Pac-10 Roundup and Husky Huddle for Wednesday February 9th 2011

Feb 9, 2011, 5:19 PM | Updated: Apr 5, 2011, 11:20 am

Is the Pac-10 improved? I can’t see how anyone can even ask that question, but Bob Sherwin of sportspressnw quotes some of the top league coaches who make a strong argument for the conference being pretty tough.

Kevin O’Neill of USC talked in Tuesday’s conference call about the possibility of five teams getting NCAA Tournament invites this year and brighter days next season.

“We have good young teams in this league, good young players in this league this year. There are good incoming players in this league. The Pac-10 will be back to five, six, maybe even seven teams in the NCAA Tournament in a year or two. I think we could have as many as five this year, to be honest with you, depending how it shakes out here at the end.”

Arizona coach Sean Miller also gave his take on Tuesday.

“There is not a conference out there that has produced more great players that are NBA first-round picks. For me to compare last year’s Pac-10 and this year’s Pac-10, there’s no comparison. Anybody who would actually compare isn’t aware of what a lot of things that have changed.”

On Monday the polls came out and Arizona was the story in the Pac-10.

The ‘Cats were 15th in the AP and 16th in the Coaches poll, while moving up to 17th in the RPI rankings. Washington received 21 votes (28th) and UCLA received nine votes (33rd) in the Coaches top-25 poll. The Dawgs received 15 votes (33rd) and the Bruins got five (39th) in the AP. No other Pac-10 teams received votes.

Ken Pomeroy has been rating the Huskies really high all year and still had them 13th on Tuesday, even in the midst of a three game losing streak.

Various pundits focus on “Power Rankings”. Before the Huskies weekend sweep at the Oregon schools on Thursday ESPN dropped the Dawgs two notches to 18th and moved ‘Zona up four slots to 21st. No other Pac-10 teams were ranked.

On Saturday, prior to the Oregon loss for UW, Yahoo’s Jason King demoted UW to 3rd in the Pac-10. ‘Zona took over the top spot and UCLA the 2nd spot based on the Dawgs losses to WSU and OSU, plus continued ‘Zona and Bruin successes.

King picked the Washington/Cal game for Thursday at 6 p.m. (PST) as one of it’s games to watch and for good reason. If the Huskies can’t snap out of this current slump which has yielded a three game losing streak and an anemic win over ASU, UW’s season could be in serious trouble.

The Dawgs looked like a team that felt it didn’t have to try that hard to win in a 68-56 loss to the Beavers on Thursday. OSU pulled ahead at the end and ran away with it late, as the Dawgs seemed to play as if all they had to do was wave their magic wands and they could get the win, until it was too late.

Against the Ducks, the Dawgs played harder, but looked out of sync and like a team that was afraid and desperate. Oregon played smarter and took advantage en-route to a 81-76 win over UW.

Cal, on the other hand could be on it’s way to a season that has to be looked at as a great success with a win this Thursday. The Bears beat ASU last Thursday in Berkeley 66-62, then played ‘Zona to triple-overtime before losing on Saturday 107-105. The Bears are 6-5 in league play and could easily be tied or ahead of the now 7-4 Huskies.

Cal is a good team and coach Mike Montgomery deserves a lot of credit, as does Oregon coach Dana Altman. ‘Zona’s Sean Miller may get more credit, by virtue of his front leading team this season, but with the talent he has in Tucson AZ, his job is much less remarkable than that of “Monty” and Altman.

The Dawgs under Romar has almost always had bad spells and difficult weekends in the Pac-10, yet gone on to do better. This happens almost every year. Even in the mediocre 16-17 and 9th place finish of 2006-2007, the Dawgs played better down the stretch and of course at home.

Even in their miserable first year under Romar in 2002-2003, in the last nine games when Brandon Roy joined the team, UW played much better. With 5-7 games at home this year, UW has a very good chance of pulling it’s season back together, as they have every year after foibles like the past four games and the bad loss at Stanford.

‘Zona is riding high right now, but must face four of the six best conference teams still. UW and WSU will be in Tucson, but both of those teams can beat the ‘Cats and UW especially could have additional incentive to play for. If they both do well this weekend against the Bay Area schools and get their title hopes back up and going, the ‘Cats better look out.

‘Zona face rival ASU in Tempe and though it would appear that they will continue to roll, rivalry games are tough to manage sometimes. ‘Zona will probably win, but like everything else in the Pac-10 this season and almost every year these days, nothing is that certain.

UCLA will face both Oregon and Oregon State this weekend in Pauley, both of which seem to be wins for the Bruins, but the Ducks are playing really well together and OSU showed much more life over the weekend against the Washington schools and could give UCLA a game.

The Bruins beat USC on Wednesday 64-50 in Westwood CA, but got some real home cookin’ from the refs in a 66-59 win over St. John’s on Saturday.

Also look for WSU to perhaps play themselves into the picture. The Cougs beat Stanford and lost to Cal down in the Bay Area, but unlike Washington got out of Oregon with a split, beating the Beavers 61-55 after losing to the Ducks badly on Thursday 69-43 in what appeared to be a “hangover game” after the big win over UW in Pullman.

Stanford will also be coming to Seattle to meet UW on Saturday, after facing the Cougs in Pullman on Thursday at 7 p.m. (PST). The Cardinal have been playing poorly of late, but are coming off an 83-75 win over ASU on Saturday in Palo Alto CA. On Thursday the Cardinal were taken down at home against ‘Zona 78-69.

I don’t expect much out of Stanford in Pullman or Seattle, but again anything can happen and probably will. A bigger key is the match-up between Cal and the Washington schools. If the Bears can gain a split, that has to be considered a solid weekend for them and it will probably mean major problems are in store for either the Dawgs or the Cougs.

UW and WSU made Oregon look really good this past weekend and the Ducks really are a team that deserves a lot of credit. I felt and still feel that on paper Oregon is probably the worst team in the conference. When you add the component of a new coach and the turmoil in the off-season with so many transfers, one would have expected a lot of problems.

Altman has done very well to get the most out of his players and get them to “buy in”. The Ducks have also gotten a boost from the new arena, be it a fair advantage or not. The place is a major distraction that has made the usually tough trip to Eugene OR tougher in ways that no one really saw coming.

It’s not the arena that is beating teams, but the Ducks have been playing better there and are gaining confidence. Being named Pac-10 Player of the Week will not hurt Oregon senior post Joevan Catron’s mojo, as he caused the Cougs and Dawgs a lot of damage.

Catron probably forced UW to play much more zone than they wanted to, along with it being a tough match-up for sophomore post Aziz N’Diaye and junior post Darnell Gant’s quadriceps injury.

Washington’s slump has brought a wide range of criticism out of the wood work. Gary Parrish of CBS Sports asked, “Did Washington just lose the Pac-10 title?” after the Oregon game.

The premise here from Parrish is that because the ‘Cats face UW at home, that this means that there is no way that the Dawgs can catch up to them. That may be a decent argument, but ‘Zona has to travel to the LA schools still and for some reason I like WSU’s chances in Tucson.

Matt Nordlander of CBS attributed UW’s fall to shot selection and to some degree junior guard Isaiah Thomas’ cooling off after such a hot start on the heels of sophomore guard Abdul Gaddy’s season ending knee injury.

“The Huskies hucked up 54 3-pointers in two games in the Beaver State, losing both in a three-game span and dropping a third straight contest. The unraveling of the Huskies in Eugene Saturday signals a power shift atop the Pac-10 that UW may not be able to wrangle back.”

“I don’t know if Isaiah Thomas can fully carry the load for this team, and that’s part of the fall. Abdul Gaddy was too proficient to not see some — here comes that aforementioned word — regression at some point.”

Yahoo blogger Jeff Eisenberg asked, “Is the Pac-10 still the weakest conference?” of the Big-6 and intimated that the league was not and could have as many as four NCAA bid, double what it did last season.

“Whereas it took a late surge from Washington for the Pac-10 to even get two teams into the NCAA tournament last year, this year the conference appears likely to get at least three bids and perhaps as many as four. Arizona has ridden conference player of the year favorite Derrick Williams to the top of the standings, Washington still appears on track to earn an NCAA tournament berth despite three straight road losses and UCLA has quietly won 13 of 16 games. The team with the best chance at the potential fourth bid is Washington State, which defeated Gonzaga and Baylor in non-conference
play.”

ESPN’s Dana O’Neill in the “Weekly Watch” roundup of college hoops painted the Pac-10 as a three-way race.

“The new leader board shows Washington sitting in third. And while the Huskies have been slip-sliding, the two teams in front of them have been soaring. Arizona needed three overtimes but eventually beat Cal to win its fifth in a row and eight of its last nine. Sean Miller has done a terrific job with this group of Wildcats. UCLA, meantime, topped St. John’s for its 13th win in 16 tries. The young Bruins — they have no seniors on the roster — are not pretty all the time but they are growing dangerously confident as the season progresses.”

Also in the “weekly Watch” ESPN’s Andy Katz said that “UCLA is quietly putting together a nice bounce-back season” and Brett Edgerton said that “it seems fair to wonder whether the Huskies are a sure thing when it comes to making the NCAA tournament”.

ESPN usually minimizes the Pac-10, when it comes to bracket talk, so expect one more bid than these pundits spin in February. Surprisingly though Joe Lunardi, who notoriously dismisses the Pac-10 the worst of them all, picked four Pac-10 teams to make the dance. Arizona (5), Washington (7), UCLA (9) and Washington State (play-in game), were “bracketed”.

ESPN blogger Eamonn Brennan added to the drama over Selection Sunday, by moving UW from “Teams that should be in” to “Work left to do” in his “Bubble Watch” column on Tuesday.

Dave Ommen of NBC Sports again did his bracket and focused on two new Bubble teams, Alabama and Washington. Ommen stated that the Pac-10 had zero teams that were tournament “locks” or even “should be in”, the lowest rating of any of the top eight leagues.

Ommen listed UW, ‘Zona, UCLA and WSU as teams that are on the bubble.

USC was the pick of a number of people, Katz and myself included, to finish high and get a bid, but the loss to the Bruins on Wednesday puts them way behind. It may be that the loss of freshman wing Bryce Jones makes for a very difficult hole for them to fill when senior wing Marcus Simmons needs a break.

Ocregister.com’s Jonathan Lev talked about ‘SC losing Bryce in an intelligent post on Monday.

“Once Jones decided to transfer, the Trojans went from having little depth to next-to-none. The difference between eight and seven, it turns out, is much greater than one.”

Simmons is often winded, as he almost always gets the toughest defensive assignment. USC could still pull some upsets and will be a tough out for some Pac-10 teams with their bigs, but it could be that they are now out of the mix for a trip to the dance, despite having the best tournament resume with non-conference wins over Texas and Tennessee.

One team that no one has mentioned for an NCAA berth is Cal, who are tied with WSU for 4th place. If Cal comes out of the state of Washington with a split and the win is over the Cougs, talk of a big for WSU will probably stop. If the Bears can sweep this weekend, There is no question in my mind that they will enter the bracket discussion.

Husky Huddle

710-ESPN Seattle’s Brock and Salk talked about what is wrong with Washington at length on Tuesday. Brock Huard felt that the reason this UW team are having problems is not because they are not as good as people thought, but more because the Dawgs have not played well.

Romar appeared on the show on Wednesday and gave a lot of the same answers that he gave in his media press meeting on Tuesday at Hec-Ed and his weekly call in show, but I like the way that Brock and Salk approached the coach and made him answer the tough questions.

Romar dealt with one reason, as to why his team was beaten twice in Oregon and last Sunday in Pullman, after playing poorly against ASU at home the week before.

“We’ve been sitting back a little too much, playing too passively. We just have a take a little more pride with what we’re about.”

It all starts with the coach though and ESPN’s Pat Forde was quick to point that out in his “Forde’s Minutes” column, where he picked Romar as the “Coach who should find his own ride to work”, as opposed to the “Coach who earned his comp
car”.

“Lorenzo Romar of Washington. He has the most talent in the Pac-10 and had the league lead until a dismal trip to Oregon this past weekend. The Huskies somehow lost by a dozen to Oregon State, then followed that up with a five-point loss to completely out-manned Oregon. A 7-4 record in this league is just poor.”

Thomas admitted that his team has dropped off, when he spoke to the media on Tuesday.

“We’re not giving our full effort. We’ve seen it on tape and it’s embarrassing.”

On Tuesday Romar talked about his team’s problems, but insisted that if they play better defense, the entire outlook will improve.

“We tell our team on Day 1 when we start talking about defense if you want to fast break, if you want to be able to play, have fun and enjoy yourself, it’s a lot of hard work because it starts on the defensive end. If we’re not guarding like we need to be guarding, it hurts just about every aspect of our game. We want to be a team that, if we’re shooting 35% we still can win the game, because we’re getting stops on the defensive end. If you are getting stops on the defensive end there are times you don’t have to work as hard on the offensive end because you’re getting easier baskets.”

The Cal game on Thursday will be a major challenge, as the Bears are playing well and really don’t have much to apologize for at this point. John Chase of Montlake Madness did a strong, in-depth preview of the Bear/Dawg game.

In his weekly “Pac-10 Insider” column, Doug Haller of azcentral.com pointed out that the Huskies are “down but not out”.

“While getting swept by the Oregon schools certainly is head-scratching, Washington still is in the regular-season title picture, mainly for this reason: Five of the Huskies’ final seven are at Hec Edmundson Pavilion, where they are 11-0. Of course, beating Arizona at McKale Center won’t be easy.”

So if UW does split in the desert and win out at home, where does that leave them? They would be 13-5 going into the Pac-10 tournament and 22-8 overall, with a win over Seattle U in Key Arena. If they get a win or two in the conference tourney, that leaves them with 23 or 24 wins on Selection Sunday.

That sounds good enough to me, but remember last year when 2nd place ASU was snubbed. I can’t imagine it happening to UW this season, but nothing is for sure when you play just enough to advance. The Huskies need to treat every game like it is do or die. If they win out, I can’t see a scenario in which they don’t win the out-right Pac-10 title.

Arizona would have to beat both LA schools on the road, both UW and WSU at home, their natural rival in ASU on the road and the Oregon Schools this week in Tucson. UCLA has to travel to face WSU and UW, as well as both Bay Area Schools on the road, both Oregon schools at home and the Arizona schools at home.

Washington with the five home games and facing ASU on the road looks pretty good, but the way that the Dawgs have been playing has to change or you might as well throw this theory out the window.

Romar acknowledged that he gets this when he addressed it on his weekly call in Q+A show for IMG College on Monday.

“We’re still in good shape, but we have to play better basketball”

Jon Wilner of the Mercury News poked fun at UW’s troubles, while ranking them 5th in his “Pac-10 basketball Ratings” on Tuesday.

“During three-game losing streak, Isaiah Thomas is 10 of 34 from the field, 4 of 17 from 3-pt range and has 16 turnovers. In perverse way, he’s making a great case for himself as league MVP.”

I feel Wilner is saying that if you bottle up Thomas, you beat UW, because when he’s loose he is the best player/weapon in the league. There is some truth to that, but I think it is more like this. When Thomas bottles up himself, but not playing smart with the ball and the UW team don’t make him play smarter, he negates the reason why he is the best player.

Bleacher Report didn’t rank UW 5th or 6th in their Pac-10 “Power Rankings”like the Times’ Percy Allen did in his, but they instead put them 3rd, which makes more sense. ‘Zona was 1st, UCLA 2nd, Cal 4th and WSU 5th.

I know the point of these “Rankings” is to try to determine who is playing good now, but a team’s effort in one good or bad week really is not that important in college hoops. So why does every columnist run this piece every week during Pac-10 play? I guess because its an easy way to fill space mid-week.

It really doesn’t mean much, but neither do the polls for that matter until March.

Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated, who has championed the Husky cause all season, was perplexed on Monday by the Dawgs win less trip to Oregon.

“Gotta say I’m pretty stunned by Washington’s three-game losing streak. Losing at Washington State is no crime, and even a bad hiccup at Oregon State can be somewhat understandable. But to have lost those games back-to-back and still lose at Oregon tells me something is up. Defense has never been this team’s forte, but the Huskies are having a hard time shutting teams down without fouling. Those three opponents shot 30, 38 and 23 free throws, respectively. That’s a lot of cheese to be giving away.”

Wilner of the Mercury News felt on Monday that the Dawgs were on the edge of being left home for the dance.

“Combine the Huskies’ road woes with their lack of quality OOC wins, and I’d have to say they’re fast approaching that darn bubble.”

Bob Sherwin of sportspessnw took a more constructive look at UW’s problems, but painted them as fairly severe.

Sherwin said that the UW staff should deal with the “Distraction” caused by the investigation into one of their players, even with the decision by the Seattle Police Department and the King County Prosecutor to not press rape charges. That story broke on Friday on Seattlecrime.com.

Though there is a misdemeanor charge of furnishing alcohol to a minor being considered, Sherwin talks about it like it deserves a huge penalty. Furnishing alcohol to a minor is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, but in this case it may be difficult to prove and not a violation worthy of the maximum sentence.

“Just the allegation that he introduced alcohol to a minor is a deal-buster. If they want to know if it’s true, ask him. If he’s hiding something, he’ll be in bigger trouble.”

Frankly, that violation has not even been determined to have occurred, though witnesses have brought it out as a possibility. I would think that if it the player told the UW staff that he committed that infraction, then something would have already been done in regards to his status on the team.

It sounds to me like that crime may have been committed by someone other than the player who is possibly also a witness in this case. For that reason the truth may never be determined and it is very possible there will be no further charges brought. Anything is possible though.

Sherwin also talked about UW’s inability to beat zone defenses on the road, lack of depth and the previously mentioned poor play on defense, but left with a positive spin.

“They can plot out what’s ahead and what they need to do over the final four weeks of the regular season. In particular, they can better understand why they lost at Stanford three weeks ago and do what’s necessary to beat them Saturday. They will have a clear vision of the task ahead, with a eye on their Feb. 19 game at Arizona. That will have major conference title and NCAA Tournament implications. The Huskies understand a victory there likely will vault them to a chance for a big close since they finish with three games at home, Washington State, UCLA and USC.”

Montlake Madness’ Craig Yamada was even more optimistic, predicting that ‘Zona and the Bruins will each lose three more games and that UW has a decent shot to win the league.

“Like I said before, parity has a funny way of working out when you are playing from behind. UW will need some luck, but I will not say they are done for. If they drop a game at home this weekend, then yes we can start talking. But until that happens, UW still has a great shot at making a strong run at the end of the season with five home games left and just two on the road.”

Coach Lorenzo Romar spoke to Percy Allen of the Seattle Times after Thursday’s loss at OSU and clearly took the blame for what he feels is the problem. Romar said that his team’s overall execution on defense was the problem and because that could not be traced top anyone in specific, it had to be him that was at fault.

“We don’t need to change the scheme. It’s been effective for nine years so we’ll stick with the same scheme. I don’t think personnel is an issue because it’s not one or two guys. It’s the team. So if it’s the team, then that’s on me. If it’s one guy or two guy, we change them. But if it’s the team, it’s something I’m not doing right.”

I applaud Romar for this statement. He is the problem if his team is playing poorly overall, but his track record shows that he can handle that problem, at least he has with nearly every other group of guys that he’s had at UW.

My opinion is that the UW has had some tough luck. Romar is doing a good job in recruiting and coaching overall. In these last four games (I include the ASU game in this discussion), since a tremendous effort against the ‘Cats, UW has played with a sense of entitlement and lack of urgency on defense.

Perhaps Romar is guilty of enabling that to exist, perhaps not, but that is what I see. This UW team is no longer in a position to feel entitled to much.

With the loss of Gaddy, senior guard Venoy Overton’s troubles this season, other various aches and pains (C.J. Wilcox, Gant, etc.), the loss of sophomore post Tyreese Breshers, the Chuck Garcia debacle, the Terrence Jones saga and possibly even freshman Desmond Simmons being unavailable, it is a miracle that they looked as good as they did against ‘Zona.

For some reason, after that incredible effort, they ran out of gas and the coaches and players have not been able to get it going again. It was if they already proved something and didn’t want to have to do it again time after time. I think that there is the talent still on this UW team to make a great run this year. We’ll see if they can do it or not.

A lot of people, myself included, felt that ASU could figure it out this year because of how well coach Herb Sendek did in staying competitive after James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph last season. He ran out of tricks and really hit the skids this season. Who knows, he may still have some left for ‘Zona or others this year.

Despite a seven game losing streak (nine straight in the Pac-10), ASU has been in a lot of their games. A collapse like the Sun Devil’s could happen to UW this year to a lesser extent, but Romar has found a way to bring his teams (who always seem to have these kind of skids as well) back in tune.

Keep in mind things could get a lot worse. The first year that I watched UW closely was 1969-70. The Dawgs had probably the best overall big man in their history in Steve Hawes and one of the best 2-3 pure point guards in UW history in Rafael Stone.

Both went down in the same game with the same leg injury, right before conference play at the Far West Classic in Portland OR. They both played later in the year but ineffectively.

Let’s say that Washington had a good solid team, similar to the 2008-2009 team with Jon Brockman, Quincy Pondexter, Thomas, Justin Dentmon, etc. And Jon and Isaiah went down right before Pac-10 play. Hawes was also much better shooter than Brockman and was taller in a time when players were shorter.

Jon was a better rebounder of course, but Steve was a great one too. That was something worth getting bummed about. This situation UW is involved in now is a serious one, but not even close to that type of problem. The Dawgs still have a solid senior big guy in Matthew Bryan-Amaning.

“MBA” is such a versatile big man. Though he will be the 36th Husky to score 1,000 points after getting his next six, Matt needs two steals to become the second Husky with 100 steals & 100 blocks in their career. Christian Welp (a four year starter and the school’s all-time leading scorer) was the first, but he did that in a lot more minutes played.

Matt did a sit down interview with Bob Sherwin of sportspressnw in which he seemed appropriately humble about the task ahead. “MBA” talked about some funny anecdotes about rival student sections and his favorite home cooked meal.

Thomas is a capable PG and scoring option, as we all saw in the stretch between the Stanford game and the WSU game when he was on fire. Holiday is a strong senior wing. The Dawgs have a veteran back-up PG in Overton that could have it in him to get back to his previous form.

Romar seemed to have hope that this could happen when he mentioned Overton in his weekly call-in radio show on Monday night.

“I’m anxious to see what’s going to happen with Venoy.”

Romar also talked about Overton to the media on Tuesday and said that he felt that Venoy may have turned a corner in the Oregon game and that the senior has already “proven himself”.

Junior post Darnell Gant is still around and his injury appears to be minor. Romar in his Tuesday press conference confirmed that Gant is “expected to be available Thursday”. Gant was just getting going when he hurt himself against OSU. Gant’s play will be a huge key the rest of the way and if he’s healthy that’s good news.

Wilcox, Suggs and Ross are all very good shooters and a nightmare to prepare for, along with everything else UW can do. N’Diaye is a needed component on defense. This team still has a lot of weapons and can do some damage. What this past three games has shown is that they don’t have enough where nothing but a great effort is going to work.

An effort like the kind that Husky fans saw on the road against Cal and at home against ‘Zona. We’ll see if they can figure out a way to get back into that mindset and stay there. By the way, Thomas moved into 10th place on the all-time UW scoring list on Saturday.

Thomas is 52 points away from James Edwards at 7th and will pass Hawes and another former NBA pro (and team mate from 1970-72), guard Louie Nelson along the way. Yes, the Dawgs are struggling right now, but UW fans are truly witnessing what is up ’til now the golden era of Husky Basketball and it should continue for a long time.

Romar also hinted in Oregon that a new basketball training facility for the Men’s and Women’s teams is in the planning stages. An anonymous poster on a Scout message board included this information about it in a message, which looks as if it came from someone involved with the school. As of now no official statement has been made by the university.

“Project Name: ICA Basketball Training Facility, Location: Edmundson Pavilion (1195), Rooms: Alaska Airlines Arena, Approximate Total Cost: $200,000, Project Description: This project includes a pre-design study for a $20 to $40 million basketball training facility for the Intercollegiate Athletics Men’s and Women’s basketball program to be located in the vicinity of the Alaska Airlines Arena. The scope of work may include relocation and replacement of existing ICA facilities related to the new project. The pre-design study will include programming, alternatives, design concepts, cost estimates, and other related reports.”

On Thursday the OSU game was not the turnaround after the WSU loss that the UW players expected. Perhaps the problem was that they expected to bounce back. Gant sounded reassured of that when he spoke to the Morning News-Tribune’s Don Ruiz before the game.

“When you lose – especially a game that your team feels like you’re supposed to win – and then the performance that we have the next game we really want to come back with just unbelievable focus and, the things that we did in those games that we lost, get those right

Romar seemed to buy into this as well.

“When we do bring it, obviously we play at a high level. And the one loss we had in conference, our guys were really focused the next game.”

They didn’t seem focused to me as the Dawgs squandered numerous opportunities to build leads and finally gave in to a 17-6 run to end the game with score 51-50 OSU Thomas told Ruiz on Thursday that their defense was to blame.

“We’re not playing like we usually play. Usually when you thing about Husky basketball you think about full-court pressing, or getting after it, or getting steals. But no, we’re not doing that. We’re taking steps back on the defense end. We’ve just got to fix it ASAP.”

The story in this one on offense for the Dawgs was again shot selection. Junior guard Scott Suggs led the Dawgs with 18 points on 5-11 from beyond the arc. That was the good news, but everything else from the perimeter was bad. Outside of Suggs, the Dawgs were 2-18 from three. If that’s not bad enough UW were 11-33 from the field inside the arc.

The Huskies added insult to injury by then shooting 9-19 from the free throw line and were badly out-rebounded 44-31.Montlake Madness’ John Chase saw things similarly and also gave Suggs credit.

“I don’t even know what to say right now. The Huskies came out with zero heart, zero effort, and zero drive to win this game. The only player worthy of positive feedback is Scott Suggs. Suggs wanted to win tonight, Suggs wanted to score, Suggs didn’t want to lose to one of the bottom feeders.”

Bryan-Amaning had a poor game, but scored 12 points and had 10 boards. Those stats are misleading, because he only shot 5-12 from the field, shot 2-6 from the free throw line and looked lost at times.

Chase saw the same thing and added other barbs for Thomas and Holiday.

“MBA played with zero intensity. He didn’t enforce his will like last month. He didn’t back his man down. He didn’t rebound. Isaiah Thomas played terrible once more. He would drive and turn the ball over. He couldn’t score, he couldn’t pass, he just kept giving up the ball. Justin Holiday played flat. He was just as average and nonchalant about the game as just about everyone else.”

If UW fans want to have something to watch the next time this year that someone talks about how great the Huskies are, a highlight clip from athletixnation.com stifle even the biggest Husky homer.

If the OSU turns out to be the bottom for this year’s Huskies, the Oregon loss on Saturday was a great candidate, along with the Stanford road loss for the next rung up. This time “MBA” was better with 21 points on 10-16 from the field, but again he killed the Dawgs at the FT line going 1-3. He also only could manage five boards.

Suggs had a bad night going 1-5 for three points, but Holiday got it back into gear with 16 points on 6-8 from the field, five boards, five assists and three blocks. Thomas scored 13 points, with six assists, two turnovers and five boards in an improved game compared to the OSU and WSU games where he coughed up seven turnovers each night.

Freshman guard Terrence Ross also had a good game against the team from his home state with 13 points on 4-10 from the field and no TO’s. Romar told the media that his team needed to adjust their goals.

“Our guys are frustrated, no doubt. We had high aspirations in our minds, hopefully to win the league outright. I don’t know if that’s going to be able to happen at this point.”

It was a painful game for Husky fans to watch. Oregon didn’t slow the pace, like Stanford and OSU did successfully, which should have played into UW’s hands. But instead, the Dawgs played a lot of zone, which not only slowed the game to a pace that UW couldn’t use it’s superior talent to ultimately prevail, but also looked bad in doing so.

Oregon’s better organized and prepared players used back cuts and smarter ball movement to outplay UW’s zone. The way things looked, perhaps if UW had played man-to-man it would have been worse. Oregon just looked the smarter and better prepared team. The Ducks also looked hungrier and more enthusiastic.

Some of that is being at home, but after the losses I would have thought that Washington would have wanted it more. According to the Seattle Times an unnamed Husky player said that the players had a players only meeting after the OSU loss.

“Our captains (Holiday and Thomas) did most of talking. It felt good to get some things out. Kind of clearing the air. But I guess it didn’t work.”

N’Diaye had as good game with nine boards, including five offensive boards, but one reason the Huskies went to so much zone appeared to be Aziz’ lack of ability to guard Catron on the perimeter. Romar admitted as much to the media after the game.

“We thought it was a difficult cover with (Oregon forward Joevan) Catron early on. So when Aziz (N’Diaye) was in the game, we tried to play more zone. We tried to offset that match-up a little bit.”

With Gant slowed by injury to five minutes and two boards, UW just had no other option, other than “MBA” who they may have felt they needed to stay out of foul trouble. If UW puts their best on the Ducks’ best, perhaps UW wins and Catron has a tougher time than he did scoring against a zone that was not the Dawgs stock in trade.

Overall is was a game that Washington backed down from the challenge, instead of charge into the face of it and it didn’t work. It could have been because of injuries, it could have been because of the way that the team has played of late, but it came off to me as timid.

ESPN blogger Eamonn Brennan said that the Dawgs are in “frightening bubble territory, with no notable non conference wins to speak of” after the loss.

Thomas told Ruiz after the game that he and his team would be back, but the promise is starting to sound hollow.

“We don’t usually lose at home, and the crowd, energy-wise, helps us. So, we’ll be ready. We have to get back on the winning track.”

If you really want a double (or triple if you want to watch last Sunday’s WSU game) dose of reality, as to what happened to the Huskies this past week, athletixnation.com did another in-depth highlight reel of the Oregon game.

Romar gave his team credit for competing when he spoke to the Seattle Times after the Oregon game, but that isn’t much to ask from a team that has been projected as a national title contender.

“We came out and competed. We were not lethargic. We came out and played a lot harder.”

UW is going to have to not only compete, but they will have to play with much more courage and intelligence. Husky fans must now hope that when this team is at home it can do that with their encouragement.

Thomas met Isiah Thomas, the NBA Hall of Fame point guard and Sports Illustrated feature writer Pablo S. Torre did a nice feature for the hard copy edition, or as they call it the February 7th issue of the magazine.

The article mentions Isaiah’s self promotion and posturing on Twitter.

“For all of Isaiah’s solipsism—’I bet yall I’m the STRONGEST guard in the country hands down’ is one typical Twitter dispatch—his most infamous online offenses resemble those of an amateur Bob Arum, a promoter unabashedly ginning up games into grudge matches.”

Hopefully someone with some reason got to him and made him re-think his tweeting, as Thomas decided to change his ways until after the Pac-10 Tournament.

“BUT im off twitter till MAR 12 bcuz WE WILL be playing that day! Love and appreciate all the REAL fans keep FAITH we will b ok”

I hope Thomas decides to give it up until after the season, though if UW doesn’t walk the walk rather than talk the talk, they will be done then anyway.

Others around the nation are still impressed by Thomas, despite his poor showing over the past weekend. On Monday Isaiah was chosen as one of the 10 finalists for the Cousy Award (honoring the nation’s top point guard), according to Gohuskies.com. I wonder if he would have made it, if the voting was done after this past weekend.

Thomas is a great one. He will likely leave Hec-Ed as the all-time greatest scorer and probably the greatest assist man in school history. He will also probably win more games than any athlete in any sport male or female in UW history as well. Though he won’t be that high in the rebounding ledger, he will even be there too.

Thomas is a great rebounder for his size and a capable defender. He sill certainly be high on the all-time steals list. It is interesting to note that 2008-2009 team had Thomas, plus the all-time leading rebounder and currently the 2nd leading scorer in UW history in Jon Brockman.

Brockman was interviewed by the Seattle Times on Saturday in an entertaining back and forth Q+A with Jayda Evans.

Another former Dawg who played with Jon on the 2006 Sweet-16 team that should have been in the Final-4 is Brandon Roy. According to a tweet from @jwquick, the Oregonian’s Blazer beat reporter, Roy is, “set to return to games this week, maybe v. Toronto (Friday) and likely vs. Detroit (Sunday)”.

Good luck Brandon Roy, from all of your fans in the Northwest.

WSU Notes

The Cougs’ junior guard Klay Thompson talked about his team running the table after their huge win over Washington last Sunday. That confidence turned his team upside down it seemed, as WSU laid as big of an egg as they have in years in losing to Oregon in Eugene on Thursday.

Thompson was held to 12 points on 4-13 shooting. Sophomore guard Reggie Moore who was unstoppable against UW added a wimpy 10. Thompson, Moore, junior guard Faisal Aden and junior post DeAngelo Casto, basically the Cougs big guns went 9-36 from the field.

On Saturday the Cougs had a better performance, but not all that good of one, but still were able to gut out a 61-55 win over OSU in Corvallis. Moore led the way with 14, followed by Casto with 11 and Aden with 10 and Thompson only scored six points. For the weekend Klay was 6-20 from the field for 9.0 points per game.

The Cougs won the game by playing like the vets they are, in comparison to the younger Beavs. Bone talked about that to the media post-game.

“We found other ways to manufacture points. One way was being aggressive and getting to the free-throw line.”

The Cougs also won the battle of the boards in this tight defensive game 42-39, which was probably the difference in the game. Coach Ken Bone obviously knew that the tough road game would be won on the glass. Junior guard Marcus Capers talked about Bone drilling his players on the subject.

“That was the main objective. Coach said, ‘Win or lose, we’ve got to rebound’. It was like a broken record. Box-out, box-out, rebound, rebound.”

WSU also went 18-23 from the free throw line, another sign of a heady veteran team on the road. Bone told the Spokesman-Review that he was very pleased with the effort by his team.

“I’m most proud of the fact we played hard. We competed and showed great character.”

WSU return to Pullman at 7 p.m. Thursday against Stanford.

Oregon Notes

The Ducks are playing really well right now and a lot of the credit has to go to coach Altman. He has the Ducks playing smart and tough on both ends of the floor.

After the blow-out Thursday win over WSU 69-43, Altman pointed to team play, not so much individuals, as the reason, when he spoke to the media.

“Guys are playing well together. Anytime you can get 17 assists on 24 baskets, and in the first half we had 11 assists on 13 baskets, they’re moving the ball pretty good when that happens.”

Oregon’s success has been smart team play and mounting confidence. Altman especially has focused on sharing the ball and the Eugene Register-Guard ran a feature on Tuesday that focused on that aspect of the Ducks style.

Oregon will have problems next year replacing Catron, because he is such a good player, but also because they have very few quality big men left after all of the transfers and defections of the past year. Freshman Austin Kuemper is the lone post signee in Altman’s 2011 fall class and 247sports.com did a nice feature on Altman’s thoughts on the rising frosh.

I’m sure that Oregon will do what it can to sign more bigs in the spring period and with the resources of Nike behind them (to an unfair degree and arguably non-compliant degree in my opinion), don’t be surprised to see them find some big time talent.

The Ducks haven’t played this well all year and the improvement is very noticeable. Altman acknowledged that after the WSU game.

“We’re a lot different team than we were a month ago. We’ve made tremendous progress. Guys have done a great job working with each other and we’re a better team. We still gotta bring it every night, but I like the progression we’re making and I hope we can keep it up.”

Catron led the Ducks with 17 points and nine boards, followed by junior guard Garrett Sim with 13 points and four assists. Sophomore wing E.J. Singler, who has shown himself to be a top Pac-10 level player this year, was solid with 10 points and six boards. Senior guard Jay-R Strowbridge had a great game off the bench with 15 points.

On Saturday Oregon upped the ante again, standing up in the face of a Husky team desperate to right their ship, by handing 20th ranked Washington it’s 3rd straight loss 81-75. It was Oregon’s first win over a ranked opponent since beating the Huskies in Seattle on January 2nd 2010.

Catron again was outstanding in leading the Ducks with 20 points and nine rebounds. Singler was again tremendous with 16 points, especially in the clutch where he hit a big three down the stretch and was perfect at the line to seal the win. Junior guard Tyrone Nared also had a good game with 14 points and Strowbridge was again effective with 12 points.

Oregon next plays at UCLA in Westwood CA on Thursday at 7:30 p.m (PST).

OSU Notes

The Beavers were able to add to a positive weekend by gaining a verbal pledge from of all places Sweden. According to a tweet from AdamZagoria, “6-3 Charles Barton of Sweden to Oregon State for 2011, per a team source. Had Big East and ACC interest”.

Scout’s Evan Daniels confirmed the commit on Tuesday, according to a “source close to the situation”.

Getting a 68-56 win over 20th ranked UW on Thursday in Corvallis was a big boost for an OSU team that had struggled of late. That broke a three game losing streak, plus it should give the Beavs confidence after a spell in which they have lost 6-7 Pac-10 games. After a tough 61-55 loss to WSU on Saturday in their home gym, OSU sit at 4-7 in Pac-10 play.

Against the Dawgs it was sophomore guard Jared Cunningham that shined, after a tough road trip to the Bay Area the week before, with 19 points on 13-17 from the free throw line. Senior guard Calvin Haynes also scored 11, while freshman post Devon Collier had a solid night with nine points and nine boards. The Beavs beat UW on the glass 47-32 in a telling stat.

Collier was the big story on Saturday, as he led posted a double-double with 16 points, four blocks and 10 rebounds. Cunningham had an off-night shooting, but still managed 12 points.

If young players like Collier and Cunningham can be more consistent and help bring along other talented young guns like freshman guard Roberto Nelson and sophomore post Joe Burton, OSU could end up being a surprise team going down the stretch. The Beavers are the one Pac-10 team to beat both Washington and the 23rd ranked Arizona this season.

They will next face USC on Thursday in Los Angeles CA at 8 p.m. (PST).

Cal Notes

The Bears, like Oregon, have been a major surprise this season. Though not as stunning as the Ducks, to have competed as well as they have, Cal has really improved from week to week. On Thursday the Bears beat back an ASU team starved for a Pac-10 win, for their 4th straight conference win 66-62.

Junior guard Jorge Gutierrez led the Bears with 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Senior post Markhuri Sanders-Frison followed with 13 points and seven boards of his own and junior post Harper Kamp also grabbed seven boards, to go with 10 points of his own.

All five Bear starters scored in double figures in the low scoring game, as freshman guard Allen Crabbe had an off night with 10 points on 2-10 from the field and sophomore guard Brandon Smith scored 11 in the hard fought win. The key to the game, as it has in most of ASU’s mounting losses, was Cal’s ability to control the paint.

Crabbe had a poor game, but he hit the biggest shot of the game, when he nailed a three in the final seconds to secure the win. The Bears won the rebound battle 33-23, in what other wise was a game which the Sun Devils seemed to have an edge.

Gutierrez acknowledged how tough the win was to secure and how his team is noticeably improved, when he spoke to sfgate.com after the game.

“Oh, man, I’m pretty tired right now. I’m happy we won. We’re just working hard. We’re winning. It’s working out for us. We are getting used to each other more. It’s a lot of improvement from the beginning of the season to now.”

On Saturday against ‘Zona in Berkeley, the Bears seemed to have it won numerous times, only to watch the ‘Cats get off the hook and finally prevail in triple overtime 107-105. Harper Kamp had a whale of a game with 33 points and 10 boards to lead the Bears.

Crabbe has 27 points and seven boards, while Gutierrez scored 25, but also had six turnovers. Luckily for Cal, they got a solid game controlling the rock from Smith, who 11 assists to go with nine points. It was a missed lay-in from Smith though in the 3rd OT that cost Cal the game though.

It was an epic game, reminiscent of the triple OT game in Seattle two years ago in which Cal beat Washington. It will be interesting to see how the Bears recover from such a disappointing loss when they next face the Dawgs in Seattle on Thursday at 6 p.m. (PST).

Stanford Notes

The Cardinal lost to 1st place ‘Zona on Thursday 78-69 in Palo Alto CA, as junior guard Jeremy Green scored 21 points to lead the way. To say that was a good game for Green would be a stretch though, as he shot 2-9 from three and only 8-21 from the field. Junior post Josh Owens shot better going 5-8 for 13 points and also added a game leading nine boards.

Junior guard Jarrett Mann also had a good game with 11 points, eight boards and a game leading five assists, but Green shot the Cardinal out of the game essentially. If you take out Green’s 8-21, Stanford’s FG% would have been a bit better at 43%, instead of 41%, but Green is supposed to be ‘Furd’s big gun. 5-9 from three would have made it an even game.

It was an even game at 60 apiece with four minutes to go, but ‘Zona went on an 18-6 run to win going away.

Against ASU, in an 83-75 win in Palo Alto on Saturday, Green got it cranked up for a season high 23 points on 6-8 from the field and 5-5 from three. Owens also stayed consistent with 16 points on 10-12 from the fee throw line and a game leading eight rebounds. Mann was again strong with 14 points and a game leading seven assist.

Freshman starting guard Anthony Brown had a poor night with no points on 0-5 shooting in 21 minutes, but freshman guard Aaron Bright of Bellevue WA (who used to start in his place) came off the bench for 10 points in 22 minutes. Fellow frosh John Gage from Vashon WA also showed promise with three 3-pointers late to keep the Cardinal’s hopes up.

Coach Johnny Dawkins talked about his three upperclassmen (Green, Owens and Mann) coming together and perhaps reaching a new echelon, when he spoke to sfgate.com after the ASU game.

“It was their best game, not just in points but everything they did. They led us. They were mature.”

Stanford will next face WSU in Pullman on Thursday at 7 p.m. (PST).

‘Zona Notes

The ‘Cats got a hard fought sweep on the road in the Bay Area, which put them in great shape in their quest for the Pac-10 title and a return to the NCAA Tournament after missing it last year for the first time in a quarter century. On Thursday they beat Stanford 78-69, as sophomore post Derrick Williams scored 21 points and grabbed eight boards.

Williams struggled with foul trouble and was eventually disqualified late, but ‘Zona got another strong performance from sophomore guard Lamont “Momo” Jones with 15 points on 7-7 from the free throw line to close out the win. Junior post Jesse Perry added 12 points, while junior guard Kyle Fogg kicked in 11.

Sophomore wing Kevin Parrom led the ‘Cats with four assists off the bench in a game in which Stanford just didn’t have enough in the end to get the job done.

Against Cal on Saturday in Berkeley, Williams was held to only 12 points and again fouled out, but gathered 18 rebounds, as the ‘Cats won a battle of attrition in triple overtime 107-105. Jones led ‘Zona with 27 points and Parrom played out of his mind in scoring 25 off the bench. Both were career highs.

The ‘Cats won the battle of the boards 43-35, which turned out to be the key stat, along with Jones’ clutch shooting. Arizona’s bench outscored Cal’s 52-3, proving that the ‘Cats are no one man team. Nine of the 14 3-point shots made were from the subs.

If you have a few minutes and are a fan of great hoops, treat yourself to the highlight reel from athletixnation.com.

Things are looking pretty good for the ‘Cats, who benefited tremendously from the two wins in the Bay, coupled with UW’s three losses in a week. According to azstarnet.com, their home turf got a shiny new renovation, as the locker room area received a shiny re-model.

The ‘Cats will next face rival ASU in Tempe AZ on Sunday at 6 p.m. (PST).

ASU Notes

The Sun Devils have fought hard, but can’t seem to get over the hump, as they were again swept this past weekend for their 9th straight Pac-10 loss. On Thursday it was sophomore guard Trent Lockett who led the way with 18 points and six rebounds in the 66-62 loss at Cal in Berkeley.

Senior PG Jamelle McMillan kicked in 14, but ASU was again hurt by a lack of interior presence. They were beat on the glass 33-23 in what is becoming a normal night for them this season.

Against Stanford it was more or the same, as ASU again fell short, this time by a greater margin 83-75. Coach Herb Sendek seemed to be able to get another good effort out his last place team, by keeping them in good shape mentally. He sounded convincing as a motivator, when he spoke to azcentral after the game in Palo Alto.

“I’m not going to dismiss the fact that it isn’t challenging, but we’re also not going to allow ourselves to go into the frustration dimension. We’re going to continue to demand and stay as positive as we can be and keep working

This time it was McMillan who led the Sun Devils with 17 points and four steals, while Lockett again was potent with 14 points and five assists. Sophomore wing Carrick Felix added 10 points off the bench and freshman post Kyle Cain showed well with a team leading six boards and eight points.

One would think that in a league where guys transfer if their minutes are slashed or they are used at a different spot than they want to play as freshmen, that some of the more highly recruited (spoiled is another word that could be used) players might be thinking of jumping ship.

Not so, says prized recruit and freshman guard Keala King, who squashed rumors that he was considering a transfer, when he spoke to azcentral on Tuesday.

ASU has a chance to make their season a success by beating their 1st place and highly ranked in-state rivals, when they next host ‘Zona on Sunday at 6 p.m. (PST).

UCLA Notes

The Bruins passed a major test by beating cross town rival USC on Wednesday 64-50 in Westwood. Freshman post Josh Smith came off the bench to lead UCLA with 15 points, while junior guard Malcolm Lee added 13. Sophomore post Reeves Nelson played a key role with 11 boards and eight points in the grind it out game of size and strength oriented teams.

It was a grind it out game, in which UCLA just seemed to have too much depth and were much more successful than in the earlier loss at the Galen Center in early January at slowing ‘SC’s two dominant posts senior Alex Stepheson and junior Nikola Vucevic. With the Pac-10 win, plus UW’s mid-season melt down, the Bruins are now all alone in 2nd place.

On Saturday the Bruins welcomed (loosely) former coach Steve Lavin and the St. John’s Johnnies to Pauley Pavilion. In that game I believe that UCLA were given the game by Pac-10 officials. It looked like the “fix was in”. UCLA played well to keep it close, so it didn’t look obvious, but at the end a series of slanted calls secured the win for the Bruins.

Again Smith and Nelson were outstanding in the paint. Smith came off the bench for 19 points and eight rebounds, while Nelson had an impressive 12 and 17. Lee was again decent with 15 points, but shot a weak 7-15 from the free throw line and had four TO’s. Sophomore guard Tyler Honeycutt had a good game with 11 points and only two TO’s, good for him.

Honeycutt shot a poor 1-5 from the field, but made it up at the free throw line with 9-10. Things seemed cordial between Lavin and his old team and Steve probably felt a little too comfortable at times. Lavin spoke to Yahoo blogger Jeff Eisenberg about how it felt like old times.

“As I anticipated, it was a bit surreal walking into the opposing locker room. It did take me a moment. (Gene) Keady thankfully reminded me we were at the other end.”

Smith is really starting to get in a good rhythm, which is good news for the Bruins, as they hit the stretch run of their season. The big kid from Kent WA talked to the LA Times about how his confidence level is rising and how he is less afraid to be aggressive when he has the ball at point blank range.

As a pure freshman Smith is the toughest Pac-10 scorer close to the hoop.

UCLA will next face red-hot Oregon in Pauley on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. (PST).

USC Notes

USC lost to UCLA across town 64-50 last Wednesday to put them well outside of range, if they want any part of a Pac-10 title. At 4-6 in Pac-10 play, it will take a miracle to win the Pac-10, but a good run could get them into the big dance in March, by virtue of the league’s best best non-conference resume.

‘SC beat Texas and Tennessee in December, once junior guard Jio Fontan became available in what should have been a win at Kansas. fontan though has not played as well since freshman guard Bryce Jones transferred. One reason may be that without Jones, Fontan has to spend more time backing up senior wing Marcus Simmons, which is a position that doesn’t suit him.

Frankly it looks like the loss of Jones has damaged the chemistry of the Trojans. Jones meanwhile looks to be testing the waters else where, while finishing up winter quarter at USC. Other early names that are interested, according to an interview in coast2coastrecruiting.net, are Gonzaga and New Mexico State.

The Trojans were thin when Fontan joined, but the addition of a solid guard like that really created a much easier line-up for former NBA coach O’Neill to manage. The difference between a rotation of seven and eight players is huge it seems, as the LA Times Baxter Holmes pointed put astutely on Tuesday.

Against UCLA the two bigs, Stepheson and Vucevic, led in scoring with 14 and 18 respectively, but Fontan was blanked and even the posts had trouble scoring what they did. Those two shot 12-25, mostly from close in, which doesn’t sound bad, but the rest of the line-up shot a miserable 8-26 against the Bruins.

USC will next attempt to right it’s ship at home in Los Angeles CA on Thursday against the Beavers at 8 p.m. (PST).

Utah Notes

I really haven’t been covering he season for Utah and Colorado much, even though they will be part of the brand new Pac-12 next season. I have covered them in the area of recruiting, but it seems as if they may have a new name on the bench that doesn’t have any stars by his name or a brand new high school diploma.

According to Rivals, Jim Boylen is firmly on the hot seat.

“The timing of Utah’s struggles could not be worse considering the program will join the Pac-12 next season. The top of that league has arguably been weaker than the Mountain West the past two seasons, yet the Pac-12 is still far deeper, meaning there won’t be many bottom dwellers against which Utah can fatten its record.”

It sounds to me like the Utes may not be that crazy about canning Boylen, after giving him a five year extension in 2009, but you never know how aggressive an AD might be, knowing that you only get one chance to make a 1st impression.

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