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Washington looks like the most dangerous last-place team in the country entering Pac-12 Tournament

UPDATED: Tue., March 10, 2020

Washington forward Jaden McDaniels  shoots during the first half  against Arizona Saturday, March 7, 2020, in Tucson, Ariz. (Rick Scuteri / AP)
Washington forward Jaden McDaniels shoots during the first half against Arizona Saturday, March 7, 2020, in Tucson, Ariz. (Rick Scuteri / AP)
By Adam Jude Seattle Times

SEATTLE – Run it back.

After Washington captured a 69-63 upset win Saturday night at Arizona, the teams will face each other with a short turnaround in a rubber match, with UW’s postseason life hanging in the balance.

The Huskies (15-16) are the No. 12 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament and pitted against the Wildcats (20-11) in a first-round matchup at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Arizona, which beat Washington 75-72 at Alaska Airlines Arena on Jan. 30, has lost four of its past five games.

Meanwhile, the Huskies enter the postseason with momentum after winning three of the past four games and sweeping Arizona and Arizona State on the road for the first time since 2012 to capture their first Pac-12 road wins of the season.

It’s impossible to prove, but Washington is arguably the most dangerous last-place team in the country.

Why not us?

Before guiding the Seahawks to their first Super Bowl victory in 2014, quarterback Russell Wilson went public with his personal “Why not us?” motto that’s shaped his life.

The Huskies would do well to hijack that message ahead of a wide-open Pac-12 Tournament without any clear favorites.

By virtue of winning the conference’s regular-season title, defending Pac-12 Tournament champion Oregon is the No. 1 seed, followed in order by UCLA, Arizona State and USC.

In seven games against those teams, Washington outscored its opponents 483-469 but finished with a 2-5 record. The Huskies lost four of those games by six points or fewer and crushed USC 72-40 on Jan. 4.

Arizona, which relies heavily on three talented freshmen (Zeke Nnaji, Nico Mannion and Josh Green), certainly appeared vulnerable Saturday, shooting 35.1% from the field and committing 18 turnovers.

If the Huskies upset the Wildcats in the Pac-12 Tournament opener, then they would face USC in the quarterfinals in another rubber-match scenario. The Trojans beat the Huskies 62-56 on Feb. 13.

Washington is a 50-1 long shot to win the Pac-12 tourney, according to Las Vegas oddsmakers.

McDaniels delivers

In a game that included five projected NBA first-round draft picks, Jaden McDaniels was the best of the one-and-done prospects on the court.

Coach Mike Hopkins’ faith and commitment in the erstwhile freshman star from Federal Way is being rewarded while he’s playing some of his best basketball of the season.

In seven of the past eight games, the 6-foot-9 forward has continually produced while coming off the bench in all but one of those games.

Saturday against Arizona, McDaniels scored a game-high 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting, including two 3-pointers. He also had six rebounds, three blocks, an assist, a steal and just one turnover in 32 minutes.

In Washington’s previous game against Arizona, McDaniels committed a technical foul that proved costly.

This time he kept his cool in a heated environment, avoided dust-ups with disgruntled Wildcats and drained two free throws after Arizona’s Christian Koloko was assessed a technical foul.

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