Connecticut played one very good half of basketball over two games, yet managed to win twice to reach the final 16 of the NCAA tournament.
Now things really get interesting.
The Huskies will next face 11th-seeded Washington on Thursday in North Carolina. Washington made the most of its first NCAA tournament appearance in 12 years, first recording an upset and then averting one against a team known for pulling off postseason surprises.
“I don’t have words for it. I feel like dancing, because we’re going to the dance,” Washington junior Donald Watts said Saturday after his team eliminated Richmond 81-66.
Returning to Seattle on Sunday, the Huskies signed autographs at a rally by about 200 fans on their home court, Clarence S. “Hec” Edmundson Pavilion.
“We weren’t going to be satisfied until we won, and we’re continuing to do that,” forward Thalo Green said.
The Washington Huskies (20-9) will be facing a different brand of Huskies in Connecticut, which struggled to beat Fairleigh Dickinson in the opener before rallying from a five-point halftime deficit to defeat Indiana 78-68.
“They knew the urgency of the situation, of playing what amounted to a 20-minute season,” coach Jim Calhoun said. “They really responded in the second half. This team seems to find ways to win basketball games.”
The Huskies (31-4) will bring a 10-game winning streak into their game against Washington, which stunned Xavier before disposing of Richmond.
Richmond came in with the reputation of upset kings, having won years ago as a 13th and 15th seed before beating South Carolina as a 14th seed in the tournament opener. But the Spiders were defenseless against 7-foot center Todd MacCulloch, who scored 31 points in 31 minutes.
xxxx Sweet 16 How the remaining teams were seeded in their regions:
EAST 1. North Carolina. 2. Connecticut. 4. Michigan St. 11. Washington.
SOUTH 1. Duke. 2. Kentucky. 5. Syracuse. 6. UCLA.
MIDWEST 2. Purdue 3. Stanford. 8. Rhode Island. 13. Valparaiso.
WEST 1. Arizona. 3. Utah. 4. Maryland. 10. West Virginia.