BY SPNW Staff 06:42PM 03/12/2012

Well, if they insist: Huskies Launch NIT Play

While the rest of college basketball puts on tuxes for the Big Dance, the Huskies slip into overalls for the NIT hootenanny. At least they drew a team from Texas.

Washington center Aziz N'Diaye finished fourth in the Pac-12 in rebounding, averaging 7.6 per contest. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

GAME: UT Arlington (24-8, 15-1 Southland) at Washington (21-10, 14-4 Pac-12). WHEN: Tuesday, 7 p.m., Alaska Airlines Arena. MEETING: 1st. RANKINGS: Neither team ranked. TV: ESPNU. RADIO: KJR 950 AM, 102.9 FM.

After failing to receive an at-large invitation to the NCAA Tournament, Lorenzo Romar’s Washington Huskies accepted a bid to play in the 32-team National Invitation Tournament as a No. 1 seed. The Huskies hosta team they have never played, UT Arlington, the Southland Conference’s regular-season champion, in a game for which the Huskies must muster some passion.

The Washington-UT Arlington winner will play either fourth-seeded Northwestern or fifth-seeded Akron somewhere between Thursday and March 15-19. The first three rounds of the NIT will be contested at home sites, with the semifinals and finals at New York’s Madison Square Garden March 27 and 29.

Washington is one of four Pac-12 teams in the NIT. Arizona also received a No. 1 seed while Stanford and Oregon were No. 3 seeds. The Huskies and Ducks, who split their regular-season series, could meet in the third round with a trip to New York on the line.

The Mavericks won the Southland Conference regular-season title and the NIT automatic bid with a 15-1 record, but lost 92-72 in the semifinals of the league tournament to McNeese State. UT Arlington is led by LaMarcus Reed, a 6-foot-5 senior forward (17.8 ppg). His 569 points this season are the fourth-highest in school history. He averaged 20.0 ppg in the conference tournament last week.

The Mavericks are making  their second appearance in the NIT, and first in 31 years.

The UW-UTA game will be the Mavericks’ second against a team from the Pac-12. They lost at Oregon State last year. The Mavs also played Colorado and Utah before they joined the Pac-12 prior this season. The Mavericks are 0-5 all-time against teams in the Pac-12.

Washington and UT Arlington had one common opponent this season in Houston Baptist. The Mavericks defeated HBU 79-74 Jan. 24 in Houston while Washington won 88-65 Nov. 25 in Seattle.

UW IN THE NIT: Washington will make its first appearance in the NIT since 1997 and its sixth overall. The Huskies also played in 1996, 1987, 1982 and 1980 and are 3-5. The Huskies have hosted two games and are 1-1. UW last hosted an NIT game March 16, 1987 when the Huskies defeated Boise State 73-68 (UW lost in the third round to Nebraska at Lincoln). In that game, senior guard Greg Hill scored 18 of UW’s 22 points in the final five minutes, including 15 in a row, as the Huskies overtook the Broncos. The only other home NIT game hosted by UW was a 1982 second-rounder the Huskies dropped 69-65 to Texas A&M.

LAST GAME (Washington, March 8): Washington, the No. 1 seed in the Pac-12 tournament, came out in a coma, fell into a 15-point hole, rallied late in the second half to lead by eight, and then gagged at the foul line — four clanks by Tony Wroten, who had set a UW scoring record for a freshman with 29 points, in the final 18 seconds — and lost to Oregon State, 86-84, throwing their NCAA Tournament aspirations down the well.

LAST GAME (UT Arlington, March 8): UT Arlington’s run in the Southland Conference Tournament came to an end when Mavericks lost to McNeese State 92-72 in the tournament semifinals. McNeese led from start to finish after hitting an early 3-pointer, and the loss ended the Mavs’ hopes of going to the NCAA Tournament. LaMarcus Reed led UT Arlington (24-8) with 23 points and Bradley Gay added 13. The Mavericks finished the game shooting just 37 percent.

UW STATS/NOTES: Washington enters NIT play averaging 75.2 ppg (2nd, Pac-12) and allowing 70.1 (11th) . . . Washington made just 61.1 percent of its free throws, making this Husky club the third-worst foul shooting team in school history, following the 2001 Huskies (57.5 percent) and 2008 Huskies (58.6 percent) . . . UW averaged 75.2 ppg despite ranking seventh in the Pac-12 in FG% (44.8) and 10th in 3-point FG% (34.2) . . . UW led the Pac-12 in rebounding at 40.3 rpg, rebound margin (+5.4) and offensive rebounds (14.55) . . . UW finished third in the conference in steals (6.74 per game) . . . Tony Wroten finished third in scoring (16.7 ppg), second in steals (1.94) and eighth in assists (3.65) . . . C.J. Wilcox (83.6) finished third in free throw percentage and Abdul Gaddy third in assists (4.97) . . . Aziz N’Diaye ranked fourth in rebounds (7.6 rpg).

UT ARLINGTON STATS/NOTES: The Mavericks will move from the Southland to the Western Athletic Conference July 1, 2012 . . . UT Arlington’s most famous alum probably is Gary Lewis, who sang with “Gary Lewis and the Playboys” in the 1960s. Most famous song: “This Diamond Ring,” which reached No. 1 on Billboard Feb. 20, 1965 . . . UT Arlington has an enrollment of 33,500 students . . . UT Arlington’s favorite tradition (voted No. 1 by students) is the annual Oozeball mud volleyball tournament that pits teams of students, faculty, staff, and alumni against each other in ankle-deep muck.

COACHES: Romar is in his 10th season as Washington’s head coach. Romar has taken the Huskies to the NCAA Tournament six times, and has won three Pac-10 Tournament titles (2005, 2010, 2011). Romar, who signed a 10-year contract extension in April 2011, won his his 200th game at Washington Dec. 16, 2011, when the Huskies defeated UC Santa Barbara. He had his 300th career victory and his 100th as a conference coach when the Huskies won Jan. 21. Romar was selected the Pac-12 Coach of the Year for the third time in his career.
Romar played for the Huskies under head coach Marv Harshman during the 1979-80 seasons (served as team captain his senior year), and then had a five-year NBA career with Golden State (1981-84), Milwaukee (1984) and Detroit (1984-85). He became a college head coach at Pepperdine in 1997, where he coached for three seasons, then spent three years (1999-02) at St. Louis University before taking the Washington job  in 2002-03.

Scott Cross: Cross is in his sixth season at UT Arlington. During his first five, Cross guided the Mavericks to the school’s only appearance in the NCAA Tournament (2008), won a conference tournament, coached a player who earned All-America honors and recorded 50 wins faster than any other coach in school history. Prior to becoming head coach in 2006, Cross served as a UT Arlington assistant for eight years. He won three basketball letters at UT Arlington between 1995-98.

Art Thiel

ART THIEL’S TAKE: Somebody tweeted that for the Huskies, NIT stands for “No Isaiah Thomas,” and that sums it well. Washington finds itself with this less-than-lovely parting gift Tuesday because they never replaced the leadership and guts of their leader, who is now putting a 5-foot-8 dent in the NBA at Sacramento.

Finding those qualities was going to be hard to do, but that’s what was missing in their last two losses against UCLA and Oregon State, and why it would serve Wroten and Ross well to learn those lessons before moving on to the NBA. But they probably won’t, meaning that UT Arlington will serve as little more than first practice for next season. Let’s see if embarrassment is a motivator for these guys. UT Arlington 72, Washington 69.

Steve Rudman

STEVE RUDMAN’S TAKE: The temptation is to pick the Huskies to win this game in a rout. But Washington has come out flat so many times this season it’s impossible to predict what state of mind the Huskies will have when they tip off. They might be so uninterested in the NIT after their NCAA snubbing that UT Arlington could make a game of it.

This underachieving Washington team also has a tendency to play down to the level of its opponents, or at least the perceived level. Remember the South Dakota State shocker? Even when the Huskies had an NCAA Tournament berth in their sights, they couldn’t get their game faces on for No. 9 seed Oregon State. Washington 85, UT Arlington 80.

COMING UP: If UW wins, the Huskies will play at home the winner of the Northwestern-Akron game, also scheduled for Tuesday night.

University of Washington 2011-12 Schedule/Results

(Rankings Are Current)

Date Opponent UW Rnk Opp Rnk W/L Score Rec.
11/4/11 vs. Seattle Pacific W 77-60 0-0
11/12/11 vs. Georgia State W 91-74 1-0
11/13/11 vs. Florida Atlantic W 77-71 2-0
11/14/11 vs. Portland W 93-63 3-0
11/20/11 at Saint Louis L 77-64 3-1
11/25/11 vs. Houston Baptist W 88-65 4-1
12/2/11 at Nevada L 76-73 (OT) 4-2
12/6/11 vs. Marquette 9 L 79-77 4-3
12/10/11 vs. Duke 6 L 86-80 4-4
12/16/11 vs. UC Santa-Barbara W 87-80 5-4
12/18/11 vs. South Dakota St. L 92-73 5-5
12/22/11 vs. Cal-State Northridge W 74-50 6-5
12/29/11 vs. Oregon State W 95-80 7-5
12/31/11 vs. Oregon W 76-60 8-5
1/5/12 at Colorado L 87-69 8-6
1/7/12 at Utah W 57-53 9-6
1/10/12 vs. Seattle U. W 91-83 10-6
1/15/12 vs. Washington St. W 75-65 11-6
1/19/12 vs. California L 69-66 11-7
1/21/12 vs. Stanford W 76-63 12-7
1/26/12 at Arizona St. W 60-54 13-7
1/28/12 at Arizona W 69-67 14-7
2/2/12 vs. UCLA W 71-69 15-7
2/4/12 vs. USC W 69-41 16-7
2/9/12 at Oregon L 82-57 16-8
2/12/12 at Oregon St. W 75-72 17-8
2/16/12 vs. Arizona State W 77-69 18-8
2/18/12 vs. Arizona W 79-70 19-8
2/25/12 at Washington St. W 59-55 20-8
3/1/12 at USC W 80-58 21-8
3/3/12 at UCLA L 75-69 21-9
3/7/12 ^Oregon St. L 86-84 21-10
3/8/12 *UT Arlington

^=Pac-12 tournament; *=NIT


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