Huskies Were Bounced From The N.I.T.

I’ll admit it, I opted out of watching this game.  8:30pm start was too rich for my blood, as I was still recovering from a long gambling & drinking weekend and didn’t much feel like staying up until all hours of the night for what would ultimately be a losing effort.

Lo, it came to be, with the Huskies getting handled by San Diego State on their home court.  Marquese Chriss had another good game (19 points, 4 boards, 2 blocks, 2 steals), in what was probably his last game as a Husky.  Dejounte Murray filled up the stat sheet (20 points, 9 boards, 5 assists, 3 steals), but struggled from the field (8 of 23, 0 of 3 from behind the arc) in what was ALSO probably his last game as a Husky.  Andrew Andrews finished with 17 points, putting him at 1,812 career points, which is good for third place all time in University of Washington history (behind C.J. Wilcox’s 1,880 and Chris Welp’s 2,073).

Kind of a bummer of a finish to kind of a bummer of a season, with the icing on top being our three best players leaving the program.  Even with a 5-star recruit coming in next year in Markelle Fultz, it’s hard to see how this team will improve.  And, when the team ultimately fails to achieve NCAA Tournament status, it’s pretty simple math to figure out what that means for Lorenzo Romar.

Did you ever know I hate the 1 & Done rule?  Because I hate the 1 & Done rule.

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.

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.

Surprise! Husky Basketball for 2015/2016 Starts Tomorrow!

Yeah, tell me about it, right?

It’s back for another year.  What did YOU do over your Summer Vacation Away From Husky Basketball?  I went camping with my family, spent a long weekend down in San Francisco, worked a lot, did some writing, had my car broken into … I bought an iPhone.

It’s been a rough last four seasons for Husky basketball.  Lots of talented-enough players have come and gone, but the collective has failed to make the NCAA Tournament each and every year.  That in spite of the fact that last year’s team had potential NBA hopeful Nigel Williams-Goss (since transferred to Gonzaga of all places); the two years before we had NBA first round draft pick C.J. Wilcox; and the year before THAT we had NBA first round draft picks C.J. Wilcox, Tony Wroten Jr., and Terrence Ross, along with NFL second round draft pick Austin Seferian-Jenkins.  Suffice it to say, a lot of talent has passed through these hallowed halls, but not much in the way of actual on-court success.

Which, right or wrong, has led a lot of Husky fans to lay blame at the feet of the coaching staff, which in itself presents a conundrum.  On the one hand, you’re saying Lorenzo Romar isn’t good enough to mold the talent he has into winners, but does any other coach the Huskies could legitimately hire actually manage to recruit the type of talent we’re getting?  And, obviously, when you look at lists of colleges who produce NBA talent, you’re seeing Washington among some pretty prestigious college programs.  So, if he’s turning these guys into viable professional players, can he really be that bad of a coach?

To counter that, you just have to argue that there’s more to coaching than just recruiting and prepping guys for the pros.  There’s in-game decision-making.  There’s installing an offensive system.  There’s game-planning for your opponent.  You could argue that Romar and Co. have been lacking in all of those areas in recent years.  The old knock on Romar was that he didn’t really even HAVE an offensive system.  So, with the talent he brought in the last few years, he tried installing the High Post offense; it failed spectacularly.  He must have done it with the specific players he had on the roster in mind, but either they weren’t as suited for it as he thought, or they didn’t have the ancillary players around their stud point guards to make it work.  Whatever the case, it doesn’t matter, because the dedication to the High Post is gone now, replaced by the old motion offense he had so much success with early in his Husky coaching career.  I, for one, am ecstatic about this change.  If there’s one thing that’s been impossible to watch the last four years, it’s been this Husky offense struggle to grasp their half-court sets.

Something else you’ll notice about this year’s team is how VASTLY different it looks.  Take a quick scan of the roster and the only name that’ll instantly pop out to you is Andrew Andrews, back for his fourth and final year.  His numbers have steadily improved over each year – a staple of a Lorenzo Romar Guy – but they were never all that impressive to being with, and they’re not all that impressive now.  Last year, he averaged 15 points, but it took him 11 shots to get there.  He’s a solid, if unspectacular 80% free throw shooter, and hits about 37.6% of his three-pointers.  On the plus side, they’re moving him back to point guard, mostly to lead the offense as he’s surrounded by youngsters (aside from him, there are only 2 Juniors, everyone else is a soph or frosh), but also because they appear to have better players on the team to play shooting guard.

Aside from Andrews, the only returning players I can see are 6’7 wing Donaven Dorsey (who didn’t show a ton as a Freshman last year), and 5’10 mascot/garbage minutes phenom Dan Kingma (who played some serious bench minutes the last three games of last season and showed a knack for his quick release on 3-point shots, and overall pumping up the crowd and the rest of the team with his tenacious play).  I seem to recall Kingma earned a scholarship this year, and I honestly hope we get to see more of him off the bench as an Instant Offense type of shooter.

One other familiar face shows up on the coaching staff, with Will Conroy coming on as an assistant.  Love the move.  Loved Conroy as a player.  He’s a diehard Husky, which never hurts.  He’s young enough and has played professionally recently enough (albeit, overseas, but still), that I’m sure he’s able to help these kids a lot, especially the guards.

As I don’t really follow the whole recruiting trail enough to be at all knowledgeable, I don’t have a lot to say about the new guys.  I do know that our recruiting class this year is one of the best in the nation.  We trimmed A LOT of fat off of one of our shittier rosters last year.  And, while the loss of NWG may sting a little bit (time will tell, I suppose), it sounds like we really won’t miss him all that much.  He was disenchanted with all the losing, and we have all these studs coming in who’d be gunning for his job and his minutes.  I’d rather start fresh, hand the keys to Andrews (who feels more like a true Husky, rather than the hired gun that was NWG), and watch this team go to work.

The Dawgs played an exhibition game last week against Seattle Pacific.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t televised, or even on the radio, but we have stats to look at!

Andrews and Dejounte Murray led the team in minutes as the starting backcourt.  Andrews shot 6/12 overall, 1/4 from three, and 8/9 from the free throw line, for 21 points and 5 assists.  Murray shot 6/10, 2/4 from three, with 4 assists, 5 boards, and 16 points.  Rounding out the starting five, we have forwards Marquese Chriss, Matisse Thybulle, and Noah Dickerson – all Freshman, and all played at least 19 minutes.  Dickerson was 7/10 from the field with 17 points and 6 boards; Chriss shot 5/9 for 11 points and 5 boards; and Thybulle only netted 3 points, but if his line is any indication, he’s going to be one of those glue guys who fills up the stat sheet in other ways (2 boards, 3 assists, 3 steals).  Our primary bench guys in this game look like guard David Crisp (20 mins, 4/8, 2/4 from behind the arc, 3 assists, 3 boards) and forward Malik Dime (21 mins, 4 pts).  For what it’s worth, Kingma played 1 minute and didn’t show up on the stat sheet.

The consensus about this team is that they’re young, they’re fast, they’re athletic, they can score, the defense might be a little shaky, but they’re going to give you everything they’ve got.  In other words, pretty much the opposite of what we’ve seen the last four years.  If nothing else, we should be entertained by the product we’re watching.  No one is picking the Huskies to do much of anything, which is probably accurate, but could be rife for fodder if this team comes together and goes on a nice little run.

We kick off the season in China tomorrow against the Texas Longhorns.  Then, we return home for a couple of tune-up games before going to the Battle 4 Atlantis, where we’re guaranteed to play Gonzaga, and it also features teams like Texas (again), Texas A&M, Syracuse, UConn, Michigan, and Charlotte (seriously, I wanted to go to this, but it would cost an arm and a leg, and it takes place over Thanksgiving, so it was tough finding people interested in going with me).  The rest of the non-conference schedule features a lot of smaller schools I really don’t know much about (Cal State Fullerton, Montana, Oakland, TCU, UC Santa Barbara, Seattle U), but at this point I don’t know if the non-conference schedule really matters a whole lot.  No one really expects anything out of the Huskies this year, so it’s going to take a lot to get on the national radar.

I feel like a broken record when I say I think this team has a chance to shock the world (or at least the conference), but really it’s now or never.  You have to like the way Romar has recruited of late, and his upcoming classes appear to be filled with just as much talent as the one we’ve got this year.  Now, it’s time to show it on the court.  I don’t want to see Romar get fired; I’ve got a real soft spot for the guy.  I really DON’T think he’s a bad coach; I do think he’s been saddled with some players that haven’t improved like they normally would under him.  And, obviously, he’s missed out on some highly-touted recruits in recent years that have hampered some of our plans (along with some seriously savage injuries to key players – Jernard Jarreau comes immediately to mind).  But, now, he’s getting those highly-touted guys, and he’s also been working hard on the JuCo circuit to bring in some transfers who are ready to play right away.

Will this be the right mix?  God, I hope so.

Husky Basketball Is Back (2014/2015), Everybody!

Sort of dropped the ball on this one, but after a year like last year, who could blame me?  At this point last year, the Dawgs had already been thrashed by a UC Irvine team that would go on to lose in the first round of the N.I.T.  Which is something, I suppose, since the Huskies weren’t even good enough to qualify for that!  At this time last year, we’d also lost our starting power forward, Jernard Jarreau, who had figured to be a big part of our new high post offense.  He missed all but a few minutes of our season last year, and proved to be the nail in the coffin.

It sucks when you know your season is over before it’s even begun.

It’s been an interesting few months since the last season ended.  C.J. Wilcox was a first round NBA draft pick from the Clippers.  Nigel Williams-Goss decided to stay in school for at least one more year.  The seat has never been hotter for Lorenzo Romar, but he has also nabbed his highest-rated recruiting class of all time.  These are exciting, frantic, nervous times for the University of Washington men’s basketball team.

From a personnel standpoint, I would argue that this year will be a step forward compared to last year.  I know how ridiculous that sounds, when you consider last year’s team had a first round draft pick on it, but by season’s end it very well may be true.  Shawn Kemp Jr. is a senior and is as good as he’s ever going to be for us.  That might not be saying a lot, but he’s another one of those unheralded guys who entered this program extremely raw and will be leaving it an actual basketball player.  The best part about having Kemp back is, while he should be a nice contributor, he isn’t necessarily the most important piece, nor is he the best big man on the team.

We’ve got OTHER bigs; I know, but it’s for real!  Jarreau is back and he’s packed on some muscle!  He’s all the way up to 240 pounds now, which means he doesn’t look nearly as gangly as when he first started here.  Then, there’s transfer Robert Upshaw, who is 7-feet of mobile center the likes of which I can’t remember having around here since Spencer Hawes.  Upshaw is going to be a blocking machine in the paint, and he’s actually got some decent hands unlike some of our more recent fives (I’m looking at you Aziz N’Diaye).  The best part:  Upshaw has two years of eligibility left!

These names, listed individually, might not make you the moistest you’ve ever been, but you have to understand how long it’s been since we’ve had three talented big men who can play real Pac-12 minutes.  Usually, we have one solid big man and a bunch of really tall white guys who ride the pine outside of garbage time at the end of blowouts.  Now, the Huskies have options!  We can go big if we need to go big!  If we’re facing a team like the aforementioned UC Irvine of last year – with a 7’6 monstrocity in the middle of the paint – we might not get out-rebounded and blocked to pieces.

On the flipside, we’ve got NWG back, as I mentioned earlier.  He’s another NBA talent who should be making leaps & bounds strides in his development from his freshman year to his sophomore year.  Andrew Andrews is back, playing right alongside him, in his third year of major college basketball play.  He tends to take after Abdul Gaddy in how he will drive you crazy sometimes, but unlike Gaddy, he actually brings some positives to the table as well.  I don’t know if Andrews will ever lock down that outside shot, but if he’s able to make even marginal improvements in that area, we could be looking at a real star on this team.

Then, we’ve got the role players.  Mike Anderson, Darin Johnson, and Ju-Co transfer Quevyn Winters.  How far the Huskies go in the 2014/2015 season will entirely depend on whether or not these role players step up and make an impact.  NWG and Andrews figure to be the primary scorers on the team.  The three big men figure to chip in anywhere from 20-30 points, depending.  But, we’re going to need someone unexpected to step up and fill the void when others’ shots aren’t falling.

Likewise, it’ll be interesting to see how this team shoots from behind the arc.  In our first game last Friday – a rout of South Carolina State – we shot 3 of 21 from 3-point land.  Obviously, that may cut it against the dregs of our non-conference schedule, but if we’re going to win consistently and get back to the NCAA Tournament, that percentage has to improve.  We’ve got everything else that we need – rebounding, defense, dribble penetration, short and mid-range shots – but we’re going to be a pretty predictable offense if we can’t hit from the outside.  At that point, teams will just need to zone up all game every game and let us brick ourselves to death.

In looking at our non-conference schedule, I see a couple of ranked teams on the horizon in San Diego State and Oklahoma.  Ideally, we’d win at least one of those games, and ideally that game would be SDSU at Hec Ed.  Of course, we can ill-afford to suffer a bunch of shitty losses to shitty teams, so it was comforting to see us not necessarily play our best basketball game, and yet still come away with a comfortable victory over South Carolina State.  If we can get out of our non-conference play with only one or two losses, we could be set up for a nice regular season run.

The Pac-12 isn’t as crappy as it has been the last few years.  Right now, Arizona is the #2 ranked team in the nation, with Utah pulling its weight at #25.  Colorado, UCLA, and Stanford are all well-regarded programs as well, who could get some looks by the Tournament Committee.  As usual (at least, as what I assume is usual), the Huskies play each of their Pac-12 North brethren twice.  We also catch Colorado/Utah twice as well, which should bode well for our strength of schedule (considering, the Pac-12 North – aside from the Bay Area schools – aren’t looking to be so great).  That means that we only play the Arizona schools and the SoCal schools once apiece.  We get the Arizona schools up here, and we go on the road to play UCLA and USC.  If that’s the way it has to be, I’m glad we catch the Wildcats in Seattle.  That would be a nice game to steal if everything falls into place.

As usual, during these non-conference times, you want to root for every single Pac-12 school to win as much as possible (well, maybe not Oregon, because fuck Oregon).  That way, when we get into the nitty gritty, the Pac-12 will be well-regarded enough to hopefully earn a good handful of spots in the Tourney.

Unless things completely go haywire, bank on Zona, UCLA, and Colorado to be locks.  If Utah can keep it up, they should advance too.  That’s going to put us in the same realm as the Bay Area schools and whoever else manages to pop up and shock the world (ASU maybe?  Oregon maybe?).  At that point, it will be on the strength of our major victories (and the weakness of our horrible losses) that determine whether or not we move on.  So, here’s to not being one-and-done in the Pac-12 Tourney!

I can’t help but like our chances this year.  I think the University of Washington basketball team is on another upswing where we hit the tourney every year for a few years.  It’s going to all depend on Romar’s ability as a coach.  He’s proven that he’s gotten his groove back as a recruiter, now he’s got to go out there and put some W’s on the table.  In that sense, I doubt he’s lost a step.

The talent is here, the coach is the right man for the job, the conference is as strong as it’s been in ages.  Everything is right out there for the taking.  In the end, I think the Huskies go on a nice little run to end the season and sneak into the Tourney as an 11-seed or something.

It’s been a while since I’ve been this upbeat on Husky basketball.  Don’t let me down!

C.J. Wilcox Is Yet Another Husky Drafted Into The NBA Under Lorenzo Romar

Last night, with the 28th overall pick, the Los Angeles Clippers selected C.J. Wilcox, shooting guard from the University of Washington.  That makes 7 first round draft picks – and 10 draft picks overall – in the Lorenzo Romar era.

Someone with MUCH more time on their hands than myself can go around the ranks of college basketball and see where that ranks among the other head coaches out there right now.  I’m sure he’s a step or two behind Calipari and the like, but he HAS to be in the top ten of active college basketball coaches, right?

Here’s the breakdown (remember, Romar has been with us since 2002):

  • Nate Rob – 2005, first round (21st overall)
  • Brandon Roy – 2006, first round (6th overall)
  • Bobby Jones – 2006, second round (37th overall)
  • Spencer Hawes – 2007, first round (10th overall)
  • Jon Brockman – 2009, second round (38th overall)
  • Quincy Pondexter – 2010, first round (26th overall)
  • Isaiah Thomas – 2011, second round (60th overall)
  • Terrence Ross – 2012, first round (8th overall)
  • Tony Wroten – 2012, first round (25th overall)
  • C.J. Wilcox – 2014, first round (28th overall)

Anybody else remember Bobby Jones getting drafted?  Yeah, neither did I.

A lot of special players on that list.  A lot of potential that, for whatever reason, wasn’t fully realized.  Nevertheless, a good number of them are still in the league, and putting up productive careers.  I.T. has been a rock for the Kings.  T-Ross has showed flashes of greatness up in Toronto.  Q-Pon is a valued contributor for the Grizzlies.  Tony Wroten has dramatically improved his shooting touch, to go along with all of his other, more impressive qualities he featured in college.  Hawes is a solid big man who has yet to really find a home in the league.  And, of course, Nate Rob is the guy who won’t say die.

Lorenzo Romar has been living life on the hot seat the last couple years.  His gift is his curse:  he helped Husky fans grow accustomed to contending for Pac-10/12 championships and reaching the NCAA Tournament on an almost-yearly basis.  We didn’t have NEARLY the kind of success we’ve had recently, prior to Romar … you have to go back to the mid 80s, and then back again to the God damned 40’s & 50’s!  Now that we’re three seasons removed from the Tourney, the same guy who elevated the program is seeing himself torn down by the fans and in the press.

And yet, he can sit here and point to the fact that he has had ten players drafted into The League.  And a few more undrafted guys have had cups of coffee.  On an almost-yearly basis, we’ve seen another Husky infiltrate the league.  And, if they manage to stay healthy, the Romar kids generally produce at a high level, while remaining hard working and incredibly easy to coach.  Lorenzo Romar’s basketball legacy is out there, doing great things, and C.J. Wilcox continues the trend.

Wilcox is the greatest shooter we’ve ever seen.  It’s just too bad we couldn’t get a team around him that was competitive.  When I saw that he was drafted by the Clippers, I couldn’t have been happier.  For starters, because he’s not playing for OKC.  But, more importantly, because he’s on a good team that’s still on the rise, with a good head coach, and now a good owner who will hopefully do what it takes to win.  It’ll be nice to hear sporadic great things about Wilcox when he does well in the years ahead.  Here’s to hoping he’s the piece that pushes the Clippers over the top.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Husky Basketball Team Is Sliding Into Another Disappointing Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Husky Basketball Season Has Already Started, You Guys

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

C.J. Wilcox Is Staying For His Senior Season

This is kind of old news, but you’ll forgive me if I don’t feel much like writing about the Mariners right now.

It was announced – I want to say last week – that C.J. Wilcox will be staying at the University of Washington.  On the one hand, as a Husky fan, you want to distance yourself as much as possible from last year’s rusty coathanger abortion of a season and say goodbye to as many players from that team as possible.  But, if you were paying attention, then you would know that what happened last season isn’t really Wilcox’s fault.

First and foremost, you’re talking about a guy who had a nagging foot injury that hampered his production down the stretch.  There were a lot of so-so, single-digit scoring games in the last 2-3 months.  I think that foot was a big reason why.

I also think that he was mis-played.  C.J. Wilcox isn’t a scorer; he’s a shooter.  Players like Wilcox aren’t meant to be the focal point of an offense.  And, when they are, and they’re clamped down upon by the other team’s best defender, he’s going to struggle.  AND, when you’ve got no one else on the team to pick up the slack, then you have a season like we had last year.

What you need with a guy like C.J. Wilcox on your team is a competent point guard, which the Huskies absolutely did not have last season.  He needs a guy to drive the paint, collect stray defenders, and dish to him open in the corner.  He needs a guy to attract the other team’s best defender, so he’s not under blanket coverage all game.

Of course, just because he’s a shooter doesn’t mean I want him out there jacking threes all game.  He can come off screens and curl in for 2-point baskets.  He can drive the lane occasionally.  But, what I said before is correct:  he’s not a pure scorer.  If his outside shot isn’t falling, he’s not going to find another way to get to 20 points.  In his Husky career, he has never had a season where he attempted more than 3.4 free throws per game.  When he struggles, he’s either gotta shoot his way out of it, or he’s going to end up with some nasty games here and there.  But, as long as he’s not depended upon to be our #1 guy, then that’s fine.  We can weather games where C.J. Wilcox doesn’t have it.

But, for his sake, he better not make that a habit.

Make no mistake, C.J. Wilcox is making a very smart move by coming back to school.  It’s my guess he’d go undrafted this year and struggle to try to make a team as an undrafted free agent.  Most likely, he’d end up overseas to start his career, and who knows if he’d ever make it back?

Oddly enough, C.J. Wilcox needs to work on his outside shooting more than anything else!  After hitting from behind the arc at a 40% clip, his numbers dipped last season to 36.6%.  You hate to see that.  Maybe that was the foot issue, maybe that was because he had all-conference defenders covering him.  Either way, he wasn’t able to step up to the challenge during a VERY challenging season, and now his stock has fallen.

Yes, he needs to work on his other issues – driving the paint, ball handling, getting to the free throw line – but his bread is buttered by his outside shooting.  And, once that starts lagging behind, his professional career is going to be fucked.

So, good on him for making the right decision.  The Huskies have talent coming in next season that is sure to take some of the scoring pressure off of Wilcox.  Now, it’s up to his body to stay healthy and it’s up to him to make shots.  The NBA is waiting, kid.  Don’t let your fans down.