk for a minute about your new assistant coach (Coach Strohm)......what has he added/brought to the team? Congrats on having a great year (and career), by the way.
Anthony Winchester (3:35 PM)
What he brings to the team, is he's just like another head coach. He pays attention to the little details. He's a great guy for individual work. He'll pull guys aside and let them know what they need to work on. He's one of the reasons we're having such a great year.
Valerie (Nashville, Tennessee)
Question for Anthony Winchester: As a season ticket holder, I've been watching you play since you came to Western. I especially respect the way you've continued to work on your game instead of just resting on your laurels. What kind of physical conditioning do you do, both in-season and off-season, to improve your game?
Anthony Winchester (3:36 PM)
Obviously, college basketball is a year-round sport. The whole team is always there over the summer. We do a lot of running and lifting weights in the summer. Once the season starts, you back off. In the preseason, you hit it hard and get in the best shape you can.
Ben Bowling Green, KY
Anthony, you have had an outstanding career on the hill. What are your plans after college? What do you think are your chances to go pro?
Anthony Winchester (3:37 PM)
I think I have a great chance. I've been working my whole life to get to this point. We get to the dance and get on the national scene and people see what I can do, I think have a great chance at it.
Anthony, what are your impressions of our new PG Desire Gabou?
Anthony Winchester (3:38 PM)
He's a big time athlete for a point guard. He's a real good athlete. You can tell he's only been playing for 2-3 years. He's going to keep improving and getting better every day.
Kyle: Jackson, Miss
Anthony- Congratulations on a great career. Just how good is you're partner Courtney Lee?
Anthony Winchester (3:39 PM)
He's a real good. when he came in, no one expected him to be as good as he is. He continues to get better every day. We play off each other a little bit and let the game come to us.
Matt (Nashville, TN)
Anthony, this is Matt Foster. I just wanted to say whats up and that you are tearing it up this year bro! Keep doing WKU proud. The Tops are gonna go back to the Dance this year for sure! With the Sun Belt Tourney being at MTSU, do you think that will be an advantage or disadvantage? What is one deminsion, if any would you like to add to your game? Take care and give UALR fits tonight and NAU on Saturday.
Anthony Winchester (3:41 PM)
I think that's going to be a great advantage, being only an hour away. If I could add one thing, I think I would add hops.
Aaron (Etown, Kentucky
Anthony, With the division already wrapped up and #1 seed for the tourny in the bucket, is it going to be hard to maintain focus for the rest of the regular season? And congrats on the great career.
Anthony Winchester (3:42 PM)
No, I don't think it's going to be hard, we still want to try and get an at-large bid. If we win out, we go into the tournament 22-5 and that puts us in a good position.
Jamie (Plattsburgh NY)
How much would you love to play Kentucky this year and if you guys had the chance at home could you beat them?
Anthony Winchester (3:43 PM)
We get asked that question a lot. We could definitely play with them. People think that we could just because of their down year, but I think we could play and beat them every year.
Jerry clower (Raleigh NC)
Honestly who would you rather have reddick or the kid from Gonzaga?
Anthony Winchester (3:44 PM)
That's a tough question. I'd have to go with Redick. I love his game. We're both about the same build. He's really a great player. I think I'd take him over Morrison.
Hey, who do you think will be your toughest in-conference opponent in the Sun Belt Tourney? Do you feel if you win out but lose in the tourney that you still deserve a NCAA bid?
Anthony Winchester (3:45 PM)
I feel like if we happen to slip up in the tournament, I feel like we desrve an at-large bid. I think Lafayette is a dangerous team, like I said earlier.
Ann (Franklin, TN)
Quesiton for Anthony Winchester: What is the most memorable game you've played in at WKU? And which game do you wish you could do-over?
Anthony Winchester (3:46 PM)
The most memorable game would be this year when we played Virginia. Then we came out and beat them on our floor. It turned around the season for us. A do-over would be when I was a sophomore. They beat us pretty good. I'd probably do that one over.
Luke: Portland, Or
Anthony- How good of a dunker is Elgrace Wilborn? He dunks out every picture I see. You throw him a lot of lobs!!
Anthony Winchester (3:47 PM)
Like I said, if I could have anything, I'd take his hops. I've never seen anyone in the NBA or anywhere with hops like him. He's just amazing to watch.
Anthony, WKU alum here, so can we safely say the the TOPS are the best team in the state this year and what type of enviornment are you expecting in the Sun Belt Tourney since it is at MTSU?
Anthony Winchester (3:48 PM)
I think we are the best team in the state this year. If you look at our team and how we've been playing. The tournament is at Middle. They have good fans. I think it's going to be a good atmosphere.
Billy (Bowling Green)
Anthony, with I think 7 new players, have you noticed the chemistry of the team getting better and better as the season wears on.
Anthony Winchester (3:49 PM)
I think it has. That's something that you have to work on every year. It's tough if you have a lot of new guys. You don't know what to expect out of them when you get into games. Everyone just works on it every day.
Is there any school other than W. Kentucky that you were a fan of or would have liked to be on?
Anthony Winchester (3:50 PM)
Growing up, I was a huge Kentucky fan because my family was a huge fan. I started to be an IU fan later. Once I came to Western Kentucky and visited and learned about the history, I knew this is where I wanted to play and wouldn't change anything.
Jim (Brentwood, TN)
Question for Anthony Winchester: What do you see yourself doing once you finish your pro basketball career? Do you want to coach?
Anthony Winchester (3:51 PM)
That's something that I've thought about. This is all I know. I've been around basketball my whole life. I would like to get into coaching. I enjoy being around basketball and doing something with it.
How do you see WKU's future without you?
Anthony Winchester (3:52 PM)
I think once I graduate they're just going to keep getting better. Coach is great, he's young, works hard. He's a great recruiter. They're just going to get better. I think they can be a top 25 team every year.
Hey, I live just across town in Kentucky and was just wondering would you rather beat Eastern Kentucky or Kentucky for in-state bragging rights?
Anthony Winchester (3:53 PM)
We already beat Eastern, so I have to go with Kentucky. If we were to play them, that would be a big game for our fans. So I have to go with Kentucky.
Josh (Chicago, IL)
ADub, thanks for sticking around when there was an uncertainty after Coach Felton. Kids idolize you and want to be you. Adults want a your jersey. How hard was it playing out of position in the past? And finally, what percentage chance does WKU have of upsetting the larger seed in the NCAA tourney? 40%? 50% Good luck and win these games for Danny!!
Anthony Winchester (3:55 PM)
In the past I kind of played out of position, but it wasn't really out of position. On offense, I did what I normally do. Once we get to the tournament, we have a great chance to win some games. Coach told us when we do, we're going to win.
Logan (Bowling Green,KY)
no questions AW. Just thank you for the hard work and dedication you have give to Hilltopper basketball!
Anthony Winchester (3:55 PM)
I appreciate the comment. Thanks for watching.
Chris Bowling Green, Ky
Do you and any of the other players ever read what is posted on hilltopperhaven.com? If so, does it effect you in any way?
Anthony Winchester (3:57 PM)
I think we hear about stuff that's talked about. Every player has visited that site before, but we don't go there. That's not really a place for us to go and read stuff. Everyone has something to say, but we don't let it get to us.
Ryan (Hendersonville, TN)
Anthony Winchester, how did the team's trip to Spain over the summer impact your play this year?
Anthony Winchester (3:57 PM)
I think it helped a lot, because it gave us a chance to practice. We could work on stuff we were going to work on during the season. We came together as a team. We were over there for 2 and a half weeks or so. We got to know each other.
Anthony Winchester (3:58 PM)
Thanks for the support and we're working hard. Hopefully we can get you back to the big dance!
Buzzmaster (3:59 PM)
JP (Youngstown, Ohio)
Romeo Travis (Akron) Do you feel the loss of Wood at the beginning of the season forced you to change your game. In previous years I thought you played more of a perimeter game with strong moves to the basket, this year you appear to be spending more time in the paint?
Romeo Travis (4:01 PM)
Yes, it changed my game a whole lot. With him being out, we didn't have an inside presence, and that forced me to be that presence.
Can I pencil Akron in as a Cinderella team in my bracket this year?
Romeo Travis (4:02 PM)
Yes you can! You definitely pencil Akron in as a Cinderella. We've played against big teams and we have the talent to play with them, because they don't expect us coming.
Rex (Cleveland, OH)
Romeo, I GOTTA know. What inspired you to start rockin' the mohawk, and are you going to keep the same hairstyle all the way through the MAC tournament?
Romeo Travis (4:03 PM)
I don't know what inspired me to do it. I just did it late one night. I'm probably gonna keep it for the rest of the season.
Mark ,Reno, Nv.
For Romeo Travis. Is there any way for the team and coaching staff to prepare to play at altitude? Reno sits at almost 5000 ft., and as a Nevada fan, I've seen teams able to keep up for a half or so, and fade late in the game.
Romeo Travis (4:04 PM)
We're gonna practice hard today and come in in the morning and practice again and try to get our lungs adjusted to the altitude.
Pete (Tonawanda NY)
Who do you think will be your biggest challenge in MAC tourney?
Romeo Travis (4:05 PM)
The thing about our league is that everyone's equal. I'm worried about everybody. BG could end up going unbeaten the rest of the way and win the MAC, so you have to play hard every night.
Romeo, Since you played with LeBron, How has that helped you in college playing at Akron and do you still pick his mind on how to improve your game?
Romeo Travis (4:07 PM)
It helped me because it got me exposure to players all over the country. Playing with him gets you mentally prepared and to play on a level that you're accustomed. We go back and forth on each other. He tells me what I should do more of and less of and vice versa.
steve (kent, ohio)
Question for Romeo Travis: any chance Akron will ever get the best of Kent State???
Romeo Travis (4:08 PM)
Yes we will. March 4th.
Romeo Do you think there is a chance that two Mac teams could make the tourney if say another team wins the MAC tournament?
Romeo Travis (4:08 PM)
Yes, if we win 22-23 games and for instance we lose in the MAC Championship, I think we have a fighting chance to get into the NCAAs.
Well tell him to stop biting his finger nails during the game !!!
Romeo Travis (4:09 PM)
That's a natural reflex. He can't help it. The only way to stop it is to make him wear mittens on the sideline.
Rex (Cleveland, OH)
Romeo, the last time the Zips went out west, California got you guys pretty good and their big guy (Powe) had a huge game. What do you have to do diffently this time around to stop Nevada's big guy (Fazekas) from having the same kind of game?
Romeo Travis (4:10 PM)
Stay out of foul trouble. Me and Matt Futch had about 4 fouls...I only played 12 minutes and he played 16 minutes. If we stay out of foul trouble, we should have a fighting chance.
Mark Donahue, Kansas City, MO
Romeo Travis: Hey, what's up man. Everyone knows about you and Dru's high school success. How hard is it to lead a young team through the rigors of a college season? Did the fact that you two have played on the same team your whole lives make it easier to lead this team together as juniors?
Romeo Travis (4:12 PM)
It's hard and it's easy at the same time. Being around someone like Dru for so long, you know where each other are going to be. But we also can bicker because we know each other so well. Plus, our young guys are playing really well - very outstanding to be freshmen and sophomores.
Romeo...seriously, you know that OU is going to win the MAC tourney again right? Maybe you can be a bubble team...lol
Romeo Travis (4:13 PM)
We're gonna win it. You can say what you want, but when last buzzer rings, we're gonna be reg. season and MAC Tourney champions.
Rome, you and Coach Dambrot have been together on teams for a long time, what's your relationship like?
Romeo Travis (4:14 PM)
Our relationship is weird. On the court, we always go back and forth, because we want to win so much. We have different ways to get to our goal. But off the court, we are like best of friends - joking, laughing, all that good stuff. Watch film together, studying in his office sometimes.
Romeo Travis (4:15 PM)
One of the reasons I came here, I knew I could take any problems I have to coach D.
I have attended some Akron games this season and noticed you have a very unique ritual during warm ups. Can you explain the touching of the half-court line, the kiss, touch of the heart and the point to the sky.
Romeo Travis (4:16 PM)
It's for my grandmother, Gwen, who passed away when I was in HS. She never got to see me play basketball, so everytime I play I go out there and try to do my best for her.
Derek, Akron, OH
First of all awesome season so far from all of us AK-Rowdies. But considering the recent top 25 votes this week do you think the team deserves to be considered one of the 25 best in the country?
Romeo Travis (4:17 PM)
No, we do not deserve to be a Top 25 team as of yet. We've had the opportunity to do that twice this year...but lost to OU and Kent. We didn't do our job then, but if we win out then we should have a fighting chance to be in the Top 25.
Jordan Kuehne (Byron, IL)
Hey Romeo, I was just wondering, since going from being LeBron's teammate to Akron's team leader, with Dru and Nick, how has your role changed and what do you think of your chances if you make the tourney??
Romeo Travis (4:19 PM)
It's different, because in HS I was a complementary player. Now players on my team complement me. In college you have to do the right things on and off the court. Freshmen like Nate Linhart, we need to show them to be in class on time, turn things in on time. In the tourney, time will tell, but we could knock a couple teams off.
Where are you staying in Reno? I promise not to wake you up tonight.
Romeo Travis (4:19 PM)
A real secret location. Nowhere you can find us, and set any fire alarms.
what are the odds of an Akron vs. Kent MAC Championship, and how would that match up bennefit not only both schools but cleveland as well?
Romeo Travis (4:20 PM)
The odds are very good, since we're the top 2 in the conference right now. Akron-Kent in the title game would help NE Ohio in the basketball. Not everyone respects MAC Basketball, because it's a football state, so it would bring light to the area.
Mike Cuyahoga Falls, Oh
How has the emergence of Preston, in the last few games, changed the way the other teams have to handle the Zips.
Romeo Travis (4:21 PM)
It helps a lot, because he's a shooting 4 man. A lot of teams double off the 4 man. If they leave him, he's gonna hit that open jumper.
Jason (Columbus, OH)
Romeo,Who would you say has been the most improved player on the team this year since the beginning of the season?
Romeo Travis (4:22 PM)
I'm gonna go with Nate Linhart and Cedrick Middleton. They were kind of in the shell at the beginning of the year, but they've broken out of it and are doing things nobody really expected out of them.
How do you explain the team's success in Rhodes Arena?
Romeo Travis (4:24 PM)
We have a thing - don't lose at home. Our coach tries to pound this in our head: Win all the home games and a couple on the road and you'll be in a position to win the MAC. We're trying to build it so people look at the schedule and see "at Akron" and think it's a loss. Trying to build that strong foundation.
Sam (Columbus, OH)
Who do you think of facing off against Miami? They're playing well right now and could be dangerous in the MAC tournament.
Romeo Travis (4:25 PM)
Oh yes. Miami's gonna be dangerous. They have a great, great, great coach in Charlie Coles. He'll have them ready to win the MAC Championship - even if he had 4 girls on the team. So, we've gotta look out for them to put ourselves in a position to win the MAC Championship.
JP (Youngstown, Oh)
Romeo, do you see the Zips being a contender after you and the older guys leave after 2007? How is the young talent on the team.
Romeo Travis (4:26 PM)
Oh yeah, we'll be a contender, because the coaching staff recruits well. With the guys coming in and the guys he'll get after them. We're setting up the cornerstone of a great program and tradition now - not just a team.
Yo' When you going come over to the crib so i can crack you in some Madden?
Romeo Travis (4:27 PM)
I'm a Madden Champion. Whoever wants it, knows how to get a hold of me. I run through the team and nobody can beat me.
Romeo Travis (4:28 PM)
Thanks for asking me questions, being concerned and for the support. I just want to say thank you. Sometimes fans don't feel that they're appreciated and I want to make sure they know how we feel about them.
Buzzmaster (4:28 PM)
J. Robert Merritt from the Samford Bulldogs is ready for you!
J. Robert Merritt (4:29 PM)
Stephen (Charlotte, NC)
For J. Robert Merritt: Did playing at Texas and at Oklahoma early this season help the team during the rest of the season?
J. Robert Merritt (4:30 PM)
Definitely. Playing two big, physical teams can only help us because there aren't really any like that in our league. It made us a little tougher.
Ed Duncan: (Hoover, Alabama)
J. Robert, You are one of the top 3-point shooters in the nation and the best in the OVC, how do you keep your focus when you know the other team is coming out with a game plan to try to stop you from shooting?
J. Robert Merritt (4:31 PM)
I just warm up knowing they will try to stop me and try to focus. I just try to move away from the ball and find open spots, and knowing what your opponent is going to try to do to stop you is always important.
Pete Tonawanda NY
Robert can Samford handle the inside game against Ohio.
J. Robert Merritt (4:32 PM)
We really haven't even talked about Ohio yet and I'm not very familiar with them. But I'm sure we'll try to help out inside with the zone and limit them.
James Whitfield, Franklin, TN
Congrats to you J. Robert for a great season. I appreciate everything you have done for the Bulldogs during your career. My question is this. It seems at times that the Bulldogs have had to fight pretty hard to beat teams that are not of the same caliber. Is this due to a lack of intensity? pressure?
J. Robert Merritt (4:33 PM)
I wouldn't say we're looking past teams we just have a lack of energy at times. That is due to a lack of focus and something we need to improve upon as we head to the conference tourney.
Sean Davis (Bergen County, NJ)
Who, in your opinion, is the best all around shooter in college basketball today and why?
J. Robert Merritt (4:34 PM)
Have to say JJ Redick. The number of tough shots he hits is incredible, and he's made more 3s than anyone in history, so he has to be the best right now.
Pete Tonawanda NY
Robert what brought you to Samford from Oklahoma. Did Samford's NCAA appearances influence you?
J. Robert Merritt (4:36 PM)
The NCAA appearances had something to do with it, but I also liked the fact that they ran the Princeton offense and it fit my abilities. And the coaches and players were also a good fit for me and that factored in, too.
Hey whick high ranked team do you think your team matches up well against, and if you guys make it to the tourney should i pick you to win in the first round?
J. Robert Merritt (4:37 PM)
I would definitely say we match up with some of the bigger teams, probably ones who like to pressure the ball and play man to man since we like to slow the game down and make back cuts. If we get a team like that you might want to pick us.
Josh, Mt.Vernon, IN
J. Rob, you think you could put on some numbers if you were head up on Morrison?
J. Robert Merritt (4:38 PM)
He's a great player and scorer -- he could work on his defense -- but I think I could put up a little something on him. He's just an unbelievable player right now, though.
J Robert, Whats your favorite place to eat at in your free time?
J. Robert Merritt (4:40 PM)
Has to be Jim and Nick's Barbecue, a local place here in Birmingham.
Jon Milwaukee, WI
Hows Samford season so far you think you might got to the nit or NCAA tournament
J. Robert Merritt (4:41 PM)
The last couple games have been a struggle, but we feel we have the potential to win the conference tourney. If we get some momentum in the last couple games we'll be in good shape there, and if we get to the NCAAs anything can happen from there. We feel good right now.
Pete Tonawanda NY
Robert, how much longer do you think can Samford fans expect Coach Tillette to stay at Samford. Bigger programs have to eying the job he has been doing in Homewood.
J. Robert Merritt (4:42 PM)
I think he'll have a chance to have some bigger jobs but he really likes Samford and his family is here. I'm not really sure whether he would take any of those opportunities, though.
Stanley (Birmingham, AL)
For J. Robert Merritt (Samford): I've enjoyed watching you play these last 4 years. I was wondering what you attribute the lack of energy in the last couple of games to, and will I see a difference tonight?
J. Robert Merritt (4:44 PM)
Lack of focus. Yesterday in practice we worked hard to correct some things and we know it's do-or-die tonight. I'll be surprised if we come out and have a lack of energy because a lot is at stake.
Brian, OKC, OK
Hey J Rob whats up man, Do you think you guys have what it takes to win one in the tournament? From what I saw against the sooners in Norman your game has really evolved over the years, do you think you can make it to NBA after this year??
J. Robert Merritt (4:46 PM)
I'm hoping to get a shot but I don't know if my game fits the NBA. Overseas basketball might be a better fit with the slower pace and shooting 3s, but I'll hopefully get into some camps and see what my chances are.
Pete Tonawanda NY
Robert, will the team be up for Morehead State tonight. Last place team it's easy to look ahead to Saturday's game.
J. Robert Merritt (4:47 PM)
Our coaches have done a good job. The focus is on Morehead and we haven't even talked about Ohio yet. It would be easy to overlook them, but there's a lot at stake in terms of seeds for the conference tournaments.
What do you think is the most positive thing that has happened for this team this year.
J. Robert Merritt (4:48 PM)
We beat Murray State, the best team in the league, and showed ourselves we can beat anyone in the conference if we put it all together for 40 minutes.
James Whitfield Franklin, Tn
Hey J. Rob, I have not been back on campus for years. Is there still a lot of fan support for the team? Also, do you think the new basketball gym will improve recruiting?
J. Robert Merritt (4:49 PM)
The fan support is still good. As far as the new arena, it will help get recruits in and attract some good prospects who can help the program continue to grow.
Oliver, OKC, OK
do you think it has helped your little brother joe ross's game to have you there at samford with him these two years?
J. Robert Merritt (4:50 PM)
I think so. Next year he'll be ready to step into a bigger role since I've been able to work with him on things he might not get if I weren't here. It's been an advantage.
Stephen (Charlotte, NC)
For J.Robert: Is Coach Tillett's system challenging intellectually? Do you ever get a break going from the academic-work to his practices?
J. Robert Merritt (4:51 PM)
It probably takes about two years to really get it down pat, and that's why a lot of freshman redshirt. But once you do get it down it becomes second nature like anything else.
neal smith, wichita ks
what is the most hostile environment you have played in?
J. Robert Merritt (4:52 PM)
I have to say at Oklahoma State. It seems like the fans are right on top of you and it's so loud in there.
Nick Cesare, South Plainfield
Hey Rob, I currently play high school basketball, is there a big difference in sense of preperation and conditiong from that you did in high school?
J. Robert Merritt (4:53 PM)
It's a lot different. You can get by in HS without lifting weights, and you definitely run a lot more. The season is longer and practices are more gueling. It's different but nothing a good player couldn't handle.
You said you would go overseas if it took that, but would you rather go to the d-league?
J. Robert Merritt (4:55 PM)
I think I'd rather go overseas and make a little more money. The d-leauge isn't going to help my style of game a whole lot so my best chance to make a good living is overseas.
Stanley (Birmingham, AL)
J Robert: Is it difficult at the end of January to adjust from a Jan-term schedule to a full academic load?
J. Robert Merritt (4:56 PM)
To a certain extent, but we're used to it as student-athletes. It was like that around Christmas and the adjustment is around a day or two, so it's not too big a deal.
J. Robert Merritt (4:56 PM)
Thanks for the questions and for all the support from our fans!
Buzzmaster (5:01 PM)
Our thanks to J. Rob and all the other guests from the other nine schools that joined us today. It's been a great day of BracketBuster chatting. ESPN will bring you BracketBuster weekend starting tomorrow on ESPNU. Tune in then!
Buzzmaster (5:02 PM)
Thanks to all the players and Northwestern State head coach Mike McConathy for joining us today. And, of course, thanks to all of you who sent in questions today. The response was great!
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THIS WEEK'S CHATS
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