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Husky Men's Basketball Blog

Seattle Times staff reporter Bob Condotta provides a running commentary on the Huskies. E-mail Bob.

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February 28, 2006

Time to hand out trophies

Posted by Bob Condotta at 5:26 PM

Seems like just about all my colleagues are handing out their Pac-10 awards this week, so I'll weigh in here with mine, as well.

PAC-10 PLAYER OF THE YEAR — Remember, the official awards are voted on by conference coaches, who can't vote for their own players. UCLA coach Ben Howland said Tuesday he will vote for Leon Powe and Brandon Roy as Co-Players of the Year in the Pac-10. I'm guessing that could be how some of the other coaches vote as well in a year when there are two players so obviously ahead of the pack.

But if only one player gets it, it's going to be Roy.

Sharing the award has only happened one time since they started handing it out in 1976. In 1995, Ed O'Bannon and Damon Stoudamire split it.

Howland has been a big fan of Roy's, but also pointed out that Powe could become the first Pac-10 player since Stanford's Adam Keefe in 1992 to average better than 20 points and 10 rebounds for the season. Ike Diogu just missed those averages a year ago.

Still, I've got to go with Roy — maybe because I see him more. But I also think his versatility — especially on the defensive end — puts him over the top.

FYI — I know Lorenzo Romar will vote for Leon Powe.

ALL-PAC-10 TEAM — Like the coaches, I'll pick a 10-man team regardless of position.

Roy, Powe, UCLA's Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo, Stanford's Matt Haryasz and Chris Hernandez, Arizona's Hassan Adams and USC's Nick Young all seem like slam dunks to me.

The other spots are a little tougher, especially with the injury that held out USC's Gabe Pruitt of late. He'd be a slam dunk if he hadn't missed the last three weeks, but he's still sixth in the conference in scoring at 17.0 and if he gets back this weekend and has a couple more good games, he could make it.

I'll put him on my team for now.

My last spot is a battle between Cal guard Ayinde Ubaka - other than Powe, the biggest reason for Cal's resurgence this season — and Arizona forward Ivan Radenovic. Radenovic is quietly having a solid season, averaging 13.7 points in conference games, shooting 51.3 percent, and averaging 6.5 rebounds.

In the end, I'll go with Ubaka.

COACH OF THE YEAR — I think this will be an L.A. battle of Tim Floyd and Ben Howland. If UCLA sweeps this weekend, expect Howland to get it. He gets my vote as well. Sure, UCLA ought to be good, so getting the Bruins back on top is different than doing it at Washington State or Oregon State. Still, Howland's turned it completely around in three years and has UCLA heading in the right direction for a long time to come.

FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR — It'd be nice to pick Jon Brockman or Justin Dentmon. But we have to go with Arizona's Marcus Williams, the former Roosevelt High star. He's leading all freshmen in scoring in conference games at 13.1 and is also averaging 5.8 rebounds. He's also among the top 10 in the Pac-10 in conference games in shooting percentage (10th at 46.5) and three-point shooting (42.1).

ALL-FRESHMEN TEAM — Brockman, Dentmon and Williams are gimmes, along with UCLA's Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Arizona State's Jeff Pendergraph. Mbah a Moute is the leading freshmen rebounder at 8.5 per game and Pendergraph has been a rising star of late.

Brockman continues to lead the Pac-10 in shooting at 52.7 percent and is fourth in rebounding at 7.0, while Dentmon is eighth in assists and has cut down the turnovers lately after some struggles at midseason.

HUSKY TIDBITS

Not much real news coming from Lorenzo Romar's weekly meeting with the media.

He said there is still no official decision on Harvey Perry, though he all but said Perry will sit out this season. Romar said he wanted to meet first with the team's trainers before saying anything publicly, which will likely come Wednesday. But Romar might still decide to wait. Perry — who is practicing regularly with the team now — will likely make the trip and Romar could decide to keep his options open.

• Artem Wallace sat out the Cal game with back spasms, but Romar said he didn't think it was anything serious and the freshman should be back this week. He also said Joe Wolfinger has had some back spasms lately, but nothing too serious, either.

• You might have read the column by ESPN's Andy Katz.

where he mentions how Howland called him to tell him to put Brandon Roy on his list of the top 15 players in the country. I asked Howland about that Tuesday on the Pac-10 Conference call and he said Katz is a friend so he knew he would take the information the right way.

"It's a no-brainer,'' Howland said. "I'm here looking at the stats and it just amazes me how good this kid is.''

February 27, 2006

Roy is player of the week — again

Posted by Bob Condotta at 1:16 PM

More accolades continue for the Huskies.

First, Brandon Roy has been named the Pac-10's player of the week for the third straight week. Here's the release on the Pac-10 site.

As it says, Roy is the first player to win the award for three straight weeks since Eddie House in 1999-2000. That stretch included House's 61 points game at Cal, which tied Lew Alcindor's conference record.

They started giving out the player-of-the-week award during the 1983-84 season, and as far as I can tell, the only other player to ever get it three straight times is Gary Payton at Oregon State, which happened over two seasons — the end of the 1988 season and beginning of 1989.

Roy has won it four times in his career, putting him in select company as well. No other Husky has ever won it more than three times — Chris Welp did that.

Payton holds the record with nine awards. Ten other players won it five times or more, including House, Reggie Miller, Ed O'Bannon, Don MacLean and Salim Stoudamire. Six other players have won it four times, including A.C. Green, Ike Diogu and Jason Terry.

Also, the Huskies have moved up in the AP Poll to 14th. And in the coaches poll UW has moved up to 16th from 19th.

Also, two links to Ken Pomeroy's site — first, his RPI update, which has UW at No. 30. Then his blog, where he lists Brandon Roy's game Sunday as his "Line o' the Night.''

The day after

Posted by Bob Condotta at 9:31 AM

Another game, another impressive performance by the Dawgs.

Consider that they have now won six Pac-10 games by an average margin of almost 14 points. Sure, that 33-point win over Oregon State inflates that number a bit. But four of the wins are by 11 points or more. It's about as impressive a stretch as anything last year's team put together — UW actually never won more than four consecutive Pac-10 games last year.

Much of the focus afterward was on Brandon Roy, for all the obvious reasons, including our game story here.

Aside from Roy, the two biggest reasons for UW's winning streak are defense — Cal shot 41 percent, becoming the fifth team in this stretch to shoot 43 percent or worse against UW (Oregon actually shot 53 percent); and three-point shooting — UW was 10-20 last night and is an astounding 32-62 in the last three games. In all three games, UW has shot 50 percent or better from beyond the arc.

I say astounding because UW hadn't made more than half of its shots from beyond the arc in consecutive games all season until these last three games, and was coming off a five-game stretch where it hadn't made more than 35 percent in any one game, dropping as low as 2-17 at Stanford.

That kind of 3-point shooting won't continue.

But if the Huskies keep playing defense like that, and the three-point shooting finds a happy medium in between the good and the bad, there's no reason they can't continue to play the way they have.

Another key — Bobby Jones, I think, is almost completely recovered from his ankle injury. He isn't putting up huge offensive numbers, but he is playing great defense and rebounding pretty well — averaging six over the last three games. And a return to health means a breakout scoring game could come at any time.

Another unsung hero Sunday was Ryan Appleby — he brought the ball up quite a bit and didn't have a turnover in 25 minutes while also scoring 10 points.

Lots of love coming UW's way today.

• Here's a draft update from hoopshype.com that has Brandon Roy No. 7 in the first round, going to — ta da — the Sonics! I know Brandon would love that and considering all the bad PR for the Sonics right now, they probably couldn't make a better pick.

• Here's ESPN's new bracketology which I like a lot better just in terms of where it sends the Huskies — Dallas instead of Auburn Hills.

Interesting that UW is only a No. 7 seed — I think the Huskies may be being underrated now when they were being overrated much of December and January. That second-round opponent — Texas, near their home, obviously — would be a doozy, pointing out the importance of UW getting as high a seed as it can and moving away from such potential games.

I notice that the other No. 7's are Nevada, Wisconsin and Wichita State, all teams that don't seem to me as good as the Huskies are playing right now.

• Of course, just as I write that, I go to CBS Sportsline and see that Gregg Doyel has UW listed as a No. 3 seed.

He doesn't break down the bracket, but he intriguingly has Kansas listed as a No. 6. How interesting would a game against the Jayhawks and C.J. Giles and Rodrick Stewart be right now?

February 26, 2006

Gameday meanderings

Posted by Bob Condotta at 12:01 AM

Wow, lots of discussion here about Jamaal Williams. No doubt, Thursday wasn't his best game at Washington — 4 for 12 from the field for 10 points with four turnovers in 23 minutes. He definitely forced at least three or four shots when he should have passed the ball back out, and a couple of his turnovers looked pretty bad.

There have been times since he was put into a reserve role when he seemed to hurry to get his shots up as if he might not get another chance.

Still, at the risk of sounding like I'm defending these guys too much, I'll defer to the big picture on this one.

Williams has the second-highest scoring average on the team (13.3), the third-best shooting percentage of those who play regularly (49.7, behind Jon Brockman and Brandon Roy). He's third in rebounds, has a surprising number of steals (31, the most of any of the big men). And, believe it or not, he's fourth on the team in assists (38) — three more than Bobby Jones, who has been on the floor for 57 more minutes, trailing only Roy, Dentmon and Appleby, who all play guard.

The point is that overall, Jamaal has been quite the productive player for this team.

• As I wrote in my story for the paper Saturday, the California game pretty much decides whether UW has a chance at the Pac-10 title. I've gotten a few questions about the tiebreaker.

Head-to-head is the first one.

In the event of multi-team ties, it's head-to-head, then record against other conference teams in descending order of finish. That means something like Washington State's two wins against UW could end up playing a key factor.

The picture will be much clearer after Sunday, however, so I'll delve into it more then.

• I talked with Joel Smith the other day about what happened at the end of the last Cal game. He committed a foul on Ayinde Ubaka with 36 seconds left after the Huskies had finally tied the game to complete a rally from 13 down with under six minutes left. Ubaka made both free throws as Cal went on to win 71-69.

Smith said it was simply a mental blunder and that he was trying to deflect the ball, but realizes that he shouldn't have put himself in position to commit a foul with the pressure suddenly back on the Bears.

"I was down on myself about it, not knowing the clock and the score,'' he said. "It was just so quick the way we came back, and I didn't even look up. I was just focused on what was in front of me. It was just a little mental mistake. But those things happen, and this is a good opportunity now to make up for it with this next game.''

• As for the discussion on Harvey Perry — he's a true freshman and was not with the team last year, so he has a redshirt year available to him.

I fully expect him to use that redshirt now, but it is interesting that neither he nor Romar will say that definitively.

The debate all along has been that this is a potentially special season, with Brandon Roy doing what he's doing and three other seniors on board. And maybe Perry — who could add some perimeter defense and ballhandling — is the difference in losing in the second round and maybe making it to the Sweet 16 or beyond.

One other thing to consider about Perry: He's already 20 years old (he was born in October, 1985, only 16 months after Brandon Roy). Maybe he doesn't want to be a 21-year-old freshman next year.

February 24, 2006

Blazing into March

Posted by Bob Condotta at 6:40 AM

So tell me, who really saw that coming?

I certainly didn't expect that the Huskies would blow out Stanford.

But what we saw Thursday night, as well as last Saturday at Oregon State, is how good this team can be when someone other than Brandon Roy really goes off.

Against the Beavers, it was Ryan Appleby catching fire and hitting five three-pointers.

Against Stanford, it was obviously Mike Jensen, who is the focus of our game story in the paper and online.

Take away just half of Jensen's six three-pointers, and this suddenly looks like a different game.

But that's the one thing the Huskies didn't have a lot of for much of the season — red-hot nights from players other than the regular scorers such as Roy, Jamaal Williams and Bobby Jones.

There's good reason to think it's not just a fluke for either Jensen or Appleby, either. Jensen appears to be completely rounding into form after missing about two months of practice and game time with the shoulder surgery.

Appleby is finishing up his first full season as a college player who is seeing regular action.

If you're wondering who might be next in rising up and catching fire, it's probably Jones, who has scored more than 10 points just once in the last eight games. He's too good to do that for too long.

As for the Pac-10 race, the Huskies could have really used a win by the Cougars over Cal, and they almost got it.

But now they can get it themselves Sunday in a game UW has to win to have any realistic chance at the Pac-10 regular season title. Lose it, and UW falls two behind Cal with two to go, and the Bears would also have the tiebreaker. The only thing that would potentially keep UW in the hunt in the event of a loss would be the possibility of multiple-team ties involving UCLA, whom the Huskies swept.

As for Stanford, I think the Cardinal are out of the NCAA Tournament hunt now unless it wins its last three games, plus wins two games in the conference tournament. Otherwise, this is now a four-bid conference at best with the four teams all but set. Arizona is the only team that really has cause to worry, though as I noted earlier, I think simply beating Arizona State and WSU at home will get the Wildcats in.

As for the Pac-10 race, one reader immediately e-mailed me as to whether I still think UCLA is the favorite to win it. Yes, unfortunately, I do. Their schedule plays out the best of the top three teams, though Cal would move into that role should it beat the Huskies Sunday.

February 22, 2006

Wild race to the finish

Posted by Bob Condotta at 6:49 PM

Conventional wisdom last October held that the Pac-10 would be as crazy this season as it ever has been.

But I'm not sure we really envisioned this. Mike Tyson wasn't this crazy the night he bit Evander Holyfield's ear.

With two weeks left, five teams stand a legitimate shot of winning the conference title. And here's a good omen for Husky fans -- should either of the top two teams lose one more game, it will be the most losses for a conference champ since the 1984-85 season, when the Huskies tied with USC at 13-5. UW won the tiebreaker and is officially listed as the champ for that season.

But enough history.

Here's a look at what each of the top five teams has remaining:

UCLA (10-4) — home against Oregon State and Oregon, then at Cal and Stanford.

Cal (10-4) — at Washington State and Washington, then home against UCLA and USC.

Stanford (9-5) — at Washington and Washington State, then home against USC and UCLA.

Washington (9-5) — home against Stanford and Cal, then at Arizona State and Arizona.

Arizona (9-6) — home against Arizona State this weekend then home against Washington State and Washington.

The team with the easiest schedule left is Arizona, with two almost certain wins before hosting the Huskies. But Arizona also has the most ground to make up and the fewest games in which to do so.

UCLA probably has the second-easiest schedule since it should be able to beat Oregon State and Oregon at home this weekend. Getting those two wins will at least give UCLA 12 conference wins and take any pressure off concerning making the NCAA Tournament.

Cal and Stanford obviously have the same schedule, though in slightly different order. I'd argue that Stanford's road is slightly harder due to facing UW tonight and then WSU on Saturday. It seems harder to make this trip in that order and WSU's only three Pac-10 home this year have come on Saturdays, twice when teams were playing in Pullman two nights after playing in Seattle.

Washington's schedule could be deemed the toughest of the bunch as the Huskies are the only one that has to play three of the other five teams.

As much intrigue as there is in who will come out on top, there's just as much in seeing whether all five can really get NCAA tournament berths. I'm still not convinced the Pac-10 will get five. I see UW and UCLA as all but in, given their overall records. If Arizona gets to 11-7, which I figure it will, I think the Wildcats will get in, as well, due to their RPI and reputation.

That potentially leaves Cal and Stanford battling each other for the last spot.

I give the edge to Cal there.

As for the Pac-10 title, I'm the one of those guys who picked Arizona before the year started. I don't think Arizona's getting there now. Based on schedule and season to date, I'm giving the edge to UCLA — today, anyway.

February 21, 2006

An update on Phil Nelson

Posted by Bob Payne at 10:22 AM

We're back after a couple of days off here on the blog.

We'll start by including a story I wrote after seeing Phil Nelson that appeared in only a few early editions of the Times on Sunday. I sense enough interest in stuff like this to include it here.

Not that Phil Nelson's tired of high school. But he's ready for college.

So ready, he plans on coming to Seattle in June to get started with his career as a Washington Husky basketball player.

"I want to try to get ahead,'' Nelson said.

Nelson is a senior at McNary (Ore.) High, about 45 minutes from the campus at Oregon State, and planned to be in attendance Saturday night as the Huskies took on the host Beavers.

He's part of UW's four-man recruiting class for 2006 that some think may be the best in school history. Nelson is the least-heralded of the four, but he chose UW over Georgia Tech and Gonzaga, indicative of why UW's class is getting such high rankings.

It's not just taking the next step that excites Nelson, but also getting back to where he belongs.

A 6-foot-7, 200-pounder, Nelson is inevitably forced to play center at the high school level. But his versatility also causes his high school coaches to use him at point guard.

Nelson figures to play neither of those positions with any regularity at UW.

Instead, his shooting ability — UW coach Lorenzo Romar has compared his outside touch to that of Salim Stoudamire — has him pegged to be primarily an off guard-small forward at the college level.

"He could be a big wing player that fills out,'' said Romar, who was in attendance Friday night as Nelson scored 28 points in a win over Crescent Valley. "He could be like a Tracy Murray (a former star at UCLA who had a long career in the NBA).''

But playing out of position has led to a somewhat stilted senior season at McNary for Nelson. As a junior, he played primarily power forward and ran the floor, scoring 21.6 points per game as the Celtics won their league and finished 23-5.

This year, Nelson is averaging 19 points a game for a team that is 12-9 and struggling just to get into the playoffs.

"He's not having as good a year, but it's a completely different team,'' said McNary coach Jim Litchfield. "We started off with a lot of kids that were inexperienced. His role has changed and his position on the floor has changed and it's a completely different experience for him.''

Not that any of that has changed the perception of UW coaches about his future.

"The sky's the limit for him,'' said Romar.

Nelson said he'd like to get up to at least 210 pounds by next season and that he knows he needs to improve on his rebounding and defense to be able to make an immediate impact.

ALSO ...

It was announced Monday that the UW-Arizona game on March 4 will tip off at 3 p.m. and be televised by FSN.
And isn't it a crazy Pac-10 race now? I'll break it down for the blog here later this week.

February 18, 2006

Getting a look at Phil Nelson

Posted by Bob Condotta at 12:36 AM

With a night off in Corvallis, Ore., and one of Washington's recruits in action about a half hour away, I decided to drive up to Keizer and watch Phil Nelson play Friday night.

Great minds evidently think alike. Lorenzo Romar was there as well.

Nelson's McNary High School team isn't having a great season - they are 12-9 and needed to beat Crescent Valley 76-62 to stay alive for third place in the Valley League. They did, getting an easy win, with Nelson scoring 28 points.

He did so pretty easily, hitting 7 of 14 shots, 2 of 4 on three-pointers, and hitting 12 of 14 free throws. He also had six rebounds and at least two blocked shots.

Nelson is 6 feet 7, which forces him to spent a lot of his time inside for McNary, which went 23-5 one season ago with a more veteran team.

But Romar envisions the 200-pound Nelson as mostly a perimeter player for the first year or so, with the ability to move inside once he bulks up a bit. Romar has compared Nelson's three-point shooting to that of Salim Stoudamire, and says a good long-term comparison is former UCLA star Tracy Murray.

That three-point shooting wasn't really on display Friday, as Nelson spent the bulk of his time playing point guard and inside. He looked more than comfortable bringing the ball up the court, something he did a few times per quarter.

The scouting report from here?

Nelson's offense is college ready. But his defense really needs some work. The guy behind me who yelled "Nelson, play some defense!'' at one point would evidently agree. And his rebounding also could be better. He'll also need to ratchet up the intensity a bit. It's possible he's a guy who might not contribute a whole lot early.

The good thing is that Nelson seems to realize all of this.

I talked with him for a while afterward and when I asked what he plans to work on before coming to UW, he said, "Defense and rebounding!"

Nelson plans to come to Washington in June to spend the summer working out with the Huskies.

He'll also go to Corvallis on Saturday to watch the UW-Oregon State game.

An aside on Romar. Anyone wondering why he is held in so much esteem needed only see Romar after the McNary High game. While waiting for Nelson to emerge from the locker room, he grabbed a ball and began shooting around with a couple of kids, about age 10 or so. Then he saw a little girl, 1 or 2 years old at most, put the ball in her hands, and hoisted her above his head so she could take a shot. I didn't see her make it, but a few members of the crowd broke into applause at her attempts.

February 17, 2006

Heading for a sweep?

Posted by Bob Condotta at 11:46 AM

The Huskies still have some work to do to get to the NCAA Tournament.

But Thursday night's win at Oregon felt like a "get over the hump" kind of victory. The one that makes it clear this team will finish in the Big Dance.

Consider that UW could go 2-3 the rest of the way and still finish 10-8 in Pac-10 play and 21-8 overall, which would seem like a decent enough resume to get in the tournament.

The one problem with that scenario, however, is that UW would then be seen as limping into the end of the season, so going at least 3-2 heading into the Pac-10 tournament would probably be smart. Do that, and UW would be 22-7 and 11-7, probably good for a seed in the 5 to 7 range - critical to get away from being in that 8-9 slot and having to play a No. 1 seed in the second round.

As for the Oregon game, here are links to our game story;
our notebook, which centered on Joel Smith; and a column by Bud Withers that cover all of the obvious bases of the game.

Here's also a link to a blog by a fellow scribe, Glenn Kasses of the Spokesman-Review, who compiled some fascinating statistical breakdowns of the main scorers in the Pac-10.

Interesting that Ryan Appleby ranks second among Huskies on the list, but I think that's due mostly to the fact that he shoots almost nothing but three-pointers. That's surely the same reason Jamaal Williams ranks so low among UW players on the list.

And here's a link to a story on Oregon State's win over Washington State from the Corvallis Gazette-Times.

Sounds like the Beavers are feeling a lot better about themselves now, which is ominous for the Huskies. We all tend to remember the memorable win there in 2004. But the Huskies have been blown out in their other two visits to Corvallis under Lorenzo Romar.

As for some thoughts on the game:

— UW's three-point shooting is still somewhat disconcerting. The Huskies were 4 for 14 against Oregon (28.6 percent) continuing a recent string of rugged shooting from beyond the arc. In UW's past five games, the Huskies have shot 2 for 17 (11.8 percent), 5 for 25 (20 percent), 6 for 17 (35.3 percent), 4 for 12 (32.3 percent) and 4 for 14.

Of course, the Huskies could also simply be due for a breakout game.

— UW won't win many road games allowing the home team to shoot 53.1 percent, as the Ducks did. In fact, that's the third-highest shooting percentage of the year against UW - only New Mexico (54) and WSU in Seattle (53.6) shot better. UW also forced just 14 turnovers.

That all points to just how critical that 36-17 rebounding advantage really was.

— Speaking of those rebounds, one of the real keys to it all is the backcourt. The guard trio of Bobby Jones, Brandon Roy and Justin Dentmon combined for 12 rebounds — almost as many, obviously, as the entire Oregon team.

— Sure, Williams took 17 shots in 29 minutes. But he also had three assists, his most since the win at USC in January, when he also had three. His career high is four in the season opener at Morgan State.

February 15, 2006

Gameday meanderings

Posted by Bob Condotta at 10:36 PM

I'm getting in the car Thursday morning and driving to Oregon for the games against the Ducks and Beavers — which is actually one of my favorite activities of the year — so this is going to suffice for the usual gameday preview we've tried to do here on the blog all season.

Here, then, a few things to look for Thursday night.

• I'm very curious to see the mood at Mac Court with all of the rumors swirling about Oregon coach Ernie Kent. Here's a link to a recent column in the Eugene Register-Guard that is a good wrap-up of all that is going on regarding Kent.

Oregon appears to be reeling, but the Ducks won Saturday at Arizona State in a game that looked like one they might easily lose, given the heartbreaking loss at Arizona on Thursday, so there does appear to still be some life left there. And having UW in town usually creates an electric atmosphere at Mac Court.

• I wrote a little bit about Kent's situation for the preview story in Thursday's paper and on-line. Interesting that Kent's biggest season was 2002, when the Ducks advanced to the Elite Eight. Also in the Elite Eight that year was Missouri with Quin Snyder — who recently resigned or was fired, depending on who you believe — and advancing all the way to the title game that season was Indiana and Mike Davis, who also figures to be out at the end of this season.

• As for the UW-Oregon game, it could be high scoring if history is any judge. The winning team has averaged 90 points in the last four games between the two at Mac Court. UW won 95-88 there last year in overtime. That game also featured a combined 67 fouls, including a school-record 36 on UW.

• Oregon looks a little different now than it did last month in Seattle. Shooting guard Bryce Taylor is out with a hyperextended knee and in his place is Chamberlain Oguchi. Oguchi played just 11 minutes against UW here, with just five points, but has been hot lately, hitting 12 3-pointers in the games at Arizona and Arizona State last weekend. He has scored 20 or more points in three of Oregon's last five games.

• The Ducks have been terrible in close games this year, going 2-5 in games decided by five points or less, and 4-10 in games decided by 10 or less.

• The two players who really scare UW are Aaron Brooks — who everyone on the team and coaching staff knows well from his Seattle days — and Malik Hairston. Romar said Hairston is a player "who on any given night can go out and dominate a game.''

Hairston is Oregon's leading scorer at 14.6 per game and scores 62 percent of his points in the second half.

• Kent says Oregon's biggest problem is shooting. Here are some number comparisons of UW and Oregon
that bear that out:

Field goal percentage — UW 47 percent, Oregon 45 percent.

3-point percentage — UW 34 percent, Oregon 33 percent.

Free throw percentage — UW 73 percent, Oregon 66 percent.

Then throw in defensive field goal percentage: UW 42 percent, Oregon 44 percent.

And 3-point field goal percentage defense: UW 30.5, Oregon 35.8.

I'm not Bill James, but I'm sure all of that easily adds up to 5-6-7 points per game, which may be the difference between being 7-5 in Pac-10 play as UW is and 5-8 in Pac-10 play as Oregon is.

• UW will have the same lineup that started the last two games. But don't be surprised if Jamaal Williams has a big game — he had one of his best games against the Ducks in Seattle last month with 20 points.

February 14, 2006

Mid-week update

Posted by Bob Condotta at 6:32 PM

Unlike a week ago, when Lorenzo Romar was pondering lineup changes and insisting that his team wasn't sliding out of control, today's weekly press conference was relatively uneventful.

Such is the life of a team back on track.

Romar said the starting lineup will remain the same. "We're 2-0 with it so we're going to go from there," he said.

Romar also said Harvey Perry practiced Monday, but was limited in his work with doctors wanting to bring him back slowly. That Perry is being brought back slowly seems to indicate he will redshirt this season. Romar said anything is still possible but admitted that if he doesn't begin playing soon, it won't make sense for him to play this season.

Here are some other notes:

  • Romar said again that Joel Smith is struggling to get in the lineup as other players - namely, Brandon Burmeister - stepping up. Romar has said several times that Smith benefitted often last year when he was set up by Nate Robinson, etc., but has struggled this year when forced to make his own decisions and create his own opportunities.

  • The Huskies will be featured on two episodes of ESPN2's "The Season" tonight, and Romar said he thinks the exposure is good for his program, though he admitted it was "awkward" at times having cameras around constantly. The program should be interesting as it focuses on a two-week period that included the games at Stanford and Washington State.

  • Several Huskies - Brandon Roy, Justin Dentmon, Bobby Jones, Mike Jensen and Zane Potter - visited Children's Hospital and Medical Center on Monday. Roy said the visit was a good reminder that while basketball may be important, it's still just a game.

  • Romar said in he thinks this weekend - with games at Oregon and Oregon State - will really prove if Washington has turned a corner from the three-game losing streak.

    "If we go on the road and handle our business the right way, I will feel we are headed in the right direction at the right time," he said.

    February 13, 2006

    Brockman and expectations

    Posted by Bob Condotta at 1:31 PM

    Several people have weighed in here on Jon Brockman's season and whether it has lived up to expectations — I must say I'm impressed by the intelligence of the people commenting on this site. I'm glad about that since sometimes such discussions can digress quickly, but that hasn't happened here too much.

    I pretty much agree with the likes of Rico and others who say that this is a pretty typical first season for a freshman.

    Keep in mind, Jon is still averaging 9.2 points, 7.3 rebounds and shooting 52 percent from the field — not bad numbers at all overall.

    Also, Jon may turn out to be a big scorer eventually, but I don't think UW's coaches envisioned him being a big scorer right off the bat. Some of it is his personality — he's so unselfish, he had to be talked into taking over games during his high school days. So he's naturally deferring this year to the seniors. I think he'll take a big leap scoring next season.

    As for his recruiting hype, one reason he was so valued is that most coaches considered him a four-year guy — a player who has the type of game to be a big-time contributor for four years, but not necessarily the type of game that would be enticing to NBA scouts before his college years were over.

    As for how the coaches view him? The most telling comment surely came from Lorenzo Romar last week when he said that in reviewing the starting lineup, the only two players sure to keep their jobs were Brandon Roy and Jon Brockman.

    What's that smell? Success

    Posted by Bob Condotta at 1:18 PM

    It was just a week ago that Bobby Jones talked about how when you start losing, everything disappears — awards, rankings, publicity, etc.

    Well, two wins over the weekend helped bring a lot of that back.

    First off, Brandon Roy was named Player of the Week for his performances in the wins over USC and UCLA. It's the first time he's won the award this season. He also won it as a sophomore late in the year after UW swept Arizona and Arizona State on the road.

    The official Pac-10 release.

    The Huskies are also moving back up in the polls, to No. 21 from No. 23 in the coaches poll, and to No. 20 from No. 21 in the AP poll.

    And those who project NCAA Tournament fields are back in love with the Huskies. Gregg Doyel at CBSsportsline, who was in town for the USC game and wrote glowing story on Brandon Roy in the process, has UW as a No. 4 seed this week.

    Interestingly, he slates Montana as a No. 13, setting up a possible first-round rematch of last year's first-round game — which, of course, will never actually happen.

    And according to Ken Pom's RPI projection on kenpom.com, the Huskies are up to No. 40 in the RPI after standing at No. 54 a week ago.

    February 12, 2006

    Big, big win

    Posted by Bob Condotta at 12:21 AM

    I think I wrote after Washington swept the L.A. trip that there was no longer any doubt that the Huskies would make the NCAA tournament. That sweep had come, remember, after a home loss to Washington State that left everyone questioning the team.

    I'm writing the same thing again after another sweep of the L.A. schools a month later, including Saturday's 70-67 win over UCLA. That sweep was made necessary by a three-game losing streak, including another loss to the Cougs, that suddenly had the Huskies on the brink.

    But you figure now that the Huskies just have to split the rest of the way to probably get in the tournament. Do that, and the Huskies are 21-8 overall heading into the Pac-10 tournament. Win just one game there and UW would have 22 wins, three coming against Gonzaga and UCLA - and who knows who they would beat in the final six (maybe Stanford or Arizona?) that would make the resume look that much better.

    I asked Lorenzo Romar after the game if he felt a lot better about Washington's NCAA tournament hopes now.
    He said he didn't want to look that far ahead, but added that "I'm starting to think now that we (Pac-10) are going to get four teams in the tournament."

    That would obviously be good news for Washington, though I figure there's still some danger if the Huskies were to finish fifth - the NCAA tournament has rarely passed over a team higher in the conference standings to take one lower for an at-large bid.

    That's where it might have actually been good for UW that Gonzaga beat Stanford Saturday night, even though the conventional wisdom was that it was an important game for the Pac-10 to win. If Washington finishes behind Stanford in the standings by just a game, a deciding factor could be the nonconference schedules of the two teams. Stanford has no significant nonconference wins while UW at least has Gonzaga, even if it was at home while the Cardinal played Gonzaga on the road.

    Of course, the way to make all this moot is to go 4-2 or 5-1 the rest of the way, which looks a lot more likely now after the win over UCLA.

    The Huskies played phenomenal defense, something they now have to do on the road, and shared the ball well on offense - four in double figures, five guys taking six or more shots but no one more than 11.

    The Huskies were outrebounded 34-26, but Huskies coaches felt UCLA's big men were simply that good and they didn't figure they would be able to outrebound the Bruins. If they had simply been able to match UCLA on the boards, however, UW might have won going away.

    NOTES
    - Here's an interesting anecdote that didn't find its way into my regular stories on the UCLA game.

    Brandon Roy said he was hit on his funny bone when he was forced to call time out with 1:27 left. He called time to shake it off and make sure he didn't lose possession of the ball. UW led just 64-62 at the time.

    "My hand went numb and I couldn't feel the ball," he said.

    He said he still had trouble feeling the ball when he went back out on the court and was hoping he wouldn't have to shoot. He got the ball on the side and began to drive and UCLA sent two defenders at him, so he passed to a wide-open Jon Brockman for a dunk.

    "They didn't know my hand was still numb and I didn't want to shoot it," Roy said. "I was like ‘cool' and threw it to Jon. I think they thought I would shoot it out of the time out but I threw it to Jon and he made a big play."

    February 10, 2006

    A win with an asterisk

    Posted by Bob Condotta at 10:44 AM

    The Huskies simply had to beat USC Thursday night to keep their NCAA tourney hopes alive. That they did by a score of 87-73 makes the night a success on its most basic level.

    But there was no joy among the UW players and coaches afterward, all left disturbed by the fact that the Huskies blew all but nine points of a 27-point lead in the final 10 minutes of the game — continuing a trend of such lapses.

    That led to a loud post-game talk afterward.

    "They got on us," said Mike Jensen. "I don't know what it is and why we can't shake it."

    UW coach Lorenzo Romar seemed more subdued than normal for a winning coach in his post-game media session, several times referring to how the Huskies almost let the lead get away and calling the habit of losing focus "frustrating."

    Remember, UW let double-digit halftime leads melt away in home losses to Arizona and WSU, played lax early at Cal in falling behind by 13 before coming back, had the last-second meltdown at Stanford, and led at halftime at WSU last week by five before losing by 13.

    As Romar said, they can't do any of that Saturday against UCLA and expect to win.

    The other big story of the night was the change in the lineup, with Mike Jensen starting in place of Jamaal Williams. That had seemed like the most logical change to make and it sounds like it was the only one really seriously considered.

    Williams gives UW some scoring off the bench and Jensen is used to starting. UW played well at the beginning of each half, so maybe it worked, though as Brandon Roy said, you've got to give it another game or two to really judge.

    Williams, though, doesn't seem to love the change. He said he'll accept it because he has no choice, but his post-game comments indicated he isn't embracing it just yet.

    Despite all of that, I thought there were some encouraging signs. The 18 assists were the most since the win at USC last month, and the Huskies won the battle of the boards 38-24. Some of that is surely due to USC being one of the smallest teams in the conference, and missing one of its best players in Gabe Pruitt. Still, at least the Huskies were able to take advantage.

    UW's 3-point shooting was also a lot better at 6-of-17, and the scoring was balanced — there were five scorers in double figures for the first time since the win over Gonzaga.

    The Huskies need to take the good of this game and eliminate the bad to have a chance against a UCLA team undoubtedly playing the best ball of any team in the Pac-10 right now.

    February 9, 2006

    Gameday Meanderings

    Posted by Bob Condotta at 12:53 PM

    Interesting to read in the Los Angeles Daily News today that USC point guard Ryan Francis called tonight's game with Washington "a must-win."

    That makes two teams on the floor for whom the game is a must-win. The Huskies, in my view, absolutely have to win this one to make it to the NCAA tournament. I detailed some of the reasons why in a story in the Seattle Times today.

    Stories in the L.A. papers all focused on the loss of Gabe Pruitt and what that will mean to the Trojans. The Daily News quoted coach Tim Floyd as saying that he will go deeper into his bench. "Guys who haven't played will have to play now," Floyd said.

    Here's the link to the L.A. Times story.

    And here's the link to a story in the Long Beach Press Telegram.

    Obviously the loss of Pruitt - whom many consider an NBA prospect and USC's second-leading scorer at 17.1 per game - is huge.

    What's harder to tell is how the Huskies will try to exploit it becuase we still don't know for sure exactly what lineup UW will trot out to start the game.

    Coach Lorenzo Romar was said last night to still be contemplating what direction he wanted to go. Whatever he does, however, I don't imagine it will be anything shocking since - with what has become almost an eight-man rotation - there's really only so much he can do.

    A few leftovers

  • Romar said again this week that if Harvey Perry can return to the floor in a week or two and show he can play, that the Huskies won't hesitate to use him, even if it's for only eight games or so. Romar says Perry wants to play. There could be news on Perry in the next day or so as he was supposed to be checked out by doctors yesterday to see if he could be cleared to return to practice without limitations.

  • In the first game against USC, UW committed a season-high 28 turnovers. Some were self-inflicted, but a number were the result of the Trojans' four-guard attack which pressured the Huskies all over the place. Hard to know how that will change now that Pruitt is out of the lineup. But Romar said the goal for tonight is for UW to cut that turnover number in half.

  • Pruitt is likely to be replaced by freshman Sead Odzic, who has started twice and averages 3.1 points per game. But don't let that low scoring number fool you. Colleges were attracted to Odzic because of his ability to score. He had nine points, making 3 of 5 three-pointers in USC's loss at Arizona State last week. In the USC media guide, a recruiting expert is quoted as comparing Odzic's game to that of Peja Stojakovic. Odzic had eight points, hitting 2 of 4 three-pointers, in the first game against the Huskies.

  • I've gotten more than a few e-mail complaints about the fact that several of UW's recent games haven't been on TV. However, all but one UW game the rest of the season will be on TV, with the lone holdout the March 2 game at Arizona State.

    February 8, 2006

    Unsettled Huskies

    Posted by Bob Condotta at 8:43 PM

    Wish I could tell you who will start for the Huskies tomorrow night against USC. But Lorenzo Romar said he probably won't even know himself until tomorrow.

    Also, they won't let us watch practice this week to figure out anything on our own, taking the somewhat rare - though increasing all the time - step of closing practice to the media.

    I know most everyone sides with the team in such cases, but I think it's fair to point that out for people who might wonder why we may be including an inaccurate lineup in the paper.

    If I had to guess, I'd say Mike Jensen moves into the starting lineup for Jamaal Williams and that would be it. Jensen played well against USC down there - seven points, five boards in 21 minutes, and has a lot of history as a starter - 87 games the last three years.

    Jamaal Williams, meanwhile, has a similar history of playing well off the bench.

    It makes a lot of sense since UW needs some scoring off the bench. And maybe simply shaking up the rotation a little bit allows for some different offensive looks that will give some players some better shots.

    Williams said this week that he simply isn't getting the ball as much as he would earlier to explain his inconsistent production of late. Just looking at the numbers, Williams still getting a lot of shots - he has the second most both for the season and for Pac-10 play by a wide margin behind only Roy, which seems about right. He was, however, just 1-of-5 in 19 minutes at WSU, though foul trouble contributed to that.

    But maybe if Jamaal comes in the game at different times, the shots open up for him a little more.

    Certainly, Jensen isn't a guy who needs the ball the same way Jamaal does.

    Also, Jensen is more of an outside threat, which might open up the inside for Roy more if the two begin each half on the floor together.

    Of course, there is a lot to keep in perspective here as we ponder how to fix the Huskies.

    The game before last, for instance, UW outplayed Stanford at Stanford for 39 minutes and 58 seconds - and the Cardinal is playing as well as any team in the conference right now.

    Then came the debacle at WSU.

    Funny how a couple of seconds can completely change the look of an entire season. Simply pull out the Stanford win and how different do things appear today?

    But then, that happened in a good way for the Huskies two years ago at Oregon State.

    Romar's job is to figure out how to get back that team that basically won at Stanford just 11 days ago.

    February 7, 2006

    Changes ahead?

    Posted by Bob Condotta at 5:32 PM

    We're back to the blog on a regular basis now that the Super Bowl is over.

    And just in time to detail what figures to be the most critical week of the season for the Huskies.

    They have lost three in a row and probably have to get a sweep this weekend against USC and UCLA to stay on track for an NCAA men's basketball tournament bid.

    I think they probably have to have a winning conference record to get in and since they have four of their last six on the road, a couple wins this weekend are almost a necessity.

    Lorenzo Romar also knows this is a crucial juncture of the season and said today at his regular press briefing that he is considering shaking up the lineup a bit.

    He didn't go into specifics other than saying Brandon Roy and Jon Brockman would not come out of the lineup, and said he likely wouldn't decide until shortly before gametime Thursday.

    But the mere fact that he is considering changes points to how poorly the team played in Pullman and the need to turn things around quickly.

    I'll have more detail on this on-line and in The Times on Wednesday.

    Also, Romar said there is still a chance that Harvey Perry will play this season. He has another meeting with doctors tomorrow that could clear him to begin practicing next week.

    Romar also said Zach Johnson is doing well in his rehabilitation from knee surgery and there's a chance he could return to play next season.

    February 3, 2006

    Mid-season Husky honors

    Posted by Bob Condotta at 1:33 PM

    Player of the Year - Roy. I read some comments here that he ought to be doing more, scoring the way Adam Morrison is. But he's a different player being asked to do different things - and in an offense not geared to get him as many shots as Gonzaga's gets Morrison. Roy is the least of UW's problems.

    Surprise of the Year - It was the play of Dentmon until he began to struggle the last three weeks once the Pac-10 road games began. This still just looks like a freshman bump in the road. Otherwise, it's the play of Hans Gasser, who figured a year ago to be playing somewhere else right now instead of playing a key - if growing more limited - role.

    Disappointment of the Year - I'm sure even Joel Smith figured he'd be making more of an impact right now. He's averaging just three points a game in Pac-10 play as the Huskies seem to be getting less and less from their bench.

    Overlooked injury of the year - I think UW coaches really expected Harvey Perry to play a key role this year - maybe 15-20 minutes a game as a really solid perimeter defender who would also add some offense. Romar called him the best passer among the freshmen heading into the season and raved about the intangibles he brought to the floor. That's why they are still hoping he can come back and contribute this year.

    February 1, 2006

    Pac-10 midseason report

    Posted by Bob Condotta at 2:16 PM

    It's the halfway point of their Pac-10 season, which seems a good time to asses not only the Huskies, but the conference as well. So here's one man's look at some mid-season awards.

    Player of the Year - Brandon Roy. And this isn't just a homer pick. Look at the numbers. When considering only conference games, Roy is leading the Pac-10 in scoring, assist-to-turnover ratio and 3-point shooting and also ranks among the top 10 in the conference in rebounding, assists, steals, overall field goal percentage and blocked shots. No other Pac-10 player is doing as much for his team as Roy is for the Huskies. The other two obvious candidates are Arizona's Hassan Adams and Cal's Leon Powe, and wins and losses in the final nine games could determine the ultimate winner.

    Freshman of the Year - This is probably a two-man race between a pair of local kids - Jon Brockman and Arizona's Marcus Williams. Right now, Williams gets the nod for the way he has scored in Pac-10 games and made key plays down the stretch.

    All-Pac-10 Freshman Team - It could consist of three Seattle-area players - Brockman, Williams and Stanford's Mitch Johnson. Also in the mix are UCLA's Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Arizona State's Jeff Pendergraph, USC's Ryan Francis and UW's Justin Dentmon.

    All-Pac-10 Team - We'll do it the same way the coaches do - 10 players regardless of position. I figure these guys are all slam dunks - Roy, Adams, Powe, UCLA's Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo, Stanford's Matt Haryasz and USC's Nick Young and Gabe Pruitt. I'd also go for Stanford's Chris Hernandez.

    The final spot goes to Cal's Ayinde Ubaka. I'd love to pick Bobby Jones, but he's been too erratic - in part due to the ankle injury - and Ubaka's emergence is a huge reason Cal is suddenly a legitimate player for the conference title. So he gets the nod.

    Coach of the Year - That UCLA is on top, despite all of its injuries, makes this an easy nod to Ben Howland. I think the rest of the conference ought to be real nervous about the job Howland is doing as the Bruins appear ready to reclaim their mantle as the year-in, year-out team to beat in the Pac-10. Tim Floyd is running a respectable second here, getting the most out of a Trojan team that has a few really talented players but no big guys and no real depth.

    Coaches on the Hot Seat - I don't think there's any way Arizona State's Rob Evans - who seems like a really nice man - survives now. Oregon's Ernie Kent also seems like he could be in a lot of trouble - read John Canzano's column in The Oregonian Sunday for his take on that subject. Though as Canzano points out, it's hard to tell what the administration there is really thinking.

    Most Disappointing Team
    - Oregon is an obvious choice. The Ducks unquestionably pass the airport test. But they can't pass - or shoot - the ball all that well and seem poised for a losing record after having legitimate NCAA hopes.

    Giving them a run for their money is their rival Beavers. I personally thought Oregon State would be a lot better than it has been, and with three seniors in its usual starting lineup, it's hard to tell where the Beavers are headed.

    Breakout Player - Ubaka came to Cal three years ago with a lot of hype and battled injuries and inconsistency his first two seasons. But now you see what all the fuss was about as he's giving the Bears a great outside threat to go along with Powe in the middle.

    Most Underrated Player - I'd say Lodrick Stewart if he weren't one of the most hyped players ever in Seattle high school history. Now that everyone seems to think he's a bust, he's turning into a real good player - he hit another key 3-pointer late in the win at Oregon Saturday and the game-winner in the final seconds at Arizona State earlier in the season.

    I also like Washington State's Kyle Weaver for this spot. He's a little out of position having to fill in for Derrick Low as WSU's main point guard. But he still ranks among the Pac-10 leaders in field goal percentage, assists, assist-to-turnover ratio, steals and rebounds.

    Most Disappointing Player - Considering the state of the Pac-10 this year, this could also be a 10-man team. But the two who stand out each reside in Oregon - Oregon's Malik Hairston and Oregon State's Nick DeWitz. Hairston's NBA stock is dropping with each Oregon loss as it becomes apparent he can't carry the team to greatness by himself. And it's apparent now that DeWitz's fabulous end to last season was aided greatly by the presence of David Lucas.

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