The University of Washington secured an at-large berth for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament for the first time in 12 years.
No. 11 seed Washington (18-9) will play No. 6 seed Xavier University (22-7) from Ohio in the East opening round Thursday at the MCI Center in Washington, D.C.
The pairing, announced Sunday afternoon in Kansas City, Mo., ends a long drought for the Huskies, who last played in the NCAA tournament in 1986. They had the longest absence from the NCAA tournament among Pac-10 schools.
“We took a situation that looked kind of dim and made something good out of it,” said center Todd MacCulloch, speaking to reporters at the UW’s Hec Edmundson Pavilion. “It’s a very proud day for the team, the coaches and the fans.”
The Huskies, laboring under the longest NCAA tournament absence in the Pacific-10 conference, won their all-important last two games to secure the berth.
The first crucial win came last Monday against UCLA, as the Huskies ended a 10-game losing streak against the Bruins and kept their tournament hopes alive behind the soft touch of 7-footer Todd MacCulloch, who hit two free throws with 2.1 seconds left and gave Washington the victory, 95-94.
The second - and decisive - game came Saturday, just one day before tournament pairings were to be announced.
The Huskies soundly defeated Washington State 70-51 to finish the regular season 18-9, and 11-7 in the Pac-10.
“There was no guarantee that was going to be enough, but obviously it was,” said Washington coach Bob Bender Sunday. “We won yesterday and won in a way that obviously made an impression on the committee.
“I always tell the players you can only control one thing and that’s the way you play,” said Bender. “We’ve tried to do it the right way and not take any shortcuts.”
Longest of the long shots
Prairie View has perhaps the longest long shot ever in the NCAA tournament.
The 16th-seeded Panthers, winners of the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament, enter their first-round game against No. 1 seed Kansas with an RPI rating of 263, the lowest in tournament history.
The NCAA invitation is the first for Prairie View (13-16), which is carrying the banner for an athletic program best known for having a football team that has lost 77 straight games.
“I’m going to tell my players that we’re going to win the basketball game,” coach Elwood Plummer said. “Kansas is Kansas, but Prairie View is Prairie View. We’ve won our last five games to get here.”
That may be the case. But in Kansas (34-3), the Panthers are playing a team that has won 25 or more games in nine straight seasons and is seeking its third Final Four trip of the decade.
Duke guard collapses after game
Duke point guard Steve Wojciechowski, who has been battling the flu and a fever recently, collapsed in the shower after the Blue Devils lost the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game Sunday.
Several dozen reporters were interviewing the Blue Devils in their steamy, cramped locker room at the Greensboro Coliseum when a loud thud was heard in the adjacent shower area. Forward Roshown McLeod, one of several players in the shower with Wojciechowski at the time, called for Duke’s medical staff, and the reporters were ordered out of the locker room.
“Steve became dehydrated from the effects of the flu,” team doctor Kevin Speer said. “He was a little woozy but he never lost consciousness.”
Speer said an intravenous line was used to rehydrate Wojciechowski, and the player returned to Duke’s campus on the team bus.
Wojciechowski played 28 minutes in top-ranked Duke’s 83-68 loss to North Carolina. He had three points on 1-for-6 shooting and had a team-high five assists.
Coles plans to keep coaching
Miami of Ohio basketball coach Charlie Coles was released from the hospital Sunday in Kalamazoo, Mich., eight days after collapsing and suffering cardiac arrest during a Mid-American Conference tournament game.
Despite a history of heart troubles, Coles said at a news conference that he intends to return to coaching.
“It’s my life. I’ve been doing it for 36 years and it’s something that is more important than the wins and losses,” he said. “I want to work with young people on and off the court.”
Despite original reports that Coles had suffered a heart attack during the game, Bronson Methodist Hospital cardiologists said that while he had cardiac arrest, he did not have a heart attack.
His two primary physicians at Bronson, Dr. Ramon C. Raneses Jr. and Dr. Joel Reinhoehl, said they saw no reason why Coles should not be able to resume “normal activities” after a period of recuperation.
Coles, 56, collapsed with 11:23 left in the first half in the game at Western Michigan on Feb. 28. Doctors attending the game spent 20 minutes reviving Coles on the floor before he was taken to Bronson.
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