Sure, it’s been a longshot for a while.
But today is the first day we can write for certain that the Washington Huskies are not going to the NCAA Tournament.
That does not mean their season is over, however, as the NIT is sure to come calling and UW could have five more games. So, many of the questions some of you have asked about the future won’t get answers from the coaches just yet as there is still some season to play.
My understanding is the team is taking today and tomorrow off, then will resume practice Sunday with an NIT game possible on Tuesday or Wednesday.
But certainly, the loss to WSU felt like an ending, eliciting in its wake a lot of questions about what happened and where things head now.
I’ll try to a few of your questions here:
WHAT WAS UW’S BIGGEST PROBLEM THIS YEAR? I think the main thing, as was made evident again in the WSU game, was UW’s defense out front. As one coach watching the tournament told me “they are not very good perimeter defenders.”
Ryan Appleby is good defending catch-and-shoot guys, as he showed last week against Arron Afflalo, but not as good guarding on the ball. Justin Dentmon struggled in every area all year, and his weight gain seemed to make him lose a step this year, which hurt him on defense. And Adrian Oliver, while showing promise, isn’t yet ready to defend guys like Kyle Weaver or Derrick Low. WSU got 48 of its 74 points from its three starting guards and they shot 15-24 from the field.
The good news is that the perimeter defense should be much improved next year. Tim Morris and Joel Smith are each capable defenders who apparently have often been getting the better of this year’s starters in practices of late. I think there is some sentiment that Smith would be starting right now were he healthy, in large part due to his defense.
And Oliver will be a year older and Dentmon probably in better shape and with a renewed focused. Then there’s Venoy Overton, who will have some adjusting to do but has the quickness and athleticism to make an impact on defense immediately.
WILL SPENCER HAWES BE BACK? Hate to punt on this one, but it’s still too early to tell. I don’t think he’s told the coaches anything yet. Word here is that he’s still a top 10-20 pick at worst, so the question is going to be whether he wants to come back to improve his stock a little bit, but maybe more so to leave a greater legacy at UW — which could prove to be the biggest factor in the end.
As for Hawes, he was outplayed Thursday by WSU’s big guys, specifically Robbie Cowgill. He struggles more against quicker, more athletic defenders, and theh Cougars did the right thing using Cowgill and Clark on Hawes rather than Baynes. Hawes also isn’t yet a great defender, which has compounded the problems out front.
WILL ANYONE REDSHIRT NEXT YEAR TO MAKE ROOM FOR EVERYBODY? That’s really hard to tell right now and I don’t think the c oaches have such things in mind right now. Of the guys coming in, I know the plan is for Overton and Bryan-Amaning to play a lot immediately, especially in the case of MBA if Hawes leaves. Plans always change, however. I think they wanted to redshirt Phil Nelson this year but couldn’t when Joel Smith got hurt. At the moment, I wouldn’t think any of the current roster would redshirt next season for reasons other than injury, etc.
HOW MUCH BLAME DOES ROMAR TAKE FOR THIS SEASON? Certainly, as the head coach, the ultimate responsibility falls on him. But at the risk of sounding like an apologist, I don’t think this has been a bad coaching job. I haven’t talked to anyone here who scratches their head and wonders why this team isn’t doing better. This team has some physical deficiencies that have become obvious during the season, mostly the perimeter defending stuff mentioned above. The UW coaches did try some things this year, mostly playing more zone defense than ever before, and slowing down the offense.
With just 10 players all season, there were pretty limited options for a lot of things, but the Huskies did try a number of different lineups before finally settling on the one that seemed to work best — it just wasn’t good enough. Again, at the risk of sounding like an excuse maker, it’s also hard to take the Hawes illness thing out of the equation. Maybe if UW had won at least won on that Bay Area trip, when Hawes was really beginning to struggle, things might have turned out a lot differently. This team didn’t seem to react real well to adversity once it hit, and when it lost momentum on that trip, seemed to lose a lot of confidence. How much of that falls on Romar is really hard to judge. With such a new team, I think it’s more accurate to judge him on many of these issues a year from now, when youth and inexperience is no longer a factor.
Also, I would point out that a 19-win season by UW’s historical standards is still pretty good. UW’s only had 10 seasons of 19 or more wins since the formation of the Pac-10 in 1978 — Romar has coached four of them.
On a side note, I’m staying here to cover the rest of the tournament and while this is a Husky blog first, I plan to post some things that I think may be of general interest, as well.
Sure, it’s been a longshot for a while.
The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.