RTC 09-10 Class Schedule: Washington HuskiesPosted by zhayes9 on August 25th, 2009
Ed. Note: for all of the posts in the RTC 09-10 Class Schedule series, click here.
Just one summer ago, Lorenzo Romar was firmly entrenched on the hot seat. In the past two seasons, the once proud Washington program compiled a lackluster 34-27 (15-21) record, the 2006-07 campaign ending without postseason play and the 2007-08 season concluding with a first round CBI loss to Valparaiso. The Brandon Roy and Nate Robinson era in the middle of the decade- complete with two Sweet 16’s, a #1 seed, a conference tournament title and one of my personal favorite NCAA Tournament games ever– seemed like ages ago for the purple-clad Washington faithful that were pining for their first Pac-10 championship since 1985.
Enter stud freshman Isaiah Thomas. Add in a large dose of senior double-double machine Jon Brockman. Sprinkle in an overachieving supporting cast and a raucous Bank of America Arena and you have the ingredients for that long-anticipated Pac-10 title. Sure, the Huskies fell in a heartbreaker to Purdue in the second round of the tournament, but the Washington basketball program was back in a big way. The Lute Olson departure and subsequent mess at Arizona also prompted five-star point guard Abdul Gaddy to de-commit from the Wildcats and join Washington for the upcoming season.
Will the Huskies repeat as Pac-10 regular season champions? Let’s dissect the route that Romar and his team must take to accomplish such a feat:
Non-Conference Schedule Rank: 2.5. With a lacking Pac-10 and a non-conference schedule that appears extremely easy at first look, Washington’s computer numbers could suffer in February and March when seeds are being discussed. The quality wins may not just be there, and Romar has nobody to blame but himself for the lack of challenging non-conference contests. After a meeting with Central Washington, the Athletes in Action Basketball Classic will bring Wright State, Belmont and Portland State to Seattle. Other home games include such powerhouses as San Francisco, San Jose State, Portland, Cal State Northridge and Montana. The Huskies will have to travel to Lubbock to take on a Texas Tech team still finding its bearings and Texas A&M visits Seattle just prior to conference play. Even a trek to Anaheim to take on Georgetown should find the Huskies favored.
Cupcake City: Washington’s frosting-filled schedule means the matchup with Georgetown is crucial. Lose to the Hoyas and Romar won’t have one single significant non-conference victory to tout unless one of those two Big 12 teams surprise (A&M is the most likely). It’s never too early to be projecting where teams may stack up in relation to seeds and brackets. Even if Washington wins another conference title, the Pac-10’s RPI will not stand out and the Huskies non-conference RPI could be in the 200’s. Don’t think the committee won’t pay attention to that number.
Toughest Early Season Test: The Wooden Classic on December 12 will feature one of the best doubleheaders of any pre-conference play tournament this season. The nightcap features Wooden’s UCLA Bruins taking on potential top-20 SEC competitor Mississippi State, but the undercard should prove the more exciting contest- Washington vs. Georgetown. The Hoyas lost DaJuan Summers to the draft, but return talented big man Greg Monroe, speedy point guard Chris Wright and swingman Austin Freeman. Throw in freshman Hollis Thompson and Georgetown will surely be motivated to avenge their ultra-disappointing 16-15 season. Without Brockman in the middle, Romar has to find a way to defend Monroe in the post, meaning Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Quincy Pondexter and Darnell Gant must step up.
Easiest Conference Stretch: The Pac-10 will once again be one of the weaker BCS conferences in the land this season due to various circumstances regarding normal powerhouses. UCLA is still rebuilding and trying to form an identity, Arizona and Washington State are dealing with transition processes under new coaches, USC turned into Transfer U over the summer, Oregon is plain awful, Stanford struggled last year and lost most of their roster, Arizona State lost Harden and Pendergraph, and, while they appear to be on the upswing, Oregon State won’t present a threatening challenge this season. It’s entirely possible only Washington, California and UCLA will reach the Dance this season out of the Pac-10. There are multiple candidates for the easiest stretch: the first five games include home dates with Oregon, Oregon State and Stanford, but the Huskies could slip in one of the road games at the Arizona schools. From January 30 to February 6, Washington should win three consecutive in Seattle against rival Washington State and the Arizona schools.
Hardest Conference Stretch: The end of January should present a rare Pac-10 challenge for Washington. Their main competition for the conference title- California- travels to Seattle to begin the stretch before the Huskies do a Thursday-Saturday in LA against UCLA and USC. UCLA surely does have plenty of question marks, but the talent is certainly present with sophomores Malcolm Lee, Drew Gordon, Jerime Anderson and J’Mison Morgan looking to join forces with senior shooters Michael Roll and Nikola Dragovic and another impressive freshman haul led by small forwards Tyler Honeycutt and Mike Moser. Doubting Ben Howland’s coaching ability is also a grave mistake. USC has been depleted, but new headman Kevin O’Neill does bring back Dwight Lewis, Leonard Washington and Marcus Johnson to join UNC transfer Alex Stepheson.
Most Difficult Road Test: If you want to circle one must-see game on the Pac-10 slate this season, it should be Washington visiting California in early February in a contest that could very well decide the regular season conference championship. Cal returns a super-talented squad a year after, like Romar’s Huskies, overachieving tremendously in the Pac-10. Talented forwards Jerome Randle and Jamal Boykin return to compliment guards Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher and Jorge Gutierrez for a Cal team striving for their first Pac-10 title since Pete Newell was roaming the sidelines (seriously). There’s one matchup in this game that should be awesome to watch (see below).
Most Anticipated Home Date: Cal. These are clearly the two best teams in the Pac-10, and the always-loud Washington crowd should be electric when the Golden Bears come to town.
Upset Watch: Washington State lost leaders Tyler Rochestie and Aron Baynes to graduation and head coach Tony Bennett to Virginia (and dollars), meaning it’s Klay Thompson’s team in Pullman under new coach Ken Bone of Portland State fame. Bone has plans to play a more fast-paced style than his predecessor Bennett (and his predecessor…Bennett). Thompson is a tremendous all-around talent- a 6’6 guard/forward who shoots 42% from deep, 90% from the line and grabs 4.2 RPG. In a more fast-paced offense, Thompson could shine along with sophomore DeAngelo Casto. The Cougar faithful should be extra pumped for the possibility of knocking off their bitter in-state rival, too. Oregon State on March 6 is another dangerous game. Could Oregon State actually be playing for something?
Best Individual Matchup: Jerome Randle is 5’10. Isaiah Thomas is 5’8. That doesn’t stop these two super-quick guards from making the preseason Wooden Award candidate list and emerging as the top two candidates for Pac-10 Player of the Year this season. Thomas is a sensational scoring guard who tallied double-digits in scoring 29 times last year as a freshman and finished with 15.5 PPG in total, including 24 in his season finale against defensive-minded Purdue. Randle is equally as prolific at 18.3 PPG and can be argued as a superior passer than Thomas (5.0 APG compared to 2.6 APG). Randle scored in double figures in all but two games last season including 31 at Arizona and 26 against Arizona State and Florida State. Randle vs. Thomas is one to watch for college hoops fans.
Anything less than a top-two Pac-10 finish and a Sweet 16 berth will be disappointment in Seattle this season, and that’s just how Romar likes it. I’ve heard raving reports about Abdul Gaddy’s court vision and passing ability, meaning he could 1) make up for Justin Dentmon’s production in the backcourt and 2) take some pressure off Thomas leading the offense so he can focus on scoring. Quincy Pondexter and Venoy Overton are capable role players. If the Huskies can receive even moderate production up front to make up for losing the school’s all-time leading scorer, Washington should take advantage of a weak league and take the crown.