Editor's Note: Erik Erickson is a guest contributor to the Dawg Pound coming to us from the UW Department of Journalism and The Daily newspaper. He covers a variety of revenue and non-revenue sports. Let him know what you think in the comments thread following the article. --Chris Landon
Let’s be honest, the start of the 2013-14 season for theUW basketball team has been extremely tough. Starting power forward Jernard Jerreau tears his ACL minutes into the season opener, back-to back losses in MSG, a home loss against UC Irvine, even when they win, it comes down to nail biters against lesser opponents at home. This year’s team is many times not even enjoyable to watch. Let’s just say there has not been much to get excited about to start this season. With the UW sitting at 4-4, and the rest of the Pac-12 conference flourishing, it looks like the Huskies will miss the NCAA tournament for a 3rd straight year.
The Huskies had bad news before the season even started when it was announced that junior Desmond Simmons underwent arthroscopic surgery on his knee knee and would not return until mid-late December. Romar believes Simmons can be fully healthy by the start of Pac-12 play. Add on the Jerreau injury against Seattle U and the Huskies have been looking at an extremely thin front court to start the season. The Huskies have been desperately looking for another player to emerge and team up with Perris Blackwell in the front court. The team’s tallest player, Gilles Dierickx, has been unproductive ( 0 PPG, 1.2 RPG) in limited minutes. Shawn Kemp Jr. has struggled since fall camp with Graves disease, and seems to find himself in foul trouble within minutes every time he checks in. Mike Anderson has been a pleasant surprise for the Huskies (10 PPG, 8 RPG, earning a spot in the starting lineup, but is still a 6’4 guard playing power forward. The Huskies just can’t seem to find the right piece to help compliment Blackwell.
The Huskies struggles in the front court are one of the main reasons they are one of the worst defensive teams in the country to start the season. The Huskies are giving up an average of 84 points per game, which comes in as one of the worst in the entire NCAA (340th out of 351). Opposing teams are shooting 50% against the Huskies (307th best in the NCAA) and averaging 115 points per 100 possessions (331st in the NCAA). For many Huskies fans used to seeing Romar’s physical, tough, defensive oriented teams, the 2013-14 squad has been very difficult to watch, and to many, the future doesn't look much brighter.
While his past production may not get you excited, the return of Desmond Simmons for conference play could help the Huskies be competitive against Pac-12 opponents, and at the very least will help the Huskies be a more enjoyable team to watch. While his career numbers (4.5 PPG 5.6 RPG) are not impressive, Simmons brings the fiery edge and grittiness that fans have come to love from Romar’s Huskies. While he might not score 20 points, Simmons is a player who wins loose balls, fights for every rebound, and makes the hustle plays. Simmons has shown glimpses of outside shooting ability, though he has never been a consistent threat, but the Huskies are in desperate need of a big body who can fight for rebounds and play tough basketball, and that’s what Desmond can bring.
Sitting at 4-4, and staring at a Pac-12 conference schedule full of NCAA tournament teams, their doesn’t seem to be too much to get excited for, but with the return of Desmond Simmons, the Huskies can at least be a competitive and fun team to watch. Simmons brings the toughness that has become a staple in Romar’s teams and gives the Huskies another physical rebounder in the paint. When Simmons returns, he will most likely find himself in the starting lineup, allowing Mike Anderson to return to his natural guard position. Nothing has seemed to go right for the Huskies in 2013, but hopefully the return of Desmond Simmons will help the ball bounce the right way for the UW during conference play.
Contact Erik Erickson via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Erik_Erickson