As evidenced last year in New Orleans and proven again today in Washington, D.C., Blaine Taylor's one-man one-liner show travels pretty well.
Taylor, Old Dominion's often irreverant coach, took the stage at the Verizon Center for a press conference the day before his ninth-seeded Monarchs take on eighth seed Butler, which lost to Duke in last year's national championship game, in Thursday's first round of the NCAA tournament.
An out-of-town reporter played the unwitting role of straight man, attempting to ask Taylor about the frequency and ease with which the Monarchs mix zone and man-to-man defenses.
"We don't play zone," Taylor said, stone-faced, mid-question.
The reporter soldiered on, mentioning ODU's rebounding prowess.
"We don't do that either," Taylor said.
Of course, at this point of the season, any facetious attempts at subterfuge are pretty pointless, so Taylor soon relented, settling into his usual loquaciousness.
"Obviously it's hard to dodge being No. 1 in the country in rebounding," said Taylor, whose team leads the nation with a plus-12.2 rebounding margin. "Every game we go into, that's all the other team works on all week. We're used to that target."
What the Monarchs aren't as used to is being a conversational favorite to win their first-round NCAA game. Speculation has already focused on how ODU, which beat Notre Dame in last year's opening NCAA game, matches up against Pitt, the nation's second-best rebounding team.
Taylor addressed that in typical phrase-turning fashion: "If you get ahead of yourself, you're not going to get ahead," he said. "When you're a 16 and 1 I've been a 1 seed at a different school (as an assistant at Stanford) you can kind of look ahead to the next game. If you're an 8-9 game, it's a toss-up."
The Monarchs, 27-6 and the two-time CAA tournament champion, have a resume - with wins against Clemson, Xavier, Richmond and Dayton - arguably better than their seeding, which not only matches them with a team that has won four of its last five first-round games but would pit them against the No. 1 seed should they win. But neither Taylor nor his players, who left the press conference for a low-key shootaround attended by a scattering of fans and TV reporters doing stand-up shots, seemed worried about that on Wednesday.
In fact, it was evident that Taylor isn't the only one at ODU with a sense of humor. As another reporter attempted to get the ages of the players on the dais - ranging from redshirt junior Kent Bazemore to fifth-year senior Keyon Carter - straight, Bazemore supplied helpfully; "I'm 21. (Senior) Ben (Finney) is 28."