I don’t know if any of you noticed, but I have been on hiatus recently from Husky Haul. I’ve been off camping on the Olympic Coast, Orca watching in the San Juan Islands, traveling around the west, and otherwise enjoying the summer. But, I am finally back in Arizona and ready to begin a new school year both at the school I teach at and for the University of Washington. Time for me to get back in the saddle and start writing again for Husky Haul! I know Mark has felt the pinch being on his own and it is time to come in for some relief action to come in from the bullpen!
Way back in April, the Husky Haul was the first organization to report on the emerging Husky non-conference schedule. Now that all of the games have been finalized and officially announced, it’s time to take a sneak peak preview of each of the games and make some way-too-early predictions of how they will turn out. Since the Husky roster now seems set for the 2012-13 season, we do not have to wait any longer to see how that could shake out. But, of course position battles will need to be waged and injuries are always a factor. So, predictions can still be hard to make.
In late October, I’ll make my official predictions based on more current information. But, it is always fun to goof around make some assumptions that may or may not end up being accurate. For the record, last year I ended up correctly predicting UW’s regular season record of 21-9, while going 83.3% correct on a game-by-game basis. I also correctly predicted the football team’s regular season record of 7-5, while also going 83.3% (10 of 12) on a game-by-game basis. So, it’ll be interesting to see if I can maintain that level of precision this year.
Part I will focus on the early non-conference schedule in November. Part II will focus on the December portion of the non-conference schedule. Parts III and IV will focus on the Pac-12 portion of the schedule. This preview will contain the team, their 2011-12 record and RPI, plus any news or information of relevance regarding each team.
One thing is obvious when looking at the Huskies’ non-conference schedule this year; all of you fans who have complained over the years about how “easy” Lorenzo Romar’s non-conference scheduling is can not do that this year. This schedule is downright brutal. They have four games away from Alaska Airlines Arena this year, 3-4 potential Top 25 teams, and 2-3 others who could legitimately make the NCAA tournament by being the best in their conference. Oh, did I mention the Huskies have the defending DII champions coming to Hec Ed for their exhibition? Even the practice games are not easy.
10/24- Western Washington Vikings
The defending Division II champion WWU Vikings are coming on down from Bellingham in a way too early game for the Huskies. They will only have been in camp for less than two weeks and most certainly will not have worked out all of the offensive and defensive schemes. This is certainly the type of game that could turn out to be a public relations nightmare (much like Seattle Pacific’s upset of Arizona was last year), if not an RPI killer. But, since the Huskies have no incoming freshmen and only one new eligible player (Mark McLaughlin), one has to think that everyone will be much more comfortable picking up Romar’s defensive schemes. This could be a trap game, but luckily it is just an exhibition. UW 90 WWU 84
11/11- Loyola (Md) Greyhounds (2011-12 record 24-9, RPI 78)
The Greyhounds made the NCAA tournament last year after an impressive season, rounded out by winning the Metro Athletic Conference title and then losing to Ohio State. The Baltimore-based team will be playing it’s second game of the season when they play the Huskies, following a home game against Binghamton two days earlier. Given the quick travel time and the fact that they are bringing in five freshmen to replace some of their core talent from last year, this appears to be an big win opportunity for the Huskies. The most significant new player to the roster is Canadian Damion Rashford, who attended the acclaimed Westwind Prep last year. UW 94 Loyola 77
11/13- Albany Great Danes (2011-12 record 19-15, RPI 212)- The Great Danes do not appear to pose much of a challenge for the Huskies. Last year they were led by 6’4″ Dominican Republic guard Gerardo Suero who averaged 21.5 ppg for the Danes. Despite having a year of eligibility left, Suero decided to enter the NBA draft, where he went unselected. So, not only did the Danes lose their best player, but Suero lost his chance for a big senior year. In additon, three other players from the squad transferred including Ben Dickinson, Omar Richards, and Chris Longoria. Perhaps their biggest threat for next year will be senior guard Jacob Iati, who after several seasons deep on the bench erupted into a prolific scorer late last year, scoring over 20 points three times in the final few games. But, Albany’s defense is porous and it should be a plus 100 night for the Huskies. UW 101 Albany 78
11/17- Seton Hall Pirates at Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, CT (2011-12 record 21-13, RPI 68)- Following a couple of gimme games, the Huskies make the first of their two trips to Connecticut to play in the Hall-of-Fame Tip-off Classic. Rather than play at Springfield, MA where the Hall of Fame actually is, the tournament has decided there is more money to be made at the mega-casino in rural Connecticut. Seton Hall finished in the middle of the Big East last year with an 8-10 conference record. They were a competitive team, but not dominant, missing the NCAA tournament despite the conference sending nine teams. They have lost their top two scorers from last season, which means their highest returning scorer will be 6’6″ junior wing Fuquan Edwin at 12.5 ppg. He is also the only returning player to have averaged over 30 minutes per game. Although sophomore guard Aaron Cosby averaged 29.5 minutes, while scoring 7.5 ppg. The Pirates also lost their only significant rebounder from last year, so they will need some of the reserves and freshmen to take up the slack under the boards. Seton Hall again appears to be destined for a mid-conference finish and the Huskies should be able to win this game if they play well. But, the Huskies do not have a long history of performing well in neutral site games over the years, so a loss is certainly possible. UW 78 Seton Hall 73
11/18- Ohio State Buckeyes at Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, CT (2011-12 record 31-8, RPI 7)
or Rhode Island Rams at Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, CT (2011-12 record 7-24, RPI 256)
Obviously it is difficult to predict which of these games it will be. A win over Seton Hall, coupled with an expected Ohio State win over Rhode Island would result in a matchup with the Buckeyes. In that scenario, it would seem the Final Four attendees from last year would easily dispatch the Huskies. On the other hand, a loss to Seton Hall could match them up with the Rams, who were dismal last year and probably won’t be much better this year. Thus, in that scenario, the Huskies should win. Either way, I see a 1-1 finish for the weekend in Connecticut.
11/24- Colorado State Rams (2011-12 record 20-12, RPI 29)- Colorado State had a solid season last year, competing well in the Mountain West and finishing with a solid RPI. They lost to Murray State in the first round of the NCAA tournament, but their strong season was enough to get Tim Miles a nice salary boost with a job offer to go to Nebraska. But, Colorado State did not drop off in the coaching department by bringing in proven winner Larry Eustacy to replace him. The Rams return all of their top 5 scorers from last season including Wes Eikmeier (15.5 ppg), Dorian Green (13.1 ppg), Greg Smith (9.4 ppg). They also return their leading rebounder in Pierce Hornung. Fans in Fort Collins are also excited about the in-coming class Eustacy is brining in including David Cohn from Chicago and Canadian Joe DeCiman. This looks like it could be a real challenge game for the Huskies and an upset at Hec Ed is certainly possible. Colorado State 81 UW 78
11/28- Saint Louis Billikens (2011-12 record 26-8, RPI 31)- Last year the unexpectedly talented Billikens blew the Huskies out in Saint Louis on what was supposed to be Scott Suggs’ homecoming game. But, Suggs was injured and thus he has a chance to be part of exacting revenge in Seattle. This time around, Saint Louis will be without last year’s leading scorer Brian Conklin. But, just about every other significant player returns including 2nd leading scorer Kwamain Mitchell, 3rd leading scorer Cody Ellis, and 4th leading scorer and leading rebounder Dwayne Evans. Many people are pegging the Billikens to be even better than last year’s NCAA 3rd round team. In addition, you can always expect Rick Majerus teams to be well coached. Nonetheless, you have to think that the revenge factor and the home crowd will play a role in helping the Huskies play better than they did last year. Perhaps we will see Scott Suggs go off and drop 20? I am going for the Husky upset against what could be a Top 25 team at that time. UW 77 Saint Louis 75
So, as the calender turns from the early non-conference schedule of November to the late non-conference schedule of December, I predict the Huskies will be 4-2 going into December. Next up will be the December preview.