Matchup: Washington vs. West Virginia
Washington vs. West Virginia
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4:27 p.m. Thursday in Syracuse (Ch. 7)
Record: 26-9 overall, 11-7 in Pacific 10 Conference (3rd place).
Seed: 11. RPI: 41. Bid: Automatic.
Tournament record: 17-15 after victories over Marquette and New Mexico last week in San Jose. Best finish was 1953, when Huskies finished third.
Last tournament experience: 2009. Lost to Purdue in second round.
What the Huskies have to do to win: Control the tempo. Washington wants to create a fast pace and score easy baskets in transition. The Huskies average 79.9 points while West Virginia has surrendered 80 or more points just three times. In those games, WVU is 1-2. Washington must contain senior guard Da'Sean Butler, a first-team All-Big East choice, who scored 28 points Sunday against Missouri. Look for UW to pack the middle defensively and try to force West Virginia to hit outside shots.
Record: 29-6 overall, finished tied for second in Big East Conference with a 13-5 record; won conference tournament.
Seed: 2. RPI: 4. Bid: Automatic.
Tournament record: 22-22 after victories over Morgan State and Missouri. Best finish was 1959, when Mountaineers lost to California, 71-70, in NCAA championship game.
Last tournament appearance: 2009. Lost to Dayton in first round.
What the Mountaineers have to do to win: Repeat the game plan from their win over Mizzou's vaunted "Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball" attack. Without injured point guard Darryl "Truck" Bryant, the Mountaineers offense will be even more deliberate under the control of junior Joe Mazzulla, who will make his first start this season. Getting to the free-throw line is imperative for WVU because it tends to struggle scoring points. In two tournament wins, the Mountaineers have converted 25 free throws.
Vs. Washington: West Virginia is 0-1 vs. Washington all-time.
Common opponents: The teams have four common opponents this season — Marquette, Georgetown, Texas A&M and Portland. West Virginia is 5-0 in those games, Washington 3-1, losing to Georgetown.
Coach: Bob Huggins, third year at West Virginia, 78-29 (668-240 in 28 years).
Who has the edge?
On the perimeter: Even before Bryant broke his foot, Washington appeared to have the advantage with Isaiah Thomas, Venoy Overton and Abdul Gaddy rotating at point guard. Three-point specialist Elston Turner has strung together a few impressive outings, which gives UW offensive firepower off the bench. Mazzulla has had shoulder problems in the past, and he's not an offensive threat. Edge: Washington.
Among the bigs: The scales tip heavily in favor of West Virginia, which essentially starts four forwards who can play multiple positions. Butler has the ability to score 40 points, while Devin Ebanks and Kevin Jones are monsters on the glass. Wellington Smith gets the least amount of notoriety, but he's a senior who has played big in big games. He had a double-double in the Big East Tournament title game and led WVU to the championship. That's a lot of bodies to throw at Quincy Pondexter and Matthew Bryan-Amaning. Edge: West Virginia.
First off the bench: Before the loss of Bryant, WVU relied on a seven-man rotation. Without Bryant, the quality depth just isn't there. At least, it's not comparable to Washington, which uses a nine-man rotation. Overton, Turner and Scott Suggs give UW options in the backcourt and forward Darnell Gant has played more late in the season. The Mountaineers' top reserve is forward Cam Thoroughman. Edge: Washington.
Coach: Bob Huggins, 56, has compiled a 668-240 record in 28 seasons as a head coach. He ranks fourth in total victories and 12th in winning percentage among active Division I head coaches. His teams have won 20 or more games in all but four years and he has taken 18 teams to the NCAA tournament. Lorenzo Romar is 264-178 in 13 seasons as a head coach. He's making his sixth appearance in the NCAA tournament. Edge: West Virginia.
Prediction: Washington, 73-66.
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