Washington Basketball: How the Huskies Can Get Hot at Tourney Time

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Washington Basketball: How the Huskies Can Get Hot at Tourney Time
seattlepi.com

Lorenzo Romar is one of the best coaches in college basketball when it comes to staying calm and not hitting the Huskies' Panic Button.

Throughout the season, when the team had its ups and downs, he maintained a sense of composure and self-control, even to the irritation of some Washington fans.

Part of Romar's calmness comes from having been down this road before.

This year's team is almost exactly where last year's team was, record-wise, at the conclusion of the regular season.

The 2009-10 Huskies finished up the regular season and headed into the Pac10 Tournament with a 21-9 record.

This year's team carries a 20-10 record.

Yes, this year's team has lost three of their last five games, so they don't have the same momentum.

But last year's squad had to overcome slumps and adversity too.

If the question is, "Can the Huskies get hot going into the conference tournament and move toward the Dance?" the answer is, Yes, they can.

If the next question is, "How can they?" the following may be some of the factors that can actually make this happen:

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

 

Isaiah Thomas Rediscovers his "Mojo" 

The first several games of the Pac-10 schedule, Huskie point guard Isaiah Thomas was in attack mode. He was scoring at will and he was finding his teammates in places where they could put the ball in the basket.

Down the stretch, Thomas has played more cautiously and his production (points and assists) has fallen off.

He is the engine that makes this team go. His recent game against Arizona is a good example of how he doesn't have to score a lot, but he was dictating the tempo of the game and making lots happen.

If Thomas rediscovers his "Mojo," the Huskies can make some noise in the conference tournament, and then play a couple of rounds, just like last year, in the NCAA Tournament.


The Seniors Need To Step Up

Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Justin Holiday and Venoy Overton form a talented senior trio.  

Together, they account for 33 ppg, 16 rpg, 7 apg and 3 bpg.

They head into the Pac-10 Tournament with a four-year record of 88-46, the second best record among senior classes in UDub history.

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

All three played a role in Washington making it to the Sweet 16 in last year's tournament.

This is the time of the year when seniors need to be playing like seniors.

Bryan-Amaning must stay out of foul trouble.

Holiday cannot repeat his scoreless outing versus USC.

And Overton needs to keep his level of offensive aggressiveness high.

If the senior trio can bump it up a notch, the Huskies will be a dangerous squad.


The Team Needs to Find the "Next Gear" Again

The Huskies are best when they are playing up-tempo, run-trap-and-press basketball.

Statistically, they are still the No. 3 scoring team in the nation (84 ppg).

But, in the last four games of the regular season, Washington is only averaging 67 ppg—a 17-point drop per game.

In the Huskies' 10 losses this season, they are averaging 68 ppg.

Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times said that Washington has looked like "the wrong team, playing the wrong game."

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Isaiah Thomas needs to push the tempo and get the team into transition as much as possible.

The Huskies play cross-state rival Washington State in their first game of the Pac-10 tournament.

If I was Lorenzo Romar, I would tell the team that, I want them to play like the Mike D'Antoni Suns from a few years ago...seven seconds or less offense. Push the ball and get shots in the air.

Maybe not for the full game, but at least long enough to force them back into playing the style and tempo that made them a ranked team earlier in the season.

Regaining a sense of energy and punch is absolutely necessary for the Huskies to get hot at tourney time. This Washington team has talent, versatility and experience. They have players who can match up well with any team in the conference and many teams across the country.

Now, they have to get out and do it.

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