Isn't it football season? Is this a football article? Nope! This is a basketball article, being written about basketball. During football season. I was brought on this blog to write about basketball so that is what I am going to do. Basketball. The thought of basketball season makes me smile just a little bit. Scratch that, it's a pretty big smile.
Did you know that the opening game of the Washington basketball season against Loyola (MD) is less than a month away? It starts soon. Sunday, November 11th to be exact. That question was unnecessary, but I feel like being very lazy right now which means that my backspace key "doesn't work" so that question is stuck there, and so are the rest of these meaningless words. If you think about it, this entire paragraph makes no sense so I should probably end it. Just about here. Yupp, ending the paragraph here.
The season ended for Lorenzo Romar's Huskies in a way that many of the fans felt it would: making it into the NIT and making a run while missing out on the Big Dance. After making it to the "Round of 32" before falling to North Carolina the season before, expectations were tempered with the loss of the two leading scorers. Isaiah Thomas made it on the All Rookie Second-Team in a successful rookie season, while Matthew Bryan-Amaning has been playing overseas.
The route to the predicted finish was unorthodox. Most power conference teams that miss the Big Dance don't have a stretch in their season where they win 15 of 19 games. Most power conference teams that miss the Big Dance don't win their conference. Then again, it has been quite a while since the PAC-12 has been so weak. No teams finished in the top-25, and none were in the polls since UCLA in November.
Now, about the Huskies.
To understand the season Washington went through one must understand the enigma that is Tony Wroten. Wroten was the supremely talented freshman point guard who led the team in scoring. Wroten is a big, left-handed point guard with all-word athleticism and court vision. His shooting? I would call it sub-par, others would call it dreadful. Those others would be right. He made it to the rim like nobody else on the team, he made no-look passes look effortless, he took way too many risks, he had no off-hand to finish at the rim, he had no floater to keep the defense from collapsing on him every time he got near the rim. Some thought he was absolutely invaluable to the team, and there were moments he was. Others (like thecassino) thought he was a liability offensively in that he turned into a black hole and was piss-poor at shooting free throws.
The free throws were a big bane to his offensive efficiency, as he led the team in free throw attempts. He did work and improve leaps and bounds at his foul line shooting over the course of the season. The free throws is where the parallel is most apparent.
Everyone could see the talent this team had. Terrence Ross was a top-ten NBA draft pick. Abdul Gaddy was gaining confidence in his knee after ACL surgery and began to look like a legitimate NBA prospect towards the end of the season. Aziz N'Diaye was a beast defensively on the interior. C.J. Wilcox was a lights-out shooter on the perimeter, quite possibly the best shooter in the conference. Darnell Gant was a role player who played strong defense and could hit the open jumper, a perfect complement to the rest of the team. And of course the enigmatic Wroten.
The talent was never able to cohesively come together well enough to get the team places the talent should have been able to carry it. Despite playing Marquette close, (my first ever post here was about that game) and almost making a miraculous comeback against Duke, with both games coming back-to-back in Madison Square Garden, the team never got a win against any sort of highly-rated team.
Washington did win the PAC-12 regular season title through all of the turmoil, but it was not enough to carry them to a NCAA Tournament berth. After a strong in-conference season, the Huskies tripped to the finish line by losing their final regular-season game against UCLA and then their first game of the PAC-12 tournament against Jared Cunningham and Oregon State.
The scoring for the Dawgs was led by two players who were gone at season's end: Wroten and Ross. Sound familiar? Rebounding was the job of N'Diaye and he performed well in that regard, leading the team in that category as well as blocked shots. Defensively, Wroten and Ross had their fair share of steals, while Ross was also second to N'Diaye in both rebounds and blocks. Stats do not tell the story of this team however.
Stats do not show the promise. Stats do not show the talent. Stats do not show the lack of ball movement, the lack of cohesiveness.
This team was talented but, while it lived up to expectations, never went where the talent could have taken it.