I had the pleasure to listen in, along with my dog Baxter, to a short teleconference with Tony Bennett on Sunday Night.
Some of the key points:
- The team practiced today during the Selection Show, then returned to Tony's home to watch the NIT selection special.
- They will be flying out tommorrow and practicing at St. Marys tommorrow night. Tony noted that it is a "very quick turnaround."
- Tony reiterated several times how grateful he and the team are to be able to compete in a third straight postseason. He noted that the NIT is very well respected and he played in two of them in college. He also mentioned that Beasely doesn't have many banners, and it will be nice to hang another one in there.
- Bud Withers asked if the Cougs would be able to match the intensity of St. Mary's, mentioning that they will be "revved" up to play a Pac 10 team and prove they belong in the tournament. Tony answered with some coachspeak, saying who plays well and executes the game plan will have the best chance to win and that he hopes the conference schedule had prepared the team for it. He always mentioned that Mills will be a "terrific challenge."
- As for the team, Tony said they are "very excited to have a chance to play." It feels good for them, considering that they were an NIT bubble team, to have played themselves into the NIT with their late season run.
- Tony mentioned several times that this will be different than the NCAA tournament because it is not a neutral site.
- This will be valuable for the freshman to play in a "national tournament" and to "get a taste of what it is like."
- Harmeling is still not 100%. He is not the same, but "will be there if need be."
- He expects the seniors to provide a consistent, steady, calming presence. This is "unchartered water" for the freshman and this may "jack up the nerves."
- One caller noted that it is interesting that St. Mary's will have a three game stretch where they play Gonzaga, EWU, and the Cougs. They will be very familiar with basketball in Eastern Washington!
Overall, it is great to see that our guys are really excited to be playing in the NIT. This may give them an advantage over St. Mary's, who might just be extremely dissappointed that they are not in the NCAA tournament. Of course, it could go the other way and they are out to prove something and the Cougs run into a bandsaw.
Moment of the night: My dog, confused by the odd voices he is hearing over the speakerphone, barks loudly for everyone to hear. Tony laughs it off, saying to "Quiet that dog down." Baxter abided and kept to himself for the duration of the call.