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Improved guard play will lead Huskies

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The University of Washington basketball team kicks off the season on the road tonight against the University of Portland Pilots. Opening on the road is an unusual move for most major conference basketball teams but the Huskies are doing it to get the team ready to play Kansas on the road later in the month in Kansas City.

I know quite a few friends who are making the trip to PDX rather than being present in Husky Stadium to witness another football loss on Saturday. Anyone who witnessed Isaiah Thomas's debut last week against Western Washington is excited.

Romar knows that this years team has the ability to do something special and an early road game against a WCC opponent is a good early season building block for a team that hasn't done well outside Hec Edmundson Pavillion over the last two years.

Most of the optimism about this years team centers around improved play outside along the perimeter. Good teams routinely put UW away despite the strength they had inside because of poor ball movement on offense and defensive play that was a step or two slow when it mattered outside. If you go over last seasons box scores you will find that elite guards had a field day when they played Washington last year.

The difference at the guard position is being supplied by one of the best freshmen players in the country. Isaiah Thomas is for real. The kid can play with an intensity on both sides of the ball that the team hasn't seen since the days of Brandon Roy and Nate Robinson.

Offensively Thomas is ahead of Robinson at this point in his career. Nate was always a good scorer but Thomas is a pure shoooter and that just kills opponents. Isaiah also has the ability to make the players around him a lot better. The kid is a real playmaker and his ball handling skills should make Jon Brockman one of the most feared big men on the planet this season.

Helping Isaiah on the outside will be Venoy Overton and Justin Dentmon. Dentmon will start beside Thomas and Overton will be the first guy off the bench. Dentmon has struggled at the point during his Husky career but if practices are any indication he is going to flourish this year with Isaiah playing beside him. Dentmon can shoot the ball better than Appleby once he gets his feet set according to reports coming out of Husky camp.

Overton who was forced to learn the point on the job last year has really improved his game over the off season. His shooting stroke is improved and a year spent getting stronger has improved his ability to play defense.

Up front Jon Brockman, Quicy Pondexter, Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Darnell Gant, Joe Wolfinger, and Artem Wallace give Washington plenty of diversity and depth. Brockman is primed for a serious run at the Wooden award which is given tot he nations best player at the end of the year. The senior will finally be relieved of the chore of carrying the team on his shoulders this season.

Look for the Huskies to finish among the top four in the conference this season and make a deep run in the NCAA playoffs this spring where anything can happen if you develop a hot hand.