Thursday, March 1, 2012

CAA Tournament Q&A: Mo Cassara

With the clock ticking before Gary Moore and I make a middle-of-the-night run for the Southern Bias border, I’m all about the minimalism tonight. Plus you’re here to read what Mo Cassara has to say as he and the Flying Dutchmen get ready for the CAA Tournament. So read on! I have to pack.

How do you approach the tournament when you’re seeded at the back of the pack like this?

I think this is a unique situation where I don’t think anybody on our coaching staff, on our roster, thinks that we’re an 11 seed, you know? I think we’ve been in so many close games and we’ve competed with everybody throughout the league, game in and game out, [to] where we don’t feel like we’re that far separated. I think on different teams—everybody’s been on teams where there’s such a huge separation. There’s not a team in the league that I’m really fearful of playing.

Georgia State and VCU are probably the two teams that come to mind that we have the most difficulty with, just because of style of play. But other than that I think, regardless of seed, especially right now in a one-game neutral court site, we’re excited to go down and have another crack at Georgia State.

What can you do differently this time against Georgia State?

It’s interesting. We went back and Coach Morgan and Coach Sellers have done a great job really preparing us and really going back through some of the games that Georgia State lost as well as our game. And in all reality, we held them to 59 points. It really wasn’t our defense. It was really our offense. We struggled. And again, a lot of that credit goes to Georgia State, the way they play. They play a matchup zone, they play a 1-3-1, they’ve got great shot blockers, they’ve got size, they’ve got athleticism. So we’ve put a few different wrinkles in and I think we’ve got some much better offensive flow and certainly, as you’ve watched us the last couple weeks here, with that smaller lineup we are a better offensive team.

How do you go about conveying to the team how it can salvage a tough season this weekend?

As I’ve told our guys, this is a brand-new season. It’s a one-game season. And you have a great opportunity on Friday night. We know what [Georgia State is] about and we have a one-game season. It’s not necessarily about salvaging anything, it’s about taking advantage of a great opportunity And I think, in the tournament, anything can happen. You’ve just got to win that first game and that’s ultimately our focus right now—win that first game. And that starts with our preparation. We’ve had a couple great days of rest and mental preparation and we had a couple great days of practice.

So I’m excited about heading down there and giving it our best. We’ve played pretty good basketball the last couple weeks, and other than a couple minute stretch in the first half and one defensive breakdown in the second half, we played well against William & Mary against a team that is a difficult team to play in their gym.

In a situation like this, how do you go about preparing for possible games Saturday and later in the weekend? Do you just worry about winning the first one and then figure you’ll tackle Saturday if you get there?

Absolutely. This is much more about winning that first half against Georgia State and then obviously winning that second half. Absolutely no worries about who we’re preparing for the next game.

You’ve got to win four games in four days with a depleted roster. Is there any way to minimize the wear and tear if you get deeper into the weekend, or do you just have to hope adrenaline takes over?

I think we’re in a tough situation. We’ve got seven scholarship guys right now, we’ve got two walk-ons, but you know what, those guys are ready to play. They’re young and they’re excited and they’re ready to play. And we’ll take full advantage of that.

If you had to identify a key to making a run this weekend, what would it be?

I think it’s probably Mejia and McLendon. I think those two guys, if they make some shots as a starter and off the bench, we become a much tougher team to beat.

Are you going to dig into your bag of motivational tricks this week and discuss the out-of-nowhere teams that have reached the NCAA Tournament with a losing record?

I thought about that. I may do that, just to say ‘look at all these teams and what they’ve done.’ Certainly we have a great opportunity to do that and you have to go out and seize the opportunity.

I spend every morning on the road with [Hofstra bus driver] Eddie [Dellostritto]. We have coffee for hours sometimes, because I can’t sleep, as you know. He talks a lot about the first year we were in the league. The trips changed from New Hampshire and Vermont to Virginia and Old Dominion and then we struggled. But then we won two games in the tournament, the first two games. We’ve been talking about that all year, Eddie and I. So it’s been in the back of my head.

You never know. That’s the great thing about college basketball, it’s the great thing about our league, it’s the great thing about sports. There’s always another opportunity and there’s nothing like a Cinderella story.

But right now we’re not looking big picture. This is much more of a first half, second half, win, move on if we’re lucky to do that. We’re facing a very, very good Georgia State team.

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