Pac-12 Season Preview: Washington Huskies

Posted by Andrew Murawa on October 29th, 2014

The Pac-12 microsite will preview each of its league teams over the next few weeks, continuing today with Washington.

Washington Huskies

Strengths. Historically, Lorenzo Romar’s teams in Seattle have been teams adept at getting up and down the court and scoring in an efficient manner. In his 12 seasons with the Huskies, his teams have ranked in the top 75 in adjusted tempo in all but one year. Likewise, his teams have ranked in the top 90 in adjusted offensive efficiency (all of these numbers are courtesy of in every year except his first season as head coach there. With point guard Nigel Williams-Goss back for his sophomore campaign, joined by junior Andrew Andrews, Romar has the beginnings of the type of high-octane, backcourt-led offensive juggernaut that has been a hallmark of his best teams. Of course, Romar will have to replace his two most efficient players from last season in C.J. Wilcox and Perris Blackwell, but if Jernard Jarreau comes back from an ACL tear that cost him all but a couple minutes of last season, he’s the type of skilled forward who could be a holy terror running the floor with that pair of guards. Throw in a couple of athletic wings in Mike Anderson and Darin Johnson (who really came on at the end of his freshman campaign) and mercurial former McDonald’s All-American transfer Robert Upshaw in the middle, and if things come together, the Huskies could be fairly potent with the ball in their hands.

Nigel WIlliams-Goss and Andrew Andrews Give The Huskies A Head Start On A Potent Offense

Nigel WIlliams-Goss and Andrew Andrews Give The Huskies A Head Start On A Potent Offense

Weaknesses. So, if I’m going out of my way to praise the Huskies’ offense as a strength, I’ll give you one good guess what I think their weakness could be this season. Back in 2008-09, as Washington was running out to a #4 seed in the NCAA Tournament behind the likes of Jon Brockman, Quincy Pondexter and freshman Isaiah Thomas, Romar’s group gave the 10th most efficient defensive performance in the nation. Every year since then, the Huskies have been worse on defense than the previous year, culminating in last season’s dumpster fire. The Huskies gave up an adjusted total of 104.5 points per 100 offensive possessions, good for a dreadful 163rd in the nation and 11th in the Pac-12. Look no further for your primary reason why the Huskies were lucky to finish 9-9 in conference play. This year, if Upshaw can become something of a rim-protector in the middle and get some help from Jarreau, the Huskies should be better by default. But – let’s be blunt – Williams-Goss and Andrews are not the type of defensive-minded guards around which to build a great defensive team.

Non-conference Tests. The Huskies ease into things this season but will begin their big tests on Thanksgiving weekend when they participate in the Wooden Legacy Tournament with a fairly soft field. They’ll open with San Jose State, play either Long Beach State or Western Michigan in the second round, and then, assuming they can get through those first two game with wins, face perhaps Xavier in the championship game (San Diego, UTEP and Princeton make up the other half of the tournament’s bracket). That’s a winnable tournament for anybody, but the Huskies are pretty clearly the best team in their half of it. Following that tournament, they’ll host San Diego State on December 7 in their biggest non-conference test of the season. Almost two weeks later, they’ll face Oklahoma in Las Vegas. A win in either of those games would be surprising, but they should serve as great measuring sticks for Romar’s squad.

Toughest Conference Stretch. There’s little easy in conference play, but the start of the Huskies’ schedule sets up pretty nicely for them. Down the stretch, however, if the Huskies are even remotely in play for NCAA Tournament inclusion, they’ll have their work cut out for them. After a trip across state to face Washington State in Pullman, they head to Los Angeles to face UCLA and USC, then host Colorado and Utah to wrap up the regular season. While the good news is that these games could give them multiple chances to score quality wins in the waning days of the season, that sure is a tough way to wrap everything up.

If Everything Goes Right…  Jarreau returns from injury and is everything he’s been hyped to be, capable of averaging 15 and 10 every night out. Upshaw begins acting like a grown-up off the court and a grown-man in the paint, pounding the boards and blocking shots. Williams-Goss and Andrews lead a potent backcourt offensively, while the presence of those bigs in the middle counters some of their defensive breakdowns on the perimeter. As a result, the Huskies win that Wooden Legacy tournament, get out of non-conference play with just two losses, and are at least on the bubble for NCAA Tournament consideration come mid-February.

If Nothing Goes Right… Upshaw is suspended and eventually dismissed. Jarreau proves to be fragile. Williams-Goss is more interested in showing off for NBA scouts. And the murmurs about Romar’s increasingly tenuous hold on his job ramp up after a non-conference loss that reminds everyone about UC Irvine from last year… or Albany the year before… or South Dakota State the year before.

Projected Starting Lineup

  • PG Nigel Williams-Goss (So, 6’3” 190 lbs, 13.4 PPG, 4.4 APG, 4.4 RPG)
  • SG Andrew Andrews (Jr, 6’2” 195 lbs, 12.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG. 2.6 APG, 43.0 eFG%)
  • SF Mike Anderson (Sr, 6’4” 205 lbs, 5.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG)
  • PF Jernard Jarreau (RJr, 6’10” 240 lbs, 3.2 PPG, 2.6 RPG in 2013-14)
  • C Robert Upshaw (RSo, 7’0” 250 lbs, 4.1 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 1.8 BPG in 2012-13 at Fresno State)

Mark Williams-Goss and Andrews down in ballpoint pen as starters, with Andrews also playing the role of point when NWG is taking an infrequent rest. Up front, Jarreau and Upshaw would ideally start every game for the Huskies, and if they don’t, that’s a bad sign. The fifth spot could change here and there, but if this lineup lives up to its potential, this team could surprise a few others.

Key Reserves

  • SG Darin Johnson (So, 6’5” 200 lbs, 5.9 PPG, 1.6 RPG)
  • PF Shawn Kemp, Jr. (Sr, 6’9” 255 lbs, 4.4 PPG, 1.8 RPG)
  • SF Quevyn Winters (Jr, 6’5” 200 lbs, 9.6 PPG, 3.9 RPG in 22 MPG in 2012-13 at Duquesne)
  • PG Jahmel Taylor (So, 6’0” 170 lbs, 1.3 PPG in 3.7 MPG)
  • C Gilles Dierickx (Jr, 7’0, 230 lbs, 0.2 PPG, 0.7 RPG in 5.1 MPG)

Winters or Johnson (or even freshman wing Donaven Dorsey) has a chance at that fifth starting spot if Romar wants to instead bring Anderson’s energy off the bench. Kemp could even earn a spot if he can shake off last season’s doldrums. But of all the potential newcomers who could make a big splash or a returnee who could have a big breakout, Winters is the guy to keep an eye on here. He’s proven his ability at a D-I level at Duquesne and after a year at a JuCo, he could slide right into the spot departed by Wilcox as a dangerous three-point shooter.

AMurawa (999 Posts)

Andrew Murawa Likes Basketball.

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