by Craig Yamada
Oh yes. The four words that you dread when you are dating someone. In this case, the question is just as dreadful. UW has officially slipped down to #23 in the AP poll following a disappointing showing in the Maui Tourney. Could the AP be a little harsh in dropping us 10 spots from last week? Probably not. Granted, we lost to two top ten teams last week, and barely at that. But in the grand scheme of things, I don’t think its the worst thing in the world to be ranked this low. It’s early folks. Don’t hit the panic button yet.
Nonetheless, the Huskies left Maui with several unanswered questions:
Q: Who is going to be the man to take the final shot of the game?
A: Coach Romar, you must choose someone. Or have one of your captains step up and say “I AM YOUR GUY.” Neither Holiday nor IT took the final shot at the MSU game. Instead, Romar brought a cold shooter off the bench. These two are your co-captains for a reason. Let one of them decide the outcome of the game. In losing Q-Pon last year, UW lost its identity in terms of a go-to guy. UW needs that person once again. In my eyes, Holiday wouldn’t be a bad option right now. He is UW’s most consistent player, game in and game out. IT is still our stud, but can we count on him to perform in the clutch against longer teams? I guess time will tell.
Q: What happens when we can’t depend on transition to win a game?
A: Only Romar knows the answer to this, but he certainly hasn’t found it during his entire tenure at UW. UW will most likely live and die by running on teams. But UW will need to come to realize that games against the Big Boys like Kentucky and MSU will force them to play half court offense in clutch situations. UW had zero fluidity on offense. Broken plays, one on one possessions, and offensive rebounding equated for Romar’s offensive sets in Maui. UW can ill afford to rely on that kind of an offense in crunch time situations. Is a simple pick and roll too much to ask for?
Q: Who is your stud swingman off the bench?
A: Scott Suggs showed me two things in Maui. He still struggles to play defense against tough competition. And he can’t shoot against high pressure defense as he fails to convert baskets curling off a screen. Defenses are starting to exploit his single threat from downtown and Suggs struggled as a result. Wilcox showed signs of stardom in the Virginia game. He was rather quiet against UK and MSU, but did convert on a few big shots from deep. One came off a hard screen curl. We need more of that. Terrence Ross didn’t do anything too spectacular in Maui, but he won the battle on defense in my eyes. He was able to body up on the bigs of UK and MSU and Romar left him in during key stretches of the game. His threat of getting into the lane and creating his own shot will begin to set him apart from Wilcox and Suggs as the season progresses. Wilcox looks like Romar’s best option off the bench at the current time, but Ross is nipping at his heels. Suggs should be at the back of the line right now.
Q: Who can step up when IT and MBA are struggling?
A: The answer is ANYONE. We all know we are going to look to Holiday to pick up the slack as he does all the little things to help his team win game in, game out. Abdul Gaddy is showing signs of the point guard we had all hoped he would be. No longer do I hold my breath when he shoots the ball from the outside. He is a legit threat from anywhere on the floor and will do wonders for UW this season. Darnell Gant also showed he can shoulder a scoring load when open. Gant has a stroke and he is showing it now.
Q: Has Darnell Gant turned a corner?
A: Yes and No. It should be no surprise that Gant has improved his shot as he has been working on his jumper in the offseason. His stroke looks nice and he is confident when releasing from beyond the arc. Not sure if it’s just me, but Gant tends to thrive in high pressure games. With his length and athleticism, Gant could be a huge surprise for UW this year. However, if he fails to grab rebounds like he did against MSU, his value significantly drops. Gant will need to work on muscling up down low if he wants to retain his starting spot at PF.
Q: Has MBA regressed a bit?
A: Maybe just a bit. We saw the 2008 version of MBA in Maui. Sure, he put up big numbers against MSU, but his post presence in Maui was nothing like we saw in the first three games of the season. Sure, the competition was stiffer, but he just looked rushed. He wasn’t taking his time in the post and he was fading away from his shot. He also missed a lot of layups he would normally make in the post. I also saw him fail to block out a few times which resulted in offensive put backs for the other team. MBA has all the tools, he just needs the drive to be great. Which means diving on the floor for loose balls and not posing for a GQ photo after making a shot.
Q: Can this team go for a deep run this year?
A: I would be lying if I told you no. You have to look at history when assessing early season performance for UW. This team gradually gets better as the season progresses and are notorious for getting hot when they need to. The development of their swingmen and Abdul Gaddy will prove to be key. Rebounding is definitely going to be the deciding factor. UW plays 25-35 seconds of stellar defense each possession, but it will all be for not if they can’t rebound. Win the rebounds, win the war. As it stands right now, UW has all the components of an Elite Eight or Final Four team. Now it’s time to put those pieces together for a masterpiece run to finish off out of conference games against Texas Tech, Texas A&M and Nevada. UW can write its own future this season. I am anxious to see how this unfolds.