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March 17, 2013 at 8:21 PM

Lorenzo Romar on NIT: “Our guys will embrace it”

Coach Lorenzo Romar met with the local media tonight via a teleconference to talk about Washington’s berth to the National Invitation Tournament.

Here’s the transcript.

(Was Selection Sunday bittersweet) “It’s kind of weird to explain because we certainly didn’t have a year where we’re playing every game and we’re very consistent and we expect to be in the NCAA tournament. However, down the stretch we began to play better. Until our last game, we thought we were doing a better job. It could be bittersweet in that regard. But we were our own worst enemy up to this point this year.”

(Early scouting report on BYU) “Very uptempo. We’ll know a lot more in the next 24 hours. They’re very up tempo. They’ve got Brandon Davies and Tyler Hawes are exceptional offensive players. They’re a tough team. They’re really good at home.”

(Is it a relief to get NIT bid?) “I knew we weren’t going to be in the NCAA tournament. I was hopeful that we would get a bid for the NIT, but we weren’t sure. I thought it was 50-50 going in. I would say it’s more excitement for our guys, especially our seniors to continue to play.”

(On BYU) “When you have an opportunity to play in any type of tournament, you’re ready for whoever you play against. You know you’ll have to play against someone. BYU is a very good team and has done really well over the years. It’s going to be a challenge for us 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 motivate the players last year and how is it different this year?) “That brings me to comment on the first question. Last year we won our league and although we didn’t make it look good for us to make the NCAA tournament, there was a glimmer of hope because we won our league. This year we knew it so it’s a little different. It’s 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 our league. But we won the first one. Then we won the second one. Then we were playing Oregon after that. I think during that second game our guys started to embrace it. Against Northwestern our guys were familiar with Northwestern and they knew how tough of an opponent it was. And then finally after Oregon going to New York we were totally bought in to the NIT tournament. I think this year knowing who are opponent is BYU, I think our guys will embrace it a lot sooner.”

(Will you play younger guys more knowing you’ll lose three seniors?) “No. Not at all. If there are any changes it’s because we think it’s going to give us the best chance to be our best in that game. That will be the only reason we would make changes. If we did it wouldn’t be for that.”

(Any conversations with CJ. Wilcox about returning to school.) “Not really. Early on, but not really. Obviously it will be coming up soon though.”

(Surprised Oregon got a 12 seed in NCAA tournament?) “I was. Yeah. I thought they would get a little higher seed. With our conference, the bad news we had some guys teams with some low seeds. But the good news is there’s five teams in the NCAA tournament. That’s almost half the league. I’m not real bright, but obviously that’s a little better than last year.”

(On mental toughness and playing on the road in a postseason game) “Our group I think has come a ways in the last few weeks in that area. There’s been a couple of games we weren’t able to finish, but I think we’ve improved. I think we’re stronger mentally than we were when I made that comment.”

(What have you said to players about the NIT in the past) “We just talked about you play one game and give it your all and see if you can advance in the tournament. The more exciting it gets. We try to talk about it that way. That’s what happened. We were able to make it to the semifinal and lost by one in overtime. We came up a little short.”

(What can you accomplish in a day and a half of practice?) “We’ve had two days off, almost three. We’ll practice tonight. Having two days you just want to make sure you maintain your conditioning, which I don’t think we’re going to lose after two days off. But get our guys to go out. Get some cardio going here tonight and just try to remain sharp and be back up to par by the time we play Tuesday night.”

(On the quality of the NIT) “The changes that were made and how it was taken over by a different group the NCAA has made a big difference in regards to the NIT. I think it’s a lot more objective the way it’s selected. You start talking about a Kentucky and a Tennessee and Virginia and the stars in this tournament. There are some quality teams there’s no doubt.”

(On the schedule the next two days) “We’re trying to organize right now. Practice tonight is set in stone already.”

(Chance to leave Tuesday) “No we’ll leave tomorrow.”

(On playing at BYU) “They seat 18,000. They fill it up. They’re very loud. They’re very excited about their basketball team. They get it going. They don’t lose very often there. I know that much BYU at their place.”

(On the team’s health) “Health is fine. Two days rest I’m sure is not going to hurt us at all.”

(On the past two days) “From a professional basketball standpoint it hasn’t been too good. It’s been hard sitting around waiting and not knowing. We had a great opportunity right before us. Kind of let it slip away in some ways. So it’s very difficult.”

(Do any soul searching?) “On of the curses of head coach, once you do it, you’re kind of preoccupied with that year around. You’re always looking at ways to get better. Ways that you can improve and just soul search. You’re always trying to do that. You do it probably a little more after losses. I just think that’s kind of par for the course in this business.”

(Any close to scheduling a series with Gonzaga?) “I would just say what I’ve said the last few years, I would anticipate one day it will happen again.”

(Do you think the program has taken a step backwards?) “I wouldn’t say backwards. I wouldn’t describe it that way. I would say we didn’t have a very good year. Sometimes if you say you’re taking a step backwards that would imply the direction of your program is going that way. We went two years without making the NCAA tournament or the NIT and then won 100 games the next four years and three championships. I see it as a year that we were inconsistent and struggled. I don’t see it as taking a step backwards.”

(On possible home game for UW) “That’s not what I was told. A lot of times at the NIT the gate. BYU knows they’re going to get close to 18,000. … That’s a lot of people as well as where you’re seeded. If you watched the show, Kentucky was a No. 1 seed. But Rupp Arena has a commitment so they’re going to go Robert Morris and play in a 3,000-seat gym.”

(On travel schedule if you advance) “I’m not aware of that.”

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