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College Hoops

Washington Husky Huddle for Saturday March 24th 2012 (Part Two)

Should UW be able to get to the Finals in NY, those five games go a long way to making them into real veterans. The problem for UW, as it was against the Beavers at the Staple Center and the last time they played in Madison Square Garden in two close losses to Marquette and Duke, is that UW is spotty outside of Hec Ed Pavilion. The Dawgs went 6-3 on the road in conference play, which was spectacular, but they tended to lose to the better of the two teams on Pac-12 road trips. If you believe the “experts”, those lesser of two road match-ups in conference were generally pretty bad, although UW beat ‘Zona in Tempe, WSU in Pullman and OSU in Corvallis, none of which were slam dunks like USC, Utah and ASU were perceived to be.

Another problem for the Dawgs is that while it helps develop the young team as a whole, sophomore guard C.J. Wilcox is extending a situation in which he is playing with a stress fracture in his femur. They must not feel that it is that bad of a condition, as the UW staff used C.J. for 30-minutes against the Ducks. His 17 points, including 6-6 from the FT line in the last 29-seconds were also key stats in UW’s win. I wonder if it is good for Wilcox to be playing these five games, as much as it is for guys like Aziz and Abdul. Again, this is outside of my knowledge base, so it remains to be seen if this experience helps of hurts C.J.’s ability to move forward. One thing is certain. UW would not be in NYC this week if it were not for Wilcox.

With the loss of Bryan-Amaning, Isaiah Thomas, Venoy Overton, Justin Holiday and Scott Suggs, 2011-12 had the looks of a rebuilding year. Romar and his staff did an incredible job of putting a solid team on the court under the circumstances, with what they lost and the overall youth that was left over. If you don’t believe that UW lost something after watching Matt’s highlights, weigh in that Thomas had yet another solid week as the starting PG for Sacramento. Isaiah averaged 15 points, four assists and four boards, as the Kings went 2-1, their only loss being a one pointer to Utah in which the Jazz did a good job focusing on him.

Thomas committed four TO’s against Utah, but the important fact here is that an NBA team is having to game plan for him as the last pick of the 2nd round. Thomas is possibly the most undervalued NBA rookie, from the stand point of the draft “experts” in recent history. You probably have to go back to Manu Ginobili, drafted by the Spurs at 57 in 1999 to find as big of one. In NYC the Dawgs will showcase a team that has a lot of talent, but enough youth that it is hard to predict upon. Gregg Bell of gohuskies.com on Wednesday talked about the job that Romar has done this season in getting such a young team to perform in a number of situations. They have also fallen short in a number, which just goes with the territory of such a young group.

A key for UW fans on Tuesday will be how well the UW team starts out against the Golden Gophers. The way they look early seems to be the litmus test as to the mental edge that the 2011-12 Dawgs seem to play most games, both good and bad. If Minnesota doesn’t lose NBA prospect Trevor Mbakwe this season, they are an NCAA tournament lock in my opinion. Freshman PG Andre Hollins could be to this year’s UW team as then freshman Kendall Marshall was to last year’s post season Husky hopes. Hollins is all business, as is junior wing Rodney Williams, who could make a convincing argument to NBA scouts against UW’s NBA mock draft superstars Ross and Wroten. Though Williams was rated lower than Tony and T-Ross, nbadraft.net had this to say about him before the tournament.

“Williams is the most athletic guy on this list. He might be the best in-game dunker in college basketball. He has all of the physical tools to be a solid NBA player but he has yet to reach his full potential on the court. He had to step his game up when Trevor Mbakwe went down early in the season and that should go a long way with his development.”

Minnesota has a freshman PG that is much more efficient than Wroten, though not nearly as flashy or with as much upside. They have a wing that is a fair match for Ross. what’s more they are much more experienced. Junior Julian Welch is a strong all-around player who both leads the team in assists at three per game and 3-point shooting at 45%. Talk all you want about how talented UW is, but Welch’s stats show him to be the kind of player that Wilcox might be a year from now, if he gets back to full health. Julian also averages 10 PPG. Sophomore guard Austin Hollins averages nine and like Andre (no relation, but ‘Dre is the son of NBA great Lionel Hollins) is an efficient highly talented guard.

Rodney also averages six rebounds per game from his wing position, which is an area that UW could use to propel them to a win. After losing Ralph Sampson III and Mbakwe, the Golden Gophers have had to rely on freshman Elliot Eliason in the pivot, but he has shown well with 12 points, seven boards, two blocks and two steals in their win over Middle Tennesee State to make the semis. On Sunday, according to thenewstribune.com , Sampson practiced on with the team. I expect to see him to some degree. UW is 5th overall in D1 in rebounding, but Minnesota is 27th in assists. This game appears to be another tough match-up for UW, like the Oregon game and if they are not mentally prepared to compete on that level 3,000 miles away from home, they will get beat.

On Saturday Husky Haul predicted that UW had too many weapons for the Gophers and would win 68-61. UW’s poor performances this season have come on the heels of success and media darling attention. Don’t show this to Terrence and Tony, but they were already being talked about before their jet left the runway at Sea/Tac for the Big Apple, by the NY press Saturday. If it is any consolation to UW fans, UW has done well to perform as the Vegas odd-makers have predicted, other than the Pac-12 tourney. On Saturday Vegas had UW as a slight favorite to win the NIT. Whatever happens on Tuesday or even if the Dawgs can get to the NIT Final on Thursday, the immediate top story for UW fans will be the question of “will he or won’t he” to the 2nd power. Ross was chosen on Monday by bleacherreport.com as the 19th pick in the draft, comparing him to former UW recruit Wesley Johnson.

Also on Monday, foxsportswest.com ran a feature on Terrence’s growing resume as an NBA prospect. On Thursday Husky Haul ran a piece that explored the prospect of the 2012-13 season without either one. The two star Dawgs will have until April 10th to decide if they are in the draft or out, according to the way the rule was explained by Andy Katz of ESPN on Thursday. Katz quotes Sonny Vaccaro and John Calipari as being four square against it. For that reason count me as loving it right off the bat. I say let them go. If they are not ready and are willing to take the advise of agents and their “runners”, without any real focused feedback from NBA scouts and GM’s, let them. I’m not talking about the two UW guys this year, but prospects in general.

Time will show when they are proven wrong much more often than not and these kids will give this decision much more thought before hand rather than putting it off to getting the red carpet treatment with all of it’s finery. At this point, the more careers that are ruined by poor decisions during limo rides, the better. The college game needs to rid itself of the influence of this element (aggressive agents and the “runners” who do their dirty work, as well as that of corrupt boosters before college). The great advice of these vermin needs to be seen for what it is. Opportunism. They care about as much about these young men than pimps do about young women. Follow the money I say and you’ll find that Vaccaro (adidas) and “Paypal Cal” and his close friend William “Worldwide Wes” Wesley (Nike) are knee deep in this corrupt “game” that stems from the summer AAU leagues that are funded by these two rival international corporate giants. I also find it a curious coincidence that Katz has these two warring hoop gangsters on speed dial for comment so readily.

Wroten and Ross, who have both had to endure a great deal of that culture I’m sure, are projected by most if not all to be first round picks. Both kids can likely be helped by another year at UW, but could probably get guaranteed money this year. It may be quite a bit more next year, if one or both of them can play themselves into the top-10 picks or better. I see Wroten as having a greater chance to do that than Ross, as he has such a tremendous upside, if he could just show a decidedly upward trend as a shooter. Ross is a great prospect too, but he may be more likely to see the value of becoming a more consistent player with one more year.

Either way, both have a tough choice to make and I wouldn’t fault either of them too hard for making either choice. If I had to offer an opinion, I would say that Tony would benefit more from another year, but that Ross could as well. Wroten also runs the risk of lowering his stock, if he continues to shoot poorly. NBA GM’s may take a chance on him now, choosing to feel that shooting can be learned much more easily than Tony’s ability to go hard to the hoop and either score or get fouled. To me, Wroten is kind of a project though, because you really have to ask the question. What good is a guard that draws fouls so well, if he can’t shoot FT’s, let alone can be allowed to shoot wide open 20-footers and brick? I think that the smart money that makes those decisions will look closer at Tony during the workout process and very possibly decide to pass on him for other less risky prospects.

What is probably most likely to happen is that Wroten will slide to the late 1st round where he will sit on the bench for a few years and will either learn to shoot or not. If he can learn to shoot better before going into the NBA, Tony will be chosen in the high lottery, possibly the top-3 or “ping pong picks”. I think that it is also entirely possible that Wroten could slip to the 2nd round. Not so for Ross, who I think will wear better in those April-June workouts and camps. Ross, however is very respectful of the legacy of Brandon Roy, who really benefited by playing his senior year at UW and putting on the consistent show that Ross really has yet to.

All this said, these two are great competitors and it would not surprise me at all to see both of them outperform their detractors, once they actually suit up for an NBA team. One thing that they have going for them is the advice and counsel of a former NBA player in their coach. On Tuesday pacifictakes.com held a panel discussion of internet fan site publishers from the Pac-12 and only host Aaron Butler (a ‘Zona fan) the OSU site guy and Griffin Bennett of Montlake Madness chose Romar. Altman also received three votes, but the winner with four votes was Tad Boyle. I feel that Romar deserved it 100%, but then again I also think that UW deserved an NCAA bid.

Lorenzo has done a very good job at UW and recently I said that he has now become the best coach in modern UW history, passing Marv Harshman, but that is a hard one. Marv will always be one of my favorite coaches. Though I don’t demote Romar after his team blew the game in the Pac-12 tournament, as some have, after reading David Eskanazi’s look back at Marv’s amazing accomplishments, I feel that the two are 1A and 1B. It’s also hard to take one over the other because though Lorenzo has accomplished more in a shorter period of time, Marv was responsible for both bringing Romar to UW as a player and was probably most responsible for his hiring as head coach in 2002. When I write my book on the history of Husky Basketball, both will be heavily featured.

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