Here we go, the third edition of our Pac-12 preview, Know Your Nemesis!
We've gone over Washington State and USC thus far. Next up is a program that has given the Wildcats fits in years past, but has fallen on hard times over the last few years: The Washington Huskies.
Lorenzo Romar is entering his 14th year as head coach for Washington, by far the longest tenured coach in the Pac-12 (closest being Johnny Dawkins, entering his 8th season with Stanford). Romar has accomplished a ton in that time, with three conference coach of the year awards, six tournament berths and three Sweet 16's. Washington had a four-year run from the 2009 season to the 2012 season where they won either the conference regular season championship or the conference tournament championship each season.
However, in the three years since, it's been a difficult time for the Huskies. It all came to a head last season when Washington finished 5-13 in the conference and next to last place, both of those happening for the first time since Romar's first season at the helm for Washington. That said, they're already putting a step forward by bringing in the 10th-ranked recruiting class this season, according to Rivals.com. We live in a, "what have you done for me lately?" world, especially in sports. Romar and Washington need to right the ship, and quick. But if anyone deserves the benefit of the doubt, it's the most successful coach the program has had in the last 70 years.
Eight months ago, I would have fully expected to write about point guard Nigel Williams-Goss in this spot. After all, the highly-touted 2013 recruit averaged 14.5 points, 4.5 boards and 5.1 assists in his two years in Seattle. However, Nigel surprised some people this past April by transferring to in-state powerhouse, Gonzaga. So the team is left in the hands of 5th-year senior and team captain, Andrew Andrews. He's the team's best defender and he averaged 15.0 points per game last season. With the Huskies losing eight members (5 transfers, 2 graduates, 1 dismissal) of last year's team that combined for nearly 70% of the team's scoring, Andrews will have to do a whole lot more of that. Last season, of the 347 shots Andrews took, 173 of them were 3 pointers! He shot a solid 37.6% from deep and if UW's fearless leader improves on that number, he could easily lead the league in scoring.
Games versus Arizona...
Jan. 14 @ McKale Center
Feb. 6 @ Alaska Airlines Arena
The Projected Starting 5...
F Malik DIme
F Marquese Chriss
F Donaven Dorsey
G Dejounte Murray
G Andrew Andrews
Andrews is the only returning starter. Dorsey is one of three returning players and he should be starting this season. JUCO transfer, Dime, and top 50 recruits, Murray and Chriss, round out the projected starting five.
The Best Case Scenario...
This team is extremely young. They're also quite talented. Dejounte Murray, Marquese Chriss, David Crisp and Matisse Thybulle are all freshmen and names we should all get used to hearing. They're all ready to contribute immediately and Andrew Andrews could wind up being the nation's leading scorer. If the team gels right away, they'll challenge everyone and would end up right in the thick of things in the conference.
This team will be fun to watch. But there's just too much unknown, too much youth and too little continuity to believe that they make a splash in the conference. I've got 'em at 10th place, 6-12 in the conference.