If A Husky Basketball Season Ended & No One Is Around, Does It Make A Sound?

The Huskies went 17-15 (9-9 in conference) and lost in the opening game of the Pac-12 Tournament to the Utah Utes.  In that game, the Huskies were down double digits early, made a heroic second half run to take a brief lead, and with less than a minute to go, with the game tied, gave up a go-ahead three-pointer that proved to be the game-winner.

Quality wins arrived in the form of a shocking upset on the road against Arizona State, and home wins against Colorado and Oregon.  That’s it!  So don’t piss down my leg and tell me it’s raining, because this team stunk!

If you thought this team deserved an N.I.T. bid, you’re a fool.  Just playing in a major conference, and being one of its worst three teams, doesn’t automatically garner you any consideration, even if it comes from a lesser field of teams.  Truth be told, I don’t think the Huskies were among the top 100 teams.  Ostensibly, if they were, then they should roll through the C.B.I. (which they either weren’t invited to, or turned down), but I can all but guarantee the Huskies would certainly lose in the first or second round of the C.B.I.

This team had two guys:  C.J. Wilcox and Nigel Williams-Goss.  Wilcox averaged 18 points and shot 39% from three-point land.  He was so clearly our number one offensive threat that each and every game he had to contend with the other team’s best defender (or some rolling coverage his direction).  He was still able to put up some impressive numbers, but we didn’t really have anyone else to take up some of the scoring load, so we ended up struggling to score far too often.  Combine that with lackluster defensive effort, and you’ve got yourself just a so-so team.

I wouldn’t call NWG elite, but he was great for what he was:  a true freshman.  13 points, 4 boards, 4 assists, 3 turnovers … those are solid true freshman point guard numbers.  You’d like to see a few more assists (or a couple fewer turnovers), but there wasn’t anybody else aside from Wilcox on this team who could hit a shot, so that’s not really his fault is it?  Plus, you figure other teams’ entire game plans revolved around denying Wilcox the ball … you do the math.

After that, we had two just kinda sorta okay guys in Andrew Andrews and Perris Blackwell.  Blackwell was on his last year of eligibility after transferring to UW, and he averaged 10 points and 7 boards a game.  On a good team, those numbers are Brockman-esque!  He was a grinder down low.  The offense didn’t run through him (nor should it have), but he found a way to be effective as the only big man this team could count on.  Desmond Simmons started off the year injured and never really made an impact once he returned.  His jumper was always off and he seemed to be in a lot of foul trouble (or just get lost in the flow of the game) far too often.  And the less said about Shawn Kemp Jr., the better.  He was a walking personal foul waiting for the ball to be put in play so he could slap at someone and make his way back towards the bench.  And the two other newcomers – Darin Johnson & Mike Anderson – showed flashes of potential, but again, I don’t think they’re ever going to carry the burden of the scoring load.

This team needs guys who can score, bottom line.  We’re losing a quarter of our scoring in one guy, with Wilcox going into the NBA draft.  When you add in Blackwell (also leaving the ranks of college basketball), we’re losing damn near 40% of our scoring.  In two guys!

NWG should obviously take a big step forward next season, since he’ll be The Man in only his second year.  But, that’s assuming he decides to stick around.  Who knows; maybe he hears something he likes and decides to take his chances in the draft.  Lost in this whole season of losing has been concern over NWG being a one-and-done kid.  I’m getting the feeling that everyone around this program just assumes he’s going to be around forever, but let’s not forget how highly rated he was out of high school.  Let’s also not forget that his freshman year was pretty damn impressive when you consider how bad this team really was.  I think he could use at least another year’s seasoning, but I ALWAYS think that, and I’m almost always proven wrong.  Hell, even Tony Wroten is making me look the fool by being a better shooter than I could have ever thought possible!

The fact of the matter is, college basketball needs to get rid of the one-and-done rule.  It’s a complete farce!  It only rewards the teams that are going to be good anyway.  If you know you’re going into the NBA after your first year of college, wouldn’t you want to just go to the best teams, have some fun winning a bunch of basketball games, and see yourself on highlight shows during the NCAA Tournament?  You’re not going to be too likely to go to a school like Washington when there’s a school like Louisville out there ready to reload for another Final Four run.

Without the one-and-done rule, Romar wouldn’t have to spend so much time and energy on one-and-done players.  He could go back to recruiting his types of guys.  Guys who may be a little rough, but over the course of their four years here, they’ll improve to the point where we’re always playing at a high level whenever we’ve got a new batch of seniors.

The one-and-done rule is tainting the game of college basketball.  Yes, I’m sure the NCAA likes seeing the very best players going at it when they can showcase them during March Madness, but nobody’s going to remember these guys in 20 years when all of them leave after a single year and become stars in The League.

I dunno.  I’m just frustrated, I guess.  I still think Romar is the guy for this team, but I also think I’m in the minority.  I fear we’re in for some heavy changes and I just don’t know if I’m up for it right now.

The Husky Basketball Team Is Sliding Into Another Disappointing Season

It was another rocky non-conference schedule that ended with exactly zero quality wins (and a few distressingly bad losses).  You could tell straight away that this wasn’t going to be our year.

But, then we opened up conference play with a strong win over Arizona State, and a strong close loss to #1-ranked Arizona – both on the road – and by God, we could dream, couldn’t we?  Unlike years past, the Pac-12 is pretty solid right now, so if there was a chance to improve our RPI, conference play could be it.  And we followed that up with a couple solid home victories over Utah and Colorado, allowing us the opportunity to dream even higher.

Since that point – our high water mark on the season – we’ve gone 0-5 on the road, losing the Bay Area games, the WSU game, and over the weekend, the mountain games.  Two home wins over two bad Oregon schools are the only notches in our belt.

It’s frustrating, because you can see the promise in this team.  C.J. Wilcox is a legitimate NBA shooting guard who’s averaging nearly 20 points per game.  While Lorenzo Romar’s seat remains hot in some circles of Husky fandom, it’s nice to see he’s still able to coach up and get the best out of players who put in the effort.  C.J. Wilcox has gotten better every year he’s been with the team, and he has taken arguably the biggest leap this year.

Nigel Williams-Goss looks like the real deal too, but his game isn’t quite established just yet.  I REALLY hope he comes back for a second season, because I think he’d greatly benefit from another year’s tutelage under Romar.

Andrew Andrews can be electric or maddening.  I’d like to see him spend his off-season working on his jumper and nothing else.

Perris Blackwell would be a solid role player of a big man on a better team, but he’s simply being asked to carry too much of the load on this under-sized team.

Mike Anderson does a lot of things well, sort of like a Desmond Simmons type.  You’d like to see him improve on his jumper, because quite frankly you can only have so many Desmond Simmons types on your team before you need someone else to help pick up the scoring slack.  Speaking of which, you’d almost want to have a whole team made up of Desmond Simmons – if it meant they’d actually play some defense – but I guess you can’t have everything.

Finally, Shawn Kemp Jr. is a walking personal foul waiting to happen.  With a guy his size, it’s not unreasonable to expect better things, but at some point you just have to wonder how much the guy wants to be better.

I dunno.  I like to see what’s possible in our guys, and with this team, what’s possible should be A LOT better than what we’ve seen recently.  When things are clicking, we’re a tough team to tangle with.  But, more often than not, things DON’T click, and we’re left with lopsided defeats to good teams and baffling defeats to bad teams.

There are seven games left to go in the season.  Five at home (Bay Area schools, WSU, and L.A. schools) and two on the road (Oregon schools).  If this was a good Washington basketball team, we’d win every single one of these games and finish the regular season with 20 wins overall.  Want to impress the Hell out of me?  Do just that and blow my mind.

Husky Basketball Season Has Already Started, You Guys

I was vaguely aware of the first game last Sunday – an 88-78 victory over Seattle U – but since I don’t have cable, and I wasn’t in a place that does, I couldn’t tell you much about the game that wasn’t described to me over the free radio waves.

There was, of course, a bit of bad news to kick off the season:  Jernard Jarreau tore his ACL and is out for the year.  He can still get a medical redshirt, so he won’t technically lose a year of eligibility, but it’s still a huge bummer.  How huge, we won’t know.  But, all signs pointed toward him starting and him making an impact on this team.  I can only imagine what he would have done for us, but knowing what I know about guys improving under Romar, it would’ve been significantly more than what he did for us last year.

There doesn’t appear to be a whole lot of hype around this Husky basketball team, but I’ve maintained all along that this team will likely be a suprise in the Pac-12.  C.J. Wilcox is back for his senior season.  He will have to stay healthy, and if he does, he’ll be one of the best players in the conference.  Andrew Andrews returns to man the point, as does superstar incoming Freshman Nigel Williams-Goss.  That back-court alone makes me rock hard!  But, then you’ve got the other incoming Freshman Darin Johnson (who will hopefully help us pick up some of the outside shooting slack when Wilcox and Andrews have off nights) and transfer Mike Anderson (who sounds like a defensive stopper and a total Romar Guy).

If nothing else, expect this team to be quicker.  Last year, we were not only stuck with bad basketball, but we were stuck with SLOW bad basketball.  This year, at least we should be entertained.

On the front court, the injuries don’t stop with Jarreau.  Desmond Simmons had a surgical procedure and will miss a bunch of weeks.  Perris Blackwell is another transfer who sat out the last game with a concussion, but should be a force for us in the middle.  And, we’ve got Shawn Kemp Jr. who can muck it up with the big guys as well.

This is still going to be a team that goes as far as its guards will take it.  We might be a little under-manned until Simmons comes back, but there’s nothing saying that this team can’t go on a nice little conference run.  The key to success for this team will be balanced scoring.  In the last few years, the scoring load has fallen on two or three guys.  This year?  Aside from Wilcox, we’re going to need lots of other guys chipping in to be effective.  It’s going to look a little like some of those Jon Brockman years.  Now, whether or not we have the type of talent we had during those Brockman years, I guess we’ll see.

Consider me one of the optimists, going into this season.  I like what Romar’s doing and I hope this is the team that takes us back to the NCAA Tournament.  That ought to shut some people up.

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!

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.

Husky Basketball Won’t Be Elite This Season

The word “elite” gets thrown around quite a bit when talking about sports.  Everyone’s elite!  Everything’s elite!  The fact of the matter is:  there are very very VERY few elite teams and players in the world today.

In any given year, in any given sport, there are probably only a small handful of truly elite teams.  Elite teams would be those who don’t just have a CHANCE to win a championship, but a likelihood.  For instance, this year in the NFL, I would say there are only four or five elite teams.  San Francisco, Atlanta, Houston, Baltimore and maybe Green Bay.  That’s it.  More than likely, barring a major injury, one of those five teams will win the Super Bowl this year.

That’s not a guarantee!  How does the saying go?  “That’s why they play the games.”  Every once in a while, an outlier will come out of nowhere, get hot at the right time, and essentially shock the world.  Take the New York Giants of last season, for example.  They certainly weren’t elite, but they improved, they caught fire in the playoffs, and they did just enough to beat all the elite teams around them.

Just because you’re elite doesn’t mean you’ve already won; you still have to go out there and do the job.  But, it’s pretty easy to tell which teams are elite and which aren’t.

I don’t follow college basketball closely enough to tell you who’s elite right now.  Ohio State looked pretty damn good against the Huskies on Sunday, but are they elite?  Tough to say.  It appears that Deshaun Thomas is an elite PLAYER, so that always helps.  What I can say, without question, is that this Husky team is NOT elite.  Therefore, this Husky team won’t be winning the NCAA championship in 2013.

There are certain thresholds in any given season.  At some point, as a fan, you realize the team you’re following isn’t elite.  Husky fans probably reached this threshold on November 13th when the Dawgs lost at home to Albany (if they didn’t know that already, going into the season, by merely looking at our roster).  Elite teams don’t lose at home to Albany.  Albany won’t be defeating the eventual national champion.  That’s just crazy talk.

But, that’s okay.  Plenty of reasonably good teams have an early-season slip-up here and there.  That doesn’t mean you can’t still win a bunch of games and go to the NCAA Touranment!

Which just so happens to be the second threshold:  when you realize the team you’re following won’t have a chance in hell of making the NCAA Tournament.  I’m here to tell you that ship has sailed over the weekend, when the Dawgs couldn’t shock the world and defeat Ohio State.  Losing that one game in a vacuum doesn’t automatically render your season pointless (though, losing that in conjunction with the game vs. Albany isn’t doing you any favors), but there was enough to see in that game, and the game the night before against Seton Hall, that leads me to believe that this team is going nowhere fast.

It’s already been established that a weakness for this team has been the penetrating guard.  Abdul Gaddy isn’t quick enough or skilled enough to stick to an opponent like glue (a la Game Overton), and Andrew Andrews isn’t experienced enough to effectively avoid screens and picks to stay on his man.  There’s no dynamic lockdown defender on this team like we’ve had in prior seasons.  Lorenzo Romar teams have always (and only) thrived when he’s had a guard (or guards) whose specialty was perimeter defense.

On the defensive side of the ball, all this team has is Aziz N’Diaye.  A slow, semi-coordinated 7-foot beast in the middle of the paint, who is too easily drawn out to the perimeter, which leaves the paint wide open for the other team to exploit.  That’s a problem.  Everyone else on this team is merely okay at defense.  Okay or downright terrible, I haven’t seen enough to make a definitive opinion.

Just Okay defense would be fine if I felt like this team had the guns to score at will.  But, they don’t.  They have two shooting guards – Suggs and Wilcox – who absolutely cannot dribble drive to save their lives.  Wilcox might be the most over-rated player in the Pac-12.  Isn’t he supposed to be our next big star?  With IT gone, and now Ross & Wroten, wasn’t it supposed to be Wilcox leading the charge?  It would be nice if he’d get hot for more than 1 out of every 3 games.  It would be nice if he didn’t disappear on the floor for dozens of minutes at a stretch.  It would be nice if you could rely on him to make a big bucket with the game on the line.  It would be nice if he found a way to get open, so he’s not constantly trying to shoot over people who are draped all over him.

Now Suggs, I like.  Suggs gets absolutely zero credit, yet he’s about as steady and as cool as they come.  If he were on our team last season, I would’ve liked our chances a helluva lot more.  Suggs’ shot doesn’t disappear for minutes on end.  He stays within the flow of the game, and he’ll make the open shot when we need it.

But, truth be told, you can’t base your offense around a couple of jump shooters.  Aside from those guys, we’ve got Gaddy and Andrews.  A couple of point guards with hit-or-miss outside shots.  Andrews is a redshirt freshman, so you could somewhat understand his shot not totally being there.  With Gaddy, however, you’re talking about a Senior.

The Huskies need more out of Gaddy.  I like the kid, I think he’s got a big heart and is a true Husky through and through.  I like his passion.  I like the way he’s starting to take more of a leadership role.  Those are all good things, things this young team needs if it’s going to get better.

But, this team also needs a guy who is going to take over a game.  When we’re down by 6 with 2 minutes remaining, we need a guard who can drive into the paint, throw up a wild shot, draw a foul, and hopefully make that wild shot half of the time.  Say what you will about Wroten, but that Seton Hall game never would’ve went into overtime if we had Wroten on this team.  Remember the second half of that game, when the team hit like zero field goals?  Yeah, Wroten wouldn’t have let that happen.  Wroten would’ve driven into the paint and either hit some shots or drawn some fouls.  He wouldn’t have let this team blow a 16-point halftime lead.

Gaddy?  I dunno.  In a sense, you like a point guard to play like a point guard:  trying to get others involved.  But, you also like your senior leader to have the ball in his hands in crunch time.  To throw the team on his back and lead the charge against a fierce opponent when the chips are down.  I don’t see that out of Gaddy.  If he doesn’t become that player soon, then be prepared to mail in this season.

Of course, it would be nice if we didn’t have to get 85% of our scoring out of our guards.  Except, Aziz and Co. really aren’t offensive weapons.  Aziz will make some tip-ins.  He’ll run the floor and occasionally get a lay-in or two.  He might even make 3 out of 10 free throws!  But, he’s not a guy you can depend on whatsoever.  He’s like the running game of the Green Bay Packers:  he’s just there to keep the other team somewhat honest, but he is by no means supposed to lead the way to victory.

Aside from Aziz, you’ve got Desmond Simmons and Jernard Jarreau:  two long, skinny forwards with no post games and unreliable mid-range jumpshots.  The worst part about these guys is that I wouldn’t mind them not scoring if they were dominant defenders.  But they’re not.  They’re not much of anything.  They take up space and fill minutes on a stat sheet.

Probably the biggest problem about this team, aside from an overall lack of talent, is the fact that we have no depth.  Apparently, we’re down to a 7-man rotation.  Good luck with THAT!  There’s no way you can keep that up all season; you’ll kill these kids!  The big loss so far this season is losing Shawn Kemp Jr. to injury.  On the one hand, he’s a bigger body, who can bang with the best of ’em.  But, it’s not like he’s Joe Post Game.  He’s essentially just another guy.  He very well could turn into something eventually, but right now he’s not much of anything, so really what have we lost?

The rest of the bench is a disaster area.

Put it all together, and what have you got?  You’ve got a lost season.  A season in transition.  Call it whatever you want.  You’ve got a team that’s not elite, a team that won’t make the NCAA Tournament, a team that PROBABLY won’t even make the N.I.T.  And a team with an outside chance of not making any post-season tournament whatsoever.  Fun.

Now that you know what to expect, I’ll give you something to look forward to.

Look forward to progress.  If I know anything about a Lorenzo Romar-coached team, it’s that they get better as the season goes along.  This team might not be much to sniff at right now, but as these younger guys start gaining this valuable experience, they should turn into something truly special by season’s end.  At which point, going into 2013/2014, we could be looking at a return to greatness for the University of Washington.

Teams have down years; it happens!  It’s not the end of the world.  In fact, it’s better to keep your expectations nice and low early in the season, so you’re not driving yourself crazy at the end, when your team does nothing.  As long as the younger players get better, and the influx of talent next year proves to be dynamic, we could be looking at a quick return to glory.  2014 could be the year we go back to the Sweet 16.  2015 could be the year we go ahead of that mark.  Start winning some games, bring in some bigger and better recruits, who knows?  By the end of the decade, we could be talking about an elite University of Washington team.

Just not right now.  Right now, it’s only a step.  A building block.  A rare low-point in the career of Lorenzo Romar.  We’ll be back, though.  It’s just a matter of time.

Washington Huskies Headed For N.I.T. Semi-Finals

Great game last night.  One thing you can’t say about the NCAA Tournament:  you rarely ever get a real live home game for your team.

You do realize you're cheering for losers, don't you?

There are a couple of arguments at play.  #1 – Would I rather the Huskies be in the NCAA Tournament?  Well, yeah, of course!  I would rather the Huskies win the whole fucking thing and make my dreams come true!  But, that’s neither here nor there, because this team couldn’t even beat Oregon State on a neutral floor.

Which leads us to Argument #2 – Am I excited about the opportunity to win the N.I.T.?

Look, I just think it’s awesome that the Huskies are still playing, in a single-elimination tournament, against teams that are roughly as good as we are (or, at least, can be).  I got to go to two of these games, because the Huskies are a #1 seed, and I would’ve been to a third except my birthday fell awfully close to last Friday’s game and I was out of town.  I’ve already been to more N.I.T. games than I have regular season games this season!  That should say SOMETHING about my excitement level.

Last Tuesday was fun because it was something different, because there was practically nobody in attendance, and because I was able to get really fucking awesome seats for the price of a song.  Yesterday was just as fun (in spite of having significantly worse seats) because of the electric atmosphere and, more importantly, the opponent.

Who DOESN’T love beating the shit out of Oregon?  Yeah, a 4-point win might not be “beating the shit” out of anyone, but fuck it.  And fuck Oregon!  The Oregon Ducks can eat my ass burgers!

And did I mention that yesterday’s was one whale of a game?  Because it was!  I don’t think either team had more than a 10-point lead.  The Dawgs would go on a roll, the Ducks would bounce back.  The Ducks would go on a roll, the Dawgs ditto.  We make some stops and get the crowd into it, they hit a dagger three-pointer or have their big man sink a crazy hook shot in traffic.

Terrence Ross led the way, making it that much more difficult to see him go this offseason.  He had 24 points on 50% shooting from the field.  Tony Wroten chipped in 22, with 10 coming at the line (side note:  the Oregon Duck fan I happened to be sitting next to kept muttering insults under his breath whenever Wroten did something bad; funny, didn’t hear much out of the guy when Wroten was leading the parade to the free throw line in the second half).  C.J. Wilcox was as cold as cold can be in the first half (3 points, with terrible shooting), but he made up for it in the second half to finish with 17 points (including his final 6 at the line at the very end of the game when things were still in doubt).

The players of the game on the defensive end were probably a combination of Wilcox and Darnell Gant.  The Ducks’ big men were pretty strong in the paint (especially when N’Diaye was out with foul trouble), but it was E.J. Singler who was single-handedly destroying us in the first half.  He had either 16 or 17 points at halftime, but after that, we shut him down with a combination of Wilcox and Gant (I know for a fact he never scored when Gant was blanketing him) to the tune of 2 or 3 points in the second period.  That was the ballgame right there; if we didn’t figure out a way to slow down Singler, we would’ve lost that game, no question about it.

Interesting rotation last night, as well.  A whole lot of 4-guard lineup (with Gaddy, Wilcox, Wroten & Ross) with either Gant or Seferian-Jenkins (who played 15 minutes in N’Diaye’s absence).  No Shawn Kemp Jr. and only a token 5 minutes out of Desmond Simmons; I guess Romar really wanted that physicality that only ASJ can bring (when N’Diaye isn’t around, that is).  Of course, against the Ducks (who aren’t a particularly tall group), that’s acceptable, and in the end is what it took to beat them.

So, the Huskies are in the Final Four.  How about that?  We play the winner of the Minnesota/Middle Tennessee game.  Can’t say as I’m exactly quaking in my boots over either of those teams (but we’ve lost to worse this year).  The Final looks a bit more advanced, as it’ll be either UMass, Stanford, or Nevada.

Finally, can I just say how proud I am of the fans who filled Hec-Ed last night?  They booed those Oregon Ducks cheerleaders something FIERCE whenever they got on the court (don’t ask me why they were involved in the festivities when it was a Husky home game; I blame the National Invitation Tournament).