Can Huskies rise above mid-pack?

  • By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
  • Saturday, January 5, 2013 12:05am
  • SportsSports

SEATTLE — Nine games into the non-conference season, University of Washington men’s basketball coach Lorenzo Romar was asked about the state of the Pacific-12 Conference and he responded by saying that this year’s competition was deeper than its been in recent years, particularly at the bottom.

Then Romar added that the Huskies, who were hovering at 5-4 at the time, were one of those teams at the bottom.

While a four-game winning streak gave UW a bit of a boost before Saturday’s loss at Connecticut, the Huskies (8-5) are still in the unfamiliar position of looking up at most of the Pac-12 as conference play begins.

After learning the hard lesson that a Pac-12 champion doesn’t necessarily get invited to the Big Dance, UW enters conference play this season just trying to forge its way into the mix of contenders. The early departures of Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten, along with a slow transition into the high-post offense, have left the Huskies out of the conversation when it comes to the upper echelon of the Pac-12.

The rest of the conference seems to have given some signs that recent Pac-12 disasters may be a thing of the past. Only USC (5-8) had a sub-.500 record in non-conference play, while title favorite Arizona (12-0) has risen all the way up to No. 3 in the national polls. UCLA (10-3) recently knocked off No. 7 Missouri, while Arizona State (11-2), Colorado (10-2) and Oregon (10-2) look like legitimate contenders for a conference title and possible NCAA tournament at-large bids.

The Huskies’ four-year run of winning Pac-12 regular-season or conference tournament titles appears to be in serious jeopardy unless UW can find more complimentary scoring, consistent rebounding and point guard play that can make a difference on both ends of the floor. Wings C.J. Wilcox and Scott Suggs have been bright spots on the offensive end, but even they have had their struggles at times. Seven-footer Aziz N’Diaye and 6-7 forward Desmond Simmons have shown flashes, while senior point guard Abdul Gaddy continues to get outplayed by opponents.

The glass-half-full approach to UW’s season sees a team that’s growing into a new offense and recovering from a series of preseason injuries. But it might take more than health and maturity for this year’s Huskies to push their way into the territory of rivals like Arizona, UCLA and Colorado when conference play begins this week.

“It’s not a video game where you can start over,” Romar said, “but I just think we’re much better than we were in the early part of the season. Our record doesn’t reflect that, but we can see the improvement that we’ve made.”

It would take a Herculean improvement for UW to challenge Arizona for a run at a fifth consecutive year of conference title honors, but the Huskies could work their way up into the top half of the Pac-12 and possibly even get back into the discussion for an NCAA at-large bid.

But it’s a long way to get there, and the defending Huskies, despite their 0-0 record in conference play, aren’t starting this race anywhere near the front of the pack.

More in Sports

An ugly ending as Seahawks lose to Jaguars, 30-24

The Jacksonville Jaguars intercepted Russell Wilson three times.

Grading the Seahawks’ 30-24 loss to the Jaguars

Seattle’s defensive unit earns one of its lowest marks of the season

Seahawks gives Jaguars a scare in the fourth quarter

Down 27-10, Seattle rallies with a pair of long touchdown passes

Silvertips run their winning streak to nine straight

Bryce Kindopp scores the winning goal with 18 remaining in a 4-3 victory over Tri-City

Williams leads No. 12 Gonzaga to 97-70 rout of Washington

The contest was the first game in Seattle between the in-state foes since 2005

Seahawks Notebook: Eddie Lacy inactive for game with Jaguars

The decision not to use the veteran running back saved the Seahawks $62,500

Washington State dismisses top receiver Tavares Martin Jr.

He lead the Cougars with 70 catches and nine touchdowns in the regular season

No repeat: Sounders fall to Toronto FC 2-0 in MLS Cup final

Seattle again struggles to produce quality shots against Toronto’s stout defense.

Patterson: Will the Silvertips trade star goalie Hart?

The team says not likely, but it’s not unheard of for WHL teams to deal star players in their final seasons.

Most Read