Washington Preview: Meet the New Pups

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 3rd, 2015

In the next three weeks leading up to season tipoff, the Pac-12 microsite will be evaluating each of the league’s 12 teams. Today, we head to Seattle.

Washington Huskies

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been a little too intimidated to start a preview on the Huskies until now. With eight newcomers and just three returnees on the roster, just about everything is going to be new in Seattle this season. Back in 2011-12, Washington won 14 league games en route to the Pac-12 regular season title yet still missed the NCAA Tournament. From there it has been all downhill: back-to-back 9-9 seasons were followed by last year’s 5-13 disaster. In other words, wiping the slate mostly clean and starting over may actually be the best thing head coach Lorenzo Romar can do to save his program.

Blowing It All Up And Starting Over May Have Been Lorenzo Romar's Best Bet (Elaine Thompson, AP)

Blowing It All Up And Starting Over May Have Been Lorenzo Romar’s Best Bet (Elaine Thompson, AP)

Strengths/Weaknesses. Previews typically break into two categories for strengths and weaknesses: one detailing what a program can lean on; one detailing what they need to shore up. In this case, the biggest thing going for Washington may also be its biggest weakness: this complete reboot. Last year’s team was plagued by poor chemistry, infighting and, perhaps worst of all, mediocre talent. In comes that group of eight newcomers to join two sophomores and a senior. If everything goes right, it can be an empowering experience for this new collection of players because there is a lot of talent here. They don’t enter a program where roles have been predetermined and a culture already established. This new group can create the foundation for a new era of Huskies’ hoops. It’s a gamble for sure, but success means setting the table for Romar’s second act in Seattle. If it fails? The show will be closing and Romar’s next role will be in a new theater.

Biggest Story. If you watch a Washington game this season, your first goal is going to be figuring out who these guys are. If you’re a casual Pac-12 basketball fan, there’s a good chance you know who Andrew Andrews is. Heading into his fourth season with the Huskies, he’s averaged double figures the last two years, scoring 15.0 PPG last season. And he’s got something else big going for him this season — those two words that can be so magical in combination: “senior guard.” Beyond that, if you know much about Donaven Dorsey and Dan Kingma, you’re either a basketball junkie or a family member. Everybody else is new. The good news is there are four four-star freshman recruits: combo guard Dejounte Murray, wing Matisse Thybulle, and power forwards Noah Dickerson and Marquese Chriss. Back when the Huskies were a regular threat in the conference, they thrived with a collection of athletic and exciting playmakers who could get up and down the court and put your jaw on the floor with their abilities. Romar is pushing all-in with a rejuvenated roster made up of guys who are long, physical athletes. Can a harkening to the successful blueprints of years past jumpstart a program sorely lacking momentum?

Andrew Andrews May Be The One Familiar Face On The Huskies' Roster (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Andrew Andrews May Be The One Familiar Face On The Huskies’ Roster (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Non-Conference Tests. It’s a manageable non-conference schedule for the young pups. They won’t play a true road game until they head to Pullman on January 9 (really). There are four neutral site games. Everything else will be at the Hec Edmundson Pavilion, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some serious tests. First, they kick off the season in China against Texas in the Pac’s first regular season game in Asia. Then, over Thanksgiving, they’ll transport their in-state rivalry with Gonzaga to the Bahamas, where they’ll be a significant underdog in the Battle 4 Atlantis; either Texas (again) or Texas A&M will await in their second of three games there. Aside from those neutral site games, the toughest visitor to Seattle may be TCU. You can expect the Huskies to slip up and lose a non-conference game to somebody they should have beaten (it seems like they always do), but most of this schedule is built to help the team gain confidence.

Toughest Conference Stretch. There’s nothing easy in this conference, but let’s suppose the young Huskies find a way keep their heads above water in the non-conference schedule. That would give them reason to feel good about themselves early in conference play. Next, say they open the season at home against the Los Angeles schools with a split, followed by going across the state to Pullman and getting a win there. For the remainder of January, maybe they can hold their own against a trying schedule. But come that flip of the calendar into February, right when the winter is grinding these freshman down, Washington is welcomed with this obstacle course: home to the Arizona schools; a pair of road games in the Rockies; home to the Bay Area schools; and finally, mercifully, at the Oregon schools. Of those eight games, Ken Pomeroy, several months out, has made the Huskies the favorite in only one game: home against Stanford. There’s a very real chance that Washington fails to win a game in February.

If Everything Goes Right…  It’s starts with the opener in China. The Huskies introduce themselves to the world on national TV; Dejounte Murray and Noah Dickerson make a name for themselves early; and, other than getting run out of the Bahamian ballroom by the Bulldogs, the non-conference slate goes pretty well… even with that one slip-up against Mount St. Mary’s or UC Santa Barbara or something. Conference play is a slog, but Huskies’ fans can take solace in the fact that their record improves (maybe they win seven conference games this year) and they spring a couple of home upsets over Top 25 teams. All in all, not the kind of season we’re going to be fondly remembering in a decade, but enough to make Washington administrators think Romar has started to turn things around.

If Nothing Goes Right… Shaka Smart and Texas run the Huskies off the continent in the opener. Gonzaga does the same on the other side of the globe a couple weeks later. And that one normal inexplicable non-conference loss turns into two or three. The Huskies limp into conference play and, despite having enough talent to stick around in a lot of games, still haven’t quite figured out how to finish. When all is said and done, they again own fewer than five conference wins and the Lorenzo Romar era ends in the #6/#11 game on the opening day of the Pac-12 Tournament.

Lorenzo Romar is loved in Seattle - but is his time coming to an end? (Alex McDougall/Oregon Daily Emerald)

Lorenzo Romar is loved in Seattle – but is his time in the Pacific Northwest coming to an end? (Alex McDougall/Oregon Daily Emerald)

Projected Starting Lineup

  • PG Andrew Andrews (Sr, 6’2”, 200 lbs, 15.0 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 2.2 APG, 37.6 3FG%)
  • SG Dejounte Murray (Fr, 6’4” 170 lbs)
  • SF Donaven Dorsey (So, 6’6” 210 lbs, 3.8 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 33.7 3FG%)
  • PF Marquese Chriss (Fr, 6’9” 225 lbs)
  • C Noah Dickerson (Fr, 6’8”, 235 lbs)

Andrews was recruited as a point guard (way back in 2011) but has spent his career mostly playing off the ball. He’ll be counted on to run this team, but Murray has the ability to chip in and help with ball-handling duties. Up front Chriss and Dickerson may get a rude introduction to a Pac-12 loaded with talented bigs, but the early trial-by-fire should steel them for future battles down the road. Chriss is more of a bouncy, athletic big man, while Dickerson will be expected to score in the post from day one. With a big bump in minutes on the way, Dorsey should have a nice chance to improve his numbers in year two.

Key Reserves

  • PF Malik Dime (Jr, 6’9” 220 lbs)
  • PG David Crisp (Fr, 6’0”, 190 lbs)
  • PF Devenir Duruisseau (Fr, 6’8”, 225 lbs)
  • SF Matisse Thybulle (Fr, 6’5”, 195 lbs)
  • SG Dominic Green (Fr, 6’6”, 185 lbs)

It’s anybody’s guess as to how this all plays out, but at least there is plenty of variety among Romar’s reserves. Crisp looks like the backup point guard, but he can also really shoot the ball. Green and Thybulle are the options on the wing, with Green the better shooter of the two and Thybulle a more dynamic athlete. Up front, Dime is a JuCo transfer and a physical interior presence — expect him to board and play defense. Conversely, Duruisseau, who has the body of a rugged interior guy, has enough game to step out and hit the three or score with post moves inside. As an added bonus, scrappy little Dan Kingma (all 5’10” of him) may find a way to earn a role on this team as a shooting guard. All told, these may not be guys whose names you already know, but there is some talent here.

AMurawa (999 Posts)

Andrew Murawa Likes Basketball.

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