Second-round action of the 2011 NCAA Tournament's East Region pits the seventh-seeded Washington Huskies against the 10th-seeded Georgia Bulldogs.
Awaiting the winner of this tilt is a third-round matchup with either second- seeded North Carolina or 15th-seeded Long Island on Sunday.
Georgia is making its 11th all-time NCAA Tournament appearance and owns a lackluster 7-10 record in the event. The Bulldogs earned one of 34 at-large bids to this year's tournament, the first time since 2002 that a Georgia team has won that distinction. Coach Mark Fox has guided his club to a 21-11 record, making this group just one of 11 teams in the 105-year history of the program to reach the 20-win plateau.
As for Washington, it has compiled a 17-16 mark over its previous 15 NCAA Tournament appearances. Head coach Lorenzo Romar has now led the Huskies to the "Big Dance" in six of his nine seasons as the program's leader, and this year's group enters with a 23-10 overall record. Washington is undoubtedly still flying high after beating Arizona in overtime on a buzzer beater to win the Pac-10 Tournament.
This game marks the first-ever meeting between Georgia and Washington on the hardwood.
Georgia can best be described as mediocre when its comes to the team's offensive prowess, as it is generating 68.8 ppg and has been held under 60 points two of the last three times out. The strength of the team is its defensive play, as the Bulldogs are holding foes to 64.3 ppg on 39.6 percent shooting from the floor by opponents. Georgia also rebounds the ball quite effectively, ripping down 4.7 rpg more than opponents on average. There are three double-digit scorers in the fold for coach Fox, and the best of the trio is Trey Thompkins. In addition to his team-best 16.1 ppg, Thompkins is ripping down 7.5 rpg to go along with 50 blocked shots. Travis Leslie is another impressive frontcourt performer who checks in with 14.5 ppg and 7.2 rpg, while Gerald Robinson adds 12.2 ppg. More than just a scorer, Robinson is tops on the roster in both assists (133) and in steals (42).
The last-second shot that beat Arizona in the Pac-10 Tournament was nailed by none other than Isaiah Thomas, Washington's star guard who has been the team's leader all season. Thomas has started all 33 games for the Huskies and is netting 16.8 ppg to go along with his 6.0 apg. Add 43 steals to the mix and Thomas is a multi-talented guard who makes the Huskies go. Matt Bryan-Amaning is the best frontcourt player on Romar's roster, as he is scoring 15.5 ppg on 55.1 percent shooting from the field. Bryan-Amaning, who has blocked 52 shots, is ripping down 8.1 rpg, will have his hands full with Thompkins and Leslie of Georgia. Justin Holiday provides some added offense for the Huskies with his 10.8 ppg, and he is grabbing 5.4 rpg as well. Washington is scoring 83.5 ppg to rank among the national leaders in that category, and the club is limiting foes to 70.4 ppg.
This game figures to be close from start to finish, and while the Bulldogs figure to have more fans in the stands, give the edge to the Huskies because of Thomas.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Washington 74, Georgia 69