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Husky Men's Basketball

The latest news and analysis on Husky men's hoops.

March 17, 2006 at 8:24 PM

Separation Saturday

I say that because I think this is the day when the Huskies can really separate themselves from a lot of other college basketball programs.
For all that the Huskies have done the past two years, it’s obvious that they are still regarded somewhat skeptically on the national stage — even if I don’t think they are quite as disrespected as a lot of other people think they are.
And there are some legitimate reasons for that skepticism.
UW has a lot of wins the last two years, but in the NCAA tournament, they’ve beaten Montana, Pacific and Utah State. They’ve lost to UAB and Louisville.
This is when everyone is watching most, and frankly, the Huskies have mostly just done what everybody would have thought, and not always in the most impressive fashion — both the Montana and Utah State games had some rugged patches aesthetically.
But beat Illinois today, and as Bobby Jones said “everyone will be on our bandwagon.”
Not only would it be a win against an elite program, but it would put the Huskies in the Sweet 16 for two straight years, something that only the best programs do.
That’s what got Gonzaga where they are, those three straight Sweet 16 appearances from 1999-2001.
It’s also something that only UCLA, Arizona and Stanford among Pac-10 teams have done since the tournament began expanding in 1975.
Jones, Brandon Roy and several of the other Huskies were playing up the “no respect” angle when they talked with reporters Friday.
“We’re just taking all of that and using it as motivation to try to prove all the doubters wrong,” Jones said.
Win today, however, and there won’t be a lot of doubters left.
But it won’t be easy.
As one observer said Friday, the Huskies are usually the most athletic team on the floor. That won’t be the case against Illinois, led by lightning-quick point guard Dee Brown.
They also will have a sizeable height disadvantage at a lot of spots up front, with Illinois led inside by a pair of 6-10 guys — center Shaun Pruitt and forward James Augustine.
The Huskies will have to use their quickness to mitigate that size differential.
The likely matchups for UW are Bobby Jones on Brown, Justin Dentmon on Illinois shooting guard Rich McBride, Roy on small forward Brian Randle, Mike Jensen on Augustine and Jon Brockman on Pruitt.
Randle, regarded as Illinois’ best defensive player, will also have the primary responsibility defending Roy.
Interestingly, Illinois seemed to know a lot about the Huskies. Both Randle and Brown mentioned having been captivated by Roy’s play for several years and seeking out opportunities to watch the Huskies.
“I really like his style of game,” Randle said. “He’s a matchup nightmare for anybody.”
NOTES
• Augustine said the obvious: “We’re going to try to exploit their bigs,” he said. Illinois also brings 6-9 forward Warren Carter off the bench — he had 12 points against Air Force — giving the Illini a lot of options up front. That could make foul trouble a key in this game.
• UW practiced in private in the early afternoon and then had a shootaround at Cox Arena after the mandatory session with the media. UW coach Lorenzo Romar said the Huskies didn’t go real hard. “We didn’t want to put a lot of stress on our legs,” he said.
• Here was Illinois coach Bruce Weber’s take on the game: “We will run. I think the key for is to stop them from running. Making them play some halfcourt basketball. Not that they are bad at it, but they are just so much more effective in transition.”
• Bad news for UW? Illinois does a good job taking care of the basketball, losing the fourth-fewest turnovers in the Big Ten this year at 12.4.
• Not sure it means anything given that it was three months ago, but Illinois clobbered Oregon 89-59 in Portland in December while the Ducks obviously beat UW once and gave them a real run in Eugene. UW did beat Oregon handily at home.
• Sure, the Pac-10 is 3-1. But all three wins came in a favorite’s role. This weekend will determine if the Pac-10 can really say it was underrated this year.
• Interesting sight seeing UCLA and the Huskies cross paths in the hallway here today. Just about every Bruin player greeted Romar warmly. “O-town” Romar yelled at UCLA center Michael Fey of Olympia, who laughed. And Ben Howland came up and shook Brandon Roy’s hand enthusiastically with the two then sharing congratulations on their wins. Roy says he’s rooting for all the Pac-10 teams to make the conference look good.

Comments | Topics: UCLA

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