Play On: Huskies In NIT Again, Travel To BYU
March 17, 2013
By Gregg Bell
Washington (18-15) found out Sunday evening it is the 6th seed in a region of the 76th National Invitation Tournament and will play 3rd-seeded BYU Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. PT at the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah.
"It gives our seniors three more games," coach Lorenzo Romar said, in the aftermath of UW losing 80-77 Thursday night to eventual league-tournament champion Oregon in the second round of the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas.
"We were hopeful we would get into the NIT. I thought it was 50-50," he said Sunday night.
Immediately after Thursday's loss to Oregon an emotion Gaddy said, knowing the Huskies weren't going to make the cherished NCAA tournament: "Honestly, I pray to God that we go to the NIT. I just don't it to be over yet."
And it isn't.
After Sunday's announcement Gaddy said: "We live to play another day."
Suggs feels the same way.
"I'm just excited to be able to keep playing," the co-captain said. "I wish things would have turned out differently in the Pac-12 tournament but nonetheless we're able to keep playing. We have another chance to win something."
Romar said -- and those comments suggest -- his players already seem far more ready for this NIT than last year's, in which Washington advances to the semifinals in New York. That team was devastated to be the first regular-season champion of a major conference to be denied an NCAA tournament bid, then sleepwalked as an NIT top seed through much of the 2012 first-round game against Texas-Arlington.
"It more excitement for our guys," Romar said of Sunday night's NIT reaction, "especially for our seniors who still get to play.
"I think our guys will embrace it a lot sooner (this time).
BYU lost in overtime to San Diego in the West Coast Conference tournament last week in Las Vegas, and by five at home to top-ranked Gonzaga two weeks ago in Provo.
The Huskies' trip there will be a homecoming for C.J. Wilcox. The junior sharpshooter grew up in the suburbs of nearby Salt Lake City. Wilcox's father Craig played at BYU.
"I actually called it two days ago that we would be playing at their place, so I wasn't too shocked," Wilcox said before UW returned to practice Sunday night following two off days.
Wilcox played AAU ball in Utah with BYU scorer Tyler Haws, and they played at rival, Salt Lake City-area high schools.
"It will be good to see some people, but as far as playing I know it's going to be pretty hyped from their side of things."
Romar hadn't broken down video of the Cougars as of 20 minutes after the NIT announcement. But he knows enough about them to realize this: "They are very up-tempo. They are really good at home.
"I don't think many games, given the seed we have, weren't going to be difficult," Romar said of UW's task Tuesday.
The winner will play the winner of Tennessee and Mercer sometime between Thursday and next Monday, March 25 in the NIT's second round. Quarterfinal games will be played March 26 and 27.
The top seed in Washington's bracket is Southern Mississippi. Romar has said Southern Miss' is the toughest arena in which he's coached, in part because his former rival in Conference USA from Romar's days at Saint Louis is so hard to get to.
Three wins in the NIT and the Huskies could return to Madison Square Garden in New York, where they narrowly lost to Marquette and Duke in December 2011 and then to Minnesota in the NIT semifinals last March 27.
This year's NIT semifinals and finals are April 2 and 4 at The Garden.
Washington is in the 32-team field of college basketball's oldest tournament for the second consecutive season and second time since 1997. It is UW's seventh overall appearance in the NIT, which began in 1938 one year before the NCAA tournament began.
The Huskies also played in the 1996, 1987, 1982 and 1980 NIT and have compiled a 6-6 overall record. Last season, as a No. 1 seed in the NIT, they beat Texas-Arlington, Northwestern and Oregon all at home to reach New York.
Washington is 10-8 all-time against BYU, 4-4 in Provo. Their first meeting was in the 1951 NCAA tournament. The Dawgs and Cougars haven't met since Dec. 9, 1997, when UW won 83-68 at BYU.