Who's the underdog?

BOISE, ID - A reporter asked Washington point guard Will Conroy Wednesday why he's been sounding angry of late. Apparently in his sound bites leading up to the Huskies' first-round matchup against Montana this Thursday in the NCAA men's basketball tournament, Conroy has come off as somewhat agitated. His answer?

"We're underdogs," said Conroy, ignoring the fact that his team was just named a 1-seed for the tournament. "It doesn't matter what seed they give us. We are not going to be the hunted. We are going to be the hunters.

"We didn't go beg to be a No. 1 seed. They (NCAA Selection Committee) slapped us with that number and I know for me and the guys back in the locker room, we don't care what seed we were. It's just a number. When that ball goes up, it doesn't matter what seed you are. You just got to go out there and play like you are playing for a championship."

"This team has kind of been an underdog forever," added UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar. "Even back to last year when we started out 0-5 in conference. Our backs have been against the wall a lot, it's been standard business for us. That's just how it's been."

It's that attitude, along with their gritty, scrappy play, that has put the Huskies at the top of the Albuquerque regional. But underdogs? Montana Head Coach Larry Krystkowiak will hear nothing of it.

"The key for us is to make sure it's interesting," he said. "We need to keep people from heading to the souvenir shop."

There's little chance of that happening, at least right away. Krystkowiak is a little bit of a celebrity in Boise, as he last year took the CBA's Idaho Stampede to the league finals and their best record ever in his first and only year in Boise. Then it was time to head back to his alma mater, where he is considered by most to be the most famous player to have ever suited up for Montana basketball.

So while the Huskies have the 'Dawg Pack', there's a very good chance this game will have the feel of being played in Missoula. "Anything they can do will help," said junior guard Kevin Criswell.

Boise State's Taco Bell Arena, the venue for Thursday's game, has seen it's share of upsets, including the last time a No. 15 seed beat a No. 2 - Hampton's famous 58-57 barnburner against Iowa State in 2001. Krystkowiak is hoping for a little of that Bronco mojo rubs off on the Griz.

"I do know that there's been a lot of special games in this facility during 'March Madness', the Hamptons of the world" said Krystkowiak. "One game after the next, the regional games that have been pretty close so we're hoping there's maybe something magical about the building."

The Huskies are going to do their level best to make sure the lessons learned after their 102-100 loss to UAB in last year's Dance don't go for naught.

"The majority of the team last year were happy just to make the Tournament," said Conroy. "This year we're not satisfied with just making it to the tournament, as you can tell, we're on a mission. We're not going to look past Montana and we're going to come out and play them like we are playing Illinois."

"We have to treat every game like it's the national championship," said junior guard Nate Robinson. "A lot of people call the tournament 'The Greatest Show on Earth', added Romar. "Last year we were there for two days. As a result of that, our guys are pretty focused."

Notes:
Dunk you very much: After about 45 minutes of high-tempo shooting drills, Romar let his guys have the final ten minutes of practice to wow those fans in attendance with an impromptu jam session. Nate Robinson, Will Conroy, Joel Smith, Mike Jensen and Brandon Roy all took part, with Robinson and Jensen getting the biggest applause. Romar got into the act himself, feeding alley-oops from half-court.

Seyfert hurt: John Seyfert, a 6-10 junior center for Montana, 'tweaked' his ankle during the Grizzlies' Wednesday afternoon practice, but is expected to play. "If John couldn't start tomorrow, I would anticipate starting Andrew Strait," Krystkowiak said. "Just off the top of my head without really having a chance to visit with my staff, but that would be my guess. So, we would start two freshmen."

Hot under the collar: People have been constantly asking Krystkowiak about why Montana backed out of their scheduled game with Washington earlier in the year. "I've gotten kind of hot under the collar about this 'backing out of a game' deal because we didn't back out of a game. The perception was the game was on-tap to be played and then I came in and decided we weren't going to play it. I've been taking quite a bit of heat, as has our team, like we were ducking somebody, and that's just not the way it went."

Disconnected: Conroy called Arizona guard Salim Stoudamire Tuesday in a show of conference support and solidarity, but Salim wasn't answering the phone and didn't return Will's call. "I guess he's still angry at us," said Conroy. Both Conroy, Romar and Nate Robinson talked about how they will unabashedly support the Wildcats while they are in Boise. UA plays Utah State Thursday evening. "I asked coach if we got our business done if we could watch them (Arizona) play," added Conroy. "I'm a U-Dub fan and a Pac-10 fan 'til the day I die," added Robinson. "I'm rooting for the Pac-10 hands down."

As far as his own cell phone, Conroy said he's done answering calls until after the weekend. "I'll probably call some people back on Sunday if we get two wins, but right now it's too late in the week to talk to me. I'd just rather talk to my coaches and my teammates."

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