Washington Husky Huddle for Tuesday January 17th 2012 (Part One)

Jan 17, 2012, 10:26 AM | Updated: Jan 19, 2012, 7:53 pm

(Jason McCleary of Leftcoastrecruiting.com contributed to this post)

After beating Seattle U 91-83 on Tuesday and WSU on Sunday 75-65, UW sits at 4-1 in Pac-12 play and 10-6 overall. Going into a home stand against the Bay Area schools, both currently tied for 1st place in the conference at 5-1, looks like a
Cinderella story in the making, with the ultimate result being UW all alone in 1st place a week from now after two more glorious home wins. The YouTube highlight clip of the SU and WSU games are both full of gutty plays. In the post game press conference for SU, the Dawgs gave a lot of credit to the Redhawks and in the WSU post game the mood was fun and joking in light of coach Lorenzo Romar’s anger at the refs (which resulted in a game changing technical), not to mention Ken Bone’s header, so entertaining that it made national news. That picture was not so rosy however, when a stress fracture in sophomore guard C.J. Wilcox’s femur was dropped to the media in the post game. That is no easy injury to rehab. According to sportsinjuryclinic.com this could end his season.

“Depending on severity it should take 7 weeks from the time that the ‘hang test’ (over the edge of the chair) is not painful before a gradual return to sports specific training can begin.”

A “hang test” is characterized as “Pain when a bending force is applied to the femur”. No idea as to how the UW medical staff is looking to treat this injury, but it appears that it could be the end of Wilcox’s year or possibly most of it, though Romar said to the media that he would expect C.J. to miss the games against the Bay area schools “at least”. With senior Scott Suggs and freshman Andrew Andrews red-shirting, this specific injury would appear to be especially vexing for UW fans. The Dawgs are effectively six deep, with players that are prepared to play major minutes, without Wilcox. Junior guard Abdul Gaddy, freshman guard Tony Wroten and sophomore guard Terrence Ross are an imposing back court with freshman post Desmond Simmons, senior post Darnell Gant and junior post Aziz N’Diaye sharing the post minutes. Simmons, who has distinguished himself well for a frosh, got the start for the Dawgs in both games. Romar said “Simmons s the second leading rebounder on the team and the team seems to play harder when he’s out on the court, so that’s why he got the start”. That post rotation appears to be strong, as long as no one gets hurt, tired, sick or in foul trouble. The problem is that this means that the guards will need to play almost 40-minutes a piece and the posts will need to share nearly 80. To have an effective rotation at this level, most would agree that there should be two more guards that can be used and one more post.

Since UW has no post at all that I would consider a first call low post scorer. In the best of all worlds, that 4th post would be a guy who can do what UW needs defensively and on the glass, while being a go-to-option down low. If UW still had a solid low block scoring threat, like Matthew Bryan-Amaning or Jamaal Williams, plus a healthy Wilcox and an Andrews or Suggs, that team would in fact be worthy of my confidence as that Cinderella story going into March, regardless to how bad this Pac-12 is perceived to be. They don’t, so what should Romar do? I think that if C.J. can’t come back they should bring Scott or Andrew off red-shirt and hope that Gant, Dez or perhaps an improving Aziz can succeed in providing a post scoring threat down the stretch. Last time I checked, what I think doesn’t have much pull with Romar and his staff, but I’m wondering if this may be a possibility.

Andrews to me is the best choice. Yes, Andrew is a great player that has the possibility of being a major success at UW. He has the look of a leader, like Will Conroy, the schools career leader in assists, with a better looking jumper right out of the gate. Suggs final year is a precious commodity for UW and should be saved for next year, while “AA” will be around for a while and could red-shirt again if needed. Last year, at almost the same time (two weeks, as opposed to three weeks into conference play), Gaddy went down for the year. That loss, along with the effect that the scandal had on Venoy Overton, set UW’s season back considerably. Things were not going that great this year anyway, with the loss of Isaiah Thomas, Overton, Bryan-Amaning and Justin Holiday, but with Wilcox, Ross or Wroten capable of “going off” on any given night, a solid trio of defensive minded posts holding serve and Gaddy directing, this team looked like a possible contender.

With Wilcox down, that balance is simply way too compromised for the team to get back to the NCAA Tournament. The story over the weekend to me was that the Dawgs dodged a bullet because of someone between Wilcox, Wroten and Ross being able to step up when the chips were down against two teams of questionable strength at home. This UW team will need to beat better teams at home in Cal and Stanford this week, without Wilcox. They will have to split on the road against the Oregon Schools, the Arizona schools and the LA schools and beat the Cougs in Pullman to have the type of resume that will be needed to gain an at-large bid in March. I’d feel confident that a 21-9 record (that scenario) would land the Dawgs a piece of 2nd place or better in this year’s Pac-12 and a win or two in the conference tourney would cement that bid. I also feel that this will not happen, with a six-man rotation, plus freshman guard Hikeem Stewart filling in for Wilcox.

Even with Wilcox, I feel that the Huskies need Andrews, who is a much better offensive threat and with an ability to play Gaddy’s role than Stewart. To be fair, Hikeem played well over the weekend in Seattle. He didn’t shoot from the perimeter
and played decent team offense and defense. The problem here is that UW needs someone who can do all three and I feel that Andrews is more likely to succeed at that. With Wroten much more than likely to go to the NBA after this season than almost anyone thought, Andrews is odds on choice to be Gaddy’s back-up next year. Game day experience will pay major dividends next year and this. Unless UW is looking to position itself for a higher draft pick by finishing lower in the Pac-12, or that the femur was misdiagnosed, Andrew should be readied to go in Thursday against the Bears at Hec-Ed at 5:30 p.m. (PST). Yes, the Dawgs have a fateful flaw in a lack of a classic back to the basket low post threat.

Between the improving N’Diaye, improving scrappy play from the more wing-like Simmons and Gant, the pipe dream of frosh football walk-on Austin Seferian-Jenkins (who was on the bench dressed but didn’t play) and the ability of Ross and Wroten to score inside, there’s a chance that could be addressed. There is little or no chance that Ross and Wroten can replace Wilcox’s production without help. Suggs would be the best remedy, but Andrews would be the way to “Make the best of a bad situation”, to quote Gladys Knight and the Pips. Andrew brings almost a secret weapon out of UW’s back pocket. That could be a major story in the Pac-12 race. Andrew does some of what Wroten does, in being able to drive to the hoop, while also doing a lot of what Gaddy does in protecting the ball. “AA” or “Drew” is also an added long range threat, not on par with Wilcox, but who is? He is the top option at this point for Romar.

How did it happen, that C.J. hurt himself? It is hard to figure out. It has apparently been a problem that has bothered him for a while and there was talk of an infection in his hip last season. Over the past month it’s been termed tendinitis. It is hard to say if all of the hip ailments were related, but UW needs to focus on getting him back to 100%. Wilcox is a potential NBA pro, with two more years of eligibility. In the wake of the likely loss of Wroten this June and Ross this June or next, Wilcox is the future on the wing. Rushing C.J. back is not a good idea in my opinion. Andrews can red-shirt in three more seasons. Unfortunately, now is not the time for him to sit out. Wilcox took a vicious spill against Seattle U on Tuesday, but that was probably not the sole cause of his injury.

Sad that it was a frenetic effort to deal with the aggressive press dictated by a man who brought him to Washington, that may have ended his season. Cameron Dollar was back in his old stomping grounds, as the former Washington assistant, now head coach of his Seattle Redhawks, team took on Washington Tuesday. It wasn’t pretty for either team in any category. Both teams came out sloppy and the Huskies played down to their competition. In a lack luster performance the Huskies did well to pull together under the pressure to win 91-83. Not to take anything away from a now 3-12 Seattle U team, but the Huskies didn’t look like they belonged on the court at times with the Red Hawks. Romar said of his team, “They just didn’t quit”, but a hip bruise for Wroten and the injury to Wilcox was more than the Dawgs needed in the midst of a conference race. All the talk is about C.J., but Tony admitted after the WSU game to being slowed.

“I’m sore still. Really sore. But we got the win, so that’s just kind of outweighing my pain right now, so it doesn’t matter. We’re just going to enjoy this win and I’m going to keep rehabbing”

My question is, how can the UW coaches expect this team to win this league or garner an NCAA bid, with such depth and injury issues, without making some adjustments to their plans? The Huskies shot 40% from the field, and 62% from the free throw line turning the ball over 16 times while committing 24 fouls against SU. Five players fouled out for Seattle U and one player fouled out for the Huskies. Wroten and Wilcox had the majority of the points as they combined for 49 points, shooting a combined 12-30 from the field, but Tony had six more ugly turnovers. Four players finished in double digits for the Huskies who shot 37-59 from the free throw line in the Donnybrook. UW was two free throws away from tying a single game record for most attempts. The Dawgs were sloppy with the ball in the second half committing 11 of their 16 turnovers.

In the first half the ball movement for the Huskies was good. They were moving it around and breaking the Seattle press. Wroten had a team high six assists, but all came in the first half. Wroten easily got to the rim throughout the whole game and set the tone for driving in the lane while Wilcox was hitting his shots and had a career high with 25 points. Seattle U was scrappy the whole game and committed 37 fouls while hanging with the Huskies. Senior post Aaron Broussard and sophomore guard Sterling Carter set the tone for the Redhawks. Both players combined for 35 points. At one point Seattle U tied the game with 11 minutes left to go in the game at 62. That was the only time Seattle tied with the Dawgs, but Dollar had his team ready in the second half with UW up 50-37.

The Dawgs were rattled by the press that the Husky faithful were so used to seeing when Dollar was on the bench with UW. The second half gave the chance for Seattle to show why they are a team that hangs around with their opposition. The play got real physical in the second half. There were a number of good examples on how physical it got. Wroten got fouled real hard and bruised his tailbone. Ross was fouled going up for an alley oop and a flagrant fouled was called on Redhawk junior post T.J. Diop. Gaddy also was called for an intentional foul and Wroten received a technical when he reacted with hostility to Diop’s flagrant foul on Ross. Aziz had a similar game to what he had last year against Seattle U and overall had an encouraging week for the Dawgs. N’Diaye was very physical and finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds, but the Huskies looked overall like they have a ways to go.

With their questionable performance against Seattle U, not to mention the bumps and bruises, it appeared that it would be much harder to beat WSU on Sunday. Kevin Calabro and Coug homer Jim Moore talked on 710-ESPN on Wednesday about how Seattle had exposed Husky flaws, with Moore adding in the further hope that the Cougs could really get a win on Sunday. Washington appeared to be a better team than both up front, as they beat up SU on the boards 53-40 and then WSU 46-24, but the loss of Wilcox is a much bigger issue. Yes, they showed a grittiness in the two games, that was talked about in depth by Gregg Bell of gohuskies.com on Wednesday, but it is going to take more than six players to “gut” this out. Wroten won’t be the kind of threat from the high post that he was against WSU in the 2nd half against teams with better bigs and UW is going to need Ross and Gant to blow up like they did against the Cougs every night, which is not likely to happen. That said, UW fans have to admire the effort in the WSU game and feel hope that even without C.J. all would not be lost.

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Washington Husky Huddle for Tuesday January 17th 2012 (Part One)