Growing Pains

Six seconds left. Down by two. Ranked opponent. Madison Square Garden… As a college basketball player this is what you live for. This is what all those hours in the gym have been for. It’s what is known as crunch time. A moment that separates the winners from losers, not just on the scoreboard but also in the way in which you truly play the game. This was the Washington Huskies on Tuesday evening, playing in front of a national audience. And as we’ve come accustomed to as Husky fans, they couldn’t overcome the challenge.

The young Huskies have stumbled out of the gates this season, having dropped three of their first seven games. You can point the finger at many different things whether it be foul shooting, youth, or lack of an inside presence (although Aziz has shown great improvement). But the two things that glaringly stand out, to me at least, are as follows: leadership and organization.

When you think of any elite team, or even a halfway decent one, you usually can link that team to a certain player that they have; the face of the program, per say.  When I think of the 2011-2012 Washington Huskies I think of Isaiah Thomas, and then I realize that he left for the NBA. Who is this team? Who leads them on the court? Who will be the one to take the last shot in a game like last night’s against Marquette? These are questions that need answers and they need to come quickly because before we know it conference play will be starting and that’s when every single game counts twice as much. As for the present, the player that is closest to being the guy would have to be Terrence Ross. Possessing the most talent on the team besides possibly Tony Wroten Jr., Ross is on the cusp of being an absolute force for this basketball team. When he makes the jump to that next level of basketball it could get scary for every team that has to face the Dawgs. But he hasn’t hit that stride yet, which puts us in the situation we’re in now. 

Should Abdul be taking the final shot?

As a whole, this team is loaded with talent, especially with their guards. But that talent can’t be tapped if the right kind of basketball isn’t being played. Now I’m not used to questioning Lorenzo Romar, but I don’t see any organization on the offensive side of the ball when I watch the Huskies play. When forced to play a half-court game, which most teams will try and do to the Dawgs, we struggle mightily. I continue to see forced shots and one-on-one basketball. And when C.J. Wilcox is off from downtown, this team really struggles. The three ball has always been part of the Huskies offensive game plan, but when that isn’t on, what do we turn to? There is no Matthew Brian-Amaning, Quincy Pondexter, or Jon Brockman that this team has had for the past six or so years. Aziz N’Diaye is the guy, whether you like it or not. And we all know you can’t lean on Aziz for forty minutes of offensive production. So what are we left with? A game of slashing to the basket from our guards and mid-range jumpers that are forced half of the time. There needs to be more organization on offense. Every play people should be setting picks to free others up. Right now I feel like I’m watching a pick up game. Even in a weak Pac-12 confernce, that will not work. There must be changes made.

Now I know this article sounds like things are pretty bad, but the Huskies are still in great shape. Granted, a 4-3 record is not what anyone hoped for but the Pac-12 has proved early this year that it is a very weak conference. The Dawgs are very much a part of the conference championship picture. It will be interesting to see if they can right the ship and find some ways to win the close ones. As for the next challenge, the Huskies take on a very, very good Duke team, again at MSG. It should be a huge challenge and will be tough to get a win out of it. But if they can stay competitive I would deem it as a success. As always, Go Dawgs.

 Next Game: Duke @ Madison Square Garden. Saturday, Dec. 10. 9:00 AM PT. CBS

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