Washington junior center Aziz N’Diaye (wrist) and sophomore guard C.J. Wilcox (hip) were held out of practice today.
The Huskies wrapped up a morning workout at Edmundson Pavilion and quickly boarded a bus that ushered them to Boeing Field where they departed at 1 p.m. for New York.
Washington will be the first of the NIT semifinalists to arrive. The other teams are expected to leave Sunday.
Here’s a sampling of quotes from coach Lorenzo Romar and players.
(How did you refocus the players after missing the NCAA tournament?) “It’s a good group of guys that are pretty resilient and were able to turn the page. I think we got that behind us. We had been working hard. we just tried to stay positive and tried to explain how much fun this can be if you win.”
(Is trying to get them excited about the tournament over) “We’re beyond that. Thanks to that crowd that came out here, our guys got pretty excited. The Northwestern game was pretty good. When the crowd came out against Oregon and we played the way we did and they got into it that way, everything was gone. Everything was over and we were able to move on.”
(Expectations of the environment at MSG?) “I don’t know what to expect really. I know they do a really good job with this tournament. They promote it really well. I would imagine it’s going to be a fun time. Everyone that’s participated in it has repeatedly told me the same thing that it’s really good when you start winning and you get this far.”
(On playing in the NIT) “It’s been great to be with this team longer. These guys don’t understand that they will never be together again for the rest of their lives in this capacity. When you’re this age, you don’t really understand that. It may not be a big deal to you until you get older.”
(Can you change how the season is viewed?) “I think so. If we’re able to do well in New York it can be looked at as not only did you win a Pac-12 championship, but you also won another championship.”
(On Minnesota) “They really embody team. They’re very aggressive. They guard you really well and they play together. Their team knows their roles. They’re a tough opponent.”
(On Minnesota coach Tubby Smith) “Tubby is one of the most enjoyable guys to be around. We go on the Nike trips with the coaches and he’s in the egg tosses. If it requires putting on makeup and being a clown, he’ll do that. Whatever. He’s all for the team. He’s just a great guy to be around. He’s one of my favorite coaches in the entire NCAA.”
(Nervous or excited?) “I think there’s more excitement than nerves.”
(Does Minnesota remind you of any team you scouted this year?) “They go about their business more like Colorado. They just give you nothing easy. They’re a team. I keep using that word for them because that’s what keeps coming up when I think of them.”
(Is the second trip to MSG any different?) “No. Just that guys are used to it. I don’t think that they’ll be any jitters. I thought maybe we had the jitters against Duke early on, but I don’t think that will be the case this time.”
(You think Washington and Stanford can restore some respect for the Pac-12?) “I don’t know how much we can restore, but I think it’s great that half of the field is represented by the Pac-12.”
(Have you thought about an all-Pac-12 NIT title game?) “Not really. Not at this point.”
(Why are you excited to return to New York?) “Just to go back and play at Madison Square Garden. Everybody wants to play there. Just to know we got a championship on the line. We can do something big.”
(How did the team refocus after Selection Sunday?) “It took awhile for us to change our mindset, but we got those three games done. Now I feel like we’re real excited to go back to New York and get two more.”
(What did Romar say?) “Just to try to make the most of this opportunity. Just to try and get some fun out of the NIT.”
(What would it mean to you to go out with a championship?) “Every time at the end of our season, at the end of the postseason we always end with a loss. This time we got an opportunity to end with a win. Hopefully I can do that.”
(How odd would that be to win the last game?) “It will feel good. It leaves a better taste in your mouth for the spring time and the summer time. Usually you get a loss and you got to wait all season to wait for that first game. I’m not coming back for a game so to end it with a win, that would be big.”
TONY WROTEN JR.
(Last time you played at MSG, folks said you were one of the few UW players that didn’t play scared. Why were you able to play so well?) “It was just a big-time game. A big-time moment. The mecca of sports. New York and Madison Square Garden. I live for games like that. I just go out and play my game.”
(Did you sense others were not ready for the moment?) “I wouldn’t say not ready, it was just that some people were shocked because it can come at you so fast. I felt like we were all ready, but things happened too fast.”
(How much would it mean to you to finish the season with a championship?) “It means that we can face adversity and come out no matter what the circumstances are looking like. We still feel like we’re playing for a national championship. So it’s still a big deal for us.”