My Completely-Uninformed UW Men’s Basketball Preview 2017-2018

The first game of the non-conference slate starts on Friday.  But, with the Seahawks going through a Thursday game this week, I’m bumping this up to Wednesday to even out the week.

As the title alludes to, I don’t know much about this Husky basketball team.  None of us really do, though you’ll find more informed previews elsewhere.  We have a new head coach, obviously, in Mike Hopkins.  This is the first season since 2001 where we’re going into it without Lorenzo Romar, so that’s going to be different.

The hope is that Coach Hop can coach these guys up.  At the very least, I’d like to see some intensity on the defensive side of the floor, but if that exhibition game last week was any indication, we’re going to be in for a bit of a wait in that regard.  Part of that, quite frankly, will have to do with this transition period, and the players who are carrying over from one regime to the next.

This team is going to have to rely on the likes of Junior guard David Crisp, Junior forward Noah Dickerson, and Junior swingman Matisse Thybulle.  Those guys – along with incoming Freshman Jaylen Nowell – are going to carry this team, for good and for ill.  The holdovers haven’t been asked to play much defense thus far in their careers.  So, the question becomes:  do they buy in?  Or, do they go through the motions because they know this team can ill afford to bench them for any great length of time.  Without those three guys, this team might go winless this year, or damn near close to it.

Then again, even WITH those guys, the team likely won’t be very good.  That’s what happens when you’ve only got two Seniors on your roster, one who has 46 career minutes at the college level, and the other who is Dan Kingma.  And, after the big three, the other two Juniors on the squad are Dominic Green and Devenir Duruisseau.

So, yeah, young this team is.  Young and inexperienced and mediocre.  And, on top of that, lacking in quality big men!  There are four players who are 6’8 or taller.  One is Noah Dickerson, who will start, but who is also prone to foul trouble.  One is the aforementioned Duruisseau, who hasn’t done much of anything in his first two seasons, other than emergency fill-in duty when one (or, more likely, more than one) of our other big men got in foul trouble.  Then, there’s Sam Timmins, the center from New Zealand, who averaged 14.6 minutes last year, but never really made much of an impact.  And then there’s a Freshman by the name of Hameir Wright, who I don’t even know if he’s going to play this year or not.

I think, what’s going to end up happening, is you’re going to see a lot of small ball out of this team.  I think you’re going to see Dickerson at the 5, and some of our taller swingmen like Thybulle or Green playing at the 4.  But, essentially it’s going to be a 4-Guard situation, and oh by the way, can’t forget the fact that this team doesn’t really have a true quality point guard either.  Crisp will most certainly be the primary ball-handler, but he’s not a guy who can really create off the dribble.  I guess we’ll see about Nowell or the two Carter boys, hopefully that works itself out before we start conference play.

It doesn’t look like we’ll have Nate Pryor, who apparently isn’t academically eligible I guess?  That’s a bummer, I guess, but what can you do?

I don’t totally know where to peg this team as far as how it will rank in the Pac-12, but they were 11th last year, and that feels about right for this year too.  What I worry about, more than anything, is that there really isn’t one of those Take Charge type of players.  That guy you turn to when you need a big bucket at the end of the game.  The closest thing to that is probably David Crisp, and I’ve seen him clang more rushed jumpers off the rim to last a lifetime.  If that’s the guy we have to turn to when we’re tied, or down by 1-3 points inside a minute, we’re going to lose A LOT of games.  Prove me wrong!

It’s actually too bad this team won’t be good, because the schedule is pretty enticing.  We kick off the season this Friday against Belmont, who is a perennial Tournament darling.  Next week, we have the 2K Classic in Madison Square Garden against the likes of Providence, Saint Louis, and Virginia Tech.  We go to Kansas City in early December to face the Jayhawks in the Sprint Center; then on the 10th we come home to take on Gonzaga at Hec Ed.  Oh sure, THIS team will get killed by all those teams; but a GOOD team might be a lot of fun to watch against such robust competition.

As it stands, remember how the 2008 Husky football team had one of the toughest schedules in the entire league, with a non-conference slate against #3 Oklahoma, #15 BYU, and Notre Dame?  Remember how Oregon and USC were both really great that year and we ended up going 0-12?  Well, it’s damn near impossible for a basketball team to do something like that, and aside from Arizona, I’m not really sure how great the rest of the Pac-12 is in basketball this season, but a non-conference slate that features Kansas and Gonzaga, among those other teams, is a doozy for a rebuilding program like Washington.

It’s almost as if that non-conference schedule was built for a certain Lorenzo Romar-coached team, featuring a certain future #1 overall draft pick who now plays for Missouri.  But, I guess that’s not important.

You want something to root for?  Root for steady progress.  Root for this team building a real identity.  Root for the Huskies to pick up the intensity on defense.  Ultimately, root for this team to be better in March than it is right now.  So that maybe NEXT year we can dream a little bigger.  Dream about a spot in the NCAA Tournament in 2019 or 2020.  That’s not too much to ask.

It is too much to ask this team to be good right now.  So, don’t get your panties in a wad when they look awful.

Coach Hop Is Rounding Out His 2017 Class

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

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

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

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

Noah Dickerson Is Staying With The Huskies

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

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

WHEW!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What The Fuck, Husky Basketball?!?!

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

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

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

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

David Crisp:  Crap.

Noah Dickerson:  Crap.

Matisse Thybulle:  Crap.

Sam Timmins:  Crap.

Malik Dime:  Crap Who Can Block Shots.

Dominic Green:  Crap.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Don’t Know What To Do About Lorenzo Romar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God, do I need next year to be great.

Welp, Husky Basketball Is Fucking Screwed Next Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are We Entering A Golden Age Of Husky Basketball?

I did the bare minimum amount of research yesterday, which is pretty rare for me, I know.  Mostly, this is just a forum for my random bitching and hare-brained theories.  But, seeing as this is Husky Basketball Week, Monday brought us a broad recap of events in the season so far, Tuesday brought us my case for Andrew Andrews to be Pac-12 Player of the Year, and Wednesday brought us my overview on the rest of the 7-man rotation.  What else is there really to talk about?

I’m not normally one who gets his jollies by keeping informed on college recruitment.  Especially in football, but even in basketball, there’s a lot of downside to this practice.  You’ve got highly-rated players who decommit, you’ve got highly-rated players who flame out, you’ve got guys who get injured, you’ve got guys who red shirt and you don’t hear about for a full year, and on and on and on.  I couldn’t possibly imagine how one could keep his head straight with all the names and all the rankings and all the comings and all the goings.

The way I usually go about my Husky fandom is:  I glean whatever I can from Twitter and sports radio and the like – not REALLY paying attention, but sometimes certain names and such seep in – and then I wait until the games are actually played, and wait for people to stand out.  THEN, I’ll dig into them a little deeper to find out the story.  That way, there’s no surprises.  I’m not reading about an incoming recruit for six months, and then all of a sudden he decides to go play for Kentucky or something.

Did Terrence Jones ruin me on the recruitment side of college sports?  Ehh, maybe it’s for the best.

Anyway, I wanted to take a look at who the Huskies might be bringing in for future classes.  With the promise of this 2015/2016 season, and with the possibility that we can bring most of these guys back for at least a second season, I wondered if this would be a minor blip in an otherwise flatlining program, or if this could be the start of something major.

As a cool little quick reference, pull up this link and scroll down to the Basketball Recruiting Scholarship Chart.  It’s got all the guys currently on the roster, what class they’re in, and some essential facts about them when you scroll over their names.  It’s also got all the players who WOULD have been here, but transferred, or otherwise are no longer in the program.  I mean, Jesus, just look at the rest of that senior class under Andrews; what a crap sandwich!

Then, over there, to the right of the Freshmen, you get our future commits, either verbally or the regular kind, as well as the players we have offers out to (you’ll notice them in the royal blue, or also known as: “medium interest prospects”).

You’ll notice for 2016, not a lot of names.  That’s because, let’s be honest, Lorenzo Romar went hog-wild for this 2015 incoming class, so there just isn’t that much room.  We’ll lose Andrews for sure, and beyond that, you just never know who’s going to transfer (maybe guys who didn’t get the playing time they thought they were going to get; or guys looking at their futures and wondering where the minutes are going to come from with more exciting prospects on the way).

The 2016 guys with offers don’t look to be all that amazing.  But, the two guys who appear to be on their way to Washington certainly raise some eyebrows.

Sam Timmins is a 6’10, 250 pound center out of New Zealand, who looks like he could be the real deal.  He’s in for sure.  Only a 3-star prospect, but I feel like if he’s able to play right away – even off the bench at first – he’s going to REALLY help our depth among our bigs, while also help us tangle with the beefy center types on other teams (I know Arizona and Utah come immediately to mind as two teams who dominated us with their bigs, and I’m sure there are others I’m forgetting).  Pair Timmins with Dime, and you’ve got some shot-blocking maniacs.  And, if he comes in with the type of skills on the block that they’re saying he has, it shouldn’t take him long to move up the ranks of quality centers in the Pac-12.

The real find is Markelle Fultz, a 6’5, 5-star guard from the D.C. area, with no ties whatsoever to the Pacific Northwest.  I highly encourage you to read this post on what his committment means to the Husky program.  I know it’s only a verbal committment, and like Terrence Jones, he could just as easily be swayed by a last-ditch effort from a bigger program.  But, I’d like to think with the way we’ve been playing of late, and the renewed excitement for the Husky basketball program, he knows he’s coming into a good thing.

Obviously, there are downsides, like we know without a shadow of a doubt, barring injury, Fultz is a 1 & Done player, no question.  It would be a waste of breath or finger strength to try to argue otherwise.  But, the big upside here is that the Huskies are FINALLY starting to become a national player for big-name prospects.

THIS is where our patience with Lorenzo Romar has paid off, my friends.  And THIS is where our patience with all the down seasons of late has paid off.  Even though the Huskies have been struggling, Romar has still been able to mold college athletes into NBA players.  The official list can be found here, ten players in a decade – most recently C.J. Wilcox – have been drafted, with a few others here and there cracking rosters.  So, Romar has that pedigree.  Also, not for nothing, but the stability has to be pretty nice.  Romar’s in his 14th year, and to be honest, his recruiting skills are better than ever!

Also, this might be an underrated aspect that doesn’t get enough press, but I have to think that his being not only one of the few African American head coaches of a major college program, but also one of the longest-tenured African American head coaches, plays a pretty sizable role in developing relationships with some of the African American players he’s able to bring in.  That combined with the fact that, by all accounts, Lorenzo Romar is just a fantastic human being, and I think Washington offers a unique advantage over most other schools in the country.  Romar’s going to work you hard, but he’s going to reward those who buy in.  He’s not going to stand there and berate you in front of thousands.  And, probably most importantly, he’s not out there looking for the next bigger, more high-profile job.  With guys like Calipari, or some of these younger coaches who recently flipped to a bigger school, you never know when the other shoe is going to drop.  They have no loyalty to a program, and quite frankly, the programs don’t really have a loyalty to them.  If a hot young coach goes to a bigger school and struggles, how long of a leash will he have before they cut ties and move on to the next hot young coach?

With Romar, like I said, you’ve got stability.  He is Washington, and Washington is Romar.  The fact that he’s doing some of his best work, 14 years into his time here, just goes to show he still has that fire, still has that desire to be great, and to see Washington be great.  High school kids are going to pick up on that for sure.  Once that’s ingrained, then it’s just a matter of Winning Begetting Winning.  The iron is hot right now, so it’s time for the Huskies to strike.  Enter:  Markelle Fultz.

He’s an immediate replacement for the outgoing Andrew Andrews next year.  Given his pedigree, it’s not unreasonable to expect him to match the type of production Andrews has given us this season.  If Dejounte Murray sticks around for another season, with all the other players from this year carrying over, we are looking at an absolute MONSTER of a team for the 2016/2017 season.  I’m talking about the Huskies picked to be 1st in the Pac-12, with a very good chance of the Huskies being ranked in the Top 25, even as high as the Top 10!  I mean, shit, look at this lineup for next year:

  • Fultz – G
  • Murray – G
  • Thybulle – G/F
  • Chriss – F
  • Dickerson – F
  • Dime – F/C
  • Crisp – G
  • Green – G/F
  • Timmins – C
  • Dorsey – G/F

That’s a roster 10-deep, with equal measure defense and scoring.  Guys who can shoot, guys who can dribble-drive, big men who can post up, big men who can hit the mid-range jumper.  Granted, nothing is set in stone, but the hope is, if we can keep it all together, that’s the type of talent that can carry this program to the Final Four.

Where does that leave us for 2017 and beyond?  Well, we’re a way out on that, but you figure the Huskies will lose Fultz and Murray, as well as Dime (who will have exhausted his eligibility).  With the usual rash of transfers and whatnot, you might consider 2017 something of a rebuild.

But, looking back at that Verbal Commits chart, you can see we have a verbal from a 4-star recruit at guard, Daejon Davis, with a number of other offers out to various 4-star and 5-star recruits.  Given a successful couple of years, you’d have to think we’d be able to lock more and more of those types down.

Then, WAAAAY out into the 2018 incoming class, there’s an early verbal commit from Jontay Porter, a 4-star power forward, whose older brother is a 5-star small forward who has yet to commit.  Mmm hmm.  Things could get really interesting around Montlake in the coming years.

Time will tell if this is the start of something big, or if it’s another instance of getting jerked around by high hopes.  The influx of Wroten, Ross, and the like were supposed to jumpstart this thing too, and look at what happened.  But, I dunno.  This time, it feels different.  Instead of coming OH SO CLOSE to landing some of these whales, Romar is actually getting them to sign on the line which is dotted.  This could be real.  This could be spectacular.

Of course, talk to me if these verbal commits start to renege.  I’ll be the guy lowering the noose around his neck.