There is little doubt that winning the 2011 Pac-10 Tournament has been an emotional boost for the Washington Huskies as they head into their matchup with the Georgia Bulldogs in the first round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
"I think it gives you confidence in that if we're in that position again, we can look back and just remember what we were able to do before," said UW coach Lorenzo Romar in a media session today. "Sometimes in situations like that there can be a little bit of self-doubt that you don't realize - the alarm kind of comes on like, 'Uh oh - we're in this position that doesn't usually work out for us.' So you don't want that to happen so with a couple of wins like we just had, I think it helps us."
It might be safe to say that in addition to an emotional boost from developing confidence that they can win hard-fought games, the very act of securing an automatic bid to alleviate any potential anxiety about 2011 NCAA Tournament seeding adds to their seemingly building confidence as well.
Yet as important as that emotional boost might be for a team that has admitted to a wavering confidence in recent weeks, having senior guard Venoy Overton back for the 2011 NCAA Tournament has to be as much a boost on the court for the Washington Huskies as winning the Pac-10 Tournament. If nothing else, he'll help to fill out the rotation to make sure that point guard Isaiah Thomas doesn't have to play 40 minutes a game, which might have been more mentally than physically exhausting.
"[It's] more of a mental strain than a physical strain," Romar commented. "I would say that with the exception of Isaiah, no one logged unusually long minutes - I think guys for the most part played 30 minutes and below. But Isaiah logged a lot. But getting up for each game, being mentally prepared for each scouting report - I thought our guys executed our scouting report in the last two games of the tournament...as good as any game all year and I thought a lot of that had to to with concentrating and being dialed in. That mental approach can drain you for a bit, but I think Friday is ample time for us to regain our energy mentally and physically."
All season, Romar has maintained that UW's focus usually begins with establishing their defensive intensity. So most importantly, Overton's return will add a rugged perimeter defensive stopper to a Huskies team that appeared to be gaining confidence in Los Angles for the Pac-10 Tournament.
Their ability to stifle Georgia's perimeter play could be a deciding factor against a team like Georgia, that plays a methodical offense but has quick guards.
"They have definitely capable backcourt players," said Romar. "Travis Leslie is not their point guard but, man, he's athletic and he's strong and he's durable. And their guards have quickness so we have to wait until we get out on the floor."
However, a significant weakness for the Bulldogs this season has been turnovers - although Georgia guard Dustin Ware has been quite efficient as a ball handler this season with an impressive assist ratio of 32.6 percent compared to a turnover ratio of 10.4 percent, the team as a whole has turned the ball over about two percent more often than their opponents on the season and their biggest culprit is starting guard Gerald Robinson who has a turnover percentage of 24.2 percent.
So the Huskies' defense might be able to establish an advantage by exploiting a Bulldogs weakness relative to their opponents. And one thing that has been fairly consistent this season is that a team coming into a game against the Huskies with a negative turnover differential can struggle to control the ball if the Huskies are "concentrating and dialed in" as Romar might say.
Romar said today that they still hadn't formulated a game plan for Georgia and hadn't decided whether center Aziz N'Diaye would be re-inserted into the starting lineup.
"We don't know anything yet because we still haven't formulated a game plan for Georgia," said Romar when asked about the starting lineup. "We still are looking at film. We're still trying to decide exactly who they are; although we have an idea, before we decide on a starting lineup, we gotta make sure we know what approach we're going to take with them and then to figure out what personnel is best to take that approach."
If indeed the film bears out the type of vulnerability that the statistics do, that it will be interesting to see how that influences rotation decisions.