Columbia, SC - USC head coach Dave Odom previewed the LSU game on Tuesday with the media. The following are some of his comments and media questions follow. The USC-LSU game is at 7:30 pm on Wed., Feb. 27 and seats remain.
Odom previewed the game:
"LSU. The first time I saw them this year they played after us against Villanova (after USC beat Providence in Philadelphia). After that I said 'Wow!' They are tall, long-armed, strong. They were winning that game and then lost at the end. After that, they had a difficult December and January, but once the coaching change came and things settled down a bit, they look good. The Florida people told me they are as talented of a team as they have seen all year. It's an interesting team because like all of John Brady's teams they play really solid man to man and Butch Pierre has continued that. We went into the MSU game and thought Rick Stansbury would continue what he is good at (man to man) and we were caught off guard because they played 40 minutes of zone. We had been playing against it, but their zone was a bit of a surprise to us. I made sure we got a good dose of zone offense yesterday just in case. They have been a man-to-man team and I think that's what they'll play. I think we have covered our bases on that yesterday and we will continue that today."
"Defensively it will be a challenge guarding them because they can score at all positions. They all can shoot. Anthony Randolph is a pro waiting to happen. He's 6'10, 205, left-handed, can dribble outside and is good in and around the basket. Their depth is a little bit down because they have had a lot of injuries. They are a quality basketball team. John Brady told me after the change the reason he thinks he was relieved was 'because we might start winning and it would be hard to get me out of here if we do'. And that's what happened, they have started winning. They are the tallest team in the league."
"I pushed them harder than I have on any Monday than I have in a long time. I wasn't sure what the effect the game on Saturday would have, but I expected we would practice well. We practiced well; shot the ball well, not a lot of lingering things from Saturday's game.
"It's almost like how many ways can you find to lose a game. We did work on some special situations for what to do to be ready at the end of the game. It's hard to orchestrate that because you don't have a feeling of the end of the game, but just getting them to think about it and be a little more confident will certainly help us."
What is going on with Zam Fredrick? He seems to be in some shooting slump. Odom: "I don't know. I had a conversation with him yesterday. I am disappointed for him, not at him. He practices very hard and tries very hard. I talked to him about 1 pm yesterday and he said 'coach I am struggling like crazy.' He said he was struggling with himself right now. I told him he can help us in ways that aren't recognized by the public. He can rebound, draw charges - many different ways. I don't want him to quit shooting, but I don't want him to base his self-worth on the number of points he scores. We need him to be good if we are going to be good. While you try to evaluate our performance on Saturday, we got 18 minutes, no points, one rebound out of Dominique Archie. Then Zam was 2-12 and 0-7 from the three. You get those two lines out of two of your primo players and to be in position to win the game at the last minute is truly amazing so I know we are doing something right. You can't play the best team on the West side to truly to the very end and not be doing something right. I told him if we make a line-up change it's not to embarrass him, it's to help him. I have nothing bad to say about him and he's probably pressing. Brandis Raley-Ross would be the starter, but that is not set yet.
"You can't predict someone shooting their way out of a slump. I think Zam will eventually, but the problem now is we are running out of time. Again, it wouldn't be to embarrass or discipline him, but to help him."
Do you want to start Mike Holmes now? Odom: "The staff asked me about that, but my thinking is right now let's let him settle in another game or two. IF I start him, how many more minutes will he get than he has gotten in the last two games. If I start him, does that give him any more minutes? He is in a role now that he is comfortable with. I almost guess if I went to him and asked him if he wanted to start 'he would say whatever you want me to do.' I am not sure I want to bother that right now. He came to grips about three weeks 'this ain't working'. He started listening more. He'd been trying it his way and now he decided to follow it our way."
Do you think this team doubts itself down the stretch? Odom: "Anytime you've lost games like we have lost, there has to be a measure of self-doubt. When you look at Vanderbilt the only thing that could top it is the loss to Mississippi State. I think there is probably a measure of doubt there. I don't think they are as confident as they need to be. I think that's true of several of our players from the standpoint that they are confident on the surface in most of their abilities, but I don't know when you get down beneath the venure that they are as confident as you need to be. You would think you would be able to turn it and that's the only disappointment I have. The next four games, for the most part, are winnable. I know we have the No. 1 team in the country, Kentucky coming here, Auburn has proven difficult and LSU is the best team nobody knows about. Somehow we have been able to play with those teams and for the most part, been in every game. So there are a lot of good things, but we need to get confidence at win time."
Do you think LSU is playing better since Butch Pierre took over? Odom: "I am being honest with you. I did not see a game that John Brady coached. I didn't start looking at them until after the coaching change, so it's hard for me to say and that's the honest truth. They look good now and I am sure they were getting better when Coach Brady was there. I am not going to say they look better without John Brady or the other way. So I am not capable of saying either way. I saw eight minutes up in Philadelphia, but I wasn't looking for that. The last four games I have seen have been Pierre-coached games."