The PAC-12 is still alive, as the Dawgs and Stanford move to NYC and Madison Square Garden for the NIT Final Four, while WSU meets Pittsburgh in the CBI Finals in a best of three. The Cougs beat Oregon State to earn the right to meet Pitt for the first game in Pullman WA on Monday at 7 pm. (PST), then move to Pittsburgh PA for a second game at 4 pm. (PST) on Wednesday.
If necessary there will be a championship game on Friday at 4 pm. (PST) in Pittsburgh. The Cardinal will face U Mass at 4 pm. (PST) on Tuesday, followed by the Huskies meeting Minnesota at 6 pm. (PST). It sounds to me like that UW tip time is not likely, as it seems hard to have a game and the switchover happen in a 2-hour time frame, in the same gym. The conference will have three teams playing when the NCAA has already arrived on it’s Final Four and though that doesn’t mean as much to me, as if one league team had made the Sweet-16, it backs up my previously stated opinion that the PAC-12 overall was better than the “experts” and the “committee” saw them.
I won’t belabor my opinion again about why, but there were more quality teams in conference and if you just judge on who is actually better on Selection Sunday among at-large candidates, I feel that the PAC-12 should have had 3-4 teams. Cinderella Colorado had to get in by winning the conference tourney. Washington should have gotten in, as the Dawes were the best team on the court during the conference season. UW has also performed better in the post-season. Though the Buffs win over UNLV makes a strong argument for them, UW has taken down three NIT opponents (albeit at home) in Texas-Arlington, Northwestern and Oregon.
The main reason why I feel that UW has looked the best of all of the league teams in March is that they beat the Ducks, who I feel were the second best PAC-12 team on Selection Sunday. Cal was the 4th best team in my opinion (the Buffs being 3rd), but only by a hair over the Cardinal, who beat them in the last game of the final season to allow UW to own the conference crown out right. The Bears were fading, along with Arizona as the season wore down and both teams demonstrated that with unimpressive showings in the NCAA play-in game and the NIT respectively. If there were qualified basketball people making decisions on Selection Sunday, I feel that UW, Oregon, CU and Cal (play-in game) or at least the Ducks in the play-in and UW and CU selected, with Cal in the NIT along with Stanford and ‘Zona.
You can’t re-write history, but as I referenced recently in regards to Husky coach Lorenzo Romar and free throw shooting, insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. This can also be applied to the media “experts” that chirp year round about how poor the conference is and the AD’s and conference commissioners (basically fat cat, board member types who know very little about the game itself) who make up the NCAA selection committee. OK, I did belabor it a little, but this brings us to my point. Tuesday’s 90-86 win over Oregon decided who was the best team in the conference. UW’s 16-point win at Hec Ed on New Year’s Eve was slammed back in their face by a 25-point Eugene embarrassment on February 9th. Romar pointed out how tough of a challenge the game was in his post game comments.
“I would have to say, that was an outstanding basketball game. A total of 15 turnovers between the two teams. I think both teams were playing pretty efficient basketball. A lot of plays, big plays that were made. It was one of those ‘somebody had to lose’ type games. Iâ€™m proud of our team and Iâ€™m proud that we were the ones that came out on top and weâ€™re headed to New York.”
On the lighter side, Lorenzo pulled out his best Sinatra, as he addressed the crowd from the public address mic after the game, “Start spreading the news”. A nice photo gallery on gohuskies.com and YouTube Highlight reel give an idea as to the well played and hard fought game that it was, definitely as good a game as there was in the conference season. But the Dawgs prevailed in this shoot-out with a team effort that included sound performances from most of it’s key performers. Sophomore guard Terrence Ross scored 24 points, to bring his average over the course of the NIT to 26 points per game. Freshman guard Tony Wroten scored 22, but more importantly hit 10-14 from the FT line in what was probably the difference in the game. It certainly was in the Pac-12 tourney, where his 4-straight misses in the final minute, sunk UW against OSU. Romar talked after the game about how good of a player Tony is, for such a youngster.
“He had eight assists in the Arlington game and took maybe five shots and contributed in that way. Tonight, he went to the line and hit 10 out of 14. He rebounded and had a big-time hustle play on the block on the 3-point shot. He just busted his tail like a champion. He got on the floor and did things like that. He just shows a lot of versatility on the floor. Each game presents a different challenge and he’s talented enough to adjust to whatever games he plays.”
Wroten’s seven boards co-led the Dawgs on the glass with junior post Aziz N’Diaye, junior guard Abdul Gaddy and senior post Darnell Gant. Gaddy was particularly notable with 10 assists and 11 points to boot. Abdul is in the midst of a coming of age, as he has put in consistent performances down the stretch of the 2011-12 season, that remind me of the progress of Tre Simmons, Quincy Pondexter, Justin Dentmon and Matthew Bryan-Amaning. Those three players became much better (all of a sudden) in the latter stages of their junior years, which set the stage for All Pac-10 seasons as seniors. It just takes some players that long to put themselves in that higher gear. In Pondexter’s case that meant the NBA, while in Simmons’, Dentmon’s and in that of “MBA” it has meant success in the NBDL or overseas pro play.
Dentmon has chosen the D-League route and it seems as if it could be working. The San Antonio Spurs reportedly signed him to a 10-day contract, according to mysanantonio.com on Saturday. Matthew is doing so well in Europe that he’ll likely be offered an NBA contract soon. Check out this YouTube highlight reel from 2011-12, if you don’t believe me. Simmons seems satisfied to just play out his career in Europe, earning a six-figure salary. Not bad for anyone these days, even with a college education. Tre has yet to get his 4-year degree, but finishing that should be easy enough after building up a nice solid amount of capital. Gaddy is heading in the direction of these four Husky pros. If Abdul continues to progress like this, he could be an NBA first round pick after all. Like Pondexter, Gaddy was young for his class and even more so than Quincy it has taken him longer than many of his highly rated prep contemporaries like John Wall, who he was rated right behind in the point guard rankings in the class of 2009.
The signs are all there though for Abdul to play a very important role in 2012-13 for the Dawgs and for that matter on Tuesday against the Golden Gophers. Gant and N’Diaye will also be very important against Minnesota, as they were against the Ducks. Darnell scored six points, but more importantly slowed a veteran Oregon front court that has been key to it’s success in conference play. 5th year Duck senior Olu Ashaolu scored 20 points to lead Oregon and looked every bit as good as the NBA scouts, who (according to sources) chose him as the best power forward to declare for the draft last season but pull out, saw him. Juniors Tony Woods and E.J. Singler scorer 15 and 19 respectively, while junior Carlos Emory and seniors Jeremy Jacob and Tyrone Nared continued to be the load that they have been on Pac-12 bigs this season.
To add some perspective just how much more experienced a team Oregon are than UW, Ashaolu, Singler, senior guard Garrett Sim and senior guard Devoe Joseph have all scored over 1,000 points at the D1 level. Sim ended his career at UO with a school record 136 consecutive games. When you add to that an Oregon front court manned by six good four and five year players and a back court manned by two seniors, you get the picture. Gant, N’Diaye and freshman football walk-on Austin Seferian-Jenkins did the little things (if you can use that term for these huge kids) to minimize that veteran group in what was the story behind the story of Wroten’s FT’s. Washington out rebounded the Ducks 40-36 in what was a battle made harder by top rebounder N’Diaye’s foul trouble. Both teams did well on the offensive glass with UW winning that stat 16-14 in another key number.
Gant also did what he has done most of this season for UW, as he yielded 20 to Ashaolu, along with a little help from freshman post Desmond Simmons, but he stopped Olu from going for much bigger numbers. He did very much the same thankless job on Northwestern’s John Shurna, who scored 24 (but could have gone for 40) and a whole host of others this year. Darnell also spent a lot of time on Singler in the 2nd half, which did well for UW to slow E.J. After 15 first half points, Gant held Singler to four in the 2nd. All Pac-12 Oregon guard Devoe Joseph was held to 12 points on 4-15 from the field, which was another demonstration of the improvements that Gaddy is showing.
On Wednesday Husky Haul ran a nice piece which talked about Abdul’s emergence and how it has really helped the UW team play a more organized looking offense. But Ross said on Tuesday that, “It’s all about getting stops”, adding “which ever team does that will have a good chance at winning”. Down the stretch it was Gaddy that stepped up as much as anyone defensively. In a sequence that helped decide the game, Gaddy drew a charge from Joseph on a play that could have easily been an old fashioned 3-point play the other way with UW in the lead 82-77. Abdul then drew a charge from Singler that fouled out the key Duck with 55-seconds left.
‘Dul was on Joseph a lot of the night, while Tony did what he could to use the mismatches that sophomore Jon Loyd and senior Garrett Sim provided UW. Sim still did some damage on the offensive end, with seven assists, but Tony did a good job of keeping him quiet from three, where Garrett has been brilliant down the stretch with only 1-5. Sim made a blunder by talking a bit too much to the media on Monday when he said about UW, “They can say all they want, but we’ll be ready”, adding “We’ll be ready to fight them”. Talking about fighting in a rivalry that included a forearm shiver from Aaron Brooks, resulting in a ton of well publicized blood from Ryan Appleby in the 2006 Pac-10 Tournament, was not a good choice of words. Garrett continued the war of words, even after the game had ended.
“We werenâ€™t getting any calls tonight and they were getting all of them. Apparently if you flop you get a foul called, for them.”
I really didn’t see any truly bad calls against Oregon on offensive foul calls, but what I did see was both teams playing very well and one had to come out on top. Sure it would have been nice if the Dawgs had been motivate to play this well against the Beavers, when it was imperative for their dance card, but I feel that the win over Oregon was satisfying none the less. By playing three games in the post season against quality opponents, it allows UW players like Gaddy and N’Diaye, two of the three seniors of 2012-12, to gain valuable big game experience.