NCAA Tournament Preview East Region - First Round (10) Georgia vs. (7) Washington

Friday, March 18 – 9:45 PM ET

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If you like corny headlines with wordplays involving canines, this is your matchup. The Dawgs play… the Dawgs, as a Pacific Northwest breed takes on a Southeastern breed in this snarling, saliva-spewing showdown between two teams with immense athletic ability. Washington and Georgia partisans both like to call their teams “the Dawgs,” but only one dog will be alive enough to hunt when this dust-up is done in the Carolinas.

Washington is a No. 7 seed in the East Region of the 2011 NCAA tournament, and will play 10-seed Georgia at Time Warner Arena in Charlotte, N.C. on Friday night in a first round game. Washington, 11-7 in the PAC-10 this season, defeated Arizona 77-75 in overtime to win the conference championship on March 12 and earn the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Georgia was 9-7 in the SEC this season, and lost to Alabama 59-65 in overtime of its quarterfinal game in the conference tournament after leading by 14 points with 7:33 remaining in the game.

Washington is making its 15th appearance in the NCAA tournament. Lorenzo Romar, in his ninth season coaching the Huskies, will be bringing his team to the tournament for the sixth time. He has taken the team to the Sweet 16 three times in that span; most recently, the Huskies crashed the regional semifinals last year, when the Huskies lost to second-seeded West Virginia in Syracuse. Washington reached the Final Four once, in 1953, finishing third, behind the shooting artistry of beloved old-time player Bob Houbregs, whom Bill Raftery sometimes mentions on CBS (or ESPN) basketball broadcasts such as Sunday’s Atlantic 10 Tournament final.

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The Huskies average 83.5 points per game, and only allow 70.4; they shoot 47.1 percent from the field and can get on hot streaks at any time... especially in March. Washington is led by junior guard Isaiah Thomas with 16.8 points and 6 assists per game. Senior forwards Matthew Bryan-Amaning (with 15.5 points and 9.1 rebounds) and Justin Holiday (with 10.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game) lead the front line, which is admittedly somewhat diminished by the absence of teammate Abdul Gaddy, who was lost for the season due to an injury suffered early in the Pac-10 season.

Coach Mark Fox, in his second year coaching the Bulldogs, is bringing Georgia to the tournament for the 11th time. Georgia has an all-time 7-10 record in the tournament. Georgia was eliminated in the Sweet 16 in 1993, and in its best March Madness run under former coach Hugh Durham, UGA lost in the 1983 national semifinals to Jim Valvano’s NC State Wolfpack, the eventual champions. That 1983 joyride marked UGA’s only trip to the Final Four. The Bulldogs punched their ticket to Albuquerque for the Final Four by beating North Carolina in the East Regional Final. Guess what? If Georgia wins this game, it’s almost certain to play… yep… North Carolina in the East Region.

Georgia averages 68.8 points, shooting 46.1 percent from the field. Junior forward Trey Thompkins leads the Bulldogs with 16.1 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. A pair of junior guards, Travis Leslie with 14.5 points and Gerald Robinson with 12.2 points lead the backcourt. Leslie averages 7.2 rebounds per game.

By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer




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