Andrew Andrews Is Pretty Great

The last great Husky basketball team was from the 2010/2011 season.  Isaiah Thomas’ last year, MBA and Justin Holiday playing big minutes; Wilcox, Ross (as a Freshman), Suggs, Overton, Gant, Aziz, all rounding out a deep and quality roster that saw this team run the table through the Pac-12 Tournament (with IT’s Cold Blooded moment against Arizona one of the most iconic single plays in the program’s history), nab a 7-seed in the NCAA Tournament, and lose in the Round of 32 by three points to an Elite Eight-bound North Carolina Tar Heels team.

THAT … was a fun Husky basketball team.

Every year since then, I’ve tried to talk myself into this being a fun basketball team to watch.  As my expectations dwindled, I at least had hope that there’d be some entertainment value to those teams.  The 2011/2012 season saw two NBA prospects (Ross & Wroten) lead the team to a regular season conference title; but a first round exit in the Pac-12 Tournament relegated that team to the N.I.T.  The 2012/2013 season was built around C.J. Wilcox and not a whole lot else; they were bounced in the first round of the N.I.T.  We had hope for the 2013/2014 season with Wilcox in his senior year, alongside heavily hyped Nigel Williams-Goss, Andrew Andrews in his second year, and JuCo transfer Perris Blackwell rounding out our front court with some other hold-overs we hoped would see some natural improvement.  That team wasn’t even good enough to qualify for the N.I.T.  Which led us to last season, where we bottomed out with a mighty 5 conference wins.  NWG returned for his second season, Andrews was an upper-classman, Robert Upshaw transferred here and looked like the real deal, and Shawn Kemp went into his senior season.  By all accounts, last year’s team should have been something special, or at least A LITTLE better than it was.  Instead, Upshaw got kicked off the team, and the rest of the roster never really meshed.

Which brings us to this year, where the only notable hold-overs are Andrew Andrews and Donaven Dorsey.  Romar’s incoming Freshman class was one of the highest rated in the country (and maybe his highest rated ever), but with that comes a lot of uncertainty.  Would Romar be able to mold everyone into shape in time?  Would the players play well with one another?  Or, would they all be playing for themselves, in hopes to parlay their individual successes into NBA stardom?

It’s taken me a while to want to write about this Husky team, because aside from Andrews, I didn’t know much at all about these guys, aside from what I read in the newspapers.  But, reading about basketball is nothing compared to watching it, and soaking it all in.  I can say, from what I’ve seen so far this season, there’s A LOT to like.

For starters, I just have to say this, Andrew Andrews is playing out of his mind.  As the only senior on this team, he’s had a lot on his plate since the minute last season ended.  And, he has absolutely come through like gangbusters!  I’m sure everyone respects Romar and the other coaches, but basketball teams need on-court leaders, and Andrews has been that and then some.  When you factor in all the youth (six Freshmen playing regular minutes, with a transfer – Dime – also new to the program), this team was only going to go as far as Andrews was able to carry them, especially early in the season, when everyone was just getting used to playing together.

So, what has Andrews done?  Well, he’s leading the team in minutes (33), points (21.7), and free throws attempted and made (189 & 159, respectively).  He leads all guards in shooting percentage (.401%), and he’s second on the team in rebounds, assists, and steals per game (6.2, 4.7, & 1.4 respectively).  Andrews has always had the reputation as sort of a loose cannon when it came to the way he’d jack up crazy shots, but you don’t score over 1,500 points in your career by passing the ball all the time!  He’s currently ranked in the Top 10 of all time Husky scorers, just ahead of legends Detlef Schrempf and Brandon Roy.  Right now, he has 1,513 points.  If he manages to average 20 points per game the rest of the regular season, he’ll end up with 1,733, which would put him just ahead of IT for 7th all time.  An extended Pac-12 Tourney run, with a likely N.I.T. or NCAA Tourney appearance, and it wouldn’t be impossible to see him get up into the 1,800 range (he’d need to finish with 1,805 to tie Jon Brockman for 3rd all time).

In short, Andrew Andrews will go down as one of the greatest Huskies of all time.  I know points aren’t everything, and he’s played on some pretty bad teams the last three years; if he weren’t having the year he’s having now, with the success this team is having so far, I don’t think we’d be having this conversation.  But, he IS having the year he’s having, and this team IS successful so far, and Andrew Andrews is the biggest reason why.  If he’s able to lead this team back to the NCAA Tourney – after so many years in the wilderness with supposedly more talented players (Wroten, Ross, NWG) – then I don’t see how you don’t include Andrews in the same breath as the greats like IT, Roy, Brockman, Pondexter, Nate Rob, and the rest.  Here’s a guy who’s loyal, who stayed through his senior season, who was forced to play behind some highly-recruited 4-star prospects, who’s now shining the brightest when given the opportunity to lead his own team.  He’s the consummate Romar Guy, who has improved each and every year of his college career, and is finally reaping the rewards of all that hard work.  He’s one of the best players in the Pac-12 right now, and absolutely deserves to be in the discussion for Pac-12 Player of the Year.

This was going to be a different post, but sort of morphed into a love letter to Andrew Andrews.  I dunno, I feel like a lot of Husky fans are skeptical about the guy.  Like he’s all of a sudden going to fall apart, watch his field goal percentage plummet, and start jacking up even more crazy shots to compensate.  Do the haters not see how he’s getting so many of his points at the free throw line?  38.5% of his overall points are from free throws!  That’s crazy and awesome!  He’s going to find a way to get his and contribute to this team’s success, even if he has an off shooting night here and there.

But, probably more importantly, as this season continues, there’s going to be less and less of a need for Andrews to be The Guy.  As players like Dejounte Murray and David Crisp start to assert themselves, and as our bigs get more comfortable with the college game and the way fouls are called … I mean, we’re already starting to see those guys step their games up.  But, going forward, I would anticipate there will be less pressure on Andrews to carry the whole team.  He’ll be free to play within the flow of the game and continue to contribute in his usual ways, with the peace of mind to know that it doesn’t have to be ALL on him.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk more about the rest of the team, as Husky Basketball Week prattles on.

The UW Alumni Basketball Game Was Amazing

Just know that the following post is coming to you completely, 100% snark-free.  The spring and summer of 2013 – if it’s remembered for anything – will be remembered as a vast wasteland of Seattle Sports Hell.  Dark, desolate, Mariners-filled … we don’t get to look forward to the Sonics returning, we likely won’t have pro hockey anytime soon, and the wait for Seahawks and Husky football is absolutely excruciating.  It’s been a crappy last few months, and it’s going to continue to be a crappy next few months.

But, smack dab in the middle of our calendar year, an oasis in the endless desert that is Seattle sports, we had an event at Hec Ed yesterday afternoon that – for a few hungover hours – left me feeling like a kid again.  With a smile plastered on my face like the first time I ever saw a pair of naked boobs in my face.  And, truth be told, every time since.

For an idea that seems so much like a no-brainer, this was a first for Husky basketball.  An All Star Game comprised exclusively of Husky players over the last 10 years or so.  Split into two squads:  pre-2009 and post-2009.

You’re talking about a who’s who Husky greats!

Pre-2009:

Will Conroy
Brandon Roy
Nate Robinson
Tre Simmons
Spencer Hawes
Bobby Jones
Jamaal Williams
Mike Jensen
Hans Gasser

Post-2009:

Isaiah Thomas
Quincy Pondexter
Jon Brockman
Justin Holiday
Justin Dentmon
Terrence Ross
Tony Wroten
Matthew Bryan-Amaning
Darnell Gant
Ryan Appleby

I had a feeling that the older guys would win the game, thinking that they SURELY would have wanted it more.  Plus, you’ve got some wily vets on that team who can pull from a deeper bag of tricks.  Couple things of note, though:  the pre-2009 bench was MUCH leaner (indeed, there was even one fewer player on the pre-2009 roster), and the post-2009 team was flat-out stacked.

Post-2009 won the game 107-103, though for the most part it didn’t even feel all that close.  You’re talking about an All Star Game, so defense wasn’t really the name of the game.  Post-2009 generally held comfortable leads, while Pre-2009 would go on the occasional spurts to tie the game or hold brief, small leads.

The Spencer Hawes/Jon Brockman battle was epic.  That was surely worth the price of admission by itself.  Hawes was certainly the best player on his team, scoring 21 points and grabbing 17 boards, but Brockman was the only guy on the post-2009 team that could even come close to containing him.

Will Conroy looked like a man possessed; I think he wanted to win that game more than anyone.  He didn’t come out of the game until midway in the second half after he’d picked up his 4th foul; I was sure he was going to just stay in the game until he fouled out (apparently, they were playing by NBA foul rules, as Conroy picked up his 5th late in the game, but stayed in).  He didn’t appear to have off-the-charts numbers when I watched live, but apparently he ended up with a triple-double (16 points, 12 boards, 11 assists), with a quadruple-double if you count the 10 turnovers.

Tre Simmons led his team in scoring with 23, making 6 of 19 shots (5 of 16 from behind the arc).  Nate Rob started each half, then left after about 11 minutes each time and never returned.  He had a quiet 7 points even though he was jacking up shots practically from mid-court.  Roy had a quiet game too, but started to pick it up in the second half; he finished with 13 points.  Bobby Jones didn’t get into the game (I think) until the second half (for some reason; I blame Warren Moon’s erratic basketball coaching style) and was instant offense in the early going.  Mike Jensen looked better in yesterday’s game than he did in his entire Husky career, making all five of his shots and remaining somewhat active on defense.  Jamaal Williams is a big dude who provided a physical presence for the vets.  As for Hans Gasser … he played five minutes and scored 0 points.  So there’s that.

Isaiah Thomas was the MVP of the game, with 24 points on 10 of 20 shooting (4 of 11 from behind the arc).  He simply took over in the second half and willed his team to victory (just as he did for us so many times in his Husky career).  Q-Pon somehow managed to get to the free throw line 11 times, making 8.  He had a quiet 17 points.  Tony Wroten looked MUCH improved, both with his jumper and at the free throw line.  It was pretty sweet to see how he and IT played off of one another.  That 2011/2012 team really could’ve been a mad-dog with both of those guys playing in the back court.

Justin Dentmon continued his hot string of shooting, carrying it over from his final season in a Husky uniform.  Holiday and Ross were fairly quiet, scoring a combined 17 points, but taking only a combined 17 shots.  MBA was effective in limited duty (9 points & 8 boards in 15 minutes).  Gant and Appleby were limited in a numbers crunch, as the rest of the squad was too good to sit for too long.

The whole event was a total victory.  There was a Legends Game to kick things off, with some real old timers doing a short game with 10-minute halves.  Lorenzo Romar won the MVP of that game as he jacked three 3-pointers in finishing with 11 points.  There was a 3-point contest at halftime of the Alumni Game, with Dentmon beating out Simmons, Pondexter, Nate-Rob and Appleby.  And, after the Alumni Game, they had a Dunk Contest with MBA, Holiday, Gant, and Ross.  The latter two made it to the finals, with Gant winning it all thanks to a fan-vote on Twitter.  Gant’s best dunk was a bounce off of the shot clock followed by a slam.  Ross’s best dunk happened in the first round (and it was the best dunk of the whole day), where he had Tony Wroten go 15 rows into the stands, throw the ball into the court, and on a bounce Ross caught it and windmill’d it home.  Each netted a 50 for their efforts on those two, but that’s what happens when you use your best dunk in the first round.

When I first heard about this event, I had it pegged as something that might draw 5,000 fans or so.  Turns out, they sold out, with the Will Call line stretching all the way down the street to the New Husky Stadium.  If they’re able to bring in the same crop of guys every year, I don’t see why they wouldn’t keep this tradition going!  You’re talking about 10 NBA players on the same college basketball court putting on one hell of a show.  I would very much go to this every year they’re able to put it on, no doubt about it.

The Last Five Years In Seattle Sports

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

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

We did NOT deserve this …

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

Seattle Mariners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Husky Football

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

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

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

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

Willingham:  gone.  Sarkisian:  in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Husky Basketball

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

We lost.  To Valparaiso.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seattle Supersonics

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

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

Seattle Seahawks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Don’t Be Stupid: The Huskies Should Never Fire Lorenzo Romar

This link was brought to my attention over the holidays thanks to Percy Allen’s blog.  I’ve been a little too under the weather to properly rage against this moron.  But, as I sit under a pile of snotty tissues, next to a bottomless glass of orange juice, I think I’m ready to give this asinine notion the respect it deserves.

Which is quite the shame, because this is the kind of opinionated, lack-of-facts, straight-from-the-gut type of blogging I tend to respect.  I don’t need a blog to tell me the fucking news stories of the day!  I want to know what you THINK!

Of course, this guy who writes for Rant Sports (seriously, who’s ever heard of Rant Sports?  Come on!  This gets picked up by the Seattle Times Husky Basketball Blog?), he’s entirely off-base.

Here, let me cherry-pick some of the stupidest lines:

The school itself has some of the best facilities in the conference and have a decent history. This isn’t some middling FCS program trying to go big time.

OK, first of all, these facilities were a JOKE before Romar got here.  You know why the school was able to improve those facilities?  Through Romar’s success.

Also?  “A decent history”?  You’re joking, right?  What history would that be?  You mean the TEN times we made it into the NCAA Tournament?  You mean that ONE time we made it to a Final Four?  I’ve known some middling programs in my day; the Washington Huskies before Romar were BOTTOM-FEEDERS.  Get your head out of Bob Bender’s ass, his teams weren’t that sweet either.

For the record, while the Huskies pre-Romar went to 10 total NCAA Tournaments in however many DECADES of existence, the Huskies with Romar have gone to the Tourney 6 times in 10 seasons.  Pretty fucking okay?  Pretty fucking okay.  Moving on.

Last year, he had two first round NBA draft picks and still couldn’t make the NCAA tournament. His teams racked up gaudy win numbers against the mediocre PAC-12 but were left out because they couldn’t win any of their big non conference games. Romar was part of the reason.

So, he had two first round picks in the NBA draft.  Let’s start with that nugget of information.  How many other schools had more than one player taken in the first round last year?  Let’s see, there was Kentucky, UConn, North Carolina, Syracuse, Duke, and Vanderbilt.  Now, if you ask my opinion, I’m going to tell you those are PROBABLY some of the best basketball programs in the fucking WORLD.  Again, just one man’s opinion.  But to have multiple first round picks come to your school at the same time … that’s pretty fucking impressive.  And, not for nothing, but Terrence Ross didn’t come out of high school a polished diamond.  It took him a year to get his feet wet.  A year of experience in Romar’s program.

But, you’re right.  Couldn’t make the NCAA Tournament.  Although, it’s not exactly our fault that the Pac-12 was at its lowest point in the conference’s history.  When you’ve got to try and bank on a small handful of non-conference games against quality opposition, you’re going to be at a disadvantage come At-Large time.  RPI is a bitch, know what I’m sayin’?

Still, I wouldn’t say Romar was the problem, at all.  He consistently, year after year, gets the very BEST out of his players.  Oftentimes, players other schools wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole.  He doesn’t create the schedule.  He just gets his teams ready to compete.

Year in and year out, he’s one of the worst “X and O’s” coaches in college basketball.

I can’t argue with that.  Not because he’s right, but because it’s an impossible argument to prove.  Are you sitting there, watching every game at every school in ALL of college basketball?  Are you tracking the plays every single coach runs throughout the country?  You must have the best college basketball cable package in the known universe and one of the best time machines ever created.  Saying Romar is “one of the worst X and O’s coaches in college basketball” is like saying Uncle Rico’s tape is pretty much the worst video ever made.  Like anyone could even know that!

He’s survived solely on athletes and now the chickens are coming home to roost.

Oh?  You mean like all those “athletes” on Kentucky, UConn, North Carolina, Syracuse, Duke, and Vanderbilt?  THOSE athletes?  Those athletes that every great basketball program needs to succeed?  Good programs have athletes, everybody!  It’s a fact of life!  Talented players who can run fast, jump high, and shoot basketballs.  Hell, it’s almost like Lorenzo Romar is trying to build a basketball program or something!

This year’s roster includes highly rated players in Abdul Gaddy, Scott Suggs and C.J. Wilcox.

Highly rated?  In what universe, exactly?  I know Abdul Gaddy was highly-rated coming out of high school, but he’s largely been a disappointment.  I wouldn’t blame Romar for that, though.  Romar has done the best he can with a kid who just isn’t elite.  It happens.  Sometimes the blue-chip, 4-star athletes don’t pan out.  Then again, this writer has something against athletes, so maybe that’s part of the problem?  As for Suggs and Wilcox, they are spot-up shooters at best.  They are role players being forced into a situation where they have to be stars; it’s a bad combo.

I will readily admit, this 2012/2013 team is not good.  This is certainly a down-year in every sense of the phrase.  The Huskies have no one who can post-up, the Huskies have no one who can drive the lane and score, the Huskies have no one who can consistently get to the free throw line (except Aziz, and he’s one of the worst free throw shooters in the country).  This team is a trainwreck!  It’s the same reason why the Pac-12/Pac-10 has been a trainwreck for the last few years:  all the talent has fled to the NBA.  The coffers are barren!  But, by all accounts, reinforcements are on the way.  Look out, though, the reinforcements might be … *shudder* … athletes!

Longtime head coach Lorenzo Romar is still living pretty on the Brandon Roy-Nate Robinson days. Problem is, this is 2012, and his team is going nowhere. The time is now for the Huskies to make a change at the top.

You’ve got me there.  Those Brandon Roy/Nate Rob days were pretty fucking glorious.  But, I would think if you’re going to bash Romar about ANYTHING, isn’t it pretty obvious where he has failed this University?  How about the fact that he has yet to get beyond the Sweet 16, in spite of the fact that he had some pretty fucking good teams back in those glory days?

Of course, I would argue some of his more recent teams (with Brockman and Isaiah Thomas and Quincy Pondexter) were pretty glorious too.  Again, he’s leading this university in NCAA Tourney appearances (good), but he’s not getting past the first game of the second weekend (bad).  There’s your free shot at Romar and you blew it!

I will say this again:  the Washington Huskies are not a nationally elite program.  The fact that Lorenzo Romar has brought in ANY of the talent he’s brought in is a testament to his abilities as a recruiter.  You come to Seattle, coach for a school with no history, and try to get 17 and 18 year old kids to come here from California and Florida and the Midwest!  When there are so many other schools (like those listed earlier, and like many others NOT listed) – even in our own conference – who are more desirable for their track record, their location, and their chances to make the NBA.  You let me know how you do!

Now, CAN the Washington Huskies be a nationally elite program?  Sure they can.  It’s going to take more than the recent decade of success, though.  It’s going to take many, many decades of success.  You know how you get that success?  Continuity.  What do some of the greatest schools of all time have in common?  Duke, Syracuse, UConn, North Carolina, Arizona for a while there … they all had or have head coaches who were with them FOREVER.  Those universities committed to their elite head coaches because they believed in what those men were trying to build.  They didn’t rip everything apart thanks to a down year here and there.  They waited.  They let their legendary head coaches work.  And in the end, they’ve been rewarded handsomely.

You know what the biggest problem is in sports?  Impatience.  When you have a great thing going – especially in college – you ride it out for as long as possible.  Oh, you’re upset that some other schools or professional teams might be sniffing around Coach Romar?

Finally, loyalty is a two way street. While the university signed him to a 10 year contract two seasons ago he has still flirted with the idea of leaving. The Illinois Fighting Illini and the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves were supposedly interested. I call his bluff and let him go.

Really?  You’d let him go, huh?  Before I get ahead of myself, just because someone else gives you a job offer (or even hints at a job offer) doesn’t mean you’re not loyal.  By the way, has Romar ACCEPTED any of these job offers?  If my understanding of basic logic is worth anything, I would venture a guess that he has not.  And therefore, Romar has been VERY loyal to this university.

I, for one, want other schools and professional teams after my head coach.  That means he’s doing a good job.  My biggest nightmare is the day some NFL team hires Steve Sarkisian away from the Husky football team.

It’s called “building a program” for a reason.  If you fire a local legend, only to replace him with some “up and coming young coach”, you’re not building anything.  You’re tearing everything down only to RE-build all over again.  That’s dumb.  Let Romar do his thing.  You’ll feel like a fool when he starts getting some real results.

Look back at all the players Romar has gotten into the NBA.  All the players who have improved from absolute DISASTERS when they were Freshman, to all-conference players as Seniors.  Brockman, Pondexter, Thomas, MBA; hell, look at where Brandon Roy was when he started vs. where he was when he finished!  Improvement, across the board.  Players enter the University of Washington as unmolded blobs of clay.  Nothing but swinging-dick athletes who are nothing but raw.  Lorenzo Romar molds them into stars.  He consistently challenges the best teams in the Pac-10/12 and finds the Huskies near the top more often than near the bottom.  If that’s not a great head coach, then I’ve got some news for you.

Not that I would ever advocate for what I’m about to say, but if you’re going to fire Lorenzo Romar just to bring in someone fresh, you don’t do it for some “up and coming young coach”.  You do it for John Calipari or Rick Pitino, or even Baylor head coach Scott Drew (who probably would’ve been the hottest head coaching commodity before the latest scandals).  You want to go that extra mile?  Sometimes, you gotta get your hands dirty.  How many schools has Calipari left in his wake with all his violations?  Is that what you’re after?  Because that’s probably what it would take if you decide to fire Romar.

My opinion:  you stick with Romar.  The man has earned a little confidence.  One bad season isn’t worth throwing away your entire program.  Let the man do his thing.

2008: A Seattle Sports Apocalypse

Editor’s Note:  To read this blog post, click HERE.  It is one of Seattle Sports Hell’s “Featured Articles”.

The Best Washington Husky Basketball Players In The Lorenzo Romar Era

Before Lorenzo Romar came to town, I was never really much of a Washington Husky basketball fan.  Though, I do remember being in high school on Thursday, March 19th, 1998, when Rip Hamilton ripped our guts out in the Sweet 16.  Aside from that shot, and the fact that Todd MacCulloch was on the team, I don’t remember much else from the Bob Bender era.  After that game, and the following season where we lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, three years of 8th and 9th place finishes sealed Bender’s fate.

Then, in 2002, we signed Lorenzo Romar.  And everything changed … though not right away.

Romar came to the Huskies with 6 seasons’ worth of head coaching experience, 3 with Pepperdine and 3 with Saint Louis.  In his 6 seasons, Romar had a 93-88 record, with one NIT and one NCAA Tournament appearance.  I can’t say that expectations were super-high for Romar coming to Montlake.  But, it turns out he exceeded those expectations beyond our wildest dreams.

That 2002/2003 team had some talent, but they weren’t quite there yet and we finished 9th again.  In his second season, however, we made it to the Big Dance.  What followed that underachieving first season was post-season appearances in every other season but one (2006/2007).  Six NCAA appearances in eight seasons, including three Sweet 16 appearances.  We’re 8-6 in the Tourney, and even though we haven’t been able to get past the Sweet 16 under Romar, it’s easy to realize just where he’s taken this program since he got here.

We’ve won two outright Pac-10/12 championships, we’ve won three other conference tournament championships.  He has coached at least six major NBA players (and another three at least who have had cups of coffee in the league), and that’s not counting Ross and Wroten, who both figure to be first round picks this year.

So, in honor of all the great Lorenzo Romar has brought to the Washington Huskies, I’m compiling a roster of 12 guys.  The greatest men’s Husky basketball players to play under Coach Romar.

The obvious place to start are the five guys who have not only gone on to make a dent in the NBA, but also made a significant dent with the University of Washington.  They are, in no particular order:

It’s a tad undersized, so I probably wouldn’t make that my Starting Five, but those are the five who are the most obvious choices to be on this All Romar Team.  All of them played at least three seasons in college and all of them got progressively better each and every season – a trademark of just about any Lorenzo Romar student athlete.

In the next grouping, I think these guys are almost just as obvious, but in this case we’re talking about critical role players Lorenzo Romar has cultivated over the years.  Again, in no particular order:

Even though Bobby Jones and Justin Holiday are essentially the same player, I’m including both of them on my team, because you can never have enough hard-nosed defenders.  I believe that, and I know Lorenzo Romar believes that.

I figured this team needed another true point guard (because, let’s face it, Nate Rob was many things for the Huskies, but a true point guard he was not).  It came down to Conroy and Justin Dentmon in my mind (with no apologies to Ryan Appleby), and while Dentmon might have had the better offensive numbers (especially in his Senior season), Conroy always had the better assist numbers.  Now, if Abdul Gaddy comes out next season and blows everyone away with his leadership abilities, then this might change after next season.  For now, Conroy is my guy.

And, to round things out, I needed a pure shooter.  THIS one came down to Simmons and C.J. Wilcox.  Granted, Simmons only played here for two seasons, but he was cash money while wearing the purple and gold.  Of course, should Wilcox come out next season and blow me away, he will rightly deserve a spot on this team.  Until then …

At this point, you’ll notice that no one on my team is taller than 6’7.  We need big men!  Unfortunately, what has plagued Lorenzo Romar throughout his tenure with this team is the fact that he can’t regularly get quality big men.  Sure, he got Spencer Hawes, but he was one-and-done so nuts to him.  Romar has had to take what he could get and do the best with what he had.  Therefore, the following two guys also make my team (until a day comes when we get someone better):

These might not be the most popular choices – especially MBA – but look at it rationally.  I’m not going to include any one-and-done players on my list (sorry Tony Wroten), and if you look at the rosters through the years, these two really ARE the best true big men he has coached.  If anyone wanted to see the genius of a Lorenzo Romar, look no further than the career trajectory of Matthew Bryan-Amaning.  He was positively DREADFUL in his first season with the Huskies.  Field Goal Percentage around 40%, rebounds per game around 3, minutes down around 14 per game.  Then, look at his Senior season!  28 minutes per game, nearly 55% from the field, and an even 8 rebounds per contest!  That’s the Lorenzo Romar Effect in a nutshell.  And, as for Aziz, he’s slowly but surely getting there.  In his second full season, he made the All Pac-12 Defensive Team.  Sure, he might get into foul trouble more often than not, but he will give other teams hell for about 20 minutes a game in the paint.

My 12th man isn’t going to some bottom-feeder who never played a lick of meaningful minutes (like Zane Potter or Brendan Sherrer).  There’s too much talent on the All Romar Team to waste on a pasty white guy.  This pick is more of a personal favorite.  Even though he left school early, he’s still made an impact on me.  And, I think he’ll fit on this team quite nicely.  He is:

Not a one-and-done, so he fits the mold I’ve set.  The only downside is thinking about the potential he had to be a Player of the Year candidate.

I think it’s a pretty decent squad.  Here it is again, from shortest to tallest:

  • Isaiah Thomas 5’8 (PG), 2008-2011
  • Nate Robinson 5’9 (PG/SG), 2002-2005
  • Will Conroy 6’1 (PG), 2001-2005
  • Brandon Roy 6’5 (G/F), 2002-2006
  • Tré Simmons 6’5 (SG), 2003-2005
  • Justin Holiday 6’6 (SF), 2007-2011
  • Terrence Ross 6’6 (SG/SF), 2010-2012
  • Bobby Jones 6’7 (SF), 2002-2006
  • Quincy Pondexter 6’7 (SF), 2006-2010
  • Jon Brockman 6’7 (PF), 2005-2009
  • Matthew Bryan-Amaning 6’9 (PF), 2007-2011
  • Aziz N’Diaye 7’0 (C), 2010 – Present

Now, if I’m picking a true Starting Five, to compete against actual teams, it’s looking something like this:

  1. Nate Robinson (PG)
  2. Brandon Roy (SG)
  3. Quincy Pondexter (SF)
  4. Jon Brockman (PF)
  5. Aziz N’Diaye (C)

You get Aziz in there to be a load in the paint.  You’ve got lots of great scoring in our guards and small forward, and you’ve got stellar defense & rebounding out of our forwards.

Now, if you want to play matchups, you’ve got a whole world to play with.  Need to go small and run up the score?  Try this lineup:

  1. Will Conroy
  2. Isaiah Thomas
  3. Tré Simmons
  4. Terrence Ross
  5. Bobby Jones

Want to clamp down defensively?

  1. Isaiah Thomas
  2. Justin Holiday
  3. Bobby Jones
  4. Quincy Pondexter
  5. Aziz N’Diaye

Anyway, that’s it.  These are the Lorenzo Romar All Stars.  I’ll update it accordingly in the years to come.

To close things out, for your information, is Lorenzo Romar’s career record with the Washington Huskies:

2002/200310-17 (5-13), 9th in Pac-10
2003/200419-12 (12-6), 2nd in Pac-10, lost NCAA first round to UAB 102-100
2004/200529-6 (14-4), 2nd in Pac-10*, lost NCAA Sweet 16 to Louisville 93-79
2005/200626-7 (13-5), 2nd in Pac-10, lost NCAA Sweet 16 to Connecticut 98-92 (OT)
2006/200719-13 (8-10), 7th in Pac-10
2007/200816-17 (7-11), 8th in Pac-10, lost CBI first round to Valparaiso 72-71
2008/200926-9 (14-4), 1st in Pac-10, lost NCAA second round to Purdue 76-74
2009/201026-10 (11-7), 3rd in Pac-10*, lost NCAA Sweet 16 to West Virginia 69-56
2010/201124-11 (11-7), 3rd in Pac-10*, lost NCAA second round to North Carolina 86-83
2011/201224-11 (14-4), 1st in Pac-12, lost NIT Final Four to Minnesota 68-67 (OT)

* – won Pac-10 Conference Tournament

Lorenzo Romar Deserves To Be Pac-12 Coach Of The Year

Pending the results of the next two games, obviously.  Because to get this far, then lose to the worst team in the conference (USC), followed by a team in turmoil (UCLA), would be a great way to kill any coach of the year momentum.

The arguments against Romar are few:  he’s got a roster filled with future NBA stars (likely three, maybe even up to four).  That’s nice and everything, but that doesn’t automatically make you a championship team.  The NBA talent the Huskies currently have isn’t equal to the NBA talent across the country (like, say, Kentucky).  First of all, you have to look at the role players around that NBA talent.  I would argue that Kentucky’s role players are far more impressive than those on the Huskies.  The Huskies have three guys who can score on a regular basis; the rest of the guys do what they can, but they’re not exactly world-beaters.  Plus, you have to factor in how thin our team is depth-wise.  We frequently run with a 7-man rotation (Gaddy, Wroten, Aziz, Gant, Ross, Simmons, Wilcox) with cursory minutes going to guys like Seferian-Jenkins and Shawn Kemp Jr.  Aside from the big three (Wroten, Ross, & Wilcox), you will STRUGGLE to find a guy who is currently playing at even a D-League level.  That isn’t to say those other guys won’t blossom; that’s just saying that, right now, this is what Romar has to deal with.  And he’s KILLING it.

The arguments for Romar winning the Coach of the Year award are many.  At the top of the heap, you have to talk about the veterans we lost.

This Husky team lost four MAJOR contributors to last year’s team!  IT was our team leader, MBA was our primary big man, Holiday was a Jack-of-all-trades who was also a lockdown defender for guards and forwards alike, and Overton was a lockdown defender for the other team’s best guard.  Overton was also our all-world 6th man who could run the offense in IT’s absence (however brief they were last season) or when IT needed a spell from running the show.

In their place, we have Gant as our only senior who plays regular minutes (and even those tend to fluctuate thanks to foul trouble).  Gaddy is in his third season, but he spent the last half of last season coming back from surgery.  Aziz is in his second season in D-I ball.  Ross is in his second season, but he played a minor role on last year’s team until tournament time.  Wilcox made a name for himself last year after red-shirting the year before, but he’s still fairly new to the system.  And Simmons red-shirted last year.  Everyone else, including our leading scorer, are brand spankin’ new players.

Regardless of their collective talent, it’s MIGHTY difficult to mix and match a bunch of new and young guys into a unit that can win you some ballgames.  You’ve got to get everyone on the same page scheme-wise, get everyone to learn the defense, find the floor matchups that work best, set up a rotation that gives guys enough minutes to keep them fresh and improve their overall games.

THEN, tack on the early-season turmoil with our 6-5 start.  Coming back from such a mediocre-to-poor non-conference schedule to potentially go 15-3 and win the Pac-12 conference outright is nothing short of amazing.  You’d have to figure that, with the talent we have, the Huskies would be a better team than they were in those first 11 games; but to be THIS good against this conference (regardless of how “down” it is, these teams are still hated rivals and are giving us their best effort every time out) is better than I could have possibly imagined.

Now, look at the other head coaches being talked about for this award.  Arizona?  I’m sorrry, but we beat that team twice this season.  That should automatically take Sean Miller out of the running.  Colorado?  Come back to me when they win a road game.  Cal?  Seriously, how difficult of a road have they faced?  Their most-impressive win was the game @ Washington (we never had a chance to play them on their home court to see if we could return the favor).  But, you’re talking about a team in Cal who is pretty much the opposite of Washington.  They RETAINED all of their veteran leadership from last season!  They didn’t have a bunch of new guys coming in to learn a new offense and a new defense.  They didn’t have to tinker early in the season to see which players played best together.  They got to keep right on truckin’.  AND, in spite of all of that, they still couldn’t do what we’ve done thus far to date.  If we do what we’re supposed to do and win these next two games, the Huskies will win the Pac-12 conference outright.  Cal couldn’t do that!  The best they can hope for is a tie (because, seriously, there’s no way we’re losing both of these games).

Give it to Romar.  The man has earned it this season.

Unless, of course, this team loses its next two games.  Then, forget everything I just said.  Coach of the Year candidates don’t go to the NIT.

The Perils Of A Lack Of A Low Post Game

I have a theory about this Husky basketball team.  Often, it extends to most Husky basketball teams, but I think this one in particular.  If you spread the season out into thirds, I predict that in one third of the games, the Dawgs are going to shoot lights out from behind the arc.  In another third of the games, the defense is going to keep us in it (either by keeping things close, or by creating turnovers to jumpstart our offense).  That just leaves a third of the games where we DON’T shoot so well from three, and where we DON’T play particularly great (or even good) defense.  It’s in THOSE games where we’re going to struggle the most (not that we won’t struggle in the other 2/3, but since I consider this team has a lot of potential, I guess I’m predicting that we won’t struggle all that often if we’re shooting well and/or playing great D).

We had one of THOSE games on Sunday in Saint Louis.  We gave them 50 points in the first half (letting them shoot 52.8% for the game; 42.9% from three); AND we only hit 4 of 12 three pointers.  That’s just a recipe for disaster any way you slice it!  And it’s a problem that’s likely to not go away any time soon.

See, if you have a solid post-up presence (to go along with a bunch of sharp-shooters and some quick, aggressive defense), you’re not likely to struggle in too many ballgames.  If one segment of your game lags, the others can pick it up.  If you’re not shooting well from long range, you can settle things (and slow the ballgame down) by walking the ball up the court when necessary and dumping it in to the big man with his back to the basket.

Except, the Huskies don’t have that.  So, when they play teams who don’t make mistakes (meaning, we’re not generating enough turnovers to turn the game into a track meet) and who have a solid half-court game, that’s going to ultimately take us out of OUR game and make us one-dimensional.  Which wouldn’t be TOO bad if we’re able to hit shots from deep.  But, if we’re tossing bricks left and right, then we’re going to be screwed to the wall every time.

Sunday was a bit of an anomaly because we are still missing Scott Suggs, and C.J. Wilcox was lost for a big chunk thanks to that vicious pick that left him dazed.  Those are our two best shooters, bar none.  Terrence Ross can’t do it all, and our point guards are still too hit-or-miss.

Nevertheless, these games are going to happen (probably more often when we get to Pac-12 play).  The Huskies are going to have to figure out a way to get points in the paint, or else they’re going to be NIT-bound.  It might take a slight tweaking or an entire revamping of our offense, but something will have to be done to compensate for our shortcomings.

Everyone liked to belittle MBA’s contributions to the team the last couple years, but you know what?  He picked the entire team up on his back enough times to earn my respect.  The question is:  do we have that guy on this team right now?  Looking pretty doubtful in the early going.

Washington Husky Basketball Review Preview

OK, so I KINDA dropped the ball a little bit on this one.  With all the back and forth between the football teams, not to mention this being a pivotal offseason for the Mariners, Husky B-Ball got lost in the shuffle.  Well, NO MORE!

Flyin' Chickens In The Barnyard!

Anyway, I can’t rightly call this an official preview because I’ve seen them play a little bit.  I’ve also seen some of these other teams in the Pac-12 play and I’ve gotta say:  so far, I’m not really all that impressed.

Everyone seems to be picking Cal as their favorites, mostly because they’re so veteran.  What that means to ME is:  they’re the same team they were last year, but a little bit better.  What they’re really banking on is:  all the other schools in the Pac-12 getting worse, so they look better in comparison.  In other words, a team that lost in the 2nd round of the NIT last year is all-of-a-sudden the class of the entire conference.

The Huskies, by comparison, have only five guys returning from a team that lost in the 2nd round of the REAL NCAA Tournament.  The Huskies lost their top three scorers, their best overall defenders, and their most consistent big man.  The five guys returning:  C.J. Wilcox, Terrence Ross, Darnell Gant, Aziz N’Diaye, and Abdul Gaddy (who, really, hardly counts because he missed most of the season last year with injury; honestly, if you count Gaddy, then you kinda have to count Desmond Simmons who red-shirted last year).

The point is:  we’re young.  However, what we lack in experience we make up for in zazz!  Yes, we lost IT, but that just opens things up for Tony Wroten Jr. to blow our minds!  At 6’5 … I mean, can you even remember the last time the Huskies had a point guard so huge???  I’m used to these tiny, musclebound menaces like IT and Nate Rob; what’s it going to be like to have a legitimate advantage across the board at the guard position?

And, yeah, losing Justin Holiday hurts a little bit.  But, who’s that athletic freak who’s sliding right into that defensive stopper catagory?  That’s Desmond Simmons!

No Venoy Overton?  No problem!  Here’s Abdul Gaddy, the old soul of the team who’s going to lock down the other team’s premiere scorer while settling things down on offense when we need to run our half-court game.

Losing MBA kinda hurts a little bit, because he was (and still kinda is, in a way, which shows how bad we really are) our only low-post threat.  But, Aziz has been working out like a maniac in the offseason and shouldn’t be the Total Liability he was with the basketball in his hands last year!

There is just enough experience left over on this team (headlined by Darnell Gant and Scott Suggs when he returns; not to mention Gaddy and Wilcox who have a couple years in the system already) combined with some real flashy specimens of talent (Wroten, Ross, Wilcox again) that I don’t think it’s impossible for this team to win the Pac-12!

It won’t be easy, though.  Any time we go up against a team with a huge front court, we’re going to have problems.  Aziz in foul trouble, Gant being too skinny and undersized, Breunig being too raw, Shawn Kemp Jr. being even moreso … this team could very well be outboarded more often than not.  In fact, I would take that bet right now and lay the points.

The keys to this Husky team will be, much like last year:  can we hit the outside shot?  Wilcox and Ross will surely lead that charge, as will Suggs when he comes back from injury.  You gotta figure with those three guys, at least ONE of them will be hot in any given game.  Also, can Gaddy knock down enough jumpers to keep other teams honest?  He could be our most valuable weapon if he can hit anywhere near 40% of his threes.

But, it can’t all be threes.  This team is going to have to find a way to score in the paint!  With IT and MBA, we had points in the paint on lockdown.  This year, it’s going to be up to guys like Ross and Wilcox.  We know Ross has the talent to break guys down off the dribble; does he have the discipline to do it enough to be the force he should be on the basketball court?  Or will he essentially be Kevin Durant’s rookie season with the Sonics?  All jumpshot and no inside game whatsoever.  Furthermore, will one offseason’s worth of working on his game make Wilcox the kind of slashing driver with the ball he needs to be?  His jumpshot alone will take him into the NBA and give him a considerable role off of some team’s bench; but if he figures out how to score in traffic, he’ll be unstoppable.

I’m really not expecting there to be any low post scoring, but I would hope that we can be active enough on the offensive glass to make that point moot.  We’ll need guys like N’Diaye, Gant, and Simmons to crash the boards on an every-possession basis if we want this to happen.  They certainly have the length and athleticism to do so; whether or not they have the size or the heart is another question.

Regardless of how we score, I’ll guarantee you one thing:  this team won’t be boring on the basketball court (let’s just hope they ARE boring off of it).  We’ve got BALLERS on this team!  They’re going to run and gun like they always have; their fastbreak baskets are going to have regular appearances on Sportscenter-type shows.  This year is going to be fun, without a doubt.

My guess?  I think people are right when they say this team is going to lose some games it shouldn’t, and it’s also going to win some games it shouldn’t.  I expect there to be some really frustrating periods – maybe a 4 or 5 game losing streak somewhere in the middle of the season; maybe even towards the end of the season – but I also expect this team to grow and pull it all together for another NCAA Tournament run.  Who knows?  This team could be 15-15 going into the Pac-12 Tournament and then run the table to nab a 12-seed.  From there?  The sky’s the limit!

I think I’ll like this team, even if it pisses me off at times.  We’ve got four legitimate NBA players on this team!  Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten should be lottery picks after this season; Gaddy and Wilcox should be effective role players at the next level.  It’s really too bad we don’t have one solid big man to round things out; because this is a team that SHOULD contend for a Final Four slot.  We HAVE the talent!  We’ve just got to figure out a way to put it all together.

If only Terrence Jones hadn’t reneged on his original decision … we’d easily be a Top 10 team right now.