Monday , Mar , 14 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

Washington tops in Albuquerque; Louisville lurks

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) – The Washington Huskies were among the
biggest surprises in college basketball this season and on Selection Sunday
provided still another with their first-ever No. 1 seed in the NCAA

Washington (27-5) won the Pac-10 Tournament title on Saturday, beating
Arizona, and received the top seed in the Albuquerque bracket. The Huskies,
whose previous best seed in the NCAA Tournament was No. 5 in 1985, lost a
thrilling 8-9 first-round game last year to UAB, falling 102-100.

The Huskies will have plenty of competition from second-seeded Wake Forest,
third-seeded Gonzaga and Louisville. The Cardinals won the regular season and
tournament titles in Conference USA, but managed only a fourth seed from the
Selection Committee.

“I told people before the announcement that we shouldn’t be surprised if we
ended up a No. 3 seed because of the way everyone seemed to be talking up
Washington,” said Louisville head coach Rick Pitino. “It’s my job to lift our
players’ spirits up. I told our players before the announcement — because I
had a feeling that after what had happened the last couple of years — to be
sure you’re not down about getting a No. 3 seed. That’s what I said to them at
dinner, so I guess I’ve got to lift them up a little bit. But we’re in the
NCAA Tournament and we’ve met all the challenges, so we’ve just got to keep
going because we’ve a got very tough opening game.”

Louisville (29-4) will face Sun Belt winner Louisiana-Lafayette (20-10) in a
first-round game on Friday in Nashville. Also in Nashville, fifth-seeded
Georgia Tech (19-11), last year’s runner-up to UConn, will square off against
Atlantic-10 winner George Washington (22-7).

The Albuquerque bracket opens Thursday in Boise with Washington taking on Big
Sky champ Montana (18-12) and Pacific (26-3) meeting Pittsburgh (20-8) in the
eight-nine matchup. The Big West regular season champs from Pacific will try
to pull off a second straight first-round tournament win against a Big East
team, as the Tigers knocked off Providence last year.

On Thursday in Cleveland, second-seeded Wake Forest (26-5) will face Southern
Conference winner Chattanooga (20-10), while surprising Big East Tournament
runner-up West Virginia (21-10) will square off against Missouri Valley
tourney champ Creighton (23-10).

On Thursday in Tucson, Arizona, Albuquerque bracket games pit third-seeded
Gonzaga (25-4), the West Coast champ, against Big South winner Winthrop (27-5)
and sixth-seeded Texas Tech (20-10), the runner-up in the Big 12 tourney,
against UCLA (18-10).

Wake Forest will have Chris Paul back for the NCAA Tournament after he sat out
the Demon Deacons’ ACC Tournament loss as punishment for striking NC State’s
Julius Hodge in the regular season finale.

Paul’s presence should vault Wake Forest into the second weekend, where a
matchup against Gonzaga could produce a thrilling contest. The Deacons should
win it and take on Louisville, which will probably be playing with a chip on
its shoulder after shoddy treatment from the Selection Committee.

The Cardinals will then shoot their way past Wake to reach their first Final
Four since winning it all in 1986.