Are you eager to play in the NIT or are you reluctant?
I'm eager. It's just, even though we didn't make the NCAA Tournament, we've got to take this chance in the NIT to get better. With such a young team, this is going to be a great experience for us because a lot of the teams go to the NIT and boost themselves and the next year they make the NCAA.
What environment do you expect at the Smith Center tomorrow night?
I'm pretty sure it'll be crowded. Just because it's the NIT doesn't mean people aren't going to come see us play. It's still Carolina basketball, no matter where we're playing at.
How does the team get motivated to play in this game?
I really don't know. It's just another chance to play, so that should be motivation enough for me, anyway. For other guys I really don't know. We're going to go out and practice in a little bit and we'll see how our guys feel about it then.
Do you feel like the team's on the same page in terms of playing in the NIT, or is it a case where some guys do and some guys don't?
Some guys talks about it like we're playing for 66th place, but once you get out on the court we put all of that behind us. And we just got out and play and focus on getting the win.
It just gives us another opportunity to play basketball and for this year it can help us to get to 20 wins. To go from 8- to 20-win season, you can't ask for any more than that. That's going to be great for us – to have 20 wins means we beat a lot of top teams in the nation. We feel we deserve to be in the NCAAs, but it didn't happen so we'll have to move on.
So you watched the Selection Show together?
Yeah, we watched it at coach Doherty's house. A lot of the guys really didn't feel that we should have watched it. Because we really didn't want to find out like that. But at the same time it was a great experience for us to be together.
Did you all really think you had a chance to make it to the NCAAs?
Somewhat, but we beat a lot of the teams … we beat three top 10 teams in the nation and we're the only ACC team to do that. Also we got Sean back and even though we lost to Duke, we beat Maryland and Duke in the same week, so I thought we had a good ending to the season. We thought we had a slim chance.
Once the NCAA field was announced and you found out you weren't in it, what was the atmosphere like?
It was just like ‘Okay, we finally know now. We know what we have to do.' Coach was hoping we'd find out who we had to play at his house, but we didn't find out and got the call later that night. Guys are pumped and ready to go. Just another opportunity for us to play basketball.
What was your reaction when you found out that DePaul's leading scorer is 6-9, 260 pounds?
Actually that's my first time hearing that. I heard they have some great big men inside and we're just going to have to fight. It's going to be a hard-fought game – this tournament isn't a slouch.
You've been guarding a lot of these bigger post players, what is that like for you?
It's been tough. But it's heart -- once you have heart no one can take that from you. You have to go out and fight. Once you do that, everything else takes care of itself.
What's the difficulty of preparing for a team with only 48 hours notice?
We leave that up to the coaches. They have to get everything together for us and once we get to practice we take it from there. Once you find out who you're playing, you kind of know what they can do from watching them on TV, so it'll be easy for us but the pressure [to prepare] is mostly on the coaches.
What was the difference in being able to beat Duke and Maryland with a smaller lineup?
We had speed, quickness in the lineup and everybody was asking how can we match up with Maryland and Duke – but nobody really looked at how they can match up with us. We went with a smaller lineup and people like Casey Sanders and Ryan Randle guarding me and Jawad. I mean, that's a mismatch on both ends.
How much does that change having Sean May back in the lineup?
It really doesn't change much because he's been back in practice for a while now, so he's getting used to what we're doing and once he's out there he's slimmed down so he can move. It's not so much us that has to adapt, it's mostly Sean, and he's doing a very good job of that.
Do you think getting him back might have been a distraction for the Duke game?
Not really. Because having a guy like Sean back really helps your team – it doesn't hurt your team. When he came in he didn't hurt us at all. He scored baskets back-to-back and had some key blocks on defense. As far as the loss, I don't really know what to say about the loss. But Sean hasn't hurt us in any way. He's helped us more than he's hurt us.
Looking back on Saturday against Duke, what went wrong?
I really don't know. I think it had a lot to do with fatigue. Guys we're tired – we had a real hard fought game against Maryland where our starters played the majority of the minutes. I really don't know, but it was mainly fatigue.
What's the difference in your offense with Sean in the lineup?
Without him in the lineup we really didn't have a key big man to go to and we had everybody on the perimeter just screening and cutting. But with Sean back in the lineup, we can put him in the post and still have the outside guy screening and cutting like that, but we'll have a main big guy.
Do you think all the questions about being in the NIT will end tomorrow night – will this just be basketball?
Right, like I said it's Carolina basketball no matter where we're playing. Once we get out on that court, people aren't going to say ‘Ah, man, this is the NIT.' They're going to say ‘Okay, it's Carolina back on the court again.'