Do you believe in miracles?

With the Washington Huskies on their longest losing streak in three years, things are looking flat-out bleak. Hans Gasser and Brandon Burmeister have a chance to make school history, but they'll have to do their best 1980 USA Hockey team imitation to pull off a Pac-10 Tournament title. But they have two more games left - two games left to figure it out.

"We're talking right now about how much better can we get in the next two weeks if we want to go to the NCAA Tournament," Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar said Tuesday. "Like Jim Harrick used to say, 'It's nothing a couple of wins won't solve'."

Six wins - two this weekend and four in the upcoming Pac-10 Tournament - would be fantastic at this point, probably more than any UW fan could possiby hope for. But the team hasn't lost hope.

"To win four games in four days is not impossible, but it's going to be tough," Burmeister added.

With no chance of earning an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament now, the Huskies focus on their last option - winning the league tournament. And they have an opportunity to ratchet up their play with a couple of wins in Seattle this week - against USC and UCLA. They first play the No. 23 Trojans (21-8, 11-5) Thursday, and then finish the season off in grand style versus the No. 2 Bruins (25-3, 14-2). Two wins, and the young pups just might not be burdened with the wisdom that would normally tell them they have no shot.

"If you're successful this weekend, you take away a lot of momentum," Romar said. "You have a chance to be successful."

"If we can win these games, we feel like we can beat anyone," added frosh center Spencer Hawes.

Ask Romar about winning it all, and there is one reason that immediately comes to the fore. "We've got to win the Pac-10 Tournament for a number of reasons, but we need to win it for Hans Gasser and Brandon Burmeister," he said, referencing the Huskies' lone seniors. "They would be the first guys in school history to go to four-straight NCAA tournaments. They've been in the trenches with us from Day One. And this year, even though they haven't played a bunch, they've quietly shown leadership. They aren't team captains, but they can tell you how 'Husky Basketball' is played. They've been a part of everything that's taken place. They are two very special guys."

"It would be very special to be the first guys in the history of the school," added Burmeister. "We've built things up to expect to go to the NCAA Tournament, and if we don't it's going to be a letdown."

Gasser and Burmeister have seen a lot - a win over then No. 1 Stanford, when the crowd carried senior Curtis Allen off in triumph; a No. 1 seed; two Sweet-16 appearances. They have a lot of motivation not to leave their last moments in purple and gold on the floor of the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

And in Romar, they have a coach that's seen a miracle materialize out of thin air. During his first year as head coach at Saint Louis back in 2000, the Billikens had to go on the road to play then No. 1 Cincinnati. The 84-41 loss wasn't entirely unexpected, but it definitely wasn't a precursor of things to come. The Billikens turned the tables on the Bearcats with a 68-58 triumph in the C-USA Tournament quarterfinal a week later. They would eventually beat DePaul to win the title, the first No. 9-seed to ever run the table.

Sounds too good to be true in 2007, and it probably is. For one thing, Romar sees few similarities between that 2000 Billikens team and the team he has right now. "They were my first group at Saint Louis, and it took some time," he said. "By the end of the year, they were playing a lot better. but that team already had a lot of experience and a lot of leadership. This team (at Washington) is more talented, but not nearly as experienced."

If you are a Washington fan, this is where you hope the experience gained by those that have been there before - namely Gasser, Burmeister, Jon Brockman, Justin Dentmon and Ryan Appleby - comes into play. "Before, we had guys like Nate (Robinson), Brandon (Roy), and Will (Conroy), and they had huge hearts," Burmeister said. "They just wouldn't let us get blown out. They get pushing us and always going at it, even in practice. They had huge hearts, and this team is still trying to figure that out."

The Hoop Dawgs are hoping that the younger players that have been such a big part of this year's program are ready to apply lessons learned from an up-and-down 2006-07 season right now. "I'm getting more confident," said Hawes. "Coming in, it's a lot harder to do, because you're not established right away. But now it's time that I step forward."

A win Thursday would be a great start, but the Huskies aren't expecting USC to fall over. Former Rainier Beach star Lodrick Stewart will be making his final appearance at Bank of America Arena. "He's one of the top career scorers in the league of the players here," Romar said of Stewart. "He was highly-touted out of high school. And Nick Young - he's an NBA player when he decides to go, and he's got an outside shot of being the Player of the Year. And Gabe Pruitt...that's an experienced, talented perimeter team. You add Taj Gibson to that - who has been a pleasant surprise - that's a pretty good nucleus."

USC Head Coach Tim Floyd is starting to put his imprint on the Trojans' program, one that has played solid defense all year long. "(Like UCLA and Washington State) If things aren't going offensively, they aren't stressing," Romar said. "And although we scored a lot of points, in the past we knew that we were going to get into you and attack defensively. We could use our defense to generate our offense. We just haven't gotten the grasp of that as much this year."

And therein lies the difference. "Our achilles has been turnovers and defense," Romar added. "Some of that goes back to youth. Maybe I could have done a better job on the offensive end by simplfying things for our young players. Maybe we wouldn't have turned the ball over as much."

And Washington fans can't help but think back to the Huskies' very first game of Pac-10 play - at USC. Hawes hit his only three-pointer of the year in that game - one that UW eventually lost in two overtimes by seven. If a bounce or a rebound goes a certain way, the Huskies just might have pulled out a victory that time around. And given their struggles on the road (1-10), a win there could have possibly changed things around.

"Well, we didn't do well in the next game (against UCLA)," countered Romar. "We had two others that were close. Maybe, if we win those we feel like we can win those tight games."

"If we started out 1-0, things might have been different," Hawes added. "But it's hard to say that."

But the facts now are these; the Washington Huskies need to win the Pac-10 Tournament to keep dancing. And even though they are on a four-game slide, Romar is hardly ready to give up on a season that has - at times - been a bewilderment. "I think we took a lot of confidence from the Pittsburgh game," he said. "I think we've drawn from that quite a bit and our guys understand that we're close. We definitely can (win the tournament). This is a strong league, so a lot of teams are capable. In any post-season event, it's all about matchups, so sometimes it works out in your favor." Top Stories