Just like that another basketball season for the Washington Huskies has come and gone. A team that started the season with Final Four potential was dismissed by North Carolina in the round of thirty two. The Huskies definitely had their chances in this game. In fact they controlled the tempo and the lead most of the way.
What derailed the Huskies was uneven officiating that gave them a reason to be tentative inside on defense during the second half and poor ball handling during the last five minutes which ultimately cost them the game. Even with that the Huskies still had a chance to win the game when Scott Suggs hit a three pointer to cut the UNC lead to one with 15.2 seconds left.
UNC didn't score on the next possession and Washington had a chance for the last shot and the win. Trailing 84-83, Justin Holiday had his inbounds pass partially deflected by 6-foot-10 UNC forward John Henson with 7.4 seconds left for a crucial turnover. UNC then stretched the lead to three points with only 5.4 seconds left in the game.
UW still had one more chance to get a tie and force it into overtime. Venoy Overton took the in bounds pass and drove down the court and shot a 45 foot airball that went out of bounds off of a UNC player. Overton had plenty of time to get closer to the hoop or pass it to another player but decided to go for the foul and three free throws.
The officials who had been homering the Huskies all evening still had a couple more tricks up their sleeve to prevent a Washington victory. The ball had gone out of bounds with clearly 1.4 to 1.2 seconds left in the game. That would have allowed UW a decent in bounds play. The officials set the clock to 0.5 despite the protests of the Washington staff.
Thomas missed a desperation fade away jumper from the corner at the buzzer, and it looked like UNC committed goaltending on the attempt, but it wasn't called. Even if it had been goaltending, Thomas' shot was only a two-pointer because his foot was on the line. Game and season over for the Huskies.
Nobody ever said that it was easy to beat North Carolina in North Carolina. The Heels have only lost once in their home state during the history of the entire tournament. Washington had the chance to be the second team to ever do that but they just weren't able to finish.
This is a disappointing loss at the end of a disappointing year for Coach Romar and his team. This team could have gone at least as far as the Elite Eight where the probable opponent was either Ohio State or Kentucky. This is one of those years that the coach and his players will look back at and say what if?
So now the Huskies look ahead to next season. Missing from the roster will be seniors Justin Holiday, Venoy Overton, and Matthew Bryan-Amaning. Replacing them will be incoming frosh PG Tony Wroten, PF Jernard Jerreau, SG Hikeem Stewart, and perhaps a JC big man to help out in front if Romar can find one.
Overall I think the team improves next season if they can find another big man to add to the line up. I love the potential of Ross and Wilcox. The return of Abdul Gaddy to team up with IT in the back court is huge. Aziz N'Diaye flashed a lot of potential as the season went on. I think he can be pretty solid up front over the next two season. The bench of course remain extremely potent and the Huskies will have plenty of senior leadership.