Team in the mirror

Similarities between Eagles, Cougars become apparent

Gary McCannMarch 20, 2008 

Winthrop coach Randy Peele makes a point while in a huddle as forwards Andy Buechert and Charles Corbin look on during the team's practice in Denver.

JACK DEMPSEY • THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

DENVER &emdash; Last March, Winthrop's basketball team went into the NCAA tournament with a feeling it was time to win.

And they knocked off Notre Dame of the Big East Conference.

The calendar year has changed, but the feeling hasn't.

The Eagles (22-11) go into today's 7:20 p.m. game against Washington State (24-8) from the Pac-10 feeling they're right back where they belong.

"The feeling's no different," coach Randy Peele said. "If it is, I can't see it. They've done it before. This sense is, this is where we expected to be."

But the same goes for the Cougars, who are making their second straight trip to the tournament. Like Winthrop, coach Tony Bennett's team won a first-round game last year.

They were expected to make it back to the tournament. They won their first 14 games, spent the first 13 weeks of the season ranked in the top 10, climbing as high as fourth, before the rigors of the rugged Pac-10 knocked them down to No. 21.

"The big thing was," Bennett said, "let's not be a one-hit wonder as we called it. Let's not be one of those. Let's back it up. For the most part, we have."

Both think they should win, and the trick will be which can impose its will on the other.

"Every game you play is like that," Bennett said. "It's going to be a dogfight, and we understand that."

The winner advances to Saturday's second round against the winner of tonight's 9:50 contest between Notre Dame (24-7) and George Mason (23-10). Saturday's winner moves on to Charlotte for next week's East Regional semifinals.

Washington State and Winthrop are built on the same foundation &emdash; defense and offensive execution.

Both have good, experienced guards. The Cougars' best players are point guard Taylor Rochestie, shooting guard Derrick Low and swingman Kyle Weaver. Winthrop's best players are point guard Chris Gaynor, shooting guard Michael Jenkins and swingman Taj McCullough.

Washington State has an edge in size, with 6-10 Aron Baynes and 6-10 Robbie Cowgill. Winthrop has more depth and quickness and its seniors have been to four NCAA tournaments.

"Quite honestly, I think we're extremely similar," Peele said. "They average 67 a game. They give up 57. We average about 66, give up 55.

"Defensively, they're good."

Bennett all but echoed everything Peele said when talking about the Eagles.

The matchup of the 6-6 Weaver on the 6-3 Jenkins may be the most intriguing head-to-head battle. Weaver is the Cougars' best defender. Jenkins averaged 19.6 points in the Big South tournament, including a 33-point outburst against UNC Asheville in the finals.

"Their guards are good," Weaver said. "I don't know a lot about them, but I know Jenkins. He can score."

Jenkins said "Weaver is going to be guarding me. He's long, athletic and a defensive stopper."

Each team poses matchup problems for the other.

McCullough, at 6-7, will have to guard one of the big men. But one of them will have to guard him.

"One of the guys I'm guarding is a lot bigger than me," McCullough said, "but we'll see how it turns out."

If Winthrop has a dramatic edge, it could be off the bench. They can go 10 deep, while the Cougars have only seven players playing at least 11 minutes per game. If there is anything to playing in the mile high altitude, Winthrop's bench could be a factor.

Bennett, who played briefly for the Charlotte Hornets, also knows what the Eagles did last March, and knows he's still trying to build a program similar in success to Winthrop. While the Eagles may have snuck up on Notre Dame last year, the chances of that happening this time are remote.

When Washington State came up opposite Winthrop on Selection Sunday, Bennett knew what he was getting.

"I know their tremendous past," Bennett said. "Four tournaments in a row. I think it's eight out of 10. I didn't get to see them play a lot this year, but I'm impressed with the tradition they've built.

"I hope our kids understand, if they don't (come to play), it will be over quick."

But it's been that kind of year for Washington State, which, after last year's success, became the hunted program, not the hunter.

"It's been a lot different," Low said. "Before we've been kind of the underdogs, the team no one would expect anything from. We would just come up and surprise people.

"It brings out the best in people every night. They want to go after us."

Just like teams wanted to go after Winthrop this year.

Peele said he tried to get his team ready for today with a couple of tough practices, including one Wednesday morning.

"I'm not going to tell you it was a cakewalk in practice, because it wasn't the last two days," he said. "But I believe this group is confident and loose. And, quite honestly, that's how I want them to be."

ast March, Winthrop's basketball team went into the NCAA tournament with a feeling it was time to win.

And they knocked off Notre Dame of the Big East Conference.

The calendar year has changed, but the feeling hasn't.

The Eagles (22-11) go into today's 7:20 p.m. game against Washington State (24-8) from the Pac-10 feeling they're right back where they belong.

"The feeling's no different," coach Randy Peele said. "If it is, I can't see it. They've done it before. This sense is, this is where we expected to be."

But the same goes for the Cougars, who are making their second straight trip to the tournament. Like Winthrop, coach Tony Bennett's team won a first-round game last year.

They were expected to make it back to the tournament. They won their first 14 games, spent the first 13 weeks of the season ranked in the top 10, climbing as high as fourth, before the rigors of the rugged Pac-10 knocked them down to No. 21.

"The big thing was," Bennett said, "let's not be a one-hit wonder as we called it. Let's not be one of those. Let's back it up. For the most part, we have."

Both think they should win, and the trick will be which can impose its will on the other.

"Every game you play is like that," Bennett said. "It's going to be a dogfight, and we understand that."

The winner advances to Saturday's second round against the winner of tonight's 9:50 contest between Notre Dame (24-7) and George Mason (23-10). Saturday's winner moves on to Charlotte for next week's East Regional semifinals.

Washington State and Winthrop are built on the same foundation &emdash; defense and offensive execution.

Both have good, experienced guards. The Cougars' best players are point guard Taylor Rochestie, shooting guard Derrick Low and swingman Kyle Weaver. Winthrop's best players are point guard Chris Gaynor, shooting guard Michael Jenkins and swingman Taj McCullough.

Washington State has an edge in size, with 6-10 Aron Baynes and 6-10 Robbie Cowgill. Winthrop has more depth and quickness and its seniors have been to four NCAA tournaments.

"Quite honestly, I think we're extremely similar," Peele said. "They average 67 a game. They give up 57. We average about 66, give up 55.

"Defensively, they're good."

Bennett all but echoed everything Peele said when talking about the Eagles.

The matchup of the 6-6 Weaver on the 6-3 Jenkins may be the most intriguing head-to-head battle. Weaver is the Cougars' best defender. Jenkins averaged 19.6 points in the Big South tournament, including a 33-point outburst against UNC Asheville in the finals.

"Their guards are good," Weaver said. "I don't know a lot about them, but I know Jenkins. He can score."

Jenkins said "Weaver is going to be guarding me. He's long, athletic and a defensive stopper."

Each team poses matchup problems for the other.

McCullough, at 6-7, will have to guard one of the big men. But one of them will have to guard him.

"One of the guys I'm guarding is a lot bigger than me," McCullough said, "but we'll see how it turns out."

If Winthrop has a dramatic edge, it could be off the bench. They can go 10 deep, while the Cougars have only seven players playing at least 11 minutes per game. If there is anything to playing in the mile high altitude, Winthrop's bench could be a factor.

Bennett, who played briefly for the Charlotte Hornets, also knows what the Eagles did last March, and knows he's still trying to build a program similar in success to Winthrop. While the Eagles may have snuck up on Notre Dame last year, the chances of that happening this time are remote.

When Washington State came up opposite Winthrop on Selection Sunday, Bennett knew what he was getting.

"I know their tremendous past," Bennett said. "Four tournaments in a row. I think it's eight out of 10. I didn't get to see them play a lot this year, but I'm impressed with the tradition they've built.

"I hope our kids understand, if they don't (come to play), it will be over quick."

But it's been that kind of year for Washington State, which, after last year's success, became the hunted program, not the hunter.

"It's been a lot different," Low said. "Before we've been kind of the underdogs, the team no one would expect anything from. We would just come up and surprise people.

"It brings out the best in people every night. They want to go after us."

Just like teams wanted to go after Winthrop this year.

Peele said he tried to get his team ready for today with a couple of tough practices, including one Wednesday morning.

"I'm not going to tell you it was a cakewalk in practice, because it wasn't the last two days," he said. "But I believe this group is confident and loose. And, quite honestly, that's how I want them to be."

ast March, Winthrop's basketball team went into the NCAA tournament with a feeling it was time to win.

And they knocked off Notre Dame of the Big East Conference.

The calendar year has changed, but the feeling hasn't.

The Eagles (22-11) go into today's 7:20 p.m. game against Washington State (24-8) from the Pac-10 feeling they're right back where they belong.

"The feeling's no different," coach Randy Peele said. "If it is, I can't see it. They've done it before. This sense is, this is where we expected to be."

But the same goes for the Cougars, who are making their second straight trip to the tournament. Like Winthrop, coach Tony Bennett's team won a first-round game last year.

They were expected to make it back to the tournament. They won their first 14 games, spent the first 13 weeks of the season ranked in the top 10, climbing as high as fourth, before the rigors of the rugged Pac-10 knocked them down to No. 21.

"The big thing was," Bennett said, "let's not be a one-hit wonder as we called it. Let's not be one of those. Let's back it up. For the most part, we have."

Both think they should win, and the trick will be which can impose its will on the other.

"Every game you play is like that," Bennett said. "It's going to be a dogfight, and we understand that."

The winner advances to Saturday's second round against the winner of tonight's 9:50 contest between Notre Dame (24-7) and George Mason (23-10). Saturday's winner moves on to Charlotte for next week's East Regional semifinals.

Washington State and Winthrop are built on the same foundation &emdash; defense and offensive execution.

Both have good, experienced guards. The Cougars' best players are point guard Taylor Rochestie, shooting guard Derrick Low and swingman Kyle Weaver. Winthrop's best players are point guard Chris Gaynor, shooting guard Michael Jenkins and swingman Taj McCullough.

Washington State has an edge in size, with 6-10 Aron Baynes and 6-10 Robbie Cowgill. Winthrop has more depth and quickness and its seniors have been to four NCAA tournaments.

"Quite honestly, I think we're extremely similar," Peele said. "They average 67 a game. They give up 57. We average about 66, give up 55.

"Defensively, they're good."

Bennett all but echoed everything Peele said when talking about the Eagles.

The matchup of the 6-6 Weaver on the 6-3 Jenkins may be the most intriguing head-to-head battle. Weaver is the Cougars' best defender. Jenkins averaged 19.6 points in the Big South tournament, including a 33-point outburst against UNC Asheville in the finals.

"Their guards are good," Weaver said. "I don't know a lot about them, but I know Jenkins. He can score."

Jenkins said "Weaver is going to be guarding me. He's long, athletic and a defensive stopper."

Each team poses matchup problems for the other.

McCullough, at 6-7, will have to guard one of the big men. But one of them will have to guard him.

"One of the guys I'm guarding is a lot bigger than me," McCullough said, "but we'll see how it turns out."

If Winthrop has a dramatic edge, it could be off the bench. They can go 10 deep, while the Cougars have only seven players playing at least 11 minutes per game. If there is anything to playing in the mile high altitude, Winthrop's bench could be a factor.

Bennett, who played briefly for the Charlotte Hornets, also knows what the Eagles did last March, and knows he's still trying to build a program similar in success to Winthrop. While the Eagles may have snuck up on Notre Dame last year, the chances of that happening this time are remote.

When Washington State came up opposite Winthrop on Selection Sunday, Bennett knew what he was getting.

"I know their tremendous past," Bennett said. "Four tournaments in a row. I think it's eight out of 10. I didn't get to see them play a lot this year, but I'm impressed with the tradition they've built.

"I hope our kids understand, if they don't (come to play), it will be over quick."

But it's been that kind of year for Washington State, which, after last year's success, became the hunted program, not the hunter.

"It's been a lot different," Low said. "Before we've been kind of the underdogs, the team no one would expect anything from. We would just come up and surprise people.

"It brings out the best in people every night. They want to go after us."

Just like teams wanted to go after Winthrop this year.

Peele said he tried to get his team ready for today with a couple of tough practices, including one Wednesday morning.

"I'm not going to tell you it was a cakewalk in practice, because it wasn't the last two days," he said. "But I believe this group is confident and loose. And, quite honestly, that's how I want them to be."

ast March, Winthrop's basketball team went into the NCAA tournament with a feeling it was time to win.

And they knocked off Notre Dame of the Big East Conference.

The calendar year has changed, but the feeling hasn't.

The Eagles (22-11) go into today's 7:20 p.m. game against Washington State (24-8) from the Pac-10 feeling they're right back where they belong.

"The feeling's no different," coach Randy Peele said. "If it is, I can't see it. They've done it before. This sense is, this is where we expected to be."

But the same goes for the Cougars, who are making their second straight trip to the tournament. Like Winthrop, coach Tony Bennett's team won a first-round game last year.

They were expected to make it back to the tournament. They won their first 14 games, spent the first 13 weeks of the season ranked in the top 10, climbing as high as fourth, before the rigors of the rugged Pac-10 knocked them down to No. 21.

"The big thing was," Bennett said, "let's not be a one-hit wonder as we called it. Let's not be one of those. Let's back it up. For the most part, we have."

Both think they should win, and the trick will be which can impose its will on the other.

"Every game you play is like that," Bennett said. "It's going to be a dogfight, and we understand that."

The winner advances to Saturday's second round against the winner of tonight's 9:50 contest between Notre Dame (24-7) and George Mason (23-10). Saturday's winner moves on to Charlotte for next week's East Regional semifinals.

Washington State and Winthrop are built on the same foundation &emdash; defense and offensive execution.

Both have good, experienced guards. The Cougars' best players are point guard Taylor Rochestie, shooting guard Derrick Low and swingman Kyle Weaver. Winthrop's best players are point guard Chris Gaynor, shooting guard Michael Jenkins and swingman Taj McCullough.

Washington State has an edge in size, with 6-10 Aron Baynes and 6-10 Robbie Cowgill. Winthrop has more depth and quickness and its seniors have been to four NCAA tournaments.

"Quite honestly, I think we're extremely similar," Peele said. "They average 67 a game. They give up 57. We average about 66, give up 55.

"Defensively, they're good."

Bennett all but echoed everything Peele said when talking about the Eagles.

The matchup of the 6-6 Weaver on the 6-3 Jenkins may be the most intriguing head-to-head battle. Weaver is the Cougars' best defender. Jenkins averaged 19.6 points in the Big South tournament, including a 33-point outburst against UNC Asheville in the finals.

"Their guards are good," Weaver said. "I don't know a lot about them, but I know Jenkins. He can score."

Jenkins said "Weaver is going to be guarding me. He's long, athletic and a defensive stopper."

Each team poses matchup problems for the other.

McCullough, at 6-7, will have to guard one of the big men. But one of them will have to guard him.

"One of the guys I'm guarding is a lot bigger than me," McCullough said, "but we'll see how it turns out."

If Winthrop has a dramatic edge, it could be off the bench. They can go 10 deep, while the Cougars have only seven players playing at least 11 minutes per game. If there is anything to playing in the mile high altitude, Winthrop's bench could be a factor.

Bennett, who played briefly for the Charlotte Hornets, also knows what the Eagles did last March, and knows he's still trying to build a program similar in success to Winthrop. While the Eagles may have snuck up on Notre Dame last year, the chances of that happening this time are remote.

When Washington State came up opposite Winthrop on Selection Sunday, Bennett knew what he was getting.

"I know their tremendous past," Bennett said. "Four tournaments in a row. I think it's eight out of 10. I didn't get to see them play a lot this year, but I'm impressed with the tradition they've built.

"I hope our kids understand, if they don't (come to play), it will be over quick."

But it's been that kind of year for Washington State, which, after last year's success, became the hunted program, not the hunter.

"It's been a lot different," Low said. "Before we've been kind of the underdogs, the team no one would expect anything from. We would just come up and surprise people.

"It brings out the best in people every night. They want to go after us."

Just like teams wanted to go after Winthrop this year.

Peele said he tried to get his team ready for today with a couple of tough practices, including one Wednesday morning.

"I'm not going to tell you it was a cakewalk in practice, because it wasn't the last two days," he said. "But I believe this group is confident and loose. And, quite honestly, that's how I want them to be."

ast March, Winthrop's basketball team went into the NCAA tournament with a feeling it was time to win.

And they knocked off Notre Dame of the Big East Conference.

The calendar year has changed, but the feeling hasn't.

The Eagles (22-11) go into today's 7:20 p.m. game against Washington State (24-8) from the Pac-10 feeling they're right back where they belong.

"The feeling's no different," coach Randy Peele said. "If it is, I can't see it. They've done it before. This sense is, this is where we expected to be."

But the same goes for the Cougars, who are making their second straight trip to the tournament. Like Winthrop, coach Tony Bennett's team won a first-round game last year.

They were expected to make it back to the tournament. They won their first 14 games, spent the first 13 weeks of the season ranked in the top 10, climbing as high as fourth, before the rigors of the rugged Pac-10 knocked them down to No. 21.

"The big thing was," Bennett said, "let's not be a one-hit wonder as we called it. Let's not be one of those. Let's back it up. For the most part, we have."

Both think they should win, and the trick will be which can impose its will on the other.

"Every game you play is like that," Bennett said. "It's going to be a dogfight, and we understand that."

The winner advances to Saturday's second round against the winner of tonight's 9:50 contest between Notre Dame (24-7) and George Mason (23-10). Saturday's winner moves on to Charlotte for next week's East Regional semifinals.

Washington State and Winthrop are built on the same foundation &emdash; defense and offensive execution.

Both have good, experienced guards. The Cougars' best players are point guard Taylor Rochestie, shooting guard Derrick Low and swingman Kyle Weaver. Winthrop's best players are point guard Chris Gaynor, shooting guard Michael Jenkins and swingman Taj McCullough.

Washington State has an edge in size, with 6-10 Aron Baynes and 6-10 Robbie Cowgill. Winthrop has more depth and quickness and its seniors have been to four NCAA tournaments.

"Quite honestly, I think we're extremely similar," Peele said. "They average 67 a game. They give up 57. We average about 66, give up 55.

"Defensively, they're good."

Bennett all but echoed everything Peele said when talking about the Eagles.

The matchup of the 6-6 Weaver on the 6-3 Jenkins may be the most intriguing head-to-head battle. Weaver is the Cougars' best defender. Jenkins averaged 19.6 points in the Big South tournament, including a 33-point outburst against UNC Asheville in the finals.

"Their guards are good," Weaver said. "I don't know a lot about them, but I know Jenkins. He can score."

Jenkins said "Weaver is going to be guarding me. He's long, athletic and a defensive stopper."

Each team poses matchup problems for the other.

McCullough, at 6-7, will have to guard one of the big men. But one of them will have to guard him.

"One of the guys I'm guarding is a lot bigger than me," McCullough said, "but we'll see how it turns out."

If Winthrop has a dramatic edge, it could be off the bench. They can go 10 deep, while the Cougars have only seven players playing at least 11 minutes per game. If there is anything to playing in the mile high altitude, Winthrop's bench could be a factor.

Bennett, who played briefly for the Charlotte Hornets, also knows what the Eagles did last March, and knows he's still trying to build a program similar in success to Winthrop. While the Eagles may have snuck up on Notre Dame last year, the chances of that happening this time are remote.

When Washington State came up opposite Winthrop on Selection Sunday, Bennett knew what he was getting.

"I know their tremendous past," Bennett said. "Four tournaments in a row. I think it's eight out of 10. I didn't get to see them play a lot this year, but I'm impressed with the tradition they've built.

"I hope our kids understand, if they don't (come to play), it will be over quick."

But it's been that kind of year for Washington State, which, after last year's success, became the hunted program, not the hunter.

"It's been a lot different," Low said. "Before we've been kind of the underdogs, the team no one would expect anything from. We would just come up and surprise people.

"It brings out the best in people every night. They want to go after us."

Just like teams wanted to go after Winthrop this year.

Peele said he tried to get his team ready for today with a couple of tough practices, including one Wednesday morning.

"I'm not going to tell you it was a cakewalk in practice, because it wasn't the last two days," he said. "But I believe this group is confident and loose. And, quite honestly, that's how I want them to be."

ast March, Winthrop's basketball team went into the NCAA tournament with a feeling it was time to win.

And they knocked off Notre Dame of the Big East Conference.

The calendar year has changed, but the feeling hasn't.

The Eagles (22-11) go into today's 7:20 p.m. game against Washington State (24-8) from the Pac-10 feeling they're right back where they belong.

"The feeling's no different," coach Randy Peele said. "If it is, I can't see it. They've done it before. This sense is, this is where we expected to be."

But the same goes for the Cougars, who are making their second straight trip to the tournament. Like Winthrop, coach Tony Bennett's team won a first-round game last year.

They were expected to make it back to the tournament. They won their first 14 games, spent the first 13 weeks of the season ranked in the top 10, climbing as high as fourth, before the rigors of the rugged Pac-10 knocked them down to No. 21.

"The big thing was," Bennett said, "let's not be a one-hit wonder as we called it. Let's not be one of those. Let's back it up. For the most part, we have."

Both think they should win, and the trick will be which can impose its will on the other.

"Every game you play is like that," Bennett said. "It's going to be a dogfight, and we understand that."

The winner advances to Saturday's second round against the winner of tonight's 9:50 contest between Notre Dame (24-7) and George Mason (23-10). Saturday's winner moves on to Charlotte for next week's East Regional semifinals.

Washington State and Winthrop are built on the same foundation &emdash; defense and offensive execution.

Both have good, experienced guards. The Cougars' best players are point guard Taylor Rochestie, shooting guard Derrick Low and swingman Kyle Weaver. Winthrop's best players are point guard Chris Gaynor, shooting guard Michael Jenkins and swingman Taj McCullough.

Washington State has an edge in size, with 6-10 Aron Baynes and 6-10 Robbie Cowgill. Winthrop has more depth and quickness and its seniors have been to four NCAA tournaments.

"Quite honestly, I think we're extremely similar," Peele said. "They average 67 a game. They give up 57. We average about 66, give up 55.

"Defensively, they're good."

Bennett all but echoed everything Peele said when talking about the Eagles.

The matchup of the 6-6 Weaver on the 6-3 Jenkins may be the most intriguing head-to-head battle. Weaver is the Cougars' best defender. Jenkins averaged 19.6 points in the Big South tournament, including a 33-point outburst against UNC Asheville in the finals.

"Their guards are good," Weaver said. "I don't know a lot about them, but I know Jenkins. He can score."

Jenkins said "Weaver is going to be guarding me. He's long, athletic and a defensive stopper."

Each team poses matchup problems for the other.

McCullough, at 6-7, will have to guard one of the big men. But one of them will have to guard him.

"One of the guys I'm guarding is a lot bigger than me," McCullough said, "but we'll see how it turns out."

If Winthrop has a dramatic edge, it could be off the bench. They can go 10 deep, while the Cougars have only seven players playing at least 11 minutes per game. If there is anything to playing in the mile high altitude, Winthrop's bench could be a factor.

Bennett, who played briefly for the Charlotte Hornets, also knows what the Eagles did last March, and knows he's still trying to build a program similar in success to Winthrop. While the Eagles may have snuck up on Notre Dame last year, the chances of that happening this time are remote.

When Washington State came up opposite Winthrop on Selection Sunday, Bennett knew what he was getting.

"I know their tremendous past," Bennett said. "Four tournaments in a row. I think it's eight out of 10. I didn't get to see them play a lot this year, but I'm impressed with the tradition they've built.

"I hope our kids understand, if they don't (come to play), it will be over quick."

But it's been that kind of year for Washington State, which, after last year's success, became the hunted program, not the hunter.

"It's been a lot different," Low said. "Before we've been kind of the underdogs, the team no one would expect anything from. We would just come up and surprise people.

"It brings out the best in people every night. They want to go after us."

Just like teams wanted to go after Winthrop this year.

Peele said he tried to get his team ready for today with a couple of tough practices, including one Wednesday morning.

"I'm not going to tell you it was a cakewalk in practice, because it wasn't the last two days," he said. "But I believe this group is confident and loose. And, quite honestly, that's how I want them to be."

ast March, Winthrop's basketball team went into the NCAA tournament with a feeling it was time to win.

And they knocked off Notre Dame of the Big East Conference.

The calendar year has changed, but the feeling hasn't.

The Eagles (22-11) go into today's 7:20 p.m. game against Washington State (24-8) from the Pac-10 feeling they're right back where they belong.

"The feeling's no different," coach Randy Peele said. "If it is, I can't see it. They've done it before. This sense is, this is where we expected to be."

But the same goes for the Cougars, who are making their second straight trip to the tournament. Like Winthrop, coach Tony Bennett's team won a first-round game last year.

They were expected to make it back to the tournament. They won their first 14 games, spent the first 13 weeks of the season ranked in the top 10, climbing as high as fourth, before the rigors of the rugged Pac-10 knocked them down to No. 21.

"The big thing was," Bennett said, "let's not be a one-hit wonder as we called it. Let's not be one of those. Let's back it up. For the most part, we have."

Both think they should win, and the trick will be which can impose its will on the other.

"Every game you play is like that," Bennett said. "It's going to be a dogfight, and we understand that."

The winner advances to Saturday's second round against the winner of tonight's 9:50 contest between Notre Dame (24-7) and George Mason (23-10). Saturday's winner moves on to Charlotte for next week's East Regional semifinals.

Washington State and Winthrop are built on the same foundation &emdash; defense and offensive execution.

Both have good, experienced guards. The Cougars' best players are point guard Taylor Rochestie, shooting guard Derrick Low and swingman Kyle Weaver. Winthrop's best players are point guard Chris Gaynor, shooting guard Michael Jenkins and swingman Taj McCullough.

Washington State has an edge in size, with 6-10 Aron Baynes and 6-10 Robbie Cowgill. Winthrop has more depth and quickness and its seniors have been to four NCAA tournaments.

"Quite honestly, I think we're extremely similar," Peele said. "They average 67 a game. They give up 57. We average about 66, give up 55.

"Defensively, they're good."

Bennett all but echoed everything Peele said when talking about the Eagles.

The matchup of the 6-6 Weaver on the 6-3 Jenkins may be the most intriguing head-to-head battle. Weaver is the Cougars' best defender. Jenkins averaged 19.6 points in the Big South tournament, including a 33-point outburst against UNC Asheville in the finals.

"Their guards are good," Weaver said. "I don't know a lot about them, but I know Jenkins. He can score."

Jenkins said "Weaver is going to be guarding me. He's long, athletic and a defensive stopper."

Each team poses matchup problems for the other.

McCullough, at 6-7, will have to guard one of the big men. But one of them will have to guard him.

"One of the guys I'm guarding is a lot bigger than me," McCullough said, "but we'll see how it turns out."

If Winthrop has a dramatic edge, it could be off the bench. They can go 10 deep, while the Cougars have only seven players playing at least 11 minutes per game. If there is anything to playing in the mile high altitude, Winthrop's bench could be a factor.

Bennett, who played briefly for the Charlotte Hornets, also knows what the Eagles did last March, and knows he's still trying to build a program similar in success to Winthrop. While the Eagles may have snuck up on Notre Dame last year, the chances of that happening this time are remote.

Gary McCann • 329-4074

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