Washington always plays its best basketball at the end of the season. Last season Terrence Ross, now starting for the Toronto Raptors, went on an absolute scoring tear and led the Huskies deep into the NIT. Yes, it is the NIT, but it is still basketball, and the Huskies were playing well until ultimately falling to Minnesota in overtime, after getting revenge against the Oregon Ducks in the previous game.
This season, Washington has started to put it together late, once again. Later than they would have liked to, according to senior co-captain Scott Suggs, but they have nonetheless. They ended the season winning three of their last four games, with the only loss being a Senior Day loss to UCLA in the closing minutes.
Washington has the ability to win the entire tournament, and the inconsistency to win zero games. How would each of those occur however?
Worst Case Scenario:
Washington comes out flat against Washington State. Shots don't fall, and confidence wavers. C.J. Wilcox can't hit a jumper to save his life, Suggs is cold, Gaddy turns the ball over a bunch, and the frontcourt can't make up for it. Andrew Andrews flashes some things for next season, he knifes into the lane frequently, only to further injure his already slightly injured leg.
Brock Motum continues his hot streak, dropping 35 on Washington, proving that even Desmond Simmons can't guard him. Motum puts Simmons in foul trouble early, forcing the inexperienced Jernard Jarreau to attempt to guard the wily Aussie. Jarreau expends too much energy defensively and struggles to do anything on the offensive end for Washington, clogging the passing lanes and turning the ball over.
Suggs then attempts to take the game over, despite scoring four points on ten shots in the first 12 minutes. His poor shot selection causes Washington's deficit to grow to double digits. With three minutes left, He gives the ball up and WSU responds with a three from DaVonte Lacy to go up by 15, and that's all she wrote for UW in the tourney.
Best Case Scenario:
Aziz N'Diaye wins the tip for Washington and the first possession is quick, turning into three points for Washington's best player, C.J. Wilcox. Romar said the other day that, in regards to Wilcox's slump, he feels "like the next shot he's going to break out of it and hit seven in a row." Those seven come in the first half of the matchup against Washington State, as the game is over by halftime.
Washington is able to rest their starters and rotation players, giving walk-ons Alex Wegner, Dion Overstreet and Quinn Sterling over five minutes of gametime each. Martin Breunig is able to play ten minutes, reminding everyone that he is still earning a scholarship to attend school at the University of Washington. Hikeem Stewart runs the point guard position for times in the second half, setting himself up for minutes in the next game as a defensive stopper.
Washington then prepares to play the Oregon Ducks the next day. Wilcox continues his hot streak, scoring 25, hitting 4-7 three-pointers, and hitting clutch free throws at the end of the game.
Oregon comes out deflated, done with the season after getting blown out by Colorado and losing the Utah, both on the road next week. They don't get the remedy of a home stretch to fix their woes, and the struggles continue. They continue their high-turnover ways of late, and it leads them to a large second-half deficit to overcome.
The Ducks fight, with E.J. Singler leading a charge, where they get themselves back to within five with five minutes remaining. They fail to finish the rally, and clutch free throws from Wilcox and Suggs finish off the Ducks.
Cal advances to the semifinal round, and faces a Washington team that topped them earlier in the season. Allen Crabbe has historically struggled against the Huskies, and this game continues the trend. Crabbe is limited under ten points thanks to stellar defense by Suggs and Andrew Andrews.
This is another strong game for Jarreau, where he scores 15 to make up for Wilcox not continuing his extremely hot shooting of the past few days, worn down from the three games in three days on his injured foot. Jarreau continues strong play for the entire tournament, now averaging 12 per game. He also grabs five rebounds, and flashes improved defense as well.
Desmond Simmons grabs fifteen rebounds, and Washington wins by ten, just enough that Cal doesn't bother fouling, and we all go to sleep early, to set ourselves up for a final round matchup with Arizona.
The game against Arizona sees Wilcox regain his hot-shooting, as he scores a career-high 30 to lead the game. Shawn Kemp Jr. flashes a few thunderous dunks to keep momentum on Washington's side, each time Arizona makes a run.
Arizona is one of the best teams in the country, and the game is back and forth despite the great play from Wilcox and Kemp. Arizona has the ball with 12 seconds left, the game tied. Sean Miller tells Solomon Hill to make a play. Hill makes a play against Desmond Simmons, but Aziz N'Diaye cleans up the Hill floater with a block that may have been borderline goaltending, but isn't called.
Overtime hits, and Wilcox scores the last eight of his 35, with Abdul Gaddy garnering his tenth assist of the afternoon on a pass to Scott Suggs for a layup to put UW up seven with fifty seconds left. Washington holds on to win, and clinches an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament. They also earn a good night's sleep.