Pac 10 Champs Huskies to Play Georgia
Minutes into the Selection Sunday show, Washington learned it drew the No. 7 seed in the East region and will face No. 10 Georgia in Charlotte, N.C., at approximately 6:45 p.m. Friday.
The NCAA selection committee rewarded the Huskies, the Pac-10 tournament champions, with a high seed.
Coach Lorenzo Romar said he thought UW would be a No. 9 or 10 seed if it had not defeated Arizona, 77-75 in overtime Saturday, to win the conference tourney.
The Huskies enjoy a favorable seed, but they must travel 2,200 miles and endure a six-hour flight to Charlotte for the second-round game.
The Bulldogs will trek 200 miles from Athens, Ga.
“It’s the NCAA tournament and anything can happen,” UW junior guard Isaiah Thomas said. “We could play in Tacoma and lose. They’re going to have a lot of fans, but that doesn’t mean anything.
“They’ll have a little bit of momentum from their fans, but that’s when your team comes out the best. You come together and your backs are against the wall and you’re against everybody.”
Given a choice, the Huskies would have liked to have played closer to home. Perhaps Denver or maybe Tucson, Ariz.
“I wouldn’t say disappointed,” Romar said. “I would say that would be our druthers. We’d always prefer to be closer to home. When you are a 7-8 (seed), whatever it is, you’re at their mercy. We were an 11 seed and we were closer to home. Funny how that works.”
Last year, 11th-seed Washington was placed in San Jose, Calif., where it won two games and advanced to the Sweet 16. Two years ago, the Huskies were No. 4 in Portland, where they received considerable fan support that carried them to a first-round win.
This time, they travel far to Atlantic Coast Conference country, and looming on the horizon is a potential third-round matchup against second-seeded North Carolina.
“You’re one and done,” Romar said, “as soon as you start looking past that. … You don’t want to let up at all. You’ve got to come out firing with both barrels in that opener or you don’t get a chance to play anybody.”
Washington (23-10) has never played Georgia (21-11). The Bulldogs finished fourth in the Eastern Division of the Southeastern Conference and were considered a bubble team after losing 65-59 in overtime of the conference tournament quarterfinals.
There’s very little history between the Huskies and Bulldogs other than Georgia coach Mark Fox, who was a UW assistant for three years (1991-93) under Lynn Nance.
Thomas played in a summer skills camp with Georgia junior forward Trey Thompkins, the Bulldogs’ leading scorer.
“He’s versatile,” Thomas said. “He’s a lot like (Arizona’s) Derrick Williams, but he doesn’t draw fouls like him and he can’t really dribble like him. But he can shoot threes and he’s a force in the middle. He’s a great dude.”
The Huskies return for a light practice Monday. It’s finals week at Washington, and Romar wants to lighten their load as much as he can.
The team will practice in Seattle on Tuesday and possibly Wednesday. Washington is required to practice in Charlotte on Thursday and attend media sessions.
Romar confirmed Sunday that Venoy Overton’s three-game suspension had been lifted, and he plans to play the senior guard on Friday. Overton sat out the Pac-10 tournament after he was charged with a gross misdemeanor for furnishing alcohol to a minor.
Overton, UW’s backup point guard, said it was difficult to watch Thomas play 123 of a possible 125 minutes the past three games.
“I’m just happy my teammates came through and we get to play another game,” Overton said. “I can’t explain how good it feels, just being in this environment again and all the support from the fans. It’s just good to get a chance to play again.”
Justin Holiday, Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Overton form a senior class that has appeared in three straight NCAA tournaments, going 3-2.
“I think our experience can help us,” Holiday said. “We’ve been here before. We’ve had some success. So hopefully we can use that, but at the same time every year is different.
“Maybe what’s more important than what we did last year or two years ago is what we did last week.”
The Huskies’ confidence has been restored after a disappointing finish to the regular season.
“It can carry over,” Thomas said. “You usually want to win games going into the NCAA tournament just so you have some confidence and momentum. It can really carry over and we can make some noise in this tournament. But we’ve got to take it one game at a time.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or email@example.com