Husky Basketball Is Back (2014/2015), Everybody!

Sort of dropped the ball on this one, but after a year like last year, who could blame me?  At this point last year, the Dawgs had already been thrashed by a UC Irvine team that would go on to lose in the first round of the N.I.T.  Which is something, I suppose, since the Huskies weren’t even good enough to qualify for that!  At this time last year, we’d also lost our starting power forward, Jernard Jarreau, who had figured to be a big part of our new high post offense.  He missed all but a few minutes of our season last year, and proved to be the nail in the coffin.

It sucks when you know your season is over before it’s even begun.

It’s been an interesting few months since the last season ended.  C.J. Wilcox was a first round NBA draft pick from the Clippers.  Nigel Williams-Goss decided to stay in school for at least one more year.  The seat has never been hotter for Lorenzo Romar, but he has also nabbed his highest-rated recruiting class of all time.  These are exciting, frantic, nervous times for the University of Washington men’s basketball team.

From a personnel standpoint, I would argue that this year will be a step forward compared to last year.  I know how ridiculous that sounds, when you consider last year’s team had a first round draft pick on it, but by season’s end it very well may be true.  Shawn Kemp Jr. is a senior and is as good as he’s ever going to be for us.  That might not be saying a lot, but he’s another one of those unheralded guys who entered this program extremely raw and will be leaving it an actual basketball player.  The best part about having Kemp back is, while he should be a nice contributor, he isn’t necessarily the most important piece, nor is he the best big man on the team.

We’ve got OTHER bigs; I know, but it’s for real!  Jarreau is back and he’s packed on some muscle!  He’s all the way up to 240 pounds now, which means he doesn’t look nearly as gangly as when he first started here.  Then, there’s transfer Robert Upshaw, who is 7-feet of mobile center the likes of which I can’t remember having around here since Spencer Hawes.  Upshaw is going to be a blocking machine in the paint, and he’s actually got some decent hands unlike some of our more recent fives (I’m looking at you Aziz N’Diaye).  The best part:  Upshaw has two years of eligibility left!

These names, listed individually, might not make you the moistest you’ve ever been, but you have to understand how long it’s been since we’ve had three talented big men who can play real Pac-12 minutes.  Usually, we have one solid big man and a bunch of really tall white guys who ride the pine outside of garbage time at the end of blowouts.  Now, the Huskies have options!  We can go big if we need to go big!  If we’re facing a team like the aforementioned UC Irvine of last year – with a 7’6 monstrocity in the middle of the paint – we might not get out-rebounded and blocked to pieces.

On the flipside, we’ve got NWG back, as I mentioned earlier.  He’s another NBA talent who should be making leaps & bounds strides in his development from his freshman year to his sophomore year.  Andrew Andrews is back, playing right alongside him, in his third year of major college basketball play.  He tends to take after Abdul Gaddy in how he will drive you crazy sometimes, but unlike Gaddy, he actually brings some positives to the table as well.  I don’t know if Andrews will ever lock down that outside shot, but if he’s able to make even marginal improvements in that area, we could be looking at a real star on this team.

Then, we’ve got the role players.  Mike Anderson, Darin Johnson, and Ju-Co transfer Quevyn Winters.  How far the Huskies go in the 2014/2015 season will entirely depend on whether or not these role players step up and make an impact.  NWG and Andrews figure to be the primary scorers on the team.  The three big men figure to chip in anywhere from 20-30 points, depending.  But, we’re going to need someone unexpected to step up and fill the void when others’ shots aren’t falling.

Likewise, it’ll be interesting to see how this team shoots from behind the arc.  In our first game last Friday – a rout of South Carolina State – we shot 3 of 21 from 3-point land.  Obviously, that may cut it against the dregs of our non-conference schedule, but if we’re going to win consistently and get back to the NCAA Tournament, that percentage has to improve.  We’ve got everything else that we need – rebounding, defense, dribble penetration, short and mid-range shots – but we’re going to be a pretty predictable offense if we can’t hit from the outside.  At that point, teams will just need to zone up all game every game and let us brick ourselves to death.

In looking at our non-conference schedule, I see a couple of ranked teams on the horizon in San Diego State and Oklahoma.  Ideally, we’d win at least one of those games, and ideally that game would be SDSU at Hec Ed.  Of course, we can ill-afford to suffer a bunch of shitty losses to shitty teams, so it was comforting to see us not necessarily play our best basketball game, and yet still come away with a comfortable victory over South Carolina State.  If we can get out of our non-conference play with only one or two losses, we could be set up for a nice regular season run.

The Pac-12 isn’t as crappy as it has been the last few years.  Right now, Arizona is the #2 ranked team in the nation, with Utah pulling its weight at #25.  Colorado, UCLA, and Stanford are all well-regarded programs as well, who could get some looks by the Tournament Committee.  As usual (at least, as what I assume is usual), the Huskies play each of their Pac-12 North brethren twice.  We also catch Colorado/Utah twice as well, which should bode well for our strength of schedule (considering, the Pac-12 North – aside from the Bay Area schools – aren’t looking to be so great).  That means that we only play the Arizona schools and the SoCal schools once apiece.  We get the Arizona schools up here, and we go on the road to play UCLA and USC.  If that’s the way it has to be, I’m glad we catch the Wildcats in Seattle.  That would be a nice game to steal if everything falls into place.

As usual, during these non-conference times, you want to root for every single Pac-12 school to win as much as possible (well, maybe not Oregon, because fuck Oregon).  That way, when we get into the nitty gritty, the Pac-12 will be well-regarded enough to hopefully earn a good handful of spots in the Tourney.

Unless things completely go haywire, bank on Zona, UCLA, and Colorado to be locks.  If Utah can keep it up, they should advance too.  That’s going to put us in the same realm as the Bay Area schools and whoever else manages to pop up and shock the world (ASU maybe?  Oregon maybe?).  At that point, it will be on the strength of our major victories (and the weakness of our horrible losses) that determine whether or not we move on.  So, here’s to not being one-and-done in the Pac-12 Tourney!

I can’t help but like our chances this year.  I think the University of Washington basketball team is on another upswing where we hit the tourney every year for a few years.  It’s going to all depend on Romar’s ability as a coach.  He’s proven that he’s gotten his groove back as a recruiter, now he’s got to go out there and put some W’s on the table.  In that sense, I doubt he’s lost a step.

The talent is here, the coach is the right man for the job, the conference is as strong as it’s been in ages.  Everything is right out there for the taking.  In the end, I think the Huskies go on a nice little run to end the season and sneak into the Tourney as an 11-seed or something.

It’s been a while since I’ve been this upbeat on Husky basketball.  Don’t let me down!

The Huskies Never Cease To Drive Me Completely Crazy

Drinking, Twitter, and losing Husky football are a fucking diabolical mix.  This is why I generally try to take one of the three out of the equation whenever possible, but Saturday was the perfect storm.  See, I had to go to Tacoma because my dad has the Pac-12 Network.  I didn’t want to watch the game in some bar and pay those exorbitant bar prices, plus I hadn’t seen my family in quite some time, so I thought I’d kill a couple birds while I was in town.  I have my little net-book there for cruising around on the Internet while I’m in town, so of course I had my Twitter feed open all day.  And, the first Bud Light was cracked at a little after noon.  Bam.  The day was on.

Of course, just because I regret my Twitter Tirade doesn’t mean there weren’t some valid points on there.  I hate to say I called this after last week’s game (when there was still a lot of optimism around the program going into this game against ASU), but I fucking called this after last week’s game.  Once again, we’re looking at another 7-6 football team.  You might not want to hear that, but it’s the fucking truth.  You’re telling me that this team is going to go into UCLA – a team that is legitimately BETTER than ASU – and it’s going to find a way to win?  Please, you’re wasting everyone’s time!

I think I have some legitimate gripes with Keith Price.  Three weeks ago, he was untouchable.  Two weeks ago, after his performance down in Stanford, he was a god.  But, this is a What Have You Done For Us Lately world we live in, and he’s not living up to his end of the bargain.

The Abdul Gaddy comparisons aren’t 100% accurate.  I mean, it’s not like Keith Price was the 2nd-rated quarterback coming out of high school in the nation.  I don’t think the expectations were ever THAT high on this kid.  But, when I see him play, I can’t help but see Abdul Gaddy.  Tentative.  Talented, and yet lacking at the same time.  One step forward, two steps back.  Can’t hit the big shot in crunch time when the chips are down.  Keith Price was getting a lot of credit for our 4-0 start and for good reason; he was putting up some fabulous numbers.  But, how much of that could be related to the fact that he had the #1 running back in the nation and a very good defense backing him up?  Keith Price is nothing more than a Game Manager, yet we’re asking him to be a Top Dawg.  He doesn’t have it in him.

Also on Twitter, I spent a good chunk of time calling for Sark to put in Cyler Miles.  Not just in garbage time, because it clearly looks like Keith Price was injured.  I mean, put Cyler Miles in there for the rest of the season and see what he can do.  Of course, I know how ridiculous that request is.  If you don’t show loyalty to your senior quarterback, then how are you going to sell that to recruits?  You can’t go from contending for a conference championship to playing for next year just because you had a few losses.  What kind of message is that for the team?

Nevertheless, 2013 has officially gone down the shitter for the Washington Huskies.  You feel it’s unfair to lay all the blame at the feet of Keith Price?  That’s fine, I’m with you.  Our offensive line is straight garbage.  Our receivers are far from elite.  IS Kasen Williams a truly worthwhile recruit?  I seem to remember the last time we had a receiver of his caliber – Reggie Williams.  I seem to remember him making plays on a near-constant basis.  Why was it that he could do all that he did, while we can’t seem to EVER get the ball to Kasen Williams?  Does someone want to explain that to me?  I think it’s because he’s slow, he’s not very tall, and frankly, he’s not very good.  Do something to fucking WOW me if you want to change my mind; but I’m fed up defending a guy who has yet to make ANY big plays.  At some point, talent has to win out over what the defense is doing to stop this kid.

Also, ASJ?  Too slow to be an NFL tight end.  How about that?  He may get drafted high, he may sucker some team into taking him in the first round even, but he’s no game changer out there.  Linebackers cover him EASILY down the field.  No separation whatsoever.  Forget it, you’re on the shit list too.

I don’t have a lot to say about the defense, because the defense was left in terrible spots all day thanks to this inept offense.  This inept offense that’s supposed to be the cream of the crop.

The one thing I don’t want to give up on is Sark.  Even if he leads us to another 7-6 finish, I won’t throw him under the bus.  Let’s face it, he’s still taken us a long way from where we were.  He’s also doing the best he can with what he’s got.  Keith Price IS the best quarterback on this team.  That’s why he’s in there.  That’s why he’s been in there the last two & a half seasons.  I’d like to see what Sark can do with a more open competition at the position going into next year before I totally kill the guy.

However, I don’t know if we’ll have the chance.  Because you know as well as I that if this team finishes 7-6 again, heads are gonna roll.  The fans WILL NOT accept another 7-6 season.  Hell, it’s been a foregone conclusion to me for a little over a week now and I’ve practically moved on.  But, the rest of Husky Nation won’t be as forgiving.  The fans and maybe even the boosters will be fed up by then, and maybe Sark follows his heart down to Southern Cal, where there just so happens to be a Dream Job awaiting.

Will I be crushed?  Maybe, but not as bad as I would’ve been after the last couple of seasons.  Now, I’m just kind of numb to the whole experience.  For, you see, I live in the land of 7-6.  In this land, you succeed at the things that are easy (for the most part), you fail at everything that is the least bit difficult, and at the end of the day everything is exactly the same.  You’re no better or no worse in the land of 7-6.  You just are.  It’s nice.  We have Danishes, but they’re always a day old.

The 7-6 Huskies Are 7-6 What We 7-6 Thought They 7-6 Were (7-6)

It’s a better football team, just not a special football team.

Technically, if you look at the schedule, you’ll see that the Huskies beat a ranked opponent.  Don’t believe it!  Boise State is pretty bad and obviously no longer a ranked football team.  The Huskies might be ranked after today, but really, what’s the point?

There was a time where I thought, “Yeah, maybe!”  Maybe the Huskies beat Oregon.  Maybe Oregon beats Stanford.  Maybe Stanford loses another game somewhere down the line and via tie-breakers, the Huskies sneak into the Pac-12 Championship Game.  That time was this morning.  This afternoon, I’m a more realistic and humble man.

Will the Huskies go to the oft-ranked Arizona State Sun Devils next week and beat them?  Probably not.  And so, the annual mid-season swoon is on!  What was once a promising 4-0 start, what was once an encouraging close defeat down in Palo Alto, is now going to be a 4-3 reality.  Follow that up with a couple of easy wins at home against the dregs of the Pac-12 (Cal & Colorado) puts us at 6-3.  Then, of course, we have to go to UCLA (another loss).  The following game will be down in Oregon State, where we will be favored, but where we will lose, because the 7-6 Huskies ALWAYS lose a late-season game against a team it should beat!  That will make us 6-5 as we stroll into the Apple Cup and take care of business.

7-5 … with a bowl game … can we break the curse?

No.  We can’t.  Because we’ll go to the Sun Bowl, we’ll lose another heartbreaker, and we’ll be 7-6 once a-fucking-gain.

Maybe, if the team didn’t worry about reducing penalties and bettering their kickoff coverage, and focused on – I DON’T KNOW, MAYBE STOPPING THE OREGON OFFENSE – they’d be something better than 7-6.  Instead, here we are again.  We’re Bill Murray, and the Huskies are that fucking Sonny & Cher song.  We wake up every fucking morning to the same God damn horse shit every fucking day.

My question to you is:  is Keith Price the Abdul Gaddy of the Husky football team?  I’m not saying I’m blaming him for our woes, but then again, it’s not like he’s any kind of winner.  He’s not leading us to miracle finishes!  He’s not taking us on his back and carrying us over the finish line!  At best, he gets us close, and then shit gets fucked up, and we lose.

Just sayin’.  Show me something.  Don’t put up a Herculean effort only to shit the bed at the end.  Don’t get our hopes up against Stanford and then hold the ball all fucking day against Oregon.  If you’ve got ASJ or Kasen Williams in single coverage, just throw the damn ball up in the air and let your studs make a play!

Fuck it, I’m done.  I can’t wait until we’re 7-6 again!  Hot damn, won’t that be the party to end all parties!

The Last Five Years In Seattle Sports

2008 was the lowest point in Seattle sports.  It was our Absolute Zero.  Rock Bottom.  The total nadir of sports humanity!

It was the primary inspiration for the title of this website.  Take an already-crappy sports city, with practically no history of real success whatsoever, then rain down a million boulders while giving fans only a tiny umbrella to protect themselves.

We did NOT deserve this …

Well, we just finished the 2012 sports year with the 2012/2013 Husky basketball season coming to its conclusion.  As such, I have taken it upon myself to take a look back.  Five years ago, it was 2008; we were just getting started with the worst year ever.  How have things changed with our primary Seattle sports teams?

Seattle Mariners

The Mariners came off of a surprising 2007 campaign that saw them appearing to turn a corner.  Beltre, Ibanez, and Ichiro led the offense.  We hoped that a possible resurrection of Richie Sexson would bring about a further boost.  Two young guns up the middle – Lopez & Betancourt – were proof positive that what we were doing in our farm system wasn’t a complete joke.  Felix was coming into his own.  Losing Weaver & Horacio Ramirez was addition by subtraction.  You figured, with another quality starter, and another bat or two, and we’d be in business!

Well, we know what happened with 2008.  The Erik Bedard trade was a total and complete disaster (though, it went a long way towards the Orioles making their surprising playoff run in 2012).  The Mariners opted to let Jose Guillen walk and replaced him with the corpse of Brad Wilkerson.  Richie Sexson became a local pariah.  And, oh yeah, the other big pitching piece – Carlos Silva – was signed to the single-worst contract in recorded history.  You tack on little things – like J.J. Putz going from the greatest reliever in baseball in 2007, to an injured pile of crap in 2008 – and it all boils down to this team losing 101 games.  The first team with a payroll over $100 million to lose over 100 games.  Everyone was fired; it was brutal.

Enter Jackie Z, who could seemingly do no wrong at first.  He replaced Sexson with Russell Branyan – big upgrade.  He traded Putz for Franklin Gutierrez, who had an amazing season both in the field and at the plate.  We also ended up with Jason Vargas in that Putz deal, who came in and earned his way into the starting rotation.  He brought in Ken Griffey Jr., who wasn’t a total disaster as a DH.  In short, there was an immediate turnaround thanks to God knows what.  Good vibrations?  Luck?  I dunno.  But, this team improved 24 games over 2008 and contended well into the summer.  Everyone thought we’d struck gold!

Then, like some kind of sick fucking plague, every move Jackie Z made to help bolster the 2010 team turned to shit.  Chone Figgins was signed to a 4-year deal and immediately was the worst player in baseball.  Branyan was allowed to walk in favor of Casey Kotchman; Kotchman was terrible and Branyan was brought back in a panic-deal mid-season, because we had the most punch-less lineup in all of baseball history.  Silva was traded for Milton Bradley – which was a move of pure GENIUS until it turned out trading one cancer for another still leaves you on your deathbed.  Griffey was brought back, because HEY!, he hit 19 home runs the year before and it’s not like players suddenly lose all of their ability to swing a bat all at once or anything.

Mind you, just about everything Jackie Z did in anticipation of the 2010 season was believed to be the right thing.  Except for Griffey, but really, if we didn’t make the playoffs that season, it wasn’t going to be exclusively the fault of our elderly DH.  And, to a lesser extent, the Brandon League for Brandon Morrow trade was a bit questionable.  I mean, who trades a bona fide Major League starting prospect for an 8th inning reliever type? Nevertheless, this was a bold move looking to shore up our bullpen.

The cherry on top was the Cliff Lee trade.  We gave a bunch of Bavasi draft rejects to the Phillies for Cliff Lee in his final season.  At best, he’d be the starting pitcher to put us over the top.  At worst, we’d be a losing team and trade him at the deadline to the highest bidder for the best crop of prospects.

Like everything else that happened in 2010, even THIS ended up backfiring.  Cliff Lee came with a built-in contingency plan!  And he was traded for Justin Smoak – a disappointment to date – Blake Beavan – a less-than-adequate starting pitcher – and what has turned into a season’s worth of Michael Morse, a season’s worth of John Jaso, and a season’s worth of Josh Lueke.  There’s still time to turn around our fortunes, but unless Smoak figures out a miracle cure to his sucking ways, this has bust written all over it.

So, what happens when every single offseason (and in-season) move you make backfires?  You lose another 101 games, your franchise icon retires mid-season, your manager gets fired, and your GM is lucky to still have a job.

2010 was a wake-up call, both for fans and for the organization.  The last two times the Mariners had winning records – 2007 and 2009 – they immediately went out the very next offseason and tried to Win Now.  All the moves they made in hopes to Win Now were total disasters, so they had to come up with a new plan.  Either you keep riding this rollercoaster, firing your manager and/or GM every two seasons, or you start over from scratch.

Even though Jackie Z managed to bungle every Major League move known to man, he had still built up the minor leagues a fair amount.  With another high draft pick in his pocket, he put his head down and went to work.

The 2011 season was essentially given over to the kids.  Our major offseason moves included bringing in Miguel Olivo, Jack Cust, Adam Kennedy, Brendan Ryan, and handing over the starting rotation to guys like Michael Pineda, Doug Fister, and Blake Beavan.  In addition, Ackley, Seager, and Carp all got their feet wet; Peguero was given an inordinate amount of playing time for what he was actually bringing to the table.  Others, like Wells, Trayvon Robinson, Saunders, and Halman all got varying amounts of playing time.  2011 was Try-Out central in Seattle.  Throw a bunch of spaghetti noodles into a pot of boiling water, take them out and see which ones would stick to the wall.

2012 took it a step further.  The big free agent pick-ups consisted of Millwood, Iwakuma, and a backup shortstop in Kawasaki.  We traded away Pineda – our best pitching prospect – to bring in Jesus Montero, because we absolutely could not live with the same old offense we’d had the past two seasons.

What did 2011 and 2012 accomplish?  Moderate gains in the win/loss column (+6 wins in 2011, +8 wins in 2012), moderate gains in our offensive production, and a whole lot of salary coming off the books.  The Silva/Bradley money, the Ichiro money, the Olivo money, another season’s worth of the Figgins money.

Now, it’s 2013.  The Mariners brought in some big bats via trade – Morse & Morales for Jaso & Vargas respectively – and some veteran bats via free agency – Ibanez and Bay.  They re-signed Iwakuma (when they realized he’s actually a quality starter), brought in Joe Saunders (who will probably be terrible), and have given the back-end of the rotation over to youth (Maurer and Beavan).  The crown jewel of the 2012/2013 offseason was re-signing Felix through 2019.  That’s huge.  The Mariners may never make the post-season while he’s with us, but God damn it, if they do WATCH OUT.

There is reason for optimism five years after bottoming out in 2008, but we’re still in a Show Me stage.  I’ll believe it when I see it, and all that.  2013 is critical, because if they don’t show some significant improvement, I think a lot of people will be out on their asses again and we’ll be looking at ANOTHER rebuild.

Husky Football

The Huskies ended their 2007 season with a 4-9 record.  Their 2007 schedule was deemed by many to be the toughest schedule in the nation.  Tyrone Willingham was coming off of his third consecutive losing season (going 2-9 in 2005 and 5-7 in 2006), and many believed he should have been fired then and there.  I was one of those simple-minded folks who said we should give him ONE more chance.  Jake Locker had a full season under his belt, why not give Willingham an opportunity to turn things around with the guy he brought in as his quarterback?

Well, we kicked off 2008 by being trounced in Oregon (who would go on to finish 10-3).  Then, we lost by a single point at home to BYU (thanks to the infamous penalty flag thrown on Locker as he ran in for the would-be game-tying touchdown and tossed the ball over his shoulder … thank you Pac-10 referees for being so damn competent) on a missed extra point at the end of the game.  Then, we lost at home to Oklahoma (who would go on to lose to Florida in the BCS National Championship Game).

THEN, we lost our quarterback, our best player, and really our only GOOD player, in the Stanford game.  After that, with the likes of Ronnie Fouch at the helm, we proceeded to lose all the rest of our games (including a pathetic heartbreaker of an Apple Cup, 16-13 in overtime).

0-12.  Doesn’t get any worse than that.  Can only go up from there, right?

Willingham:  gone.  Sarkisian:  in.

The 2009 Huskies improved by 5 games.  There was a signature win at home over the then-#3 USC Trojans, 16-13 on a last-minute field goal.  There was a signature near-win the first game of the season at home against LSU.  Jake Locker took huge strides in his development as a passer.  Everything looked great for the future.

The 2010 Huskies weren’t all that much more improved than the 2009 team, but they managed to win six regular season games (winning out after starting 3-6, thanks to a soft schedule to finish things) and earned a bowl game against Nebraska.  Of course, they got killed by Nebraska, IN Husky Stadium, earlier that season.  But, in the rematch, this Husky team was totally reborn and they took it to the Cornhuskers, stifling them 19-7.

That led to somewhat higher expectations for 2011, but how high could we possibly make them?  Let’s face it, we’d lost our best player and were breaking in a new quarterback.  Our defense was still on the fritz, and we were still in a very tough conference with Oregon, Stanford, and USC.  Not to mention we had to go to Nebraska, where we most certainly got our shit kicked in.

2011 was a disappointment because there was no Signature Win.  In 2009 and 2010, we had victories over USC and Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl.  In 2011, we barely squeaked by Eastern Washington in the first game.  We were absolutely terrorized by the aforementioned heavy hitters (losing the games to USC, Oregon, Stanford, and Nebraska by a combined 190-93).  In spite of losing ALL the games were were technically “supposed” to lose, we were still in line for a 1-game improvement over 2010.  That officially died when A. we went into Oregon State and lost (they ended the season with 3 wins) and B. we faced RGIII and the Baylor Bears and gave up 67 points on 777 yards of offense in losing by 11.

Back-to-back 7-6 seasons left a bitter taste in our mouths.  After storming the field against the Cornhuskers, we bent over and grabbed our ankles against the Bears.  2012 would SURELY be different, though.  We had a full season with Keith Price, he had surpassed our wildest expectations by throwing for over 3,000 yards with 33 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions.  How could 2012 NOT be a huge improvement?  On top of all that, we didn’t wait that extra season to see if Nick Holt could turn things around on defense.  We went out, brought in some heavy hitters at recruiting and defensive coaching, and nabbed some top prospects in the process.

Well, there was improvement.  The 2012 Huskies DID manage some signature wins against the likes of Stanford and Oregon State (both in the top 10 at the time we beat them), but they also fell completely flat against the likes of #3 LSU, #2 Oregon, and #11 USC.  In spite of yet another 3-game losing streak in the middle of the season, these Huskies were looking at possibly winning 8 or 9 games when all was said and done!

They were 7-4 (riding a 4-game winning streak) going into the Apple Cup in Pullman.  They had an 18-point lead going into the final quarter … so of COURSE they ended up blowing the game in overtime.  This ultimately led to the Huskies facing Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl and ending up – once again – 7-6.

In short, the Huskies went from 0-12 in 2008, to 5-7 in 2009, to 7-6 in 2010, 2011, and 2012.  No 7-6 record is created equal, obviously, but at the end of the day people don’t remember how you got there.  They just see where you were and shake their heads.

Keith Price showed all the promise in the world in 2011.  But, he lost all his major weapons (Kearse and Aguilar at receiver, Chris Polk at running back) and couldn’t recover in 2012.  In the Baylor bowl game, Price accounted for 7 touchdowns on offense and looked like the best quarterback on the field – even better than the Heisman Trophy winner and ultimate #2 overall draft pick.  However, in the Apple Cup and again in the Boise State bowl game, Price ended both with interceptions.  He was going into the 2013 season fighting for his job, but from all accounts he’s got it locked up after Spring Ball.  Nevertheless, I have to imagine he’s on a short leash.  We can’t suffer the kind of downgrade in production again.

At this point in Sark’s tenure, he’s got all his own guys now.  2013 is the year we’re expected to win and win consistently.  The non-conference schedule is relatively easy, and the conference schedule isn’t too bad either.  We’ve got veterans in all the right places, we’ve got some serious talent on defense for the first time since he got here, and Price has had a chance to gel with his offensive weapons.  2013 isn’t a Rose Bowl or Bust, but it’s close.  The Huskies have to at least be in the conversation.

I’m not gonna lie to you, beating the Ducks for the first time in eons would go a long way towards cementing Sark’s status as a legend ’round these parts.

Husky Basketball

The 2007/2008 Huskies were a definite low-point in the Romar era.  They finished the regular season 16-16, losing in the first round of the Pac-10 tournament, and received the #1 seed in the College Basketball Invitational.  You know, that post-season tournament for the teams not even good enough for the N.I.T.

We lost.  To Valparaiso.

In 2008/2009, we brought in Isaiah Thomas and he was a firecracker right from the start.  We enjoyed Brockman’s senior season, and we rode that wave to a 4-seed in the NCAA Tournament and a Round of 32 loss to 5-seed Purdue by two points.  More or less, it was a successful season, but once again it ended prematurely.

In 2009/2010, we had another senior leader taking to the forefront.  This time, it was Q-Pon, who averaged 19 and 7 per game in leading us to a Pac-10 Tournament victory, an 11-seed in the tournament, and upset wins over #6 Marquette (where he hit the clutch game winner) and #3 New Mexico.

Once again, though, the Romar-era Huskies couldn’t get past the Sweet 16.  This time, we lost to West Virginia, thanks to them totally having the length advantage on us.

In 2010/2011, we had our version of a Big 3 with Thomas, MBA, and Holiday.  The last two were seniors and Thomas was playing in what would be his final season.  We rode this squad to another Pac-10 Tournament victory (you all remember COLD BLOODED don’t you?).  This resulted in a 7-seed – our third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance – and a victory over 10-seed Georgia before losing in the Round of 32 to 2-seeded North Carolina (by only 3 points, but still).

The 2011/2012 season saw the emergence of Tony Wroten and Terrence Ross.  Both were young, extremely talented, and irritatingly inconsistent.  Ross would disappear for minutes at a time.  Wroten had no jump shot whatsoever, so he had to fight for every single basket in the paint.  This team ended up winning the Pac-12 outright, but since the Pac-12 sucked dick that season, and since the Huskies lost in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament, AND since they had no quality wins over ranked non-conference opponents, the Huskies were denied a fourth consecutive NCAA invite.  Instead, they locked down the #1-overall N.I.T. seeding and ran with it to the Final Four in New York City.  It ended with a loss to Minnesota, who would end up losing to eventual-champion Stanford the very next game.

The less said about the 2012/2013 season, the better.  Wroten and Ross both bolted for the NBA, and absolutely no one came in to replace them.  That’s what happens when you’re a good-not-great recruiter in a good-not-great university for basketball:  sometimes you DON’T bring in a player of quality and you suffer as a result.

Gaddy, Wilcox, Suggs, and N’Diaye were left to pick up the pieces.  This team was pretty solid on defense, but ultimately inept on offense, and now at least three of those guys are gone (with Wilcox having a difficult decision to make regarding his final year of eligibility).  The 2012/2013 Huskies didn’t beat a single ranked team, only beat three teams who ended up going to the NCAAs (Saint Louis, California, and Colorado), and wound up being a 6-seed in the N.I.T., where the subsequently got their shit kicked in at BYU.

What’s in store for 2013/2014?  Well, a solid incoming class with one McDonalds All American at point guard in Nigel Williams-Goss.  If Wilcox comes back, that gives us a veteran scoring presence (for the record, he’s a fool if he leaves; his past season was absolutely dreadful and injury-plagued).  If we can get anything from our young forwards, you could look at a team that surprises a lot of people.  Or, you could be looking at a third-straight N.I.T. bid.  If it’s the latter, I’m not so sure I’d be confident about my job security if I was Romar.

Seattle Supersonics

I won’t go into excruciating detail on this end.  We all know what the last five years have been like for the Sonics.  They went 20-62 in their final season in Seattle (after drafting Kevin Durant and bringing in one of the finest GMs in the game from the San Antonio organization).  They were given away by the city of Seattle, they struggled again the following season, and then they went to the playoffs four straight seasons (losing most recently in the Finals to the beloved Miami Heat).

Now, we’ve got an ownership group and an arena deal in place, and we’re fighting like crazy to steal the Kings from Sacramento.  If all goes according to plan, we will have pro basketball back in Seattle for the 2013/2014 season.  If it doesn’t, then this part of next year’s “Five Years” post is going to be REAL fucking depressing.

Seattle Seahawks

I’m saving the best for last because I can.  Because, honestly, it’s all a little too much and I can hardly believe it myself.  There is cautious optimism for the Mariners and their young core to turn things around.  There’s more confident optimism that the Husky football team will turn some heads this fall.  There’s hope that the Husky basketball team can somehow gel with their new incoming players and make an improbable Tourney run.  There’s delusions that the NBA will be back in Seattle this time next year.

But, that’s nothing.  There is outright SWAGGER for the Seattle Seahawks.  How did we get HERE?

In 2008, we went 4-12.  We had dicked around with Mike Holmgren, we signed on his replacement – Jim Mora Jr. – to be his defensive backs coach, and all the major veterans took a huge dump.  This was coming off of a 2007 season where the Seahawks once again won the division.  But, Shaun Alexander was released at the end, losing out to another injury.  So, Tim Ruskell opted to reload via free agency.  Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett were brought in to liven up the running game, but no dice.  Hasselbeck missed a bunch of games, Walter Jones tried surgery but wasn’t the same and was forced to retire at season’s end … it was just a mess.

In 2009, there was something of a fresh start expected with Mora.  T.J. Houshmandzadeh was brought in on a huge free agent deal, Aaron Curry was signed as our can’t-lose first round draft pick … in short, we were one of the oldest and least-talented teams in the NFL.  When all was said and done, these Seahawks improved by only 1 game and both Mora and Ruskell were fired.

2010 was the REAL fresh start.  Pete Carroll and John Schneider tag-teamed this roster from head to toe.  They traded for Marshawn Lynch, Leon Washington, and Charlie Whitehurst (hey, they can’t all be winners).  They got rid of Housh (taking a healthy bath in the cap hit) and later Deion Branch.  They brought in a rejuvinated Mike Williams who led the team in receiving.  They drafted Russell Okung, Earl Thomas, Golden Tate, Walter Thurmond, and Kam Chancellor.  They made hundreds upon hundreds of free agent moves, giving tryouts to anyone and everyone who they thought might be an upgrade.  They got significantly younger, and thanks to a piss-poor division, ended up making the playoffs with a 7-9 record.

Understand, this wasn’t a legitimate playoff team.  Yes, after two years in the wilderness, they found their way back to civilization, but it was totally phony!  The fact that we beat the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints at Qwest Field is a travesty of common decency (though, it did provide us with the greatest NFL play ever, Beastmode’s Touchdown Scamper).  Our “Cinderella” run ended the following week in Chicago, and you had to wonder how long it would be before the Seahawks made the playoffs again.

The 2011 Seahawks were hamstrung by the NFL Lockout.  They fired their offensive coordinator and hired Darrell Bevell from Minnesota.  Which meant, if they stood any chance of competing in ANY games that season, they’d have to bring some people in who knew Bevell’s system.  This meant Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback.  They let Hasselbeck go with a cordial goodbye and handed the keys to the team over to Tarvar (without so much as a second look at Whitehurst, who was as bad as we all remember him being and then some).

Tarvar proved tough, but ultimately inept when the game was on the line.  Those 2011 Seahawks also finished the regular season 7-9 and weren’t given the benefit of a lousy NFC West to “earn” a home playoff game.

With a full offseason going into 2012, the Seahawks needed to make a change.  They’d drafted well, bringing in guys like Richard Sherman and K.J. Wright.  But, they needed a signal-caller with some zazz!  So, they signed Matt Flynn to a three-year deal, and they went out and drafted Russell Wilson in the third round.

People say if Wilson was just 2-3 inches taller, he would’ve been a Top 10 pick.  But, he’s not, so now he’s ours.

Wilson earned his opportunity to have an Open Competition in Training Camp.  This led to him wowing us in the Pre-Season, which ultimately led to him winning the job and running with it.  The 2012 Seahawks took it easy with him for the first few weeks, but once they knew he could handle himself, they opened things up.  This resulted in the Seahawks being the best team in football over the second half of the season.  Still, their early-season slip-ups meant that the 49ers won the division, relegating us to the fifth seed in the NFC.

We went into Washington and somehow came away with a victory.  Then, we went into Atlanta, gave them a 20-point lead, and somehow led in the game with 30 seconds to go.  That was choked away, but the message was sent.  It wasn’t, “Wait Until Next Year,” the way most fanbases say it, more resigned to their current fate as losers, sorely, bitterly hoping that things will turn around for them in short order.

No, this is, “Just you WAIT until next year, chickenfuckers!”  Because the 2013 Seahawks are a runaway train that has Super Bowl or Bust written all over them!

In five years, the Seahawks have gone from one of the oldest and worst teams in the NFL to one of the youngest and best teams.  In five years, the Seahawks have gone from bottom-feeders to would-be kings.  We fans are cashing in our 401Ks in anticipation of buying Super Bowl tickets in 2014.  It’s never been so clear and so positive in the city of Seattle.  They can single-handedly reverse the fortunes of this desolate sports city.  All they need to do is win.

What’s more, they’re spreading around the positivity.  People are stoked on the Mariners WAY more than they should be thanks to the good will generated by the Seahawks.  Sports fans have something to look forward to and spirits are bright.  This is carrying over to the other sports in hopes that the good vibes will roll on.

We’ll see.  If the Seahawks win it all, the Mariners contend for a playoff spot, the Huskies make a run at the Rose Bowl, the basketball Huskies make a run at the NCAA Tournament, and the Sonics return to Seattle, we could be talking about the greatest 5-year turnaround any sports city has ever seen.  Fingers crossed.

Huskies End Regular Season On A Bummer

Since I dragged my ass to Hec-Ed to watch this silly game, I’m going to write about it!

And since it was Senior Day, I’m going to try my damnedest to not rag too hard about the Seniors on this team.  But, holy mother of god are these some of the most underwhelming Seniors I’ve ever seen leave this school.

At this point, I’m beyond the point of really giving too much of a shit.  The season is over, and pretty soon I won’t have to worry about this team ever again.  But, all the flaws of this team were on FULL display Saturday morning.

You know what kind of gets downplayed a lot when people talk about Abdul Gaddy?  Everyone likes to talk about how many turnovers he produces, about how he’s not a very good shooter, and as one of the most highly-touted players coming out of high school, what a disappointment he’s become.  On the flipside, his supporters will point to the fact that he’s one of the top guys in Husky basketball history with assists.  And they will also lament a serious lack of a quality big man, which has surely hampered his numbers in both assists AND turnovers.

But, until you watch this team live, and until you see them play a team like UCLA – who is constantly pushing the ball up the court for fastbreak points – you don’t get the full picture about how SLOW Abdul Gaddy truly is.  When you look at the Bruins, who like to run all the time, you’re looking at a team that isn’t always in a great defensive position.  So, when they surge for a fastbreak bucket, more often than not, you – as the opponent – should be able to push the ball right back down the court for your own fastbreak opportunity!  And yet, EVERY SINGLE TIME, Abdul Gaddy would slow the ball up at half court and wait until every Bruin was in proper defensive position.

Is he not good enough to push the ball?  Is he TOO worried about making a mistake?  Is he favoring that knee he busted up a couple years ago?  For a guy who doesn’t seem too concerned with making boneheaded passes on the reg, he seems WAY too concerned with not getting too carried away driving towards the basket.

But, of course, he isn’t the reason why we lost this game on Saturday.

Now, I genuinely like Aziz N’Diaye.  His defense in the paint is second to none.  He had a couple of blocks on Saturday that were out of this world!  He seemed to jump out of the gym to swat those balls, which makes you wonder why he settles for so many crappy lay-ins off the backboard when he could just as easily dunk the ball.

I’ve seen him do it!  I know he’s capable of dunking!  He’s seven God damned feet tall!  With his wingspan, he can practically dunk the ball while standing flat-footed!  Reasonably, he would need to jump the height of 2-3 stacked phonebooks, depending on the size of the city.

But, whatever.  Offense isn’t his game.  Since he does everything else well on the defensive end, I’ll give him a pass.  Truth be told, I liked him in there early, as I thought he really gave UCLA star Travis Wear fits down low.  Wear can’t do ANYTHING in the paint with Aziz between him and the basket.  So, with Aziz in the game, that pushed one of UCLA’s premier big men to the 3-point line.  Advantage:  Washington.  And, you could see its effectiveness when Aziz left the game, as Wear took advantage of smaller guys like Jarreau and Simmons.  But, as the game went on, and it looked more and more like the Huskies were going to have to actually SCORE to win this game (and not just sit there preventing baskets like they did in the first half), Aziz was a liability they could ill-afford to keep on the court.

But, of course, he isn’t the reason why we lost this game on Saturday.

Scott Suggs has been an entirely different kind of disappointment altogether.  He was lost for the season last year and we all thought that was probably for the best.  Had the team needed him, or if he had already used a red-shirt year, Suggs could have played for half a season (or thereabouts).  But, with a healthy portion of the shooting coming from Wroten, Ross, and Wilcox, last year’s team didn’t exactly need a fourth wing player.  Minutes and shots were already at a premium as it was.  AND, you figured with Wroten and Ross both likely to leave after the season (which they did), we would need SOMEONE to pick up some of the slack.

I had hoped Suggs would be that guy.  I had high hopes of him stepping up and taking over games.  Instead, he’s pretty much been what he’s been every year of his college career:  a complementary player.  A guy who doesn’t shoot more than he has to, who rarely takes the ball inside, who can’t really finish at the rim, and who can’t draw fouls and get to the free throw line.

On Saturday, Suggs was a man possessed.  Romar gave him the important task of guarding the best Freshman in the Pac-12 – Shabazz Muhammad – and I thought for the most part, Suggs did a brilliant job.  Yes, Muhammad got his points, and he scored a decent percentage of his shots, but when Suggs was on the floor, he was constantly in his face, physically bodying up on the bulkier Muhammad every chance he got.  When Suggs scored that basket and nearly got T’d up for talking trash, I thought that was just the momentum-swinger he needed.  Unfortunately, Romar opted to take him out of the game immediately to try to prevent that technical foul.

Which, in the end, goes a long way towards explaining why the Huskies lost this particular game:  timing.  Just as the Huskies were on the ass-end of some poor officiating (what else is new from the Pac-12?), the Huskies were also cooled off by timing and circumstance.  Like Romar taking Suggs out just as he was heating up.  Like in the middle of the 2nd half, when the Huskies ripped off a momentum-swinging run and had all the fans on their feet and yelling like crazy, UCLA REALLY took advantage of their timeouts.  They tried to slow things down to a crawl, but the Huskies were still able to take a 2-point lead when all was said and done.  Unfortunately, right after the Bruins played their timeout game, we were stuck with a TV-timeout about 30 seconds later.  That 2-point lead with 8 minutes to go in the game wasn’t nearly the advantage we needed from such a huge momentum swing, and in the end the Bruins were able to walk us down and beat us handily.

Which makes it all the more frustrating that Suggs only ended up taking 10 shots (hitting 6 of them).  It’s one thing to not force things, and to let the flow of the game come to you.  But, when you see a guy in Wilcox, who was OBVIOUSLY having an off-day shooting, there’s got to be a switch you can flip where you take over the game offensively.  Suggs doesn’t have that switch.  Or, if he does, he constantly leaves it in the OFF position.  Either way, he did more than enough to keep us in the game, but not nearly enough to win it for us.

One final comment before I’ll close:  Where’s The Hustle?

Desmond Simmons is the ONLY guy who hustles on this team.  A couple other guys are try-hard types, like Suggs and Aziz and Andrews, but no one truly hustles like Simmons.  From Simmons, you get the feeling that every possession is life-or-death.  That’s the type of play that really endears someone to Husky fans more than anything else.  It’s why guys like Darnell Gant, Justin Holiday, Jon Brockman, and Bobby Jones were such fan favorites.  Anyway, here’s to hoping we see more hustle out of our 2013/2014 Huskies.  It will be a refreshing change of pace.

Also, my prediction:  the Huskies lose to the Cougars, then they lose in the first round of the CBI, then I puke my guts out.

The Husky Basketball Team Is Done

There’s nothing sadder than a mediocre team who thinks they still have a chance for the post-season.

Let’s face it, unless you were the pie-eyedest of all homers, you knew pretty early on this season (like, for instance, game 2 at home against Albany; a 63-62 defeat) that for the Huskies to make the NCAA Tournament, they would have to win the Pac-12 Tournament.  Nothing has changed.  At least earlier this season, there was hope of a turnaround.  You know, the kind of turnaround that would cause a team to catch fire and possibly overcome all those regular season defeats to jump up and manage to WIN that conference tournament.

Now:  not so much.

It’s hopeless, okay?  It’s hopeless.  The best thing this coaching staff can do:  look towards next year.

That doesn’t mean tank.  I want to make that perfectly clear.  There would be no logical reason to tank a college basketball season anyway, so let’s not go nuts.  What I’m getting at is a simple tweak.  For instance:  let’s beef up the rotation.  Right now, we’re on a thinner-than-thin 7-man rotation.  I don’t think it would hurt one God damned bit to see guys like Jarreau or Breunig getting 8-12 minutes a game.  Do we REALLY need Aziz playing 30+ minutes?  I know he’s our best defender, but he’s gone after this season!  Would it kill this staff to spread some minutes around to other guys, to see if they have a chance in Hell of contributing EVER in their college careers?

Also, I would seriously consider giving the starting job to Andrews over Gaddy.  At this point, what are you clinging to?  Husky fans actively hate the player Gaddy has become.  He may be a wonderful person off the court, but he’s a walking liability and every Husky fan is counting down the days until he’s out of our lives forever.  Sorry, but that’s the way it is (and I’m not really sorry).

The fact of the matter is, there’s not really a lot you CAN do with this team.  But, one thing you could do, in theory, is return the offense to the Motion offense.  The big storyline this year has been the switch to the UCLA High-Post offense.  We hired a new assistant coach who specialized in the thing, and it was supposed to help this offense succeed with the personnel they have on the team.  But, obviously, since we’ve only been averaging 68 points per game (good for a lowly 152nd in college basketball), I would say that’s been a total and complete flop.

I’m not saying that said offense is hopeless, but maybe just let it go for the rest of THIS season.  There’s a poignant moment in an episode of The Simpsons.  Bart’s dog has been acting out and if he doesn’t pass Obedience School, the family has vowed to get rid of him.  Well, the night before the big final exam, Bart is frantically trying to get Santa’s Little Helper to learn what’s necessary to pass, ultimately suffering through tearful frustration at a dog who won’t understand.  Lisa comes up to him and asks him if he wants to spend his last remaining hours with the dog torturing him – and himself – or would he rather spend those last hours running and playing and having fun?

That’s my suggestion for this Husky team.  What’s the point in forcing this High-Post offense down their throats when the primary starters on this team – Aziz, Gaddy, & Suggs – are all Seniors and another – Wilcox – is a Junior who might leave early for the NBA?  Why not, instead, let them run the offense they’ve run every other year they’ve been on this team?

Early in the season, Romar would abandon the High-Post in games when the Huskies were losing by a lot and needed a spark.  Ultimately, abandoning the High-Post worked, and the Huskies were able to play their way back into some games.  But, now, Romar seems weirdly stubborn about sticking to this High-Post thing.  Give it up!  Let your seniors go out doing what they do best!

It would make sense for just about everyone.  Who is coming back next year that figures to be a major part of the team?  Andrews, Kemp, Simmons, and MAYBE Wilcox.  If you want to return to the High-Post next year, fine, go nuts.  All of those guys would have experience – having played it through most of this 2012/2013 season – so it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch for them to pick it back up again; and all of the incoming Freshmen would have no real history with the Motion Offense, so they wouldn’t be all that confused by a switch.

What am I most looking for out of these final six regular season games?  Well, ideally, I’d like to see the Huskies win some fucking games!  The way we’re going right now – having lost 7 of their last 8 after starting conference play 4-0 – if this trend continues, it’s only going to throw more buckets of gasoline on the Fire Romar campaign.  I’m not even asking for a “signature win”!  Just give me a victory over the Beavers tomorrow, the Cougs on March 3rd, and the Trojans on March 6th.  All are home games, all are games against beat-able teams.  We can get trounced at Arizona, Arizona State, and at home against UCLA, then follow that up with a 1st round exit in the Pac-12 Tournament, but if we win the three games I listed above, I think Romar is safe.

But, if we find a way to lose out, then you have to make the argument that this is the first-ever Husky team that has given up on Coach Romar.  There won’t be any other way to spin it.  At that point, I wouldn’t be shocked if Romar is canned.  What I think is more likely is that Romar gets one more season, but starts out on the hot seat from Day 1.  Look bad during non-conference play NEXT season, and I think Romar gets fired without an opportunity to recover.

Was This 96-Point Outburst Against ASU A Flash In The Pan?

Or is it a sign of improvement to come?

Well, I’m sure Husky fans are HOPING for the latter, but let’s face it, it’s very reasonable to have doubts.

96 points is far and away the best single-game output of the Washington Huskies this season.  They currently average a shade under 70 points per game, which is apparently terrible for a college basketball team (115th in the nation).  Scoring 96 points kind of equates to a bowler who averages 100 pins suddenly exploding for around 140, it’s an unexpected jump that’s more often than not an aberration.

For starters, to what do we attribute this spike?  I’m looking over the games they’ve played to date and 96 points is easily the most they’ve given up to an opponent, with a 93 scored by USC in an overtime losing effort.  ASU isn’t a no-defense type of team that runs and guns with the elites; they only average 4 points per game more than the Huskies.

So, let’s look at the box score.  Immediately, what jumps out is Shawn Kemp Jr.’s 18 points on 9 of 14 shooting.  Over his last three games, he’s averaged nearly 22 minutes per game, up considerably from 12.5 minutes per game over his initial 12 games (remember, he missed the first 7 games of the season due to injury).  In his last three games, Kemp has put up 12 points per game, again a drastic increase over the three and a half points per game average over the previous 12 games.

What are we looking at here?  Is this a fluke?  Well, if it is, then it’s a “fluke” that happened against the three best teams in the Pac-12 (Oregon, Arizona, and Arizona State).  I’m not ready to annoint Kemp our savior just yet, but it’s certainly something of interest to watch going forward.  Can he keep this up?  Can he hold down the starting Power Forward spot in the rotation?  And, more importantly, can he be counted on next season when we lose Aziz and will have a huge gaping hole in the middle of the paint?

Scrolling down the box score, and speaking of Aziz, he nailed 16 points on 7 of 8 shooting.  Honestly, it’s too bad this is his final season, because if he had another year with the team, he would easily go down as one of the best true centers in the program’s recent history.  As it stands, either way, he’ll probably be the best true center of Romar’s tenure (which doesn’t say a whole helluva lot, but is still someone who will be missed).  He’s less than a rebound per game away from averaging a Double-Double this season.  One or two monster rebounding games could clinch it for him.

Then, scrolling down a little further, you see Andrew Andrews:  20 points, 7 of 12 shooting, plus 6 of 6 from the free throw line.  He was 0 for 3 from beyond the arc, but those free throws are undeniable.  He took over for Gaddy (who was in foul trouble, sweet, sweet foul trouble) and led the team better than our Senior point guard.  Ever since Tony Wroten declared for the NBA draft, we have been lacking a guard who can get in the paint and finish at the bucket.  We’ve seen flashes of potential out of Andrews, but this was the first time he really broke out.  I’ll be happy to see more of this as the season goes on.

When you look at the bench as a whole in this past game, you’ll see that the Huskies scored 30 total points (with Desmond Simmons scoring the other 10).  I like Simmons an awful lot, but for this team I think we’re best served with him providing a spark off the bench (while still playing 20+ minutes per game as a lockdown defender).  The common trend of this year’s Husky team has been a complete and utter black hole where the bench is concerned.  Jernard Jarreau has clearly shown he’s not yet ready to play significant minutes in this system, and he’s really the only other guy on the team who has PLAYED this year. 

With this lack of depth, it has been imperative for guys like Wilcox and Suggs to be on their A-games each and every night.  With other guys, like Kemp, Andrews, and Aziz, stepping up, it takes the pressure off.  With the pressure off, hopefully they can draw some of the focus away from our stars, thereby making this a more-balanced offense.

It would be idiotic to expect the Huskies to keep up a pace of scoring in the 90s.  All I want is a little more even distribution of production.  Instead of Wilcox and Suggs comprising 60+ percent of the scoring, push that down to around 40%.  Where, if one (or both) of them has an off night (like Wilcox’s 10 points on 2 of 11 shooting against ASU), that doesn’t mean we’re destined to lose.

UW goes to UCLA this Thursday.  This is another big test for this team.  Another opportunity to prove they have what it takes to hang in this steadily-improving conference.

The Lorenzo Romar Debate Rages On

As this season progresses, the discontent with the Husky basketball program is only going to intensify.  That’s the way it is.  Husky fans have grown accustomed to a certain level of success.  Hell, the Husky PROGRAM has grown accustomed to a certain level of success.  So, losing all these games (to sub-standard programs both in and non-conference), as well as losing all these games in a ROW (after a 4-game winning streak to start conference play), has to be eating away at the psyche of both the players, the coaching staff, the Athletic Department, and the fans at large.

I get it.  Everyone’s pissed off.  Or, at the very least, mildly annoyed.  We’re all ticked because the team is not living up to their regular level of success, and THAT’S making us even angrier because we feel even THAT level of success isn’t good enough.  It’s not enough just to live up to what we’ve seen from other Romar-led Husky teams, it’s a point of contention that:  why can’t we be even BETTER?

The biggest monkey on Lorenzo Romar’s back is:  not getting past the Sweet 16.  For that, I have no defense for the man.  In the Nate Rob/B-Roy years, we had some electric teams.  That 2004/2005 season where we had a #1 seed in the Tourney is particularly galling, because of its rarity around these parts to have a 1-seed college basketball team, and because of the way we ended up losing (in the Sweet 16 round, to the 4-seed Louisville Cardinals).

I’m not here to blindly defend the man willy-nilly, in spite of some of my posts on the subject.  But, I’m also not going to sit around and go along with the crowd who wants to run the guy out of town after one bad season in the last five years.

Someone ran across my last post on the subject and wrote a thoughtful retort; I would recommend reading it even though he takes me to task for some of my sloppier assertions.  Since this is such a dead period in local sports, I’ve opted to reserve my response to his response for a brand new post (content generation, ho!).

I’ll start with this, apropos of nothing:  I don’t think Lorenzo Romar is the perfect coach.  I don’t think he’s the best coach in college basketball.  I think there are plenty of things you could question about the man’s in-game decision-making.  For instance:  why was Desmond Simmons riding so much pine last night, especially at the end of the game, and especially when he’s your best overall defender (who can cover guys inside and on the perimeter)?  Why risk letting Aziz get hacked and put at the line (where he missed two crucial late free throws), or God forbid jacking up a desperation 3-point ball from the corner on an inbound play?

I would also question his preference to have senior guards constantly taking the final shots in games over more-talented younger guys.  How many times did we see Game Overton blasting through the lane, throwing up some wild and crazy shot when it would’ve been more appropriate for someone like I.T. (only a junior) to have the rock with the clock ticking down.  Yes, we all remember COLD BLOODED against Arizona, but really give that season some thought and harken back.  The same goes for Abdul Gaddy this year; Romar needs to have him cede immediately to the younger and more vital Andrews and let him show what he can do.

There are countless other examples of things you COULD question, but for the most part you can see the logic.  Here’s the thing:  I understand being loyal to your upperclassmen.  But, if you’re going to be a top-notch program, you’re going to have to deal with the certainty that you’ll have one-and-done players.  Those players are one-and-done for a reason:  they’re the best of the best (usually).  Put the ball in THEIR hands, if you’re so fortunate to have them, when the game is on the line.

Abdul Gaddy is a real point of contention.  A point made by the aforementioned commenter:  “… I don’t know if Romar is at fault for the poor development of Gaddy and Suggs, but it’s frustrating no less.”

It’s a good point.  We DON’T know who’s at fault for Gaddy not living up to his billing.  I’ll leave Suggs alone, because I think Suggs is what he is, damn his rating coming out of high school.  He’s a spot-up long-range shooter and that’s all he ever was going to be.  Which is fine, if you’ve got the proper guards at point who will drive the lane, draw in defenders, and kick out.  Scott Suggs should be NOBODY’S primary or secondary offensive option (unless he’s playing for some lesser, Sun Belt-ish conference).  But, on a well-balanced team, he wouldn’t be a bad fourth or fifth option, preferably off the bench.

Gaddy, however, is a completely different ball of wax.  I said it last night (when he biffed that alley-oop pass at the end of the game) and I’ll say it again:  Abdul Gaddy is quickly becoming my least-favorite Husky.  He was supposed to be great.  He was our big catch of the 2009 Freshman class.  We may never know what would’ve been had he not injured his ACL at such a critical period of his development in his Sophomore year, but from what we’ve seen since his return, even if he could’ve gotten that medical redshirt, it’s unlikely he’d be any better next year than what he is right now.  Which is a semi-dependable ball-handler who makes WAY too many mistakes with the ball for a guy in his Senior season.  A guy who has never had even a remotely decent jump shot.  A guy who’s an average defender at best (but who will frequently be beaten by shorter, quicker guards).  And a guy who has little-to-no ability to penetrate a defense and finish at the rim.

So, who’s to blame?  Was it Romar not coaching him up, taking his high school talent for granted?  Was it all those sites who rank prep athletes for dropping the ball?  Let’s face it, we had a pretty good idea pretty early on that Gaddy would be a likely 4-year player in college.  With Gaddy supposedly being in the top-2 of incoming point guards that year nationally, you’d think at the most he would’ve been here 1-2 seasons, had he reached the potential everyone thought he’d reach.  Even if those sites DID drop the ball, if you’re Lorenzo Romar, you have to be BETTER than those sites.  As a talent evaluator, you have to know what you’re getting into with a major recruit.

But, there’s the other side of the argument, which is:  did Abdul Gaddy do enough work on his own to better his game?  Did he practice his shot enough?  Did he keep himself in good enough shape?  Did he work out with other players to better his dribble-penetration game?  Or, is he just lazy and thought he could coast on talent alone through his college career, with no real ambition to go on to the next level aside from a hazy, far-off dream?

Or, did he just not have it to begin with, and everyone fucked up, from the scouts to Romar to Gaddy himself?  I’m apt to believe this over anything else.  He could’ve been the Michael Jordan of practicing, working on his game, and having a relentless drive to be the best, but if he just didn’t have the talent to succeed and grow as a player, then it’s pointless trying to spread the blame around.

But, to say that Romar doesn’t get the best out of his players – which the above-referenced commenter, Taylor, noted – means you simply haven’t been watching his teams very closely.  I’m not interested as much in how guys rate coming out of high school.  There are plenty of blue-chippers who go on to fail.  But, I get it, the more blue-chippers you bring in, the better your odds are of having some dominating teams.  I’m more concerned with how guys look in Year 1 vs. how guys look in Years 3 and 4.

Look at Jon Brockman, as one example.  He didn’t come out of the womb an All-Conference player.  In his first season, he averaged 8.4 (points) and 6.5 (rebounds).  But, he consistently worked on refining his game to where he averaged 18/12 as a Junior before giving way to I.T. in his senior season.  Look at a guy like MBA, who averaged 4 and 3 in his first year.  By his senior season, he was up to 15/8!  How about Q-Pon?  From what I remember (and I could be wrong), he was fairly highly rated coming out of high school.  Remember what he was like early in his college career?  VERY inconsistent.  We kept waiting for his breakout that seemingly would never come.  In his first season, he averaged 11 and 4.  By his last year, he was up to 19 and 8 and led this team to an impromptu Sweet 16 run.

I could go on, but let’s just call it what it is:  Romar has coached up his share of guys.

The big theory in college athletics goes like this:  as a new coach, you do your best to bring in as many good players as possible.  You coach them up, you find some modicum of success in the post-season, and that begets even better recruits, which begets more winning, and so on and so forth.  Taylor’s main point, from what I gather, is that Romar has reached a wall, or a plateau of sorts.  He makes a very good point in his section about the other top-tier schools I listed.  I’m going to save myself the time and take his word for it:  those other coaches had more success, and quicker than Romar’s first 11 years with the Dawgs.  In a lot of cases, those coaches took nothing programs, caught lightning in a bottle, and went on to monster success.

So location has nothing to do with it.  I don’t know if I lamented our location as much (I don’t feel like re-reading my whole previous post to find out), but if I did then I was pretty erroneous on that mark.  However, I will say this:  just because it’s taken Romar 11 years to get where we’ve gotten (which isn’t all that impressive, in the grand scheme of things) doesn’t mean this is as good as it gets and it’s only downhill from here.  He’s a fairly young guy, and if you hear the man speak in person, you can tell he has a good rapport with the younger generation, so if he was given a free pass to coach here as long as he desired, I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility for him to turn this program into a national power.  Really, it just takes one class, one team, to catch that lightning in a bottle.  Generate a surprise Final Four run and before you know it, those blue-chippers we keep losing to Kentucky and Louisville and Arizona and UCLA are now coming here.

Which is why I wouldn’t dismiss out of hand his ability to recruit and build NBA players.  Some guys, like Ross and Wroten, and Roy and Nate-Rob and Hawes, were going to be NBA draft picks regardless.  But, Q-Pon was no guarantee.  Brockman was CERTAINLY no guarantee (an under-sized power forward or a slow small forward, depending on where you think he fits on an NBA team).  I.T.  was another sub-6 foot point guard who ended up being the last pick in the draft.  Yet, he was showcased by Romar on some quality (though not elite) Husky basketball teams, and he made it.  Bringing in blue chippers who leave early is just as important as building NBA-calibre players out of nothing, like he did with the likes of Brockman.  Because it sets an example that you don’t HAVE to go to those other elite schools to get noticed.  You can come here, play for a program everyone respects, and still find success as a pro.

But, I’ll walk this argument back:  Romar hasn’t caught that lightning in a bottle.  His best teams have been disappointments in that regard; they haven’t gone very far in the Tourney.  And his other Tourney teams have lost too quickly to generate much of anything in the way of national buzz.  So, we’re NOT on the level of an Arizona or a UCLA.  We’re in that meaty 2nd tear of the Pac-12, with Cal and Stanford and now, I guess, Oregon (God, just seriously fuck Oregon already!).

So, I get the frustration, I really do.  And Taylor’s point about Romar’s lack of success in non-conference games (especially on the road in non-conference games) is valid.  On the one hand, I’m sitting here telling you that Romar gets the best of his players, that often his players improve from season to season (and during individual seasons, when they’re playing much better towards the end than they are in the beginning), but on the other hand, why can’t Romar have them ready from the beginning?  Why do the Huskies constantly underachieve in their non-conference games?

What’s worse:  the non-conference schedule has only gotten EASIER since Romar’s early days as a Husky coach.  I don’t have an answer for that either.

But, I trust the man’s judgment.  If he feels his teams aren’t ready for elite competition in the first month of the season, then that probably means they aren’t ready for elite competition.  What do I read every year?  Romar’s defense is difficult for guys to learn.  It takes some of them a while to figure it out, which ultimately costs them playing time early in their careers.  I’ll counter Taylor’s point about Terrence Ross:  he WASN’T good as a Freshman until very late in the season.  If he was, he would’ve played a lot from the first game.  Instead, he got very sporadic minutes until he finally figured it all out come conference tournament time.  He certainly didn’t get the kind of minutes that Wroten got as a Freshman, but that’s another story.

What I think Romar gets the least credit for is how he turned this program around.  Taylor felt like belittling me on this point.  Yes, the Huskies are in the Top 15 all time for most college basketball wins.  That’s quite impressive.  They have well over 1,600 wins, which, I mean WOW, right?  Except, the Huskies have been around for 110 fucking years!  They’re tied for the 14th-longest running basketball program in the nation; of COURSE they’re going to have a lot of wins!  Truth be told, though, the Huskies – in those 110 seasons, have exactly 20 conference titles (hardly a “substantial amount”).  A whopping 12 of those were won by teams coached by Hec Edmundson; you know, the guy they named the arena after.  Yeah, Hec Ed had some GREAT teams in the 20s, 30s, and 40s.  Maybe I’ll go back to college, become a history major, and read all about it.

You know who doesn’t give two shits about how good the teams were in the pre-Korean War days?  Everyone born after the Korean War!

Throw your historical winning percentage around all you want.  Keep telling everyone how the Washington Huskies have the winningest home arena in college basketball.  No one gives a shit.  In the 49 seasons before Lorenzo Romar became the Huskies’ head coach, the Huskies won exactly 2 regular season conference championships.  Or, you know, the same number Romar has won in his 11 seasons.  I’m not necessarily saying 2 conference championships is acceptable, but don’t tell me that he was inheriting some program of ANY historical significance.  It’s only significant to Husky alums as a way to talk trash to our Pac-12 brethren.

I’ll close with Taylor’s closing point.  Romar has, indeed, lost a lot of confidence in Husky fans.  To have two first round draft picks last year and only manage to make it to the N.I.T. Final Four is kind of a travesty.  But, the year before that he led a VERY young team into the second round of the Tourney, and the year before that we were in the Sweet 16 with a team that essentially only had two scorers!

I ask again:  is a guy not allowed to have a down year?  I disagree with Taylor’s argument that the Huskies are destined to be terrible again next year.  First of all, with Gaddy leaving, we’re talking about addition by subtraction.  I think any game now, we’re going to find out that Andrew Andrews is something special and a solid foundation piece in the seasons to come.  I agree wholeheartedly with Taylor’s point about rather winning a national championship with 15 guys who never set foot in the NBA over having a bunch of lottery picks and losing in the first round, but that’s neither here nor there.  When do you EVER see that?  Inevitably, with college basketball, you need a good mix and some luck.  You need a couple blue chippers, but you also need those four-year veterans who know the system, who lead by example, and who can chip in as complementary players on both ends of the court.

This year, we kind of got caught with our pants down.  We’re very young AND we’re lacking in any blue chippers (unless you count Gaddy, but I don’t with the way he’s played his whole career).  Our veteran presence – Suggs, Aziz, Gaddy, and Wilcox as a Junior – isn’t enough, because they’re not talented enough to carry the mail.  But, they’re forced to carry the mail, and that’s why you see games like we had last night.  We can contend with some of the best Pac-12 teams, but ultimately we’re going to come short this season because the talent just isn’t there.

But, that doesn’t mean we won’t have the talent NEXT year.  Darin Johnson and Nigel Williams-Goss look like a one-two punch at guard to be reckoned with.  I don’t know if both will play next season, but you’re talking about 3-4 star players.  If we DO somehow land Aaron Gordon (which, I don’t think we should get our hopes up too high on that end, but what a coup that would be!), then the sky is the limit for the 2013/2014 season (especially if we’re fortunate enough to have Wilcox stay for his senior season, where he isn’t necessarily the ONLY offensive option and doesn’t constantly draw the other team’s best defender all game long).

Truth be told, even if we don’t get Gordon, all hope isn’t lost.  There have to be players in the JC ranks out there for Romar to poach.  I think he would be well-served to tap into that well again.  We keep getting our panties in a bunch over these 4-star high school guys, but there are effective JC transfers out there just WAITING for the chance to shine for a program desperately seeking a big man or two.

I’ll actually finish (seriously this time) by 100% agreeing with Taylor’s closing statements.  Yes, if attendance keeps falling, Romar probably won’t stand a chance.  It’s a shame, but that’s the reality in today’s major college sports.  I would hope that Romar has at least earned one more season on top of this one, regardless of how far attendance numbers plummet.  If we get these new recruits for next season and the team STILL struggles to find its way, then I might just be there with everyone else, leading the charge to run the guy out of town.

But, I don’t think this is a Tyrone Willingham situation.  I don’t think we’d be doing more harm than good to give the guy at least one more season.  Honestly, I think we’d be well-served to give Romar at least the next TWO seasons.  I don’t subscribe to the notion that just because you haven’t made a Final Four in your first decade, that means you’re destined to never be elite.  I won’t do the research at this time, but there HAVE to be late bloomers out there, who might’ve struggled or been middling in their first decade as a major-conference head coach, only to turn it on later in their careers.  I just don’t see why Romar can’t be one of them.

Taylor and I agree on one final point as well:  it would be foolish to make a change just to make a change.  The University of Washington has a ton of money.  If you absolutely HAVE to pull the trigger, don’t go out and hire the next Paul Wulff (or whoever the basketball-equivalent would be).  Go out there and make a big fucking splash!  Bring in one of the big dogs, give him free reign over the program, and get the fuck out of his way!

Not So Fast: Huskies No Longer Perfect In Conference

Well, it was exciting for a while.  We all had a pretty good handle on what the Huskies would be this season:  a team hovering around .500, but probably not even good enough to crack the N.I.T.  Then, they went on the road for their first three Pac-12 games and came away 3-0, a feat they haven’t accomplished in many a moon.  After a home victory over a supposedly-good Colorado team, the Dawgs were staring 5-0 in the face; all they had to do was beat an 0-5 Utah team.  An 0-5 Utah team that has never won a road Pac-12 game since they joined the conference.

My friends and I decided to attend, because we had nothing else better to do on a Saturday night, and because it looked like we might have all severely underestimated this Husky team.  As it turns out, we probably just overestimated some of these other Pac-12 teams the Huskies managed to beat.

This was by far the flattest performance I’ve ever seen out of a Romar-coached Husky team.  Utah burst out to a 12-2 lead and never let the Huskies get closer than 6 points the rest of the way.  Yeah, Utah shot 60% from the field, but it never felt like they were on fire.  They just always had an answer to whatever the Huskies tried.  The Huskies managed two solid runs in the game.  It’s hard to define “runs” when they were so thoroughly dominated in all facets, but I would define a “run” as the Huskies stringing together consecutive baskets while getting the fans fired up at both ends of the court.

Both of those runs were quickly extinguished before they could lead to a Husky lead.

As I’ve stated repeatedly this season:  the Huskies won’t win a shoot-out.  They need games slow and ugly.  They need their opponents scoring under 60 points.

The Huskies out-rebounded the Utes, which is part of the battle.  They dominated on the offensive glass, 14-3.  But, even with all those second-chance opportunities, the Huskies could make little headway.

There is something seriously wrong with the offense, that much is obvious.  When C.J. Wilcox doesn’t score for the ENTIRE first half, and for much of the second half, this team is going to struggle.  Scott Suggs, normally a pretty dependable guy when the rest of the offense goes in the toilet, could never really get it going.

What this team lacks more than anything else is a guy who can go to the line.  Last year, Tony Wroten would’ve taken a game like this over and led the team to victory by sheer will.  This team needed to get to the line in the second half and just wasn’t able to do it.  Andrew Andrews feels like a guy who should be able to pick up that kind of slack, but for whatever reason the offense isn’t going in that direction.

One thing’s for certain:  Abdul Gaddy isn’t that guy.  Talk about a major disappointment for the program; to miss on a guy who was supposed to be one of the best in the nation is a huge setback.

Outside of a barrage of 3’s to close out the game, the Huskies were completely impotent against one of the worst teams in the conference.  Doesn’t bode well for this week as the Dawgs go back on the road to face the Oregon schools.

Huskies Win First Pac-12 Game; Won’t Go 0-18

In what will likely be my only non-Seahawks-related post all week (win or lose, it’s going to be All Seahawks, All The Time around here for a bit), I’m going to throw a few words of encouragement out there for my Dawgs.

So much for whatever this Ken Pomeroy guy has to say!  That was only a 1-game losing streak, my friend!

The Huskies stormed out of the gates, jumping out to a 21-4 lead in just over 10 minutes of game play, causing the Cougs to call a time out to regroup.  In that span the Dawgs shot 7 of 13 and made all their free throws.  Things were looking very promising.  Of course, the Cougs realized they were at home, playing the Huskies, so they figured out a way to close the gap.

In fact, with seven and a half minutes to go in the game, the Cougs got their first lead.  But, somehow, the Huskies figured out a way to finish (word pictures:  I’m great at them).  Andrew Andrews came up big with 4 free throws at the end to ice the game.  He finished with a modest 8 points overall.

Of course, as with any Husky game, it came down to the Big 3 of Wilcox, Suggs, and Aziz.  Each one of them finished the game in double-digits scoring and Abdul Gaddy didn’t fuck things up too bad; you can’t ask for much more out of this team.

We’re still talking about a Husky team that’s on a 7-man rotation right now as Shawn Kemp Jr. plays his way back into the rotation (and as they try to figure out just WHAT the hell to do with Jernard Jarreau, who played a full 40 bench minutes tonight), so it’s crazy to expect a lot.  Winning ugly, with their opponents shooting under 40% (as the Cougars did tonight, going 36.8% from the field and 25% from three), is pretty much the ONLY way the Huskies are going to win.

A couple positives to take away from tonight:

Desmond Simmons is the real deal.  He’s the Consummate Husky.  He hustles, he gets rebounds, he gets steals, he blocks shots, he can hit the occasional outside jumper, he can tip in the occasional tip-in, and he defends.  The fact that we get him for two more years is a REAL plus for this program as it introduces a huge crop of new players next season.

Andrew Andrews is making some nice progress.  I expect him to be a major contributor by the end of the season.  It wouldn’t even be crazy to think that this kid might be able to drive and hit some crazy lay-ins and/or get to the line regularly!  This is good news when you consider next year we will be without Gaddy.  Not that I think Gaddy is irreplaceable or anything.  But, the bench is thin when it comes to point guards.  I’m sure Romar’s got a new stud point guard recruit on the hook for 2013/2014, but it’s always nice to have a guy with SOME college experience on your team, to at least bridge the gap a little bit.  Andrews should be a nice bridge guy for us.

That’s all.  NFL playoffs start for REAL tomorrow.