Shaka Smart post-selection show quotes

Jacob Young (Will Gallagher/IT)
Jacob Young (Will Gallagher/IT)

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Shaka Smart touched on a lot of topics after his Longhorns made the field of 68. Here’s what he had to say.

Opening statement: “Really excited about the opportunity to play on Friday in the NCAA Tournament against Nevada. This has been, for us as a team, a season unlike any other. Been through a lot of twists and turns. Our guys have really fought and battled and found ways to reinvent themselves, and now here we are in the NCAA tournament playing against a terrific team in Nevada. For us, super excited about what’s next but at the same time we know at this time of year in order to advance you have to find a way to be the best version of yourself and that’s what we’ll work on being between now and Friday.”

On if he knew his team was in: “I didn’t know. I’ve been around this long enough to know there’s always surprises on Selection Sunday. I’ve also been around it long enough to know that we’re all biased towards the teams that we are a part of and follow most closely. Sometimes your view is a little bit slanted. I thought we had a really good chance of being in. I thought the West Virginia game at home was one we really needed to have and our guys did a great job of going to get it.”

On Nevada: “They’re a terrific team. I’ve seen them on TV a couple of times. The Martin twins, two of their better players, Caleb and Cody, I’ve known those guys for a long time. We recruited them at VCU. They ended up going to NC State and then transferring to Nevada. Starting tonight, we’ll dive into the tape and we’ll watch closely. They’ve got an elite offensive team just looking at their numbers and watching them play a couple times on TV. They’ve got tremendous size on the perimeter. They can put lineups out there where there’s really nobody under 6-5, 6-6. We’ll certainly have our work cut out for us defensively guarding them and between now and Friday we’ll really get to know the things that they do on both ends of the floor. Again, we’ve got to remember that the most important thing for us is to be the best Texas we can be.”

On if Mohamed Bamba will play: “I sure hope so. We practiced today and it’s like, how much do you put out there? Because he can play. He practiced for about 30 to 40 minutes and we said “okay, that’s enough big fella. Go shoot.” The last thing we want to do is anything that makes him move backwards. Yeah, I believe, knock on wood, if the game was tomorrow that he would be able to go and play and play a lot more minutes than he did the other day.”

On how long Sunday’s workout was: “We went for about 75 minutes, 80 minutes. He went about half, a little less than half.”

On the feeling of getting to the tournament: “The number one prevailing emotion, I think I speak for the vast majority of our program, is we’re excited. Excited about the opportunity. Those of us that were here last year know what it’s like to not be a part of the big dance and not even be close. Today, at 5 o’clock there was some nervousness in the room. We watched the show in here, and the way they revealed it, you guys probably watched, it’s alphabetical order and you see this team didn’t make it or that team didn’t make it. You feel pretty good, then there were a bunch of teams that were close to us in alphabetical order, so when we saw Texas the guys went nuts. They were really excited. That’s the way it should be. Obviously there’s a standard here to, at the very least, make it to the tournament, but at the same time with the season that we’ve been through and the twists and turns that our guys have undergone, we should really be excited about making it and most important, we should want to do something with it.”

On how much noise can this team make with a fresh start: “I think it is. It’s a fresh start for everyone, all 68 teams. Some of us on the coaching staff, most of us have been there before where it’s not so much about your seed. It’s not so much about where you’re going to play. It’s just about the opportunity. You know you’re going to play a great team. There’s no teams that are playing this time of year that are not great teams. Nevada has had a phenomenal season so we’ve just got to focus on being the best version of us and making sure that we’re really, really aggressive with everything we do.”

On Kerwin Roach being the only one with tournament experience of players available: “We’ll certainly be one of the least experienced teams, both in terms of age and in terms of the NCAA Tournament. Nevada is one of the most. They’ve got a lot of guys who whether it was there at Nevada or at their former school because they have a lot of transfers, have NCAA Tournament experience. That alone doesn’t decide the game. I think for us, we’ve got to remember what goes into winning and we’ve got to remember it’s truly a team game. It’s a team win or a team loss. It’s about the five guys on the court plus everyone on the bench making each other better and Snoop is going to have to really provide a lot of leadership just because he’s been there before. He’s gone through the steps you go through on the way there. When the game starts, we’ll need to settle in. There will be some nerves early but we need to settle in and play.”

Kerwin Roach (Will Gallagher/IT)
Kerwin Roach (Will Gallagher/IT)

On settling in better earlier in the game: “We need to get off to a much better start. We’ve gone through stretches this year where we’ve gotten off to really good starts for a few games in a row. Then we’ve gone through stretches where we haven’t. I think a lot of the reason why we haven’t got off too good starts sometimes is sometimes playing a little bit too hesitant, a little bit too tentative. Nevada is terrific team defending the three point line, so that’s all the more reason to start the game with aggressiveness and try and get to the paint, try and get to the foul line. No question, getting off to a good start is really important particularly in the NCAA tournament because there’s going to be some nervousness. There will be that both ways. You’re only human if you feel that.”

On when he knows what version of Dylan Osetkowski he’s getting: “You can tell by the look on his face. I tell him all the time “DO, lead the way and your play will follow.” Sometimes when he gets really worried or anxious about his play before some of the other stuff he gets a little hesitant. It’s my job. I’ve got to find a way to get him to be aggressive, let loose, let his hair down, call it whatever you want to. You can tell with the look he has if he’s worried or timid. It doesn’t work.”

On if he thought they would be in Dayton for the play-in games: “I thought it could go either way. I thought the last couple of days there’s been some upsets that have taken bids away. Davidson won today. There was another one recently. With each one of those, your margin for error is smaller. I thought we would kind of be right there on the border. Then actually when they announced the at large teams before they got to where everyone was playing, at that point I didn’t think that we would be in Dayton. I felt like there was enough teams that probably would be there as opposed to us.”

On if he thought any team got screwed: “I’m not really focusing on that. We made it.”

On Oklahoma State not making it: “Our league, such a really competitive and balanced year in our league, particularly after Kansas. Certainly would have loved to see an extra team or two get in. You also understand that the NCAA Selection Committee only has a certain number of at large bids to give out. I know they spend a lot of time figuring out who the most deserving teams are. We’re just excited with our opportunity.”

On if Texas can win the tournament: “We’re going to focus on winning on Friday. That’s where all of our focus is. I do think though, we were in here watching, we were announced relatively early in our bracket and just watching some of the others, you see some of the matchups and there’s a chance for there to be a lot of upsets. Three’s a chance for there to beat a lot of teams beating other teams maybe some people wouldn’t think would happen. It’s just one of those years in college basketball.”

On his focus in the last few weeks: “I’ve just been trying to stay focused on my New Year’s intentions actually. At the New Year, I said there was three things I was going to really, really try to do. Sometimes when it gets a couple months into the year you get away from that stuff. One of the more important ones is just to do my very best to try to be about the things that I ask our guys and my daughter to be about. I think sometimes as coaches we’ll tell the guys “hey, be in the moment,” or “respond,” or “focus on your teammates and the people around you.” Then as coaches we don’t always do a great job of living that. That’s really been a guide post for me over the past few weeks as all this stuff has been going on and as we’ve been in this fight to try and make it to today.”

On Eric Davis: “There is not really any update. He’s working through with our compliance department. He’s still here. He’s practicing with our team. He’s going to school. There’s not going to be leaving school right now or anything like that. There’s really no update.”

On Jacob Young: “He’s a trip. He’s a piece of work, but I love him. Number one, he’s got great competitive spirit. I just feel like if you’ve got five guys on the court with that, it gives you a much better chance. From there, you’ve got to have poise and you’ve got to be locked in on the plan. You can’t foul the three point shooter and all kinds of stuff that he’s got to keep getting better at. He’s made strides. He’s not going to score 29 points every game but if he can come in a game and give us a lift with his competitive spirit and his intensity, make a few shots, make the right play, which he’s done in several games this year of late, he really helps us.”

Andrew Jones drives against WVU (Will Gallagher/IT)
Andrew Jones drives against WVU (Will Gallagher/IT)

On Andrew Jones: “A bunch of our guys were hitting him (up). I actually planned on calling him on FaceTime as soon as I get out of here. He’s making such progress and it’s great to see the optimism, I guess is the best word to use, in his face and in his voice.”

On if he believes he has a confident team: “I don’t know if you are or aren’t reading them correctly. You’d rather them be confident than not confident, but obviously you want to be in that space between underconfidence and overconfidence. There’s absolutely no reason for us to be overconfident, but at the same time it’s Texas. You do have to guard against that. It would be crazy because we’re the lower seed. Nevada’s won, I don’t know, nine or ten more games than us this year. The good thing about playing on Friday is we’ve got plenty of time between now and then to get on the same page as players and coaches in terms of what our mindset needs to be.”

On one thing team needs to do to have success against Nevada and in general: “Without taking a deep dive yet, I’ve watched them on TV a couple of times, we’ve got to guard the three point line. I think they make about 10 threes a game and shoot it at a very high clip. We have to do a great job there defending the three point line. Just as a team, overall, regardless of even thinking about who the opponent is, I think the biggest thing we have to do is we must, as a team, be focused more on the guy next to us than we are on our self. We have to be focused on the fact that we are all connected around one mission and in our case it’s winning on Friday and advancing. Not get sideways with “wow, that play didn’t go well for me” or “a ref called this foul” or whatever it is. I know that sounds crazy in March but it’s still the case. That goes a long way towards winning.”

On if this is a big teaching week for his young players: “We told the guys before practice today “hey, our team is best when we’re player driven and coach directed.” We’re going to give them plenty of direction. We’re going to let them know what’s coming, what they need to prepare for, and what they need to avoid, but it’s got to be driven by our guys. If our guys want to defend every second in a stance, obviously at our urging and coaching, then we’ll be better. If we’ve got to every second remind them of that, we won’t be as good. If they want to be connected like this for 40 minutes, then we’ll be better. My job obviously is to create that. I’m really appreciative of having the chance to do that job because last year at this time I didn’t.”

Dylan Osetkowski (Will Gallagher/IT)
Dylan Osetkowski (Will Gallagher/IT)

On the difference between the tournament schedule and the normal schedule: “It’s different just from the standpoint of today’s Sunday and we don’t play until Friday. Usually you don’t have that many days. You leave and go out there earlier. We’ll travel on Wednesday and then obviously just all the stuff leading up to it. The open practice, the media stuff is different than a regular season game. But I tell you what, when that ball goes up in the air, it’s still five on five. It’s still about being the harder playing team and sprinting the floor, being in the stance, communicating, all the things that go into winning.”

On why Dylan still gets timid or anxious: “I think actually, ironically, it’s because he wants it so much. I think sometimes when you hang on so tight and you want a certain result so bad – and his intentions are good, he wants it because he wants to help the team – but it’s easy for it to become what we call an avoidance goal where you go from playing to go be your best to playing to keep from messing up or keep from not being your best. That’s a fine line with him and it’s something that we’ve been working on honestly since last year when he was sitting out. We’ll stay at it and he’s been very open minded and I think all these experiences will hopefully really help him down the road. Now, the most important time for them to help him is Friday whenever we play.”