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Tuesday, March 21, 2006 - Page updated at 12:14 AM

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NCAA Tournament: Matchups are big problem for UW men

Seattle Times staff reporter

Another round, another highly touted point guard facing the Washington Huskies.

This time, it's Connecticut's Marcus Williams.

"I'll just be foaming at the mouth at the anticipation of getting my chance to take him," said Bobby Jones, a senior swingman for Washington, which will play UConn Friday in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament in Washington, D.C.

His defense on Illinois point guard Dee Brown proved crucial in UW's 67-64 win Saturday in San Diego.

Jones, however, may not get as many opportunities to defend Williams as he'd like. Connecticut figures to present even more challenging matchups for the Huskies than did Illinois.

"Their big guys are bigger than Illinois'," said Washington forward Mike Jensen.

And that could limit Washington's ability to use bigger perimeter players such as Jones and Brandon Roy to defend the point guard, as the Huskies have done often this season.

Connecticut's likely starting lineup consists of the 6-foot-3 Williams and 6-6 swingman Denham Brown, with 6-10 Josh Boone, 6-9 Rudy Gay and 6-11 Hilton Armstrong up front.

Put Roy or Jones on Williams, and Washington's 6-foot point guard Justin Dentmon would have to guard Brown or Gay — a huge size mismatch.

"It's a big lineup, so it will be hard to put me and Bobby on their point guard because they are so big," Roy said.

That means Dentmon figures to be primarily responsible for defending Williams, a junior who is projected by many as a potential NBA first-round draft pick and averages 11.7 points and 8.5 assists.

"I believe in J.D.," Jones said. "He's been playing defense all year. He's not going to back down from any challenge. We've seen that all year. At some point, if someone else has to pick him up, I'll be right there ready to do it."

But as Jones said, in terms of presenting enticing defensive challenges, Connecticut "is like picking what suit you want to wear out of four favorites. You can't wear them all."

Indeed, Jones could spend most of his time defending Gay, UConn's sophomore forward. He is the Huskies' leading scorer at 15.2 points per game and is maybe the highest-regarded UConn player by NBA scouts.

That would leave Roy to take on Brown, whom UW coach Lorenzo Romar called "the most mentally tough guy on their team."

Jensen and freshman Jon Brockman, meanwhile, will have to deal with senior Armstrong and junior Boone. Each is regarded as a potential first-round draft pick this year and has at least a two-inch advantage on his UW counterpart.

Then there's 6-5 swingman Rashad Anderson coming off the bench, UConn's best three-point shooter at almost 41 percent and second-leading scorer at 12.8.

All of that talent is why UConn is listed as a 6 -point favorite. Roy said "it will be an upset" if Washington wins, but quickly qualifies that. "We feel we can beat Connecticut," he added. "We just have to go out there and believe."

If it happens, it'll be because of defense. Washington held Illinois to 39.7 percent shooting, which allowed the Huskies to win despite shooting just 37.8 percent.

"It's going to have to be a collective team effort to try to shut [UConn] down," Jensen said.

One that Jones wants to lead, the same way he did Saturday with his job on Dee Brown.

Jones was so excited early in that game that he slapped the floor and let out a yell that was audible in the stands, something he said he hasn't done since high school.

"It was just my way of expressing that I was ready to go," he said.

That he helped contain Brown — a potential first-round pick who needed 18 shots to score 15 points — should bolster Jones' pro prospects.

"I hope so, man," he said with a laugh. "I ain't doing this just to do it. ... That's why I'm welcoming this matchup because there's so many potential NBA players in this game. It's another chance to show my talents and show what I can do on a national stage.

"It's kind of just the perfect situation. I've waited four years, and now these last couple of games are going to define my whole career here at Washington. It's exciting, man."

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

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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