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Washington vs. West Virginia
The West Virginia Mountaineers (29-6) are experiencing great success under head coach Bob Huggins. They won the Big East Tournament narrowly by a combined total of just 7 points. The Mountaineers now find themselves in the Sweet Sixteen after winning their first two games of the Big Dance. They will face a tough squad in the Washington Huskies who made the Tournament on virtue of taking the Pacific 10 Tournament. Washington has looked great in the latter half of the year. They are a completely different team than the one that lost 5 games in January.
The Washington Huskies had to battle from the start to stay alive in this Tournament as the 11 seed in their region. Their first round game came against a tough Big East team in the Marquette Golden Eagles. Quincy Pondexter was a bit off scoring 17 points on 7-17, but made up for it by hitting a leaner with 1.7 seconds left to give the Huskies the win 80-78. He also had 11 rebounds and 2 assists. Isaiah Thomas was stellar with 19 points and 8 assists. The sophomore guard sank 3 of 5 three point attempts. The Huskies were down by as much as 15 in the second half. They canít afford to get behind against a team like West Virginia. The Mountaineers wonít let them back in the game if they do.
Despite the seeding Washington was a narrow favorite in the second round against New Mexico. They crushed the Lobos 82-64. Scoring was much more balanced for the Huskies in this game, but Pondexter led the charge with 18 points on 7-12 shooting. Matthew Bryan-Amaning had the best game with 15 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocks. The junior will be a big factor in this Sweet Sixteen game. The Huskies made just 10 of 20 free throws. This game with West Virginia will be a dog fight and they need every point they can get. That means they MUST make their free throws.
Bob Hugginís team finds themselves in a good spot after tip toeing through the Big East Tournament. After a sluggish start in the first round against Morgan State where they trailed 10-0, the Mountaineers rebounded for an easy 77-50 win. Sophomore Kevin Jones had 17 points on 8-10 shooting. He also had 8 rebounds even though he played just 24 minutes. Devin Ebanks contributed 16 points and 13 rebounds. He was 8-8 from the FT line and had 2 blocks. It was nice to see them pull away. We all know that a win is never guaranteed in the first round no matter how high your seed is. Georgetown was bounced in the first round this year and Robert Morris nearly knocked off Villanova.
The second round provided a better challenge for the Mountaineers in the form of the Missouri Tigers, but they easily passed the test. The Tigers are a tough Big 12 team and they knocked off heavyweight Memphis last year. DaíSean Butler showed why he is the star of the team by putting up 28 points on 6-14 shooting. He sank 4 of 9 three pointers and 12 of 13 free throws. He also had 8 rebounds and 2 blocks. Devin Ebanks also played well with 14 points.
This game pits one of the best teams in the country against one of the hottest teams in the country. Anything can happen. We like West Virginia though. They have proved countless times they can win big games. Coach Bob Huggins will have them breathing fire early in the game. Donít expect an upset here. The Mountaineers are headed to the Elite Eight.
Predicted Score - West Virginia 75 Washington 68