Few teams had a more disappointing week than the Washington Huskies. Not because they played poorly – losing to Kentucky and Michigan State on a neutral floor isn’t cause for alarm – but because of how they finished those games.
Washington endured long stretched of both games where the offense suffered, whether it was from missed outside shots or too much one-on-one play (cough, Isaiah Thomas, cough, cough). Instead of making their mark with some impressive defense (52 forced turnovers in three games) and some occasionally stellar outside shooting, they’re back in Seattle, stewing a bit.
“We’re obviously very, very disappointed,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar told the AP afterward. “We had a lot of high hopes coming into the tournament and we’re leaving 1-2.”
However, it’s a deceiving 1-2.
They didn’t get the Ws, but impressed Ken Pomeroy’s computer enough to snag a spot in the Top 10. And their defense is already showing signs of being the best yet under Romar. They force turnovers, defend the perimeter and block a fair number of shots for a team with only two real post players.
A few things must be resolved before the Huskies can think about making their case as one of the NCAA’s best. Percy Allen wrote about six of ‘em kin his Huskies hoops blog, one of which stands out to me. Who’s the go-to guy?
(The inconsistent outside shooting and oddly low free-throw shooting should resolve themselves, as will the rotation questions. As for the rebounding woes, it’s only an issue on defense, which has slowly become an issue the last few years and probably will hover around 32 or 33 percent all season.)
Last year, Quincy Pondexter was the man when Washington needed a late bucket. One would think that role now falls to Thomas, but it’s a tall order for a guy who’s just 5-7. It’s unlikely he’ll be able to drive the lane and draw fouls if he missed tough shots late in games. A better option would be for him to serve as the creator and trust his teammates to hit the open shots.
But who’s that guy? It’s not Venoy Overton or Mathew Bryan-Amaning, both of whom are better suited for defensive roles. C.J. Wilcox and Terrence Ross can hit those shots, but will they be playing during crunch time? That leaves Justin Holiday, who’s still inconsistent with his jumper.
That leaves Darnell Gant. Hmm. Maybe Thomas is the best option.
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