My friend and colleague Sam Werner already has a lockdown on what would be a perfect name for this kind of a post -- Talkin' Bout Practice, from the famous and utterly amazing Allen Iverson press conference of several years ago -- so I've got a more basic title for these.
Basically, for this post and all other ones in the future, I'm going to just give some news, notes and observations from practices I attend just to provide readers with an extra glimpse into the team.
From the last two days:
*** The win over Kentucky turned out to be a case of perfect timing since the Charlotte-Providence game didn't happen until the next night. With that schedule, it allowed the players to enjoy the victory and get the necessary pats on the back, along with having the day off from practice. The fact that the team's next opponent was unknown at that point made it much easier to take a quick break.
"After not only the physical effort that it took, but also the emotional effort we expended on Tuesday, I think it was nice to have a little time," he said.
Now, for him, the time has come to try to put the Kentucky game in the past and get focused on Providence.
*** A lot was talked about with the mental aspect going into the game against the Wildcats -- that is, not being overly excited or star-struck by their opponent solely because of the school they play for. The mental aspect comes back into play against Providence, but for a different reason -- how do the players quickly respond from what was probably the marquee moment in the program's history?
Toole said for these postseason games and really any game in general, that the mental aspect is one of the most important aspects of preparing a team.
"The ability to keep your team on a somewhat even keel in terms of preparation, keep them a little bit on edge about the opponent and what needs to be done," he said. "It’s the biggest part, for every game, whether you get too high or get too low or anywhere in between – making sure they have a healthy respect for what they’re going to face, but also that they’re prepared and confident that they can go and execute things."
*** Said at this point, it's a survive-and-advance sort of mentality with the team. They know they're fighting to extend their season, with every game playing a role in that larger scheme.
*** He also noted that his players don't really know who's ever won the NIT in the past, so there's no sort of confidence that comes from the fact that non-power conference teams like Wichita State, Dayton and Tulsa have won it in the last 12 years.
"We're just going to focus on Providence," he said. "That's what we're going to worry about."
*** Important note: Lucky Jones will not receive an automatic suspension or anything of the sort for his flagrant-one foul on Kentucky's Archie Goodwin that prompted him to get ejected from the game.
Toole said it was a hard foul, but that Jones was going for the ball and there was no malicious intent behind it.
*** This point really needs to be made first because I didn't know about it until yesterday -- Myers-Pate's uncle (on his father's side) is God Shammgod. For those that maybe don't know, in addition to obviously having one of the best names in the history of organized sport, Shammgod helped lead Providence to the Elite Eight in 1997, where it bowed out to eventual NCAA champion Arizona (a game in which he had 23 points and five assists playing against future NBA point guard Mike Bibby).
Shammgod is currently an undergraduate student assistant coach for the Friars, so there will be a nice mini-reunion for the two when the ball tips off Monday.
*** He was talking about the team's physical play on Kentucky's guards and noted that when Ryan Harrow was taking the ball up the court early in the game, Myers-Pate said he could hear John Calipari yelling at his point guard to "Check him like he's checking you." He noted the physicality seemed to throw Kentucky's guards off, particularly Harrow.
"I really wanted to make a statement to show them, 'We're not scared of you all,'" he said.
*** He said that the extra time off -- what will be six days by Monday -- really will help the team, one that's been dealing with injuries to players like Karvel Anderson, Velton Jones and even himself (for anyone who saw Tuesday, Myers-Pate's right shoulder is wrapped). "That's perfect," he said of the time off.
*** There's definitely still a motivating factor for this team even with the Kentucky win. Two more victories put the Colonials in the NIT Final Four, which is played at Madison Square Garden. "We don't have anything to lose," he said.
*** The game at Providence represents the team's first trip to the Dunkin' Donuts Center since its overtime loss to Villanova in the 2010 NCAA tournament, a loss in which several questionable calls were made in the game's final minutes.
He is one of two active players on the team (with Lijah Thompson out for the season) that was on Robert Morris at that time. He said all he really remembers was that it was "a loss in a game we should have won."
"I didn't feel anything after that game," he said. "I was mad that we were so close. It was right there and we just let it slip away."
*** He said he got about 300 new Twitter followers after the win over Kentucky. Were many, if any, of them Wildcats fans? "Nah, I don't think Kentucky likes us too much."
*** He did not practice yesterday or today in order to rest and get a shot in his back (nothing serious).
*** Velton has a unique place in program history having been a member of the team in both the Villanova loss and the Kentucky win. He said that's a big reason why he chose to attend Robert Morris, so he could help a smaller program make a mark.
"I wanted to try to turn it into a Gonzaga or something like that," he said. "I think those two games are the reasons I came here – help put Robert Morris on the map.”
*** When he stepped up to the free-throw line, he said his head was in "all types of places." He said that he couldn't really bring himself to calm down, but he knew that he had to stay somewhat relaxed if he wanted to knock the shots down.
*** Seeing replays of the game and his free throws was understandably a surreal experience for him.
“It felt good seeing it, but I don’t think it had hit me yet," he said. "I don’t think it’s going to hit me until five years from now when I realize that I made history.”
*** McFadden's from Newark, so the prospect of winning two more games and making it to Madison Square Garden is obviously an appealing one.
*** Though the win over Kentucky and his role in it hasn't completely settled in yet, McFadden said that the team has to be ready for Providence and he thinks that they will be, being a veteran-laden group.
“I think everybody has been thinking about the Kentucky game a lot," he said, "but I think at the same time, everyone’s mature enough to know that that was in the past."