Can Washington and Lorenzo Romar Make Progress This Season?

Posted by Tracy McDannald on October 15th, 2014

The year-to-year turnover in college basketball these days can make recent history appear ancient in a hurry. It was just five seasons ago when Lorenzo Romar guided Washington to the third Sweet Sixteen appearance of his tenure. Heck, just three seasons ago the 2011-12 campaign resulted in a regular season Pac-12 championship and Coach of the Year honors. It was Washington’s fourth consecutive top-three finish and seventh overall under Romar. But that same season ended in a first-round Pac-12 Tournament exit, an NCAA Tournament snub and the early departures of star freshman Tony Wroten and sophomore Terrence Ross. The Huskies haven’t been awful since then, but back-to-back .500 records in conference play is quite the fall in a relatively short period of time.


C.J. Wilcox made the Huskies a respectable foe, and Romar did not lack for effort in trying to surround his high-scoring guard with talent. But a relationship with Aaron Gordon’s father was not enough to beat out Sean Miller and Arizona for the lottery pick’s services last season. Freshman point guard Nigel Williams-Goss developed into the Huskies’ second-leading scorer among last season’s class, but the rest of the freshmen did very little to distinguish themselves. For the first time since 2007, there was no postseason of any sort for the Huskies.

Romar is now entering his 13th year at the helm of a program that could go either way in 2014-15. Luckily for him, a few other programs in the Pac-12 are in equally or more unfavorable positions. Last place USC is still trying to find its way heading into its second season with Andy Enfield in charge. Three schools — California, Oregon State, and Washington State — have new head coaches. Oregon ran into some recent problems much bigger than basketball. Arizona State returns without its top scorer and the Pac-12’s top defender. That’s half of the league right there.

A glance at the Huskies’ current roster will not open many eyes, however. Desmond Simmons ended a four-year, injury-riddled career and transferred to Saint Mary’s for his final season. Williams-Goss wisely decided to return for his sophomore season after briefly thinking about the NBA Draft. Freshman Tristan Etienne left the team for personal reasons earlier this month. As for the other newcomers, Washington brought in freshman forward Donaven Dorsey and junior college transfer Quevyn Winters. Joining the duo will be 7-foot Fresno State transfer Robert Upshaw, who was suspended twice at his previous stop and spent the end of his mandatory redshirt year in Romar’s doghouse. In all, five Huskies appeared in at least 31 of the team’s 32 games last year and Upshaw’s presence appears to be on track again. Roster movement throughout the Pac-12 may boost Washington’s chances of taking a step forward after a pair of pedestrian seasons, but there are enough question marks in Seattle to remain skeptical.

Off in the distance a year from now, Romar has already secured four verbal commitments — including those from four-star prospects Marquese Chriss and Dejounte Murray — in what is shaping up to be an above-average recruiting class. But could Romar survive another offseason if 2014-15 proves to be another lackluster campaign? That’s the biggest question heading into this season of basketball in the Emerald City.

Tracy McDannald (18 Posts)

Tracy McDannald spent the last three years covering the Arizona Wildcats. Baseball ends when college basketball is getting ready to begin, and vice versa. Coincidence? Nope, just perfect.

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