BY Bob Sherwin 06:39PM 03/08/2011

Depth becomes Huskies’ biggest concern

Washington will be without Overton and possibly Holiday in the Pac-10 tournament. Meanwhile, Washington State may be back to a full roster.

Washington senior co-captain Justin Holiday may miss the WSU game with a concussion / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

In a season filled with suspensions and injuries, it appears the Washington State could have an important advantage over Washington in their opening game of the Pac-10 Tournament Thursday night: depth.

Washington State will welcome back leading scorer Klay Thompson from a one-game suspension for marijuana possession and may have a game-time decision for guard Reggie Moore, who also missed the last game with an injured ankle.

Washington, in the meantime, suspended guard Venoy Overton for the entire tournament because of charges brought Tuesday morning for distributing liquor to a minor. The team also is waiting to see if guard Justin Holiday will be medically cleared in time to play after suffering a concussion Saturday.

Moore made it through most of the Cougars practice. Holiday did not practice Monday or Tuesday.

“I’m just looking forward to getting Klay and Reggie back in uniform,” WSU Coach Ken Bone said.

UW coach Lorenzo Romar raised the possibility of playing walk-on freshman Antoine Hosley, if necessary, depending on whether guard Isaiah Thomas needs a rest. Hosley has played 30 minutes this season with two assists and seven points.

And this is a team trying to get into the NCAA Tournament.

“No one is feeling sorry for us. I’m not feeling sorry for us,” Thomas said. “We have to go out and win basketball games. I talked to my team about keeping our heads up. Our backs have been against the wall before. We know what it takes to win the Pac-10 tournament. We got to play every game like its our last game because it could be our last.”

Here’s a look at the latest notes and quotes heading into the tournament:

Arizona: Even with his team assured of advancing into the NCAA Tournament, Wildcat coach Sean Miller said his team can make great use of the Pac-10s.

“It’s an opportunity for us to get a feel what’s it like on a neutral court on a really big stage in a single-elimination environment,” he said. “The more time we put ourselves in that, the more comfortable we get.”

Besides being the top seed and earning a better matchup, he said the biggest factor is playing one game fewer than the bottom four teams. He said you need depth to win the tournament and it can be used as a weapon.

“The longer you’re in it,” he said, “the more depth becomes a factor.”

Notes: F Derrick Williams was the seventh Wildcat to be named Player of the Year, the first since 1999 (Jason Terry). The others were: Sean Elliott (1988, ’89), Chris Mills (1993), Damon Stoudamire (1995) and Mike Bibby (1998)…the Cats finished 17-0 at home, 9-0 in conference play. They are the 26th team over the past 33 seasons to unbeaten at home. They also finished the regular-season with 25 wins, the most in 13 years.

Arizona State: The Sun Devils finish in last place but they open the tournament with Oregon, a team they’ve beaten twice. That’s two of their four Pac-10 victories.

“We have to play a very good all-around game,” ASU Coach Herb Sendek said. “We’re going to have to play really solid at both ends for 40-plus minutes. Our team needs to play at its best.”

Notes: The Sun Devils are at their best, such as it is, at the end of the season. They won three of their final five games entering the Pac-10s…Ty Abbott, the Pac-10 Player of the Week for the third time in his career, along with Jamelle McMillan and Rihards Kuksiks combined to hit 29 of the team’s 33 three-pointers last week against the Oregon schools…Kuksiks (277) and Abbott (273) rank seventh and eighth all-time in Pac-10 three-pointers made.

California: There was time in the 1990s and early this century that there were generally three Pac-10 locks for the NCAA Tournament with two or three others being selected. Cal Coach Mike Montgomery coached one of those locks when he was at Stanford.

This year, if there is a fourth team, it likely will be either Cal or USC. The problem is they open playing each other.

“USC can look at couple games it might have won outside conference or maybe inside,” Montgomery said. “We could have done the same thing. We both would have had a much better resume.”

He added he has not looked at any scenarios that would favor their entry, but “we played one of the toughest preseasons in the country. That was tough and hard on our guys. Things happened along the way, we battled. We needed more wins probably but in the end our conference is not highly thought of. In my mind, if we’re battling to get three people in, I don’t know how to get four or five people in.”

Notes: G Allen Crabbe, the Freshman of the Year, averaged 23 over his past three games. He has made 24-of-38 shot attempts (63.2). He leads the league in three-point accuracy in Pac-10 play at 48.1 percent (37 of 77). Crabbe is the seventh Bear to win Freshman honors, the first since 2004 (Leon Powe). The others were Dave Butler (1983), Leonard Taylor (1985), Jason Kidd (1993), Tremaine Fowlkes (1995), Shareef Adbur-Rahim (1996).

Oregon: Ducks Coach Dana Altman gives Arizona the favorite role, for good reason, but said Washington “is another team because won it a year ago and they are deep and athletic.”

Depth, not so much anymore.

He also said USC “is playing awfully well.”

Notes: What’s helping the Ducks’ attack recently is the play of point guard Malcolm Armstead. He has had five or more assists in seven of his last 10 games. He averaged 2.6 in the first seven conference games. He had his first career double-double against Arizona last week (12 points, 11 assists)…senior forward Joevan Catron used the final regular-season game of his career to score his all-time high 28 points, against Arizona. He also passed the 1,000-point plateau, the 30th player to do that in Duck history. “He’s really a mainstay for us,” Altman said. “They’ve double-teamed him all year and stacked defenses against him but he’s been our one consistent scorer.”

Oregon State: Beavers’ Coach Craig Robinson benched five players, including team leader Jared Cunningham, for missing curfew before the Arizona State game last Saturday. All five will be ready and available for Wednesday’s game against Stanford.

“Saturday had a bit of a galvanizing affect on the whole team,” Robinson said. “The kids were disappointed in themselves and each other. The guys who did play did such a yeoman’s job. I think that has helped, buoyed by fact we had a really good practice Monday. We’ll just kind of going to battle together again.”

Notes: After the benching, freshman guard Roberto Nelson took over on the floor. He scored a career-high 34 points against the Sun Devils. He made 14 of 15 free throws…G Jared Cunningham beat Gary Payton in one area but fell short in another. He had 77 steals, breaking Payton’s sophomore record. It also was the most at the school since Payton had 91 in 1988-89. He needs five steals to enter the Pac-10 single-season top 10 list.

Stanford: Freshman guard Aaron Bright injured his arm last week and there is some uncertainty whether he will be available to play against ASU.

“We’re not sure if he can practice today,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said of former Bellevue High standout. “Gabriel Harris will start if Aaron can’t play.”

Notes: Over his last 10 games, junior G Jeremy Green is averaging 21 points. He’s hitting 50 percent (32 of 64) from three-point range in those games…G Jarrett Mann, who averaged 2.6 assists in his first eight conference games, is at 6.2 over his last 11…Bright finished his first regular season with a 5.3 point average and second on the team with 61 assists.

UCLA: Junior guard Malcolm Lee has a slight tear in his left knee cartilage but is not expected to miss the tournament.

“He should be able to play with that, play through it. It has been done a lot. It’s very small,” UCLA Coach Ben Howland said. “I think he’s going to be OK. I’ve talked to a lot of people and have been in this business 30-years plus, he’ll be OK.”

Lee is the team’s second leading scorer at 13.2 points per game.

Notes: The Bruins closed the season winning 13 of their final 16 games…F Reeves Nelson shot 61.5 percent (24-of-39) over his past three games. He had a career-high 27 points two weeks ago against Arizona…the Bruins placed three players on the all-conference first time – Nelson, Tyler Honeycutt, Malcolm Lee – for the first time since 1997 when Toby Bailey, Jelani McCoy and Charles O’Bannon were named to the team.

USC: The Trojans are in the same position as at least a half dozen other teams, they likely need to win the tournament to advance to the NCAAs. But Coach Kevin O’Neill said that’s nothing new.

“We’ve been playing likes it’s the NCAA Tournament for like four weeks now,” O’Neill said. “Every time we play we’ve felt like it’s a must-win win situation. Hopefully, we have that same attitude as we approach the conference tournament.

“I think we’ve bonded because of it. We played hard and better defensively, we’ve seen the maturation of (point guard) Jio Fontan. The more comfortable he’s become, the better we’ve played.”

Notes: As the Huskies learned Saturday – held of 60 points – the Trojans are playing stellar defense. They have held their last five opponents to just 38.9 percent shooting…F Nikola Vucevic has had eight straight double-doubles, averaging 21.2 points and 11.3 rebounds in that stretch. He has 30 career double-doubles…the Trojans are a balanced attack as four of Vucevic’s teammates average at least nine points a game.

Washington State: Coach Ken Bone said there won’t be any big changes heading into his team’s third encounter with the Huskies. Why should he? They’ve beaten them twice.

“We’ve been patient, we’ve executed our offense well and we tend to get off our shots,” Bone said of the first two meetings. “If we don’t get back on defense they are very effective in transition. And we have to do a better job keeping them off the glass.

“Whether we play once, twice or 10 times, Washington knows us and we know them quite well. We’ll play our game and execute our game plan at both ends of the court.”

Notes: Sophomore F Brock Motum stepped up without Klay Thompson (suspension) and Moore (injured ankle) Saturday against UCLA. He hit 6-of-10 shots for 15 points. He’s averaging 9.8 points over his past six games…junior F DeAngelo Casto is shooting 72.7 percent from the floor (49-of-66) over his past eight games. During that span, he is averaging 15.8 points and 7.4 rebounds…Thompson and Thomas are in a competition for the most active career points. Thompson has 1,644 points now, 13 points ahead of Thomas. If both players return for their senior season, both likely will become their school’s all-time scoring leader.

Washington: The Cougars, the only team to beat UW twice, have done things to get the Huskies off their game. But Romar’s said his focus is within.

“We both know each other very well,” he said. “Our concern is more on us. Whether it’s the first time or the 10th time we play, I want to make sure we play up to our potential.”

Notes: Thomas is first in the Pac-10 and 21st nationally in assists at 5.6. Thomas was the tournament MVP a year ago…Matthew Bryan-Amaning leads the league with 50 blocks…going back to last season, the Huskies have won their last five games in Los Angeles…the No. 3 seed is 10-3 all-time in the opening round.