COACH: Lorenzo Romar, eight years at Washington, five years in NCAA Tournament
HOW THEY GOT IN: Automatic bid MATCHUP BREAKDOWN: The Huskies like to run and play a skilled open-court game, which is what their first-round opponent, Marquette, likes to do. The perimeter-oriented Golden Eagles don’t usually start anyone over 6-6, but one of those is forward Lazar Hayward, a second-team All-Big East selection who averages 18.1 points and 7.7 rebounds. He could battle Washington’s Quincy Pondexter. Huskies center Matthew Bryan-Amaning has done some good things lately and could make a difference as the biggest guy on the court. In Marquette’s Big East semifinals loss to Georgetown, it was out-rebounded 44-24. Another matchup to watch: Marquette’s superb ball-handler Maurice Acker vs. Washington’s high-scoring point guard Isaiah Thomas.
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GO-TO GUYS: Forward Quincy Pondexter spent the early part of his Washington career being inconsistent and enigmatic, but it all came together as a senior when he became the focal point of the team. He made a strong case for Pac-10 Player of the Year honors (Cal point guard Jerome Randle won it) and enters the NCAA Tournament averaging 19.8 points and 7.5 rebounds. Pondexter, an athletic 6-6, shot 53.5 percent from the field and made himself into a reasonable threat from the outside, hitting 36.7 percent of his 49 3-pointers. Isaiah Thomas, a 5-8 point guard, has a scoring mentality, but coach Lorenzo Romar liked the way the sophomore was directing the offense at the end of the season, saying Thomas was "more of a maestro out there on the floor." Thomas is averaging 17.1 points.
THEY’LL KEEP WINNING IF: Washington needs to keep getting big scoring production from its Big Two of Quincy Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas, averaging about 37 points per game. They take about 41 percent of the team’s shots, so if one of them has a bad night, there’s not always another good option. To illustrate how Pondexter is a lead dog: He was a five-time winner of the Pac-10 Player of the Week award.
STRENGTHS: The Huskies like to run and play up-tempo, and they have the athletes to do it. That doesn’t mean Washington forgets about defense. The Huskies allowed opponents to shoot just 42 percent overall and 31.2 percent from behind the arc. Forward Justin Holiday and guard Venoy Overton each made the Pac-10 All-Defensive team, and Matthew Bryan-Amaning provides some beef up front, helping UW lead the Pac-10 in rebounding margin at plus-4.3 per game. There are a lot of interchangeable parts for Washington, which typically uses 10 players.
WEAKNESSES: Starting freshman guard Abdul Gaddy didn’t have the kind of year many predicted after he entered the season as the top-rated prospect in the Pac-10. He had only seven points in three Pac-10 tournament games. Washington is not a great shooting team (32.5 percent from 3-point range). The Huskies won the league tournament and enter the NCAAs having won seven in a row, but their overall resume is questionable, as much of their late surge was against second-division teams in the Pac-10.