Who Am I Kidding: Late-Season Surge Provides Hope, But At What Cost?

I know, nobody wants to talk about Husky basketball, and I don’t blame you!  But, in a couple of weeks (or more, depending on how deep of an N.I.T. run they can make), it’ll all be over and we won’t have to think about this 2012/2013 season ever again.  Work with me, it’s a Thursday and the baseball regular season is still over three weeks away.

Fact:  the Huskies have won 4 out of their last 5 games, including a win at 20-win Arizona State that might have been a crushing blow to their chances at making the NCAA Tournament.

Fact:  this “hot” streak came on the heels of losing 7 of their previous 8 games, including just an abysmal performance at home against the hapless Utes of Utah.

Fact:  that wretched streak came on the heels of the Huskies starting 4-0 in Pac-12 play, including what is now a VERY impressive win in Berkeley against the Cal Bears (and another quasi-impressive home win against the Buffaloes of Colorado).

This has been their season.  The Huskies are taking a 3-game winning streak into their regular season finale against UCLA.  A victory would sufficiently dash the Bruins’ hopes of winning the Pac-12 regular season title (then again, a simple Oregon victory against those same hapless Utes of Utah a little later that day would serve the same purpose, but GIVE US THIS!).  If anything would make me happier than knocking UCLA out of the Pac-12 title … it’s probably the Oregon Ducks’ football team bus falling off of a cliff, but that’s neither here nor there.

What many delusional Husky fans are talking themselves into right now is the possibility of making an impossible run in the Pac-12 Tournament.  It’s not entirely unfounded, but it’s ALMOST entirely unfounded.  While the Huskies can point to a few “quality” wins, over ASU (a bubble team) and Cal (another bubble team), they can’t exactly say they’ve taken down a giant.  Arizona has swept us.  Oregon has swept us.  Should UCLA win on Saturday, THEY will have swept us.  Those are the three “locks” for the NCAA Tournament out of the Pac-12, and those are three teams who will have a first-day BYE in the Pac-12 Tournament.

This Husky team HAS talent, but they are by no means talented.  They do some things very well, like defend and rebound.  They’ve got to be among the best in the conference at those two things!  But, their scoring is suspect and streaky, their bench has been pretty quiet, their big men are offensive non-factors, and their guards are pretty easy to shut down.  They hustle!  But, they are also prone to turning the ball over too much.

All too often, we’ve found these Huskies shooting well below 40% from the field.  That’s bad.  That’s a sign that you’re not getting enough out of your big men down low.  When you factor in all the turnovers, all the rebounds in the world won’t help you win games on the reg.  This team can beat any of the other teams in the Pac-12 ranked 5-12, but it can also lose to any of the other teams ranked 5-12.  And the Dawgs would have to be damn-near flawless to beat the teams ranked 1-4 (and even then, they still might lose).

What you like to see, though, is improvement among the players who will be back next season.  Guys like Jernard Jarreau, who by all accounts last night was a force in the paint.  Driving the lane, forcing teams to foul, and then making 8 of 8 free throws!  That’s HUGE.  Andrew Andrews, as well, has been a sight for sore eyes.  Last night, even though the rest of his game was lacking on the offensive end, he still grabbed 8 boards, including 5 on the offensive glass.  He’s a point guard!  And he got 5 offensive rebounds!

Right about now, a front court consisting of Kemp and Jarreau isn’t looking as bad as it would have at the beginning of this season.  With some quality workouts this summer, these two could be a dynamic tandem down low.

What we have to hope for isn’t some fantasy run through the Pac-12 Tournament.  If it happens, great, I’ll go ahead and eat my hat.  But, more realistically, I’d REALLY like to see some of these guys who will be around next year start to assert themselves.  Show me something!  Give me some hope for next season!  Give me a reason to believe that we can bounce back into contention as one of the best teams in the Pac-12 again!  Show all the haters out there that 2012/2013 was a minor bump in the road!  I have a dream!

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