Husky Hoops: The End of the Road to NYC, and Next Year

The UW basketball season is not officially over, but it’s pretty close.  Many people stopped caring when the team missed the NCAA tournament (me initially being one of them), but those who didn’t watch last night’s NIT battle royale with Oregon missed out.  Hec Ed was packed for the final home game of the year, and it was loud.  With Oregon as the opponent, it felt like anything but an NIT game, and it was played that way, as well.  Both teams played hard and well, I would argue at an NCAA tournament level.

I understand why the Huskies missed the Big Dance.  Their resume probably wasn’t worthy, at least given the way the selection committee looks at teams, but I think anyone who argues that they’re not one of the best 68 teams in the country is crazy.  They have been inconsistent and frustrating, but when they play anywhere close to their ability, they’re a potential sweet sixteen team.  That’s obviously not going to happen this year, which is what makes them so frustrating.  If you can get past that disappointment, though, last night was a blast and a good way to remember this team.

The Dawgs will now head to Madison Square Garden for the NIT semifinals and hopefully final.  Obviously, we hope they win, but it is still kind of hard to get overly excited.  The Oregon matchup was a nice surprise, but when you come down to it, it’s the NIT.

So, you ask, what’s the point of this post?  I can’t really remember.  I started it earlier today and can’t remember where I was going with it.  I guess let’s talk about next year.

Right now, the Huskies are slated to return almost everyone.  They lose Darnell Gant to graduation, but get Scott Suggs back from an injury redshirt and add Andrew Andrews and Jernard Jarreau, who both redshirted as freshman this year.  They have no committed recruits currently (more on that in minute).  I have no doubt that that team would be favored to win the Pac-12 handily and would probably be in consideration for the top 10 in the country.  That’s a lot of talent, and a lot of talent that should be improved and much deeper next year.

The problem is that Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten seem extremely likely to leave early for the NBA.  Both are projected for the first round.  Both have some questions, and it’s a deep draft class, so it’s not like there’s no doubt they’re leaving.  And to be fair, neither of them has given any indication they’re gone.  Just don’t get your hopes up on them staying.  In fact, if you don’t deal well with disappointment, just plan on them leaving.  The power of low expectations!

To break down my thoughts on the two: it would obviously be great if they both stayed.  If I could pick one to keep, it would be Ross.  He’s my favorite to watch, and he’s the better all-around player.  Wroten is a fascinating guy.  He had maybe the best freshman year in UW history and was one of the best players in the conference, but everyone knew what he would do: drive to his left, throw the ball toward the basket, and if it didn’t go in, get his own rebound and finish.  It’s a testament to his talent that he was so successful with this, but it also shows how much he could improve.  His effort, defense and free-throw shooting got much better this year.  If he could add a jump shot and a right hand, he might be the national player of the year, let alone the Pac-12 POY.

It’s not all doom and gloom if Ross and Wroten leave.  This team should still be talented and improved.  Abdul Gaddy has played increasingly well as the season has progressed, looking like an all-Pac-12 point guard in the last few weeks.  CJ Wilcox doesn’t quite have the shocking talent and athleticism of Ross, but he’s not terribly far behind and will only be a junior.  Suggs is in the same mode and will offer a steady head and hand.  Andrews or Hikeem Stewart would need to step up for some depth, but that could easily happen.  The front court would be a bigger question.  Aziz showed huge improvement this year, and if he could continue that and make himself a threat offensively, he could be the best big man in the conference.  Simmons had his moments before hitting a bit of a wall and losing some playing time, but he is still young and has that useful Gant-like skill set.  It will be vital for Shawn Kemp Jr. or Martin Breunig to step up and develop as a legitimate first big man off the bench.

That’s a good team, if lacking slightly in depth and star-power.  The strange thing right now is that the Huskies have no imcoming recruits to augment the returners.  I saw the other day that they’re one of only a few schools in the country with no commits yet.  This is partly by plan.  With only Gant graduating, there’s only one scholarship open, and that’s apparently being held for 5 star power forward Anthony Bennett.  Bennett is no sure thing or even remotely close to it, but he seems to be the only guy out there that the Huskies would add to the team as it is currently.  The recruiting class for 2013 has the potential to be huge, and it’s thought that Romar is happy leaving an extra scholarship open for a year if he doesn’t get Bennett or a similar level of talent.  This would likely change if Ross and/or Wroten leave, as they’d have more open scholarships and the need for some extra depth.  We’ll leave the potential recruits in that case for a later post.

So enjoy this team in the one or two games left, especially Ross and Wroten.  Hopefully they’re back, but don’t worry too much if they’re not.  You can never fault these kids for leaving for millions of dollars, and there’s always someone else ready to take his place.

But if you’re reading this, Terrence and Tony, how about you guys stick around and we make a run at the Final Four?  Seattle could use a couple of new legends, not to mention a winner.

-Matthew

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