By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
Lorenzo Romar loves these preseason national tournaments, especially when his University of Washington men’s basketball team has to travel far to face a national power.
That might come as a surprise, considering the Huskies’ lack of success in these types of games.
When UW plays in the Tip-Off Hall of Fame Classic this weekend, beginning with today’s game against unranked Seton Hall, it will mark the sixth year in a row the Huskies have played in a preseason tournament away from Hec Edmundson Pavilion. UW holds a 1-9 record in those games during the previous five years, with the lone win coming over Virginia in the 2010 Maui Classic.
The Huskies, who could play No. 4 Ohio State on Sunday if they beat the Pirates today, have lost eight consecutive games against ranked opponents on neutral courts in the past five preseasons. The last time UW beat a non-conference opponent away from home in a preseason game came during the 1974-75 season, when the Huskies knocked off host and ninth-ranked Kansas in the Jayhawk Classic.
And yet Romar wouldn’t give back a single one of them. They provide valuable expereience for his players, he said.
“I think, in their own way, they all help. They help prepare you,” Romar said.
UW (1-1) is trying to get its swagger back following Tuesday night’s home loss to unheralded Albany — a team that’s also in the tournament field but won’t face the Huskies again because of the way the games are set up. If Washington can get a pair of tourney wins over big-conference schools, especially if one of them happens to come against the fourth-ranked team in the nation, that would help both the Huskies’ confidence and their RPI.
“Last game we didn’t do so hot,” senior point guard Abdul Gaddy said, “and we want to redeem ourselves.”
Romar, a self-professed “silver lining” guy, used his Thursday press conference to remind the media about the 2008-09 season, which ended with the program’s first Pacific-10 Conference title in more than a half century and included a second-round game in the NCAA tournament, That campaign started with a season-opening loss at Portland and an early 2-3 record.
“We lost to Florida and Kansas, we’re 2-3, and it was time to shut down the program at that point,” Romar said with sarcasm. “It was early, really early.
“Are we accepting what happened (against Albany)? Absolutely not; it’s unacceptable. It never should have happened. … But that game does not, and will not, define our season.”
The Huskies, who have never won a game in the Northeast part of the country and lost three times in New York City last season alone, are hoping a long trip can help rid them of whatever defensive lapses and offensive confusion plagued them against Albany. They’re also hoping to get senior Scott Suggs back after he missed the final 38 minutes of that loss because of a concussion. He was questionable for this game when the Huskies departed Seattle on Thursday, and it appears team doctors will make a game-day decision on Suggs.
Even if the Huskies can’t get past Seton Hall today, and continue a long run of frustration in preseason tournaments, Romar still f will eel somewhat satisfied for the experience.
“It really allows you to see where you’re at,” he said, “but also gives you a little dose of what it’s going to be like in postseason play.”
Had the 2011-12 Huskies pulled off an upset over ranked Marquette or Duke in New York City last season, they wouldn’t have had to sweat out the NCAA selection process and end up getting left out to play in the National Invitational Tournament. A possible Sunday date with fourth-ranked Ohio State could be just the opportunity the Huskies need to improve their resume for March.
But to get there, UW will have to rebound from the Albany loss and get through Seton Hall today.
“We’re all right,” Gaddy said when asked about the mental state of the team following Tuesday’s loss. “We’re ready for this trip. We just want to do well this trip. Don’t let one (loss) turn into two.”
The Huskies added to their 2013 recruiting class Friday, when Las Vegas point guard Nigel Goss-Williams of national power Findlay Prep signed with the team. “He is a great floor general,” Romar said in a statement released through the athletic department. “He is very intelligent and has high, high basketball I.Q. He understands what it takes to win and is a great leader. Guys like him don’t come around very often.”