The Washington Huskies sure didn’t act like a team that was just happy to make the NCAA tournament, coming back from a 15-point deficit to pull off a last second victory over Marquette. They advance to the second round to face No. 3 seed New Mexico.
There are some similarities in this matchup for the Huskies. Once again, they are facing a team that is known for its three-point shooting prowess, and is not overly blessed with height on the inside.
New Mexico will be facing a complete change of styles. Its first-round opponent, Montana, was a half-court set style team.
New Mexico is a balanced team led by Darington Hobson, a 6'7" junior forward who is averaging 15.8 points, 9.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists per contest.
Hobson isn’t the only threat on the team to score. Four of the five starters average in double figures.
For the regular season, New Mexico had a 9.2 margin of victory and averaged 76 points. Washington had a 8.8 point margin of victory and averaged 79 points. The two are pretty comparable.
The Lobos like to play an up-tempo game, even if it is not as quick as the Huskies. Like the Huskies, they were effective at rebounding during the season, averaging a +1.3 in rebounding margin.
The Lobos had a tough first-round matchup against Montana. The Lobos will need to adjust back to a faster pace, because Montana liked to run a half-court set. This is something New Mexico is fairly used to from teams in the Mountain West.
The Huskies come into this matchup a confident bunch, after Quincy Pondexter hit the game-winning shot with 1.7 seconds left to play.
Pondexter has continued his outstanding play, along with sophomore guard Isaiah Thomas. The performances by players such as Justin Dentmon, Matthew Bryan-Amaning, and the defensive spark plug Venoy Overton have also helped the Huskies become a more solid all-around team.
Washington is peaking at the right time, and players are embracing their roles in the team.
In the first round, Thomas led the team with 17 first-half points. When other players began contributing, he focused on defense, asked for a tougher assignment, and set his teammates up. He ended up with 8 assists to his 19 points.
Having both Thomas and Overton focused on defense is a scary thought for opposing guards.
The Huskies will look to push the ball as usual and attack relentlessly on defense. That attacking energy brought them back into the game against Marquette.
Despite a perception of being a soft West coast team, the Huskies are a scrappy group. Without a large presence in the paint, Washington still notched an impressive +1.2 rebound margin during the regular season.
New Mexico is the No. 3 seed and is expected to win this game. Still, I like the Huskies' chances in this one. Playing another game in California in front of a lot of their own fans certainly doesn’t hurt.
I think the Huskies will take another close one and move on to round three: Washington 82, New Mexico 78.
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