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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

July 3, 2012 at 5:36 PM

Two NBA first-round Huskies: Celebrate it or lament it?

This is a little dated, but I thought the topic worth examining, anyway, in the yippee-skippy aftermath of Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten Jr. being selected in the first round of the NBA draft last week.

It was, of course, the first time Washington has had two players taken the same year in the first round. You can’t argue with either for leaving. They get guaranteed money and both have the tools to have a long career in the League.

Their selection, of course, comes with the strange juxtaposition of a season in which Washington didn’t make the 2012 NCAA tournament, which got me to wondering how often that’s happened across the country. (Not often, it turns out.)

As a program, the Huskies can probably make more hay in recruiting with the draft results than they get docked for whatever degree of underachievement cost them a place in the tournament. The average recruit probably is more consumed with the program’s chance of getting him to the next level than he is whatever circumstances kept it from the bright lights in March.

Still, it’s pretty much a rarity when a program has two first-round picks but doesn’t get to the Dance in the season just concluded. I studied the past 25 years of the NCAA tournament and could only come up with two other instances of teams pulling that off.

— The last one was in 2002, and it was the final year of Jerry Tarkanian’s college coaching career at Fresno State. I remember the Bulldogs as one of the year’s disappointments; they finished 19-15, coming off a weird 2000-01 season in which they made the NCAAs. Their media guide lists them as having gone 9-7 in ’00-01, because they had 17 other victories using an ineligible player (this was Tark, after all).

Their two first-round picks in ’02 were big man Melvin Ely (12th overall) and guard Chris Jefferies (27th). Jefferies played only 72 games and was out of the NBA by age 23.

— The other instance was Seton Hall in 2000-01, and the common thread was underachievement. The Pirates, in 1999-2000, had gone 22-10 and made it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament (beating Oregon in the first round). With big man Samuel Dalembert back and hotshot freshman Eddie Griffin incoming, a lot was expected the next year, but the Pirates didn’t deliver. They went just 16-15, but coach Tommy Amaker dashed from New Jersey and took the Michigan job.

Griffin (7th overall), who came out after one year, and Dalembert (26th) were taken very close to the spots where Ross (8th) and Wroten (25th) went last week. Griffin was a five-year pro who never averaged more than 8.8 points a game, while the shot-blocking Dalembert carved out a long career. Griffin endured problems with alcohol and died in 2007 after he drove through a railroad barrier and hit a moving train in Houston.

So it’s a short list the Huskies just joined, if my calculations are correct. Two reasons for the oddity: From January on, the Pac-12 didn’t offer anything resembling a quality opponent. But by then, the Huskies had made their own bed by failing to record a win of any consequence. You know that story.

FYI, the Huskies are the 42nd program in that 25-year period to have two or more first-round picks in the same draft. Some of them — the usual suspects — have done it many times.



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