When Isaiah Thomas declared for the draft last year, the hopes for the Washington Huskies took a dramatic hit. He was the fourth major impact player that would be leaving the program.
Thomas, along with Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Justin Holiday and Venoy Overton were the heart and soul of the Huskies. With them out of the picture and very little upperclassmen talent, the 2011-2012 outlook was bleak.
Sure the Huskies returned Terrence Ross and C.J. Wilcox who proved they could be dynamic scorers in their first season; and they also added a bunch of freshman including Tony Wroten, the gem of the class.
Yet, it was expected to be a year of rebuilding, a year of bumps along the road. Losing 4 major impact players is nearly impossible to recover from, and no one knew that one of the two seniors, Scott Suggs would also miss the season.
Picked fourth in the conference, no one knew what to expect from such a young team. The talent was there, but many uncertainties made the season look like an uphill battle.
Personally I expected this season to be an incredibly fun team to watch, full of energy and fast paced aggression; I figured that would translate into a decent season, top three in the conference.
Yet the beginning of the season didn’t start off so well and that high flying, fun team I expected was nowhere to be seen. A 6-5 start had be uninspired and expecting the worst, even in a down year for the Pac-12 the Huskies didn’t look like they cared.
They were blown out against South Dakota State, a game I attended and vividly remember seeing no charge, no spurt, nothing at all to suggest they would win that game. We all know the end result, a crushing defeat; what I didn’t know was that was the turning point in the season, whether it was the embarrassment of letting Nate Wolters score 34 points, or just getting jolly-stomped at home; it was clear the Huskies didn’t want to let it happen again.
From that point on the Huskies went an astonishing 16-4 including 14-4 in conference, securing their second outright conference title since 1953.
It was a revival from the dead; even the most die-hard Husky fans expected the season was going to be a loss after the blowout at home to SDSU. Some were calling for Lorenzo Romar’s job, as we know now; it takes Romar sometime before he is able to work his magic.
The biggest change may have come from Tony Wroten, who at the beginning of the season was struggling with his decision making. The highlights were there nearly every night, but for as many jaw-dropping passes he’d make, he’d have just as many turnovers that had Romar and fans wondering if he could turn it around.
He did turn it around, limiting his head-scratching moments, increasing his fundamental passes and proving his ability to put the team on his back at times and will them to wins.
Wroten was the epitome of the Huskies, a warrior, who clearly has talent, but has issues too. Is young and out of control at times, but in the end has the will to win.
It just took a while for Wroten and the Huskies to figure out how to win games, their close losses early in the season to Nevada, Marquette and Duke are games that today they’re going to be more confident in closing out.
They may have stumbled against UCLA in the regular season finale, but that doesn’t discredit the strides this team made over the course of the season. They didn’t back into being conference champs; they pushed California into a corner that they couldn’t quite get out of.
A 14-4 conference record and 4-1 in the final 5 games is an incredible finish, strong finishes mean not backing into a title. The brutal non-conference start has some down on the season as a whole, but forget about what happened in November and December; when it mattered most; in conference play, the Huskies grew and won a title.
There should be zero discounting that, any championship of any sort is a great accomplishment. Adding in the fact that they were picked 4th in the conference, were 6-5 at one point, and the turnaround by the Huskies is incredible.
The down year in the conference means any solid credit will forever elude them, but every team had the same opportunity to win 14+ games; the Huskies were the only team able to do so; that’s something to hang their hat on.
They won’t hang their hat there for long though, the conference tournament is right around the corner and no doubt they want to win it all.
Following that, the NCAA tournament, they will want to win that as well, but no one will believe in them, but why not Husky fans? Why can’t this year be the magical run that Husky nation has been waiting for? The talent is there and it could very well be gone next year if Ross and Wroten leave.
If you’re ever going to believe, why not now? Were you believing in the Huskies after their 6-5 start? They’re out to prove doubters wrong and there’s nothing to suggest this can’t be a magical season.