GREENSBORO — Bill Fennelly approached the table at the top of the auditorium stage that sits in the depths of the Greensboro Coliseum.
He sat down with a big smile on his face, rekindling the feeling he first felt Sunday night when he knew his team was going back to the Sweet 16 for the first time in 12 years.
“It’s been phenomenal, and our kids have looked forward to this for a long time after last year’s disappointment coming up two points short to get to this level,” Fennelly said.
His team will be vying for their third Elite Eight trip in program history when they go up against No. 10 seed Creighton on Friday (8:30 p.m. CT ESPN2).
When the team got to Greensboro on Wednesday, he was reminded about the stage that his team will play on.
“It’s so exciting,” Fennelly said. “I think I’ve thanked them 50 times for getting me here. This is like the coolest thing ever. I mean — I’m at a point in my career where — you’re not going to do this many more times, if ever, and I just told them they have to enjoy this. This is — everything about it.
“You get a police escort. How cool is that? Everything. The hotel, and you walk into this facility, it’s just everything about it is great.”
Iowa State set a record for most wins in program history on Sunday, improving to a 28-6 mark on the season.
Friday night, it will face a Creighton program that is playing in its first Sweet 16 in program history.
The Jays are a Cinderella to college basketball fans, but Fennelly doesn’t think like that.
“We know how good Creighton is and the games that they’ve won,” Fennelly said. “I’ve always been one of those people that the number next to your name is all about the color jersey that you wear. It has nothing to do with who is good and who is not good. It’s about match-ups to me, and the three means we wear white and the ten means they wear blue. After that, it doesn’t really matter to me.”
The pair of teams are each talented in their own right and this staff won’t spare any details.
“To be quite blunt about it,” Fennelly said. “I am one of those people that likes to tinker a lot, and luckily, I have a staff that is like, ‘that’s enough.'”
Iowa State is 34 games in the season and about to play game No. 35 to match the furthest round of the tournament the program’s ever gotten to.
They’ll focus on playing the type of basketball they’ve had success with all year and prepare in a normal fashion.
Fennelly remembered what he told his team when shortly after it got settled in Greensboro.
“We’re going to practice, and then we’re going to relax and enjoy it and watch the men’s games and have a nice dinner and celebrate the work that goes into it,” Fennelly said. “Because if you don’t do that, then why are we doing this?”
The Cyclones know the stage can get bigger, but they’ll appreciate this one just as much, at least until Friday night arrives.
“Sometimes you get so crazy about every little detail,” Fennelly said. “You’ve got to enjoy it, and Friday night we’ll let it rip and see what happens.”