Team Preview: 2014 Washington Huskies
By: Brian MacIver
2012-2013 Finish: 18-16 (9-9 in Pac 12)
Coach: Lorenzo Romar, 237-129 at Washington (327-215 overall)
The Huskies haven’t been to the show in the past two seasons, settling for an invite to the NIT. After reaching the semifinals in 2012, they got bounced in the first round of last year’s edition against BYU. But after recruiting one of the most hyped high school players in the country, the Huskies are looking to find a way back into the Madness.
Strongside: The Huskies made a great off-season pickup, recruiting one of the best point guards in the country in Nigel Williams-Goss. The six-foot-three, 185-pound Happy Valley, Oregon native was ranked as the fourth best point guard in the nation in his draft class and has lived up to the hype. Williams-Goss is second in scoring on the team, behind only C.J. Wilcox, the senior guard who has been an offensive juggernaut for the Huskies, averaging nearly 19 points per game.
But the main reason why Washington has had success this season remains the rookie point guard. Williams-Goss simply makes the entire team better offensively. He plays with his head up in transition, he’s a good runner and he usually makes good decisions, all characteristics you want your starting point guard to have.
Weakside: As seems to be the tendency this year in the Pac 12, defense is an issue with the Huskies. As good as they are at putting points up, they, to be polite, have a porous defense. It’s hard to tell if it’s because they’re missing assignments or losing people in traffic, but they have been just as effective as a strainer in stopping their opponents (that is, not very). They’ve been allowing, on average, over 75 points per game and have been quite average in rebounding.
To add to their defensive woes, the Huskies were dealt a bad hand at the start of the season: they lost sophomore forward Jernard Jarreau for the year after he tore his ACL less than two minutes into the team’s season opener. Jarreau, although a role player off the bench last year, was expected to play a bigger role this season, and his defensive presence has been missed.
Turnovers have also been an issue for them, but that is to be expected when you run a rookie at point guard. You simply can’t ask a rookie quarterback not to throw any interceptions. Well, you can, and you really should, because that’s a great game plan, but don’t expect him not to mess up.
All Told: Washington is going to be scary good…just not this year. They’ve got what few other teams have: a dominant, young point guard who can take over a game (just ask Oregon State, against whom he put up 32 points). But when it comes down to it, they simply can’t beat the teams that matter yet. They need to surround that young star with better players before they make any kind of a splash. If they make it to the tournament come March, look for them to bow out as early as the first round.