What about Next Year?

Apr 9, 2010, 5:30 AM | Updated: Apr 5, 2011, 11:20 am

The final ESPN/USA Today/Coaches Poll came out this past week, with the Dawgs finishing at #21, despite making the Sweet-16. I guess polls are just about 100% based on perceived strength, as I would think that the top-16 teams should very much be made up of the teams that made the Sweet-16. It’s a very flawed system.

Teams play to see who is better and somebody be they a writer or a coach decides that the team that lost is better than the team that won, because of how many wins they had, who they played, etc.

Gonzaga finished at #23 and the only other Pac-10 team to be mentioned was Cal with 14 votes in the “Others receiving votes” category. The Bears had the 5th highest total in that category, so I guess you could say they finished at #30.

I guess New Mexico having won more games makes some sense for them to be ranked higher than UW, but 5 spots higher? There were a few teams ranked higher than the Dawgs that are a bit puzzling, but from my point of view being ranked lower than they deserve to be seems to work better for this team. Isaiah Thomas is a guy that plays great with a chip on his shoulder and in general a lot of the Huskies seem to respond to being overlooked and under rated.

Early in the year when UW was ranked high in the polls, they played poorly and only started to get it going when it was do or die. This year, they will again be ranked going in. We’ll see how they respond, but UW fans should hope that something major was learned last year. The polls mean nothing. They don’t win you any games. In fact they put a target on your back.

Washington seems to be the unanimous favorite to win the Pac-10 at this early point in the off-season, before Spring Signing, the draft (which won’t affect the Pac-10 much) and defections (which we have already seen a huge amount of and will likely see more). What normally happens after the national championship is determined is everyone in media land doing a ridiculously early feature, considering what I just mentioned, on the national scene and all of the conference races.

If you subscribe to the notion that it does the Dawgs more good to be rated lower than higher, then you should be pleased. Most of the pundits nationally feel that Washington is below the level that the Coaches Poll put them at to finish the year, despite returning all of the team besides Quincy Pondexter for next year.

Luke Winn at Sports Illustrated picked the Dawgs at #23, while predictably Andy Katz at ESPN picked UW below his top-25 while choosing his favorites the Zags at #18. Winn picked ‘Zaga at #20 and truthfully, though I kid Katz about his Zag fancying, with Elias Harris returning, you have to figure that GU is going to be very good, probably better, despite the loss of Matt Bouldin.

Rivals put Gonzaga at #16, while placing UW at #25, while college hoops blog Rush the Court placed GU even higher at #11 and the Dawgs at #18. Arizona was the only Pac-10 school with any mentions from any of these premature preseason prognosticators, but none included the ‘Cats in any top-25.

The one thing that everyone agreed on was that UW was the top team in the Pac-10 going in and again this means very little at this early date. Just to give you an idea of how pointless these exercises really are Rivals picked Kentucky #1, because there is a chance (cue Jim Carey) that the 5 top players on their squad who just declared for the draft could decide to return.

As far as the Pac-10, two noted Bay Area conference beat writers took their shot and predicted good things for UW. Bob Sherwin of the Examiner felt that the Dawgs recruiting in the spring is a key issue and could turn them into a much better team than they were this past season.

He mentioned Terrence Jones as being an ample replacement for Pondexter and the possibility of sold defensive help from Aziz N’Diaye, along with all of the returnees.

Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury-News (who is usually a bit hard on UW) didn’t gush with enthusiasm for the upcoming year like Sherwin, but picked UW to win the league regardless.

He pointed to the play of Matthew Bryan-Amaning continuing his progress and Elston Turner coming into next year the way he left this past one. I feel pretty good about the prospect of that happening for the Dawgs, so if Wilner is right and UW gets some solid help in the spring from recruiting the Huskies should be in pretty good shape going into next year barring injury.

There is the matter of 9 other teams though and a lot can happen in the area of recruiting and probably will, especially at the glamour schools like Arizona and UCLA who could also end up improving their already decent rosters of talent. The ‘Cats Sean Miller had a tremendous Spring Signing Period last year and it seems that he is well on his way to do it again, while UCLA’s Ben Howland will always have that great Bruin legacy to attract top level kids.

UCLA has lost a number of players this past season, most notably the three seniors in 1st Team All Pac-10 guard Mike Roll, streaky Serbian bad boy Nikola Dragovic and injury prone McDonald’s All-American James Keefe. Add to the mid-season transfer of arguably their best low block performer early in Drew Gordon and the post season transfers of Mike Moser and J’Mison “Bobo” Morgan and that opens up a few holes for Howland to fill this spring.

He’s already got Kent WA’s big center Josh Smith and talented shooting guard Tyler Lamb from tradition rich Mater Dei High School in LA, along with badly needed guard help from JC transfer Lazeric “Zeke” Jones. The transfers leave three additional spots open and from the looks of things the Bruins are after guards, which means to me that Howland learned something from this past, ill-fated campaign.

UCLA could be very good, with Reeves Nelson and the possibility of help from Smith, should he get into playing shape. Right now Josh is way out of shape, but Howland has been able to get players, notably Kevin Love and Morgan to lose weight.

‘Zona loses NicWise, plus the transfer D.J. Shumpert and has added heralded shooting guard Daniel Bejarano, point guard Jordin Mayes and JC big man Jesse Perry. It appears that the ‘Cats have at least one spot left open from what we’re hearing and are in on a number of big time players for the spring, including point guard Ray McCallum Jr.

Ray is reportedly choosing between his dad’s Detroit team and the ‘Cats and Josh Selby, who is high on Kentucky’s list as well as 4 other elite level programs. Shooting guards Doron Lamb and Trey Ziegler (who is also getting recruiting hard by UCLA) and forwards Shaquille Thomas and Kadeem Jack, as of today are still in the conversation for Arizona.

Point guard and scoring from the outside are things that Wise brought to Tucson and should Arizona land either Ray or Josh they will be in great shape at the point, with Lamont “Momo” Jones coming back from his great freshman year and Mayes as solid depth. Both Arizona with their talented youth that should be quite a bit better and UCLA, depending on how the spring rounds out should contend for the Pac-10 title next year.

Husky Coach Lorenzo Romar seems confident that even without talking about possible additions to his team this spring, which of course he can’t do anyway, the team will be one that has a veteran look and plenty of capable hands to help make up for the loss of Quincy by committee.

“Players will step up, four points here, three points there, can collectively compensate for his scoring.”

The thing that it is going to be more difficult to replace is that go-to-guy that Quincy filled so assertively in the win over Marquette and others down the stretch and Lorenzo agreed.

“I think the thing that has to happen, Marquette … we knew Quincy was going to have the ball for that last shot. Stanford, we knew the ball was going to be in his hand. That’ll be more what we look at than replacing points, is who will be that go-to guy.”

When you look at the Dawgs by position, they appear to be very strong on paper, outside of somehow dealing with the loss of that elusive “go-to-guy”. In the back court Isaiah Thomas showed fantastic progress over the course of this past year and should inherit the leadership role on the team, along with the three seniors in Matthew, Venoy Overton and Justin Holiday.

Venoy and “IT” will of course be joined by McDonald’s All-American Abdul Gaddy, who Romar feels will be almost a different player next year.

“I think Abdul will no question have better seasons individually than he had this year. There is no doubt that he has to become a better shooter. I think he will do that.”

Venoy should continue to improve and hopefully for UW fans really make progress on his outside shooting game, as Justin Dentmon did going into his senior year, while continuing to establish a tremendous legacy at Washington as a defender.

At point guard UW is deeper, more talented and at the same time even more experienced than anyone at this stage in the Pac-10, but size with Isaiah and Venoy under six-foot is still an issue that can rear its ugly head as it did against West Virginia in the Sweet-16 and at times during the Pac-10 slate.

All three kids need to improve greatly to reach their team goals, but with the tall Gaddy, the emerging Holiday and juniors Turner and Scott Suggs (along with the dynamic red-shirt freshman C.J. Wilcox) it is entirely possible that playing at a high level with more size in the back court this coming year is very possible.

The track record is there of players improving individually over the off-season and during the season over the past few years and the UW coaching staff should be highly commended for addressing and resolving problem areas, especially this past year. Though Thomas’ improvement was very noticeable in the way that he distributed the ball down the stretch and played rock solid defense, nothing was more apparent than the improved play of Matt.

Romar feels that big things are ahead for the senior to be.

“Mathew Bryan-Amaning, who finished the year on a very high note, I can imagine will be really highly motivated – especially as a senior.”

Lorenzo is also optimistic that Tyreese Breshers will be a much bigger contributor, in the same way that he feels Gaddy will really get his wheels rolling.

“I anticipate him being a new face. What I mean, in a sense is that he will be an entirely new player.”

Darnell Gant started most of his freshman year and was a solid supporting (albeit dependent) player along side fellow future Husky Hall of Fame candidates Jon Brockman and Quincy. Last season he struggled and lost his starting job, but then had some good nights off the bench in a glue guy role. Gant just did what it took in important spots to help the team win, which included canning some open outside shots, which seems to be his favorite offensive weapon.

I feel that Darnell has a lot more talent handling the ball than most UW fans have been able to gather from what he has done in games. If Gant can find a way to attack the hoop off the dribble, to go with his catch and shoot pull up game, UW fans could see Darnell back playing starter’s minutes.

Clarence Trent is the 4th returning front court player on the UW team and though it was reported that he would be playing football, thus opening up a scholarship spot, that chapter appears to be officially closed now. Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times confirmed with Husky Football Head Coach Steve Sarkisian that Trent would not be going on football scholarship.

Clarence is an impressive athlete, who probably should have red-shirted last season, but was needed for depth because of the loss of Charles Garcia in my opinion. Now with a year under his belt he could be ready to help, but depending on what players UW are able to bring in during the Spring Signing Period and how ready to contribute UW 2010 Fall Signee Desmond Simmons is, Trent might want to consider taking his red-shirt as a sophomore.

Sarkisian gave his academics as well as his primary love for hoops, as the reasons why he left the football team.

“He wanted to focus back on basketball and his school work and I can respect that.”

Perhaps a year of focus on academics will get him much further ahead in the class room, plus give him a year to work on his game. The main criticisms of Clarence are his shooting and understanding where to be and what to do on defense. Maybe a year of practice can give him a much better feel on both accounts, but it also may be that things start kicking in over the summer and he can’t be kept out of the rotation. He certainly has enough athleticism to make his mark in the Pac-10.

Trent, Gant or newcomer Simmons are not “back to the basket” guys yet like Matt is and Romar feels Tyreese will be soon, but Clarence, Darnell and Desmond could possibly be able to defend some of those types on other teams as Quincy did successfully this past season. It was tough for anyone to defend Quincy and it will be just as tough to figure out whom to play at the PF or 4 spot next year.

Should UW land N’Diaye, the 5 spot will be 3 deep, as the PG spot is now, but that still doesn’t solve the problem of how to fill Q’s spot in the line-up.

Pondexter is taking time off to prepare for the NBA draft and is not participating in the Portsmouth invitational this week in Portsmouth VA.

Brockman used his performance at the event last year to push himself into the early 2nd round and sustainable interest from the Sacramento Kings, which turned into a year long deal, but I guess Pondexter is going about it differently. Outside of the elite available players, this event is a who’s who of hoops guys trying to get to the next level.

This year a number of Pac-10 stand outs are included like Stanford’s Landry Fields and Pac-10 Player of the Year Jerome Randle, but it may be a better strategy for Pondexter to work on other approaches.

Will Nevada Play at Hec-Ed this Fall?

Nevada is “Close to” an agreement to play Washington in a two for one series, according to the Reno Gazette, “The Wolf Pack would go to Seattle in 2010-11 and 2012-13, with the Huskies coming to Reno in 2011-12”.

Unfortunately for the Wolfpack and the prospects of the game in Seattle this coming season (should it become reality) PG Armon Johnson and PF Luke Babbitt are both likely looking hard at turning pro. It has been highly assumed amongst our contacts in Reno that Babbitt was certain to be leaving for the draft after this year, but Johnson, who was chosen to the All-District 9 team, has really blown up this past year and at six-foot-three and 195 lbs. is a legit pro prospect.

Babbitt already was last year and is probably more likely to come out this year. Either way, if this game happens at Hec-Ed, the Nevada program has enough steam and enough talent anyway to make for an interesting early season non-conference challenge. If both guys stay, it could be a real tough one.

Husky Recruiting Corner

Speaking of ifs, if 2010 UW recruit Terrence Jones decides on Washington that could be the answer to the question of how to fill Quincy’s spot. Jones is getting hit on hard by Kentucky and rumors all over the net are pushing the story that he is merely waiting to see if C.J. Leslie commits or not. The rumor, promoted heavily by Scout is that if Leslie doesn’t commit, Jones is certain to choose KU and John Calipari.

Meanwhile the national media seems to be convinced that Calipari and the big allure of Kentucky (there is a lot to say about what that consists of, but I digress) is going to be able to produce another stunning “Fab Five” like recruiting class to replace the last one that lost to West Virginia in the Elite-8.

These pundits say that Jones could be part of this “dream class” with former Washington commit and in my opinion NBA lottery pick in 2011 Enes Kanter, top 2010 guard Brandon Knight, top small forward C.J. Leslie of North Carolina and top PG Josh Selby.

That would be another huge recruiting success for John Calipari, even arguably better overall than the last, though I believe Wall and Cousins to be better players than any of those 5. ESPN have all of these guys ranked in their top-15, except for Kanter who belongs there, but instead debuts at #25.

How does Calipari do it? I think those of you who pay attention feel that they know how he does it. He found a way to get away without going down with his sinking ship after NCAA investigations found academic violations with Derrick Rose at Memphis and improper benefits for Marcus Camby at UMass prior to that. John is the only coach ever to forfeit two Final Four seasons for NCAA violations on his watch, but he somehow skates by with everyone believing that he is just fine.

I’m not sure that this doesn’t say something truly disturbing about the current world that we live in and I believe that he is going down again. Though Kanter may not realize it, or perhaps not care, as his commitment to Kentucky has raised awareness of his brand considerably in a way that will enhance his draft stock (which I’ve come to believe is foremost in his mind), Calipari has a number of potential scandals moving around his periphery that could start hitting the press very soon.

That doesn’t seem to faze Bleacher Report who flip Calipari recruits like so many baseball cards, regardless to how he gets them to sign or keep them eligible.

Fox’s Jeff Goodman is convinced that Calipari is going to be able to bring in this haul and is conciliatory is his acceptance of Calipai’s ability to do what he does, without concern about what could happen if he is proven to be aware of what goes on around his programs. It’s as if nothing happened, less than a year ago when the story broke on Rose and Memphis was forced to forfeit their Final Four season, let alone the fact that this happened once before.

Calipari’s programs have gotten caught twice, but nothing has happened to him. I think he may find his end at some point and it could be soon. Even if he does land on his feet once again, a number of others will be shamed or damaged, as was the case at UMass and Memphis.

So what will Terrence Jones do? It almost seems like the film “Blue Chips” with Nick Nolte and Shaq O’Neal or “He Got Game” with Ray Allen and Denzel Washington brought to the live stage like a Broadway remake of a Hollywood film like “Sunset Blvd.”.

Terrence has done a number of interviews and been forthcoming with his feelings of being undecided and having many great options. He speaks about how Kentucky prepares kids for the NBA. He speaks of wanting to find a place that he could play for four years and that he’s not a “One and done” type, but brushes over the subject of what he wants to study in school.

Jones sounds confused, but he also seems intelligent and not lacking common sense. He talked about Washington being a family atmosphere last week, then turns around and says that Oklahoma, who is currently under significant investigation for a $3K payment from a booster to center “Tiny” Gallon, is a family atmosphere. I guess it depends on whether you’re talking about the traditional family or “Family” of the great Pacino and Deniro gangster films.

It sounds rather scripted, but not that well rehearsed. The director would be pulling his hair out. I can sense that Jones will be glad when this is over, but can also tell that he likes having this much attention focused his way. He describes himself in one interview as a “Funny man” in his private life among friends. Maybe the silver screen is his destiny.

2010 UW center recruit Aziz N’Diaye is a UW lean according to a number of our sources, but the main competition for him according to a number of other reports has been consistently Oklahoma. Perhaps some of the luster and “Family atmosphere” of Norman and Jeff Capel may be wearing thin, as sophomore Willie Warren, in addition to PG Tommy Mason-Griffin has declared for the draft:

With the investigation in full swing over Gallon’s cash transfer, both N’Diaye and Jones have got to be getting at the very least a little nervous when they think about that school as a choice right now.

We have heard from a number of good sources that Terrence Ross and Jones are very interested in playing together in college and despite Trent taking his hoops scholarship out of the equation, I believe that Romar can find a way to get them both in. Getting them in and Aziz is another story, but Ross’ academics are also an issue and Romar has been able to do this kind of thing almost consistently over the years.

As far as T-Ross’ academics, there are schools that can get players in that wouldn’t be able to get in at Washington and I also believe that there are also schools that cheat to get guys in academically. I sincerely hope that Mr. Ross does it the right way and gets a good education on top of playing hoops for a great coach, wherever he chooses to go.

Rivals picked Ross as one of the best shooting guards in his class and the 5th best shooter from range.

In summarizing this 2010 class, as UW fans move closer to signing day on April 14th, from all we’re hearing UW is in great shape with a number of very talented kids.

They probably have more good options than ever before under Romar in the spring period. Jones, Ross, N’Diaye, the possibility of a transfer specifically Mike Moser and even talk of some honest interest from C.J. Leslie, believe it or not.

There has been nothing in the mainstream media about Leslie considering UW, but the source that gave that to us is almost always in the loop on things like that. Of course it means nothing until we get more info to back it up.

Another thing that I doubt means much, but is interesting to note none the less is that 2011 small forward Ross Travis from Minnesota lists Washington as one of his favorites, according to a long list on his Rivals profile.

2012 UW forward recruit Grant Jarrett is getting a ton of buzz amongst talent evaluators. Rivals spread the word in a preview of the coming AAU season.

“Many on the West Coast feel that Jerrett could be an elite level player before it is all said and done.”

Pac-10 Round Up

UCLA got some great news when Malcolm Lee announced that he will be returning for his junior year. There was a ton of noise during the season and over the summer that Lee was not happy in Westwood, but the reality of what he was able to do as an inconsistent starting guard on a losing team probably made him realize that more work was needed for him to move on.

That good news came on the heels of the very bad Bruin news, in my opinion, that freshman wing Mike Moser will transfer.

The announcement came with a statement from Coach Ben Howland that did nothing to make me feel that he is the most nurturing guy in D1.

“I’m supportive of him finding a program where he will have a chance to play more minutes than we envision he will have here.”

According to the Oregonian, Moser’s high school coach feels that his choice of where to go would start with Washington and Washington State.

We were told that he would likely be transferring about two weeks prior to the announcement and that the school that he would be going to would likely be New Mexico or San Diego State.

UCLA also chose to renew their relationship with adidas, which will probably mean that they will have plenty of money to spend on, as the Valley Girls are known to say, whatever.

UCLA is not the only school losing players to transfer, as ASU lost freshman guard Demetrius Walker, once touted as the next LeBron James, sophomore post Taylor Rohde and are rumored to be close to losing frosh forward Victor Rudd according to blogger Doug Haller.

Haller also reports that freshman guard Brandon Thompson has also moved on.

Oregon continues its coaching search. So far Brad Stevens of Butler and Tubby Smith have passed.

Well respected Duck and former ‘Zona assistant Mike Dunlap has been hired to serve on former UCLA Head Coach and TV commentator Steve Lavin’s staff at his new post at St. Johns.

OSU’s 2011 point guard commit Jahii Carson has decided to re-open his recruitment, according to ESPN. Jahii blew up last summer and committed to the Beavers in his sophomore year.

NW Spotlight

Avery Bradley of Tacoma WA will test the NBA waters after one year at Texas, according to ESPN. This is not surprising to me, as I spoke with a guy who has been in touch with Bradley at Texas prior to the season and was told by him that Avery was intending to go one and done all the way, no ifs ands or buts.

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What about Next Year?