Washington Squeaks by in Exhibition: Nothing to See HerePosted by KDanna on October 26th, 2012
It’s very rare you see an exhibition game this early in the preseason, but Washington got the Pac-12 exhibition slate kicked off Wednesday night with a contest against Division II Western Washington. Unless you were on campus, there was no way to watch it, so there isn’t much to take away from the game recap on how players are developing. As a result, the big headline from the game is how close Western Washington kept the game, coming back from 13 down in the second half to tie it up on three separate occasions in the final 10 minutes before the Huskies finally got some separation and won the game, 88-78. Some around the country might be thinking “oh, there goes that Pac-12 again with its mid-major-level basketball. If the defending conference regular-season champion can barely beat a D-II school, how bad can the Huskies and the rest of the Pac-12 be?”
Although Washington fans would have much more preferred a blowout than a nail-biter, the closeness of the game means absolutely nothing and it would be cruel and unfair to prognosticate the fate of the Huskies based on this exhibition. For starters, Washington is transitioning to a high-post offense. At least for this year, gone are the days of freaky-athletic and quick guards like Nate Robinson, Isaiah Thomas and Tony Wroten. Not that Lorenzo Romar is planning on slowing it down this year (mentioned in the previous link), but the personnel for 2012-13 is more suited for this kind of half-court look. While Romar used primarily high-post sets when he was coaching at Pepperdine and Saint Louis, it’s going to take these players time to adjust to the new style of play (December is Romar’s target date for a well-oiled high-post offense).
As mentioned earlier, it’s also very early in the preseason for an exhibition game. Sure, the Huskies were able to practice the high-post offense this summer in advance of their trip to Europe and Africa, but there was still only about a week and a half of official fall practice time before this exhibition game on Wednesday night. Judging by the box score (88 points, 46 percent shooting overall, 40 percent from three as a team), it looks like Washington was largely able to get the looks it wanted on offense, but the AP article linked earlier says Washington’s high-post “was at times awkward and clunky.” Perhaps what would be more concerning to a Washington player, coach or fan is giving up 78 points to a Division II team, albeit the reigning national champion at that level. Then again, the Huskies played in its first game against an NCAA opponent without its two first-round draft picks from last year, so defensive struggles aren’t horribly surprising (the Huskies actually held Western Washington to 32 percent shooting in the first half; from the box score and play-by-play, it appeared as though the Huskies let their guard down a bit after building a 13-point lead and probably relaxed a bit on the defensive end, but of course, that’s mere conjecture).
Additionally, this is far from the first time a non-Division I team has put a scare into a power conference school. Five years ago, Michigan State lost its exhibition opener in double-overtime to Grand Valley State. More than four months later, the Spartans would advance to the Sweet Sixteen as a 5-seed. Three years ago, Syracuse lost to LeMoyne in a game during which Boeheim played a lot of man defense, and if you know anything about his usual defensive philosophy, it doesn’t involve playing man. That exhibition loss was quickly forgotten as the Orange wound up as a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament. This isn’t to say that the 2012-13 Huskies will follow the same trajectory as that of the 2007-08 Spartans and 2009-10 Orange, but more talented teams have had bigger struggles than Washington in exhibition games and come out alright.
There is no need to even think about sounding the alarm; if the Huskies lose their opener against Loyola (MD), then there might be a bigger issue.