March 12, 2006
SEATTLE (AP) - Washington's celebration could not top receiving No. 1 seed last year. Matching school history was satisfying enough.
The Huskies received a No. 5 seed in the Washington, D.C. region of the NCAA tournament on Sunday. Washington will face 12th-seeded Utah State from the Western Athletic Conference on Thursday in San Diego.
It's just the second time in school history that the Huskies (24-6) will make three consecutive NCAA appearances. Washington made the tournament from 1984-86.
"We were hoping to be playing in San Diego or Salt Lake City. I thought we'd be a six (seed), hoping for a five, and we're fortunate to be a five," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said.
"Utah State, they don't have many weaknesses."
Last year, Hec Edmundson Pavilion exploded when the Huskies received a surprising No. 1 seed. This time, the players and fans in attendance greeted the announcement with cheers and excitement. Many were relieved that the Huskies will remain on the West Coast for the opening rounds of the tournament.
Romar said he jokingly held out hope the Huskies name would flash again as all the top-seeds were announced. He came back to reality when Memphis was given the last of the four No. 1 seeds.
Should the Huskies beat the Aggies, they would face the winner of No. 4 Illinois versus No. 13 Air Force in the second round.
"Playing on the West Coast was very important," said Todd Turner, Washington's athletic director. "It's good for us and our fans."
The Huskies were still smarting a bit on Sunday after losing to Oregon in the first round of the Pac-10 Conference tournament. Romar gave the players Friday and Saturday off to rest, before reconvening to watch the tournament announcement.
Romar also said that guard Ryan Appleby should not have any lingering effects after taking a forearm from Oregon's Aaron Brooks that required six stitches in his upper lip. Brooks was ejected, and while both he and Appleby received letters of apology from Brooks, Romar has not spoken with anyone at Oregon.
"That's something that won't go away. That's going to be brought up, I guarantee, the first time we play Oregon next year," Romar said.
Meanwhile, Utah State coach Stew Morrill was adamant his team deserved an at-large bid after the Aggies lost to Nevada in the WAC championship game.
"If we don't get a bid tomorrow, then we should pull out of the WAC and go back to the Big West. I'm dead serious," Morrill said.
The NCAA selection committee rewarded Morrill's request, after Utah State (23-8) completed its seventh straight 20-win season.
The Aggies are led by forward Nate Harris and guard Jaycee Carroll. Harris averaged 17.2 points and Carroll scored 16.1 per game for the Aggies. Utah State won seven of its final eight games before losing to Nevada on Saturday night.
"We've got to really watch these guys on film," Washington's Brandon Roy said. "You don't see these guys on TV all the time."
The Aggies bring plenty of NCAA tournament experience. This will be their fifth tournament appearance since 2000, including a first-round win over Ohio State in 2001.
Last year, as a No. 14 seed, Utah State lost to Arizona 66-53.
"Utah State expects to win their opener, they expect to advance, because they've done it before," said Romar. "We're very familiar with the job they've done over the years."