Can the Washington Huskies Live Up to the Hype?

Kevin CacabelosSenior Analyst INovember 18, 2009

PORTLAND, OR - MARCH 21:  Quincy Pondexter #20 of the Washington Huskies reacts in the second half against the Purdue Boilermakers during the second round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the Rose Garden on March 21, 2009 in Portland, Oregon.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Buzzer beaters, upsets, and Cinderella teams—it has finally arrived: The college basketball season is officially underway.

For the first time since 2006, the Huskies are entering this season ranked in the top 15 both in the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls.

The hype has started for these relatively young Huskies. Coming off a regular season Pac-10 title, the Huskies will be looking to repeat as Pac-10 champions, but more importantly will be looking to advance further into the NCAA Tournament.

A lot of experts think the Huskies have the potential to make it to the Sweet 16 this year. I’ll go out on a limb and say these guys are Elite Eight material. My early observations of this team remind me much of Lorenzo Romar’s earlier days as head coach.

This team is quick with a lot of depth. This offense is going to push the ball up and down the court, they are going to be playing high quality pressure defense, and they will not get tired. This is a team that seems capable of running off runs of 20 points.

There will always be at least three sure scoring options on the court with Quincy Pondexter, Isaiah Thomas, and Matthew Bryan-Amaning. Thomas emerged as the team’s No. 1 option last season, but during the tail end Pondexter became a scoring threat.

After the first three games, Pondexter finally seems entirely comfortable within the offense. He is better and more natural shooting from around the perimeter, but his biggest strength by far is his ability to sneak into the post and create for himself.

This may be a little radical, but the way he was getting his buckets in the first three games reminded me much of Brandon Roy. Recall that Roy was not exemplary at any one particular skill; he was just a solid player in all aspects who could dish and finish ruthlessly.

Pondexter has size, and unlike Roy, he is a threat on the boards. Jon Brockman’s absence will not have too much of an impact if Pondexter is able to keep on rebounding the way he has been.

If the Huskies finish in the top 10 by the end of the season, either Pondexter or Thomas will be a first team All-American. I’m putting my money on Pondexter. However, Pondexter and Thomas will not be able to do it alone.

This is where the presence of Bryan-Amaning becomes so critical. He played well in the non-conference last season, but the overall quality of his play faded as he faced more physical defenders in the Pac-10.

Will MBA be able to hold his own in the post in the conference this season? Even if MBA cannot step it up, the plethora of shooters and scorers on this team is scary.

Remember, the Huskies were able to get by just fine with the play of Mike Jensen. It is possible to win games without a dominant big man, but having one will make your team more competitive down the stretch.

It’s only been three games, but the Huskies are playing pretty well right now. There is still a lot for these young Huskies to learn, but the non-conference schedule will give the coaches and the players a chance to feel out the system.

This season has a lot to offer; it is just up to the players and the coaches to fully play and coach to their potential.