A Pre-Thanksgiving Look At The Changes To The Mariners’ Roster

There’s not much going on this week, is there?  The Husky basketball team has a major tournament in the Bahamas (and is playing Gonzaga for the first time since 2006); the Apple Cup lands on Black Friday once again; the Seahawks are playing for the opportunity to be over .500 for the first time in 2015; and, of course, there’s that major national holiday where we celebrate how we screwed over all the Native Americans celebrate “giving thanks” or some bullshit like that.

Anyway, fuck all that, because I’m writing about the Mariners.  We’ve seen a lot of change in a very short time, which got me to wondering how our team shapes up compared to last year’s disappointment.  So, let’s go down the line, starting with the everyday nine:

Catcher:  2016 – Iannetta, 2015 – Zunino
First Base:  2016 – Trumbo, 2015 – Morrison
Second Base:  Cano
Third Base:  Seager
Short Stop:  2016 – Marte, 2015 – Miller / Taylor / Marte
Left Field:  2016 – Smith/Guti?, 2015 – Ackley
Center Field:  2016 – Martin, 2015 – Jackson
Right Field:  2016 – TBD / Trumbo / Cruz, 2015 – Smith, Cruz
Designated Hitter:  2016 – Cruz, 2015 – Cruz / Various

The only three “guaranteed” holdovers (I put that in quotes, because you never really know what a new GM will do in these first few months of total power, before it’s slowly stripped away from him by management as his mistakes pile up) figure to be Cano, Cruz, and Seager.  Cruz figures to get the majority of his playing time at DH (God willing), but you can’t completely rule out him playing some right field.  Nevertheless, this team is in desperate need of an everyday solution to our right field problem (or at least a rock-solid left-handed platoon option who isn’t named Boog Powell).

Iannetta looks to be a step up from Zunino.  Trumbo figures to be a lateral move compared to LoMo (worse on defense, probably more consistent at the plate).  A Seth Smith/Franklin Gutierrez platoon in left would be a HUGE upgrade over Ackley, should they both manage to stay healthy.  Leonys Martin figures to be better defensively than A-Jax, as well as a better baserunner (how many times did we watch Jackson try to steal and get tagged out by a million miles?), but the jury is seriously out as to whether or not Martin can hit in Safeco.  It looked like Jackson was starting to get the hang of it in 2015, but I feel like Martin brings more upside and is an all-around improvement at the position.  Finally, we’ll see what we get out of a full season of Ketel Marte at short stop.  He might be a step down initially, but hopefully he’ll blossom into a quality starter in time.

Now, onto the starting rotation, where things are still a little up in the air:

1.  Felix Hernandez
2.  2016 – Iwakuma?, 2015 – Iwakuma
3.  Taijuan Walker
4.  2016 – Karns, 2015 – Happ / Elias
5.  2016 – Paxton / Elias, 2015 – Paxton / Montgomery / Nuno

Felix and Taijuan are the primary holdovers; they’re not going anywhere, for obvious reasons.  Hisashi Iwakuma turned down the Mariners’ qualifying offer of $15.8 million for next year in hopes of getting a longer-term deal.  There’s still a very good chance he signs with the Mariners; the qualifying offer was more of a way to discourage any other teams from signing him (as they would lose their first unprotected draft pick).  For what it’s worth, the GM sounds really eager to bring him back.  I’m a little lukewarm on the deal, but I don’t see a whole lotta better options out there.  Iwakuma has been good when healthy, but he’s prone to give up the long ball.  Beyond that, his most consistent attribute is getting himself injured and missing large chunks of season.  Honestly, I don’t think I want him on anything more than a 2-year deal, maybe with an option for a third year if he reaches certain Staying-Off-Of-The-DL benchmarks.

The back-end of the rotation looks like it’s going to be a zoo once again for the Mariners.  Paxton is an obvious choice, but he’s even more injury prone than Iwakuma.  Nathan Karns, our big return chip in the Brad Miller deal, looks to have a spot locked up; so if Iwakuma returns, that appears to be four spots on lockdown.  Vying for that fifth spot will be a bevy of underwhelming candidates, including Roenis Elias, Mike Montgomery, and Vidal Nuno (though I still think he’s better suited as a long relief man in the bullpen).  Since Paxton is the likeliest candidate to win the spot out of Spring Training, it’s good to know we’ve got experienced options in Elias, Montgomery, and the like.  I’m certain we’ll need them.

As for how the back-end will fare, it’s tough to say.  My initial reaction is that they couldn’t be any worse than J.A. Happ, but I could be full of shit with that statement.  I’ve never seen Karns pitch!  I’ve seen the other guys, and they weren’t all that much better than Happ.  So, who knows?  Also, you gotta figure the team will go out and look for a cheap veteran to throw onto the pile.  If said veteran does well in Spring Training, we could be looking at another underwhelming half-year of a guy who doesn’t belong in the league anymore.

Regarding the potential bullpen, I don’t REALLY even want to go there, but here’s what I’ve got at this early point in the offseason:

Closer:  2016 – Benoit, 2015 – Rodney
8th Inning:  Carson Smith
7th Inning:  2016 – Zych?, 2015 – Wilhelmsen
Lefty #1:  Charlie Furbush
Lefty #2:  2016 – Riefenhauser?, 2015 – Beimel
Long:  2016 – Nuno?, 2015 – Nuno
Misc Relief:  2016 – Bass?, 2015 – Farquhar, Lowe, Others

Joaquin Benoit doesn’t have a ton of experience closing, but he does have a ton of experience being a boss reliever.  One would think his bossness would translate quite well from the 8th to the 9th inning.  Besides, Carson Smith is still young, and was getting kind of abused in the closer’s role last year (mostly by lefties); his natural spot in the bullpen should be the primary set-up man, facing mostly right-handed hitters.  Beyond those two guys, and Charlie Furbush (assuming he gets healthy in time), the rest of the bullpen is a total crapshoot.  Tony Zych looked pretty solid in his September call-up, so I’m sure he’ll get a shot at winning a spot.  We just traded for C.J. Riefenhauser, so I’m sure he’ll get every opportunity to win that second lefty spot (but, if he fails, we’ve got about four more on the 40-man roster who could supplant him).  I want to make Vidal Nuno a lock for the long relief/spot starter role, but you never know.  And, for that 7th bullpen spot (should we keep 7 guys in the bullpen), I have no fucking idea.  The guy who gets that spot probably isn’t even on this team right now.  I just put Bass up there because he was acquired in a recent trade, so I’m sure he’s going to get every chance to wow the team in Spring.

The bench is even more pointless to try to predict right now, but I’ll give it a whirl.  Figure our starting 9 (including “TBD” in right field; and for the purposes of this exercise, making Seth Smith the “starting” left fielder), plus 5 starting pitchers, plus 7 relievers, that leaves 4 bench spots:

Catcher:  2016 – Zunino, 2015 – Sucre
Corner Outfield:  Franklin Gutierrez
Infielder:  2016 – Luis Sardinas?, 2015 – Bloomquist/Taylor
Outfield:  2016 – Powell/O’Malley?, 2015 – Weeks/Ruggiano/Others

Right off the bat, Zunino is a huge upgrade over Sucre.  Guti’s taking up a spot on the roster, which necessitates a fifth outfielder to cover us in the likely event that Guti needs some extra days of rest to deal with whatever is nagging at him.  Boog Powell appears to be ready for a shot at the bigs.  Shawn O’Malley had a cup of coffee in September and really impressed everyone with his hustle, so you gotta figure he has a shot if nothing else changes about the roster.  Either one of those guys, you gotta figure, is better than Rickie Weeks, just defensively alone!  Finally, we say goodbye to Willie Bloomquist (hopefully for the last time), and we say hello to Luis Sardinas, who the Mariners just acquired from Milwaukee for a minor leaguer.  Sardinas has experience at all the infield positions, he’s played sparingly in the Majors the last two years, and he’s VERY young (will turn 23 years old next May).  He’s going to have to prove he can hit at least a little bit at the Big League level, because he’s got Chris Taylor who can also play all the infield spots, and has a similar amount of experience (but an additional two years of age).

Pointless exercise, or a fun way to waste time?  You decide!  Or don’t, I don’t care.  Tomorrow’s Turkey Day!

Mariners Signed Some Guy To Save Us All From Watching Mike Zunino Strike Out 5,000 Times Next Year

His name is Chris Iannetta.  Two N’s, two T’s, Iannetta.

He plays catcher, so that’s convenient.  He still strikes out some, so try not to confuse him with Tony Gwynn at the plate.  But, he strikes out a helluva lot less than Mike Zunino, and I bet he looks better doing it too!  At the very least, he walks quite a bit, which is a HUGE step up over what we’ve seen at catcher since Dan Wilson hung ’em up.  I don’t know what he’s like defensively, but he appears to be average, which is fine I guess.  Average defense with a plus bat should be a lot less frustrating to watch than plus defense and a terrible bat.

I like the move, if for no other reason than it’s getting painful to watch Zunino day-in and day-out.  Due to utter incompetence, we rushed him up to the Majors, and now we’ve got a guy who’s more or less a wreck – mentally – at the plate.  Iannetta will reportedly come in to start right away, leaving Zunino with the opportunity to contend for the backup catcher spot.  Which, really, is probably what he needs right now.  The other option is to put Zunino in AAA and let him play everyday down there, but I don’t know if that’s going to do much good for him.  We KNOW he’s better than what AAA pitching has to offer.  We KNOW that he’s clearly the second-best catcher in the organization right now.  Might as well keep him up here, let him learn at the feet of Iannetta, let him play in maybe a third of the games as opposed to 80% or whatever the fuck they’ve been doing the last two years, and hopefully he has success in the games he does play in, so in 2017 maybe he overtakes Iannetta for the starting catcher job.

Or, fuck it, he flames out and joins the ever-growing pile of busted high draft picks.

Competency.  At the Catcher position!  Can you even imagine it?

I’ll Be Impressed When The Seahawks Finally Beat A Team With A Winning Record

Excuse me if I’m not all jacked up over a win against a 49ers team featuring Blaine Gabbert at quarterback and Jim Tomsula at head coach.  If you watched that game and saw how the Seahawks cruised in all aspects of the game, and that made you forget all the problems with this team, then I feel sorry for you.  Beating a bad 49ers team by 16 points isn’t necessarily a sign of better things to come.  If you’re the Seahawks, and you fancy yourselves a playoff-calibre team, then guess what?  You’re SUPPOSED to beat bad 49ers teams by 16 points!

I’m looking for a little bit more out of my Seahawks team before I put my full confidence in them.  Beating a very good Steelers team next week would be a start.

Or, fuck, how about beating ANY team that’s worth a damn???  If you go to ESPN, click on their Standings page, and sort it by “Playoff Standings”, you’re going to find a very disturbing number.  That number is .320; that number is our “Strength of Victory”.  Meaning, the teams we’ve beaten have a combined .320 winning percentage.  It’s easily the worst in the NFC.  You can look at those standings and see that the Seahawks have had one of the tougher Strengths of Schedule in the NFC too, but that doesn’t mean a fucking thing to me.  Good teams are supposed to beat other good teams every now and then; the 2015 Seahawks have NEVER beaten a good team.  Here are the five teams they’ve beaten:

  • Chicago Bears 4-6
  • Detroit Lions 3-7
  • San Francisco 49ers 3-7
  • Dallas Cowboys 3-7
  • San Francisco 49ers 3-7

If you’re still on the ESPN Standings page, then you’ll see those are LITERALLY the four worst teams in the entire NFC.  So, congrats Seahawks!  You beat up on the shitpiles!  Now, how about doing just a LITTLE bit more?

I hardly give a single shit, let alone two shits, about the win over the 49ers, so quickly:  Russell Wilson had a great game, Thomas Rawls ran for the second-most yards in franchise history (209), Tyler Lockett caught two touchdowns, and Cliff Avril got two sacks.

That’s it.  Fuck this game.  Seahawks, I’ll see you next week.  You better have your shit together, because the Steelers AIN’T the fucking 49ers.

Is It Time To Declare The Jimmy Graham Trade A Failure?

It doesn’t make me happy to write this.  Not by a long shot.

I’m not afraid to admit that I pretty much loved the trade immediately after it happened.  I didn’t love losing yet another first round draft pick, but I thought everything else was fine.  Graham is a dominant red zone presence.  He seems like a good clubhouse guy (or, at least, not the fucking maniac that is Percy Harvin).  He plays a position of need (tight end/receiver).  Max Unger had spent the better part of the last few seasons on the training room table, was getting up there in age, and looked to be well on his way to breaking down and leaving the league.  Plus, with Unger’s constant injuries, it felt like our offensive line was getting by with Okung and Smoke & Mirrors anyway, so what would it matter if we skimped on that if we could drastically improve the rest of our offense?

Well, I think it’s safe to say things have sufficiently blown up in our faces so far.  The Seahawks have yet to beat a team with a winning record (Chicago at 4-5 is the best so far, and they were without their top quarterback and wide receiver in that game).  The offensive line has been just so fucking miserable.  The passing game seems to focus so hard on getting the ball to Jimmy Graham just to avoid criticism from the press that our quarterback is missing other wide open targets.  And, most mind-bogglingly of all, the passing game ISN’T directing its concentration to him enough when we get near the endzone!

That’s why I wouldn’t say Jimmy Graham is the reason why this trade is a failure, ignoring a couple bad drops in the Cardinals game.  I just happen to agree with the sentiments of the Hawkblogger and others.  It’s hard to integrate skill position players into your already-established offense.  These things generally take years to develop, not weeks.  And, ideally, they’re established by bringing in rookies and draft picks; guys who more easily adapt and can grow into your system.  Jimmy Graham was already an established player when he came here.  He had years and years of experience in the New Orleans system, which is about as different as it gets compared to what the Seahawks have been running the last few years.  So, it’s reasonable to expect some growing pains when trying to integrate him into your system.  It’s also not entirely UNreasonable that he may never truly mesh with our system, and our offense will continue to struggle accordingly.

It’s still possible for him to take this year, and the next full offseason, to get fully comfortable with what we’re trying to do (just as it’s possible for our coaching staff and quarterback to figure out how to use him when we’re close to the goalline), and end up being a force for us in 2016 and beyond.  At that point, maybe I have to go back and renege on these comments of the trade being a disaster.  Except, here’s the thing:  if the Seahawks fail in their goals for 2015, the trade will STILL be a bust.  Because those goals are winning a championship, and failing in that goal means we’ve lost yet another year in our ever-dwindling Championship Window.

Now, obviously, I’m not going to sit here and cite Jimmy Graham as the sole reason why the 2015 Seahawks won’t win the Super Bowl (or get to the Super Bowl, or win the division, or make the playoffs, or …), but I will say that our struggling offense as a whole is the primary reason why things have gone so poorly so far.  Did the defense give up some late 4th quarter leads?  Absolutely.  Did our offense do anything to extend those leads, or prevent the other team from getting the ball back?  Absolutely not.  The defense hasn’t been its sharpest, there’s no doubt about it.  But, if we’re weighing the reason why the 2015 Seahawks are on the outside of the playoffs looking in right now, more than 50% of the blame falls on the offense as a whole.  That has to do with play-calling, that has to do with line play, that has to do with the quarterback’s decision-making and poor execution, that has to do with Lynch’s nagging injuries, that has to do with the receivers not getting open, and yes, that has to do with Jimmy Graham.  You can divide that pie however you see fit; shit done gone wrong with this group.  But, a lot of it comes back to the Jimmy Graham trade as a whole and the chain reaction of repercussions that have followed.

Like I said, it’s partly the play-calling; the focus on getting the ball in Graham’s hands.  And, in a major way, it has to do with the offensive line, which we’ve been talking about all year.  Last I heard, Max Unger has been relatively healthy this season; at the very least, I haven’t heard of him missing any games.  What would this team look like without Jimmy Graham, and with Max Unger?

Considering the center position has been a trouble spot, I’d like to think Unger’s presence would be a huge bonus for us.  Considering Justin Britt has been a nuisance at left guard, I’d also like to think Unger’s presence would be a double-bonus for us:  he could assist in double-teams, and/or he’d be there to call out protections like he did so well in the past.  And, who knows?  Maybe with Unger in there, we’re able to use someone like Patrick Lewis at left guard; at the very least he probably gets a chance to push Britt for playing time in practice, right?

Unger is signed to a moderate contract in 2016 ($6 million, $1.5 million in dead money, should he be released).  Jimmy Graham has cap hits of $9 million & $10 million in the next two years (with $0 in dead money should he be released).  One thing you can say that helps soften the blow of this trade is that the Seahawks haven’t extended Graham, or otherwise turned any of his money into guaranteed money (not to say they won’t do that this offseason, to free up some cap space, but they haven’t yet, so I’m calling that a silver lining for now).  Also, if we never made the deal (or any other type of similar deal), you have to wonder what the Seahawks would have done differently in the draft.  Do they go after the top-rated college tight end?  Do they shore up the O-Line?  Do they end up with Tyler Lockett in the third round?  After all, the Seahawks did trade the 4th rounder they got from New Orleans in that package with Washington to move up to get Lockett.  Does that deal still get made?  Or, do the Seahawks go wide receiver with their first round pick and let someone else nab Lockett?

We’ll never know all the other variables.  As such, we won’t really know how to dissect this trade until it’s all played out over the next few years.  Maybe the Seahawks miss out on the playoffs this year, but maybe they return with a vengeance in the next couple years and win that Super Bowl trophy again.  If that’s the case, do we even care what happened in 2015?

If you forget the variables, and take the trade at face value, then yeah, the trade has failed us.  There’s still time to turn it around, but the odds are long; the hole we’ve dug ourselves into is probably too deep.  It’s going to take a lot of improvements on the fly in the second half of the season – as well as a mighty winning streak against some fairly stiff competition (the Steelers, Vikings, Rams, Cards won’t be pushovers).

The lesson we have to learn is:  don’t take the guys in the trenches for granted.  You want to have a good offense?  You need a good quarterback (1-A) and you need a good offensive line (1-B).  Or, at least a competent offensive line, and not the worst fucking offensive line in the entire league.  Take the Pats, for instance.  They got the quarterback, check.  We’ve got the quarterback, check.  When the Pats – with their good quarterback – have an offensive line that gives him even a smidge of time, the Pats do very well on offense.  When the Pats’ O-Line struggles (as it did early in 2014, for instance), they tend to lose games, as Brady gets knocked around and starts to look his age.  Same deal here.  The Seahawks don’t need to have a line on par with the Cowboys, or those old Holmgren teams; something middle-of-the-road like we’ve had in recent years will do just fine.

Save your trades and your bigtime free agent signings for positions where it’s easier to integrate.  With your skill position guys, it’s always best to stick with the home-grown crop, even if they’re not as flashy or as good as some available veterans.  I’d rather be winning, and still contending for a division title, with a group of pedestrians, than losing and vying for a better draft pick with hired guns who don’t necessarily fit into our system.

The Mariners Traded With The Rangers, Padres

  • Going to Texas:  Tom Wilhelmsen, James Jones, Player To Be Named Later
  • Coming Back:  Leonys Martin, Anthony Bass
  • Going to San Diego:  Two Guys I’ve Never Heard Of From Single-A
  • Coming Back:  Joaquin Benoit

Lost in the shuffle of my Tahoe debacle, the Mariners made a couple trades earlier this week.  Leonys Martin is a centerfielder, and supposedly a really good one, from a defensive perspective.  So, we’ll see what that means.  Austin Jackson was supposed to be “really good” too, but he ended up just sort of being okay.  A-Jax made most of the plays, but none of the spectacular ones; he wasn’t Guti in his heyday.  I want Guti in his heyday, God dammit!  If Leonys Martin ends up being Guti in his heyday, I’ll be thrilled with this trade, regardless of how he hits.

Well, that’s not entirely true.  He’s got to hit SOMETHING.  The kid outta Cuba had a couple cups of coffee in the big leagues in 2011 & 2012.  He won the starting job with the Rangers in 2013 and had two full years of pretty good production at the plate.  He doesn’t walk a lot, which seems to go counter to Jerry Dipoto’s credo of finding guys who get on base a lot.  But, if he did walk a lot, and played this supposedly great defense, I’m sure the Rangers wouldn’t want to give him up, or if they did, for more than Wilhelmsen, Jones and PTBNL.  Centerfielders who walk a lot and play great defense aren’t on the trading block, is what I’m trying to say.  To do what we’re doing, trading our crap away, we’re ultimately going to get other teams’ crap in return.  Just be glad he does SOMETHING well.

Where Leonys gets dicey is his 2015.  He had a God-awful year at the plate, broke his hamate bone, and missed most of the last two months of the season.  If you want to be a glass half-full guy, you’ll look at his 2013 & 2014.  If you want to be fucking real for a change, you’ll look at his .219/.264/.313 line from last year and realize we’re probably going to watch someone who is frustratingly bad at the plate.

BUT, there’s hope.  For starters, the team isn’t so delusional that they see FAST GUY and automatically think to themselves:  LEADOFF HITTER.  They understand this is a guy who should be hitting in the bottom third of the order (probably ninth, if we’re being honest with ourselves).  The pros are:  Great Defense, Great Base Stealer (he stole 36 & 31 respectively in 2013 & 2014); the cons are:  Doesn’t Hit For A High Average, Doesn’t Hit For Power, Doesn’t Walk.  If you keep Leonys Martin away from the general area of home plate, you’ve got yourself a helluva player.  He does bat lefty.  I don’t know if that does anything for you, but for me I like as many lefties in my lineup as possible when we’re talking about Safeco Field.  Besides, batting from the left side means you’re that much closer to first base on all those dribbling grounders to short stop.  Unfortunately, I’m not seeing that a huge percentage of his overall hits are of the infield variety, so I dunno.

Anthony Bass is a right-handed relief pitcher who appears to be Just Another Guy.  He doesn’t strike out a ton of guys, he doesn’t walk a ton either, but he walks enough.  He just seems to be a guy who gives up a good amount of contact, and that contact ultimately leads to runs scored.  MAYBE he could be a long reliever or something, but it seems like we already have guys like him on the roster (Vidal Nuno comes to mind, and he can spot start in a pinch).

For these two guys, we say goodbye to Tom Wilhelmsen.  Like with Brad Miller, I think we’re talking about a guy who had maximized his value in a Mariners uniform.  Trading Wilhelmsen now is the only other option, because putting him back out there on the mound would only expose him to risk of reducing that value.  Wilhelmsen showed he was a quality pitcher back in 2012, as he took over the closer’s job from a struggling Brandon League, then he proceeded to struggle and lose his job in 2013.  He salvaged his career in 2014 by being a sort of Jack Of All Trades out of the bullpen – a long man when we needed it, a late-inning guy when we needed it, a spot-starter when we needed it – and in 2015, improved his stock even more by taking back the closer’s duties at the end of the season when literally everyone ahead of him fell apart.

Losing a guy like Wilhelmsen (and replacing him with an Anthony Bass) doesn’t necessarily help what was a struggling bullpen in 2015, but there are a couple things at play here.  First, bullpen variance.  Wilhelmsen has looked competent the last couple years, but that doesn’t mean he won’t throw in a stinker of a 2016 season.  Secondly, we only had club control over him for two more seasons.  He’s the reason we can get a guy in Leonys Martin – a starting centerfielder right this minute – who we control for three more seasons, at a much more premium position.  I appreciate you, Wilhelmsen, but I wouldn’t say I’ll be missing you.  We’ve got other fish to fry.

Aside from that, we’ve got this Joaquin Benoit guy!  Benoit has been around forever (he’s currently 38 years old), but he’s still kicking ass!  Dude has averaged 8-11 strikeouts per 9 innings since 2004 and hasn’t really dropped off whatsoever.  He’s making a hefty $7 million in 2016 (after that he’s a free agent), but he immediately slides into the back-end of our bullpen with Carson Smith and whoever comes out of the pile in Spring Training.  He really doesn’t have a lot of closing experience (only 50 career saves in 14 Major League seasons), so who knows if he’s mentally the right guy for the job?  But, I would venture to guess we won’t have NEARLY as many cardiac episodes as we had with Fernando Rodney.

A lot to like about these early deals by the Mariners.  But, let’s not fool ourselves, there’s still a long way to go to get back to contention.

In closing, I suppose I should say SOMETHING about James Jones.  I never really had a spot I liked to shoe-horn him into the post above this point.  He may strike some as very similar to Leonys Martin, until you realize he’s probably worse at defense, getting on base, and hitting.  I’ll say this about Martin:  at least there’s upside.  At least there’s a ceiling in there somewhere that we can stomach.  I don’t think Jones has anywhere near that.  Jones strikes me as a guy who tops out as a 4th or 5th outfielder, but probably more like a Quad-A player who will shuffle between Triple-A and the Bigs.  So it goes.

Husky Football Needs To Win Out To Get To A Bowl Game

That Arizona State game was a tough one to watch.  The Huskies sprinted out to a 17-0 lead on the road – in a place where they haven’t won since dinosaurs roamed the Earth – and proceeded to give it all away to the tune of 27-unanswered.  We out-gained them in yards, we had a slight time of possession edge, we beat them up in first downs, our true freshman quarterback had a 405-yard passing day … it all seemed to be going our way, except for the 4 turnovers we gave away to their 0.

I’m not gonna lie to you, that would’ve been a good monkey to get off our backs.  A win there would have all-but-assured our being bowl eligible – assuming a win against the inept Oregon State Beavers this weekend – but instead things are in serious doubt.

Before we look ahead, I’d just like to talk about how frustrating things are with this team.  It’s not to the point where I’m down on the program, per se.  I think the direction of the program is trending mightily upward.  We’re IN most of these games!  We barely lost on the road against a ranked Boise State team in the opener (a feat that looked much better at the time than it does now, but that’s neither here nor there); we lost by one score against Cal and Oregon (maybe a bounce here or there turns the tables); we hung in there against a very tough Utah team (we can only speculate how that game would’ve ended had it been officiated properly); we beat a ranked USC team on the road (and practically drove their head coach to ruin) and thrashed what appeared to be a solid Arizona team (bowl eligible, in spite of their unimpressive conference record).  If a few things end up differently, who knows?  Maybe it’s the Huskies competing for a shot at the Pac-12 title game.  Even taking things as they happened, though, you still have to like how things are shaping up in the immediate years to come.

Which is why it would be so very unfortunate if this team didn’t get a crack at a bowl game.  You want that extra game and all of those extra practices when you’ve got a young, talented team like this.  You want as much time as you can get with the coaches, to work on improving technique and whatnot.  At 4-6, the Huskies have to win out.  The game at Oregon State feels like a sure thing (the Beavers are 0-7 in conference and 2-8 overall; clearly the worst team in the conference), though it has a chance to be one of the tougher games we play.  For the Beavers, this game against the Huskies is probably their last chance to get a conference win (they’re at home, and their final game is in Eugene against the superior Ducks), so I’m sure they’re going to be fighting tooth and nail to notch a victory against the Dawgs.

Should the Huskies get past the Beavers this weekend, we return home for the Apple Cup on the Friday after Thanksgiving.  The Cougs are already bowl eligible, with their 7-3 record.  And, while they’re mathematically eliminated from participating in the Pac-12 Championship Game, they still have a chance to win 10 games for the first time since 2003, which would be huge for a program that hasn’t had a winning record since that very same season.  Tack on the fact that they’ve lost the last two Apple Cups (and 5 of the last 6), there’s no shortage of reasons for why they’ll be up for this game.  I’ve been dreading this game since before the season even started, as Luke Falk looked like a future superstar in waiting.  With over 4,000 yards passing already (with 2 games to go), he’s made good on that promise.  Needing to win this game to make a bowl is my worst nightmare come to life.  I just hope our defense has what it takes.

First thing’s first, gotta beat the Beavers.  It shouldn’t be a problem, but then again, there’s a reason why they don’t play these games on computers.

Would The Seahawks’ Crap Offense Look Any Worse If The Seahawks’ Defense Took Over?

You saw the same game I saw; you don’t need me to sit here and rehash it for 1,000 words.  The offense stunk.  Russell Wilson stunk, Jimmy Graham stunk, the offensive line stunk.  The running game couldn’t get going, there were too many penalties on both sides of the ball, and our secondary got ripped to shreds.  The only reason why it was as close as it was – and the only reason why the Seahawks were able to continue their string of having a lead in every game for however many games in a row – is because of some well-timed blitzes causing some well-timed turnovers leading to some well-timed points.

You can blame the defense all you want for giving up 39 points to the Cards, but it’s not their fault that the Seahawks’ offense was only on the field for 21 minutes (unless you count that one fumble recovery at the Arizona 3-yard line, which resulted in a quick TD).  It’s also not their fault that the offense could only convert 1/8 third downs and had the following drives:

  • 6 plays, 8 yards, 3:05, punt
  • 3 plays, -5 yards, 1:34, punt
  • 1 play, -22 yards, 0:38, safety
  • 3 plays, -8 yards, 1:16, punt
  • 2 plays, 6 yards, 0:41, interception
  • 7 plays, 5 yards, 2:41, punt

That comprises half of our 12 drives; all told, for half of our possessions, we ran 22 offensive plays, for -16 yards, across 9:55, resulting in four punts, a safety, and a pick.  And those first FOUR drives were the first four possessions for the Seahawks in this game.  Maybe the defense wasn’t the sharpest it could’ve been.  Maybe there were too many mistakes in the secondary.  Maybe the 4-man pass rush wasn’t getting home like it’s supposed to.  Maybe the defensive coordinator went away from the blitz-heavy package that got us the lead in the first place.  But, that offense right there?  That’s inexcusable, and it’s time to stop making those excuses for a unit that is a huge failure across the board.

Instead, why not perform an exercise that might actually be a little more interesting and fun?  On the drive back to Reno from Tahoe, a buddy of mine brought up the point:  what if the Seahawks’ defense also played offense?  Couldn’t be any worse than what we saw!  Hell, we DID see what they can do, and it WAS better.  Fumble returned for a touchdown, another fumble recovered at the 3-yard line, and an interception in the endzone that prevented at a minimum a field goal, and at the most another TD.  That’s 17-21 points accounted for right there, or around half of the entire team’s point output in a game they’d lose 39-32.

So, what would that offense look like?  For starters, my friends and I settled on some variation of the triple option.  Definitely gotta go run-heavy in this hypothetical scenario, and put your best athletes in the best spots to succeed.

I’ve got Earl Thomas as my quarterback.  I feel like he’s got the best hands on the defense, for starters, so you always want the guy with the best hands handling the ball as much as possible.  He’s also the fastest guy, so any keepers will put a tremendous strain on any defense trying to spy him.  And, for what it’s worth, he’s a natural leader.  I want that guy kneeling down in the huddle, talking the rest of the offense through the tough times, pumping them up and giving them the confidence to know they’re going to succeed on an important drive late in the game.  I’ve never seen the guy throw, but in this offense we’re not going to ask him to throw too often.  Just handle the ball and make good decisions on your reads.

My two running backs are going to be Kam Chancellor and Bruce Irvin.  I know you look at Kam and you think he’s too tall to be a running back, but think about it.  Think about how hard that man hits.  Think about him running up into a hole and either blocking for Irvin (if it comes to that) or taking the ball and running right over someone.  I want that kind of devastation in my running back.  As for Irvin, he’s got great quicks and change-of-direction-ability.  I want to see him with the ball in his hands, pulling his best spin moves to get away from defenders.

As for our fullback:  Bobby Wagner, without question.  He’s leading the way on any stretch play, or any play in the hole.  I want him bowling guys over, opening lanes for our faster runners to get through.  I know you think the fullback is a nothing position, but in this type of offense, the fullback is key.  He can also run some dive plays when we need a yard and absolutely no one else will do.

Richard Sherman is the obvious choice for wide receiver, since he’s actually PLAYED wide receiver in his career.  In this offense, you really only need one receiver.  We can send him down the sideline on a fly pattern and just have Earl Thomas chuck it up to him; we can also run Sherman on some fly sweeps (but absolutely no bubble screens!).

I’m making K.J. Wright our tight end, as I feel like he’d be a really stout blocker.  I’m not sure what kind of hands he’s got, but at 6’4, if we wanted to go with a quick pop pass or something, he’s got the height you want out of a tight end.

Honestly, our skill position players are pretty amazing in this hypothetical offensive unit, but I fear we’re going to run into a similar problem with our offensive line.

On the ends, we need quick guys with some height.  The obvious choice is Michael Bennett – at the all-important left tackle position – and Cliff Avril at right tackle.  At 6’4 & 6’3 respectively, I think these two are giving you everything you could ask for, even though they’d be a little on the light side at 274 lbs & 260 lbs respectively.

On the inside, at left guard, I’m putting Brandon Mebane.  He’s quick, he’s powerful, and he gives the left side of our line a dynamic 1-2 punch with Bennett.  At right guard, to make up for Avril’s svelteness, I’m putting 325-pound Ahtyba Rubin.  He might be a little less refined, but he’s a mauler and should make up for it with his nastiness (whereas, I’d say Mebane is the more technically gifted of the two).  At center, I’m leaning towards Jordan Hill.  At 6’1, he’s not too tall, at 303 lbs, he’s big but not TOO big, so he can still move and get to the second level.

I think that offensive unit could get some work done!  Maybe not, but could it really be any worse than what we saw on Sunday (and what we’ve seen for the majority of this season)?  I’d think about doing the reverse (seeing what the Seahawk offense would look like playing defense), but I’m just too irritated.  I imagine it’d be a good thing to have so many converted defensive tackles on the line, as they can just go back to their regular positions.  Russell Wilson would have to be your free safety.  Marshawn Lynch would probably have to be your middle linebacker.  I don’t know WHAT you’d do with Jimmy Graham, as I imagine a wide receiver who plays tight end and is afraid to get hit probably wouldn’t make a good anything on defense.  Maybe we can make him a long snapper on special teams or something.

We’re Still Playing Keno: A Loser’s Guide To Losing

Looks like we picked the absolute worst possible weekend to bet on the NFL.

Tahoe Bucket O' Shame

Tahoe Bucket O’ Shame

Every year, for the first weekend of March Madness, my friends and I go down to South Lake Tahoe, stay at the Montbleu Resort & Casino, make a bunch of ill-advised bets on the college basketball games, and then follow that up by playing slots, black jack, roulette, and whatever else catches our fancies, to try to recoup all that we lost when we made all of those ill-advised college basketball bets.  See, the thing is, as a collective, we really don’t watch enough college basketball throughout the season to be even remotely aware of where we should be putting our money; and I probably watch less college basketball than anyone!  Inevitably, when we’re ripping up our tickets, someone will always say, “Why don’t we come down here during football season?  We’d surely clean up THEN!”

Well, this year, we decided to make good on that threat.  This past weekend, we flew down on Friday night (where our flight was delayed an hour, as if that wasn’t our first foreboding clue), set up shop at the Montbleu, and readied ourselves for a weekend with a massive amount of sports betting.

Saturday early morning started off pretty promising.  I had Florida -7 against South Carolina for a small winner.  I had Kansas +46.5 for a big winner against TCU.  But, things took a dark turn in the afternoon.  I had SMU +20 against Navy (loss), Baylor -2.5 against Oklahoma parlayed with the over (loss), Washington State +11 against UCLA parlayed with the over (loss), and every God damn one of my multi-team parlays and teasers all went down in flames.  In an attempt to recoup some money and salvage the day, I decided to put a bunch of eggs in the New Mexico basket.  To start the day, Boise State was favored by 30 against New Mexico, so I put $20 on the Lobos to cover.  Believing that bet to be a sure thing after our Afternoon of Terror, I put a very large amount on the Lobos again, this time with the line moving to 30.5.  Not only did the Lobos cover, but they won outright, and I thought my weekend would be saved.  After winning a moderate amount on one of the UFC fighters (one of the undercard fighters in the Rousey debacle), my friends and I set out to test our luck at some of the other casinos.

The order of events might be wrong, but I know this was the night where three of us dumped $100 each into one of those $5 slot machines and ended up each of us winning about $300 in profit.  Then, we decided to play some of that Texas Hold ‘Em table game where you go up against the dealer.  We didn’t really know all the rules, but fortunately the four of us were the only ones at this particular table at Harrah’s, and Sandra was a more-than-willing tutor to three drunken jackasses.  Of course, she ended up giving way to Tom The Fuckstick, this humorless old cunt, who couldn’t have been less friendly or engaging with four guys just begging to give their money away.  Anyway, he ended up making a mistake (which I still don’t fully understand, because it seems like both dealers had been making that same “mistake” all night since we sat down), didn’t really explain it properly, which led to us calling for the pit boss to come over.  Long story short, there was a showdown over a grand total of $15 ($5 from three players) that they wanted to take away from us because of a mistake their dealer made.  Now, had we been dealing with Sandra, all probably would have been forgiven.  But, since we were dealing with Tom, a fucking asshole, we all stood up, kept our $15, and walked away to have our money cashed in.  Suffice it to say, their utter lack of customer service (combined with a ridiculous hard on over taking each of our five dollar chips) has left me with a lifelong passion to boycott Harrah’s from now on.  Pity too, because I’m a reckless and foolish gambler, and I don’t plan to stop going to Tahoe anytime soon.

Our night ended back at the Montbleu, recounting our horrific experience to the black jack dealer as each of us won a minimum of $100 over the next hour or so.  Saturday, it would seem, turned out quite all right.  We’d end up waking 5 hours later to an entirely new day.

My plan for the NFL portion of the weekend seemed to center around the “Go Big Or Go Home” credo.  I ended up making nine 8-team parlays against the spread, and they all fell apart in the morning.  Not to worry, though.  Each card only cost $10 (which would’ve won me many thousands of dollars had any of them won); these were long shots I put out there to test the waters, see if I could come home a big winner.  I put an obscene amount of money on the Dallas Cowboys beating the Tampa Bay Bucs, though, which had me moping around all morning and sent me into a tailspin once the game ended (the Bucs, on a last-minute touchdown, to go ahead 10-6; the Cowboys unable to do anything in that final minute).  For some reason, I had all the confidence in the world that this would be the Romo-less game the Cowboys would win.  I compounded that by betting on the Raiders (favored by 3) over the Vikings and the Patriots (favored by 7) over the Giants.  That sufficiently ruined my afternoon; the only bet I ended up winning was a prop bet (Eli Manning over 1.5 touchdowns) for a very moderate gain compared to all my huge losses of the day so far.

My one saving grace was the Arizona at Seattle game.  One of the reasons I chose this weekend, aside from it working out for everyone from a scheduling standpoint, was that the Seahawks were coming off of a BYE, playing on Sunday Night Football, against the Cardinals (who, while good, is a team we tend to beat more often than not).  The Seahawks were -3, and the sports book was paying out even money on the Seahawks to cover.  So, my thought process from the very beginning, when I proposed this weekend, was that even if we got knocked around during the day, we could always double down on the Seahawks and get all of our money back.

So, here’s what I did:

  • In two separate bets (one in the morning, one in the afternoon after I’d lost almost every other bet of the day), I put down $300 and $200 on the Seahawks to cover the -3 spread.  This would have won me my money back plus $500.
  • In a point spread prop bet, I put down $100 on the Seahawks covering a -10.5 point spread (meaning the Seahawks would have to win by 11 points or more).  This would have won me my money back plus $255
  • In another prop bet, I put down $200 on Larry Fitzgerald getting under 76.5 receiving yards.  This would have won me my money back plus $181.80

All told, if the Seahawks would’ve come through on each of those wagers, I would have walked away with $1,736.80.  And, if I could have managed to NOT go out and party until 4am that night with my friends after such a windfall, I would have walked away from Tahoe entirely with more money in my wallet than I flew down with.

Well, since the Seahawks opted to NOT have Richard Sherman follow their best receiver all over the field, Larry Fitzgerald was able to beat that prop bet by halftime.  And, since the Seahawks’ offense was a collosal shitshow from their first drive of the game, the point spread prop bet also had almost no chance of succeeding.  Luckily, the defense kept us in it by forcing turnovers that directly led to 14 points for the Seahawks, so covering the 3-point spread was still in play for a while there in the fourth quarter (with a very outside chance of the Seahawks covering 11 if everything happened to go our way).  But, ultimately, the Seahawks were too shitty, and I walked away from that game a broke and downtrodden man.  As I may have gotten a collective 9 hours of sleep the previous two nights, I ended up going to bed right after the Seahawks game, so I missed out on another 6 hours of gambling that my friends took part in.  But, it’s just as well.  You don’t want to be wandering around the floor of a casino after having a shit-ton of money ripped from your grasp.  Sad gambling is no good for anyone.

When all is said and done, I couldn’t have picked a worse NFL weekend.  Counting the Thursday and Monday night games, all told there were 10 of 14 games where the underdog won outright.  When you tack on the Pats only winning by a point, that’s 11 underdogs making life miserable, with only 3 favorites covering their spreads.  Why we chose to have faith in so many favorites is beyond me, but it all adds up to all four of me and my friends walking out of there with our pockets turned inside out.

Tahoe, you got us this time.  But, we’ll be back in March, to fight again, with honor.

And, who knows?  Maybe we’ll be hundred-thousandaires when we get there!  See, at the Harvey’s casino, they have a little Keno area.  Harvey’s is really old school, which might make it my favorite (even though it’s owned by the same company that owns Harrah’s).  Anyway, Keno is the most boring thing to bet on at any casino, which is fine if you need to get away from all the flashing lights of the slots, or all the breathtaking action of the sportsbook.  You just sit, drink your drink, smoke your cigars or cigarettes, and watch the little numbers light up on a bingo-esque screen.

We didn’t really have the will to play Keno when we got there on Friday night, but we saw they had penny-Keno.  1,000 games for $10.  Between three of us, we bought 5,000 games.  We each picked a random sampling of 16 numbers.  Every Keno game has 20 numbers selected.  If we hit all 16 of our numbers out of that 20-number sampling, we’ll win $250,000.  We thought, yeah, okay, we’ll buy 1,000 games, then we’ll come back on Sunday to see what we won (believing they played approximately 1,000 games in a day, so by Sunday we’ll SURELY have our answers).  Except, when we got there on Sunday, we found out that they only play about 200 games a day, and so it’ll be a few more days yet before our 1,000 games have concluded.  As such, technically – as of this post publishing – we will STILL be playing Keno.  And, when we go back in March (assuming we all managed to not lose our Keno tickets), we can have them scanned and see if we’re big winners.

So, there’s still a chance!  Look, every time I go to Tahoe, I make a futures bet in sports.  And, every time I’ve gone back to Tahoe, I’ve collected on at least one futures bet.  Well, this time, they didn’t have any futures bets I liked.  So, I’ve got this.  I’ve got Keno.  And, dammit, I’m going to have some money waiting for me when I get there!  Even if it’s only 40 fucking cents!

The 2015 Season Hinges On Sunday Night’s Game

Much like last year, the Seahawks have let things get out of hand, losing their 4th game ridiculously early, and as a result have put themselves in a real bind.  It ain’t 2010 anymore; to win the NFC West, you actually need a GOOD record.  That record might reside anywhere from 12-4 to 10-6, but the point is:  the time is now.

If the Seahawks are going to contend for the division title, they MUST beat the Arizona Cardinals this Sunday.  Period.  There’s no other way around it.  We’re not coming back from a 3-game deficit with 7 games to go short of a team plane crash on the way back home to Phoenix.

A win pulls us to within a game of the division lead, with an early tiebreaking advantage over the Cardinals.  It sets us up nicely, as they still have to face the Bengals, Packers, Vikings, and Eagles (as well as on the road in St. Louis, who they already lost to at home).  Plus, we face them down in Arizona in Week 17 for – potentially – the division title.  It also sets us up nicely because the only difficult non-divisional games we have left are Pittsburgh and Minnesota.

Beat Arizona this week, go on a nice little run, and landing in that 12-4 to 10-6 range feels like a done deal.

Lose, and it’s time to shift gears and focus on the Wild Card.  And, let’s face it, things don’t bode well for us if we do lose.  The game is at home, in primetime, in front of nearly 70,000 rabid, drunken fans, against a tough team, but a team we match up well against, and a team that’s not all that much better than us (if at all).

More than anything, losing this game has to put in question just how good this Seahawks team really is.  Will we be able to hold off a high-octane Steelers offense (when it’s looking increasingly likely that Ben Roethlisberger will be back from his foot injury)?  Will we be able to go on the road to tangle with a tough, young, hungry Vikings team?  Will we be able to fly across the country and beat a bad, yet veteran & well-coached Ravens team?  Will we even manage to clip the Rams at home, with their savage front seven on defense?

Hell, if we lose this weekend, you have to seriously consider whether the Seahawks are even a .500 football team!

For what it’s worth, I do think the Seahawks have another miracle run in them.  Harkening back to 2012 and 2014, this is a second-half team through and through.  The defense is starting to gel, and I have to believe the offense is going to figure its shit out.  And, if you’re looking to grasp for straws, the Seahawks are undefeated (in the Pete Carroll era) when we play a night game coming off of a BYE.  Those are the kinds of crunchy tidbits one can only appreciate if he’s going to be spending the weekend in Tahoe, doubling down on the Seahawks to try to win all his money back!

Surprise! Husky Basketball for 2015/2016 Starts Tomorrow!

Yeah, tell me about it, right?

It’s back for another year.  What did YOU do over your Summer Vacation Away From Husky Basketball?  I went camping with my family, spent a long weekend down in San Francisco, worked a lot, did some writing, had my car broken into … I bought an iPhone.

It’s been a rough last four seasons for Husky basketball.  Lots of talented-enough players have come and gone, but the collective has failed to make the NCAA Tournament each and every year.  That in spite of the fact that last year’s team had potential NBA hopeful Nigel Williams-Goss (since transferred to Gonzaga of all places); the two years before we had NBA first round draft pick C.J. Wilcox; and the year before THAT we had NBA first round draft picks C.J. Wilcox, Tony Wroten Jr., and Terrence Ross, along with NFL second round draft pick Austin Seferian-Jenkins.  Suffice it to say, a lot of talent has passed through these hallowed halls, but not much in the way of actual on-court success.

Which, right or wrong, has led a lot of Husky fans to lay blame at the feet of the coaching staff, which in itself presents a conundrum.  On the one hand, you’re saying Lorenzo Romar isn’t good enough to mold the talent he has into winners, but does any other coach the Huskies could legitimately hire actually manage to recruit the type of talent we’re getting?  And, obviously, when you look at lists of colleges who produce NBA talent, you’re seeing Washington among some pretty prestigious college programs.  So, if he’s turning these guys into viable professional players, can he really be that bad of a coach?

To counter that, you just have to argue that there’s more to coaching than just recruiting and prepping guys for the pros.  There’s in-game decision-making.  There’s installing an offensive system.  There’s game-planning for your opponent.  You could argue that Romar and Co. have been lacking in all of those areas in recent years.  The old knock on Romar was that he didn’t really even HAVE an offensive system.  So, with the talent he brought in the last few years, he tried installing the High Post offense; it failed spectacularly.  He must have done it with the specific players he had on the roster in mind, but either they weren’t as suited for it as he thought, or they didn’t have the ancillary players around their stud point guards to make it work.  Whatever the case, it doesn’t matter, because the dedication to the High Post is gone now, replaced by the old motion offense he had so much success with early in his Husky coaching career.  I, for one, am ecstatic about this change.  If there’s one thing that’s been impossible to watch the last four years, it’s been this Husky offense struggle to grasp their half-court sets.

Something else you’ll notice about this year’s team is how VASTLY different it looks.  Take a quick scan of the roster and the only name that’ll instantly pop out to you is Andrew Andrews, back for his fourth and final year.  His numbers have steadily improved over each year – a staple of a Lorenzo Romar Guy – but they were never all that impressive to being with, and they’re not all that impressive now.  Last year, he averaged 15 points, but it took him 11 shots to get there.  He’s a solid, if unspectacular 80% free throw shooter, and hits about 37.6% of his three-pointers.  On the plus side, they’re moving him back to point guard, mostly to lead the offense as he’s surrounded by youngsters (aside from him, there are only 2 Juniors, everyone else is a soph or frosh), but also because they appear to have better players on the team to play shooting guard.

Aside from Andrews, the only returning players I can see are 6’7 wing Donaven Dorsey (who didn’t show a ton as a Freshman last year), and 5’10 mascot/garbage minutes phenom Dan Kingma (who played some serious bench minutes the last three games of last season and showed a knack for his quick release on 3-point shots, and overall pumping up the crowd and the rest of the team with his tenacious play).  I seem to recall Kingma earned a scholarship this year, and I honestly hope we get to see more of him off the bench as an Instant Offense type of shooter.

One other familiar face shows up on the coaching staff, with Will Conroy coming on as an assistant.  Love the move.  Loved Conroy as a player.  He’s a diehard Husky, which never hurts.  He’s young enough and has played professionally recently enough (albeit, overseas, but still), that I’m sure he’s able to help these kids a lot, especially the guards.

As I don’t really follow the whole recruiting trail enough to be at all knowledgeable, I don’t have a lot to say about the new guys.  I do know that our recruiting class this year is one of the best in the nation.  We trimmed A LOT of fat off of one of our shittier rosters last year.  And, while the loss of NWG may sting a little bit (time will tell, I suppose), it sounds like we really won’t miss him all that much.  He was disenchanted with all the losing, and we have all these studs coming in who’d be gunning for his job and his minutes.  I’d rather start fresh, hand the keys to Andrews (who feels more like a true Husky, rather than the hired gun that was NWG), and watch this team go to work.

The Dawgs played an exhibition game last week against Seattle Pacific.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t televised, or even on the radio, but we have stats to look at!

Andrews and Dejounte Murray led the team in minutes as the starting backcourt.  Andrews shot 6/12 overall, 1/4 from three, and 8/9 from the free throw line, for 21 points and 5 assists.  Murray shot 6/10, 2/4 from three, with 4 assists, 5 boards, and 16 points.  Rounding out the starting five, we have forwards Marquese Chriss, Matisse Thybulle, and Noah Dickerson – all Freshman, and all played at least 19 minutes.  Dickerson was 7/10 from the field with 17 points and 6 boards; Chriss shot 5/9 for 11 points and 5 boards; and Thybulle only netted 3 points, but if his line is any indication, he’s going to be one of those glue guys who fills up the stat sheet in other ways (2 boards, 3 assists, 3 steals).  Our primary bench guys in this game look like guard David Crisp (20 mins, 4/8, 2/4 from behind the arc, 3 assists, 3 boards) and forward Malik Dime (21 mins, 4 pts).  For what it’s worth, Kingma played 1 minute and didn’t show up on the stat sheet.

The consensus about this team is that they’re young, they’re fast, they’re athletic, they can score, the defense might be a little shaky, but they’re going to give you everything they’ve got.  In other words, pretty much the opposite of what we’ve seen the last four years.  If nothing else, we should be entertained by the product we’re watching.  No one is picking the Huskies to do much of anything, which is probably accurate, but could be rife for fodder if this team comes together and goes on a nice little run.

We kick off the season in China tomorrow against the Texas Longhorns.  Then, we return home for a couple of tune-up games before going to the Battle 4 Atlantis, where we’re guaranteed to play Gonzaga, and it also features teams like Texas (again), Texas A&M, Syracuse, UConn, Michigan, and Charlotte (seriously, I wanted to go to this, but it would cost an arm and a leg, and it takes place over Thanksgiving, so it was tough finding people interested in going with me).  The rest of the non-conference schedule features a lot of smaller schools I really don’t know much about (Cal State Fullerton, Montana, Oakland, TCU, UC Santa Barbara, Seattle U), but at this point I don’t know if the non-conference schedule really matters a whole lot.  No one really expects anything out of the Huskies this year, so it’s going to take a lot to get on the national radar.

I feel like a broken record when I say I think this team has a chance to shock the world (or at least the conference), but really it’s now or never.  You have to like the way Romar has recruited of late, and his upcoming classes appear to be filled with just as much talent as the one we’ve got this year.  Now, it’s time to show it on the court.  I don’t want to see Romar get fired; I’ve got a real soft spot for the guy.  I really DON’T think he’s a bad coach; I do think he’s been saddled with some players that haven’t improved like they normally would under him.  And, obviously, he’s missed out on some highly-touted recruits in recent years that have hampered some of our plans (along with some seriously savage injuries to key players – Jernard Jarreau comes immediately to mind).  But, now, he’s getting those highly-touted guys, and he’s also been working hard on the JuCo circuit to bring in some transfers who are ready to play right away.

Will this be the right mix?  God, I hope so.