Husky Basketball Is Going Down The Shitter

On New Year’s Eve, I wrote about how the Huskies were in great shape heading into conference play. Then, six games and a Quade Green suspension (for lack of a better word) later, here we are, 2-4 in Pac-12 play, coming off of our best remaining chance for a real signature victory.

The Baylor game feels like a million years ago.

Earlier, I was harping on offensive rebounds, and they’re still a problem, but not as glaring as before. It’s just a lot of little things. Slow starts, an inability to get the ball to Isaiah Stewart in the post, an inability to shoot from behind the arc, turnovers, poor free throw shooting, lack of a true point guard.

The loss at home to Oregon on Saturday was a bitter pill. Of course, ANY loss to Oregon is a bitter pill, but this one really hurt our chances of making the NCAA Tournament. A win there, and it’s not hard to imagine that – combined with a victory over Baylor (still their only loss of the season, as they’ve risen to #1 in the AP Poll) – would’ve been enough for a .500 Husky team to sneak into an 11 or 10 seed. But, now we REALLY need to rip off a lot of wins the rest of the way, as well as make a good showing in the Pac-12 Tourney.

The loss to the Ducks is even worse considering how much we dominated that game, up as many as 16 points with under 14 minutes to play.

One big issue the Huskies need to rectify in a hurry is figuring out our rotation. We pulled Marcus Tsohonis’ red shirt with the Quade Green fiasco, as it doesn’t look like Elijah Hardy is ready to take on a starter’s load. Tsohonis looked great against the Beavers, and that continued through the first half against the Ducks. But, there was some sloppy ball-handling down the stretch, as well as his BRUTAL 0 for 4 at the free throw line that ultimately cost us any chance at winning that one.

He was not alone in the blame.

It’s hard to watch Jaden McDaniels right now, because he looks absolutely dreadful. He might go on to greatness in the NBA – he might even turn things around this season in a likely one-and-done college career – but he’s fucking awful and has been this team’s biggest disappointment (yes, even bigger than a 5-star point guard ruled academically ineligible for a quarter). He’s a mediocre 3-point shooter; he shoots WAY too many long 2-pointers. He thinks he’s a better passer and ball-handler than he actually is; he turns it over way too much. In general, he seems like a bad decision-maker and has a bad overall attitude (if he’s not getting baited into making angry, reactionary fouls, then he just looks like a sulking, pissy baby). I think it’s clear he has zero interest in the game of college basketball and is counting down the days until he can go pro and forget all of this ever happened. Of course, as this is happening, his stock is clearly falling, because what has he brought to the table? How has he progressed since his high school days? I’m sure he’ll still get picked in the first round based on potential, but he could’ve gone in the Top 10 or Top 5 if he decided to actually give a shit.

Most of all, the Huskies just don’t have anyone who can create late in games when we absolutely need a bucket. The last ten minutes of regulation against Oregon were the most excruciating moments of my life, and I’ve had a catheter tube ripped from my pee-hole! The book is out on Washington: double or triple-team Isaiah Stewart and force literally anyone else (mostly Hameir Wright and his 28.6% field goal percentage) to try to beat you. If the Huskies go cold from long range, there’s no one who can dribble drive and create in the paint. There’s no Jaylen Nowell or Isaiah Thomas; hell, I’d settle for Game Overton at this point!

That play-maker was supposed to be McDaniels, but clearly he’s got his own thing going and that’s cool. It’s weird that the Huskies played their best, most complete game of the season against Oregon State last Thursday (a 64-56 victory that only got THAT close in garbage time) when McDaniels was out with an ankle injury.

I wonder if the biggest problem for this team isn’t the fact that we have TOO MANY good players. There just aren’t enough minutes – or enough shots – to go around. It feels like Naz Carter has gotten lost in the shuffle a little bit when he’s this team’s only quality upper classman. Also, I feel like this would be the perfect team for someone like RaeQuan Battle – who got serious minutes against the Beavers and scored 11 points, though he did struggle against the Ducks – to be a role player off the bench that brings a little spark. But, for defensive purposes, you’ve gotta give Wright and Bey significant minutes, you’re not going to sit Carter or Stewart, and every team needs a point guard. With McDaniels as the wild card (apparently), there are some solid role players who are totally buried this year. Nate Roberts should be playing more! Sam Timmins isn’t anything special, but he deserves more than garbage-time minutes!

Oddly enough, the Huskies might actually be better next year. It sounds crazy, when you know we’ll lose Stewart – who is the best player in the Pac-12 and one of the best players in the nation – but with everyone else we’re bringing back, plus a year’s experience, maybe we were a year too early on projecting great things for the Huskies.

It’s tough to be consistent when you’re playing so many Freshmen and Sophomores. We knew that all along. But, I was hoping by mid-January, this thing would’ve clicked, and we’d gel into a true contender. Instead, we’re gonna be scrambling just to make the N.I.T.

I never thought I’d actually finding myself looking forward to baseball season, but here we are.

The Husky Basketball Team Looks Young, Inexperienced, & Totally Dominant

This team can be all things to all people. Right now, they’re 2-0 and ranked 20th in the nation.

I watched every minute of the game in Alaska against Baylor – at the time ranked 16th in the AP poll – and zero minutes of the home game against Mount St. Mary’s last night. So, I’m right about where you would expect me to be in terms of knowledge about this team.

Early on against Baylor, we looked disjointed, overly-excited, and moving as fast as humanly possible without doing any thinking whatsoever. I saw a lot of wild drives down the court and to the hoop, a lot of us dipping our shoulders and charging into someone, and an overall sense of sloppiness. Which is pretty much what should’ve been expected. I feel like at any point that game could’ve gotten out of our grasp and we could’ve lost by 20+ points.

But, the sheer, raw talent by the Huskies is what kept us in it. We were never much more than a stone’s throw away from catching the Bears, but it would take a significant run to get us over the hump.

Things turned around midway through the second half. Baylor took a 57-44 lead with just under 10 minutes to go in the game. That’s when it all started to come together for the Huskies, where talent met execution. Now, it wasn’t easy! Against a lesser team, I’d like to believe the Dawgs would’ve ripped off a huge wad of points. But, against an elite defensive team like the Bears, we just sort of wore them down, bit by bit, for a 67-64 victory.

Junior guard Naz Carter was the star in this one, with his game-leading 23 points on 8/15 shooting (including 4/6 from behind the arc), and Isaiah Stewart was the hero with the go-ahead points in the final minute, but Jaden McDaniels was the glue that brought everything together. He was an absolute revelation. I asked heading into the season who would be the guy who takes over a game when the chips are down, and McDaniels appears to be the one. He can shoot, he can drive, he can pass, he can rebound, he can defend. He’s a complete package and he’s coming in right away ready to take things over.

I loved every single thing we saw from our new Big 3. Time will tell as to how the rotations shake out, but the role players on this team figure to help out quite a bit. Quade Green – who won his appeal and gets to start for us immediately – looks like the first true, elite point guard we’ve had since I.T. His shooting hasn’t quite come around yet, but I highly doubt he’ll be the liability we’ve seen from most of our point guards since Thomas’s final season. Hameir Wright looks like a more natural shooter, with a lot more confidence, and will help immensely in spreading the floor on offense – to afford Stewart more of an opportunity to work down low.

For the most part, we’ve been treated to just a 7-man rotation, with Jamal Bey and Elijah Hardy getting most of the bench minutes, but I feel like that’s bound to change once we get deeper into the season and more guys lower on the depth chart start to assert themselves. I’ll tell you what, if this sees us with fewer Timmins minutes (other than to help out when guys get in early foul trouble), all the better.

The Huskies looked impressive when they went big, with Bey in there for Green. Bey isn’t a natural ball-handler, but we’re MASSIVE on the defensive side of the ball. It’s a nice wrinkle to throw at teams and I’m curious to see how they respond. Against Baylor, we went big for a lot of our late-game comeback, and I could see us doing that a lot as this team grows and needs to change things up to create a spark.

I also found it interesting to see us playing man-to-man. It didn’t happen a lot against Baylor, but there was a brief spell in the first half, and most crucially on the final play of the game, with Baylor down and looking to tie it up. It was a BRILLIANT maneuver that totally caught them off guard; they couldn’t come up with anything close to a reliable shot as time expired.

I wasn’t surprised to see the Huskies struggle in the home-opener last night against the Mountaineers. It sounded like Mt. St. Mary’s really grounded the game to a halt with their long possessions, and they refused to let the Huskies pull away by making some timely shots. It also sounded like the Huskies settled for way too many outside shots and that might be a problem in the non-conference slate.

I didn’t love how selfish a lot of the guys were when I saw them against Baylor. Quade Green is the only one really looking to pass the rock; I saw A LOT of hero ball, particularly on fast break opportunities, where guys were just running into Baylor players looking to get fouled. I mean, we took so many unnecessary blocks in that one; I’m MUCH more concerned about that than the turnovers everyone else is mentioning. Yeah, it’s a young, hungry Husky team, they’re going to commit turnovers. But, let’s work on making the extra pass in transition! Let’s convert these opportunities into points!

This start couldn’t be any better, all things considered though. We have our first legitimate non-conference victory in two years – since we went on the road against #2 Kansas in Hop’s first year – and I think this one is gonna hold up. I think Baylor is for real, and if they stay healthy, they’ll remain in the Top 25 for the duration and figure to secure a high seed in the NCAA Tourney. That’s going to be great for our overall resume.

No time to dine out on that one though, as we head to Toronto for another non-conference showdown, this time against the Tennessee Volunteers, who are currently 30th in AP voting. So, this is far from a gimme, and figures to be another quality opponent for us to tout for our March Madness resume. It’s a lot to ask of a team this young to go out and fight against two superior schools this early in the season, but I’m not ruling anything out at this point. We can sleep when we’re dead (which, in this case, would be the five cupcakes between Tennessee and Gonzaga in early December).

The Huskies Have A Lot Of Work To Do After A Home Split With The Mountain Schools

The Thursday defeat to Utah was all kinds of bad.  That brought us to a season sweep, which is frustrating, because I seem to remember Utah being a poor matchup for us for the last few years now.  Upon further review, that makes 6 losses in a row, and 9 of 12 since Utah joined the conference, a lot of those defeats being pretty ugly for the Dawgs.  So, yeah, they continue to be our kryptonite.  The less said about that game, the better.

That brought Washington’s losing steak to 3 games, and put all the pressure on the remaining regular season schedule, as well as a moderate amount of pressure on the Pac-12 Tournament (pressure that will only continue to grow with every regular season loss).  As it stands right now, the Huskies are among the First Four Out in most prominent Bracketology editions this morning, and that’s only because we were able to take care of business against Colorado.

The Huskies decided to change things up and share a group outing to see the Black Panther movie that came out over the weekend.  Emboldened, with an opportunity to forget all their problems of the last two weeks, the Dawgs came out on fire against the Buffaloes, beating them 82-59 on the night UW retired Isaiah Thomas’ jersey.  It was a perfect night.

Thybulle had a monster offensive night, Crisp continued to suck balls from beyond the arc (hitting his first shot, then missing his next 4; the worst thing in the world is a bad shooter hitting his first shot, leading him to believe he’s got something going that night).  After a string of poor performances, Dominic Green got the start over Jaylen Nowell; Nowell still had 31 minutes off the bench and had a solid game.  Green, on the other hand, hit 3/4 from long distance and continues to be our best sharp-shooting threat; very deserving of starter’s minutes.  Naz Carter continues to make strides, and should compete to be this team’s starting point guard next year (hopefully supplanting Crisp and his poor shooting).  And Dickerson had a nice game after being plagued by fouls and missed shots against Utah.

As always, there’s a lot to already be happy about with this season of Husky basketball.  We’ve officially doubled our win total from a year ago, and quadrupled our conference win total.  That’s Coach of the Year material right there, no doubt about it.  But, there’s still more to get.  We go on the road to play the Bay Area schools this week, and we NEED to avenge our previous loss to Stanford.  Cal is terrible, so it would be a huge upset to drop that one on Saturday, but the real concern is the Cardinal.  They looked to be a very poor matchup for us a month ago, and I can’t imagine they’ve gotten a whole lot worse in the subsequent month.  The Huskies need to dig deep, avoid careless turnovers, and rebound like their lives depend on it.  After this, we’ve just got the two home games against the Oregon schools, then it’s Pac-12 Tourney time.  Every game is vitally important from here on out.  Going 4-0 would put us in a great position to make life a lot easier.

The Huskies Swept The Arizona Schools, Still Somehow Aren’t In The Top 25

I’m telling you, that game on Saturday was a sight to behold!

I’m still bouncing off the walls after Washington’s 78-75 victory over the Arizona Wildcats.  It had everything:  a sellout crowd on a blackout night, great taunts from the Dawg Pack, a touching, lowkey tribute to the return of Lorenzo Romar (an assistant coach on the Wildcats), a fast start by the Huskies (building a 7-point lead at halftime, and increasing to 14 early in the third quarter), and a terrific finish.

As expected, the Huskies ran into a bit of a cold stretch in the second half, as Arizona walked down that 14-point lead, to take a 3-point lead of their own, but for most of the later part of the second half it was a back-and-forth affair.  In the end, Dominic Green hit a huge three ball to tie it up, and moments later – game tied at 75 – he hit the game-winning three-pointer to win it at the buzzer.  Jaylen Nowell held for the final shot, drove the lane, had his shot swatted on a double-team, and fortunately the ball bounced right to Green on the right wing, with just enough time for him to raise up and shoot before pandemonium.

Green, the hero of the night, had 14 points on 4/5 shooting from beyond the arc.  Noah Dickerson made his presence felt from the opening possession, netting a game-high 25 points to go with his 7 rebounds.  David Crisp had one of his better games, with 16 points and 4 rebounds.  Jaylen Nowell added 14 points, including a couple of big 3-pointers.  All told, the Huskies were 8/14 from long distance, while holding Arizona to a lowly 2/12 (they’re the best 3-point shooting team from a percentage standpoint in the conference), making this a real Husky Special.

This was, without question, the best Husky basketball game since the Cold Blooded game in the Pac-10 Tournament (which, incidentally, they showed a replay of immediately following this game).  I had completely forgotten anything before that Isaiah Thomas game-winner, like the fact that we had to hit a number of huge shots to get that game into overtime in the first place!

Anyway, it’s a banner moment for the Huskies.  It’s just unfortunate that the Associated Press didn’t see it that way.

Arizona dropped from 9 to 13; Arizona State dropped from 25 to out of the poll; and the Huskies were responsible for all of that.  The Huskies, now 17-6, and 7-3 in conference, with wins over 3 ranked opponents (including Kansas on the road), as well as a road win over USC, and it’s STILL not enough to get us into the Top 25.  We’re technically 27th, which is a huge slap in the face to the Pac-12 as well as common decency.

NEVERTHELESS, the Huskies – as far as Bracketology is concerned – are IN!  10-seed on ESPN, 7-seed on CBS.  35th in RPI.  After three straight home games, we go on the road to face the lowly Oregon schools this weekend.  The Ducks are middle-of-the-road in conference – so that one might be a trap game – and the Beavers are considerably worse.  We SHOULD win both of these games, to get ever-so-much closer to that critical 21-win mark.  But, I guess don’t be shocked – especially if we have some off-shooting nights – if the Huskies lose at least 1 of these.  Remember, this team isn’t suddenly perfect; we’re going to see a loss or two the rest of the way that wasn’t expected.

Still, lots of room for optimism going forward!  We know now that we’re not the very worst team in the Pac-12 (that would be the Cougs, who we’ve beaten twice), and we also know we can play with – and BEAT – the very best team in the Pac-12 (that will always be Arizona, barring injury).  This IS a Tournament team, barring a total collapse, which should make the next month and change pretty damn fun.

The Huskies Went On The Road And Beat #2 Kansas

This.  Was.  Incredible.

If this game happened in Hec Ed, you would’ve seen 5,000-some-odd people storming the court, but it feels so much bigger because it took place in the Sprint Center in Kansas City, so not only was this a road game, but it was a road game where they could manage to cram in MORE Jayhawks fans than if they’d played the game on campus.  And to not only win, but win COMFORTABLY, by a score of 74-65, I just don’t have the brain capacity to comprehend this.

This is the biggest win since dot dot dot:

Well, last year, the Huskies won all of 9 games (they’ve already won 7 this year, but shhh, don’t tell anyone), and they lost handily to every ranked opponent they played.

The year before, we had an NIT team, and the only ranked team we beat was a #25-ranked UCLA squad who wasn’t even good enough to crack the NIT.

The year before that, we were nothing, and somehow beat a #13-ranked Utah team at home (who would go on to the Sweet 16).  We also beat a #15-ranked Oklahoma team on a neutral floor that would also go on to the Sweet 16 and a #13-ranked San Diego State team at home that would go on to the Round of 32.  How that Husky team did nothing whatsoever in conference play is a testament to underachieving.

I could keep going, but the point is it’s been a long time since we’ve seen the Huskies win a game that huge.  I don’t remember them EVER winning against such a highly ranked team on the road; the last time they beat a Top 2 team was in 2004 when they hosted the #1-ranked Stanford Cardinal at the end of the season.

Obviously, we don’t know where Kansas will end up this season, but they’re definitely well-regarded at the moment (they were undefeated heading into the game, with wins over Kentucky and Syracuse), they’re a perennial powerhouse school in college basketball, and barring a total collapse or a rash of injuries, they should be a lock to play in the NCAA Tournament come March.  Are they REALLY a Top 10 team?  Time will tell.  But, right now they’re ranked #2 in the nation, and the Huskies handled them like I’ve never seen!

It was a thing of beauty.  For starters, that defense.  They essentially locked down the perimeter, did a good job staying with the big man down low, and dared the guy in the middle – a Junior guard by the name of Lagerald Vick – to single-handedly win the game on the offensive end.  True to form, he finished with 28 points, 7 assists, and 5 boards, but he was only 12/23 from the floor, and the next-highest scorer only had 10 points.  When you consider this is a Kansas team that lives for the 3-point shot, and has a couple of quality post players, Coach Hop came up with a stroke of genius in shutting them down.  Let’s just hope more teams don’t take this strategy; it would be really cool if Kansas finished the season in the Top 10, so at the very least we can hang our hat on this game being very important.

As impressed as I was about the Husky defense (and it shouldn’t be glossed over; these guys have bought in, and the zone defense really suits this team like a glove!  I think my favorite thing I’ve seen out of this team, from a defensive perspective, is a drastic reduction in ticky-tack fouls.  Sure, the zone will get beaten from time to time, but you don’t really see the Huskies compounding that by giving the opposing team an And One opportunity as often as you’d see under Romar.  I think that’s huge; not getting into early and frequent foul trouble.  I mean, let’s face it, most college players – particularly the One & Done types – don’t want to play defense.  That’s not what gets you into The League.  That’s where the zone comes in.  Sure, there are tons of zone-busting plays out there; it’s not a cure-all.  But, for one, to beat the zone you have to shoot well, and if you have an off night, you can lose to just about anyone deploying it.  Secondly, more often than not it’ll at least keep you in the game, so if YOU shoot well, you can still overcome the other team busting your zone.  It may not be as macho or whatever as playing man-to-man, but as we’ve seen under the last few years with Romar, if you don’t have the drive, the ability, and the mindset to be a good defender, then you’re essentially useless when you play man-to-man.  Also, don’t get me started on that abomination where they’d switch on every single pick play; what the shit was that???), I think I was even more impressed by the Husky offense!

I’ve seen Husky teams in the recent past hang in there against superior competition.  For a quarter, or a half, and once in a blue moon all the way to the last 4-5 minutes of the game!  But, inevitably, the Huskies – ever since Isaiah Thomas went to the Pros – lacked that one guy who could make a big shot in crunch time.  Last night, the Huskies didn’t really need anyone to play that role, but that’s only because the entire team stayed composed and made shots the whole game!

Things were a little dicey early, as Kansas jumped out to a 10-5 lead, and I wondered if we could stay within the 22-point spread.  But, as I just said, guys kept making shots and by halftime, the Huskies had worked their way to a 2-point lead, 36-34.

That lead ballooned to 52-44 early in the second half before Kansas went on a nice little run to pull the game to 53-52, with just under 10 minutes left in the game.  That was a real gut check time, as you could hear the crowd start to get into it, and it looked like the better team would finally take over.

Instead, not even three minutes later, the Husky lead was back to 10, 64-54, and it was just a matter of trading buckets to the finish line.

Don’t get me wrong, there were some daggers thrown in there.  That David Crisp three-ball with just over two minutes to go in the game felt like a real back-breaker, to put the Huskies up by 14.  With a good-shooting team like Kansas, you feel like no lead is safe.  Sure, they hit a couple garbage-time threes in the final minute, but they finished the game 5/20 from beyond the arc, and more importantly, were only 4/8 from the free throw line.  No three balls AND no free throws?  I’ll take that every single game!

Getting back, though, the Huskies shot 48.3% from the floor, and 42.9% from long range.  We also got to the line 15 times (only hitting 7).  Hell, we even out-rebounded them!

There wasn’t one star, or one guy carrying the entire team, which is what the Huskies are going to need to do if they want to keep this thing going.  Matisse Thybulle led the way with 19 points (hitting 5/8 from downtown), 4 boards, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block.  Jaylen Nowell had 17 points; Noah Dickerson had 13 points, 14 boards, and 5 assists.  David Crisp chipped in 10 points and 7 assists; Sam Timmins had 8 points and 3 boards in 18 minutes; and forward Hameir Wright came off the bench for 27 minutes, scoring 5 to go along with 6 boards and 3 blocks.

I just couldn’t be happier or more proud of this team.  The young guys are producing, the holdovers are buying in, and you can already see some steady improvement from where we were just one month ago when the season started.  Remember, the media predicted Washington would finish 10th in the conference!  Ahead of only Cal (who looks like a disaster) and Wazzu (who got off to a hot start, before losing their last two, including a 27-point drubbing to Idaho last night).  If the Huskies can continue to play this type of Team ball, who knows where we’ll end up?

I know this, a win on the road against #2 Kansas would look MIGHTY good on a team’s resume, if – for instance – that team happened to be on the bubble.

I’ll be the first to admit, I had zero expectations for that game last night, or this season in general.  The only reason I had the game on at all was to see just how close – or how far away – this team was compared to the best in the nation.  Now that they’ve won, and won handily, my interest has definitely perked up.  If they can go on the road to win in Kansas, what’s stopping this team from coming back home on Sunday and taking down #12 Gonzaga?

I’m not ready to predict a win just yet – after all, the Zags just lost to Villanova and are sure to be pretty salty about it – but before the game last night, there was NO QUESTION the Huskies would lose both of these games.  After the game last night, it’s not off the table that we might win both and find ourselves in the Top 25 next week.

Think about THAT!  Wouldn’t that be something?

I texted it to my friends last night, and I plan on keeping my promise:  every year, we go to the Reno/Tahoe area for the first weekend of March Madness to gamble on sports and drink our livers black for three straight days; the first thing I’m going to do when I land and get checked in is I’m going to place $100 on the Huskies against whoever they’re playing in the Tournament.  Because we’re fucking going!  That’s all there is to it!

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.

I’d Say More Like One Out Of A Million: Why The Huskies Still Could Make The Big Dance

Yesterday, I wrote about why the Husky basketball team has been a big, fat disappointment.  And right around this time next week, when they get bounced in the Pac-12 Tournament, I’ll be writing the same damn thing.

But, today, we get to dream a little dream.  It’s an implausible dream.  It’s a dream where you wake up muttering to yourself, “What the hell did I eat last night?”  It’s going to take A LOT of suspension of disbelief, but I’m going to need you to go with me on this, because the 2016 Mariners season is still in its zygote stage, and I can’t for the life of me think of anything interesting to write about the fucking Seahawks right now.

The last time the Huskies won the conference tournament was in 2011.  I think you hear me knocking; I think I’m coming in.  Cold Blooded, motherfuckers.

That was a better team than this Husky team, by far.  A deeper team, a more veteran team.  Five upper classmen played significant roles, compared to this team’s two (and Dime is an upper classman in name only, because he’s a JuCo transfer in his first year in the program; plus, all the announcers keep mistaking him for a Freshman anyway, so why not roll with it?).  That team also finished 3rd in the regular conference season, compared to this team’s (7th? 9th?) garbage finish.  As such, that team got to enjoy playing one game less than this team will.  It edged by a decent Wazzu team, pounded an over-their-heads Oregon team, and won that all-time classic against Arizona in the finale.

This team, as I mentioned, has a much tougher route.  Next Wednesday, probably in the afternoon, the Huskies will have to beat a team that’s probably its equal (a team in the Stanford/UCLA range), on a neutral floor.  It’s what we’re going to go ahead and call a “winnable” game, even though it’ll probably come down to a final possession, maybe some free throws, or even a crazy, jacked-up three pointer at the buzzer.  On any given night, this Husky team could beat any team in this conference, so I’ll bite and call this game a 50/50 affair.

That puts us into Thursday, probably right around the same time of day as the previous game, against one of the top four teams in the conference.  On zero days rest.  So, yeah, whoever’s playing the Huskies will be heavily favored.  It’s going to be a significant upset, but if the Huskies can get their shooters going, or hope for the other team to come out cold, maybe they can keep it close and pull out a miracle in the end.  I probably give the Huskies a 10% chance of winning this game.

That gets us to the Semis on Friday, most likely against another top four team.  What are the odds the Huskies beat two top four teams on back-to-back days?  Probably pretty slim; I give us a 5% chance in this one.  Which leads into the showdown on Saturday, against some other top four team who’s also really good.  Beating three top four teams, on back-to-back-to-back days?  On our fourth straight day of basketball?  With no bench help whatsoever, and a roster only 7-deep?  Yeah, I’m gonna go ahead and say we’ve got a 1% chance of winning this one.

So, why even bother?  Why not just throw in the towel right now?

Because Andrew Andrews is playing for his basketball life.  He’s not going into the NBA.  If he decides to pursue a basketball career as a player, he’s going to have to go overseas, which is fine.  He’ll get to see the world and continue pursuing a passion.  He might even find success, and I hope he does.  But, as far as his American basketball career is concerned, this is it.  He’s got this, and if he fails, he’s got the N.I.T. for the second time in his college career, with zero NCAA Tournament appearances.  He’s going down as one of the all-time greatest Huskies (whether you like it or not), and for him to be iced out of the Big Dance is beyond criminal.  No one will be playing harder than Andrews, and I believe he’s got the stuff to rival I.T.’s shot against Arizona five years ago.

Because Murray and Chriss are still playing for draft positioning.  The conference tournament isn’t the be-all end-all, but it’s a significantly bigger stage than the regular season.  This is their last chance to make an impact on a more national stage before they’re swallowed up in the N.I.T. where no one is watching.  The more the Huskies win in the Pac-12 Tourney, the more exposure they’re going to get for scouts and NBA executives.  Their paydays could rightly be riding on next week.

And because I have to believe that Lorenzo Romar is going to pull out any and all stops.  This is no longer about getting your younger guys experience.  This is no longer about the players coming in next year, or in the years to come.  This is about right here and now.  Do or die.  If someone isn’t getting it done, fuck it, he’s got to have a quick hook and put someone in there who WILL get it done.  Here’s to hoping he’s got a secret up his sleeve that he’s been saving all year, because it’s now or never.

It would be the miracle to end all miracles.  Four games in four days, against solid competition.  The disappointing players need to get their mojos back, the stars need to shine, the shooters need to be on point from long range, the big men need to rebound like their lives depend on it, the foul-prone need to tighten things up, and the refs need to drink all their brain & nerve tonic, because we can’t have their bullshit deciding games.

Or, shit, if some rich Husky fan could bribe everyone involved, I’d settle for that too.

New Huskies Starting To Make Big Impact

You couldn’t help but take a Wait & See approach to this Husky basketball season, with all the turnover compared to recent years.  With Andrew Andrews being The Guy, and everyone else being complete unknowns, I don’t know if I’d blame you for feeling like, “Oh, here we go again!”  I mean, there we were, coming off of arguably Lorenzo Romar’s worst season as the head coach of this team, which itself came off of three other seasons where we failed to make the NCAA Tournament, and now our only experienced player is a guard who arguably shoots too much?

But, here we are, a little more than halfway through the season, and this team has a real shot at contending for an At Large bid, if not an outside shot at winning the Pac-12 Tourney.  Andrew Andrews was and is the glue that holds this whole thing together, and without him, I don’t think this team has a shot, but if this team is going to make the leap and BE a Tournament team, it’s going to need the kids to mature in a hurry.

If you watch enough Husky basketball, you’ll notice a few things.  Here’s what I’ve noticed so far.

Dejounte Murray is probably the biggest star, and most NBA-ready player, in his class.  Without really knowing the college basketball landscape, I have no idea about what this year’s draft is going to look like.  I think, if the season ended today, Murray could probably find himself selected somewhere in there (I would argue more likely in the second round).  He’s flashing brilliance, and what he’s got going for him are the next 11 regular season games, along with the Pac-12 Tourney and whatever other post-season tournament we land ourselves in.  These are Murray’s showcase games, for all intents and purposes.  These games will go a long way towards showing NBA scouts whether Murray is a first round talent, or a guy who could use another year of seasoning.

I’m of the opinion that college guys could ALWAYS use another year of seasoning, but I can certainly see the risk involved.  Tony Wroten, for example, probably maximized his value in his 1 & Done season.  Unless he was going to remarkably improve as an outside shooter in his second year in college, I don’t think he could have done much better than where he was selected (with all the risk in the world of him stagnating and falling in the draft as a result of him staying a second season).  Isaiah Thomas left with a year of eligibility at his disposal, but again, I think he had proven everything he needed to, especially in his final year here.  He risked seeing himself overshadowed by Tony Wroten of all people.  So, one might argue that Murray could see himself overshadowed by an incoming Freshman next season, but don’t forget this:  Andrew Andrews won’t be here.  So, if Murray decides to come back, this will be HIS team in 2016/2017.  If he lights the stat sheets on fire the rest of this season, he’ll certainly feel the pull to be a 1 & Done player.  But, if his game log up to this point is any indication, he still tends to have his good days and his bad days, and all those bad days aren’t doing him any favors.

What’s working for Murray is that he’s got an outside shot.  It’s not great, he’s hovering around 31% from beyond the arc, but he’s not a total liability.  His height is NBA-calibre (6’5), so no issues there.  He’s leading the team in rebounds, assists, and steals (6.4, 4.7, 1.7 respectively) but he’s also leading the team in turnovers (3.4), and that’s where, I think, he can make the most progress in his game.  If he stays one more year, cleans up his ball-handling and decision-making, he’ll see those turnover numbers go down and those assist numbers skyrocket.

The other guard in our 3-guard rotation is a guy I like A LOT.  It doesn’t hurt that I’ve got a huge man-crush on Andrew Andrews, but David Crisp reminds me a lot of Andrews.  His quicks, his fearlessness in taking the big shot, his ability to make shots from anywhere on the court.  Crisp nailed a dagger from the corner to force that Utah game into overtime, and I don’t think that’s the last we’ve seen of his clutchness.  My favorite thing about Crisp:  I don’t think he’ll be leaving us anytime soon.  Not to say he isn’t good, but he’s not the prototypical NBA guard the way Murray is.  That doesn’t mean he can’t take his game to the next level, but it likely means he’s going to need to stay for 3-4 years, watch his game flourish, and continue to shine when the lights are on him.

I don’t think I’ve seen a Freshman this ballsy since IT.  He absolutely wants the basketball in his hands in crunch time, and isn’t afraid to take the last shot, even knowing it’s more likely to be missed than made.  He’s hitting a decent 34% of his outside shots, but for now, that’s pretty much all he’s shooting.  Of his 175 attempts taken, 111 are behind the arc.  So, you know, he’s going to have to develop a dribble drive, and an ability to finish at the rim.  But, let’s not forget that he’s probably this team’s third or fourth option (behind Andrews, Murray, and whatever big man gets position in the post).  As Crisp develops, and as this roster changes in the coming years, look for him to take on an increased role, and I would wager he’ll be up to the task.

Of the Freshman forwards we have on the roster, Marquese Chriss might be the most dynamic.  He’s also, unfortunately, the most prone to get into foul trouble.  It’s the main reason why he’s only averaging 23 minutes per game.  The Huskies have played 19 games this season, and Chriss has fouled out in TEN of those games (Good God, Lemon!), with five more games where he finished with 4 fouls.  He’s fouled out in all but one of our seven Pac-12 games to date, so obviously that’s something that needs to change.

When he’s on the court, though, he might be the most naturally talented basketball player we have.  He’s hitting 53% of his shots, grabbing 5 boards, and hits a decent (for a big man) 70% of his free throws.  Mostly due to the foul trouble, he’s had an up & down season kinda like Murray, and at 6’9, 225 lbs, he’s not the ideal size for an NBA power forward.  So, in that sense, I think he’s more of a lock to be back next year.  Likewise, he has no outside shot whatsoever, so he’s not going to be your typical small forward in the NBA.  He probably needs to bulk up a little more (in muscle, obviously), develop a mid-range jumper, and cool it on the bone-headed fouls.  Once he takes care of that, his natural abilities around the rim will ensure he’s got a future in the NBA, probably as a bench player, good for defense and those tough points in the paint.  I can’t wait to see what he can do in a Husky uniform in the next year or two; I think he could be really special for us.

Noah Dickerson is the other Freshman big man who’s making an impact.  He also tends to get into foul trouble – not quite as much as Chriss – but he’s taken great steps to improve his game since conference play started.  Dickerson has scored in double digits in four of the last five games, with a lot of hard-fought buckets in the paint.  He’s not quite the natural scorer that Chriss has proven to be so far, but he’s a better rebounder, and he doesn’t even try to have an outside game.  His mid-range jumper is coming along nicely, as he tends to be the guy standing at the free throw line when other teams put their 2-3 zone on us.  He can hit that jumper from the stripe, which is odd because he still needs work on his actual free throw attempts.  At 6’8, he too is undersized for a power forward at the NBA level, so I wouldn’t expect him to go anywhere anytime soon.  But, if he’s already this good now, as a Freshman, how awesome is he going to be three years from now?

In keeping with the Freshman theme, Matisse Thybulle is absolutely going to be a fan favorite.  He’s a 6’5 small forward with rock solid defense, and he fills up the stat sheet.  5.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.0 blocks, and only 1.6 turnovers over 24 minutes per game.  He’s somewhat of an anomaly, as he has a better 3-point percentage than his overall field goal percentage (39.6% vs. 37.4%), but it’s not like he’s out there just jacking threes.  He spots up, and teams are going to leave him open because they’ve got so many other players to worry about.  But, to his credit, Thybulle is knocking down an impressive number of those attempts.  He’s a role player, and he’s likely always going to be a role player for this team, but as the years go by, he’ll find himself playing starter’s minutes and making a huge impact for the Huskies, much like Justin Holliday and Bobby Jones before him.

Finally, if you watch Husky games, you’ll note that there’s a 7-man base rotation, of players all averaging over 20 minutes per game.  Anyone below that threshold (Donaven Dorsey, Dominic Green) tends to play on a situational basis (depending on foul issues, and the like).  The big man I’ve been most impressed with so far has been Malik Dime.  He’s a Junior College transfer, coming to Washington with two years of eligibility remaining.  He’s 6’9, and listed as a forward, but he’s essentially what passes for this team’s center.  His wingspan is out of control, which is a big part of why he leads this team in blocks (at nearly 3 per game).  He’s shown a knack for avoiding foul trouble (for the most part), so even though he’s technically this team’s 6th man, he tends to be in the game early, and playing a good chunk of minutes (while also finding himself usually on the floor at the end of games).  From Senegal, like former Husky Aziz N’Diaye, Dime doesn’t quite have the stone hands of his countryman ex-Dawg.  He’s also got the athleticism to run up and down the court with these guards, who frequently reward him with alley-oop jams.  I don’t know what Dime’s future holds, as far as his NBA prospects are concerned.  He’s a little under-sized, and a little under-weight to bang around with the big boys in the pros.  And, he could probably develop more of a post game, if he wants to be a role player at the next level.  But, his defense, rebounding, leaping ability, and overall athleticism make him an interesting prospect.  Maybe someone who could benefit from some further development at the D-League level, if he doesn’t feel the need to seek out professional employment overseas right away.  My only quibble with his game so far, if you can even call it that, is he tends to have a heavy hand with his blocks, with the balls flying out of bounds rather than into the waiting hands of a teammate ready to push the ball the other way.  That’s where someone like Robert Upshaw really had a knack.  Of course, I highly doubt we’ll ever face the type of off-court troubles with Dime that followed Upshaw around, so in that sense I guess you take the good, you take the bad, and so on and so forth.

The overall consensus with this Husky team is that right now, it’s good, it’s exciting, and we all can’t wait to see what’s to come next in the remainder of this season.  But, even more thrilling is the possibility of what this team might look like NEXT year.  I know, as fans, we tend to over-value the future at the expense of the present, but think about this for a second.  The Huskies are off to a 5-2 start, and have as good a chance as anyone to win the Pac-12 regular season title.  Going into the 2016/2017 season, the only person we’re guaranteed to lose is Andrew Andrews.  If Murray and the rest of our Freshmen stay on board, even with whoever is slated to join us, we’re DEFINITELY going to be one of the top teams in the entire conference, with a high likelihood of going into the season ranked nationally.

I honestly don’t think we’ve seen a Husky basketball team this talented since the heyday of Nate Rob, Brandon Roy, Tre Simmons, Bobby Jones, Will Conroy and the like.  We all wondered if we’d ever get back to that level, and if we did, would Lorenzo Romar still be the guy calling the shots?  For the last few years, I’ve been on a one-man crusade calling for the Huskies to keep Romar and let him turn this thing around.  Well, I believe he’s done just that.  AND, if he can keep it all together, we could be looking at some real Tournament darlings for years to come.

Get excited, Dawg fans.  We’ve put up with a lot of crappiness in recent seasons.  THIS is the payoff.  Husky basketball is back, in a big way.

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.