Romar wary of Aggies

When Lorenzo Romar saw 'Washington' come up on the big screen televisions located in Hec Ed Sunday, he was hoping for a big flashback - one that happened exactly one year ago to the day. In that scenario, the Huskies were named the fourth number-one seed in the NCAA Men's basketball Tournament. This year? Not quite.

"I was hoping we'd get shocked again," Romar said Sunday with just a little grin. "We were hoping to be playing on the west coast, so that's great. I was expecting a six (seed), but hoping for five."

He got his wish, at least his real wish. And true to his other wish - to bring Huskies basketball into the national consciousness - Romar is making that come true too. This will be the third-straight NCAA appearance for a Romar-led UW team, something his five seniors have all been a part of.

"This is what you want in your program," he said when asked about rising expectations for UW hoops. "I think it's fair for people to expect us to be in post-season play every year, because that's what we expect. We're trying to build this program not just to get in the NCAA tournament every year, but to win it."

The Huskies will be playing Thursday in San Diego against the Utah State Aggies (23-8, 11-5). While admitting that the coaches wouldn't be able to possibly speak intelligently about every possible opponent Washington could have faced, he did talk with his team for a few minutes about the Aggies. Stew Morrill is Utah State's Head Coach, one with coaching ties to former Stanford head man Mike Montgomery. Morrill is 188-61 in eight years in Logan, Utah, having taken the Aggies to the Big Dance five times. Morrill has only won one NCAA game as USU's head coach, a 77-68 overtime win over Ohio State in the 2001 tournament.

"Utah State is one of the most well-coached teams in the country," Romar said. "Over the years they have been very successful. Utah State expects to win their opener. They expect to advance, because they've done that before. We know how efficient their program has been run.

The only common opponent between the two teams is Idaho. The Huskies defeated the Vandals at home 90-67, while the Aggies took care of UI 83-58 at home. USU's leading scorer is Nate Harris, a 6-foot-7 senior forward from Smithfield, Utah. He averages 17.2 points per game. Harris is followed by Jaycee Carroll, a sophomore guard from Evanston, Wyoming.

Because of the connection to Montgomery, Romar compares the Aggies to UCLA or the Montgomery-era Stanford teams in style. "They are very physical, they take care of the basketball," he said. "They limit one shot and get back defensively. They might actually mix up defenses more than what we normally see.

For Romar, the biggest thing for him now is to get his team back on the horse. They fell off badly during the Pac-10 tournament, losing 84-73 in the quarterfinals. It was an ugly game all the way around, starting with Oregon's Aaron Brooks laying Husky guard Ryan Appleby out with a forearm shiver.

"I've never seen that happen in any game that I've been involved in," Romar said Sunday, noting that he's expecting his action - which prompted an ejection and automatic one-game suspension - won't be soon forgotten. "I know Aaron, and it's unfortunate what happened," he added. "Sometimes the nicest people lose it, and that's how people sometimes remember them. That's going to be brought up the first time we play Oregon next year, guaranteed."

And the possibility of added punishment for Brooks? Romar has not talked to Brooks nor Ducks Head Coach Ernie Kent since the game, but did receive an apology that was written by Brooks. Brooks also sent a hand-written note of apology to Appleby. "We'll see," he said. "I don't know how many times that kind of a situation comes up. And it's certainly not like Nate Robinson dunking at the end of a game."

Comparisons to Washington's third-round game against Louisville have also made an appearance this week in light of the Brooks incident. Cardinal forward Juan Palacios took Bobby Jones out on a hard - but legal - screen. Romar did his best to dispell any theory out there that has the Huskies as anything less than a tough, hard-nosed team.

"UCLA is as physical as anyone," he said. "Cal is really physical. And we won three of those four games and we may have even been the more physical team. I don't think that's the issue."

He did, however, offer some insight as to why the Ducks out-scored UW 54-32 in the second half. "Because we didn't have Ryan and Justin (Dentmon) was in foul trouble, our rotations were different," he said. "That wasn't our usual plan of attack. As a result, when we weren't scoring, our intensity dropped off, and you can't let that happen."

Romar said the Oregon game was similar in tone to when the Huskies lost at Washington State 77-64. "That was a physical game and it was more of us not maintaining the intensity we needed," he said.

With the 'one-and-done' scenario placed squarely on the Huskies' shoulders now, Romar is just reiterating common themes. "We just talked about how we make sure we play with the right level of intensity for forty minutes - the same things we've been preaching all year," he said.

"There's no turning back now."
Romar definitely noticed Washington's potential second-round matchup - Illinois. His point guard Dentmon noticed it too. Dentmon, from Carbondale, Ill., was recruited by the Illini, but chose Washington instead. "I know you want to win this game," Romar said to Dentmon, talking about Utah State. "I didn't mention Illinois." How will the true frosh deal with the single-elimination pressure of the Big Dance? "He just needs to focus," added Romar. "You've got no time to pace yourself, but you've got to maintain a balance too."

When asked if there were any surprises in the brackets, Romar noted off-hands that he was surprised George Washington dropped to a No. 8 seed and also mentioned how difficult Boston College will be as a No. 4 seed. Top Stories