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2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament Bracket Predictions: Washington A Dark Horse In East Region

The Washington Huskies may not have impressed as the regular season wore on, but come tournament time it’s a whole different ballgame. Washington faltered during the Pac-10 slate before hitting the afterburners in the Pac-10 Tournament and running off three consecutive wins to bring home the championship in dramatic fashion. While the drawWashington received in the NCAA Tournament is tough, the Huskies may be primed for another sneaky run through the bracket.

The East region is filled with teams peaking at the right moment, and Washington is no exception. If the Huskies can get past Georgia in the first round, a date with North Carolina awaits in what is, essentially, a home game for the Tar Heels. SB Nation’s Chris Dobbertean says don’t count the Huskies out, though.

Come to think of it, No. 2 seed North Carolina and third-seeded Syracuse have also found themselves late in the season, rebounding from earlier struggles to earn protected seeds. With expected wins Friday, the teams will face stern tests in the Third Round on Sunday. The Tar Heels could face a seventh-seeded Washington team that made a Sweet Sixteen run last season, and is primed to do the same this time around.

Could Washington make another Sweet Sixteen run like the 2010 NCAA Tournament? Isaiah Thomas has been a game-changer late in the season and is the key for Washington if it has any aspirations of breaking through the Sweet Sixteen barrier. Washington may just be a dark-horse in the region, but shouldn’t be counted out.

To check out the NCAA Tournament bids, visit our Selection Sunday StoryStream or check out SB Nation’s 2011 NCAA Tournament printable bracket. For more on the Huskies, visit SB Nation’s UW Dawg Pound.