Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.
7:27 PM ET, 03/25/10
West Virgina's Da'Sean Butler is near the top of the list when you're discussing clutch shooters; he never shies from the spotlight.
Butler is also capable of lighting up a scoreboard in a way few players are capable of.
Washington's Quincy Pondexter is one of those players though.
They'll matchup in what's set up to be a highly-competitive, who has the ball last, thriller of a game in the round of 16.
Both of these teams are playing incredibly well right now, and from what they've shown thus far in the Tournament are legit programs to watch.
Washington as won nine in a row, WV is on an eight-game winning streak. Each team collected their Conference Tournament Championships, and they've both won convincingly to get where they are.
WV came into the Tournament as a two seed and on another year might ha've just been a one seed. They've lived up to their hype so far, but Morgan State and Missouri are no Huskies.
Washington is scary right now. After a buzzer beater to lift them past Marquette, they dominated a third-seeded New Mexico team that many people didn't give them much of a chance against.
Of all the double-digit seeded teams remaining, Washington has the best chance of becoming the next Tournament Cinderella.
They match up well with WV, and would have a solid shot against Kentucky if they managed to make it yet another round further than expected.
This Mountaineers-Huskies matchup is poised to be an instant classic. Two of the best players in the country are ready to take the court and battle it out for 40 minutes.
It might just come down to the last shot.
1. Da'Sean Butler needs to stay hot
2. Control the boards
3. Don't miss free throws
3. Play hard for all 40 minutes
The Mountaineers were able to overcome a slow start against Morgan State-missing their first 11 shots and get by a defensive-minded Missouri team, but Washington will be a different story.
Missouri plays slowly compared to the up-tempo style of the Huskies. They will sprint down the court and shoot fast all game long. WV can't let up against an assault like that.
For them to win, it will take a full 40-minute performance. A late letdown could spell doom for the Mountaineers. Washington isn't a team to go away, they proved that in a very impressive comeback against Marquette.
Bob Huggins has 25 years of experience under his belt, and he won't be able to stress the importance of going hard all game enough.
He's been doing this a long time and there aren't many coaches with more wins. He'll make all the difference in a game that coaching will truly matter.
But it's got to be about more than effort.
WV has a lot of capable players on its roster, and while they've proven capable of spreading the ball and points around, it's come to the point of the year where your leader needs to step up big time.
That means another monster outing from Da'Sean Butler. If he goes cold, this team will lose. They might not need another 19-point half from Butler to get the W, but they'll need a lot more than his 9-point, 4-of-11 shooting performance against Morgan State.
Mr. Clutch needs to keep his rhythm going if he wants to play another college game.
The Mountaineers can't let up on the boards either. They're the third-best rebounding team in the nation with an average of 45 rebounds per contest, but so far in the Tournament, they've collected 40 and 36 rebounds in rounds one and two, respectively.
If they can get that total up against Washington it will be a whole lot easier to get through to the Elite Eight.
Last but not least, WV needs to do a better job at the free-throw line. For the year the Mountaineers are shooting .703 at the line, tied for 63rd in the nation.
In what could be a game decided by a basket or two, every point will matter. Through two rounds they're .781 from the line; that success needs to continue in the Sweet 16.
1. Quincy Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas need to dominate
2. Contain Da'Sean Butler
3. Disrupt West Virginia's offensive flow
3. Emergence of an X-Factor
Quincy Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas are exceptional talents that can play with anyone in the country. The problem for the Huskies is that the rest of the roster isn't quite at that level.
If they're going to make some history and become this year's Cinderella, the big dogs need to lead the way. Washington can't win without lights-out performances from both of them.
So far in the Tournament, they've combined for an average of 35 points per game on .464 shooting. The Huskies will need better from their leaders in this one.
They'll also need a less than stellar performance from Da'Sean Butler on the other side of the ball. Every player on this Washington team knows that the first order of business on defense is Butler. If he gets hot, it will be very tough to beat WV.
Butler will get his shots, that can't be avoided. but the Huskies need to keep him away from the rim and limit him to as many tough, contested shots as possible. They need to make Butler beat them from the outside, and hope he fails in doing so.
If they can limit his production, it might just get the ball out of his hands. That's exactly where Washington wants it.
They can't beat him if the rest of the Mountaineers are rolling though. The Huskies play fast on offense, but that can't mean sitting back on the defensive side of the ball. They'll need to throw a wrench in the WV offense.
That can only happen by causing some confusion with the same energy that's become a staple of their offense transferred to the defense end.
Head coach Lorenzo Romar turned this program around when he took the helm in 2002. Without him, they wouldn't be in this place. His players trust him and respect him in a way few coaches are able to garner.
They'll need to trust him when he demands a greater focus on defense. WV is beatable, the roster is talented, but Butler is the real threat to explode.
Slow down the rest of the Mountaineers and the focus can stay where it needs to be, No. 1.
Against Marquette in round one, sophomore guard Elston Turner exploded for 14 points on a near-perfect shooting night. He went 5-6 from the field, including 4-5 from downtown.
In Washington's rout of New Mexico, Matthew Bryan-Amaning went off for 15 points on 7-10 shooting; his only misses were from beyond the arc. Justin Holiday had three huge blocks in that contest as well.
An X-Factor needs to emerge against WV, whether it be any of those three guys or someone else.
Even if Pondexter and Thomas blow up, the rest of the roster needs to chip in. There has to be a name somewhere on that list that over-performs on top of that, though. Look out for Bryan-Amaning to be that guy.
Enough cannot be said about the potential impact of Da'Sean Butler and Quincy Pondexter. These guys are just on another level than most players and right now are red-hot.
This game has the makings of a classic because of what they bring to the table.
In the second half of the regular season, Butler emerged as possibly the best clutch shooter in the country.
He's hit big shot after big shot for a long-time running. There's no bigger reason for West Virginia's success than No. 1.
He has six games with over 25 points, eight games with three or more three-pointers, and don't forget the most important number, six game-winners.
Pondexter isn't far off. Against Marquette, he looked as cool as ice putting up the game winner with 1.7 seconds to play. That came after a hustle-play offensive rebound he refused to give up.
That play displayed the kind of character and energy he's played his whole career with.
This is a guy who's averaged over 50 percent shooting for the last two seasons, a player who's 19.8 ppg ranked just outside the top 25 in the nation.
Pondexter went over 25 points 11 times this season, but he also had six games in single-digits. When he's hot he's hot, but when he's cold, well, it isn't pretty.
He's been playing great recently however, so don't expect a poor showing from the Huskies top-scorer.
He and Butler will feed off each other in this matchup, each trying to outdo the other.
It will be interesting to see if they get the defensive assignment on each other, that would make for an even greater show.
This is going to be a high-scoring, fast-paced game. These teams like to run, they like to shoot early in the shot-clock, and they don't mind moving the ball around.
Washington and West Virgina are two of the hottest teams in the country and on paper this looks to be one of the best games in the Tournament.
The Huskies have just looked fantastic thus far in the Tournament though. They're playing with more energy and look more athletic than they have all year.
What they did against New Mexico was really impressive, and it showed the momentum in Washington is not just growing, it's snow-balling. This team is peaking right now, and they couldn't ask for it to happen at a better time.
This may be an eleventh seed against a two seed, but from the way the Huskies are playing, you wouldn't be able to tell. This team has the feel of something special; if you've seem them play lately you've probably picked up on that.
WV is no slouch, they earned their seeding for a reason, but this draw isn't what they need right now, not after the second-tier competition they've been faced with so far.
The Huskies are going to stun the nation on Thursday and squeak by the Mountaineers at the buzzer. If any game in the Sweet 16 is going to be decided by a last-second basket, this is the one to bet on.
Don't miss it.