Pastner: We get everyone’s best shot
by Carlos Monarrez, USA TODAY Sports
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — The question was intended for the Memphis players, but coach Josh Pastner couldn’t hold back. He wasn’t about to wait. He was going to speak his mind.
“Can I answer that?” Pastner interjected.
Pastner was supposed to let his players answer questions, wait for their departure, then address the media at Wednesday’s NCAA tournament news conference at the Palace.
But Pastner couldn’t wait.
He took umbrage at a reporter’s question suggesting the No. 6 seed Tigers are not as battle-tested as No..11 seed St. Mary’s, their opponent in today’s second-round game after beating Middle Tennessee State by 13 points Tuesday in Round 1.
“To say that we haven’t been battle-tested is ridiculous,” Pastner said. “Do you recognize that every single time we step on the floor that we get everyone’s best shot? We’ve won 26 straight Conference USA games.
“Every time we step on the floor, we get everyone’s best shot. That means if we’re playing East Carolina, they have a gold-out. If we’re playing Marshall, they have a green-out. If we’re playing Southern Miss, they have their biggest miss and get a black-out. If we play our ‘B’ game during conference game, we take an L. We have no option but to play an ‘A’ game every night.”
It’s true. Pastner has guided Memphis (30-4) to dizzying heights in regular-season play. The Tigers have claimed three straight conference titles and won 18 straight games.
That has earned Memphis a target on its back in league play. But Memphis’ one-and-done record in the past two NCAA tournaments has earned Pastner a target on his back in Tiger Nation.
“I recognize, totally recognize from media, fans that what the most thing they look at is what you do in March,” Pastner said. “So I’m OK with that, but I’m not ever going to allow it to shorten or take away from the great stuff we’ve done in the five months prior to that.”
Now, it’s a question of whether the Tigers’ success truly has tested and prepared them.
“You might say we haven’t been battle-tested because we haven’t played big-name schools or whatever,” forward D.J. Stephens said. … [For more on Pastner: We get everyone's best shot, click here.]