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Originally published Sunday, March 4, 2012 at 8:52 PM

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Washington reigns alone as Pac-12 men's basketball champion

California's loss to Stanford on Sunday delivered the outright conference championship to the Huskies. But coach Lorenzo Romar doesn't believe his team backed into the title.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Wednesday

Washington State vs. Oregon State, 12:10 p.m., ROOT Sports

Thursday

WSU-OSU winner vs. Washington, 12:10 p.m., ROOT Sports

Wednesday

Washington State vs. Oregon State, 12:10 p.m., ROOT Sports

Thursday

WSU-OSU winner vs. Washington, 12:10 p.m., ROOT Sports

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Washington received plenty of help to win the outright Pac-12 regular-season championship.

Thank you, Stanford.

The Cardinal upset rival California 75-70 on Sunday, keeping the Golden Bears from a share of the conference crown.

Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar watched the game with his wife, Leona, at their Bellevue home and admitted he was a little nervous when Cal closed the gap to two points in the final minutes.

"I was getting some sweaty palms," he said.

The Huskies had a chance to wrap up sole possession of the title Saturday, but lost 75-69 at UCLA.

Despite the defeat, Romar doesn't believe Washington (21-9, 14-4 Pac-12) backed into its third outright title since 1953.

"We were picked fourth (in the preseason media poll) and four guys from last year were gone," he said. "We lose Scott (Suggs), who may have been a starter, so you could say we lost five key pieces from the previous year. And still our guys found ways to win 14 games.

"So I don't see it as backing in at all. I see it as we got better and we improved as the year went on."

Washington enters the Pac-12 tournament in Los Angeles as the two-time defending champion and No. 1 seed. The Huskies will face either No. 8 Washington State (15-15, 7-11) or No. 9 Oregon State (17-13, 7-11) in a quarterfinal at noon Thursday.

The Huskies are on the same side of the bracket as No. 4 Arizona and No. 5 UCLA, who are potential semifinal opponents. On the other side of the bracket, No. 2 California and No. 3 Oregon could meet in the semis.

"Once you get in there, whatever hand you're dealt with you go with," Romar said. "We do have the No. 1 seed, but that's not always an indicator that the team you play against is going to be a mismatch.

"Some teams — I've talked about this before — you just don't match up well against. It's just a bad matchup. Either team we have to play, we've got to be at our best to get it done."

Huskies sophomore guard Terrence Ross got it done at Staples Center last season, being named to the all-tournament team.

Making his first starts, Ross averaged 15.3 points and shot 52.8 percent from the field in three games. He tallied 16 points and four rebounds in 36 minutes during the 77-75 overtime win over Arizona in the tourney final.

Sophomore guard C.J. Wilcox also started three games in the 2011 tournament and averaged 13 points.

"We have some guys that have experience in this tournament," Romar said. "We were fortunate to do well the last two years, but those were different circumstances."

In 2010 and 2011, the Huskies were seeded third and likely needed to win the conference tourney to advance to the NCAA tournament.

It remains to be seen if winning the Pac-12 title outright will impress the selection committee this year. The regular-season champion from a BCS conference has not been excluded from the NCAA tourney since 1985.

However, no major conference has been as bad as the Pac-12 this season. It posted a 0-11 record against top-25 ranked teams and was 1-31 in nonconference play against top-50 RPI teams.

Some pundits believe the Pac-12 tournament champion will be the only team representing the league in the Big Dance.

"It's still interesting to me that people talk about top-50 RPI wins or out-of-conference wins," Romar said. "You win the Pac-12 outright; that still seems hard to imagine that not being good enough.

"But we're just going to go as far as we go and let the chips fall as they may."

Conference titles
The Huskies men's basketball team has won or shared the conference regular-season title five times since 1953.
Year Record Status
2012 21-9 Won Pac-12 title outright
2009 26-9 Won Pac-10 title outright
1985 22-10 Shared Pac-10 title
1984 24-7 Shared Pac-10 title
1953 28-3 Won Pacific Coast title

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