UW hopes to send seniors out on high note in regular-season finale
Huskies locked into No. 8 or No. 9 seed for Pac-12 tournament, but Lorenzo Romar says finale with USC still matters.
Seattle Times staff reporter
USC @ UW, 1:30 p.m.
It’s difficult to find a lot of significance in the Washington men’s basketball team’s regular-season finale against USC on Saturday.
With a win, the Huskies (16-14, 8-9 Pac-12) can match last season’s conference record and possibly finish in a sixth-place tie in the league standings.
However, Washington is locked into the No. 8 or 9 seed heading into next week’s Pac-12 tournament. Washington will play Oregon, Utah, Stanford or California at noon Wednesday in the first round at the MGM Grand Arena.
The winner plays No. 1 seed Arizona at noon Thursday in the quarterfinals.
Meanwhile, USC (11-19, 2-15) will finish 11th or 12th and is likely to be the No. 11 seed in the conference tourney.
“Seeding never matters as much as the team that you face,” UW coach Lorenzo Romar said. “You could have what appears to be a very poor seed, but the road that you have are teams that you match up really well against.
“So then the seeding doesn’t matter and vice versa.”
You can forgive the Huskies if they haven’t given a lot of thought to Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. game against the Trojans at Alaska Airlines Arena.
Washington is still coming to grips with a disappointing 91-82 loss to UCLA on Thursday while eagerly anticipating a chance to salvage the season next week in Las Vegas.
Even though Saturday’s outcome won’t affect the Huskies’ postseason, Romar is trying to get his players not to overlook USC.
“It matters quite a bit,” he said. “(A win) puts us at .500 in our league. It’s one more victory. It’s another chance to get better. No, it matters. It definitely matters.”
For UW fans, it’s a chance to say goodbye to seniors C.J. Wilcox, Perris Blackwell and Connor Smith.
Per tradition, seniors normally start on Senior Day. However, Smith, a 6-foot-9 walk-on from Wenatchee High who joined the team this season and appeared in four games, will not start.
The loudest ovations during pregame Senior Day celebrations will likely be reserved for the team’s quietest member, Wilcox.
The soft-spoken sharpshooter from Pleasant Grove, Utah, burst onto the scene during the 2010-11 season as a redshirt freshman, scoring 24 points in the second half against UCLA, draining a three-pointer in the corner that sent the 2010 Pac-10 tournament final into overtime and appearing in two NCAA tournament games.
He considered leaving school last year for the NBA draft, but returned for his senior season with the hopes of leading UW to the NCAA tournament.
“We had some adversity to get through and that didn’t go as planned,” Wilcox said. “I thought we did a good at staying together and coming together as a team and doing what we could do.
“But in our minds, the season is not over. We’re going to keep plugging away and seeing what happens.”
Wilcox, who is a projected as a late first- or second-round pick in the NBA draft, might fall short of reaching the NCAA tourney again, but he’ll go down as one of the greatest shooters in Huskies history. He ranks second on the school’s all-time scoring list with 1,842 points.
“It is something he should be very proud of and (it’s) a true testament to all of his hard work,” said former UW star Jon Brockman, who is third on the list, in an email from Limoges, France. “Every single year he has improved his game in some way and taken it to the next level.”