As fundamentally wrong as it feels to see a team ripped away from its fans, the Sonics leaving also threw a wrench into the entire seasonal course of local rooting: Regardless of the Mariners’ success each year, before baseball takes its winter-long nap, football is in full swing, easing the transition to bad weather with hope and excitement for the college and pro seasons ahead. And, then, by the time it’s pretty clear whether we’ve got gridiron Dawgs or gridiron dogs, or a Seahawks squad that can compete for a spot in the ultimate Bowl game, basketball season brings about a clean slate, and new hopes.
For the second year of what could be forever, the Sonics will be absent from the city this season, leaving the Husky basketball program to carry not only the weight of die-hard basketball fans, but to essentially fill several months of the local sports scene all by themselves. Even a magical playoff run by the Sounders would be nearly finished by the time Husky basketball tips off.
But, if you’re looking for something, anything, beneficial to come out of the Sonics cross-country trek, this position for the Husky basketball team – alone, at center stage — might be it.
Recruits across the country had the rare chance Friday night to see ESPN give the Huskies their propers as a national power program by attending our Midnight Madness event. And now, local recruits — Lorenzo Romar’s stock in trade — should have the chance to see the Huskies plastered all over Washington-based media for the first three months of every year. This attention should tip more local recruits our way, hopefully leading to more success on a national level, which should, in turn, lead to Washington not sticking out as such a long shot when a recruit’s list also includes schools like North Carolina, Kansas, or Kentucky.
But, of course, there’s pressure for the here-and-now Husky ballers in carrying the city’s sports dreams during the indoor months all by themselves.
Last season, a plucky group with few expectations thrilled us until a second-round loss to Purdue in the NCAA Tournament. This year, the Husky basketball team won’t have the luxury of taking anyone by surprise, including their hometown fans. This year, their “ceiling” as a team isn’t winning their own conference and being thrilled just to show up in the bracket on Selection Sunday.
No, this year they’re playing for a chance to keep us all captivated right on through March, up until Felix throws out that first pitch in Oakland. Will the Husky basketball team be able to build on last season’s success? That’s impossible to know. But, there’s no doubt, people will be watching when it’s the only game in town.