Lorenzo Romar quotes - 3/15

Washington head basketball coach Lorenzo Romar addressed the media Monday afternoon, just one day after his team earned a number-eight seed in the Saint Louis 'pod' of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Romar talked about the team's mentality going into post-season play, as well as the team the Huskies will be facing - the number-nine seed Alabama-Birmingham Blazers.

Conventional wisdom suggests that Washington (19-11, 12-6) is already a tournament-tested team. They made it to the finals of the Pac-10 tournament, only to be ousted by top-seed Stanford, but for nearly the past two months the Dawgs have adopted a 'sudden-death' approach to their season and their hopes of making it to the 'Big Dance'.

"A lot of the preparation has already taken care of itself, playing at places like NC State and Arizona and the Pac-10 tournament - the Stanford game, playing the number-one team in the country," said Romar.

"And for the last two months we've had to play each game with the intensity of an NCAA tournament game. It's been a 'one-and-done' mindset. Every game, if we lose one, maybe we're not here right now. We've kind of developed that mentality that we can't look back, and I think that's going to help up going into this tournament."

And just when you thought the pressure of getting into the dance was enormous, the players now have to coordinate hoops with books this week, taking care of finals as well as preparing for their Friday night date with destiny in Columbus, Ohio.

"We have to really balance ourselves," said Lorenzo. "We don't want to flunk our first-round final, and we don't want to flunk any real finals either."

The UAB Blazers (20-9, 12-4) are going to be a stiff pop quiz for the hoop dawgs in their opener, with plenty of surprises up their sleeve. "They are a lot like Stanford, but for different reasons," Romar said of UAB. "They've been doing what they do for a long time and you know what you're going to get. They are going to get their hands on a lot of balls, deflect a lot of passes. They are averaging 20 turnovers forced a game and 12 steals. Their defense generates a lot of their offense. To think about it one way, they have a floor full of Bobby Joneses and Nate Robinsons. They are relentless, so we'll have to be strong with the basketball. They aren't fast, just relentless."

It's a style Blazers coach Mike Anderson adopted while he was an assistant under Nolan Richardson at Arkansas. Known as '40 minutes of hell', The Razorbacks pressed, trapped and pressured teams into forced errors and turnovers, turning composed teams into flustered headcases.

Romar knows a little about the Blazers' game, as he was an assistant to Jim Harrick when UCLA defeated Arkansas in 1995 to win the NCAA national championship. "I can't really compare them with any team we've faced," Lorenzo said. "They'll press like USC, but probably won't do as much zone as USC does. Their bench is twelve-deep and their leading scorer is averaging 13 points. Then the next guy is averaging 10 and then they don't have anybody else in double-digits because they don't get enough time. They keep fresh bodies in their all the time so they can apply constant pressure."

UAB earned a co-Conference-USA regular season championship in a year that was deep in quality opposition. "With six teams in the dance and another 1-2 in the NIT, you know it's been a good year for basketball in their conference," Lorenzo said. "When I coached at Saint Louis, Conference USA had a National league and an American League. In the American League, there was Houston, UAB, Memphis, Southern Mississippi and Tulane, and with the exception of Southern Miss, all trapped and pressed full-court. So I think that's going to help us in preparing for it, and we have the quickness and ball-handling skills to be effective against the press."

Getting to the dance was the biggest step, and even though it was clear in UW's loss to Stanford Saturday that three games in three days finally caught up to the team physically, it's how they deal with the mental warfare of NCAA post-season play that will determine how far they go.

"We can't win anything if we have our 'cool jackets' on," Romar said, quoting a phrase he first heard from UCLA head coach Steve Lavin when he was an assistant. "If we do that, we're going to lose by 20 every time. We have to have a chip on our shoulder every time, and if we do that we may not win every game but we'll be competitive with any team we play. And I think our guys understand that. We don't have to talk about it all that much because going through losing seasons shows you exactly why.

"When you're playing without the 'cool jackets', you're playing with passion and you're not concerned with what people think of you or how you look. You're more concerned with winning the game and doing whatever it takes."

Romar singled out three players that never put the 'cool jacket' on. "I'd say (Will) Conroy, Nate (Robinson) and Bobby (Jones) are the three guys that really get in there and mix it up, especially Bobby and Nate," he said.

And Lorenzo hopes those players lead by example and show those high school players interested in playing basketball at Montlake just how it's done. He's pleased with the results so far, but the final tally will be inconclusive until the fall.

"I think it's very important," Lorenzo said about UW's tournament appearance affecting a positive change in recruiting. "Now we can go out there and tell them about what we've done instead of what we're trying to do. Instead of telling them about what we want to happen we can show them that it has happened. Now, whether that means something is yet to be determined."

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