No. 2 West Virginia (29-6) vs. No. 11 Washington (26-9)
Thursday, 7:27 p.m. EDT, Carrier Dome (Syracuse, NY)
How they got here:
West Virginia: d. No. 15 Morgan State, 77-50; d. No. 10 Missouri, 68-59
Washington: d. No. 6 Marquette, 80-68; d. No. 3 New Mexico, 82-64
Last Sweet 16 appearances:
West Virginia: 2008 (Lost to Xavier)
Washington: 2006 (Lost to UConn)
Match-up to watch: Washington F Quincy Pondexter vs. West Virginia F Devin Ebanks
A bit of an enigma the first three years of his career, Pondexter has blossomed into the elite scorer the Huskies hoped he would become as a senior, averaging 19.7 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. West Virginia has several guys it could use to defend Pondexter, but the guess here is that the first crack will go to Ebanks, the Mountaineers' best defender this season. Ebanks has the quickness to stay with small guards like Villanova's Scottie Reynolds yet the size and strength to bother a player like Pondexter.
Because of the success of fellow underdogs Cornell, Northern Iowa and Saint Mary's, Washington's run as a No. 11 seed has been overlooked. The Huskies have won nine straight and 14 of 16, running a highly touted New Mexico team off the floor in the second round to advance to the Sweet 16.
One of the keys to this game will be the tempo it's played at. If the Huskies can get out in the open floor and run, they can exploit the quickness advantage they have in the backcourt, but if West Virginia bogs things down, avoids turnovers and turns it into a grind-it-out affair, the Mountaineers' size and strength will take its toll.
Washington also needs to role players like Elston Turner, Venoy Overton or Matthew Bryan-Amaning to continue to knock down open shots to relieve pressure from leading scorers Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas.
Prediction: Washington is smoking hot, but West Virginia has the size and strength all over the floor to frustrate the Huskies in a half-court game. Look for Washington's string of painful Sweet 16 losses to continue under Lorenzo Romar with a 71-67 Mountaineers victory.
- West Virginia