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Originally published Saturday, March 1, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Men's Basketball | Huskies look for revenge vs. Bears

Washington men's basketball coach Lorenzo Romar says today's game against the California Bears will be decided rather simply. "The team that comes...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Today

Washington @ Cal, 3 p.m., FSN

BERKELEY, Calif. — Washington men's basketball coach Lorenzo Romar says today's game against the California Bears will be decided rather simply.

"The team that comes more ready to play is going to win this game," Romar said Friday of a contest that tips at 3 p.m. at Haas Pavilion.

That may sound cliché, the ultimate coach-speak. But for the Huskies this year, in a Pac-10 as competitive as ever, being ready has often been the difference.

"We just haven't been able to string together a couple of weeks of playing really hard and really well together," said guard Ryan Appleby, trying to explain how the Huskies could almost win at No. 8 Stanford on Thursday, five days after being blown out at home by Arizona State.

The question now is whether the Huskies will find the necessary motivation in the games that remain — at California, at WSU and in the Pac-10 tournament.

The Stanford loss left UW at 15-14 overall and 6-10 in Pac-10 play. Players and coaches say the NCAA tournament remains the ultimate goal, but that's only possible now by winning the Pac-10 tournament.

Realistically, the Huskies are left playing for three things:

• Positioning for the Pac-10 tournament and moving up into the top six and avoiding playing on the first day (and needing to win just three games instead of four to take the tournament);

• Achieving a winning season for the fifth straight year;

• And improving their stock for the two other postseason tournaments, the NIT and the new College Basketball Invitational.

Most realistic might be the CBI. The Huskies found out last year how dicey getting into the NIT can be, when they were passed over despite a 19-13 record. The NIT, now owned and operated by the NCAA, last year reduced its field to 32 from 40 and also is required to take regular-season conference winners who don't make the NCAA tournament, making at-large bids even more scarce.

The CBI will invite 16 teams.

The CBI is run by the Gazelle Group, which also operated the Black Coaches Association Classic, which UW hosted and won two years ago, and the preseason College Basketball Experience Classic, which the Huskies will play in next season.

"They've been very good to work with in the past," said UW executive associate athletic director Jeff Compher. Compher said he has already had some initial discussions with the group about possibly playing in the CBI.

Some have expressed a little skepticism about the viability of the CBI. But the tournament will likely gain greater credibility next week when it is expected to announce a contract for national TV. Rick Giles, president of the Gazelle Group, said Friday, "We're in the process of finalizing it" and that while it won't be on ESPN — as the NIT is — it will be "a national package."

Giles said winning records won't be a necessity to be invited.

"What we are looking for are teams that have shown the ability to play at a high level," he said. "We want to put together a tournament that will be interesting to college basketball fans."

He said the Huskies have a résumé that could fit the bill.

"They do have some really good wins, and I think those wins will carry a lot of weight when we are analyzing them versus another team," Giles said.

Still, winning a couple more games wouldn't hurt. Washington will look for some revenge today against a Cal team that beat them on Feb. 2 in Seattle, 79-75. Romar promised some different defensive looks for Cal forward Ryan Anderson, who keyed the win with 33 points and 17 rebounds. The Huskies might not have to worry about Cal swingman Patrick Christopher, who is suffering from a hip injury.

Huskies forward Jon Brockman said he thinks UW will be properly motivated by the specter of any type of postseason.

"You just want to keep playing until they say you can't play anymore," he said.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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