"Big Dance" Interviews: Akron Postseason Teleconference

March 15th, 2011
Yesterday CHN writer Jon Teitel participated in MAC champion Akron's postseason teleconference in advance of their second round matchup with two-seed Notre Dame. Keith Dambrot's Zips were last in the NCAA Tournament in 2009, losing to Gonzaga in the first round.

Senior small forward Brett McKnight

On the team turning things around: "What turned our season around after a slow start is that we just kept fighting to get better and we came together as a team. We had a bad loss to Eastern Michigan, and Coach Dambrot came in after that and said, 'enough is enough'."

On dealing with adversity: "I was devastated to be suspended for seven games earlier this season, but it was a mistake that I created. I was hungry to just play basketball, so to make it to the NCAA tourney for the second time is a great feeling and I cannot wait to play."

On Notre Dame: "I have not seen Notre Dame play that much this year, but I know they are a good team and have guards who can shoot the ball."

On Akron's strengths: "Our strengths entering the tournament is that a lot of us have tourney experience. We did not know what to expect back in 2009 but now we are veterans and can handle the atmosphere."

On the foul line: "I kind of laughed at myself after shooting an airball free throw in the MAC title game. I was just shocked! I was calm at the end and did not feel any pressure. It felt really good to go out in my final game as a senior to go out with a win over Kent State by making the game-winning free throws."

Head coach Keith Dambrot

On the Zips' season: "We are very excited about the opportunity and fought very hard to get here. It was one of the most difficult seasons we have ever had, but I am proud of our resiliency. I just try to control what I can, and Notre Dame has a great program."

On the Gerry Faust connection between the schools: "One of my neighbors and best friends is Coach Gerry Faust, who is caught in a pickle because he cannot root for either team (as he was the football coach for both schools in the past)."

On Notre Dame: "I have seen very little of Notre Dame on TV this year but I know Coach Brey is an excellent coach. They are probably one of the most skilled teams in the country. They remind me of Gonzaga in the 2009 tourney because we had our hands full trying to guard them, so we will have to play a terrific game to win. We were pretty close with Gonzaga to start before we lost our cookies a little bit."

On his team's mindset: "I told my guys that if we are hanging close with the Irish in the second half, we need to have the confidence to believe that we can win. If you do not think you are great, then you are not going to be great."

On Brett McKnight: "Brett's older brother Chris played for us so I have a great relationship with his family. Brett does not care about being a starter, which is why he has been so effective off the bench."