When the Washington Huskies saw their name called on the Selection Sunday telecast, they didn’t explode in the kind of celebration that had come in earlier seasons.
“It came up so fast. Usually we’ve been here, we’ve waited like 30 minutes to hear our name called. But it came up like this,” junior Isaiah Thomas said, snapping his fingers. “And we were surprised it came up so fast. But I mean, we’re just happy to be back in the position we were last year and back in the NCAA tournament.”
It also helped that Washington knew its name would be called, having assured that Saturday, beating Arizona in overtime for the Pacific-10 Conference tournament championship and winning along with it an automatic bid to the Big Dance.
That left only the details for Sunday: seeding, opponent and location.
The answers: Washington, the No. 7 seed in the East Region, will open tournament play against No. 10 Georgia on Friday in Charlotte, N.C.
Just minutes after the pairing was announced, coach Lorenzo Romar seemed to have more certainty about the cross-country trip than about the Bulldogs.
On playing in North Carolina: “I think you’d always like to be closer to home. That’s not any secret. But when you don’t have that luxury, you have to go play.”
On Georgia: “Just have an idea. I followed their scores but haven’t watched them play as much. But you can rest assured that the next couple of days we will devour film and know what’s going on with them.”
The Bulldogs are 21-11 on the season and 9-7 in the Southeastern Conference. An overtime loss to Alabama eliminated them in the quarterfinals of the SEC tournament Friday.
Their leading scorer and rebounder is Trey Thompkins, a 6-foot-10 junior forward. Thomas has faced Thompkins in AAU ball.
Romar called Thompkins “a tremendous, tremendous player.”
Georgia’s coach is Mark Fox, who was an assistant at UW from 1991-93.
“That’s where I met my wife,” Fox told the Georgia media. “(The Huskies are) a terrific team that won the Pac-10 tournament. Really a complete basketball team and one that also is very deserving of their placement.”
Washington (23-10) will be reinforced by the return of guard Venoy Overton, who had been held out of the Pac-10 tournament due to disciplinary suspension.
“Man, I’m very appreciative,” Overton said of being allowed to play in the NCAA tournament. “I’m going to go out there and do my hardest and do whatever I can to help my team win.”
Also appreciative will be Thomas, who sat out only two of the 125 minutes Washington played at the Pac-10 tournament.
Thomas admitted he was worn out on the flight home from Los Angeles. However, he said he slept into the afternoon Sunday and then reported to the Selection Sunday celebration at the Don James Center feeling refreshed.
“I’m happy,” he said of Overton’s return. “It’s another guard and another guy that can penetrate and make this easier for me. So I’m really happy to see him back.”
Romar also said that he sees no problem with introducing Overton back onto a team that just won three consecutive games and a championship without him.
“I don’t think so, not if it’s a guy that you play with in games and you play with in practice every day,” Romar said. “Everyone knows how he plays, and he knows how we play.”
The UW-Georgia winner will advance to meet the winner of Friday’s game between second-seeded North Carolina (26-7) and Long Island University (27-5).
This will be Washington’s 16th NCAA tournament appearance, and sixth in Romar’s nine seasons as coach.