Florida Atlantic coach Dusty May was wrapping up his postgame press conference after the Owls punched their ticket to face Tennessee in the Sweet 16 Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
How is FAU approaching its NCAA Tournament matchup against Tennessee?
“We’re going to study Australian rugby rules and get ready for the Vols,” May quipped.
Tennessee is certainly known for its physicality on the defensive end of the court and can largely thank said physicality for its first two wins in the NCAA Tournament.
What did eighth-year Tennessee coach Rick Barnes think of May’s comment?
“Well, you know what, I took a Big East All-Star Team to Australia back in ’90 We went to a match and I enjoyed it. I thought it was good,” Barnes joked. “I liked the way the referee does all that (signaling) stuff. I enjoyed watching it. You know what, I would probably pay to go see it. We were free that day, but I would pay to go see it.”
It was a classic Barnes joke that de-escalated any tension stemming from May’s comments.
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Tennessee’s defensive style of play has been a topic of conversation nationally following the Vols’ win over Duke. Fox Sports’ Doug Gottlieb called Tennessee “dirty” while ESPN’s Jay Bilas criticized the officials in his alma mater’s season ending loss.
That made the Vols’ style of play a popular talking point during Barnes’ Monday press conference. The eighth-year Tennessee coach didn’t get in the weeds on the subject but did provide his perspective on the way the Vols play defense.
“When people say physicality, I’m not sure exactly what that means,” Barnes said. “Does that mean when the shot goes up you’re going to block somebody out where everybody knows that’s part of the game where it is physical and you have to put bodies on people, but sometimes we do it well. Sometimes we don’t. Is physicality fouling? We don’t want to foul. I can tell you that. We don’t want teams parading to the line on us, but we are an older, stronger team with big guys.
“You’d have to define physicality in terms of how do we use it. I would say what I was trying to say earlier, we’re trying to play as hard as we can play. If that’s being physical, I guess we’re going to be physical.”
Tennessee and Florida Atlantic face off at approximately 9 p.m. ET Thursday night at Madison Square Garden in New York City. TBS is broadcasting the game.
May better teach his kids how to play defense. No doubt they can shoot the basketball but the college game has evolved into a much more physical game. Call it what you want, the Vols play tough, hard defense. Deal with it!