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"Well, I mean, it's been a city of champions. If you look at what's been accomplished here, it's just not that long ago, there was a World Series here. I went to the Red Wings win before their final win last year. The Pistons, I've been at a couple of theirs. Joe Louis, it's just been a city of some champions.
"What it would mean, I'm sure, like I said, there's a lot of cities right now that have problems. But this is ours. This is our big city in the state. So that's why I think it's a little more meaningful for those of us that are from around here. Even Ray and Travis, who have not resided here for three and four years, they're not that far away either and they have a great appreciation."
This is the fourth time in the last five years you guys and Carolina have been in the same building in the tournament. Fifth time this decade. Going back to '57, these two programs met in the semifinals. Is it time these two programs finally meet in a national title game?
"Yeah, they've kind of given us our lunch, haven't they? But that's because they're a great program. I've said a million times, there's some programs we're aspiring to beat. But you hit the nail on the head. They've done it consistently since those '50s probably. We've been a little up and down probably. We're getting more consistent.
"So there's a lot of things that are time. The problem is, where I have to respect them probably as much as any team recently is, I had a team that had a bunch of guys that could have left early, at least a couple of guys, and they wanted to win a championship. In this day and age, winning sometimes doesn't come before personal goals or other things.
"There's no secrets that Carolina had three or four guys that could have left, two or three for sure. They came back to win a championship. They're knocking on the door, too. We know what daunting task we have. But I think the story is better that we're both in the same building and we've both moved on and we both played in some big games. If we're getting our name in with theirs right now, I think that's a plus for our program, because they have done it over time.
"We're aspiring to do it over time. That's the respect I have for Roy, for his program, and for what the players in the past have done there.
I get a chance to work Michael Jordan's Fantasy Camp every year, and I'm sure him and Magic will be having, not a bet, but I think they'll be having a gentlemen's agreement on this."
How has your preparation on the turnaround, second game of a weekend in the NCAA tournament, how has that evolved during your career at Michigan State and how do you think that helps you tomorrow?
"Well, on our part I think, you know, we devised a plan that we used when we played Princeton because it was such a hard second-day turnaround. We devised a plan where we have these little 20-minute meetings, film session. Even if we get back at 1:30 in the morning from our game, which has happened a few times, we always have a film session so they can go to bed on it, just a short one.
"Kind of learned if you keep them short, we have meetings, walk-throughs, in hotels, a lot of things I learned from my football buddies, I listened to Magic talk about when they were in the playoffs how they used hotels, courts laid down in them. We tried to do those things a lot of teams do.
"I think the reason we've had such good success is the players' focus. I told them something the first weekend, and I think they believe it. I said, You get me through the first game and I feel good that I can help get you through the second. And they've kind of had that mentality.
And now they've gotten to the point where they watch a lot of film. Some of them tell me what I should be doing the next morning, like this morning. And the funny part is, I'm starting to get enough confidence where I'm listening to every word they say."
How different of a team are you from the first meeting to now?
"A lot different. Back then G, he wasn't even in the building. Delvon [Roe] was still facing some injuries. We just had a lot of ups and downs. A lot of guys weren't playing as much and different things like that. I think we're just a more experienced team. We faced a lot of different teams now, different styles of play. I think we're just better."
Can you talk about the first game with North Carolina, the way you played and the way Lawson played?
"He played great. One thing he did was he ran his team good. He got his guys shots. He made sure he created for his-self and plus his team. I mean, everybody know they beat us, they beat us bad.
As far as our team, we just gonna go out on Monday. We gonna play 'em aggressive. It should be a great game."
After you guys lost to Carolina earlier this year, did any of you think you would be here today?
"Did we think we was going to be here? We believe in ourselves. We knew we had a great team. We got a great coaching staff. We work hard. This was our goal all along. Even though we had some ups and downs, we still believed we was a great team, even though nobody else believed in us."
What have you taken from the '79 team and what in particular during the tournament have they said to you or given you any kind of advice? And when was the first time you became aware of what the '79 team did?
"Well, I think, you know, Magic came back a couple times, talked to us. They had the 30-year reunion in the Breslin Center. They came and spoke to us, told us to keep together, keep believing in each other. We have a great coaching staff, so we can get great things accomplished.
"For myself, I learned about that game, I'm pretty sure, a couple years coming to America, you know, watching Final Fours, the NCAA tournaments. Earvin went to my high school. I obviously heard about the national championship that he won at Michigan State in '79. So I watched that game probably, you know, somewhere in 2003."
You dunked on Stanley Robinson last night. After you put it down, did you feel something come out of UConn, feel them deflate a little bit?
"You know, I just kind of tried to probe into it a little bit. I seen Raymar on the wing. I saw him kind of back pedal a little bit.
"He's an athletic guy, just like I am. I kind of like my chances with a guy back pedaling and me going straight up. He got a little piece of the ball. I just kind of instinctively tried to overpower it a little bit."