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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.
Posted by Bob Condotta at 3:01 PM
It's finally time to try to answer the No. 2 question everyone had after the UConn loss — No. 1, of course, being "how the heck could the officials miss all those calls?''
Running a close second to that query has been "Who's going to start next year?''
First off, I'll say that getting a definitive answer to that is impossible right now. No coach I know would ever answer that seven months before practice starts, and Lorenzo Romar is even more evasive when it comes to that sort of question.
His theory, mirroring that of just about every other coach, is that players have to fight for their jobs all the time to keep competition at its most keen.
"The way we approach things is the first day of practice, everything is up for grabs,'' Romar said when I talked to him after the UConn game. "No one has been designated spots. We never tell a recruit he's going to start for us. He has to fight for it.''
Romar, though, sounds less concerned with who starts than determining what kind of team this will be in style and temperament.
The team's identity the last few years has been set — quick, athletic, scrappy, if undersized — with the leaders also well defined (Brandon Roy, Bobby Jones this year, for instance).
"It's going to be life after those seniors,'' Romar said. "That's a whole different thing. Guys are going to look around and wonder 'well, who's the go-to guy? Who's going to score? Who's going to do this? Who's going to do that?' Guys are going to have to develop that identity. We had it from day one this year.''
Still, I think three starting spots are set — returners Justin Dentmon at point guard and Jon Brockman at power forward, and incoming freshman Spencer Hawes at center.
That Hawes is more of a true center than anything UW has had in a while, however, will give a different look to everything.
I think incoming freshman Quincy Pondexter has a good chance to start at the three spot. He's got size (6-7, 220), is a good all-around scorer (26.5 points this year) but needs work on his outside shot.
The shooting guard spot is a toss-up between Ryan Appleby, Joel Smith, Harvey Perry and incoming frosh Adrian Oliver. I think Appleby or Oliver probably has the best shot at starting but Smith seems to realize he had something of a lost year — he admittedly was a little out of shape when practice began and didn't show the defensive intensity coaches wanted at the start, which is why his playing time was so sporadic this year. And I've heard nothing from the coaches to indicate anything other than that they think Perry will be a big contributor as long as he can stay healthy.
Phil Nelson will also be in the mix, though my impression is that he's the one freshman who won't be expected to take on a big role immediately. If he does, great. But I think his defense and rebounding need some work before he becomes a regular, though his shooting ability will likely get him on the floor in some capacity (though a redshirt season isn't out of the question).
Oliver is a prototype combo guard who can handle the ball and score, and remember that Romar likes his guards to be versatile — he doesn't want to pigeonhole them into roles — so he'd had no trouble starting two guys who might each be deemed by observers as point guards. It's what he did with Will Conroy and Nate Robinson, each of whom had the peg as "point guard'' entering college.
But there are a lot of possible combinations and the first few weeks of practice will be as interesting as they have been in a few years as coaches begin to see exactly what they have.
As for the other players up front, I think both Artem Wallace and Joe Wolfinger will work their way into major minutes — they'll have to, based on the fact there really isn't anyone else. (I'm not sure Hans Gasser's role will change a whole lot).
Wolfinger is a real workhorse — I walked through Hec Ed about 6:30 p.m. Thursday on my way back to the press room from football practice and Wolfinger was shooting by himself in an otherwise empty arena — and by all accounts improved a lot during his redshirt year.
Wallace didn't play much this season but impressed early with his athleticism. But it was probably always a bit unrealistic to expect him to make the jump from Toledo High School to Pac-10 ball without a few bumps in the road.
I don't think it's completely meaningless, however, that he hit 15 of the 26 shots he took this year (a 57.7 percent that was the best on the team) and grabbed 35 rebounds in 144 minutes — a ratio of one for every four minutes he was on the floor (or, obviously, 10 per 40 minutes).
But don't expect anything to be set in stone. I imagine this could be a lineup that changes several times even once the season begins, something UW hasn't had to deal with much the last few years.
"That's the challenge of sustaining a program,'' Romar said. "You hope that your system allows you to plug in new guys and you pick up where the other guys left off. Hopefully the next wave of guys can step up.''
• Had a question from an editor here about how Pondexter's high school team — San Joaquin Memorial of Fresno, Calif. — could lose if it also included twin 7-footers Brook and Robin Lopez of Stanford. Well, it didn't lose much, going 33-4 for the season.
Here's the story on how San Joaquin lost in the California state playoffs.
Sounds like the 7-footer for Horizon High, Jeff Withy, is one to remember. Horizon went on to win the state title.
• Had a few questions on scheduling. Here's what I know. LSU is coming here to play UW just before Christmas. UW will play at Gonzaga a week or so earlier. UW is still looking for a marquee foe to play on the road, with the promise of a return game in the 2007-08 season. But nothing is set and Washington's success is making it harder to find a team willing to come out here. Also, teams from far away want to play two games in the area if they are going to make the trip out here and there aren't a lot of options, which is also hindering the process.
The other six allowed non-conference games won't feature a lot of big names. On the docket, as far as I known, are Idaho, Portland State (a reunion with former assistant Ken Bone), Eastern Washington (another look at Rodney Stuckey) and possibly Montana.
Posted by Bob Condotta at 1:48 PM
Sure everyone watched the McDonald's game last night. I thought Spencer Hawes showed more than enough to make everyone think that the excitement is warranted. Here's one story detailing how Hawes fared by noted recruiting analyst Frank Burlison.
Also, another incoming UW recruit, Adrian Oliver, was just named the Modesto Bee Player of the Year. Here's that story.
I'll have more in a day or two looking ahead to next season with my thoughts on what the lineup might be, etc. If you have any specific questions you'd like addressed in that regard, send them along.
Posted by Bob Condotta at 12:55 PM
Don't know about you, but I can't get the basketball season out of my head yet.
So here's a few other notes for a Wednesday afternoon.
• If you want to start getting hyped for next year, watch Spencer Hawes in the McDonald's game tonight at 7on ESPN. We wrote a story about Hawes and that game today as well as his being named a Parade first-team All-American.
He says he's considering WCC schools — could Gonzaga be one of those? — and Miami. Sounds like an amicable parting. Certainly, the Huskies won't be sad to see him go.
• I'm in the middle of a great new book about Bobby Knight (here's the description on Amazon.com).
Two things of interest to old-time Husky fans in the first 100 pages. First is a story about an altercation between Knight and Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall in 1975. Hall's assistant was Lynn Nance, who later became Washington's coach, and there are some entertaining passages in there about how Knight and Nance got into it when Nance tried to defend Hall. There's also a few paragraphs on the transfer of Bob Bender, who played on Indiana's 1976 national title team then left the following season.
If you like Knight, you might not like this book. But it's not a hatchet job. Everything is on the record from people who played for and coached with Knight and it's presented in entertaining fashion.
• And here's a book coming out in the fall all Husky fans will want.
Posted by Bob Condotta at 10:31 PM
Here are a few notes and quotes as we begin to head into the off-season.
• I wrote today about a letter Washington athletic director Todd Turner wrote to NCAA officials about his displeasure over the officiating and the late start time. Here's the link to the story.
Turner also wrote about it on his blog on the UW athletic site here.
I got a few notes from Illinois fans saying it was "ironic" that Turner would write such a letter after the way Washington benefited from a 39-11 free throw edge in that game. Not sure that's the right usage of ironic or not. What I would say is that I think Illinois fans should welcome what Turner is asking for — a review of the procedures for selecting the officials for NCAA tournament games. I think every team could benefit from that.
• You've probably heard, but Brandon Roy became the first Husky since Bob Houbregs in 1953 to be named to the The Associated Press All-American first team. This is the most prestigious of the All-American teams. Here's a link to that story.
• For those wondering about the academic status of the incoming players, Phil Nelson is apparently the one question mark. But my understanding is that it's not that worrisome. Nelson is 30 to 40 points shy of a qualifying test score and is due to take it again in April. Should all go well for Nelson, he is expected to arrive on campus in June along with Quincy Pondexter and Adrian Oliver to begin working out with the team during the summer. Spencer Hawes will play for the U.S. Junior National Team this summer and may not be around as much for workouts with his future teammates. But that is obviously an invaluable experience.
• A few writers who lingered at the luncheon to kick off spring football ran into Lorenzo Romar and he sat down and chatted with us for a while about the Connecticut game.
I'll paraphrase a few of his thoughts:
• On the officiating: He said his postgame comments weren't meant to pardon the officiating per se because he thought there were some bad calls. But he doesn't think it does any good to dwell on them and repeated that Washington had chances to win the game and didn't get it done.
• His biggest regret is not more thoroughly emphasizing to his players the best way to defend the three-point shot before the one Rashad Anderson hit to tie the game in the final seconds. He said he should have made sure his players understood to guard the line and not inside of it, since a two-pointer wouldn't have hurt the Huskies. Romar said he'll take the blame for that one, but Ryan Appleby had Anderson covered well on the shot. The problem was that Anderson got the ball where he did in the first place.
• He doesn't second-guess the decision not to foul. He said it is a general philosophy of his not to foul when up three in the final seconds. Washington actually faced that situation five times this year ...quot; Oregon State at home (Chris Stephens missed a tying three-pointer with about seven seconds left), UCLA at home, Stanford on the road and Illinois and UConn in the tournament. Washington went 3-2 in those games. Romar said his main reason for not fouling is that sending a player to the line can create a situation where the Huskies could lose the game by making one free throw, missing one and kicking the ball out for a three-pointer. You are assured of no worse than a tie by playing it straight up.
• My two cents on the "to foul or not foul" controversy? If I were a coach, I'd probably be more flexible and foul sometimes and not foul others based on who the opponent has on the floor, game situation, etc. But I also think playing things straight up fits with Romar's overall philosophy. The Huskies are an aggressive team in every way, but fouling in that situation is a passive move. And while this is a part of Romar's philosophy that is certainly debatable, I think 55-13 the last two years and two trips to the Sweet 16 indicates that the overall philosophy is working.
• Turner also said that Duke turned down a proposed series with Washington. He said Duke instead signed a deal with Stanford because it is recruiting a player in that area. That's interesting, becuase if Jon Brockman had signed with Duke instead of UW, no doubt Duke would be coming here for a game.
• A few people have wondered about the status of the blog now that the season is over. Keep checking in. I'll try to do some season wrapup stuff in coming days as well as keep up with what's going on.
Posted by Bob Condotta at 5:49 PM
So maybe beating George Mason wouldn't have been such a cakewalk, after all.
A certain amount of the disappointment after the Connecticut loss Friday rested on the theory that George Mason figured to be such a favorable matchup for Washington. I still think the Huskies would have beaten George Mason because UW's quickness on the perimeter would have neutralized George Mason's guards much better than UConn did.
But as George Mason showed against UConn, there was a reason it had won its first three games.
And for all the complaining about officiating out here, wait for UConn fans and coaches to begin complaining about how a No. 11 seed got what were basically two home games in the NCAA tournament.
I figure it was probably mostly an oversight — the committee probably never figured George Mason would win its first two games.
But that could have been UW's biggest problem had it gotten to the Elite Eight, battling a crowd that was probably 85 percent George Mason.
As for the on-going officiating saga, I wish the guy touting the Northwest conspiracy theory would stop touting it. It makes us all seem paranoid out here.
For a last word on the officiating, I talked with a college coach I know about what happened in the UConn game and his take was essentially this:
"Look, UConn's the No. 1 seed, the game's on the East Coast in front of what was predominantly their crowd and Calhoun's kind of a bully with the refs. The officials don't go in wanting to favor anyone, but when it comes time to give someone the benefit of the doubt, guess who gets it?''
But again, Washington had plenty of chances to win the game on its own.
Harvey Perry update
Here's a story on Harvey Perry I wrote for some early editions of Saturday's paper — filler in case the game coverage couldn't get in.
But not everyone saw it, and readers of this blog would probably be particularly interested, so here it is:
Harvey Perry glanced around the Washington locker room Thursday and marveled at all of the excitement accompanying being part of a team that's in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.
"It's a great experience,'' he said.
Even if it's not quite the experience he had in mind when the season began.
Perry, a 6-foot-4 guard from Las Vegas, Nev., was expected to play a key role for the Huskies this season as a true freshman as a backup at all three perimeter positions. He played 13 minutes in Washington's exhibition win against Simon Fraser, grabbing five rebounds and dishing out two assists along with two points. That was the kind of versatility UW coaches were counting on him to contribute this year.
Then a troublesome back acted up — he has struggled with a disc problem since high school — and Perry was sidelined. He returned to practice in early February and UW coach Lorenzo Romar held out hope that Perry could resume playing before deciding it was best to have him redshirt.
"Sometimes I get down because I'm not playing but we are winning so that overwhelms that,'' Perry said.
And though he's not playing, Perry said "I'm still a part of this team practicing with the guys and helping them get prepared for the big games.''
Perry has been practicing all out for about six weeks.
How do those practices have him feeling about next season? "I think I can compete for a starting job unless my back continues to give me more problems," he said. I'm not looking forward to that.''
Perry said his back has been "holding up pretty well'' but has been tensing up at times and that it's possible he always will have problems with his back.
"It could come back and bite me at some time if I don't take care of it,'' he said. "But if I don't forget about it it won't creep up on me at all.''
Perry said he plans to spend the off-season doing more rehabilitation on his back and getting his legs back into playing shape.
"I need to work on my fundamental skills and everything and hopefully when the season comes next year I'll be ready and running,'' he said.
• Before everyone gets excited about Louisiana State coming to town next December, remember that both of their big guys could easily turn pro. Here's one draft expert who says the draft stock of both players is going through the roof:
Posted by Bob Condotta at 12:54 PM
I don't even know where to begin after that one.
But I'll start with this — that was one of the gutsiest efforts of any team I've ever seen.
There's no doubt UConn has more physical ability than Washington.
But Jamaal Williams just kept finding a way to score inside, and Justin Dentmon and Brandon Roy and Bobby Jones just kept finding a way to make UConn's guards turn the ball over (Marcus Williams had seven by himself).
Jamaal's game was simply incredible — 27 points and seven rebounds (each team highs) along with four steals, two blocks, one assist and just two turnovers in 29 minutes.
Everyone says he has no shot at the NBA due to his height, but that has to have opened some eyes.
The big topic on this board, however, has been the officiating.
I tend to tread carefully on these matters — I don't believe in conspiracies. And none of these refs have anything to do with either team or conference (two work primarily in the Big Ten as one poster here noted).
That said, there were some awfully strange calls and I don't think there's any doubt that the officials failed at what I've always heard is an official's main job — to not be noticed. The boos as they left the floor made that clear.
These guys were noticed from the first minute of the game, calling a combined 54 fouls — 33 on UW. Washington's previous high this year was 29 in the double-overtime loss at home to Arizona. I thought Justin Dentmon said it right — they were just too involved. These kinds of games are going to be intense and stuff like the double technical on Brandon Roy, the third foul on Jon Brockman when he bumped the guy heading down the court, the fifth foul on Dentmon when Marcus Williams fell down — those just don't need to be called in this type of game.
But I'm not going to accuse officials of bias or think they were favoring anybody for any reason.
Instead, I think it's officials worrying too much about keeping control of the game — anticipating that it will be emotional — and setting a trend early by calling everything. I also think they did a lot of anticipating in this game that since UW was the shorter team, when UW players got tangled up inside with UConn, the foul inevitably had to be on the smaller guy.
It's also possible that they were influenced a bit by Jim Calhoun's rant at halftime — UW had 14 fouls in the first half to UConn's nine, an edge that was more pronounced in the second half and overtime (UW had 19 fouls after halftime while UConn had 12).
That said, Washington had a lot of chances to win the game.
When the Huskies were up 80-76 with 21 seconds left on two free throws by Dentmon — who again showed an uncommon moxie for a freshman — I thought it was over, though I should have known better after seeing the Gonzaga game the night before.
But Mike Jensen fouled Marcus Williams on that drive and Rashad Anderson simply hit two huge shots.
I've seen some criticism of Romar for not defending that last play in regulation differently. But as we all should know by now, his philosophy is not to foul in that situation of being up three and time running out. Frankly, I'm not sure I always agree with that. But considering UConn's rebounding skill and the way the game was being called, there probably was as much of a chance this time of something bad happening by fouling as there was of Anderson hitting another three-pointer.
"They hit a great shot and in overtime they made the plays,'' Roy said.
That was a typical remark by the always classy Roy, who could have complained a lot more than he did about the little dust-up with Rudy Gay.
Asked what he told his team after the game, Romar said this:
"We talked to our group about keeping their heads high because we had nothing to be ashamed of. We've talked from day one, when you walk off the floor, you need to be able to answer: Did I do everything in my power to do the best job that I can do? Whether you won or lost the game is irrelevant at that point. Today we lost the game, but there's nothing that we (as coaches) could say because we laid it all out there.''
• The focus now shifts to the future. Check our paper Sunday and on-line for a look at next season and we'll have more on the blog as well in the days ahead.
• Cameron Dollar isn't going to get the Idaho job as Jim Meehan reports here.
• And it also appears as if Jim Shaw won't get the Montana State job, as this report here says.
• Thanks to everyone for all the great comments of late. This blog was an experiment this year and I think it's one that worked, in large part because of the participation of a lot of loyal fans out there.
Posted by Bob Condotta at 12:17 AM
Game day meanderings
Well, here it is. Potentially the biggest day in the modern history of Huskies basketball.
Not only would a win today get Washington into the Elite Eight for the first time since the 1953 team went to the Final Four — a great accomplishment, but a different time and era when the competition isn't what it is now — but I would argue it would also finally allow UW to say it's the top basketball program in the state.
A bold statement, maybe. But with a win, UW would have gone farther than Gonzaga in two straight NCAA tournaments and done so in a year in which it finally beat the Zags (and yes, I remember the two losses to Washington State. With every day those become more bizarre).
Here are some last-minute thoughts:
• Stay tough, the way they did a week ago. Connecticut has led the NCAA in blocked shots five straight years — and average basically nine per game this season — meaning the Huskies are going to have a few possessions that look bad. But they can't get intimidated. They didn't fade in the face of a 25-point turnaround in fortunes last week against Illinois and they'll need that same type of fortitude tonight.
• Hit some shots. Sounds obvious enough. But that shot-blocking ability of UConn is sure to make it tough at times to score inside. The antidote is to hit some three-pointers. UW beat Illinois making just 5 of 15 — I didn't think the Huskies could win with that kind of shooting. I'd be shocked if they could win this one with similar shooting.
• Get production from someone other than Brandon Roy and Jamaal Williams (and Justin Dentmon, suddenly a consistent third option). Guys like Jon Brockman or Ryan Appleby — who have combined for just nine points (all from Appleby) in the tournament are going to have to step it up offensively.
• Avoid foul trouble. UW had a lead against Louisville in the Sweet 16 last year when a brief spurt of fouls that sent Nate Robinson to the bench changed everything. It's another obvious point, I know, but early fouls on key players like Roy and Bobby Jones will really spell doom in this game.
• Hit free throws. UW can't afford to waste any scoring chances in this game and the free-throw line is one of the few places the Huskies have a noticeable statistical edge on UConn, making 74.8 percent this season to UConn's 70.3.
• Finally, here's some quotes from Lorenzo Romar on what UW needs to do today: "We're banking on the fact that we could come out and be highly aggressive and highly intense and we'll see what happens when 40 minutes are up. . " We've got to be able to not let them have their way with us in the paint — that's our primary concern. We've got to keep them off the backboards — they are plus-10 on the boards for the year (an astounding 44.1 to 34.1) and they average nine blocked shots a game. There have been times when their offense has come off the boards, and their best offense has been the second shot or the blocked shot.''
• Having said all that, I picked UConn to win in today's paper. Here's our matchup box on today's game. I had a few people say when I picked Illinois I should be supporting UW. But I think this blog is more about trying to tell you what I really think is going on. If I just blindly picked UW to win every game I'm not sure what good that does. My main reason for picking UConn is simply their height and depth. Looking at it objectively, I think the percentages indicate that UConn will wear down the Huskies. I also think that coach Jim Calhoun will do a better job handling the edges in quickness and speed that UW presents than did Bruce Weber, whom I think Lorenzo Romar outcoached. I have no problem being wrong.
• Calhoun made one interesting observation in Thursday's news conference I didn't get in the paper, calling Jones their version of Scottie Pippen. I thought that was an accurate comparison for the type of game Jones has. Not sure if Jones has the offensive skills yet that allowed Pippen to be a lottery pick, but maybe if Jones can impress NBA scouts with his defense and intangibles he will get a chance. Another good performance tonight would obviously help.
• I referred to it in one of the stories linked above, but I'll point out again that Roy seemed to agree that UConn is probably the better team if everything else is equal, an interesting observation. Said Roy: "If UConn plays their best game ever and we play our best game ever, it's tough to say [if UW could win]. I think we almost need them to have some lapses." I don't think that indicates a lack of confidence, just an honest observation from Roy, who usually gives nothing else.
Posted by Bob Condotta at 4:41 PM
These media and practice sessions the day before games are beginning to seem routine for the Washington Huskies.
Washington had a 50-minute shootaround at the Verizon Center, then met the media for about an hour. UW practiced in earnest earlier in the day at George Washington, as it had on Wednesday.
Neither session elicited much in the way of big news.
Most of the questions revolved around their potential matchups with Connecticut.
Washington players and coaches tried to be as coy as possible, saying just about everything is possible — from playing straight up, to putting Bobby Jones on Marcus Williams to using Brandon Roy at point guard as part of a bigger lineup.
Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar said nothing had been completely decided yet. Remember, the game isn't until 9:57 p.m. EST Friday, so there's lots of time left to tinker.
"It's a personnel scout, it's you vs. me — that's what's going to decide it,'' Romar said.
What he meant is that each player on his team has to understand what they have to do to take away the strength of whoever they are guarding on UConn. If the coaches think that can't happen, then they won't set up that matchup.
"We have to be careful that we don't put someone on one of their players that can't take away their strength,'' he said. "That's what's most important.''
Jones said he figured he'd start on UConn forward Rudy Gay but that he'd probably end up getting a shot at just about all the perimeter players at some point in the game.
I wouldn't be surprised if Jones started off on Marcus Williams, however, to see how that works.
If UW does that, 5-foot-11 Justin Dentmon has to guard 6-6 Denham Brown, or 6-5 Rashad Anderson when he comes in the game, since Roy would then have to take on Gay.
Asked about using Roy more at point guard, Romar said, "There are two sides to that. There were times last year when we were really small and we'd play bigger teams but they couldn't catch us because they were too big and that ended up being an advantage to us because of our quickness.'' But the flipside of that seemed to come against Louisville, when the Cardinals ended up wearing down the Huskies with their bulk.
The other part of it, Romar said, is whether UConn would try to match UW's quickness by going to a smaller lineup. "Maybe they don't go with their big guys the whole time,'' Romar said.
Romar added, "Right now, we are going to play the way we've been playing.''
And while much was made in some circles of UW using a zone defense for a few periods of the Illinois game, Romar said he didn't anticipate doing that much.
"We are a pretty simple team in terms of what we do,'' he said. "We don't play a lot of zone or gimmick defenses. We pretty much play pressure man-to-man. I don't know how that will factor into any [of UConn's] thinking.''
Here are some other notes:
• Asked if there's a Pac-10 team that resembles UConn, Romar pointed to UCLA, a team UW beat twice. "But they run so much more than UCLA,'' Romar said. "UCLA plays a deliberate slowdown game — very calculated possessions each time. UConn, they get out and go, so they are different that way.''
• Jon Brockman showed up for the shootaround with a noticeable scratch on his right arm and shoulder, courtesy of a poke from teammate Hans Gasser in practice Wednesday. He also hurt his elbow in practice Monday. He said neither injury is serious.
• Fans who have made the trip to Washington D.C. are invited to attend a pregame party at the team hotel, the Capital Holiday Inn. It runs from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. with the UW band and cheerleaders performing from 6:30 to 7 p.m. Food is available for $15 and there is a cash bar.
Posted by Bob Condotta at 9:22 AM
Like the team, I have arrived in Washington D.C.
I hope they're more ready to play UConn than I am to interview them, however, as that's a long trip.
Here are some thoughts as the action really starts to get under way today:
• The teams will each hold open practices at the Verizon Center â€" all the signs here still say MCI Center but it was renamed earlier this month â€" and also meet the media. We'll have reports here later in the day and in our regular on-line and newspaper products, as well.
[b] Here's a link to a story in our paper today where I asked the question whether Brandon Roy can be considered the best player in Husky history.
Obviously, as I state in the story, it's subjective. And there's no doubt he has to be.
Still, it's interesting to consider just where he does rank. For several reasons â€" his late arrival due to the SAT scores, his injury last year, etc. â€" Roy won't rank real high in a lot of career numbers. But his impact on the program is unquestioned. In a way, maybe that's what the debate is really about. Is it numbers that are important, or what one means to a program?
A couple more wins this weekend and there will be little doubt where Roy ranks.
• Here also is Steve Kelley's column where he writes about how classy Roy is in everything he does.
I will concur. Brandon Roy has been a real delight to deal with since the day he arrived and all of us who cover the team are really going to miss him. He gets quoted all the time in part because he's the leader of the team and the obvious guy to quote. He always has time for everybody and in every situation - after tough losses, after long practices - and even when he's heard the question a dozen times already. But he'd get quoted all the time even if he were the 12th man because he is so gracious with his time and insightful with his thoughts.
• One reader asked me to ask Lorenzo Romar about possible matchups â€" namely, playing Roy at the point more so that UW could have a bigger lineup to go against UConn, using Mike Jensen, Bobby Jones, Jamaal Williams and Jon Brockman. Going with a big lineup makes some sense, though it does take Justin Dentmon off the floor and he has been one of UW's best players the last few weeks.
As for asking Romar, however, the coach is always as gracious as his time as anybody else I've dealt with â€" you may see a theme here with both the coach and the best player being classy guys. But one thing Romar doesn't like to do is give away secrets.
That was made apparent in humorous fashion after the Illinois game when Jones began to answer a question about the last seconds of the game by saying that UW has a general strategy to switch everything in the last 10 seconds of the shot clock. Romar tried to cut Jones off before realizing the secret had gotten out. Not that it's probably not something most smart opponents wouldn't figure out. But Romar is so competitive that he's always looking for that edge.
• Here is another story from the Times dealing with Todd Turner's response to Lute Olson's criticism of UW's schedule and his plans for future UW schedules.
One thing the story doesn't mention is that UW may be able to get in a tournament of some sort next year if rules are relaxed next month limiting the number of times teams can play in preseason tournaments to two over a four-year span. If that rules is relaxed, there will be a slew of new preseason tournaments next year and UW will try to either host one or get in one. However, the well-known ones such as the Maui Invitational, the Great Alaska Shootout, etc., are already spoken for.
Posted by Bob Condotta at 10:57 PM
The team is off to Washington, D.C., having left after a morning practice at Washington on Tuesday.
And today, so am I, as are many others who intend to get to Friday's game.
Here, then, a few notes to tide the blog over until we arrive.
• One reader pointed out that Washington has played just two games outside the Pacific Time Zone all season -- its two wins in Arizona. Not sure if that will have any impact, but maybe it plays into the team's decision to leave a little early to get acclimated to the time change. Mostly, I think the Huskies just wanted to get back there early since it's a long trip and they'll now have an extra day to settle in.
• We have a story in Wednesday's paper and on-line about the memorable 1998 game between UW and UConn. One thing I didn't mention was Lorenzo Romar's memory of watching that game while head coach at Pepperdine. "I was pulling for the Washington Huskies and just thinking of all the things that could have happened when Rip Hamilton made that shot,'' he said. "We've witnessed how good of a pro he's been. Great players end up making those types of plays. I'm sure it's something Washington players and fans have played over and over in their minds.''
• Several people sent me this story from the Hartford Courant that includes a seemingly incendiary quote from UConn guard Rashad Anderson. I'm one of those who doesn't think such stuff matters this time of year. I can't believe players on either side really need anything extra to get fired up come Sweet 16 time. But it's interesting reading nonetheless, and UW coaches will make sure their players see it. I remember Ken Bone reading some quotes from Pacific coach Bob Thomason taking some subtle swipes at Washington before the second round game last year.
• Here's an interesting story out of Arizona that includes a Tyson-esque roundhouse at Washington's schedule this year from Lute Olson.
He's complaining that the Huskies got a higher seed than the Wildcats and, I guess, thus got to wait another round before having to face a No. 1 seed. On the other hand, Arizona could have just held on to that 12-point lead it had early in the second half when it played the Huskies in Tucson in the last game of the regular season and gotten a better seed. Olson mentions that Arizona went a game deeper in the tournament. He doesnt mention that Washington finished two games better in the regular season standings. I remember last year, when UW won the Pac-10 Conference Tournament title and Arizona won the regular season title, Olson said the regular-season title meant more. I agree with him on that point, but he seems to be flipflopping now to suit his more immediate argument.
And Olson says "They say they're not going to be influenced by a team's record?'' Maybe he was quoted incorrectly or out of context. But if not, what's he talking about? Of course the tournament committee is going to be influenced by a team's record. That's the whole point, isn't it? That argument makes no sense at all.
Posted by Bob Condotta at 10:03 AM
We'll start today by linking the two stories that ran in our paper and on our Web site today.
One is a look at the matchup problems that UConn will present for Washington.
I already received one note from a reader saying that I didn't mention how UW's quickness will be a matchup problem for UConn.
That's a good point — we all learned against Illinois on Saturday that size isn't all that matters. On the other hand, even the UW players and coaches say that UConn will be a lot different than Illinois. I think UConn has its fair share of quickness and athleticism as well as height.
"It's going to be a difficult matchup for us,'' UW coach Lorenzo Romar said today in a teleconference with local and national media. "Those guys are not only tall and long but very active. They are great shot blockers.''
That means UW is going to have to get a lot of baskets in transition. Not sure UW can win this one depending on its half-court offense.
Here's a shorter story leading off with Jon Brockman's struggles in the NCAA tournament so far.
As Brandon Roy said in the story, the Huskies will need Brockman in this one. UConn has so much size that Brockman will almost certainly have to play a key role for UW to have a chance.
Of course, I remember writing that UW couldn't beat Illinois if Brockman again went scoreless, as he did against Utah State. More than happy to be wrong about that. But I'm not sure UW could pull that one off again.
• Here's a link to a blog by Jim Meehan of the Spokesman-Review in Spokane that includes an update on the Idaho coaching search.
There is no mention of Cameron Dollar. I think everyone realizes that Cameron wants a head coaching job sooner rather than later. But if he's forced to stay at UW another year or two, the Huskies will be the winners.
Dollar has said he didn't intend to talk with anyone seriously while UW was still playing, so maybe that's why his name is out of these types of stories right now. He told me in San Diego that "my cell phone's turned off.''
Dollar has also been rumored at Pepperdine, but as Bud Withers reported in our paper today, Gonzaga assistant Bill Grier could be one of the leading candidates for that one. Pepperdine is also thought to be interested in USC assistant Gib Arnold, a former head coach at the College of Southern Idaho. Arnold also was previously an assistant at Pepperdine.
• Here's a link to a story about the future of the Cal Bears and whether Leon Powe will return. Never too early to start thinking about next year.
If Powe comes back, I figure Cal will be the consensus No. 2 preseason pick behind UCLA. If he doesn't, not sure who will fill that role. UW will be a hard team to judge heading into next year with so many new faces.
• Finally, here's a link to a column in The Connecticut Post that's a good overview of how those Huskies are feeling right now.
Posted by Bob Condotta at 12:49 PM
Lots of discussion here about the refs.
Here's a few of my thoughts on that:
• Here's how I understand the officiating works at the NCAA Tournament. The refs are not all from one conference (in reality, all college basketball refs generally work for several conferences at once). They send a pool of officials from different conferences to each site, then pair them together. None of the refs were from the Pac-10 conferences. I know Shows has done a lot of SEC games, for instance. But none of those guys had worked any Husky games any time recently and none of the UW people I talked with knew who any of them where.
• I never buy claims of bias. I didn't at the Super Bowl and I don't here. Now, officials can be influenced by home crowds, pleads from coaches and anticipating calls against star players — which is where I think guys like Adam Morrison and J.J. Redick seem to always benefit. I think Brandon Roy may be reaching that point where he is getting the benefit of the doubt, as well.
• No doubt, the game was called differently than a lot of others — UW's 39 free throws were four more than the Huskies had shot in any other game this season. It's interesting that it's always been thought that one reason Pac-10 teams underachieve come tournament time is that they aren't prepared for referees who don't call a close game and let a lot of things go. How this game was called seemed the opposite in many cases.
• Still, I think the Huskies were the more aggressive team, particularly down the stretch. Illinois seemed to settle for a lot of jumpers while Roy, Justin Dentmon and Bobby Jones did an awful lot of driving to the hoop — Roy and Dentmon accounted for 26 of UW's 39 free throws. Dee Brown said as much afterward.
• At halftime, much of the talk in the press room was how all the calls seemed to go against UW in that last four-minute stretch as Illinois came back. But that was one of the few times when Illinois seemed like the more aggressive team — almost all the calls came on drives to the hoop.
• The free throw numbers further indicate that it was the type of fouls Illinois was committing and when they came that was as important. Illinois was whistled for 28 fouls to 17 for UW, which is not quite as much of a disparity as the free throw attempts — UW shot 39 to 11 for Illinois. That indicates that Illinois was called for a lot more fouls when the Huskies were in shooting situations, largely on drives to the hoop — all 14 of Roy's attempts came on such plays.
OK, enough with the officials. The Huskies are meeting the media today before practice. They will practice in Seattle tomorrow then leave for Washington D.C. — it's now spring break so they can take off early. They did much the same last year when they left three days early to get acclimated to the altitude of Albuquerque.
Posted by Bob Condotta at 9:00 PM
I'll start off with the obvious — I was wrong in my analyzing of this game, though I wasn't alone. I didn't run into too many people down here who thought the Huskies would beat Illinois and advance to the Sweet 16.
Here are some thoughts on where we were wrong:
Underestimating the Pac-10: The Pac-10 now has two teams in the Sweet 16 and could have three. The Big Ten is down to one team — Ohio State. And in two tournament games between the two leagues, the Pac-10 is 2-0.
Obviously, the conference was a little better than we thought, and the Arizona-Wisconsin result should have been a clue.
Underestimating UW's grit: The Oregon loss, and the fact that it happened after Aaron Brooks levied that hit on Ryan Appleby, led a lot of people to question UW's toughness.
But it was just one game, and the reality is that the Brooks-Appleby thing probably had little to do with the result. Remember, the Huskies still led until deep into the second half of that game. This has always been a team to go full-out for 40 minutes a game and take hits and keep on coming back.
Overestimating Illinois' height: One reason I put so much stock into Illinois' height advantage was that Lorenzo Romar really seemed worried about it in his talks with the media Friday. UW is shorter than a lot of teams but usually gets away with its athleticism. But Illinois figured to be just as athletic. But the Huskies seemed to just try a little bit harder which helped mitigate the height difference.
Underestimating UW's hunger: I always think it's relevant to compare which team may have the most to gain. Illinois made it to the title game last year while UW was stopped in the round of 16. Illinois' James Augustine said he thought Illinois let up a bit at times in the second half. I don't think UW ever did, and that might have proved the difference in a 3-point game.
Here are some additional notes:
• The Huskies flew home on a charter plane after the game which should help in the turnaround to getting back to Washington D.C. Their next game will be Friday. The Huskies are now on spring break and will probably leave as early as Tuesday.
• Wondering why Jamaal Williams switched onto Dee Brown at the end? Basically, the Huskies have a general philosophy of switching at the end of possessions and games, which eliminates confusion. Bobby Jones let that out of the bag while speaking on the podium afterward much to the chagrin of Lorenzo Romar, who tried to stop him.
• That was just one of several humorous moments with the media afterward. Jones drew some laughs when he couldn't remember what conference Illinois is in, quickly saying he meant no disrespect. And Jones also added "big time'' when Brandon Roy completed an answer about how important the four-point-play by Justin Dentmon was.
• Romar said he never thought about fouling on the last play when Brown tried a 3-pointer.
"The only reason it crossed my mind was because after that Stanford game (when Dentmon memorably fouled Chris Hernandez) I've been asked that question 7,003 times,'' he said. Then he pointed out that that's the only time UW has lost in that situation in recent memory. "We lost one time,'' he said. "We had to go with the percentages.''
• The two big defensive efforts were obviously Jones on Brown and Mike Jensen on Augustine. Augustine looked unstoppable for a while before Jensen buckled down. "Mike wasn't on him the entire first half and there were some mental lapses,'' Romar said. "When Mike decided to knuckle down and really try to prevent him from catching the basketball — he was strong, he was smart enough to do it.''
• We'll obviously have a lot more here in the coming days now that the season is continuing.
Posted by Bob Condotta at 8:24 PM
I say that because I think this is the day when the Huskies can really separate themselves from a lot of other college basketball programs.
For all that the Huskies have done the past two years, it's obvious that they are still regarded somewhat skeptically on the national stage -- even if I don't think they are quite as disrespected as a lot of other people think they are.
And there are some legitimate reasons for that skepticism.
UW has a lot of wins the last two years, but in the NCAA tournament, they've beaten Montana, Pacific and Utah State. They've lost to UAB and Louisville.
This is when everyone is watching most, and frankly, the Huskies have mostly just done what everybody would have thought, and not always in the most impressive fashion -- both the Montana and Utah State games had some rugged patches aesthetically.
But beat Illinois today, and as Bobby Jones said "everyone will be on our bandwagon.''
Not only would it be a win against an elite program, but it would put the Huskies in the Sweet 16 for two straight years, something that only the best programs do.
That's what got Gonzaga where they are, those three straight Sweet 16 appearances from 1999-2001.
It's also something that only UCLA, Arizona and Stanford among Pac-10 teams have done since the tournament began expanding in 1975.
Jones, Brandon Roy and several of the other Huskies were playing up the "no respect'' angle when they talked with reporters Friday.
"We're just taking all of that and using it as motivation to try to prove all the doubters wrong,'' Jones said.
Win today, however, and there won't be a lot of doubters left.
But it won't be easy.
As one observer said Friday, the Huskies are usually the most athletic team on the floor. That won't be the case against Illinois, led by lightning-quick point guard Dee Brown.
They also will have a sizeable height disadvantage at a lot of spots up front, with Illinois led inside by a pair of 6-10 guys -- center Shaun Pruitt and forward James Augustine.
The Huskies will have to use their quickness to mitigate that size differential.
The likely matchups for UW are Bobby Jones on Brown, Justin Dentmon on Illinois shooting guard Rich McBride, Roy on small forward Brian Randle, Mike Jensen on Augustine and Jon Brockman on Pruitt.
Randle, regarded as Illinois' best defensive player, will also have the primary responsibility defending Roy.
Interestingly, Illinois seemed to know a lot about the Huskies. Both Randle and Brown mentioned having been captivated by Roy's play for several years and seeking out opportunities to watch the Huskies.
"I really like his style of game,'' Randle said. "He's a matchup nightmare for anybody.''
• Augustine said the obvious: "We're going to try to exploit their bigs,'' he said. Illinois also brings 6-9 forward Warren Carter off the bench -- he had 12 points against Air Force -- giving the Illini a lot of options up front. That could make foul trouble a key in this game.
• UW practiced in private in the early afternoon and then had a shootaround at Cox Arena after the mandatory session with the media. UW coach Lorenzo Romar said the Huskies didn't go real hard. "We didn't want to put a lot of stress on our legs,'' he said.
• Here was Illinois coach Bruce Weber's take on the game: "We will run. I think the key for is to stop them from running. Making them play some halfcourt basketball. Not that they are bad at it, but they are just so much more effective in transition.''
• Bad news for UW? Illinois does a good job taking care of the basketball, losing the fourth-fewest turnovers in the Big Ten this year at 12.4.
• Not sure it means anything given that it was three months ago, but Illinois clobbered Oregon 89-59 in Portland in December while the Ducks obviously beat UW once and gave them a real run in Eugene. UW did beat Oregon handily at home.
• Sure, the Pac-10 is 3-1. But all three wins came in a favorite's role. This weekend will determine if the Pac-10 can really say it was underrated this year.
• Interesting sight seeing UCLA and the Huskies cross paths in the hallway here today. Just about every Bruin player greeted Romar warmly. "O-town" Romar yelled at UCLA center Michael Fey of Olympia, who laughed. And Ben Howland came up and shook Brandon Roy's hand enthusiastically with the two then sharing congratulations on their wins. Roy says he's rooting for all the Pac-10 teams to make the conference look good.
Posted by Bob Condotta at 1:04 AM
The day began with a bomb scare and ended with a fear of an early bombing out.
But then the Huskies shook off the lethargy of waiting around and the jitters of their first NCAA tournament game and beat Utah State in about the way most figured they would, 75-61.
It wasn't overly pretty at times, but the Aggies play that way.
All the UW coaches indicated during the week that this wasn't likely to be a game where the Huskies would cruise and win big and look great in the process -- the Aggies are too tough a team for that.
As Lorenzo Romar said afterward "they were everything we expected they would be.''
Somewhat shockingly, Utah State outrebounded UW 35-22.
That's not only UW's lowest rebounding total of the season, but the most they have been outrebounded by all season as well.
UW had just five offensive rebounds. Utah State's Nate Harris had 14 rebounds, the most of any UW opponent this season.
Conversely, UW hit had just seven turnovers -- their fewest other than the school-record-low three in the home game against Arizona State -- and forced Utah State into a season-high 22.
And UW hit 12 of 27 three-pointers, the former tying a season-high, the latter setting one.
A lot of stats, I know, but there were a lot of interesting numbers in this game.
Another odd one -- just six Huskies scored, which also set a season low.
But the most important number was the score, and the fact that UW has moved on.
The players talked a lot about proving all of those people wrong who thought the Huskies were going to be the No. 5 seed to go down. Instead, it was Syracuse and Nevada that were No. 5's that fell by the wayside.
Romar, though, wasn't really buying it, saying "it's the NCAA tournament. That should be enough to get you motivated.''
• From a practical sense, nobody with the UW party really seemed to think the delay of the game mattered much. The team heard about it while eating breakfast and kept their schedule the same other than moving the pre-game meal back.
• Here's a link to Andy Katz's most recent blog on ESPN.
What's most interesting is Katz talking about the underclassmen who could decide to leave early for the NBA if they have a good NCAA tournament. Among those he mentions is Arizona freshman Marcus Williams, the Roosevelt High grad. That's the first I've heard that Williams is thinking of bolting. What a blow that would be for the Wildcats, who will already lose Hassan Adams and Chris Rodgers.
• Here's a link to a story on Fox Sports that's an NBA scout's take on top prospects playing in the tournament. Nothing but plaudits for Brandon Roy.
• And finally, here's a story on the Illinois win over Air Force for a little taste of what awaits UW Saturday.
• The Huskies will hold their press conferences around 3 p.m. tomorrow and will also have a private practice at Cox Arena. We'll have updates here throughout the day.
Posted by Bob Condotta at 2:48 PM
Hopefully it's not a bad omen for the Huskies that it was a pair of dogs that delayed everything here today.
As you can read elsewhere, there was a bomb scare at 9:40 a.m. that caused about an hour-and-10-minute delay in the action here today.
That means the Husky game will likely not tip off until about 8 p.m. or so. There is an official tip time of 7:55 listed on one handout, but an NCAA official told me it could be closer to 8:25 p.m.
It really all depends now on how long all the other games take â€" an overtime or two would obviously delay things.
Either way, UW will likely be playing long into the night, as they did at the Pac-10 tournament when they tipped off at 8:55 p.m.
One good thing? The UW game should be almost completely uninterrupted now, as every other game should be long over by the time the Huskies hit halftime.
Here are a few other notes and thoughts as game time nears:
• Hopefully for the Huskies all these upsets get out of the way and don't portend a big day for the little guys. But wins by the likes of Wisconsin-Milwaukee over Oklahoma point out how dicey this tournament can be for the major powers if they don't play well.
• Brandon Roy made an interesting comment Wednesday about the Huskies not having any superstars this year but being more of a team. The stats bear out the opposite â€" that Roy is more of a superstar than any of UW's players were last year and that the scoring is more concentrated in the hands of just a few. But maybe he feels there is more teamwork this year.
• An early player to watch for Utah State is Jaycee Carroll. He hit 45 percent of his three-pointers this year to rank third in the country. But he's only made two of his last 17. The Huskies have to hope he doesn't break out, ala Josh Akognon or Chamberlain Oguchi. He is likely to be guarded at the beginning by Roy.
• Other likely matchups:
Mike Jensen will defend Utah State's best player, forward Nate Harris, who averages 17.2 points per game. The Huskies need him to play the way he used to on Arizona State's Ike Diogu.
Bobby Jones is likely to take on Utah State's 29-year-old point guard, David Pak.
Justin Dentmon is likely to take on Durrall Peterson, technically listed as a forward, but a 6-3 player who plays more on the wing.
And Jon Brockman is likely to guard Utah State's 6-10 center, Cass Matheus.
• One person close to the UW program told me that the Huskies will win as long as they commit 15 or fewer turnovers and outrebound Utah State by about 10. The Aggies aren't a great rebounding team since they play so much zone on defense.
• Watch for Cameron Dollar's name to surface at Pepperdine now that Paul Westphal has been fired.
Dollar said yesterday he doesn't intend to talk about coaching positions until after UW's season is over.
• There's a good and enthusiastic crowd here for the Alabama-Marquette game, which is giving this place a lot more atmosphere than it had for the workouts yesterday. Those were the least-attended workouts I've ever seen in about 15 years of coming to these things.
Posted by Bob Condotta at 6:56 PM
The Huskies just wrapped up their practice and media session here at Cox Arena.
No real big news, as might be expected, as these things rarely yield a whole lot.
Before they came here for what is mostly an exhibition practice, they had a real workout at the University of San Diego.
"The guys really got after it,'' said UW assistant coach Cameron Dollar.
After the media session, the team had a 40-minute practice on the floor here, that was mostly shooting and a few basic drills.
The last five minutes turned into a dunk contest.
Most impressive were Harvey Perry, Joel Smith and Justin Dentmon.
Perry turned in a nice 360 effort; Dentmon's best came when he bounced the ball off the ground then caught it and dunked after a 360; and Smith's best might have come when he bounced the ball off the ground, then dunked it with a powerful windmill.
Unfortunately, there weren't a whole lot of people to witness any of it.
There couldn't have been more than 100 people in attendance, a far cry from last year in Boise when the atmosphere seemed a lot more electric.
UW's only health concern is Ryan Appleby. But he said he's getting a lot better with each day and the swelling in his face seemed significantly less today.
Posted by Bob Condotta at 1:52 PM
Everyone arrived safely here last night, which I can attest to first-hand as a bunch of us in the media happened to be on the same flight as the team.
Unlike their pro counterparts, college teams fly commercial. Lorenzo Romar was in a coach seat -- yes, that seems somewhat fitting I guess -- just a few rows in front of me.
Some of the assistants brought computers with them and watched video of Utah State during the flight. Players seemed to be doing the things you'd expect -- some watching movies, some listening to music, others talking or reading.
The Huskies were to practice today in private then head to Cox Arena for their official public shootaround at 5 p.m.
We'll keep you posted here on news from that and the press conferences that precede it.
• Tre Simmons was at practice in Seattle yesterday, back in town for a week or so from having played the last few months in Greece. He said he's enjoying his experience there and will head back there when this vacation is done to play some more in Greece.
• Here's an ESPN report on Gonzaga assistant Leon Rice saying he's no longer interested in the Idaho job.
Interesting move -- none of those Gonzaga guys seem to want to go anywhere as that staff has been together longer than the Rolling Stones. That could have implications at UW, however, as Husky assistant Cameron Dollar remains interested in the Idaho job and has talked with UI officials. But it's unlikely anything will happen on that front until after the NCAA tournament.
Posted by Bob Condotta at 5:24 PM
The Huskies met the media in Seattle one last time before practicing, then catching a flight to San Diego.
The general theme of the day remains that this is a game the Huskies can - and probably should - win if they play well, but can lose if they don't.
Sounds obvious this time of year, to be sure, but it's probably good the Huskies realize it.
"We can't take anybody lightly," said guard Bobby Jones. "We have to treat everybody like they are a No. 1 seed."
Several of the Huskies are aware that they have almost become a chic pick to lose in the first round.
Brandon Roy gave an interesting answer in response to that, saying that if he were an outsider and was looking for an upset to pick, he might pick this one, too.
"We've proven that we can beat Gonzaga and UCLA but we've also proven that we can lose to Washington State twice in a season," Roy said. "So if you went over a bracket and said which team could slip, I'd say Washington, too. It's something we brought upon ourselves.
"But I'm picking Washington. I think we'll be fine. . ... But I understand why people are doing that. We just have to try to make up for it."
Notes and quotes
• Ryan Appleby said he is feeling better every day and he is taking part in every aspect of practice. "I think I can be normal (for the game on Thursday)," he said. "I'm not really too worried about it."
• Maybe you've seen this, but it's worth noting again that Utah State has the fourth-best record in college basketball over the last seven seasons with a winning percentage of 78.1. Duke is at the top of the list at 85.7.
Interestingly, UW has played Gonzaga, which is No. 2 on the list at 82.2., and likely would play Illinois (No. 3 at 79.3) if it can beat Utah State.
• Here's a view from the newspaper in Logan, Utah about how upset they would have been there had Utah State not gotten a bid. One of the benefits the Aggies saw from moving into the WAC this year from the Big West was the ability to get at-large bids. The WAC has sent at least two teams to the tournament 19 of the past 20 years and has also had at least one team advance to the second round of the tournament in each of the last 10 years.
• We're arriving in San Diego tonight as well and I'll try to have regular updates here from the news conferences Wednesday and on the scene at the arena. The Huskies will have an open practice at Cox Arena at 5:10 p.m. Wednesday.
Every team is mandated to have an open practice, which is usually just a glorified shootaround. A real practice is usually held in private somewhere else. I remember last year in Boise, the last 10 minutes or so turned into a dunk contest for the appreciative fans with Nate Robinson trying some of the same dunks that won him the NBA contest last month. The Huskies will meet the media in San Diego at 4:30 p.m.
Wednesday, meaning there won't really be any news regarding UW until then.
Posted by Bob Condotta at 12:49 AM
On Aaron Brooks, that is? I hope.
I think the University of Oregon did the right thing by suspending guard Aaron Brooks for two games next year — Oregon's season opener and the game against Washington in Seattle in January — on top of the punishment he already received for the forearm he threw at Ryan Appleby in the Pac-10 Tournament.
Here's a link to the statement released by Oregon that should give you all the background you need.
I heard some people saying he should be suspended for five games for what he did, and this new punishment will basically amount to almost four quarters, considering he was kicked out of the UW game with 10 minutes left in the first half then suspended for the Cal game the following night. Since Oregon lost in double overtime — when depth certainly became a factor — his absence was undoubtedly costly.
Still, there are questions.
One of the first I told about the news of Brooks said he hoped Oregon wasn't trying to sell it as a way to keep Brooks out of danger from angry Huskies fans. Oregon isn't doing any such thing, but I'm sure that view will be out there.
I ran that sentiment by UW athletic director Todd Turner who said that was an bad way of looking at the situation. Instead, he said it's fair to everyone involved to remove the spotlight from Brooks and keep it on the game at hand. Otherwise, that game would likely become a sideshow all about Brooks and the reaction he receives.
Also, consider that Brooks is from Seattle and he will now miss the last college game in his hometown. I think that's a fairly significant penalty. And who knows how important that game might be to the two teams next season and what Brooks' absence might mean?
Certainly, determining what's fair in such a situation is a dicey proposition. But I think by doing something more, Oregon athletic officials showed they were trying to do the right thing. And all Pac-10 players should also be even more aware of the consequences of trying something similar.
Posted by Bob Condotta at 12:44 AM
No doubt, the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee did the Washington Huskies a lot of favors with a No. 5 seed and a spot in San Diego, probably the most preferable destination of them all.
But the committee wasn't completely magnanimous - UW's first-round opponent of Utah State is no easy road to the second round.
One close observer of the college scene I know who knows a lot more about Utah State than I do remarked that the Aggies are probably more of a 10 seed in ability.
Indeed, the Aggies have a lot of the things that make for March Cinderellas ...quot; a lot of key seniors (three who start, including point guard David Pak and the team's best player in Nate Harris); a lot of good 3-point shooters ...quot; Utah State was third in the nation at 41.9 percent during the regular season from beyond the arc this year; and a winning tradition - this is the third time in the last four years the Aggies have made the tournament, and sixth since 1998.
UW coach Lorenzo Romar said Utah State is more along the lines of the Pacific team that the Huskies beat in the second round last year, than the Montana team they beat in the first round.
Utah State also has a little bit of size in the middle in 6-10 center Cassiano Matheus of Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Add it up, and I don't think any Husky fan should start looking ahead too much to Illinois just yet.
Consider as well that No. 12 seeds have a pesky history ...quot; at least one No. 12 seed has made it to the Sweet 16 five of the last seven years.
Of this year's 12's, Utah State is as dangerous as the rest, certainly moreso - on paper, anyway - than Montana, a No. 12 in the Minneapolis region that will face Nevada in the first round.
That Nevada is a No. 5 is interesting as well. Nevada won the WAC regular season and tournament titles ahead of Utah State, which was second in each.
But the Aggies won at Nevada and then lost in overtime there in the conference tournament. Nevada did blast Utah State in Logan 75-57 on Feb. 25 in what was the Aggies' most decisive loss of the season.
And make fun of the WAC all you want, but its final conference RPI was No. 9, according to Ken Pomeroy, while the Pac-10 was No. 7. But take out bottom-feeders Idaho and San Jose State - which were a combined 9-50 against Division-I teams - and the WAC looks a lot better with six teams ranked 124 or higher. That's almost as good as the Pac-10, whose No, 6 team (USC) was ranked 117 in the final RPI.
Utah State is also likely to play a physical style that has bothered the Huskies this year.
"Coach told us it is going to be a physical game and that this will be a good opponent to show that we can play a physical brand of basketball,'' said senior forward Jamaal Williams. "I think every team is going to try to pound on us a little bit and try to take us out of our game. We have to show that we can handle that.''
UW's biggest statistical advantage could be in rebounding - the Huskies outrebounded their opponents by seven a game this year (37.9 to 30.8) while Utah State was basically even (33.6 to 33.3 for opponents).
At first glance, anyway, nothing about this game strikes me as easy.
Posted by Bob Condotta at 11:05 AM
Wow, I didn't see that one coming.
And I'm not just talking about the cheap shot Aaron Brooks put on Ryan Appleby, either.
How that game unraveled in the final 15 minutes is kind of a mystery, giving that the Huskies seemed so in control for the first 25.
But a quick analysis reveals a few things:
• UW had 19 turnovers, tying the second-highest total of the season -- only 28 at USC in early January was more. Interestingly, 12 were by seniors Brandon Roy (5), Bobby Jones (4) and Mike Jensen (3), lending some credence to the comments Roy made after the game that the seniors didn't lead very well.
• Appleby was understandably not the same player after the elbow/forearm he took from Brooks, and didn't score for only the second time all season. That made the bench non-existent other than what Jamaal Williams brought.
• The loss of Appleby for a while and the fact that Justin Dentmon played just 20 minutes due to foul trouble couldn't have helped the turnover total. Still, as coach Lorenzo Romar said, Oregon was without its main point guard in Brooks for the final 30 minutes, as well. The Ducks used a walk-on, Adrian Stelly, for 10 minutes and he was on the floor for much of the comeback.
• Chamberlain Oguchi obviously was the difference for Oregon's offense in the second half. Jones did the main job keeping him scoreless in the first half. But Oguchi finally hit a couple three-pointers midway through the second half when Joel Smith was on him, and by the time Jones got back in the game, Oguchi was off and running.
• The scoring was way too concentrated in the hands of three players — Roy (30), Williams (17) and Jones (10). Jensen had just one and Appleby zero.
• UW's lack of interior defense was exposed badly by Ivan Johnson, who finally showed why the Ducks have put up with so much from him this season yet still kept him around. He had 16 points and 10 rebounds and as Roy said, pretty much did what he wanted inside against UW.
• Roy said he didn't think the Huskies played with the same urgency as did the Ducks. "We forgot that every game they play is their last game,'' Roy said. "They fought with more heart than we did. We didn't have any fight.''
Certainly, it looked that way by the end. But UW did come out inspired and led through the first 32 minutes of the game. This, instead, looked an awful lot like the two WSU losses, where UW seemed in control then let it get away late. It also looked a little like the New Mexico game in the Wooden Classic, UW's only other neutral court game this season. Maybe UW has trouble keeping up that intensity away from home.
• Let the Cameron Dollar season begin. Idaho fired Leonard Perry Thursday night and Dollar will obviously be a candidate for that job. His name could also arise in Wyoming if the Cowboys fire Steve McClain, as will reportedly happen next week. Wyoming's AD is Gary Barta, who was an assistant AD at Washington for quite a while, and left shortly after Dollar came to Seattle, meaning the two know each other, and Barta has a lot of places to go for references on Dollar.
• I've had several people tell me I was too light on Brooks in my description of what happened last night. I'm in no way attempting to downplay the incident. But I have to confess from where I was sitting, on press row behind the basket on UW's end, I didn't really see it, and we were not afforded replays in the arena. Deadline pressure didn't help, but I tried to put it in perspective as best as I could.
Posted by Bob Condotta at 6:55 PM
That UCLA-Oregon State game was as dreadful as I feared with the Beavers unable to put up much of a fight due to having three starters sidelined.
The bad news for everyone else is that the Bruins hardly had to try to get an easy win. None of UCLA's players played more than 24 minutes, which should leave them well-rested for Friday night's semi-final against Arizona.
• The beginning of the USC-Cal game is only confirming my thoughts that the Trojans are a dangerous team. Gabe Pruitt's healthy, RouSean Cromwell is also back, and USC seems highly motivated. I'll call it right now with 12:09 left in the first half — USC wins this one.
• Speaking of motivation, reader Tom commented that he was worried about UW's motivation tonight after having beaten Oregon twice already this year.
I'd say not to worry.
For one thing, I don't think motivation has ever really been this team's problem with this group of players. There have been a few blips here and there — the first WSU game, the first half at ASU last week maybe — but this is a group that likes to play the game and gets up for the big stage.
Also, it's Oregon. That still means something.
And as far as beating a team three times in a season, we've seen it twice already today with UCLA knocking off Oregon State again and Arizona besting Stanford — each for the third time.
Posted by Bob Condotta at 2:17 PM
A few news and notes as the Pac-10 Conference tournament kicks off its second day.
• Here's a link to a story in the Oregonian on the Ducks' win over Washington State and looking ahead to tonight's clash with the Huskies.
As I wrote on the last blog item, the biggest challenge for the Ducks will be to mitigate UW's huge rebounding advantage against Oregon this season. UW outrebounded Oregon a combined 78-43 in two wins.
• I'm watching the Arizona-Stanford game here. The Washington media corps is situated at the baseline near the Arizona bench which means we can hear a lot of what Lute Olson is saying to his players and the officials.
• Not sure what the Huskies did wrong Wednesday, but somehow they have dropped a seed in the latest Bracketology on ESPN. Sure it has more to do with changes in the rest of the bracket than anything Husky-related. But the difference in real seeding from 4 to 5 can be quite vast— everyone who follows college hoops knows the history of 12 seeds beating 5s. There isn't as much of a historyh of 13s beating 4s.
• Not a surprise that Brandon Roy would make the All-American Team of Gregg Doyel of CBS Sportsline considering what a fan Doyel has been of Roy's.
• There was another interesting note in the Daily News that USC will play at Kansas next year, which will mean Lodrick Stewart and Rodrick Stewart will play each other. In fact, that appears to be one of the main reasons the game was scheduled, though another motivation was Kansas coming to USC as a payback the following year and playing in the Trojans' new Galen Center.
Posted by Bob Condotta at 12:13 AM
Of course it would be Oregon that would mess everything up.
Though most of them wouldn't say so, I'm pretty sure most Husky players — and most fans, as well — wanted a third shot at beating Washington State.
But this one was over in a hurry as the Ducks hit seven three-pointers in the first 14 minutes of the game and went on to beat the Cougars pretty easily, 66-55.
That means the Huskies will play Oregon Thursday at 8:50 p.m. in the quarterfinal round.
Oregon sophomore guard Chamberlain Oguchi hit six of those three-pointers and will definitely be a key for the Ducks tomorrow. He was a non-factor when UW beat Oregon in Seattle 78-59. But his playing time increased after guard Bryce Taylor was injured and Oguchi led the Ducks with 21 in UW's 75-72 win over Oregon in Eugene Feb. 16.
But the real key in UW's two wins over Oregon was rebounding.
The Huskies outrebounded the Ducks 42-26 in Seattle and an even more amazing 36-17 in Eugene, a game in which the Huskies had 19 offensive rebounds.
"Obviously, it is going to be a dog fight,'' said Oregon guard Malik Hairston. "They play hard for 40 minutes, and we have to try hard to match their intensity and then exceed it as best we can. We just have to play as hard as we possibly can and take care of the basketball. I think we have a great chance of winning the basketball game.''
Maybe, if they shoot again as they did against the Huskies in Eugene. Remember that Oregon made 26-of-49 shots in that game (53.1 percent) with only UW's rebounding turning the game in Washington's favor. Only WSU in the game in Seattle shot better at 53.6 percent.
• One other factor, however, will be the health of Oregon guard Aaron Brooks, who has a touch of the flu. That's why he played just 16 minutes as Oregon coach Ernie Kent was trying to rest him and preserve his strength for the Huskies.
UW fans, however, should thank the Cougars for at least playing hard to the end. Kent obviously wanted to rest all of his players as much as he could, but he couldn't do it as the Cougars cut a 21-point deficit to seven with about five minutes left.
Still, only Oguchi (36 minutes) played more than 30 minutes. And considering he didn't play a lot at the beginning of the season, he can probably handle it.
• Asked about the Huskies afterward, Ernie Kent dropped only platitudes on UW. "We are going to have to play hard every single possession because that's what they are going to do,'' he said.
• The Husky players watched the first half of the WSU-Oregon game from the stands before returning to their hotel. The most interesting sight was Artem Wallace's newly shaved head. One observer jokingly said, "I'm not sure it's his best look.'' You can be the judge should Wallace get in the game tomorrow.
• Washington officials say they expect the number of Huskies fans here will be greater than the past two years, saying the tournament is beginning to catch on. It certainly appeared that way Wednesday night as there were a lot of fans already wearing purple..
• Here's a link to an annual survey of Pac-10 writers on a number of topics, conducted by Bay Area writer Jeff Farudo.
The survey yielded yet another vote for Brandon Roy as the Pac-10's Player of the Year. But maybe more interesting than that might have been the response to the question of where Gonzaga would finish if the Bulldogs were in the Pac-10. I'll admit I'm one of those 15 writers who said Gonzaga would finish third. I don't think they'd escape all those close ones in the Pac-10 the way they have in the West Coast Conference, especially playing in McKale and Pauley and Maples, etc.
Posted by Bob Condotta at 7:57 PM
So what if they gave a tournament and no one showed up?
That's what it looked like here at 6 p.m. as Oregon State and Arizona State prepared to tip off in front of close friends and family.
I bet there's not 2,000 people here, and that might be pushing it.
Being someone who never turns down a free basketball game, however, I'm here.
And also here is A.C. Green, who played for OSU back when they were good, which was actually only before computers though it feels as if it was before TV. He might still be the best player Oregon State would have if they suited him up.
As for the Huskies, they aren't here, preparing for tomorrow's first-round game elsewhere. Since I was traveling, and they were practicing in private, I have no new Husky news to report.
• One of the officials for this game is Dick Cartmell, who more often does Gonzaga games. He might not know what to do with himself not being able to hand the ball to Adam Morrison at the free throw line. But Cartmell is regarded as one of the better officials around. And he was also a good high school point guard back in 1972 when he led Richland High — my hometown — to the state Class AAA title.
• One item I didn't get in Tuesday was UCLA coach Ben Howland saying that he voted for both Bobby Jones and Jamaal Williams for the All-Pac-10 Team. Coaches can't vote for their own players, meaning Howland had to find at least two other players to vote for. Those might have been the only votes Williams and Jones received, but it only takes one to get honorable mention on the All-Pac-10 team.
• One reader asked to see the pre-season media poll to see how it compares to what happened.
Here it is:
Here's how it ended up
Really, us media types weren't that far off, not that it was that hard a call in a lot of cases.
I actually had thought Oregon had been picked higher than 6th, but maybe we all had it right that the Ducks were talented but unproven — which is still the case.
The biggest disappointments are Arizona and Stanford, each three places lower than where they were picked.
The biggest differences on the positive side are UCLA, UW, Cal and USC, each finishing two places higher than picked.
• We'll be back later tonight to dissect what's happened here.
Posted by Bob Condotta at 8:19 PM
Today was the last day for the Husky players and coaches to meet the media before heading to Los Angeles for the Pac-10 Tournament.
The Huskies practiced at Hec Ed in the afternoon and then left for LA.
They'll have to wait almost two days to play a game as they won't play until 8:50 p.m. on Thursday against either WSU or Oregon.
UW will practice somewhere on Wednesday — not the Staples Center since it will be in use for the two early tournament games — and then some of the players and coaches may attend the games. I talked with Brandon Roy today who said, as you might expect, that he's hoping to watch the games.
One of the things that makes Brandon so good from a media standpoint is that he is as big a sports fan as the rest of us. He talks all the time about watching all the other games, and one of his post-playing goals is to be an announcer or analyst.
As for news, there isn't much with this team — the Huskies are kind of rolling on autopilot right now with their eight straight wins and a rotation that gets more set in concrete with every victory.
But here are a few notes and observations:The honors for Roy continue to roll in. He was named to the five-man United States Basketball Writers Association All-American Team Tuesday. Joining Roy on the USBWA team were Gonzaga's Adam Morrison, Villanova's Randy Foye and Duke's J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams.
He was also named as the Pac-10 Player of the Year by Seth Davis of CNNSI.com. Here's the link.Reader Jai asked a question about next year's schedule in relation to the article that was posted by Michael about the Missouri Valley Conference and its RPI.
The schedule for next year isn't set, but it will be tougher than this year's. UW will play at Gonzaga — that is part of the current series but I've been told the series will continue past next year — and will host LSU on Dec. 22.
The Huskies are hoping for a road game against a big-name foe in February. They thought they had one lined up against Georgia Tech, but that fell through on Georgia Tech's end. I know UConn is a school the Huskies would like to line up, but there are a lot of factors involved, TV being one of the keys. This may not be finalized for a while.
There is also the chance the Huskies will take part in a pre-season tournament next year. NCAA rules limiting the number of times a team can take part in such tournaments — two over a four-year span — are likely to be relaxed. If that happens, the Huskies will try to get in a tournament next year, or possibly host one, though all the big name ones — Maui, Alaska, etc. — are already full. UW will try to get in Maui or the pre-season NIT in the 2007-08 season.Michael also asked a question about Jordan Farmar. I think he's really good, but if you just watched the two games against UW, he didn't look like it, in large part because of the defense that Brandon Roy put on him. Farmar's had nagging groin and ankle injuries all year but has gutted out playing on them and I don't think he's had the year he anticipated. That might not be the best news for UW fans — I think he was thinking about coming out this year if all had gone well, but he now says he will return. If everybody on UCLA comes back, and I think they all will, the Bruins will be the prohibitive favorite to win the Pac-10 next year despite UW's great incoming class. Reader Rich asked a question about why UW is playing in game four of the tournament on Thursday — the dreaded 8:50 p.m. slot - as the No. 2 seed when last year the Huskies played in game 3.
I tried to answer that in something I wrote for the paper tomorrow.
But I'll also answer it here.
Pac-10 officials say the time slots were determined to give the No. 1 seed more rest than the No. 2 — which is why the No. 1 seed plays in the afternoon session and the No. 2 at night - and then to give the teams that played on Wednesday as much rest as possible on Thursday, which is why they play in the late game in each session.
So, since UW is the No. 2 seed, it plays in the night session instead of the afternoon session. And since UW plays the winner of Wednesday's WSU-Oregon game — the second game in the Wednesday session — the Huskies play in the second game of the Thursday night session to allow either the Cougars or Ducks as much rest as possible.
Hopefully that makes some sense.As for the comments about the FSN telecast Saturday, I didn't see it since I was there, and this was one that I didn't TIVO for some reason. But as to the announcers being biased, I'd be a little surprised. Those guys have been doing Pac-10 games for years and have no reason to favor anybody. Tompkins was actually the voice of Husky football for a few years in the '80s he would have no reason not to like UW, either. I'm heading down to the tournament Wednesday and will file regular updates here once I get there, so keep checking in. And thanks for all the good comments on this board.
Posted by Bob Condotta at 9:25 PM
There were two neat scenes from after practice today.
The first was newly-mined Brandon Roy playing a little hoops with his 2-year-old nephew Marquis, who is the son of Brandon's older brother Ed, who played at Garfield a few years before Brandon.
Marquis was wearing a Michael Jordan jersey and already appeared to have some of the family skill at the game, dribbling away with a mini basketball.
"He's going to be the Pac-10 Player of the Year someday, too,'' Brandon said with a smile.
Brandon Roy had told me earlier that Marquis sometimes spends the night at his house, and that Brandon has a little hoop there that Marquis will use.
The two often watch games together. "Every game he sees on TV he points and says 'Uncle Brandon, Uncle Brandon,''' Brandon Roy said. "And I'm like 'naw, I'm right here beside you.'''
Fun scene number two was Spencer Hawes, who appeared to watch most of practice now that he has a little free time with Seattle Prep's season over, playing a little one-on-one with Joe Wolfinger.
I don't know who won, but there weren't a whole lot of missed shots during the time I was watching as they appear to be two highly-skilled young players.
This year, obviously, could have a long ways to go.
But watching those two go at it was also a sign that even though this program will really miss Roy and the three other departing seniors, the future is going to be mighty interesting.
Posted by Bob Condotta at 3:26 PM
The honors are coming almost as quick as the wins for the Washington Huskies these days — and obviously the two are related.
Brandon Roy was named the Pac-10 Player of the Year today. Here's a link to a story on seattletimes.com.
Roy just held a news conference at the school to talk about the award and I'll have a full report on that on our site and in the paper Tuesday.
He said winning the honor was a big deal.
"I'll be the most grateful person to ever receive it,'' he said today while talking about the adversity he has faced at UW, including his academic problems that delayed his arrival and the knee injury he suffered last year that required surgery.
"I'm like a kid in a candy story right now. I'm just very excited.''
Justin Dentmon and Jon Brockman were also named to the Pac-10's All-Freshman Team and Roy was also named to the All-Pac-10 team. Jamaal Williams and Bobby Jones received honorable mention.
I thought the all-conference teams went almost exactly to script. The only real surprise might have been that Gabe Pruitt of USC made it despite missing a few weeks with an injury. But as a player, he's certainly deserving.
UW coach Lorenzo Romar also met the media here and said the obvious — that it's nice to see his players get recognized, especially because he thinks they all went about it the right way, worrying about winning games first.
And in ESPN's bracketology, the Huskies are a No. 4 seed with a favorable location in San Diego.
Also today ESPN has unveiled its All-American team, and Brandon Roy has made the first team.
Posted by Bob Condotta at 11:23 PM
OK, so it would have been nice if UCLA had lost at Stanford.
But Brandon Roy echoed the thoughts of many of his teammates in saying that he really didn't expect the Bruins to lose with a chance at the Pac-10 title on the line.
So the Huskies instead decided to take care of their own business.
And that they did in another game that seems to indicate that this team could be set for another deep run into March.
In fact, this team seems to be playing better now at this point in the season than was last year's, which had been beaten fairly handily in two of its last six games — losses at Oregon State and then Stanford on the last day of the regular season.
"I think we're peaking at the right time,'' Roy said.
The win over Arizona seemed to show just that as the Huskies again won with a total team effort.
Roy was sensational with 16 points, 11 rebounds and five assists — all totals that led the team.
But he was far from alone — Ryan Appleby hit 4-5 3-pointers and had 14 points and has now scored in double digits in four of UW's last five games; Justin Dentmon had the two huge steals at the end of the game and the big free throws and scored 13 points overall, which included hitting 3-6 3-pointers, a rapidly improving part of his game; Jamaal Williams did his usual "instant offense'' deal off the bench with 12 points in 22 minutes; and Jon Brockman quietly added eight points and eight rebounds.
"We're playing more as a team now,'' Roy said when asked the difference between now and the three-game losing streak at mid-season.
Now comes tournament time. UW will play either Oregon or Washington State in the quarterfinal round Thursday at the Staples Center. The only bad news is that UW drew the dreaded 8:50 p.m. tipoff, which doesn't seem like much of a reward for finishing second.
Obviously, a third try at beating the Cougars would be interesting and any UW athletic event against Oregon holds some drama, so this will be a fun first game in the tournament.
If UW gets by that, it would be either Cal or USC in the semi-final round and another Roy-Leon Powe battle — or another look at Lodrick Stewart and a Trojan team that I think could be a real sleeper in this thing.
UCLA probably awaits in the final if UW can get that far.
Here are a few other notes and observations:
• Maybe the most unheralded reason UW won this game? A 39-27 rebounding edge. UW also outboarded Arizona 50-40 in the game in Seattle. If rebounding is an indication of effort, we know where UW's was in these games.
• Appleby has hit 14-of-22 three-pointers in UW's last four games and is increasingly becoming a consistent weapon. He also had just one turnover in 27 minutes Saturday in showing that he is getting better and better at handling the ball.
• UW was almost a seven-man team in this one with Joel Smith the only other reserve to play — and that just for eight minutes. But that won't work as well in the Pac-10 tournament, when the Huskies would have to win three games in what would be roughly 40 hours or so.
• Man it was loud here today — by far the loudest arena UW has played in this season. That the Huskies didn't lose their composure, especially the younger players, is a great sign for the post-season, when it will now be all neutral courts.
• UW swept three Pac-10 road trips this year and finished 6-3 on the road putting to rest all those "can they win on the road'' questions we were all asking two months ago.
Posted by Bob Condotta at 6:32 PM
As hot as it feels outside here — it's just 75, but that feels like 100 after the winter we've been having — I imagine it'll feel double that Saturday when the Huskies play Arizona at the McKale Center.
We can only hope for a game as good as the last one, which was a classic — a 96-95 Arizona win in double overtime Dec. 31 — though Washington fans would obviously have hoped for a different outcome.
What would make the game that much more enticing is if UCLA loses at Stanford, a game that tips off two hours before the UW game here. Husky fans can only hope Stanford is tied or behind a point or two late in the game and that Chris Hernandez has the ball in his hands. A foul on the opponent is almost assured to be called, though in what would be a Huskies nightmare come true, Hernandez would probably miss this time.
As for UW-Arizona, this could be a different game than the last one. As both coaches pointed out today when meeting the media, each team is a little bit different now.
The Huskies are starting Mike Jensen instead of Jamaal Williams, which has added a different dynamic to the offense and helped spearhead a three-point shooting turnaround for the Huskies. Washington has made 10 or more three-pointers in each of the last four games after making 10 or more only twice all season previously. Washington is 43 for 87 (49 percent) on threes the last four games.
"We are more of a team now than we were then in terms of knowing our roles,'' UW coach Lorenzo Romar said Friday.
Best evidence of that? Brandon Roy took 29 shots in the first game with Arizona, but hasn't come within 10 of that since then.
Arizona, meanwhile, is now going with a bigger lineup. At the time of the first UW game, the Wildcats were going with a smaller lineup that had Chris Rodgers at guard alongside Hassan Adams and Mustafa Shakur.
Now, Rodgers is a reserve after having been suspended for more than a month. In that time, Arizona went with a bigger lineup that includes freshman Marcus Williams of Roosevelt High as a starter alongside Ivan Radenovic and Kirk Walters up front with Adams and Shakur in the backcourt.
The temporary loss of Rodgers and the later loss of Jawann McClellan due to injury also forced Arizona to become a deeper team. Freshman 6-foot-6 forward Fendi Onobun, for instance, was still redshirting when the teams played in Seattle, but now often plays double-digit minutes coming off the bench.
Add it up, and I expect another memorable game.
Here are a few more notes and quotes:
• Honors are starting to pour in for the Huskies. Sophomore guard Ryan Appleby was named the Pac-10's Newcomer of the Year on Friday, which is selected by conference radio play-by-play announcers. The award is not to be confused with the Freshmen of the Year. Instead, Newcomer of the Year is for players who have transferred to a Pac-10 school from a junior college or another four-year school.
Appleby, who transferred from Florida, is averaging 8.1 points and is tied for third in the Pac-10 with Lodrick Stewart in three-point percentage at 42.1.
The only other Husky to win the award is Doug Wrenn in 2002.
• I received two e-mails today about Joe Wolfinger, who is listed in some places as having played a minute at Stanford. That was just a screwup by the Stanford sports-information department — Wolfinger wasn't even in the building. He is redshirting this season and will have four years of eligibility beginning next year.
• With Harvey Perry now officially redshirting, the Huskies will have at least six new players next year — Perry, Wolfinger and the four incoming freshmen led by Spencer Hawes. Hard to imagine any team in the Pac-10, if not the country, will welcome as much talent next season.
• Arizona games are almost always sellouts and this one has been hotly anticipated for some time. Evidence of how hard a ticket it is? A major-league player (not a Mariner) who will be left unnamed called UW officials Friday wanting four tickets. He was told good luck, that he'd have to ask someone else.
• Olson said Friday he thinks there is little doubt that Roy is the Pac-10 Player of the Year. Olson said Roy "has more of a total effect on the game'' than Cal's Leon Powe.
• Olson spent a good share of his meeting with the media talking about how hard he recruited Roy out of Garfield High School, saying he watched Roy play summer league games at least 20 times. Olson said Roy isn't doing anything now he didn't expect then, but praised Romar for getting Roy to play at a consistently high level of intensity.
Posted by Bob Condotta at 12:18 AM
The Huskies did their part, and for much of the night it looked like Cal was going to cooperate, as well.
Alas, the Bears folded at the end, and the Huskies are left hoping for a little better fortune Saturday when UCLA plays at Stanford.
Still, the Huskies headed for Tucson a happy group after the way the team came together to win at Arizona State, going away in the second half.
As long as Lorenzo Romar has been coach, UW's games with ASU have been intense and chippy affairs, and the Huskies expected another tight one here Thursday night.
It looked like that's exactly what was in the offing for a half as Kevin Kruger played as inspired as any UW opponent has in some time, scoring 19 points by the break and putting ASU in the lead, 40-38.
But then Romar put Brandon Roy on Kruger to start the second half — it would have been Bobby Jones but he picked up his third foul in the opening seconds of the second half — and the game was never the same.
Kruger scored just four points in the second half against the defense of Roy, and the rest of ASU's offense was helpless.
The Huskies were on fire shooting all night, with another scorching game from beyond the three-point line — 11 of 25 — and once Kruger was cooled off, the game was a rout.
The Huskies dominated every stat — they outrebounded ASU 38-28, had 21 assists to 13 for ASU, and lost just 11 turnovers, and only four in the second half.
UW players said they came out a little flat in the first half, and that might have been due to the atmosphere. The listed crowd was 6,755, but that was a little inflated and the place was as quiet as a Pac-10 basketball arena can be much of the night. That's no doubt due to the fact that Rob Evans is on his way out as coach and there is little enthusiasm for the basketball program right now.
The Huskies flirted with danger early, letting ASU hang close, but putting them away quickly in the second half muted any potential trouble.
A few other thoughts:
• It's hard to imagine this team could play much better than it did in the second half — the Huskies shot 18 of 35 in the half and held ASU to 11 of 30. They had assists on 12 of the 18 field goals in the second half, indicative of the team play that was evident throughout.
• Harvey Perry will definitely redshirt the season now. He didn't make the trip after it had been thought he might, to at least help out in practice.
• It was nice to see Artem Wallace get some significant action and score six points, his Pac-10 high.
• The Huskies have made 10 or more three-pointers in four straight games, and if they can keep that up, this team could go a long way in the NCAA tournament.
• As others have pointed out, the advantage to UCLA beating Cal is that the Huskies can secure second place simply by beating Arizona. That could easily land them a rematch with Washington State in the first round of the Pac-10 tournament, which would be quite interesting after what happened during the regular season.
• Roy was held to 13 points, in part because he's nursing a slight cold and didn't have his usual "energy," in his words.
Posted by Bob Condotta at 5:07 PM
A reader asked about UW's attendance in relation to a note we had in the paper today about UCLA's.
Washington averaged 8,844 per game this year for an 88.4 percent of its capacity of 10,000. That includes the three games in the BCA Classic that weren't well-attended and weren't part of the regular-season ticket package. UW sold out every Pac-10 game.
The only Pac-10 teams with higher percent of capacities are Arizona (100 percent at 14,584 McKale Center); and Oregon (93.5 percent at 9,087 Mac Court). Stanford's next at 76.9 (7,233 Maples Pavilion) followed by UCLA 69.5 percent (12,800 Pauley Pavilion).
— A reader forwarded an interesting link on CNNSI.com. It's part of their "SI Extra'' exclusive content so I can't link to it. But it included a poll of Pac-10 players, with the Huskies coming out favorably on several issues.
For instance, Romar was voted "the opposing coach you'd most like to play for'' by 60 percent of those who responded, with one player saying "he's a player's coach. All the guys on his team seem to enjoy playing for him.''
Washington was also named the "team with the most respect for its coach'' by 30 percent of those who voted, and Ryan Appleby was voted "best shooter'' by 30 percent.
Last, Brandon Roy was voted "best future pro.''
Maybe the most interesting other winners were WSU's Josh Akognon as "most underrated player'' and Oregon as the "team with the least respect for its coach.''
If you subscribe to SI, you can access the poll on the college basketball page.
— As of 4:30 p.m., no official word on Harvey Perry. He's expected to make the trip, to help with practice if nothing else, so he'll be there. But again, I'll be real surprised if he plays now.