Pac-12 Post-Mortems: WashingtonPosted by AMurawa on April 25th, 2014
Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll go through each Pac-12 team one by one and recount the season that has just completed and begin to turn the page to what we might see next season. Today, Washington.
What Went Right
For the fifth consecutive season, Washington started off Pac-12 play in strong fashion, winning three of their first four after the calendar flipped. But, just like the previous two seasons, the Huskies had dug themselves enough of a hole in non-conference play to make the second-half of the season an uphill climb. Still, Lorenzo Romar’s club definitely played its best ball of the season in Pac-12 play, with freshman point guard Nigel Williams-Goss developing into a promising prospect down the stretch and combining with vets C.J. Wilcox and Perris Blackwell to make Washington an often fearsome offensive squad, especially at Alaska Airlines Arena.
What Went Wrong
As alluded to above, the Huskies again struggled in non-conference play. This year there was a 14-point home loss to UC Irvine and a pair of neutral-site losses to Indiana and Boston College that made those mediocre squads look a whole lot better than they really were. Over the past three seasons, the Huskies are 22-15 in games before conference play, with at least one embarrassing home loss per year.MVP
On a roster without a ton of talent and without many well-rounded players, C.J. Wilcox was the consummate veteran. He was the go-to player in tight games, the team’s best perimeter defender and a leader in the locker room. Always known as a great shooter from deep, not only did Wilcox up his three-point average to 39.1%, but he improved his midrange game and game off of the bounce significantly in his final year in Seattle.
Not only does Romar lose Wilcox to graduation, but Blackwell’s stay with the Huskies was all too brief, as he had just one season of eligibility after transferring from San Francisco. Joining those guys on the way out the door will be Desmond Simmons, who will graduate and spend his final year of eligibility at another school. Likewise, guard Hikeem Stewart transferred at midseason.
Players Coming In
The arriving reinforcements are not exactly blue-chip prospects. The most highly rated Husky recruit is local wing Donaven Dorsey, a 6’7” three-star small forward who has a good chance to earn playing time next season. Canadian big man Tristan Etienne will join Dorsey in next year’s freshman class, but he is more of a prospect who needs to add weight – not to mention get more minutes against high quality competition – before he is expected to be a big contributor. At present, the final member of the incoming recruiting class is JuCo transfer Quevyn Winters, who spent his freshman season at Duquesne. He’s a big physical wing who can stroke the three, but he’s not going to take the world by storm either. Lastly, there is Fresno State transfer Robert Upshaw, who, if he can keep his nose clean and his mind focused between now and November, could be a difference maker for the Huskies. He was a 2012 four-star home-town recruit for Fresno, but was in and out of trouble there before becoming a late transfer last summer to Washington. Since he’s been in Seattle, there’s been more of the same drama. After spending the year practicing with the Huskies, he was not on the bench with the team off and on and began not practicing with the team. Reading between the lines, there are still plenty of questions as to whether or not Upshaw will ever actually wear a Washington uniform, let alone be a productive member of the team. For a guy upon whom so much rides, this cannot be a pleasant turn of events for Husky basketball fans.
Reason for Hope
There are some nice pieces here. Williams-Goss will likely never be a great point guard (a slightly better version of Abdul Gaddy remains the easiest comparison), but he’s a guy that is heady enough to run a team and skilled enough to provide a secondary scoring punch. He’ll be joined in the backcourt by scoring guard Andrew Andrews, with some talented wings around them, including Mike Anderson, back for his senior year, and Darin Johnson, ready to take on a much bigger role as a sophomore. Then there is Jernard Jarreau who should return for his potential breakout year after a heartbreaking ACL tear just two minutes into the 2013-14 season. If he’s back anywhere near full strength, if Upshaw can get his act together and if Romar can find maybe one more warm body up front, the Huskies could have a little something going. If any one of those three things doesn’t happen, the Huskies could again get eaten alive up front.
Reason For Concern
There was a time when Romar had the recruiting machine rolling in Seattle. He was landing guys like Tony Wroten Jr. and Terrene Ross and Abdul Gaddy. And even some of the big-time recruits that he famously did not land – think Terrence Jones and Peyton Siva and Aaron Gordon – at least Washington was in the conversation. Nowadays, that recruiting mojo has almost completely dried up. Romar pursued guys like Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Justin Jackson, along with in-state talents Shaqquan Aron and Ahmad Rorie – but no one was really surprised that they wound up elsewhere. This year’s recruiting haul is pretty meager, and even the guys in 2015 that Romar is involved with do not seem to be program-making talents. Unless Romar can find a new source of talent (junior colleges? Division I transfers?), his days in Seattle may be numbered.
D+. Even when the 2012 version of the Huskies were missing the NCAA Tournament after winning the Pac-12 regular season title, at least there was still swagger around the program. Nowadays, Washington basketball is entirely devoid of buzz. They’ve been hard to watch the past two seasons and this year (yes, partly as a result of bad luck) there seemed to be no direction to the team. This program has now sunk to the deepest low in the Romar era and a bounce-back year in 2014-15 is desperately needed.