"It is. It's practically home court for us. Obviously in-state is great. We're going to have a number of people coming up. We'll try to get some buses going up there. Hawaii actually had to go to Colorado, go back home, and then I think they're leaving again Tuesday night to get up there Wednesday for a Friday game. So they've had to go back and forth. So it's definitely an advantage for us."
How well did your team play this past week?
"We played some solid ball. On Friday, Loyola, I thought, was a very strong team, and they had some different tendencies and different styles than us. They're smaller, but fast, great ball-handlers, and that was a real challenge and every game was close. Against Notre Dame, they were bigger than us, jumped higher than us; in the first game were hitting over us and around us. And obviously, until we got it 23-29, you know, we were looking like we were losing that first game. But I thought it was a real gut-check for the team, and they did a great job keeping their composure and coming back one point at a time. The crowd kept us in it. And that was a great benefit of home-court advantage."
Hawaii is the top seed in the regional. Just how good are they?
"30-0, a Final Four contender practically every year. You know, it's one of those things where we go in there with a young team, and we've done some great things in the Big Ten and obviously here in the first and second round, and we take a shot at them and see what we can do. I think the Big Ten prepares us for matches like we had this last weekend and against a team like Hawaii. I think the WAC conference has got some great teams in it, but I think the Big Ten is stronger, and I hope the things that we've learned this season have prepared us for that match.
You mentioned your team being young, and through the course of the season you had some streaks of both up and down. Are you surprised at all that you're still here, that you're still playing in the Sweet Sixteen, given the youth and some of the things that had to happen for you guys during the season?
"I don't think I could have predicted it in preseason or especially in the first month of the season, because we were pretty erratic as a team until we solidified the lineup a little bit and the young ones started maturing a little bit more over the course of the season. And then, of course, you don't know until you get the pairings out and see where you're going to be playing. But I think that was a big difference for our team, the fact that we met the teams we did.
"I think we matched up very well against Notre Dame, and being here at home helped a ton. Also, I think they're just young enough to not know any better. You know, they're just going out and having a good time. And they're not afraid of anybody, and I think that's something that's going to take them into this Friday also. They're just going to go after and train hard this week and see what happens."
You mentioned the WAC, but who has Hawaii beaten that we might recognize and what do they pose as a challenge?
"You know, I looked at the schedule this morning and I'm trying to remember the top teams. They played some out-of-conference teams too that are pretty good. I think they might have beaten Cal this year, you know, out of the Pac-10. They've beaten a couple strong teams, there's no doubt about it. So I can't say they've got a weak schedule. I mean, they've played some tough ones. And also, the way they travel, they have (to) go and they play a couple on the road at a time on the mainland. So it's a strong team. They've got, you know, returning All-Americans on their team. Their setter was a great player who as a freshman was an All-American, I believe, last year. So we know they're going to be strong. They're always tough defensively, also."