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What they said… BC ready for USC

The student-athletes of Boston College [1] headed for the comforts of their hotel rooms but not before sharing their thoughts about facing Southern California on Friday night in Minneapolis.

Tyrese Rice and Rakim Sanders took questions from the media on Thursday. Here’s what they said:

Q. I was going to ask, do you guys feel like you’re playing your best brand of basketball right now? And also, even though you haven’t gone on a long, winning stretch, this tournament kind of requires it.
Do you feel like that makes a difference?

I don’t think we are playing our best basketball right now, but we are definitely improving. And we have to be ready for tomorrow.

As far as the winning streak, a lot of the No. 1 seeds have had big winning streaks. Really the only big winning streak right now is Louisville [2]. So you can’t really say much about winning streaks; it is who is going to get hot at the right time or who is not.

What he said, we’re improving as a team. I mean, we haven’t like our last game we haven’t won, but we are learning from each game and getting better. So I think yeah.

Q. For both players, guys, talk to me about the national perception. The ESPN talking heads are both predicting Southern California, a fine ball club, to beat you guys rather easily. Despite the fact you are a higher seed, USA Today has you as an underdog in the paper. Nothing is really talking about your team or about the game. How do you guys feel about that kind of lack of respect that you’re getting by the national media?

TYRESE RICE: That’s nothing new when it comes to us. I mean even my freshman year we were No. 10 team in the country and still didn’t get any respect. So it doesn’t mean anything to me. I mean, everybody will always have us as the underdog regardless when we are playing Southern Cal or whoever else.

So we have been playing the underdog roles our whole life. Most of the people on our team have been playing the underdog roles, and we’re fine with that.

RAKIM SANDERS: Really don’t matter to me. At the end of the day, I mean, we’re going to leave it on the court anyway. So it really don’t matter. Q. Tyrese, how dangerous is this USC team? What are you guys expecting from them? They won a whole bunch of games coming in.

TYRESE RICE: You see what they did in the Pac 10 tournament. Backs against the wall, they got hot and they won three straight games against three nationally ranked opponents, or it might have been two actually. But the point is, they got hot when they needed to and you see what they can do when they’re on their game.

So it is definitely going to be a challenge, but I think we are going to be able to step up to it.

Q. Can you just talk about where you guys are at with your guys’
games? You had a tough loss your last time out. You had a tough game the last time out, but where do you feel you guys are at in terms of peaking and all that?

RAKIM SANDERS: For me, I think we’re doing that right as a team. I mean, we I lost, but, I mean, we have a lot of confidence in each other. We are getting better with each other. Each game we are playing better with each other. That comes from not only playing basketball, but I think getting to know each other off the court.

So, I mean, I think right now I think we’re at a good time where we can just keep getting better, and I think this is the right time to do it.

TYRESE RICE: Like I said before, I mean, right now once you get into the tournament, anything can happen. And whoever gets hot at the right time at the right point of the game can just roll on you. So it’s basically whoever gets hot.

Q. As a senior, what you are telling the other guys as to how to prepare or what to expect in the tournament? And as a sophomore last year, what are you expecting and how new is it to you?

TYRESE RICE: I mean, we talk about the past tournament, like my freshman year, my sophomore year, but I am just basically letting them soak it all in. Letting them kind of realize how big of a deal it really is. And, I mean, tomorrow, come tomorrow, I really, I really push for everybody to focus in and be ready and be prepared for what we’re trying to do.

RAKIM SANDERS: I just hoping we’re coming in, I mean, it’s an honor obviously to make it here. But I feel as though I take it each game the same. You want to go out there and just play hard and try to win.
I mean, that’s how I’m taking it. I ain’t taking it no different from any other game or nothing like that.

Q. Do you see any similarities between USC not necessarily in style of play but the fact that they have a couple of veterans but a lot of young guys, they haven’t strung together their 3s, they’re catching hot at the right time? Do you see any similarities at all?

TYRESE RICE: I haven’t actually seen them enough to actually compare us to them. But as far as matchups, I guess you can say we match up to them pretty well. They are big in size, we got big in size.

So, I mean, I don’t really know too much about their team to really say that we compare to them.

Q. This for both players. Guys, talk to me about the dome, the fact that you guys played two games last week in Atlanta, got familiar with the background and depth perception. And knowing that at times it’s very difficult and kind of unnatural to shoot the basketball in the domes. Do the two games in Atlanta help you guys given the fact that you played two, Southern California did not? Just from both players’
point of view, shooting the basketball in the dome, how much of a challenge is it?

TYRESE RICE: I think it was pretty it was pretty tough, but us already playing inside of a dome I think is definitely going to help us coming back and playing in another one this week. I mean, we got plenty shots over the course of those two games and that practice before, so I think that we may be a little more prepared.

But when it all comes down to it, it’s going to matter who makes shots tomorrow and not who’s made shots in the past.

RAKIM SANDERS: I feel the same way as him. So, I mean, no matter where you go, you want to stick it your routine, the way you shoot.
And you just have to stick with your shot and how you shoot any other day.

Q. This is for both guys. Just the idea if you can speak to playing in a city where college basketball [3] is not as big a deal as it is in a lot of the places that you go to play games in the ACC and all around this country where it’s a bigger deal than it is where you are. It seems like the highs are higher and the lows are lower in Boston. But is that ever something that bothers you in any way, that college basketball is not as big of a deal as it is in a lot of the places you play?

TYRESE RICE: I pretty much got used to it. I got used to playing and being like the fifth or sixth tier team in Boston. So flying under the radar, we try to use it to our advantage. When we come out we play against the schools like the Carolinas and the Dukes who have 20 , 30,000 people that always follow them, so, I mean, flying under the radar is what makes us who we are. And we are just trying to keep it that way.

Q. How are you guys feeling about depth as far as ego, playing well in the tournament, Josh playing well in the tournament? And USC was having struggles with depth. I feel that you are starting to get contribution from other players, or not just starting to.

RAKIM SANDERS: Again, it’s just us having confidence in like Biko and Josh and everybody stepping up. It’s just everybody feeling comfortable with each other out there. And that’s all it is, I think.
Once you have like your friendship off the court and on the court it just makes everything easier for everybody to get out there and play and play their role in it, and like pick up the slack that we might have out there from the starters and all that.

Q. This one is for Tyrese. USC had a lot of success in the Pac 10 tournament using Marcus Simmons and bigger guards against the other teams’ point guards. Have you encountered anything like that this year? Is their size in the back court a concern for you?

TYRESE RICE: Not really. We have big guards in our league and we have players who match up with different style of players every day.
So, I mean, whenever we have practice, Rakim all the time guards me.
So that’s not really an issue for us. We still have to execute. We still have to stick to the game plan. And we still have to play hard.

So I’m not really worried about their putting a bigger guard on me.

Q. Personally how is it for you, Tyrese, going from last year to this year, missing the tournament and then coming back this year and having to, you know, make the sacrifice of saying I can’t score enough or I put my scoring aside if we are going to get back. Was it easier, good for you?

TYRESE RICE: After last year, I had already decided to come back, like after the last game I was like I can’t go out 14 and 17 like that. If I was leaving my teammates like that, I would be leaving them out to dry. And talking to Coach Skinner and my team, they know what kind of person I am. They know that scoring doesn’t really mean anything to me.

When we get in the locker room, the only thing they hear me talking about is getting assists. I need that assist next time, you missed that layup, I need you to score that next time. But scoring points doesn’t really matter to me.

I think I have done enough of that since I was a younger kid, so that doesn’t mean anything to me.

Q. Tyrese, kind of as a follow up to the question. Just talk to us about the significance of making the NCAA [4] tournament after the struggles last year. And last year you finished in a tie for last place. You jump up seven spots in the standings and finish in a tie for fifth. 22 wins, that’s 20 wins in the last seven times in the last nine years. Just talk about what a tremendous jump the club made from last year to this year and why.

TYRESE RICE: I think the biggest thing was the maturity of our team.
I mean, we lost a lot of close games last year. I mean, we was 14 17, we could have easily maybe been 21 10 or something like that.

But the difference between last year and this year was we closed out games. And the people that needed to step up from last year to this year did that. I mean, you see Rakim went from averaging about 10 points to 14, 15 points a game. And I think that the addition Joe Trapani helps us also.

And guys stepped up. Knew exactly what their roles were and we knew what to expect from everybody and I think that just made us a better team.