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December 19, 2006In college basketball, the Final Four is the pinnacle of success to define a team. No matter what happens during the regular season or in the conference races, placing your stake as one of the last four teams standing puts you in a whole different category.
It is a benchmark that the Huskies, with coach Lorenzo Romar at the helm, are reaching for, but one they have not been able to find since 1953. But they can find out if a march in that direction is possible this season on Wednesday as they face LSU.
The Tigers (6-2) are coming off a season in which they won the Southeastern Conference and took a No. 4 seed in the tournament to the sport's greatest weekend. They may have lost to eventual-champion Florida and all-world freshman Tyrus Thomas may be playing in the NBA, but they are still a force to be reckoned with a season after their Final Four run.
And the reason for that is a big one. A really big one. We're talking 6-foot-9, 289 pounds big: junior Glen Davis also known as "Big Baby". As a guy that has been compared to Shaquille O'Neal by everyone with a microphone or a keyboard, the big-man is going to be the UW's biggest challenge yet in this young season.
"He is a unique basketball player, and he seems to enjoy himself while he's out there punishing people," Romar said. "I think Ike Diogu has been the most difficult guy we've had to guard, and I think Glen Davis is at least right there. [Diogu] did a lot of his damage in the paint and so does Davis, but he can take you off the dribble."
One thing that Romar has been especially impressed with about Davis is his ability in the clutch for LSU. Whether he has the ball or not, Davis can get the Tigers a basket when they need one.
Knowing what he brings to the table and actually stopping him are two different tasks that Washington (8-1) will have to face in the match-up. Stopping has not been an option for most teams yet this season as he has averaged a double-double with 20.1 points and 10.3 rebounds per contest.
But UW sophomore Justin Dentmon has his own strategy with how to compete with the monster inside.
"Just don't move out of his way," he said. "People just need to step up and take a charge - I'll be in there."
One Husky is especially looking forward to facing the pre-season All-American.
"I love games where they hype a match-up up," said sophomore Jon Brockman. "I loved last year that I was going against Matt Harysasz, Ivan Johnson and Leon Powe. I know he'll go at me and I'll go at him, it'll be a battle down there."
Even though Davis gets most of the attention, this is an LSU team that has a number of weapons it can go to, even if Davis is not performing at the top of his game.
Sophomore Tasmin Mitchell is a guy who has picked up the slack left by Thomas' early NBA entry and is getting it done for the Tigers. So far this season, he is 14.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per contest while shooting a solid 45.7 percent from beyond the arc.
"Davis may draw a lot of attention, but if one of those guys was given an opportunity that Davis is given that they could put up the numbers he does," Brockman said. "Every singe position is dangerous."
Romar has been especially impressed with one Tiger not named Davis.
"[Garrett] Temple is impressive to me," Romar said. "He is a guy that hits big shots, and he is a great defender and he's just kind of a big glue guy for them."
Garrett Temple is a 6-foot-5 sophomore hailing out of Baton Rouge. After playing a minimal role last season, in his red-shirt freshmen year, he has really stepped up his game to average 12.8 points per game and shoot 36.5 from long range.
"He plays well beyond his years," Romar said.
Still, the biggest question, after last season's run, is how do they compare to that team after losing just one starter?
"I think they still have firepower," Romar said. "Thomas added a different dimension, but they haven't taken a backseat to that team. They are going to be the most physical team we would have played this year, easily."
And that physicality is something the Huskies are ready for.
"We just have to go out and compete with them," said junior Ryan Appleby.
"We have to crash the boards with them and we have to be just as physical as them, and we should be fine being physical - we just have to bring it."