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Tourney Talk: CHD sits down with Northwestern State coach Mike McConathy

On Saturday night Northwestern State beat Stephen F. Austin in the Southland Conference tourney title game to earn an automatic bid to next week’s NCAA tournament. The Demons went 16-16 in 2012, but bounced back in 2013 to claim the school’s first NCAA tourney bid since 2006. Earlier today Jon Teitel got to speak with Coach Mike McConathy about what it feels like to make the tourney for the third time in his career.

mcconathy

You substituted for your entire starting five a couple of times in a four point loss to Oklahoma back in November.  Why did you do that, and how close did it come to getting you a win? We do that on a regular basis: we rotate in first and second waves – or “white” and “purple” waves based on the colors we wear in practice. It allows us to keep our intensity up at a high level for 40 minutes.

You are the highest scoring team in the country and are 15-1 when scoring 80+ points. Are you a firm believer in the theory that “offense wins championships”? I think offense can help you, but defense wins championships. We try to create offense out of our defense.

You have a pair of identical freshmen twins (Austin/Dustin Adams) on your roster, how do you tell them apart!? It is pretty tough, but one’s face is narrower than the other…although I cannot tell you which one that is at the moment!

DeQuan Hicks intercepted a pass in the final seconds to clinch your two-point win over Stephen F. Austin in the conference tourney title game on Saturday. Where does that rank among your team’s defensive plays of the season, and how were you able to score 68 points against the number one scoring defense in the nation? It was a great basketball play by DeQuan, but the more important play was when he grabbed a rebound off of a missed three point shot with under a minute left to allow us to take some more time off the clock. We just pushed the ball and tried to beat them back in transition. We did not have anybody play over 26 minutes the day before in order to allow us to stay fresh.

Jalan West redshirted in 2012 and was named conference Rookie of the Year in 2013, how was he able to come in and contribute as a freshman, and how bad is his left ankle after he twisted it late in the game Saturday? He is one of those young men who has a tremendous feel for the game and has been a winner dating back to high school. He got to watch us last year so he is not really a “true freshman”, but that helped him learn a lot about our team. He first tweaked his ankle six weeks ago, but we hope he will be okay by the time we play.

You won 13 of your last 15 games, do you think your team is playing its best basketball of the season right now? I do. We had two guys out for a couple of games (including a loss to Stephen F. Austin two weeks ago), but we are playing very good basketball at this stage of the game.

Shamir Davis was named 2013 conference tourney MVP, what makes him such a great player, and how crucial is he to your team’s success next week? He is a strong guard who can get to the free throw line and make them when he gets there. He had a phenomenal game last night.

Your father and uncle, as well as your sons Logan andMichael all played at Northwestern State, is it extra-special for you to take this school to the tourney given your family’s history there? No doubt: it is just a special thing to do this and be in the position that we are in. Any school is a big family, and our school is an extension of my own family.

You are the winningest Louisiana men’s college basketball coach ever: what makes you such a good coach, and do you think that anyone will ever break your record? The good Lord has blessed me with everything I have, and I thank him for that. The fact that I played in college and got to compete at a very high level helped me. I definitely think that someone will knock off the record: it is just an honor to have been able to pass some great coaches along the way.

What seed do you think you deserve, and what seed do you think you will get? I would love to get a #14-seed…but am just hoping that we get a #15-seed!  It is more important to get the best match-up.  I would rather be a #15-seed with a good match-up rather than a #12-seed with a bad match-up.

JonTeitel