Quotes from Herb Sendek's Selection Sunday Press Conference
March 16, 2008
Coach Herb Sendek
'I just talked to our team and my basic message to them was that, first, let's recognize and celebrate what we've accomplished to this point. We've had some great wins. We've had an excellent season. But, if our initial reaction is to point the finger, let's first take inventory of some of the opportunities that we had along the way that we could have taken better advantage of, where we could have played better, where we could have done more. If you want to start and end by playing the role of the victim, you let a great opportunity slide by to learn from the experience. So we did that. We took inventory, not only of our successes, but most notably, where we could have perhaps been more consistent, done better, and thereby taken more of the decision out of the control of the committee. Having said all that, obviously it's a very disappointing moment for us. We were anxious all weekend following our game against USC. At this point, the coaches and the players hurt a great deal. There's no getting around that.'
On Arizona getting in despite ASU having swept them and finished ahead of them in the Pac-10:
'It's merely a function of where you want to put weight in the equation. What variables are you going to give weight to? If head-to-head competition doesn't weigh as heavily as the composition of your non-conference schedule, then there's a chance that Arizona goes in ahead of us, and that's obviously what happened. There are a lot of numbers here. If you look at the numbers through a certain lens, the numbers suggest we'd be an entry over some teams. But on the other hand, they obviously are considering it from a different perspective, an unbiased one, unlike the one we hold. Where you finish in the conference and head-to-head competition today wasn't as important, obviously, as some of the other considerations, for whatever reason. That's what the committee went with.'
On using numbers such as the RPI to select the teams instead of deciding based more on common sense and who plays better on the court:
'From what I understand, they consider all those things. I hope we never get to a point where we dismiss the value of having real basketball people be able to watch and evaluate teams, and rely on their expertise and intuition to be able to tell you that team is good, that team is better. As hard as you try, the numbers can't absorb everything. I think the example that's gone around all week is, Kentucky loses by 41 to Vanderbilt, and the next day their RPI went up, because they played Vanderbilt. So, no matter how hard you try to encase everything in these numbers, it misses. So you have to have included in the process, and I think it is to some measure, the value of experts using their intuition and their insights in the process.'
On if this outcome makes him think twice about how he schedules non-conference opponents:
'Yes, but at the same time, there are a lot of factors that go with that. Let's just take quick inventory. First, our basketball team won two conference games last year and eight games overall. We knew we were going to be extraordinarily young this season. We started with a great field in Maui, we had an obvious top 10 or 15 team in Xavier and we had the Big 12 Challenge. So we had five non-conference games that could have come against five top 25 teams. You add that to what was expected to be the top conference in the country, 19 games. Now we're at 24. So you're sitting there in your office, last year is when this had to be done, and you're saying, we just won eight, we got 24 on the ledger right now, how many more is prudent? Should we go to 25? Should we go to 26? Should we schedule the Suns? Should we include the Lakers? How do you do that, unless you're clairvoyant? Because you can also, with a young team, schedule yourself right out of the season as well, and that wouldn't be very wise. But in retrospect, no mistake about it, that got us as much as anything. Not that we played some of the teams I just mentioned, but some of the teams had such a low RPI that it drained the value of the fact that, of all the bubble teams, ourselves, St. Joe's and Charlotte had the most wins against the top 50, the fact that we had the fifth seed in the Pac-10, some of the other things that tilted to our favor. It obviously came down to strength of schedule. The other factor in scheduling is, how do you always predict who's going to have a really good RPI? And, just because you want to schedule someone doesn't mean they want to schedule you. Who's to know that Princeton, a team that nobody ever wants to play, when you match up with them in Maui, is going to have a 313 on the RPI? Whereas if you would have played Chaminade in Hawaii, it doesn't count because they're non-Division I. So, there are those kinds of idiosyncrasies that make it very difficult to put your arms around.'
On if a program's reputation helps when it's on the bubble:
'I hope not. Let's give the committee the benefit of the doubt and say that their integrity would always prevent that from happening.'
On if he was confident going into the day that they would be in:
'I knew we were on the edge. I wasn't confident. I was anxious. I was in turmoil. I knew every game mattered this weekend. I knew Georgia mattered. I knew Wisconsin-Illinois mattered. There was enough information, enough smoke in the air, to know that we could be anything but comfortable.'
On how he sees the season overall:
'Our record, wins and losses, good games and not-so-good games, stand for what it is right now. If the committee would have put us in, that didn't make us any better. By them omitting us, it doesn't make us any worse. The facts are what they are. Whether we're in or not is simply that particular committee's interpretation of those facts. Another group would interpret those facts differently. Most of the commentators that I heard all the way through 3 o'clock, almost to a man, had us in the Tournament. So, the fact that we're not in doesn't diminish what this group has accomplished and doesn't take away from the terrific progress that we've made. We acknowledged with our guys the good that has happened, but at the same time, we have to take responsibility rather than displacing blame if we're going to learn anything from the experience and if we're going to be better in the future.'
On if a win over USC in the Pac-10 Tournament would have been enough to get them in:
'Yes. I absolutely do. I think if we would have won one more game anywhere along the trail, it would have been very difficult to keep us out. I think we were one game away in a lot of different directions, winning one more game, having the cards fall another direction in a conference here or there. I think you can reasonably say we were one game away, here, there or somewhere else.'
On the difficulty of getting prepared to play in the NIT after today's disappointment:
'It's hard. I'm not going to kid you about that. We're going to find out later tonight who we're playing, we'll get some tape, we'll watch it and we'll prepare like we always do. It will require picking ourselves up and dusting ourselves off. It's not going to be easy.'
Forward Jeff Pendergraph
On if this team's resume was enough to make the Tournament:
'Obviously not. If it was, then we'd be in there now. We'd be celebrating. So obviously not, but this does give us a better idea of what it takes to try and get in, and to better our chances. So this will be another learning experience for next year.'
On if the Pac-10 Tournament loss to USC cost them a bid:
'If we would have beat them, I think we would have been in, but I don't think it cost us. We can look back through the whole year and see a bunch of games that cost us, losing to Washington and Washington State at home, losing to Cal at home after we beat Stanford, losing at Washington State cost us, Nebraska cost us, Illinois cost us. Just some more wins here and there would have helped.'
On the difficulty of preparing for the NIT after today's disappointment:
'We've been dusting off and moving on all year. So I don't think it's going to be that hard to just do it and keep it moving. We've had some disappointing losses and some big wins, so it's just going to be, pick it up and just keep on moving.'