The 2009-2010 season was supposed to be a breakthrough year for the Washington Huskies.
Lorenzo Romar’s program won the Pac-10 title outright for the first time in 50 years last year and was a heavy favorite to repeat the performance.
Washington entering the NCAA Tournament as a No. 11 seed would have sounded quite low during the preseason.
The regular season, as we all know, did not go according to plan.
Washington struggled away from Bank of America Arena through most of the Pac-10 schedule and ended up needing wins in the Pac-10 tournament to even get a bid.
That makes this Washington team as dangerous as ever.
On paper Washington is a No. 11 seed underdog. On the court Washington has developed into the top-10 caliber team it was expected to be at the beginning of the season. It just took longer than planned, but the players themselves never had self-doubt.
That time it took to grow may just be what is going to push Washington to its first Elite Eight appearance. The country had given up on not just Washington, but the Pac-10 in general.
It was expected to be a down year, but when Washington struggled in conference play, it hurt their national perception. The Huskies played like they could just flip on a switch and play at an elite level, and it did not come to fruition for most of the season.
Washington was forgotten about in the national media. The only discussion the Pac-10 received was if they even deserved more than one bid. Quietly the Huskies went about putting their season back together and finishing strong.
The key for this team was for everyone to fill their roles. The talent has been on the roster all year, but Romar needed guys to step up and fill their role. A guy like Matthew Bryan-Amaning has been huge. Washington is known for its speed and guard play, but with the loss of Jon Brockman, there has been a void for an inside presence.
Bryan-Amaning has stepped up and has been filling that role wonderfully.
The Huskies go nine deep on their bench and are long, athletic, and aggressive. They are going to continue to be a headache of a matchup in the tournament and are playing at a much higher level than a No. 11 seed.
The Sweet 16 matchup against West Virginia is a chance for this team to prove just how far they have come. WVU's style is similar to Southern California’s, albeit much more talented, and the Huskies were 0-2 versus the Trojans this year. The Huskies are going to have to face their Achilles' heel—height—head on and continue to play their game.
Washington is rightfully the underdog in this matchup, but don’t be shocked if we see the Washington Huskies in the 2010 Elite Eight.
One thing is for sure: This team has no doubt they belong right where they are—still playing deep into March Madness.