Washington Basketball: Midseason Report Card for the Huskies
The Huskies are 5-4 in Pac-12 play and 13-9 overall midway through the conference schedule. Head coach Lorenzo Romar's squad is still looking for his team's winning mojo and game-to-game consistency.
Washington's nonconference schedule included disappointing home losses to Albany, Colorado State and Nevada. The Huskies had their 32-game nonconference winning streak stopped last year.
They won their first four Pac-12 games, then proceeded to lose their next four before stopping their losing streak to Arizona State.
Washington hasn't clicked on all cylinders for an extended set of games this year. We'll review the marks for each tangible and intangible elements of this year's unspectacular team.
Husky guard C.J. Wilcox.
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Washington sits in seventh place in scoring offense, averaging 68.3 points. Junior guard C.J. Wilcox is the team's leading scorer and second in the Pac-12 with an average of 18.2 points. The Utah native also leads the league in three pointers made, or 2.3 each game.
Senior guards Scott Suggs (12.2 points per game), Abdul Gaddy (11.1 points per game) and senior center Aziz N'Diaye (10.7 points per game) make up the rest of Washington's scoring arsenal.
The Huskies scored 96 points in their latest home win against Arizona State. In the previous game versus Arizona, Washington tallied a season-low total of 53 points.
C.J. Wilcox cannot carry the offensive load alone. He'll need some balanced offense from his teammates when his shot is off the mark.
Shawn Kemp, Jr.
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The Huskies rank seventh-best in the Pac-12's offensive rebounding category (35.6), and second defensively (31.3).
Center Aziz N'Diaye uses all of his seven feet to sit third in the league with 9.4 boards each game. Sophomore Desmond Simmons is the Huskies second-leading rebounder with 7.6.
Head coach Lorenzo Romar decided to go with more heft and height by increasing the minutes for 6'10" sophomore Shawn Kemp Jr. at the expense of Simmons' playing time.
"You have to make the decision sometimes, which guy is going to benefit the most and benefit the team the most if he plays more? And we felt with Shawn that he has a lot of potential. We need to throw him in there and see how he does," Romar said. "Because if he begins to play with confidence and begins to figure it out, he can be a big, big piece in what we are trying to do.
If Kemp can continue to improve as his playing time increases, he and N'Diaye could be a strong rebounding tandem down the stretch for the Huskies.
Desmond Simmons (far right) going for the ball.
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The Huskies want to run the ball but defense is what wins games. In their first four Pac-12 games (all wins), they held their opponents to under 40-percent shooting, and allowed just 56 points per game.
In Washington's next five conference games (four wins and one loss), the Huskies gave up an average of 75.6 points.
Head coach Lorenzo Romar demands that his players focus on defense. "He asks us to do a lot on defense," Desmond Simmons said after a recent practice.
The veteran coach knows that it will be the defensive effort that will move them to the top tier in the Pac-12. Washington's win-loss record correlates to winning when the defense stifles the opposition.
Home Court Advantage: C-
Alaska Airlines Arena (Wikimedia Commons)
Washington's all-time home record is the NCAA's best. The Huskies 32-game home winning against nonconference foes was stopped last year.
The typical loud and brash crowds that used to fill the 10,000 arena have not been present this year. The 8,598 fans that attended the Utah matchup were this year's high. Against top-ranked Arizona the crowd totaled 8,535, or about 1,500 less than capacity.
"We need to play at our highest level," said Lorenzo Romar said before the Arizona encounter. "And we need our crowd to be at its highest level." His words failed to put more fans into the seats.
Home court advantage is an intangible that the Huskies have failed to exploit. Washington's poor home record along with a team that lacks a true game-changer may be keeping the crowds away.
Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar.
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Head coach Lorenzo Romar has a track record of finishing strong and getting his teams to the postseason tournament.
The Huskies finished the first half of Pac-12 play above .500 for the sixth time in 11 years under Romar. In four of the previous five seasons, the Huskies would go on to the NCAA tournament.
Romar started the year with a banged-up squad. Washington began the conference schedule winning four games in a row. They lost their next four before stopping the streak in the win over Arizona State.
Romar is making changes to find a rotations that will be more consistent game-to-game. The results have been mixed so far.
Guard Abdul Gaddy.
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"We've got, what, 10 games left?" guard Abdul Gaddy said after the Arizona loss. "...Our season could turn around quickly. Coach Romar tells us this all the time. He's been through this before. He's lost the first five games (to begin league play in 2004) and still won the Pac."
As articulated above by Gaddy, Washington is running out of time. They are now on the downhill side of the conference schedule and cannot afford another losing streak.
All of the tangible and intangible elements have not come together for an extended period. The Huskies look like an average team destined to finish in the middle of the league standings.
As for the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments, it will require a drastic turnaround before the end of the season.