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Jerry Brewer explains the thinking behind his columns and invites readers to express their views on the sports world.

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November 18, 2008 2:19 PM

Don't worry too much about Hoops Huskies -- yet

Posted by Jerry Brewer

We interrupt your regularly scheduled futility for a voice of reason:

So the newest hope for our dilapidated sports market, the University of Washington men's basketball team, lost to Portland on Saturday and plays its home opener tonight against a Cleveland State squad capable of dropping the Huskies to 0-2.

We've seen this before, huh? Every bit of fresh hope has gotten squashed early and never recovered in 2008. But I'm not here to tell you to start counting down the days to spring training. My mission is to convince you to give this basketball team more time before fretting about this season.

Reason No. 1: It's no longer surprising to see a team from a major conference lose to a little guy, especially on the road. This was a set-up game from the minute the Huskies agreed to it. And although many have questioned the logic of playing a season opener in Portland's house, the Huskies are sure to be better for it in the long run.

At least the Huskies didn't give up 111 points at home to VMI. Who committed such a sin? Kentucky, the winningest program in college basketball history. The Wildcats have 1,966 all-time victories, but that didn't stop them from getting upset by a team that played smarter and more aggressive.

The Huskies probably had the most surprising loss outside of Kentucky, but there will be more upset victims to come. It's the norm in college basketball now. The game is such that the big schools are blessed with great but inexperienced talent that often gets humbled by lesser foes that play the right way.

Among the other prominent teams that could've suffered the Huskies' late this past week: Georgetown (barely beat Jacksonville), Duke (barely beat Rhode Island) and Wisconsin (barely beat Long Beach State).

The loss was hard to take, but it's not terminal. Ultimately, it says nothing about the Huskies beyond they have a lot of work to do. Which we already figured.

Reason No. 2: Jon Brockman is a bigger beast than ever. Brockman finished with 30 points and 14 rebounds against Portland, and coach Lorenzo Romar figured he should've had 40 if he had made more than 8 of 15 free throws and converted on a gimmie or two. And if his teammates had executed the offense better (23 turnovers, too many ill-advised shots), Brockman could've had 50.

To lose a game knowing that you didn't feed your beast enough and he still got 30 should have a lasting impact. The Huskies now know they're a mediocre team if they don't play to their strengths.

Make the game easier. Let Brockman dominate.

Reason No. 3: Matthew Bryan-Amaning is injured. MBA would've athletically overwhelmed Portland. The sophomore is going to be a big-time player by his junior season, and he should develop into a steadier role guy this year. He's not expected to make his season debut until next week against Kansas, assuming the injuries he suffered from a scary fall heal sufficiently.

Reason No. 4: Isaiah Thomas received a valuable lesson. Portland forced the freshman to understand he must adjust his game now that teams know he's the real deal. He can't go all the way to the basket against zone defenses. He needs to shoot the mid-range jump shot. I'm eager to see how he responds tonight after a foul-prone first game.

Reason No. 5: Romar doesn't seem too concerned. The coach took his typical balanced approach to the loss, emphasizing once again that he'd rather look at trends as opposed to single games. He likes this team. He didn't expect them to go undefeated. It's probably going to be a group that doesn't completely figure things out until conference play starts.

And he has their attention now. Good college basketball teams usually make the most improvements following their first loss.

The Huskies have a chance to prove that statement right tonight. On paper, Cleveland State is much better than Portland.

Win this game, and they can start climbing from the ditch. Lose it, and well ... you've heard that song too much this year.

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