Fred Hoiberg shares his thoughts on the opening of March Madness

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The Nebraska Cornhusker men’s basketball team is preparing for its opening game of the 2024 NCAA Tournament. Head coach Fred Hoiberg met with the media prior to Friday’s game.

Want to say how excited we are to be in this opportunity right now. When we put this group together we thought we had a chance to be here. I give our guys all the credit in the world for continuing to buy in, be very professional throughout this entire season regardless of the circumstance. Whether we won, whether we lost, we generally prepared the same way, and these guys have been extremely coachable. And I’m really excited for them to have this opportunity.

The Huskers will face Texas A&M on Friday at 5:20 p.m. from Memphis, Tennessee. Find more comments from Fred Hoiberg.

On the start of the tournament

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

I think at this time of year obviously it’s, the importance is how your team is playing and how they’re hanging in there together when you’ve been through as many battles as we have. And I know this, we’re playing a hot team. We’re playing one of the hottest teams in the country right now that came off a five-game winning streak. And their loss, their lone loss in that stretch, to Florida, was as good a 20 minutes that they had played all year. They had a 20-point lead in the first half against Florida in that game. I know we’re playing a hot team. That being said, I really do like the way we’re playing, I think our guys have done a great job of sharing the ball. We found the right guy, whoever has had it going. And this team has been very selfless all season long.

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We’ve had a good week of prep. I’m sure A&M has had a great week of prep as well. And you’ve got two teams playing really good basketball squaring off tomorrow. So, again, we’ve all got our unique systems. A&M is a very unique system on both sides of the ball, and I know this, whatever offense they’re running, we have to be tied together. Defensively we’ve been pretty darned good with the exception of the Illinois game. We had a lot of miscues in that game. And offensively, I know we’re going to have to play with pace. Whatever defense they’re in, we just have to go out and continue to share it and continue to move. And we’ve had the benefit of playing a couple of teams that have played multiple defenses. Michigan played a lot of them. I was really pleased with how we moved in that game, whatever defense they were in. And that’s what it’s going to take for us tomorrow to have a chance to win this game.

On coaching Keisei

Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

Listen, the thing with Keisei, I’m so proud of his growth over the last couple of years. His first year at Nebraska, there were some games he just couldn’t play. He just got overwhelmed by physicality. Now he doesn’t back down from anybody. I don’t care who it is. He’s going to go out there. He’s going to give you an effort. He’s going to make contact with you, and the way that he is guarded, his ability to create separation, has been absolutely phenomenal. I’m just proud of him for everything that he’s done to make him the type of player that he is right now. And obviously there’s a lot of attention. He’s getting a lot of it. It’s important, as I’ve talked about with the team, to really try to limit the distractions this week. There’s so much noise, social media with everything going on. The team that limits those distractions a lot of times are the teams that move on at this time of year. So it’s important. We love it. He’s getting a lot of attention. But he’s always had that. He’s played on the world stage. He helped his national team at Japan accomplish something that’s never been done before. And that’s what we’re trying to accomplish here at Nebraska.

On Keisei’s attitude

Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The thing that I loved was his confidence. You see him out there playing with a joy and a confidence and a swagger. That’s why he’s able to play against more athletic, more physical players, is because he plays with that drive and he plays with that joy and confident swagger every time he steps on the court. It’s not just games. If you saw him in practice, he’s the same guy. And that helped set the tone for our guys every day

On the transfer portal opening during the tournament

Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not a lot of fun. I’ll be honest with you. It’s, I know, a big part of the job, and you have to be on top of everything early in the process or you won’t have a chance. You want to be preparing obviously 24/7, but you have to be on top of that. And our staff does a good job with it. I think there’s, what, 500 names in there already. You have to be ready for it.

On creating a game plan

Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

But at this time of year, for us, for me, it’s all about doing everything I can to prepare the team and put a game plan together to give us a chance to beat, again, one of the top teams in the country here these past six weeks. And we’ll worry about that. When this journey ends hopefully not for a while, we’ll get on top of it, but our staff is doing a good job right now keeping everybody in the loop on what’s happening on that front, at the same time staying very focused on the task at hand.

On his team’s attitude

Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

Well, you’ve got to be tied together. You have to fight through adversity. This is the biggest thing at this time of year is you have to find a way to stay together when things aren’t going your way. And I can promise you tomorrow night, at some point, that’s going to happen to us. And what will define our success is how we handle that adversity. I’m confident, our group has been through a lot. We’ve been through a lot of highs and lows, and I do think we’re playing as good as we played all year right now. So hopefully we handled that well.

On the contract extension

Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

I appreciate the leadership believing in us. That’s first and foremost. I’ve talked a lot about how much we’ve loved our time in Lincoln. For me, with our family’s ties, with both grandfathers working at the university, one as the head coach for nine seasons in basketball, the other one, sociology professor for 20 years. Spent a lot of time in Lincoln growing up. My parents are graduates of Southeast and also University of Nebraska. My dad got his Ph.D. at Nebraska. I was born in Lincoln. We absolutely love it. And it’s kind of cool how life has come full circle. And very likely my career is going to end in Lincoln.

On the school’s leadership

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Again, but it goes back to the leadership. I haven’t met Troy since he got the job. I know I talked about this. He used to ref my high school games. Sounds like he’s going to be out there today. I’m looking forward to getting together with him and hopefully building it together with a guy that I think has great leadership skills. And also the president as well. Just really excited about it. And hopefully we do some great things here long term.

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