Coach's corner

First of all, let's be honest, I'm a football junkie. Football is and always will be my sport. I dread January because it means football is almost over for another year with the exception of the Super Bowl. I never count and rarely watch the Pro Bowl. With the Seahawks run this year, football was really fun all the way into February. Still, once it's over, the sports scene for me always has certain emptiness to it.

I know there is spring football in April but then it's a long haul until August. There is always a sort of sports void for me over the winter. Consequently, basketball always captures my attention for this time of year and specifically the run of March Madness.

I can't remember a time I didn't watch the NCAA Championship going all the way back to the late 50's. It's just so much a part of our American culture. It's like Halloween or Thanksgiving to me.

The NCAA fully recognizes this as well and promotes their tournament for the obvious reason that they make a lot of money off of it. The NCAA has their hand in every gate and every dollar that is generated by this month of madness. It is why the basketball coaches have so much power in the NCAA - because without their sport that organization would simply dribble away.

Obviously, whenever your home team is in the tournament it adds to the excitement and intensifies the fan experience. I am so proud that the Washington Huskies to have made it back three straight years, and with almost the exact same record they had last year. Although not seeded as high as last year, they drew a good opener and their chances are of advancing are excellent. They should be both rested and smarting from their first round loss in the Pac-10.

If their shots are falling, this team can play with anybody. And wouldn't it be nice for the rest of the country to see what a fine player they have in Brandon Roy. If they get to see a lot of Roy, it means the Huskies are doing well. Heck, just a five game winning streak and they join the UW Volleyball team as national champions.

Even if the Dawgs weren't involved, you and I would probably be watching the tournament, but probably not with the same enthusiasm. This heightens our interest, but be careful of your participation in any bracket pools, Husky fans. I still can't believe nor accept the hypocrisy of the NCAA for singling out Rick Neuheisel and the UW for participating in betting pools. I know for a fact that other schools have similar pools in their athletic departments.

I confess that I gambled every year I worked at the University of Washington. I rarely went to casinos, have never used a bookie, occasionally play the ponies, but always participated in a bracket pool. It came with the tournament. It was part of the culture of the whole thing. I did it privately with my insurance agent, Tom Wolthausen, almost every year. We would have lunch almost to this day and take turns picking the teams so we would both end up with 32 teams to root for. We placed different bets or amounts for wins at each level of the tournament. It was part of our friendship.

To think that all that time I was committing a criminal act of the NCAA makes me feel terrible. Oh the humanity.

I remember the Elgin Baylor era and their great run in the NCAA's in 1957. Of course, we followed much of it on the radio, our television was black and white, the players wore short shorts, and life was simpler. I remember when it was regional qualifications and for years the winner of the West region was ALWAYS UCLA. They carried the banner for the west and we all rooted for the Bruins and they responded with the greatest run of championships in the history of the sport.

Of course they cheated but who cares, they were from our conference and from our part of the country and so that's who you rooted for.

It starts this week so let's get ready for a month of great basketball. Our Dawgs are in it - beat Utah State and take it from there. This is so exciting, especially when we get an overdose of Dickie V glorifying Coach K and the Dukies.

In my best Vitale, "I can't wait for the tournament to begin. Show me the UW Huskies as the Cinderella team and let them win four or five games and I'll go off the charts, babyyyy. Brandon Roy is a real P-T-Per!!!! Justin Dentmon and Jon Brockman are true Diaper Dandies!!!!
No question about it - Now is the time to refocus and put the loss and Pac-10 Tournament behind them and get ready for the big dance. The nice thing is they will not be overconfident as they were in their losses to the Ducks and the Cougars. It just goes to show how important the mental aspect of preparation is. The Huskies are a good team but not a great one. They usually have lapses at the start of the second halves and this pattern continued in the Duck Debacle.

There is no doubt that Huskies usually starts games with a good defensive game plan that often gets them a comfortable lead. Their concentration although intense early seems to fade as other teams begin to make runs, the Dawgs have a habit of going flat, especially during the first 6-8 minutes of the second half. They could have blown Oregon out but allowed them to stay in the game and once Chamberlain Oguchi got hot and erased the Husky lead, the Dawgs struggled.

They can't be as careless with the basketball in their passing and have any chance of winning. Cutting down their turnovers is probably the secret for this team.

The seniors have to continue their level of play and Mike Jensen, in particular, has to get out of his shooting slump and do it now! The last few games he has been a non-factor from the outside and that is the element that he brings to the table that really can make this team dangerous. Ryan Appleby, likewise, has to find his shot because his slight frame can be a liability on the defensive end against bigger guards. Jensen and Appleby need to be shooting the ball well if the Huskies are to do anything in the tournament. Appleby's nose and lip should be healed enough from the cheap shot he took courtesy of Aaron Brooks.

Losing their two freshmen to foul trouble didn't help the Huskies against the Ducks. I really believe they need Brockman the Bruiser down on the block the entire game. His rebounding presence was sorely missed at the end of the Duck game. Justin Dentmon is their only true point guard and ball handler and they really missed his quick hands on defense at the end as well.

This is probably one of the real positives of having a mini tournament before the real one starts. It gives your freshmen valuable experience and prepares them for the real deal this coming week.

If they can get by the Aggies, a fantastically adept shooting team, then they are probably going to get Illinois, a very strong Big-10 team. They are all winnable from here on out, folks. That is why they call it March madness.

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