The Huskies are in the NIT and will play at BYU on Tuesday at 6:30. The game will be on ESPN. Here are the thoughts of Lorenzo Romar, C.J. Wilcox (who is from Pleasant Grove, Utah), Scott Suggs and Abdul Gaddy:
What has this day been like for you?) It’s kind of weird to explain. We certainly didn’t have the kind of year where we’re playing every game and we’re very consistent, where we expected to be in the NCAA Tournament. However, down the stretch, we began to play better and up until our last game we thought we were doing a better job and certainly had our chances. It can be bittersweet in that regard. But we were our own worst enemy up to this point this year. A little bit different taste.
Any early scout on BYU?) They’re very up-tempo. We’ll know a lot more in the next 24 hours. They’re very up-tempo and they’re led by Brandon Davis and Tyler Haws who are exceptional offensive players. They’re a tough team. They’re really good at home.
Is it a relief to get into the NIT?) We knew we weren’t going to get into the NCAA Tournament. We were hopeful to get a bid for the NIT, but we weren’t sure, thought it was 50-50 going in. I would say it’s more excitement for our guys, especially for our seniors who get to continue to play.
On facing BYU?) When you have an opportunity to play in any type of tournament, you’re ready for whoever you play against. We know BYU is a very good team and has done really well over years, and it’s going to be a challenge for us playing at their place. But, I don’t think many games, given the seed that we have, are not going to be a challenge.
How did you get your guys into the tournament last year and how will you do it this year?) Last year, we won our league, and although we didn’t think it looked good for us to make the NCAA Tournament, there was a glimmer of hope because we had won our league. This year, we knew it. It’s a little different. Not as much of a letdown as it was last year.
Last year, our guys weren’t ready to play the first game. We didn’t play very well. I don’t think we were prepared to play in the NIT, in terms of our minds. It was tough for us to overcome that we weren’t in the NCAA Tournament after winning the league. We won the first one, then we won the second one and we were playing Oregon after that. I think during that second game our guys started to embrace it. Our guys were familiar with Northwestern and knew how tough an opponent it was. And, finally, after Oregon, going to New York we were totally bought into the NIT Tournament. I think this year, knowing who our opponent is, BYU and there, I think our guys will embrace it a lot sooner.
How is the mental toughness with this team at this point?) Our group, I think has come a ways in the last few weeks in that area. A couple games we were unable to finish, but I think we’ve improved and are stronger mentally than we were when I made that comment last time.
What did you tell your guys last year about the value of the NIT?) We just talked about you play one game and give it your all and see if you can advance. The more games you win, the more exciting it gets. We tried to talk about it that way. That’s kind of what happened. We made it to the semifinals and lost by one in overtime.
What can you get done in a day and a half of practice?) We’ve had two days. We’ll practice tonight. Having two days off, you just want to make sure you maintain your conditioning. Get our guys, go out, get some cardio going here tonight. Just try to remain sharp and be back up to par by the time we play Tuesday night.
What do you think of the NIT field?) I think the changes that were made, how it was taken over by a different group, I think it’s a lot more objective the way it’s selected. You start talking about a Kentucky, a Tennessee, Virginia, for starters in this tournament, there are some quality teams. There’s no doubt.
You plan to practice tonight and leave tomorrow?) That’s what we’re trying to organize right now.
Will you leave Tuesday?) No. We’ll leave tomorrow.
The idea of playing BYU there, anything that you know about that place?) It seats 18,000 people, they fill it up, they’re very excited about their basketball team. They don’t lose very often there. I know that much about BYU at their place.
Health of the team?) Health is fine. Two days rest I’m sure is not going to hurt us at all.
These past two days have been like what for you?) From a professional basketball standpoint, it hasn’t been too good. It’s been hard sitting around waiting for your fate. Not knowing. Knowing we had a great opportunity right before us and let it slip away in some ways, it’s difficult.
Do you do any soul-searching, what-ifs?) I think one of the curses of a head coach is you’re kind of preoccupied with that year ‘round. You’re always looking for ways to get better, ways you can improve. You always try to do that. You do it probably a little more in losses and I just think that’s kind of par for the course.
What was this day like for you? Were you confident? Nervous?
I was confident that we were going to get in. I wasn’t too worried about it.
When you saw BYU pop up on the screen what was your initial reaction?
I actually called it two days ago that we would be playing at their place, so I wasn’t too shocked. I was shocked that it actually happened but I was ready for it I guess.
Are you close to anybody on that team?
Yes. I played AAU with Tyler Haws and pretty much the whole team was my rival high school team.
What are your thoughts on returning home?
It will be good to see some people, but as far as playing I know it’s going to be pretty hyped from their side of things.
What kind of crowd are you expecting to see there?
A pretty big crowd – knowing that I’m coming home again and that I’ll be playing Haws again, there were a lot of battles between us in high school. It will be pretty big.
What are your thoughts on continuing your college career?
I’m just excited to be able to keep playing. I wish things would have turned out differently in the Pac-12 tournament but nonetheless we’re able to keep playing. We have another chance to win something.
Were you nervous coming in to today?
Yeah. I didn’t know if we were going to make it. There were a lot of good teams that didn’t make the (NCAA) tournament that we knew were going to be in this. Fortunately we were selected.
At this stage does it matter who you are playing or where you are playing?
It doesn’t matter who we play. Where ever we go we will be prepared to play our hardest. I’m just excited to get another opportunity to play.
Do you know anything about BYU?
I’ve seen them play a few times. Haws is one of their main guys and they have Carlos Delfino. A few of the guys know him.
What are your initial thoughts on continuing your career?
We live to play another day. We’re just going to have to go out there and play hard and continue keep on going.
Does it matter right now who the opponent is or where you are playing?
The point is to just keep playing – home or away. It does not make any difference. I just want to keep my career going as long as possible.
Any thoughts on BYU?
It’s C.J.’s hometown. That’s all I know and that he’ll be glad to play them.