Another Down Year For The Pacific-Based Conference Of Indeterminate Teams?

There appears to be two main criteria for determining whether a conference is going to be Good or Bad.  The last few years, the Pac-10 has been pretty bad based on the standards of the (mostly) East-Coast media.  This year, it would stand to reason, will be no different.

The first criterion would be:  how many players did you lose to the NBA draft?  Or, you know, how many returning stars do you have?

The second criterion, for the record, is how well your conference does in their quality non-conference games.  We won’t get into that here, obviously.

We WILL get into all the players leaving the mighty soon-to-be Pac-12!  And we’ll start with the Huskies.

The reigning Pac-10 Tournament Champions for two straight seasons have lost a buttload.  I would argue, the Dawgs lost their four most important players.  Isaiah, obviously, tops that list as our best player last year.  MBA, our best big man; Holiday, our best defensive stopper; and Overton, maybe our best defensive guard.  A shitload of points needs to be recovered by the guys who stayed and the incoming Freshmen.  A shitload of defense also needs to be played.  Since I won’t know the dynamic of this team until we start playing some games later on this fall, I’m loathe to make a prediciton.  But let’s just say I could see this team ending the regular season anywhere from 2nd place all the way to 8th place.  We have the widest range of possibility among anyone in the Pac-12.

Throwing fuel on the fire, Washington State will likely be decimated this summer.  They’ve already said goodbye to DeAngelo Casto – who’s leaving to go make that bank over in Europe – and now it looks like Klay Thompson is entering his name into the NBA draft discussion.  He has until May 8th to make up his mind, and if he leaves – HOO BOY – will the Cougars SUCK next year!

It’s always fun to see the traditional powers take a hit.  That’s happening this year with UCLA losing both Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee.  Granted, looks like they still have Reeves Nelson (and I’m sure they’ll figure out a way to infuse their new talent to make themselves a winner), but I don’t care.  I’m petty and small and UCLA can suck it.

USC is obviously the conference’s power football school, but they’ve made huge strides in the basketball side of things as well.  That’s why it makes me feel oh so good to see Nikola Vucevic leaving early; that guy ALWAYS killed the Dawgs!

Of the utmost importance, however, is Arizona losing Derrick Williams.  Newsflash:  the Wild Cats don’t do jack squat in the Tournament without their best player.  Yeah, some of his supporing cast was okay, but they’re going to be a totally different team next year, mark my words.  Unless their incoming Freshmen are ballers of Kentucky-like quality, I don’t know if Arizona is going to do a whole lot next year.

Not helping the Pac-12’s cause in the eyes of the national media:  the reasons for the conference’s name change, Utah and Colorado.  The Buffaloes are piles of hairy crap, and the Utes are PROBABLY piles of hairy crap.  No help there whatsoever.

It sickens me to say this, and I hope I’m 100% wrong, but I think of all the schools to make a big stride next year it’ll be Oregon.  There’s a history of doing well in the CBI, then following that up with a quality run the following year.  See:  VCU.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Odds are good, though, that the Pac-12 will once again be stepped on and mushed into the mud of the NCAA by the East Coast media.  Looks like it’ll be a tough fight for the top 3 spots in the standings.

We’re Lucky We Have Romar

Once the dust settles and the mourning stops, there’s going to be a central theme the media hits on for about a day or two.  It’s the same every year.  Newspaper columnists, desperate for something “shocking” or “controversial” to get their names on people’s minds, will write the obligatory, “Lorenzo Romar Can’t Get Past The Sweet 16” article.  Steve Kelly seems like a likely choice for such drivel.  Maybe he’ll even go so far as to call for Romar’s ouster, citing a need for a REAL bigtime head coach to get us past the hump of so-so-ness.

Well, yeah, I guess it would be nice if we had a John Calipari type guy ready and willing to move all the way to Seattle, bringing in all the nation’s top recruits by any slimy means necessary.  But, you know what?  I’m going to issue to the Steve Kelly’s of the world a pre-emptive Fuck Off!

Look, this is Seattle.  In the grand scheme of sporting things, we underachieve.  Losing in the Round of 32 is a nice microcosm of what Seattle Sports is all about.  Good enough to sometimes make the Tourney, but not so good that we’re going to do any REAL damage (see:  the Seahawks in this year’s NFL playoffs).

But, you know what?  In the grand scheme of Husky Basketball things?  We’re vastly VASTLY over-achieving.  And to fire someone simply because he hasn’t won a game in the Sweet 16 round is pretty ridiculous.  Remember where we were before Romar took over!  Look at the local coaching tree we’ve got with Seattle U and Wazzu both taking desciples.  Consider, if you will, the fun-to-watch, up-and-down pace Romar employs.  This IS a winning style of basketball.  It’s just unfortunate that we’ve always had flaws.

The fact of the matter is, we’re a better team when we DON’T have outside shooters.  We’re more steady in our offense because we’re attacking the rim and sending multiple guys after offensive rebounds.  Even without a real strong 3-point threat last year, we were still one of the highest scoring teams in the nation.  BUT, we didn’t quite have the bigs to bang down low and it cost us in a tough Sweet 16 matchup.

This year, we did have the shooters, but it’s the same deal.  Our bigs weren’t nearly as good as their bigs yesterday.  A byproduct of Romar’s style of play, I think, is that we absolutely do NOT feature the big man.  We DON’T feed the post time after time.  If you’re a highly-touted big man, why would you necessarily want to come here?  When Arizona is much more well-equipped to feature your talents more exclusively.

It’s a shame.  Because if we had ONE guy with even half the skills of a Derrick Williams on the team yesterday, maybe we wouldn’t have had to look at the bevy of missed lay-ins by You Know Who.

What those kids need to realize is, once you get ON our team, Romar’s the best coach you could ever hope for.  He’s taken mediocre teams and made them good; taken good teams and made them great.  He’s a guy who’s ALWAYS going to coach UP his basketball team, round them into shape come playoff time, and make sure you go into any situation with the appropriate game plan.  With the way UNC was playing yesterday, we had no business being anywhere NEAR winning that game.  But, under Romar, we kept it close all day.

An elite big man will always be an elite big man, even on a team like Washington.  You will still get your numbers if you come here, and you’ll get a chance to win.  With the elite-level guard talent we pull year after year after year, what more could you ask for?

Up Next: Georgia Bulldogs

I’ve tried to do a little reading on this team, but I don’t know what to tell ya.  It’s going to come down to us making shots.  If we make shots, we will win.  If we struggle, if we go cold for long stretches, if we get down early … how could you like our chances?

Apparently, Georgia has one guy – Trey Thompkins – who’s a beast of the Derrick Williams variety.  In other words, he can play down low, he can shoot from afar, and he’ll be in the NBA next year.  They rebound well, which means they’re probably taller than us, which means – unless we get into foul trouble again – we’ll see a heavy dose of MBA and Aziz N’Diaye.  In other words, my worst fucking nightmare.

You know what I’ve never understood about basketball?  Matchups.  Take Washington vs. Georgia for example.  They’ve got a team with better quality bigs than we do; we have a team with better quality guards than they do.  It seems, 9 times out of 10, the team with the better smalls ALWAYS tries to match up with the team with the better bigs.  Why?

Why don’t teams, more often, use THEIR strength, instead of trying to match up to another team’s?  What’s our best lineup?  IT, MBA, Holiday, Overton, and whoever’s hottest out of the Ross/Suggs/Wilcox trifecta.  If we want more offense, sub out Holiday for another shooter, but you get the idea.

Considering our success in the Pac-10 Tournament, Aziz should ONLY be playing when MBA is on the bench.  Which, hopefully, means about 10 minutes per game (unless MBA is in foul trouble).  With Aziz, it’s always a step forward, 2 or 3 steps back.  Yes, he’ll get you a block, but then later he’ll bobble a pass thrown to him under the hoop, or he’ll try to put a dribble down when he should just slam it, or he’ll fail to box someone out, allowing them to get the offensive rebound and put-back.  It’s always some small failing with Aziz that, added up, outweigh any of the good he brings.

If I’m going to lose, I’d rather lose with my best players on the court.  If that means Holiday has to guard someone who’s 6’9, then so be it.

Anyway, if you want some light reading that’ll warm your heart, take a look at this.  It’s the best I could do.  And quite frankly, I still stand behind my statement from earlier this week:  I don’t WANT to know a whole lot about Georgia.  It’s wasted effort that won’t make a shit-lick of difference come Saturday.

#ColdBlooded – All Praise Due To Isaiah

Husky Love Week continues with more glowing praise, this time to our absolute most valuable player:  Isaiah Thomas.

With all due respect to Derrick Williams, if you take him off that team and replace him with your average, run-of-the-mill power forward, Arizona is still a good team and likely in the Tournament regardless.  If you take IT off the Huskies and replace him with an average point guard, we would have gone NOWHERE this year.

IT is the heart and soul of this team.  He’s our vocal and emotional leader.  He’s always ready to step up to the next challenge presented to him.  And, for good measure, he’s stronger than 10 Grinches + 2.

Look at where we’ve been this year; look at what we’ve gone through.  We’ve suffered close defeat to some good teams on the road.  We’ve had games where our outside shooters were ice cold.  We lost our original starting point guard for the season.  We missed our other point guard for stretches due to injury, and again in this Pac-10 Tournament due to suspension.

And through it all, Isaiah has been there.  The lone constant on this team of streaky players.  IT has scored less than 10 points only three times this year; even when his outside shot is off, he finds a way to get to the line and help the team.  He has doubled his average per-game assists, while still keeping his turnovers to a minimum (2.00 assist to turnover ratio as the team’s primary ball-handler).  His overall play has improved every year since he started back in 2008, and oh yeah, he’s only a Junior.

Basically, I could’ve said all of this last week and it still would have been true.  Then, he came out last Thursday – arms the size of tree trunks – and he rounded up all his Husky teammates one by one, collecting them in a pile and putting them on his back for the 3-day ride of all rides!  He played every last second of that WSU game, going for 21/11.  He had but two minutes of rest (one in each half, if I’m not mistaken) on Friday against Oregon, going for 10/12.  Then, on Saturday, in the championship game against Arizona, on legs mortal men would find turned to jelly, Isaiah turned in his single greatest performance of the season.  Of his CAREER!  On the court for all 45 minutes, coming out of the box on fire for 19 points in the first half.  Getting his teammates involved in the second half; drawing defenders away from wide open shooters for key assists in the closing minute.  And, of course, for the last shot of overtime, gathering his teammates upon his back with those tree-trunk arms once again.  28/7/5.

I don’t even want to think about where we’d be this year without Isaiah Thomas.  It’s certainly not a place I ever want to visit.

We Have Our Buzzer-Beater!

It took the entire regular season, AND the entire Pac-10 Tournament, but here we are.  Isaiah Thomas is YOUR Clutch Shot Maker.

This game was nuts.  Arizona could pretty much DO no wrong in the first half.  They were lights out; it took 19 points by IT to even keep us in it.  MBA had two early fouls (again), so we had to go zone earlier than we wanted (and probably more often than we wanted).  At first, it worked, but eventually, ‘Zona figured it out and picked us apart.  I don’t know how we went into halftime only down 3, but you could tell two things at that point:

1.  They couldn’t possibly keep up their field goal percentage

2.  We would come out hungry and in a frenzy.

Well, it wasn’t quite the comeback we saw in the Cougar game – our biggest deficit was 8 in the first half – but comeback we did.  We worked our way to a 6-point lead before the game got close and stayed close.  Both teams were within a basket of one another for most of this game.  Of course, after we got our big second half lead, Arizona chipped away at it (courtesy of a lot of favorable calls by the refs), and it looked pretty damn grim going into the final minute.

Then, out of nowhere, a cold-shooting Husky team found its stroke!  Terrence Ross, IT, and C.J. Wilcox all hit MONSTER threes.  I’m not kidding, we were DEAD.  We hit our first three to get it to within a point.  Then, with under 30 seconds to go, we pressed full court.  They beat it, found Derrick Williams, and fouled him.  Unfortunately:  continuation, And-1, down by 4.  We moved the ball back down court in a hurry, hit ANOTHER 3, and this time we fouled someone who WASN’T in the act of shooting.  One more time, under 10 seconds to go, IT drove the lane, dished to Wilcox in the corner, DRAINED IT!  Luckily, they missed a miracle shot at the end to force Overtime.

From there, it kinda got hazy.  I’m not gonna lie to you, I may have blacked out from all the excitement.  All I know is, we had a slim lead, they tied it on a bigtime three, and with a timeout in our pockets we inbounded to IT.  Every Husky was hugging the baseline under the basket.  Forget the pick and roll, forget working it around the horn, forget driving the lane and jacking up an off-balanced runner.  One on one, IT took his man to the arc, dug his shoulder into his man, stepped back and unleashed a fade-away jumper …

COTTON!  GAME OVER!

I just have to say, I KNEW IT!  I knew we’d beat those chickenfuckers on a neutral floor!  Yes, they did get 16 more foul shots, yes they had MBA, Aziz, and IT all in foul trouble going into OT, yes they probably could’ve milked the paint for MORE fouls and MORE free throws if they wanted to.  But, in the end, the better team won.

YOU HEAR ME?  The Better Team Won, Arizona!  The Better Team Won, Pac-10!

We are … tournament champions.

We are … Tournament bound.

The Pac-10 Refs Are Terrible

There is a lot to take away from the Huskies’ 1-point defeat to the Wildcats down in Arizona yesterday.  First and foremost, I believe it shows the Huskies are clearly superior to the first place team in the conference, regardless of overall record.  Just look at point differential:  we beat them by 17 at home, they barely squeaked by yesterday.  Put us on a neutral court and I think we take ’em down.

Secondly, there’s still the disturbing trend of us having no one to take the big shot at crunch time when we need a basket with the game on the line.  I’ll hereby direct you to what was essentially our final possession before all hell broke loose:  Matthew Bryan-Amaning gets the ball in the post with around 20 seconds left in the game, down 1, with a chance to win it.  Immediately before he was called for travelling (more on that in a bit), instead of making one of his patented spin moves towards the basket, he opted to kick it out to another man.  Why?  MBA simply DOMINATED that second half; they couldn’t stop him down low!  He’s our senior big man, our only low post threat:  why didn’t he choose to put his shoulders down and force the issue for himself and his team?  If the called play was for him to get the ball and immediately kick it out to IT for a shot, then I’ll gladly retract my statement (though, I’ll have to ask:  why wasn’t the plan all along to go to him down low regardless?).

Primarily, though, this game showed how the Pac-10 refs are perhaps the worst in all of Division I college basketball.

Their decisions to call fouls were arbitrary at best.  MBA was getting absolutely SLAUGHTERED on some of his shots down low; no fouls called.  Derrick Williams, however, got every little nudge called his way in the closing minutes.  Before those closing minutes, the refs showed a penchant for letting the players play; why the sudden reversal?  And why weren’t they called evenly?  It certainly wasn’t because of an over-abundance of 3-pointers jacked; we showed amazing restraint in holding our long-range attempts to 16 (if not our season-low, surely ONE of the lowest per-game totals).

Also, where was the goaltending call on Kyryl Natyazhko?  The ball was clearly resting on top of the rim when he tipped it in?  That’s offensive goaltending, and either way you slice it, this proves the Pac-10 referees’ incompetence.  If they didn’t see it, that’s absurd; what the hell were they looking at?  All of the action on that sequence was around the rim!  And if they DID see it but didn’t call it, then they’re fucking corrupt and deserve suspensions all around.  You can’t let something as insignificant as an Arizona White Out dictate how you’re going to call a basketball game down the stretch!

Most galling was the OTHER bit of goaltending they either failed to see or were too chickenshit to call.  Last play, inbound to Gant who got his shot up only to have it knocked out of bounds by Derrick Williams as the ball was clearly on its way down.  I’ve seen other shots – not nearly as obvious in their downward arc – get whistled against us before; why not now?  An illegal defensive play is an illegal defensive play, no matter what arena you’re in and no matter what amount of time is left on the clock.  To ignore something so crucial because Arizona was the home team, or because it was Derrick Williams making the infraction, or because it was a final shot and you’ve suddenly once again arbitrarily allowed the players to play … it’s just unconcionable.  Those refs should be ashamed of their “effort” and flogged accordingly.

And to those who would argue:  no one would EVER make that call, in that situation, I find that ridiculous.  The argument being:  when the final seconds are ticking off of a close game, the refs are reluctant to “decide the game”.  Well, what about that MBA travelling call with 20 seconds on the clock?  A replay was never shown, so I have no conclusive evidence of whether they were accurate or not; but right there:  they decided the game with a questionable call that could’ve gone either way and likely wouldn’t have been called if he made the same motion early in the first half.

It’s too bad, because the Huskies showed a ton of poise in that game.  They started off a little sloppy, played a little lazy at times, but they had the wherewithal to clamp down on defense and come back from a 12-point deficit.  That entire second half – minus the final minute or so – was a thing of beauty from the Dawgs and if they manage to play like that come Tournament time, I think we’re as good as anybody.

Not to criticize my maligned team too much, after the refs thoroughly screwed us, but I do have a couple points of contention.  I’m sorry, but Aziz canNOT be guarding another team’s best big man unless he’s exclusively a back-to-the-basket player.  Derrick Williams was making him look like a tree in the woods as he went around him for layup after layup.  Aziz:  MOVE YOUR FEET!  Even though he was knocking them down, I was sitting there yelling at my TV, “Let him shoot the jumper!”  Every time, Aziz just stood there and let his man make him look the fool.

Also, IT, you made some miraculous passes in the paint for some huge assists (the one to MBA in particular, where he couldn’t even see MBA around the giant doofus between them, was the sickest thing I’ve seen all year), but WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED ON THAT BREAK-AWAY LAYUP?  You practically tried to walk the last third of the court as defenders were trailing your ass; go hard to the hole!

But, whatever.  Those wasted opportunities were completely overshadowed by the Pac-10 officiating (once again).  Will there ever be a time where the Pac-10 refs don’t totally steal the limelight from the players with their destructive behavior?  Will they ever man up and STOP letting the home crowd dictate how they call a game?

Answer:  a resounding NO.

Isaiah Thomas Wins 2nd Pac-10 POW

He joins Reeves Nelson, Derrick Williams and Klay Thompson as 2-time Players of the Week this year.  Impressive! … and vastly due.

Considering he also won the award two weeks ago, and is on the tear of all tears, it wouldn’t be a stretch in the least to see IT win Player of the Month.  All a part of my master plan of seeing IT as Player of the Year – which, should we win first place in the conference, HAS to happen.

Pac-10 play started on December 29th; it was an overtime win @ USC, but Isaiah had a rough go in that game.  You want to see his breakdown since in the last 7 games?

  • 17 points, 9 assists @ UCLA
  • 20 points, 9 assists vs. Oregon
  • 19 points, 8 assists vs. OSU
  • 14 points, 7 assists @ Stanford
  • 27 points, 13 assists @ Cal
  • 22 points, 10 assists vs. Arizona
  • 19 points, 8 assists vs. ASU

That’s all in January, save for the 12/31 game in UCLA; an average of 20 and 9.  Saying nothing of the work he does rebounding, his hustle for loose balls, and the lockdown defense he displays on the other team’s best guard.  Considering we’re 5-1 with one more game to go on the 30th in Wazzu, I’m putting all smart dollars on IT winning it.