UW opens NCAA Tournament play with a West Regional matchup against Marquette in San Jose, Calif., on Thursday. The Huskies got into the field with a No. 11 seed.
Washington (24-9) won its final seven games, including a sweep of three games in the Pac-10 tournament to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA field.
This team took longer to come around than anyone envisioned, especially given that most of the roster returned from a year ago. UW briefly occupied last place in the Pac-10 in January and didn't win its first road game until Feb. 13.
The Huskies were considered very much on the "bubble" until taking down Pac-10 regular-season champ Cal 79-74 in the league's tournament final.
"The anxiety that you may have as a team, knowing that you're one and done, is something that's been going on with our team for quite a while," coach Lorenzo Romar said. "The stakes haven't been as high as they're going to be now."
The Huskies could have come unglued. Instead, they found the elusive stuff that binds a team.
"Guys came together," Romar said. "Guys believed. Guys became more of a team. ... With the group that we have, guys just stuck together. Guys stepped up. Roles became defined and a team was born."
Sophomore guard Isaiah Thomas, named MVP of the Pac-10 tournament, could hardly put into words how proud he was of his teammates.
"Like I said before, we all we got," he said. "This is what we did. Nobody else did this for us, but us and the coaching staff."
--The Huskies have won seven straight games and 12 of 14 entering the NCAA Tournament.
--Washington beat Stanford 79-64 in the Pac-10 semifinals despite missing 19 of its first 22 shots from the field. Even so, the Huskies led 11-8 after that stretch ended with 8:20 left in the first half.
COACH: Lorenzo Romar, eighth year at Washington, sixth year in NCAA Tournament.
KEYS TO VICTORY: The Huskies thrive when the pace gets going, the faster the better. They are deep and athletic and love to make the game a scramble, allowing them to run out in transition for easy baskets. Senior F Quincy Pondexter has 30-point capability and has improved his game in the half court. Sophomore G Isaiah Thomas is an excellent penetrator and 3-point shooter. The Huskies will need to get something from junior C Matthew Bryan-Amaning, who will have a size advantage against Marquette.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We told each other, 'If we handle business, we don't need a committee to determine is we're good enough. We'll be automatically in.'" -- UW senior Quincy Pondexter, on his approach to the Pac-10 tournament final against Cal.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SCOUTING REPORT: Washington doesn't want to play a huge team in a half-court game -- so it likes its matchup against Marquette. The Huskies don't even mind if the game gets a little sloppy, as long as happens with the gas pedal to the floor. UW utilizes its depth to stay fresh and is capable of sudden, game-changing scoring bursts. Quincy Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas routinely chalk up 20-point performances, and the rest of the Huskies have settled nicely into complementary roles. If this team is allowed to dictate tempo, it can be a handful.
Washington 59, Oregon State 52 (Pac-10 tournament quarterfinals)
Washington 79, Stanford 64 (Pac-10 tournament semifinals)
Washington 79, Cal 75 (Pac-10 tournament championship game)
vs. Marquette, Thursday, March 18, NCAA Tournament, West Regional first round, San Jose, Calif.
--Senior F Quincy Pondexter, voted to the All-Pac-10 first team, scored 18 points in Washington's 79-75 win over Cal in the Pac-10 tournament final. It was the 83rd double-figure scoring game of his career. Pondexter's 1,743 career points are tied for fourth all-time at UW.
--Sophomore G Isaiah Thomas had 16 points against Cal and became the Huskies' first MVP of the Pac-10 tournament.
--Junior G Venoy Overton, the club's sixth man, had 10 points, five rebounds and two assists against Cal.