"Would you like to dance?"

At approximately 3:12 pm, the Washington Huskies joyously and graciously accepted the NCAA's invitation to go dancing for the first time since 1999.<br><br> And their date? They will meet the University of Alabama-Birmingham on Friday in Columbus, Ohio for their opening round game.

"What's awesome is watching these guys go through this," said a smiling Husky head coach Lorenzo Romar. "A lot of kids go through college basketball and don't experience the NCAA Tournament. With the exception of Curtis (Allen), these guys will all be back and maybe this will be the start of something that we'll get to do more and more."

The team gathered in the Founder's Club area right above the Husky Fever Hall of Fame in Bank of America Arena to watch the NCAA Selection Show together. In most of their minds, the question of whether or not they would be given an at-large berth wasn't the issue. It was whom and where they would be playing that most were curious about.

They didn't wait long. Their game was the second match-up announced by CBS host Greg Gumble and the moment he announced "Washington" as the No. 8 seed in the St. Louis Division, the entire team erupted with joy and jubilation. They didn't even know whom they were playing yet. They didn't care. All that mattered was that the hard work and preparation have finally paid off and they will have an opportunity to play six more games on a national stage.

Then they settled down momentarily to see whom they will meet. Enter the No. 9 seed UAB Blazers.

Immediately, as if it were seconds before tip-off, the team huddled together and Romar gave them a pep talk to motivate them for the upcoming week.

And what do the Huskies know about the team from the south?

"They like to press and play at a fast pace," said Bobby Jones. "I'm ready for it to be a track meet."

"They run and like to press like we do," said Will Conroy. So in other words, it will be like two magnets going at each other.

"Yes it will and it will be fun," Conroy said with a smile.

Romar and assistant coach Cameron Dollar are no strangers to UAB. Romar and Dollar saw plenty of UAB when they were at Saint Louis and played in the Conference USA.

"They have a different coach now, but I still keep up with the Conference USA," said Romar. "So we're familiar with UAB."

For the record, Romar is 3-0 lifetime against UAB from his days at Saint Louis.

This team has come a long way and that must be the understatement of the year. In my time covering this team, the feeling I had about this team was that they knew how to play exciting basketball, but they just didn't know how to win.

Two months ago while listening to the Houston game on the radio, fellow Dawgman columnist and hoops fanatic Joe Kaiser called me to express his disgust and disbelief at how low and how fast the Huskies were falling, and I had to agree. If anyone told me that I would be sitting with the team watching the Selection Show after that day, I would have told them that they were nuts.

Then the wins started piling on and not only did I take notice, but the entire nation took notice as well. But in Romar's mind, it wasn't the wins that got this team ready for their date with destiny, but a single loss.

"I think the thing that prepared us for anything was the loss at North Carolina State," he said. "It was an NCAA Tournament type of environment and you're playing a team that is regarded as the second-best team in the ACC, the top conference in the nation this year."

"To go in there with a chance to win gave us a lot of confidence for this situation."

Should the Huskies advance to the next round, they will have a very tough task ahead of them. They will play the winner of No. 1 seed Kentucky and either Florida A&M or Lehigh University. Chances are (and history supports this) the No. 1 seed will at least make it to the next round.

Washington will now begin to make preparations for Friday's game starting on Monday and for the first time for any of the players, they will make arrangements with their professors so that they can take their finals and still play in a post-season tournament.

It's been a thrilling ride, but it's not over yet. The bandwagon's next destination is Columbus, Ohio, and hopefully that same route goes through St. Louis and then to San Antonio.

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