Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Washington Huskies Mens Basketball 2010-11 Season Preview
When Lorenzo Romar took over the Washington Huskies he took over a program that generated no buzz at all. He inherited a team that hadn't finished in the top three in the Pac-10 since 1987. While in his first eight years at Washington Romar has finished in the top three in the Pac-10 five times. With the struggles of the football team and the success Romar has built mens basketball is almost on equal footing with the football team. People are actually excited about mens basketball at the university of Washington.
It wasn't an easy transition in the Romar era. He lost his first game of his coaching career to Montana and also lost to Eastern Washington in his first year. In fact the Huskies finished 10-17 and took ninth place in the conference. Romar who was a relative unknown came from St.Louis and Pepperdine didn't exactly win over fans his first year. Then year two came around and the team started off 0-5 in conference play. The Huskies were facing an 0-6 start trailing Oregon State by 17 points but after a miracle shot by Nate Robinson the Huskies won the game in overtime. Then the Huskies took off and upset #1 ranked and unbeaten Stanford 75-62 in the biggest regular season win of the Romar era. The Huskies took second in the Pac-10 regular season and reached the Pac-10 tournament championship game. The Huskies even made the NCAA tournament for the first time in five seasons. The Huskies finished year two under Romar 19-12(12-6, 2nd) but went one and done in the tournament. The entire team was back the following year which brought great expectations.
The Huskies responded in the 2004-05 season with their greatest regular season they ever had. Even though future NBA all-star Brandon Roy got hurt in the middle of the year the team had a terrific regular season. In fact the Huskies were so loaded Roy was coming off the bench that season. The team was led by Senior captain Will Conroy, first team all pac-10 guys in Nate Robinson and Tre Simmons along with great role players in Brandon Roy, Bobby Jones, Mike Jensen, Jamaal Williams and Hakeem Rollins. That team finished the regular season second in the Pac-10 but defeated Arizona in the Pac-10 championship game. The Huskies were also rewarded a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Huskies lost in the sweet 16 to eventual final four participant Louisville. The Huskies finished that year 29-6(14-4, 2nd). The Huskies lost Conroy, Simmons, and Rollins to graduation while Nate Robinson left early for the pro's but Romar kept the program going strong.
The Huskies made the NCAA tournament for the third straight season in the 2005-06 season first time the Huskies had done that since 84-86. Romar was the first coach in Husky history to lead the Huskies to the big dance three years in a row. Led by All-American and Pac-10 player of the year Brandon Roy the team again reached the sweet 16. The Huskies also featured freshman McDonald's All-American Jon Brockman. The Huskies would finish the year 26-7(13-5, 2nd) losing to UCONN in a heart breaker in overtime. After landing Brockman, in the off season Romar landed McDonald's All-American Spencer Hawes. Not only was Romar winning but he was landing big time recruits. The expectations for the following season were through the roof as the Huskies were on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
The Huskies struggled in a rebuilding year. Despite having two great bigs in Hawes and Brockman the team was pretty young losing seniors Roy, Jones, Williams and Jensen from the previous year. The Huskies returned just sophomores Brockman and Justin Dentmon along with junior Ryan Appleby. The Huskies despite starting the year off in the top 10 finished the year 19-13(8-10, 7th) and no postseason games. Then in the 2007-08 season the Huskies again failed expectations finishing 16-17(7-11, 8th) losing in the first round of the CBI tournament. People were then starting to question Romar but he did land Tacoma star Isaiah Thomas who would change things around for the Huskies.
After being picked to finish fifth in the Pac-10 and starting the season with a loss to the university of Portland the Huskies took off. Led by freshman Thomas and senior captain Brockman the Huskies won the Pac-10 regular season championship outright for the first time since 1953. The Huskies would return to the NCAA tournament but would lose in the second round to Purdue. The Huskies finished the year 26-9(14-4, 1st) and landed five-star recruit Abdul Gaddy. The Huskies also had to find a way to replace first team all pac-10 performers in Jon Brockman and Justin Dentmon.
Last year the Huskies struggled early on adjusting to life without Jon Brockman. Senior captain Quincy Pondexter who stepped up down the stretch the previous season along with Thomas were playing well. The other Huskies just weren't playing well. The Huskies at one time were 17-9 and 7-7 in conference play as of February 18th a far cry from a team who was ranked in the top 10 at one point in the season. Then the Huskies finished the regular season winning the final four games. Then the Huskies won the Pac-10 tournament defeated California 79-75 to clinch a spot in the NCAA tournament. The Huskies received an 11th seed but were sent to San Jose where they defeated Marquette overcoming a 16 point deficit winning 80-78 on Pondexters game winning shot with two seconds remaining. Then the Huskies played their best game of the season destroying 8th ranked New Mexico 82-64 in a game that was never close. The Huskies would lose in the sweet 16 to West Virginia. The Huskies would finish the year 26-10(11-7, 3rd) and have high expectations this season. The Huskies graduated just Pondexter but lost Breshers and Turner for other reasons.
When you know your program is in good shape is when you lost two first team all pac-10 guys and go to the sweet 16 the following year. Then lose a guy who won a Pac-10 record player of the week award five times and was picked to win the Pac-10. The Huskies were an overwhelming pick to win the Pac-10 this year. They are the only team who is ranked being ranked 17th in the coaches poll and 18th in the AP poll. The Huskies are picked to win the Pac-10 because they feature Isaiah Thomas along with many other players who have been a part of two Pac-10 championship teams.
In this following preview I'll break down each player and talk up Lorenzo Romar some more. The Huskies appear to be loaded at every position and this could be Romar's best team since that 2004-05 team who was awarded the #1 seed. Husky basketball defiantly matters now and this roster is loaded so I'll break them down based on their classes.
Matthew Bryan-Amaning: When the Huskies landed the 6'9" Bryan-Amaning he was a four star recruit who had plenty of moves but was very raw. At times MBA(His nickname) looks like a lottery pick and at other times he looks like he doesn't belong on a basketball court.
MBA as a freshman averaged just 14.6 minutes a game while making three starts. He averaged just 4.2 PPG, 3.2 RPG and 0.5 BPG. Then his sophomore year he was unstoppable in the preseason but struggled down the stretch averaging for the season 16.7 minutes per game, made just one start and averaged 6.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG and 1.0 BPG. Last year MBA in his junior year in a make or break type year finally broke out. He averaged 22.8 minutes a game and started 25 games. He averaged 8.8 PPG, 5.9 RPG and 1.5 BPG. Down the stretch though MBA averaged 11.8 PPG and grabbed 7.5 RPG with 1.5 BPG in the teams last 14 games. It's not a coincidence the Huskies were 11-3 during that stretch. In the NCAA tournament he was pretty good averaging 10.0 PPG, team best 6.7 RPG and 3.3 BPG.
This year the Huskies are expected great things from MBA as he could quite possibly be the team's second best scoring option. MBA as we all know has famous dunks where he does the "and one" signs but I'm glad when MBA is agressive like that. Another thing to remember is Romar's players get better each and every season and very rarely does a senior have a bad season under him. I fully expect MBA to make an All Pac-10 team if not first team. MBA will be a guy who will be counted on to start and be productive each and every game. He should be the best big man in the Pac-10 this season. With Romar's coaching look for MBA to have a great season much like Pondexter did last year whose career path MBA most resembles.
Justin Holliday: Here is the Husky captain along with junior all-american candidate Isaiah Thomas. Holliday reminds fans of Bobby Jones because of his lockdown defense. Holliday was named to the first team all pac-10 defensive team. Holliday was always just a defensive specialist but this past year added some scoring and most importantly an outside shot to his game.
Holiday as a freshman didn't play much having played in just 19 games and averaging just 6.6 minutes a game while averaging 0.7 PPG while grabbing 1.3 RPG. His sophomore year saw some increased playing time as he was known as the "fireman" the man who would guard the opposing teams streaky shooters. Holiday averaged 15.6 minutes per game but just 2.1 PPG, 2.5 RPG while making zero starts. Holiday worked on his offense and after starting the Pac-10 season 1-3 Romar inserted Holiday into the starting lineup where the Huskies went 16-5 when he was starting. Holiday as a junior averaged 22.2 minutes a game while starting 21 games he also increased his scoring to 5.9 PPG, 4.5 RPG. He also improved his all around offense draining 10 for 30 from three pointers and shooting 80% from free throws shooting 32 of 40 from the line after being 16 of 28 his previous two years. When Holiday became starter he averaged 26.9 minutes a game, 7.4 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.4 steals and 0.7 blocks per game.
Holiday is your classic Romar recruit who improves so much each year. If it was possible for a player to win most improved two years in a row Holiday may have did that. Holiday was also a four star recruit coming out of high school. Holiday also had some of his better games in the NCAA tournament. Against Marquette early on when the Huskies were struggling scoring the defensive minded Holiday drilled two three pointers and scored eight points. Then against New Mexico he grabbed seven rebounds, had four assists, three steals and three blocks. He also shut down Mountain West player of the year Darrington Hobson holding him to just 11 points most of which came at the end and forced four turnovers. Holiday had his best game possibly in his career the last game of the year against West Virginia. In the losing cause Holiday scored 14 points, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked two shots while setting a career high with five steals.
The difference between this year and the last few years is Holiday will be counted on for offense. Against Marquette the Huskies were happy getting eight points as those were bonus points but that won't be the case this year. Holiday is another player who is expected to start every game this season. Holiday was a major defensive stopper on the last two NCAA tournament teams and now he is expected to bring more offense. Holiday as you saw has improved so much since he has arrived at Washington look for another big year out of him. I expect another first team all pac-10 defensive team season out of him and possible a spot on the honorable mention all pac-10 team. Holiday as a captain will be expected to provide some of the leadership that has been lost with Pondexter and Brockman from the previous year.
Venoy Overton: No player drives his own team and his opposing team crazy like Venoy Overton does. Overton is probably the most hated player in the Pac-10 which is exactly why he might be the most popular player on the team to Husky fans. Overton was a guy as you remember much like Will Conroy slapping the purple "W" as he was winning a 4A state championship in basketball.
Romar has this team believing in team first and no player better represents that than Overton. Overton started 26 games as a freshman and has started just nine games in the last two years. There is a good chance Overton will come off the bench again this year as a spark plug. Don't let lables like "bench" fool you as Overton averaged the third most minutes a game last season behind just Thomas and Pondexter. Even though Overton was just a three star recruit who had originally committed to USC he was the only freshman who played right off the bat.
During Overton's freshman season he started 26 games, averaged 20.5 minutes a game while scoring 4.9 PPG while dishing out 3.2 APG while snatching 1.4 steals a game. Then as a sophomore he lost his starting job to senior captain Justin Dentmon and freshman new comer Isaiah Thomas but still averaged 20.5 minutes a game scoring 5.8 PPG, averaged just 1.9 assists a game while snatching 1.3 steals a game. Overton did average more turnovers than assists that year though. After starting just one game as a sophomore Overton started eight games as a junior but mainly came off the bench being stuck behind Thomas and five star recruit freshman Abdul Gaddy. As a junior Overton averaged 23.1 minutes a game scoring 8.5 PPG while dishing out 3.1 APG while snatching 1.4 steals a game. Overton has been a huge part of the last two NCAA tournament teams.
The energy Overton brings to the table is why he is great off the bench. When Romar subs Overton in the other teams guard has a little pest right up in his face from the start. Overton averages close to a steal and a half a game for his career. He is currently fourth all-time in Washington history in steals with 141. Overton sometimes plays a bit to agressive because he has turned the ball over 222 times in three seasons while dishing out 287 assists. Overton has also committed 276 fouls so there are times like against Purdue his sophomore year in the NCAA tournament where he is taken out of games because of those fouls. With Overton you take the good with the bad and fortunetly for Husky fans there is more good than bad.
With Overton just like Holiday the Huskies have another wing defender who was named first team all pac-10 defensive team. That is pretty impressive to make that team considering he came off the bench. Overton is also clutch nailing 25 of 29 free throws(86.2%) in the final two minutes of games(Gohuskies.com). Overton is also so quick he can blow by the defender for an easy bucket. In the NCAA tournament Overton had a good tournament averaging 8.0 PPG, 2.3 assists and he scored 10 points in the Pac-10 championship game. I expect Overton to make the first team all Pac-10 defensive team yet again. I also see Overton being the leagues best sixth man. As long as Overton accepts his role off the bench and cuts down on the turnovers him and the Huskies should have a big year.
Isaiah Thomas: No player in Husky basketball history has made the impact that Isaiah Thomas has made in his first two seasons. The three star recruit who is just 5'8" is the greatest Husky scorer I've ever seen which includes Brandon Roy and Nate Robinson. Thomas in his first two years has scored 1,134 yards which is the most by any Husky in his first two years. He was also named team captain along with Justin Holiday and has matured a lot from the guy who arrived at Washington two years ago.
Already Thomas has accomplished as much if not more as any recent Husky ever has. As a freshman he won freshman of the year and was named honorable mention all pac-10. Then as a sophomore he was named first team all pac-10 along with winning Pac-10 tournament most outstanding player. In fact he is the only Husky in history to win Pac-10 tournament most outstanding player. Thomas is also a preseason favorite to win Pac-10 player of the year award this year along with make some All-American award. Thomas gets a ton of criticism and most of it is fair but he does a lot of good things. He is the reason why Washington is back on top in the Pac-10.
Thomas was already a legend before he ever arrived at Washington. As a junior at Curtis High School facing off with current Husky Venoy Overton of Franklin High School in a state game Thomas dropped 51 points but Overton won the game and won the state championship. Due to grades and other issues Thomas was forced to move to South Kent for a repeat Junior season where he was paired up with Matthew Bryan-Amaning. Thomas debut with the Huskies was delayed a year but he sure made up for it when he arrived.
As a freshman Thomas started 34 of 35 games, averaged 28.4 minutes a game while scoring 15.5 PPG averaging 2.6 APG while stealing 1.08 steals a game. Thomas in his freshman year led the team in scoring and 39 three pointers. Don't let his small size fool you either he pulled down 3.0 rebounds a game. During his freshman year he had a streak of 17 consecutive games scoring in double figures. In the Pac-10 tournament that year Thomas averaged 15.5 PPG, 6.0 RPG and 1.0 steals a game. In the NCAA tournament after a slow first game where he scored just nine points but dished out five assists in the season ending loss to Purdue Thomas scored 24 points with three assists. For the NCAA tournament Thomas averaged 16.5 PPG while dishing out 4.0 assists a game.
As a sophomore Thomas had an even better season. Thomas started all 35 games he played in that season, averaged 31.7 minutes a game while scoring 16.9 PPG, averaging 3.2 APG, 3.9 RPG while stealing 1.05 steals a game. Thomas was second on the team in scoring behind Quincy Pondexter. Thomas stepped up his game most when it came tournament time. In the Pac-10 tournament Thomas averaged 16.0 PPG while drilling six three's in three games and shooting 93% from the free throw line. Thomas in the championship game against California score 16 points while playing good defense on Jerome Randle while stealing two passes.
In the NCAA tournament Thomas played some of his best ball of his career. Sure he has bigger scoring games but in the tournament Thomas finally found the balance of scoring and setting up his teamates. In the 80-78 first round win over Marquette Thomas was 7-13 shooting including 3-5 from three pointers for 19 poitns with 8 assists. Oh and another thing Thomas didn't once sit out that game playing all 40 minutes. In the blowout win over New Mexico Thomas added 15 points and 7 assists. Finally when the Huskies were eliminated Thomas scored 13 poitns with 4 assists but did shoot a respectable 6-13. Thomas for the tournament averaged 15.7 PPG, dished out 5.3 APG.
In the big games Thomas has had plenty of reps more so than any player at the University of Washington I could ever remember. When Brandon Roy entered his senior year he had played in four tournament games of which three were off the bench. Thomas has started all five tournament games in his career and in the NCAA tournament he has averaged 16.0 PPG while dishing out 4.8 APG. In the Pac-10 tournament again in five games Thomas has averaged 15.8 PPG in his career. Thomas has always been the number two guy behind Brockman in his senior year or Pondexter in his senior year but now this is Thomas team. There may be three seniors but Thomas will be scoring option number one, two and possibly even three. Romar has state the shackles on Thomas are finally off and he'll let Thomas be like what Nate Robinson was which is make plays. I expect Thomas to make first team all pac-10, win Pac-10 player of the year and make second team all-american as a junior.
Darnell Gant: When Darnell Gant arrived to Washington for the 2007-08 season him and Romar decided it would be best to redshirt Gant. It was a good move as Gant wouldn't have played much and would be in his last year of eligibility. As is Gant has two more years left. Gant isn't a guy who will blow you away with numbers but he does serve a purpose on this team that doesn't show up in stats. Gant has the ability to knock down the open jumper which draws defenders out, he has the ability to guard anyone whether it's a big guard or a big guy. Gant also sets terrific screens which allows sharp shooters like Thomas and Suggs to drain threes all season long. This is exactly why Romar isn't afraid to start Gant despite his limited numbers.
When the Huskies opened up the 2008-09 season one surprise starter was Darnell Gant. The redshirt freshman started 34 of 35 games and averaged 18.3 minutes a game while scoring 3.1 PPG, grabbing 3.3 RPG. Like I said not jaw dropping numbers but he did a great job on defense. In fact Romar credits Gant for the teams two wins over Arizona State where Gant contained future Pac-10 player of the year James Harden. Gant in the NCAA tournament win shot 2-4 for four points and three rebounds. In the loss to Purdue Gant hit a jumper for just two points. Gant's ability to drain the jumper that year forced teams to come out to defend him which allowed Jon Brockman to score at will inside.
In Gant's sophomore year he personally had a step back. With Matthew Bryan-Amaning improving his play, Tyrese Breshers finally being healthy and the fact Romar decided to go small with the starting lineup and inserted Justin Holliday somebody's minutes had to be cut. Unfortunetly for Gant it was his. Gant played in all 35 games but made just 11 starts while averaging just 11.7 minutes per game. Gant only averaged 2.5 PPG and grabbed 2.4 RPG but he did committ just seven turnovers all year in 408 minutes. It was looking like Gant would be the guy would be transfering at seasons end then came the end of the season where Gant showed his value.
In the Pac-10 tournament against Stanford Gant had eight points on 4-6 shooting while making Sportscenter on some great dunks. Then in the NCAA tournament Marquette kept drilling threes on the Huskies since they started four guards and one forward. In a gamble Romar pulled Bryan-Amaning and put Gant in there at center. That is when the Huskies went on their run. Gant may have scored just two points but he played in 11 minutes including ending the game on the court when the season was on the line.
The expectations for Gant aren't as lofty as the previous players of course. I expect Gant to make some starts this year if not become the starter. Right now Romar is starting a small lineup and I expect Romar to want some size. Gant has proven he can play defense and is a hard worker that coaches love. Just remember with Gant it's not about the stats but about the dirty work that he does that makes him a good Husky.
Scott Suggs: When Scott Suggs arrived at Washington he was the highest rated recruit in his class that included him, Thomas, Elston Turner and Tyrese Breshers. He was named Mr. Missouri coming out of High School. It took Suggs a while to crack the rotation of the team but once he did Huskies fans realized why he was such a high recruit. Suggs is a deadly shooter and for the bulk of the season was instant offense coming in and drilling at least one three pointer.
There was definately some growing pains for Suggs during his first season at Washington. Suggs only played in 18 games while averaging just 4.7 minutes a game and just 1.3 PPG. He very rarely played and was stuck behind a ton of good players around his age who happen to play the same position. It was looking like Suggs was going to be the guy who transfers after his sophomore season given that he didn't play as a freshman and Thomas, Overton, Turner and Holiday all returned plus the Huskies had signed five-star recruit Abdul Gaddy. Instead Suggs played himself into the rotation as a sophomore.
During Suggs sophomore season for the bulk of the season he was one of the key guys off the bench. He played in all 35 games while averaging 13.8 minutes per game while scoring 4.7 PPG and hit 37 three pointers on the season. Suggs hit at least one three pointer in 24 games during his sophomore season. In the Pac-10 tournament against Stanford Suggs hit a three while scoring seven points. In the championship game over Cal Suggs played nine minutes and hit a crucial three pointer. In the NCAA tournament win over New Mexico Suggs hit a three pointer and shot 2-2 while scoring five points. Suggs has played in four NCAA tournament games and four Pac-10 tournament games.
Heading into his junior season just like Justin Holiday did Suggs is trying to go from a guy who hardly played as a freshman to a guy who starts as a junior. Romar has him as the fifth starter heading into the year. Which is kind of ironic since he was the only player returning who didn't start a single game last year. It took Suggs a while to get going in High School and from the reports I've read he is a hard worker. Look for Suggs to play a huge role on the Huskies this season as the three point specialist that Romar teams always feature whether it be Tre Simmons, Ryan Appleby or Justin Dentmon. With Suggs on the team the Huskies will still have that three point specialist.
Abdul Gaddy: When Abdul Gaddy decided to de-committ from Arizona to Washington it was big news. Romar had yet again kept the big in state recruit home. Gaddy with the exception of Spencer Hawes was the biggest recruit Romar ever landed who played at Washington. Gaddy was a big time recruit coming out of High School rated as the number two point guard in the nation behind eventual number pick overall John Wall.
While in High School Gaddy as a junior averaged 23.2 PPG while dishing out several assists. He was the first non senior to ever win the Washington State High School Gatorade player of the year award during his junior season(Gohuskies.com). Then his Senior season came and Gaddy averaged 25.3 PPG while being a youtube sensation with his passing. He was the fourth McDonalds All-American who Romar had snatched up(Webster left to the NBA draft lottery, Hawes, and Brockman). With all the hype that Gaddy had generated it was easy to forget he was only 17 years old and should be a Senior in High School during his freshman year at Washington.
Not since Quincy Pondexter disappointing freshman season has a freshman disappointed as many Husky fans as Abdul Gaddy did last year. The 6'3" guard did start 29 games on the year and played in every single game. Gaddy averaged 18.2 minutes a game while scoring just 3.9 PPG while dishing out 2.3 APG. As a freshman though who handles the ball a lot he did average just 1.7 turnovers a game. Gaddy did gain some valuable postseason experience like in the Pac-10 tournament opener he drilled a three pointer to begin the game against Oregon State. Then in the championship game he shot 2-5 scoring four points and was agressively attacking the hole. In the NCAA tournament against New Mexico Gaddy was 2-3 for five points but had an early and one play where he drove the lane hard while dishing out three assists.
Now Gaddy heads into a sophomore season looking to show Washington fans what all the hype was about. He would show flashes of that but those were very few and far between. Gaddy has worked with Ryan Appleby in the offseason on his shooting which is important as Gaddy is often left wide open as teams dare him to shoot. Gaddy is the biggest "X-Factor" on the Huskies roster. If he is the player everyone expects him to be then the Huskies are pretty unstoppable and will be a one or two seed come March. If Gaddy plays like he did last season then the Huskies should still make the NCAA tournament but as a sixth or seventh seed. What it boils down to it I trust Romar in developing players. Like I said several players at Washington mainly Pondexter and Dentmon were dissapointments early in their careers turned out to have great senior seasons. I expect Gaddy to start every game this year, control the offense and improve his play. I'm not expecting big scoring but just for him to be a threat to score and not be a liability out there. If Gaddy can't get the job done Venoy Overton will take his starting job from him.
Aziz N'Diaye: The Sophomore transfer from Southern Idaho brings with him a ton of buzz. The buzz behind N'Diaye is because he is 7 foot tall weighing 260 pounds. The Huskies have never had a player that big not even Spencer Hawes. The one thing the Huskies have never had since Romar has been the coach is great guard play and the bigs inside it has always been one or the other. Well with Bryan-Amaning and now N'Diaye the Huskies can finally compete with the Big East schools who Romar is 1-3 against in the NCAA tournament. In the regular season the Huskies have been dominated by the Big East who typically have big teams like Syracuse(0-1), Pittsburgh(0-2), Georgetown(0-1) along with going 1-3 in the NCAA tournament against them.
While at Washington Spencer Hawes displayed great talent but he wasn't a difference maker on defense like N'Diaye is. After sitting out last season due to injury N'Diaye in his one season at Southern Idaho averaged 8.5 PPG, 7.9 RPG but 2.3 blocks per game. He once had eight block shots in a game. N'Diaye could be a player who doesn't contribute much during the regular season since other than UCLA and true freshman Josh Smith the other teams don't have any true bigs. Come NCAA tournament N'Diaye will be huge against the Big East has been a thorn in Romar's side since he has arrived at Washington.
The Huskies can still run their run and gun offense while N'Diaye is in the game. N'Diaye runs the floor great and actually ran the fastest mile time on the team. At times look for Washington to play both N'Diaye and Bryan-Amaning which will make it impossible for teams to score inside on Washington. I expect N'Diaye to be a difference maker on the defensive end. I honestly don't care about his scoring as long as he isn't a liability in the paint. With N'Diaye in the paint and Overton and Holiday on the wing Washington by far has the best defensive team in the Pac-10. N'Diaye definately gives Romar options he has never had before.
C.J. Wilcox: Romar like he did with Gant made the decision to redshirt Wilcox last season. The speculation around campus and those who cover the team say Wilcox last season was the teams best shooter. Just like with Suggs this year look for Wilcox when he enters the game to be instant offense. Wilcox is also 6'5" so think more Tre Simmons like where you play him with multiple lineups.
While in High School Wilcox as a junior led the state of Utah in scoring with 23.7 PPG average then as a Senior he averaged 22.2 PPG. You can view his shooting on youtube and in High School he was a terrific shooter. With Elston Turner transfering look for Wilcox to take some of those minutes as he battles Scott Suggs to be the three point ace up Romar's sleeve. What I expect from Wilcox is to be instant offense kind of like what Scott Suggs was last season.
Desmond Simmons: You know the Huskies are a deep roster when they sign a four star recruit in Desmond Simmons and he'll be lucky to ever see the court during Pac-10 season. Simmons is the type of player like Justin Holiday who might not play much as a freshman but he'll find minutes eventually on this team. His speciality is defense and with Holiday graduating at the end of the season look for Simmons to fill that void.
While in High School Simmons showed he was a well rounded player scoring 2,017 points, 1,540 rebounds and 297 assists(gohuskies.com). Simmons when his time comes he'll be a good all around player for the Huskies. What I expect from Simmons this year is to show me something in the early season blowouts and not to get discouraged. To many players in years past who didn't play much as freshman go on to transfer so hopefully Simmons sticks it out as I'll believe he'll be a good player.
Terrence Ross: When the Huskies landed Terrence Ross he was overshadowed because on the same day the Huskies signed Terrence Jones his High School teamate from Jefferson High School in Portland, Oregon. Well we all know how the Jones mess turned out and I don't feel like re-hasing it now(Don't worry if Washington plays Kentucky I'll re-hash it). The part that Husky fans forgot was Ross was rated as the third best shooting guard in the nation by scout.com. By himself he was a big time recruit who the Huskies stole from Maryland.
While in High School Ross as a Sophomore won the Oregon State player of the year when he was teamates with Terrence Jones. Then as a Junior he moved to Maryland and was the state player of the year there. As a Senior he moved back to Jefferson but because of him moving so much wasn't allowed to play. Ross had he been allowed to play probably isn't in the shadow of Terrence Jones and is holding his own press conference. Romar is already calling him the best athlete on the team. How that transitions to his freshman season who knows? He hasn't played organized basketball since two years ago. What I expect from Ross is when he enters the game to show me some flashes and not to be discouraged if he doesn't play. This is a tough roster to crack into the rotation. Terrence Ross someday will be a big time Husky who will be playing in the NBA though.
Lorenzo Romar: Recently in a poll done by Pac-10 players Lorenzo Romar was named the best coach. Now that is quite the honor to hold especially since Ben Howland who has been to three straight Final Fours and Mike Montgomery are still in the conference. Romar has won Pac-10 coach of the year two times already.
While at Washington a program who tasted little success before his arrival he has posted a 171-91(.653%) record. That includes his first year when he inherited an awful team and went 10-17. While at Washington Romar has made Husky basketball matter. The Huskies after not placing in the top three in the Pac-10 since 1987 have placed in the top three in five of the last seven seasons. They have made the NCAA tournament five of the last seven seasons as well. In the postseason Romar has fared pretty well in the Pac-10 tournament he has won the tournament twice posting a 10-5 record. In the NCAA tournament he has only been bounced one and done one time. He holds a 7-5 record in the NCAA tournament while at Washington.
Now some may get on Romar that he can't get the team past the sweet 16 but that is spoiled talk. That is the type of talk fans used to do to Don James when he was going 7-4. Romar will break through the sweet 16 eventually. March Madness is a crap shoot and as long as Romar keeps delivering a ticket to the dance every year I'll be happy. The Huskies hit a homerun with the hire of Romar when he was the fourth option at the time. With Romar Husky basketball matters and aren't just a fluke program. Romar keeps the big name kids home like Jon Brockman, Spencer Hawes, Isaiah Thomas, Abdul Gaddy and most recently just landed Tony Wroten Jr. He also got Martell Webster but that was the last year High Schoolers could jump straight to the NBA draft. As long as Romar is here at Washington the basketball program will always be in great shape.
This isn't me being a homer but I expect the Huskies to win the Pac-10 regular season championship this year. The Huskies will have their bumps on the road from Arizona and UCLA along with my sleeper Washington State. The Huskies at the end of the day have the most returning talent out of all the teams in the conference. Pretty incredible how Romar has stockpiled the talent where the Huskies have graduated three guys who made first team all Pac-10 the last two years and still have the most returning talent.
The Huskies simply have to many ways of defeating you. Isaiah Thomas can go off on you and drop 30 points to defeat you, Matthew Bryan-Amaning as a senior should be dominating the paint. The Huskies will have sharp shooters in Holiday, Suggs, Wilcox and possibly Ross. The Huskies will control the paint with Bryan-Amaning and N'Diaye. The Huskies have two of the best defenders in the conference in Venoy Overton and Justin Holiday. There is a reason why 88.7% of the players picked the Huskies to win the conference and the media almost unanimously picked the Huskies to win the conference.
I predict the Huskies to win the regular season conference and for once make some noise in the preseason. Not since the 2004-05 season have the Huskies made any noise in the preseason when they won the Alaska Shootout which was a huge reason for the number one seed in the NCAA's. The Huskies will face former Cougar coach Tony Bennett who is 5-2 all-time against the Huskies but now coaches Virginia in the Maui Invintational. If the Huskies were to win that game they would face 11th ranked Kentucky who have Terrence Jones so that would be a fun game to watch. Somehow win that game they could face 2nd ranked Michigan State or nemesis UCONN. The Huskies will have a rematch with Texas Tech at home along with Nevada at home and will travel to Texas A & M on the road. So the Huskies will have plenty of chances to build a good RPI and help their seeding out.
I predict the Huskies to make the NCAA tournament for the third straight season and be rewarded with a third or fourth seed depending how the Pac-10 tournament goes. As for the NCAA tournament itself that is hard to predict. March Madness is set up for failure for big programs. Roy Williams is a great coach at Kansas and now North Carolina and has won two national championships but he has also had some really good teams go down. Look at last year with Kansas for an example being bounced in the second round. I think Romar has the program set where anything short of a Sweet 16 is considered a down year. I think those are fair expectations for this team and I expect this to be his first team to finally break through. The Huskies finally have everything they could ask for from top to bottom. Should be a fun year at Montlake for the Huskies mens basketball team this year.