Coach Hop Is Rounding Out His 2017 Class

After all the defections and transfers, we’re finally at a point where a team is starting to take shape for the 2017/2018 season.  First, there were a couple of lower-level pick-ups in Michael Carter III and Nate Pryor, both guards.  Then, they were able to hang onto erstwhile Romar recruit Jaylen Nowell, who is also a guard.  In lieu of going after some JuCo transfers (who are notoriously difficult for the Huskies to bring in, due to our stupid high academic standards), Coach Hop has opted to poach from his old New York stomping grounds, in picking up shooting guard Nahziah Carter (who just so happens to be Jay-Z’s nephew), and 6’8 small forward Hameir Wright (who was thought to be a 2018 recruit, but is planning to reclassify to this year).

What this continues to emphasize is the Huskies’ considerable lack of big men.  Dickerson is the only real true power forward on the roster, and our two centers are a couple of nobodies in Sam Timmins and Devenir Duruisseau.  Which means that we’re either going to be playing A LOT of small ball, or we’re going to be giving considerable playing time to a couple of ineffective centers just to play defense and hopefully not get in anyone’s way.

Ideally, the Huskies would find a way to make quasi-small ball work, with Dickerson at center and Wright at power forward, but that’s going to hinge on those two not getting into constant foul trouble.  If they can manage that, this isn’t as crazy as it sounds.  Mostly because the Huskies have a lot of good height among their swingmen.  Nahziah Carter is 6’5, Nowell is 6’4, Thybulle is 6’5, Green is 6’6, Carlos Johnson is 6’4, Carter III is 6’4.  The only guy who really figures to get a lot of playing time who’s under 6’4 is David Crisp.  As long as we defend well and give a lot of effort in the rebounding department, we shouldn’t get too killed for being undersized (except when we play the Arizonas of the world, which is what it is).

I’m keeping my expectations pretty low in his first season, understanding that these types of transitions take time to really make an impact.  At this point, I’d settle for a team that’s fun to watch and maybe wins a few games it shouldn’t, but ultimately loses too many games it should, and finds itself in the N.I.T. range.  With the way the NBA is turning into a long-range shooting league, you’d think that sort of strategy would be ideal for a small-ish team like the Huskies, to just spread everyone out, drive the lane, and pass the ball well.  Ultimately, where size might kill us is defensively, if teams continuously decide to go after the likes of Dickerson to get him into foul trouble.  Hopefully, the coaching staff is working on making up for this deficiency somehow.

Noah Dickerson Is Staying With The Huskies

By crikey, it’s been nothing but reasonably good news for the Washington Huskies men’s basketball program since its nadir about a month ago!  I mean, honestly, how could it get much worse?  The Dawgs just finished the season 9-22 (including only a whopping 2 wins in conference play).  They fired longtime head coach (and one of the best-ever in program history) Lorenzo Romar.  They lost out on 4/5 of their top-notch recruiting class (and one of the best two or three in the entire nation).  And, they were looking at a bevy of potential defections from last year’s team, including the aforementioned Noah Dickerson.

Well, after testing the waters as it were, including a trip to the University of Virginia (where I’m certain the chances of playing for a winning program and an NCAA Tournament berth were paramount among the coaching staff’s sales pitch), Noah Dickerson has indeed decided to stay with the University of Washington.

WHEW!

I know that looked sarcastic, but it actually is a relief that Dickerson is staying.  Obviously, Husky basketball has been on a downward spiral for a while now, but Dickerson is still a capable and productive big man at the Pac-12 level.  Among returning players, he’s second in scoring and first in rebounds from last season.  He also – as has been pointed out in various articles and blog posts – really came on late in the season, particularly in the last four games where he averaged 21 points and 10 boards in the absence of Markelle Fultz.  Now, obviously, you could look at that and say, “Of COURSE his numbers went up with Fultz going out!  Who else was going to pick up the slack on that team?”  And, obviously, the answer is no one.  The Huskies had no one else last year.  Not a God damned person.  But, you know, from the eye test, if nothing else, it looked like Dickerson really made some strides in his game.  Now, we’re going to pair that with a fresh set of coaching eyes in Mike Hopkins, who will hopefully be able to bring out even more in a talented ball of clay like Dickerson.

So, looking at the 2017/2018 Huskies now, we have an even clearer picture.  Returning, we have:  Crisp, Thybulle, Dickerson, and Carlos Johnson.  We’ve also got Dominic Green, who from what I’ve read, appears to be some sort of special project for Coach Hop.  He was quoted as saying something to the effect of how fans won’t even recognize Green next season, with all the improvements to his game.  If that’s the case, color me intrigued.  Also, for what it’s worth, Sam Timmins returns as another big man to throw onto the pile.  As has been noted pretty much everywhere, the Huskies have room to recruit more big men – almost certainly from the JuCo Transfer scrap heap – so stay tuned there.

On top of those returning players, we have Jaylen Nowell, who most certainly has the talent to step in and start right away.  You can pair him with Crisp at guard, with Johnson as a spark off the bench, with Thybulle and Green as your swing men, and Dickerson as your forward (or center, if you want to play small ball), on top of whatever we’re able to get out of our two other recruits – Michael Carter and Nate Pryor (who I still contend will be bench guys who hopefully see more playing time as the season progresses) – and I’m still not going to go overboard on this team’s potential, but I could be talked into the Huskies being something of a “surprise” team.  One that’s projected to be among the dregs, but out-plays its projections to be middle-of-the-road.

Obviously, without seeing these guys in action, I’m making some HUGE assumptions here.  I think a lot of it depends on what we’re able to get out of Timmins in his second season.  I highly doubt Romar ever wanted him to be our starter, but with the Dime injury in the middle of the season, Timmins got a lot more minutes than he probably deserved.  And, quite frankly, he didn’t look good at all.  You’re certainly not counting on him to be a heavy scorer, or even get a lot of looks down in the post, but you need Timmins to play good defense and clean up on the boards.  If you can just get that, and something similar from the JuCo ranks, and you can get the rest of this team to really buy in to the whole “playing defense” thing, I think that’s really your best bet for a fun and exciting Husky basketball season.

Somewhere out there, there’s an alternate universe that’s almost exactly the same as this one, except in that universe Lorenzo Romar didn’t get fired, and we’re looking at a team with his recruiting class coming in.  I feel like the alternate universe version of myself would be about as jacked up as can be about the prospects of that team; either it would be fantastic, and we’d ride that wave into the Tourney, or it would be a disaster, and we’d be out of our minds with fear and loathing.

In this universe, I’m still pretty jacked up for the upcoming season, but for very different reasons.  I can’t wait to see Coach Hop in action, I can’t wait to see how the players respond, and I really can’t wait to see the Huskies start winning some games they’re supposed to lose.  It’s been a while since I can remember the last honest-to-goodness upset go in our favor; usually it’s the other way around and it’s the Yale’s of the world upsetting us on our home court.  Any way you slice it, there’s going to be a lot to discuss about the Washington Husky basketball season later this year, and when was the last time you could say that?

Huskies Were Able To Keep Jaylen Nowell

Big news on the recruiting trail, as Jaylen Nowell decided to maintain his committment to the University of Washington.  He’s a 4-star guard out of Garfield High who is the only one out of Romar’s final (5-man) recruiting class before he was fired.

I’ll admit, I had my doubts on this one.  I thought it bode pretty poorly that A) his high school coach was recently hired by Wazzu to bolster their assistant coaching staff, and B) Lorenzo Romar himself was hired to be an assistant with the University of Arizona.  Oh yeah!  Did I bury the lede on this one?  Lorenzo Romar is with the Wildcats, as the rich get richer (side note:  his contract apparently pays him $400K per year).

To be fair, with the prior stories coming out that even after Romar had been fired, he was still encouraging players to stick with the University of Washington, in the ultimate Good Guy move to end all Good Guy moves, it seemed unlikely that he would subsequently try to poach Nowell.  And, also to be fair, we have no idea Arizona’s level of interest in a player like Nowell.  Maybe they’re stuffed to the gills with 4-star guards!  I have no idea and I refuse to do any research on the topic.  Nevertheless, there was always the outside chance that Nowell would’ve been so smitten with Romar that he would’ve followed him wherever he went.  It’s just nice to see the University of Washington and Coach Hop have at least a little sway in the community.

I find it terribly interesting how this Romar to Arizona thing plays out.  He is, if nothing else, a boss recruiter, and I’m sure all those relationships he’s built with future recruits will MORE than translate.  I mean, if he was close to getting some brilliant 2018-and-beyond recruits to come to Washington, imagine how much easier it’ll be for him to convince them to go to a place like Arizona!  As a Husky fan, it’s gut-wrenching, because I think this sets up the Wildcats to be even better than they already would’ve been (as it stands, they were always going to be at or near the top of the conference).  I think this puts them in the conversation to make the Final Four and be a HUGE juggernaut in the years to come.

I also wonder just how long he is for a place like Arizona.  You’re talking about a guy with significant head coaching experience.  If he’s this quick to stay in the game he loves, that tells me he’s still got the hunger in him.  In which case, I’m sure he’s itching to get back in the hotseat somewhere, to control a program his way.  What an opportunity like this affords him is that he’ll be able to write his own check, so to speak.  Say what you will about his last few years at Washington, there’s no denying he was able to get some very high-profile recruits to play here.  Now, imagine you’re a higher profile school like Texas or UConn or Florida or something.  I’m just picking names out of a hat here, but imagine you’re a bigtime university who wants to be a bigtime basketball program (or you’re a recent basketball power who fell on some hard times).  If you hire Romar, it’s going to be MUCH easier for him to recruit those 4-star & 5-star guys than it was for him at Washington.  He won’t need to make deals with the Porter’s Fathers of the world to get incredible talent.  When you tack on a successful short-term stint at Arizona, where he can point to bigtime players he’ll be able to help bring in, it’s going to be all that much easier for him to get a very high profile coaching gig.  And that’s saying nothing of the man’s character, which is his obvious primary selling point.  So, watch out for bigtime programs going through some NCAA troubles in the coming seasons.

The obvious ultimate destination for Romar is UCLA.  He was an assistant coach there in the early 90s, and while their current head coach, Steve Alford, has taken them to the Sweet 16 in three out of four years, the Bruins obviously have higher asperations.  Can you imagine Romar’s recruiting power if you gave him that job in Los Angeles, California?  I’m telling you, it will be a sight to behold.

As for Nowell, this really softens the blow after the exodus following Romar’s dismissal.  Pair him with Crisp and Thybulle in the backcourt and you’ve got something there.  Again, this doesn’t diminish the fact that the Huskies have little-to-no depth – particularly in the front court – but for now I’m just going for them to not be collosal embarrassments.  Anything resembling the Huskies being a fun team to watch in Year One I’m going to consider a success.  Anything beyond that is something out of my wildest dreams.  Baby steps with the new regime.  They get a hearty KUDOS from me in getting a very important local player to stay local.  Add him to the other two guards we brought in, and it looks like we’re more than set in that end of the court.  Now, bring in a big man or two, and convince Noah Dickerson to stick around, and I might even allow myself to dare to dream!

Shit Is Hitting The God Damned Fan In The Husky Basketball Program

It’s incredibly difficult to keep up with all of this, but I’m going to try my damnedest to give a recap.

So, remember all that excitement when the Huskies hired Mike Hopkins away from Syracuse and we thought we were getting someone with the potential to be special?  Well, I hope there’s some magic in that old silk hat he found, because the Huskies are hemorrhaging players, prospects, and even prospective assistant coaching candidates, with no relief in sight!  Where do I even begin?

Jason Hart, an assistant at USC many believed would be coming over with Hopkins, decided to stay in Southern California (probably with a hefty raise attached to his contract), so there goes our California recruiting connection.  Instead, the Huskies were able to hire unemployed Cameron Dollar – fresh off being fired by Seattle U for 8 years of head coaching mediocrity – so I guess that gives us maybe an “In” with the Seattle-area high schools.  You know, in case Will Conroy wasn’t enough.

Know that I’m writing this tight-lipped and a little bit annoyed:  we fired Romar … then we hired one of his top assistants from back in the Romar glory days?  If the idea is We Need To Make A Change, how exactly is Dollar bringing about this change?

It’s obviously not helping us keep the players we have on roster, nor the recruits we tabbed coming in our 2017 class!  The Huskies have officially lost 4 of the 5 recruits from our best-ever recruiting class, as Michael Porter Jr., Daejon Davis, Blake Harris, and Mamoudou Diarra have all de-committed/asked to be released from their LOI.  On top of that, reserve big man Matthew Atewe and starting big man Noah Dickerson have both decided they’re going to transfer, which ultimately leaves the Husky program in shambles heading into the 2017/2018 season.

On the bright side, we’ve got re-commits from the likes of David Crisp, Dominic Green, Carlos Johnson, and Matisse Thybulle, which I guess is better than nothing.  No word yet from Sam Timmins, Dan Kingma, or Devenir Duruisseau, but if you’re like me, you forgot Devenir Duruisseau was even on the roster (I thought he transferred ages ago!).  And, also, no word on potential incoming recruit Jaylen Nowell, but it fucking feels like only a matter of time before he asks for his release as well.

There might be a couple of other guys on the roster, walk-ons or whatnot, but they’re not important.  By my count, that’s 7 guys returning and 1 guy from our incoming Freshman class (for now).  Considering how late it is in the recruiting period, and considering the coaching staff isn’t even fully formed yet, I don’t know what we’re supposed to expect out of the Huskies come this fall, but get ready for an overwhelmingly last place finish!

Even if we were able to keep Dickerson, Atewe, and just the two local recruits, next season would’ve been a struggle.  But this is insanity times!  I hate to say I told you so, but this is what happens when you fire a head coach that’s this beloved.  When you sign on to join a university – particularly in basketball, because they’re such a close-knit unit – you sign because of a coach, not the school.  These guys signed on to play for Lorenzo Romar, not the University of Washington, for better or for worse.

I shudder to think of what this will mean for the program going forward.  I mean, if you thought last year was bad, get a load of 2018!  If you thought we bottomed out before, you ain’t seen nothing yet!  So, on top of having the stink of being the worst Pac-12 basketball team next year, we’ve got the stink of a school that fired a beloved, long-term head coach.  So, you know, not for nothing but we all better hope Mike Hopkins can coach his ass off, or this year of “growing pains” or whatever could build into an entire tenure of utter humiliation.

Fancy that, it’s like Washington ISN’T a destination program for college basketball or something!  Weird!

We’re Locked In: Worst Husky Basketball Team Of The Lorenzo Romar Era

Previously, Romar led a couple of 5-13 teams in conference, but this one can finish no better than 4-14.  With UCLA and USC road games coming up, I’d bet the farm on this year’s Husky team finishing 2-16.  And, while there haven’t been any Husky teams dead last in conference under Romar’s watch, this will be the third team that’s finished next-to-last, with a lucky win against a banged-up Colorado team the difference between us and the 1-win Beavers right now.

I’ve avoided talking about this team, because what more can you say?  It’s terrible.  At best, they can sort of hang around in most games, but ultimately they give almost all of them away.  I never thought it could get this bad, but then again I’ve generally been a supporter of Lorenzo Romar throughout the years.  I always thought, if nothing else, he was a good motivator, able to get the most out of even the weakest rosters.  But, this season is truly eye-opening.

Markelle Fultz is the obvious lone bright spot on this team, but even he’s cashing it in.  A “sore knee” has dogged him for much of the last couple weeks, and I for one can’t blame him.  Legit injury or not, I wouldn’t want to play on this team or for this coach either.  Not when there’s so much at stake in the NBA draft.

Beyond that, I dunno.  I GUESS you could argue the team is still really young.  I know no one wants to hear about excuses for this program anymore, but we’re just a year removed from a team that only had 1 Senior player in Andrew Andrews.  This year also only has 1 Senior player in Malik Dime, but he’s only in his second year in the program as a transfer student.  Indeed, most of the players getting the bulk of the minutes – Crisp, Thybulle, Dickerson, Fultz, Johnson, Green, and Timmins – are Sophomores or Freshmen.

Then, when you look at what this program lost from last year – Andrews to graduation, Dejounte Murray and Marquese Chriss to the NBA draft – it’s probably silly that we didn’t see this bottoming-out coming.  We lost three studs and replaced them with just the one in Fultz.  Regardless of how good Fultz is or might become – as a possible #1 overall draft pick in this year’s draft – no one man is enough to lift a terrible basketball team to the NCAA Tournament.  Is it concerning that we’ve fallen all the way to 11th in the Pac-12, just ahead of a truly atrocious Oregon State team?  Of course.  But, it was foolish to think we’d get enough of a boost from our holdovers to even maintain our .500 status of a season ago, let alone somehow improve upon that.

The fact of the matter is:  there has been SOME improvement among the holdovers.  Though, obviously not enough to satisfy anyone (and, honestly, it’s probably attributed to the fact that there are more minutes to go around).  Here are some numbers to review:

  • David Crisp – 7.2 ppg, 1.6 apg, 2.4 rpg in 2016; 14.3 ppg, 2.9 apg, 3.1 rpg in 2017
  • Noah Dickerson – 7.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg in 2016; 11.5 ppg, 8.0 rpg in 2017
  • Matisse Thybulle – 6.2 ppg in 2016; 9.9 ppg in 2017
  • Dominic Green – 2.7 ppg in 2016; 5.9 ppg in 2017

Like I said, we’re not talking about amazing, awe-inspiring increases here, but there are SOME improvements.  An argument could be made that by the time all of these Sophomores are Seniors in a couple years, if those numbers continue to improve, we could be looking at a successful unit.  And, when you factor in Freshman Carlos Johnson’s rapid rise from an also-ran earlier this year, to a regular contributor over the last few weeks, on top of all the upcoming recruits we get to look forward to, there IS reason for optimism, even if this season feels like rock bottom.

Look, I hate getting myself sucked back into this team just like you do.  I’m sure the vast majority of Husky basketball fans have abandoned all hope, and I wouldn’t blame you.  The economics of the thing (it would be super-costly to buy out Romar’s contract after this season), on top of the world-class recruiting class coming in next season, means that it makes too much sense to give Romar one more year.  I think most of us are pretty resigned to that fact, anyway.  And, I bet most Husky basketball fans believe it won’t make one iota of a difference; we’ll get all these great new guys and the team will still stink, because Romar isn’t a good basketball coach so much as he is a good recruiter (and, given the 2016/2017 apocalypse, that “good recruiter” label is even in serious question; let’s face it, really good recruiters don’t have these types of 11th place years, let alone two of them in the last three seasons).

But, if you figure we’ve got at least four players who belong on the basketball court in Crisp, Dickerson, Thybulle, and Johnson, on top of the four stud incoming Freshmen we’re bringing in, I don’t see how that team fails.  If it does, that’s a damning indictment on Romar’s abilities and really brings into question his legacy at the University of Washington.

For now, three games remain.  Two regular season losses down in Los Angeles, and one more in Las Vegas in the Pac-12 Tourney.  Then, the dead horse can be put to bed until next fall.

What The Fuck, Husky Basketball?!?!

This is just a God damn embarrassment.  And it starts at the top.

What happened to you, Lorenzo Romar?  You used to have convictions.  You used to be as much of a coach as you are a mentor.  Your teams were built around DEFENSE!  Your depth guys, as well as your studs, would blossom and grow during their time here!  They’d improve from year to year, and from the start of the season to the end.

You’ve sold your soul, Lorenzo Romar.  And, for what?  Some Blue Chippers?  Some 5-star, 1-and-done recruits?  You’re going to lose your job over a bunch of players who don’t give two shits about college basketball or the University of Washington?

I get that you can’t compete at a national level if you’re not recruiting at a national level, but you can’t do this half-way and expect to have success!  You can’t sign one guy here, two guys there, and surround them with fucking scrubs and expect to win at this level!  You need balance!  You need talent up and down your lineup!  Markelle Fultz can’t fucking do it all!  I don’t care if he ends up being the #1 draft pick; I don’t care if he ends up in the Hall of Fame one day!  He can’t drag this bloated corpse of a team into the NCAA Tournament, because every single teammate is fucking worthless.

David Crisp:  Crap.

Noah Dickerson:  Crap.

Matisse Thybulle:  Crap.

Sam Timmins:  Crap.

Malik Dime:  Crap Who Can Block Shots.

Dominic Green:  Crap.

I mean, you tell me.  You tell me where the help is coming from.  Not a damn one of these guys can play defense!  Not a damn one of these guys can consistently shoot from the perimeter!  Not a damn one of these guys can take over when Fultz has the occasional off-night (and, let’s face it, the more other teams realize that and clamp down even harder on Fultz, the more off-nights he’s going to have with this team).

We’ve been in this rut since Isaiah Thomas left, and it’s never been the same.  You’ll recall we brought in Tony Wroten, and thus began our love affair with the one-and-done-ers.  Instead of being a coach, being a leader, Lorenzo Romar has just handed the keys to these Freshmen and let them do whatever the fuck they want.  Playing defense?  That’s not going to get you into The League!  Fuck that, just work on your offense and get drafted in the first round!

Lorenzo Romar’s legacy is going to be:  got a lot of guys into the NBA, at the expense of the University of Washington.  Which, you know, good for the kids, I guess.  It’s not like they get paid to play in college anyway, so they might as well get theirs.  But, it sucks as a college basketball fan and particularly a fan of the University of Washington.

One of the worst, least-fun Husky basketball teams I’ve ever seen was in 2006-2007, the year after Brandon Roy and the rest of the first-wave of great Romar players left for the NBA.  That was the Spencer Hawes year.  Hawes did okay for himself, ended up getting drafted in the first round, but the Huskies missed the NCAA Tournament after making it the previous three years.  The year after that, the Huskies bottomed out, and it wasn’t until the 2008-2009 season – and the second-wave of great Romar players, led by I.T. – when we finally recovered.  Once that wave petered out, we’ve been chasing nothing BUT the Spencer Hawes’ of the world, and we haven’t sniffed a legit post-season berth ever since.

I thought we’d learned our lesson, but I guess not.  Hawes is my least-favorite Husky basketball player, tied with every other one-and-done asshole who’s given us false hope only to drag us down into obscurity once again.  Fultz is just another in a long line of nobodies.  Sure, he’ll make a name for himself in the NBA probably, but he ain’t mean shit to me.

As for Romar, what can you say?  I’d really like to see what the 2017-2018 Huskies look like with our incoming class next year, but will it ever happen?  And, if it does, is Romar coach-enough to whip these numb-nuts into shape?

I doubt it.  I don’t think he has the fire anymore.  I don’t think he has the will to enforce any kind of defensive ideology.  I think he’s just out there, collecting a paycheck, letting these kids do whatever the fuck they want.

And, I think it’s fucking sad.  Early-days Romar wouldn’t have settled for this bullshit we’re watching now.  Early-days Romar actually gave a fuck.

Here We Go Again: Another Husky Basketball Season

With every year that goes by, Husky basketball gets less and less fun, mostly because it’s the same God damn thing every God damn time.  On THIS side, you’ve got Romar On The Hot Seat, because it’s been X number of years since the Dawgs have made the NCAA Tournament, and really, what the fuck?  On THAT side, you’ve got another great recruiting class for 2017, with an even BETTER one on tap for 2018.  So, you know, what do you do?  Do you shitcan Romar – because he’s obviously not getting it done, to what’s becoming an embarrassing degree – or do you keep him around to see what he can do with what’s looking like a Top 2 or 3 class in the NATION for next year?

This year, the Huskies are down their three best players from last season:  Andrew Andrews, Marquese Chriss, and Dejounte Murray.  In their place, we’ve brought in someone being bandied about as a potential #1 overall draft pick next year in Markelle Fultz, along with impressive big man Sam Timmins from New Zealand.  To round it out, we’ve got holdovers in David Crisp, Matisse Thybulle, Malik Dime, Noah Dickerson, and Dominic Green who appears to be that 7th man in the early going.  All of them have their talents, all of them have their drawbacks, but more importantly, all of them have a year’s worth of experience at the Pac-12 level of college basketball.

The question on everyone’s minds is:  is that enough?  Is that enough to break the string and get back into the NCAA Tournament?  Is having potentially the best fucking player in all of college basketball, plus four other guys, enough to do this fucking thing?

Welp, if Sunday afternoon’s season-opening game at home against Yale has anything to say about it, the answer to that question is:  probably not.  We lost 98-90, and it was – as I alluded to at the beginning of the post – the same fucking shit.  The Huskies will win the games where they have a clear athletic advantage over their opponents, because they do have quite a bit of talent on this team.  But, they’re going to lose against smart teams who limit mistakes, pass the ball well, and take advantage of our frequent over-aggressiveness.

Yale, as you might imagine, is a pretty intelligent basketball team.  They committed 22 personal fouls to our 28, and 7 turnovers to our 13.  They got to the free throw line more often (34 to 26) and made a higher percentage (70.6 to 61.5).  Oh, and in spite of our height advantage, we were out-rebounded 42-29, including a 21-4 edge on the offensive glass.  Considering they also doubled us on assists (20-10), I’m hard-pressed to find any reason why the Huskies should have been anywhere CLOSE to the Bulldogs in this one.  Except, there it is, a 15-0 edge in blocked shots.  Between that and having the clear best player on the court (Fultz put up 30 points on 11-17 shooting, with 7 rebounds, 6 assists, a block, and only 3 turnovers in his first college regular season action), we ONLY lost to the pride of the Ivy League by 8 points.  God fucking dammit.

So, you tell me.  You tell me how this season is supposed to be any different.  Because, I’m all out of ideas.  Make no mistake, I’ve been one of Romar’s staunchest defenders, but I’m even having a hard time with all of this.  I have all the respect for him in the world as a person, as a teacher, as a recruiter … as pretty much anything except an actual X’s & O’s basketball coach.  We’ve got no offense to speak of, except for guys to just run around and make a play; we’ve got no identity whatsoever on defense.  I mean, at least last year we had a philosophy!  Switch everything.  Done.  Sure, there were plenty of breakdowns, but at least it was a plan!  Now that we’ve gone away from that, where exactly did we go TO?  Just kind of stand around and hope the other team makes more mistakes than we do?

I mean, WHAT THE HELL AM I WATCHING OUT THERE!?

This is supposed to be something I want to go witness in person?  This is something to be jazzed about?

I guess, if I had to try to think about something positive, I could point to the fact that Yale was a Tournament team last year, who beat 5-seeded Baylor in the first round, with a great up-and-coming head coach who figures to bolt to a bigtime school in the next year or two.  When all is said and done, and we look back at our wins and losses come Tournament time, a loss to Yale might not look as bad as it looks now.  But, again, I watch this Husky basketball team and I see the same shit over and over.

Aside from Fultz – and the class of 2018 – the only player I find myself getting excited about is Thybulle, who looks like he’s taken a BIG step forward in his game from last season to this one.  They should be a nice one-two punch; but beyond that, I just don’t know.  Crisp looks like the same guy as last year:  takes WAY too many threes, with no business doing so, since he only makes about 20% of them.  Dime is a good blocker, but is so skinny he doesn’t bring much in the rebounding department, and he brings next-to-nothing offensively.  Dickerson is still the foul machine he was last year, with a marginal post game and an okay jump shot from the free throw line.

I sure hope Fultz comes in with a readymade outside shot, because if that’s something he needs to develop, then it’s already too late, because I don’t see a consistent 3-point shooter on this team (unless Thybulle has returned even better than I thought; he’s off to a good start in his first game, having made 3 of 4).  None of that really matters though, because the way this team plays defense, we’d have to average 100 points per game, and that’s just not going to happen when you’ve only got two scorers you can count upon, on a team filled with wild cards.

And so, like I said up top, here we go again.  What’s my prediction for this team?  Oh, I dunno, let’s see what they did last season:  8-4 in non-conference, 9-9 in conference, 1-1 in the Pac-12 Tournament, 1-1 in the N.I.T.  Yeah, sure, I guess that feels right.  Why the hell not?  The Huskies are Groundhog Day, and we’re all Bill Fucking Murray.  Except I don’t think there’s any Andie MacDowell at the end of our rainbow.

Taking a look at the schedule, it actually shapes up to be a reasonable one.  Aside from Yale, and the usual cupcake schools, we go on the road to Gonzaga in December; they’re already ranked in the Top 15 and figure to be a player come Tournament time.  A win against them seems unlikely, but would be pretty huge.  We also play TCU on the road, which doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it is a road game.  Then, I guess maybe Nevada would be the third-toughest game of the non-conference slate?  Not knowing who we play in one of these non-conference weekend tournaments, I suppose.

In conference, Oregon’s coming into the season ranked 5th in the nation; we play them once all year, at home, in early January.  Arizona’s ranked 10th and we play them twice; UCLA’s 16th and we play them twice as well.  Colorado always seems like they’re good; we play them twice.  Cal and Stanford, who knows, but we only play them once each, on the road.  We kickoff the new year (and our conference season) on January 1st (against the Cougs), with three straight home games; we end our regular season with three straight road games, finishing on the road against the L.A. schools.  So, yeah, there’s that.

I usually end these Husky basketball preview posts with something along the lines of “they won’t be great, but at least they’ll be entertaining,” but I’m starting to come off of that stance.  Reruns are only entertaining for so long.  Teams that are usually pretty good on offense, but terrible on defense can only get my boner throbbing so hard.  Husky basketball is the cotton candy of the food world.  It’s light and colorful and fun, but it lacks substance, and if you eat too much you get sick.  I’m tired of cotton candy; at this point I just want a fucking steak.

Win games, Huskies.  Not just against the dregs; win against the elites.  You’re not going to draw me into caring about this team if you keep playing the same songs over and over again.

I Don’t Know What To Do About Lorenzo Romar

I’m on record over the last few years as being a staunch Lorenzo Romar defender in this space.  I’ve ridiculed others who don’t really know what they’re talking about.  All the while, I’ve been hoping and praying for this team to seriously turn things around, so I can say, “I TOLD YOU SO!” and really rub it in everybody’s faces.  Because I like Romar.  I like Romar as much as I like the University of Washington itself.  There are precious few players I could make the same argument about – across all the sports I follow, that list includes King Felix and maybe a small handful of others – but I feel like he’s the only coach I could say that about.  I’ve never wanted a team to win for a coach as much as I’ve wanted this team to win for this man.

And, indeed, however this thing ends, Lorenzo Romar is going to go down as one of the top two or three head coaches in the program’s history.  So, in that sense, he’s a legend.  An all-time great.  And as such, he probably deserves to go out on his own terms.  There’s a very large part of me that thinks he should be able to stay here as long as he wants and retire a Husky.  In that sense, even if I have to suffer a string of 10 more mediocre seasons like we’ve had the last four years, I’ll take it.  I know he’s not in the same league – as he’s never won a national championship – but I see him in the same realm as a Coach K or a Jim Boeheim.  Guys who could go on forever at their respective schools.  I’m certainly in the minority on this one, but that’s just the way I feel.

If you asked me to take a step back and be objective about this whole thing, putting all of my personal feelings aside, then I’d have to say yeah, his time has probably run its course.  You could MAYBE stretch it out through next season, when he’s got another highly-touted One & Done player coming through the program.  But, when that team ultimately fails to reach the NCAA Tournament, I think you have to just shake hands and walk away.

This is a great blog post from the SB Nation UW Dawg Pound, if you have a few more minutes.  Like my last few posts, it addresses the Murray and Chriss jump to the NBA, only it takes it more head-on.  The author, Chris Landon, takes the argument that it’s dumb for these two guys to leave (while at the same time, acknowledging that this is the world in which we live, and players have to be cognizant of the fleeting nature of their opportunities).  It’s dumb for them to leave, because they’re clearly not ready.  They’re under-sized, and there are huge flaws in their games.  But, they’re being drafted based on potential, not necessarily whether or not they can help right away.  And, the odds of them making it as bigtime pros are pretty slim.  He also makes a great point that the players from UW who have actually managed to succeed at the next level, are those guys who played 3-4 years here (guys like IT, Brandon Roy, Nate Rob, and Q-Pon).  I think that’s important when discussing whether Lorenzo Romar should be our coach going forward.

It’s very likely that Chriss and Murray flame out at the next level.  And it’s true, they have practically no ties to the UW itself, and will only be remembered as part of a long list of guys Romar managed to get drafted.  But, I keep thinking about a throw-away line from one of my last posts.  If there was no One & Done rule in effect, would Murray and Chriss have played in college?  The more I think about it, the more I think, yes, they probably would have.

Going into the 2015/2016 season, Murray was the guy with all the heat on him, so MAYBE he makes the leap, but I highly doubt it.  While he was highly-touted, he was never some rare and special talent that the NBA would have to have RIGHT NOW.  And, I really don’t remember there being much of any heat on Chriss.  I think we all expected him to be a nice prospect or project for Romar, but he didn’t start having the heat really on him until Pac-12 play, when he figured out you don’t need to get two fouls in the first two minutes of the game to play the game of college basketball.  There’s a point in his season where you see things flip – starting with the first Colorado game – he became way more consistent in his production; whereas early in the season he was VERY hit or miss.  It was that second half of the season, on into the N.I.T., where Chriss had the scouts drooling all over him.  That’s where he made his money as a potential lottery pick.

And who gets credit for that?  Ultimately, I think Romar would deflect that question to the player, but I believe if it weren’t for Romar, guys like Chriss and Murray wouldn’t have blossomed to the point where they look the part of first round draft picks (whether Murray cracks that first round or not, he’s at least got a shot as long as the right team falls in love with him).

Romar has always been a great teacher of the game.  He’s almost always been able to get the guys who buy in to steadily improve each and every year here.  With just a single year, he can get the blue chip prospects NBA-ready.  With 4+ years, he can get the lesser prospects good enough to at least be in the discussion (someone like Andrew Andrews, for instance, won’t be drafted; but he’ll be in some team’s summer league if he wants to continue his basketball-playing career).  That has to account for something!

But, then again, you have to look at the state we’re in right now.  Why did this last season’s team fail to make the NCAA Tournament?  Ultimately, it was because the team was too young, and there wasn’t enough of a veteran bench presence to supplement what the stars were able to do.  Guys like Thybulle, Crisp, and Green might develop into solid outside shooters; but this year they were all Freshmen, and that part of their games was streaky at best.  If we had a reliable outside shooter on this roster, we could’ve done some real damage.

And, why was this team so young?  Because the cupboard was bare.  Last year, we had a lot of mediocre players either transfer or graduate, and we had nothing in the pipeline.  So, you get what we had here, which was 7 incoming Freshmen and 1 incoming JuCo transfer.  A more solid, veteran bench presence would’ve gone a long way, but what can you do?

Things look grim now for Romar and the program, because our best three players are leaving, with only one or MAYBE two quality players coming in (Fultz will be One & Done; Timmins might be good, or he might be nothing).  So, it’s pretty easy to come to the conclusion that this team next year is going to look A LOT like it did this year, with probably another N.I.T. bid in its future.  At which point, I mean, is there any other option but go through with a total regime change?

It wouldn’t be so fucking galling if the God damned Oregon Ducks didn’t turn their program around from a fucking joke under Ernie Kent to a guy in Dana Altman who has led them to four straight NCAA Tournament appearances in six total years with them, with at least one Tourney win in each season (culminating with this year’s 1-seed and Elite Eight appearance).  Romar’s never gotten us to the Elite Eight … just sayin’.

So, you know, that’s where my head’s at right now.  I’m torn!  I hate being that guy who can’t pick a side and argue it to the hilt.  A lot of people aren’t torn; they all agree that it’s probably time to move on (either right now, or a year from now when we’re in the same position).  But, I don’t know if I’ll ever feel good about letting Romar go.  I guess if I knew more success would be in our future, it would ease the pain; but the minute we let Romar go, the clock re-sets back to zero and we have to start all over.  It’s almost like rebuilding the entire program from the bottom up.  And, if we can’t bring in the right guy, someone special who can recruit the types of players we need for a long, successful run, then we’ll just be making a change for the sake of making a change, and spinning our wheels in the mud for another few more years.

God, do I need next year to be great.

Welp, Husky Basketball Is Fucking Screwed Next Season

Word came down simultaneously that Dejounte Murray and Marquese Chriss will be leaving the University of Washington, hiring agents, and going into the NBA Draft.  Both will be picked in the first round, and good luck to the both of them.

50.7 of our 84 points per game, or around 60% of our overall scoring output (when you add in Andrew Andrews, who has no more eligibility left) will need to be replaced for the 2016/2017 season.  Highly prized recruit, Markelle Fultz, will be here to pick up SOME of the slack.  But, unless he is a literal teenage werewolf who can single-handedly take over and dominate a basketball game, I don’t think this Husky team is going to win very many games.

Bottom line, this is a sports team.  Yeah, it’s nice when you can look at the NBA and see all the players who used to play for the University of Washington, but that doesn’t win this Husky team any basketball games!  We need guys who are going to help us WIN, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to be happening anytime soon.

Without our top three players, who do we have returning for next year?

Well, that’s still up in the air, now isn’t it?  I’m sure there could be any number of disgruntled guys who either were demoted or otherwise didn’t play as much as they’d hoped (Dickerson, Green, Dorsey), but if we just go with the assumption that guys will plan on sticking around, what are we looking at?

Right away, you figure Fultz will pair with Crisp to be our starting guards.  Crisp is like a young Andrew Andrews in that he loves shooting the ball from all over the court, but unknown at this time is whether or not he’s able to effectively drive and score in the paint.  Between that and getting more consistent with his outside shot, he’s got a lot to work on.  Then again, if Fultz is the real deal like people are saying he is, maybe Crisp becomes more of a de facto shooting guard (in which case, he needs to be A LOT more consistent with his outside shot).

Matisse Thybulle returns as probably our most promising prospect, at the small forward position.  He’s got significant starting experience, and is still probably a better defender than a scorer, so he’s got that to work on.  Until I see otherwise, he’s more of a nice role player on a good team (in other words, if he’s forced to shoulder more of the scoring burden, we’re in REAL trouble).

Then, in the front court, we’ve got Dickerson and Dime returning.  Dickerson’s development really levelled off about halfway through the year, which was really disappointing when we started losing all those games towards the end of the season.  I would anticipate, if he stays, that a lot of the offense will flow through him in a sort of high/low game, where he can use his good moves in the post to hopefully either get us a lot of points in the paint, or generate open threes for other guys.  Dime is who he is:  he’ll score on the occasional alley-oop or put-back lay-in, and he’ll block a lot of shots, and that’s about it.

That’s your starting five.  Fultz, Crisp, Thybulle, Dickerson, and Dime.  Based on what we’ve seen out of the returning players, that doesn’t inspire a whole lot of confidence.  Of course, this is college, so it’s fair to expect guys to improve from year 1 to year 2, but how much improvement can we really look forward to?

If we just assume Fultz is a better player than Murray was for us, MAYBE you could argue – if we give him the keys to the offense – he’ll replace what Andrews gave us.  That still leaves the almost 30 points of production we got from Murray and Chriss.  Will Dickerson step his game up?  Will Crisp?  Will Dime?  All of those guys averaged around 7 points per game last season, so how much more improvement can we really expect?

As usual, it’s going to have to come from the bench, which last season brought NOTHING to the table.

On top of Fultz coming in, we have a guy by the name of Sam Timmins coming in, who’s out of New Zealand and is 6’10.  So, there’s some big man depth anyway (whether or not he can play right away remains to be seen).  Behind him, we’ve got returning forward Devenir Duruisseau, who played sparingly as a Freshman last season, but could be a guy who makes a big leap in development if given a chance.

The front court is more or less set as far as warm bodies are concerned.  But, our depth at guard – and especially at shooting guard – is pretty thin.  Dominic Green is a guy who opened some eyes in the middle of last season, but ultimately didn’t have the ability to stick in the rotation.  We NEED guys who can hit the outside shot, or we’re destined for the cellar next year.  If I’m Dominic Green right now, I’m spending every waking moment next to a rack of basketballs, shooting nothing but outside jumpers all day every day.  If he can get his shot up to snuff, he can be a nice rotational player for us.

Which is more than I can say for Donaven Dorsey, who I have negative confidence in right now.  If he doesn’t transfer this offseason, I’ll eat my hat.  While I’m TOLD he has an outside shot, and indeed I’ve seen him make a few, he’s done nothing out on the court that would make anyone consider him a threat.  Ideally, he’d be like another Scott Suggs-type player for us, but I just don’t think he has it in him.

A lotta what-ifs going on with next year’s team.  In one sense, that could be construed as excitement, but mostly I just feel dread.  I mean, shit, if this year’s team couldn’t make the NCAA Tournament – with the Pac-12’s leading scorer, and two first round NBA draft picks on its roster, why would I be excited for next year’s team that’s simply going to be the Markelle Fultz Show?  The Washington Huskies have become nothing more than a showcase for superstars to get paid.  If Lorenzo Romar wasn’t such a delightful and impressive human being, I’d begin to wonder if he isn’t getting a cut of some of these initial professional contracts he’s enabling.

Reasons Why The Huskies Have Been Disappointing & Will Ultimately Land In The N.I.T.

The Huskies have been a big fat ball of unpleasantness over the last month.  What was once a promising team, where the sky was the limit, is now falling off the cliff into irrelevance.

And what’s worse?  Our three best players are all probably going to leave after this season.  The saga continues …

We know Andrews is gone, but he’s one of the good ones, so there’s no point in discussing him today.  Marquese Chriss, in stepping his game up during most of conference play, has really put himself on the map as one of the better prospects in this year’s NBA Draft.  He’s raw, of course, but his talent offensively is undeniable.  And he’s already got a so-so outside shot.  Give him a year or two to work on his shooting and you’re talking about a real weapon at the next level.  If he’s indeed going in the top half of the first round, as some are projecting, then he’s already gone.

Dejounte Murray would be the third.  He’s an obvious standout at guard with the kind of stuff that will certainly play at the next level.  He’s another who has to work on his outside shot, and he’ll get better with the turnovers as he gets more experience.  The rest of his game is pretty much ready to go.  He was looking at a late first round grade the last time I checked.  With the Huskies looking to bring in a 5-star guard in this year’s class, Murray might want to get out before he’s overshadowed.  If he can reasonably guarantee getting drafted in the first round, I don’t see why he’d stay either.

So, that’s great.  My worst nightmare, playing out right before our eyes, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.

You’d think, with a Top 3 like these, the Huskies would be looking at something more than a 7- or 8-seed in the Pac-12 Tournament, but you’d be wrong.  Because aside from these three guys, no one is really playing at all that high of a level.  Indeed, various players are regressing from previous highs earlier this season, which bodes pretty poorly for all involved.

The one thing Romar has always been able to hang his hat on is the fact that he’s able to coach his players up and get them to incrementally improve as the season goes on and as the years go on.  The fact that the opposite is happening is taking away one of the major talking points all us Romar defenders have clung to (the other being that he recruits pretty well at times, which doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon).

Noah Dickerson, David Crisp, and Malik Dime have all gotten worse as the season has gone on.  And while Dominic Green had a mid-season blip of effectiveness, that’s gone by the wayside as well.

Dickerson is probably the most disconcerting of the bunch, as he lost his starting job to Dime.  It makes sense in a way; as Chriss has improved, he’s commanded more opportunities.  But, in another sense, the whole flow of the offense has changed, and obviously not for the better.  In the first half of the season, the Huskies weren’t afraid to dump it into the post and let Dickerson work his magic.  Now, he’s getting the ball, like, NEVER.  Part of that is defenses packing it in, playing zones, daring us to take the outside shot (which we’re more than happy to settle for).  But, part of it is Romar just letting the guards take over, which isn’t smart when even someone like Murray is still making less than 30% of his threes.  I don’t mind a fast pace; it obviously makes for some entertaining basketball.  But, to completely ignore your big man with the best low-post moves on the team just seems crazy to me.

David Crisp is another player I liked a lot in the first half.  But, God damn has he been in a SLUMP!  He was an important part of this offense, and a player I pegged as fearless with his outside shot, something I really loved about his game.  Whereas in the first half he regularly took anywhere from 8-13 shots per game; he’s now taking 1-7 shots per game, and making a distressingly low percentage of THOSE!  He started to come around a little bit in the Oregon series last week, but even then he only took 4 shots per.

This team needs more from its ancillary players, especially on offense (let’s face it, the defense is a lost cause at this point; we just need to hope other teams miss open looks).  Matisse Thybulle runs hot and cold, Crisp, Green, and Dickerson have brought nothing to the table.  And Dime is good for some put-backs and alley-oop dunks, but that’s about it.

Speaking of Dime, Jesus Christ, he is the fucking KING of killing a good defensive possession with a foul late in the shot clock.  If the Huskies aren’t giving up easy buckets in transition (their full-court press is the worst thing I’ve ever seen; and I watched a solid 10 seconds of 2 Girls, 1 Cup), if they SOMEHOW manage to force their opponent to waste 25 seconds of a possession, never fear, just give the ball to the guy closest to Dime and let him dribble towards the basket, because Dime WILL get called for some dumbshit foul, because for some reason he hasn’t figured out he SHOULDN’T FUCKING DO THAT!  I get the whole idea of inserting him into the starting lineup in place of Dickerson; it makes sense to have his defensive presence (and a player who is a non-factor on offense) when you’ve got so many offensive-minded players among the other four guys.  But, for every dominating block, Dime fucks up just as often if not more.  How he hasn’t figured out the officiating in this conference is beyond me (to be fair, the Pac-12 refs are the worst in the history of athletics, but that’s neither here nor there).

Finally, let’s throw more shade at guys like Green and Dorsey, who have brought zilch to the table this year.  They can’t be counted on defensively whatsoever (on an already-terrible defensive team), and they rarely hit the outside shots they’re supposedly known for.  Can Dan Kingma REALLY be that awful?  I think it’s time to dust him off for another futile Pac-12 Tournament run.

Don’t be shocked if this team loses in the first round.  When they do, just know to blame all the players below the Big 3.  And just know that none of those Big 3 will be back next year, while all the rest will.

Fun.