Optimistic is not a word most would coin the Huskies' hopes for a Pa..."/> Optimistic is not a word most would coin the Huskies' hopes for a Pa..."/> Optimistic is not a word most would coin the Huskies' hopes for a Pa..."/>

Any Room Left for Optimisim?

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by Craig Yamada

Optimistic is not a word most would coin the Huskies’ hopes for a Pac-10 championship and post season given their play as of late. And it has been rather simple to lose hope given the circumstances. I would be lying if I wasn’t worried about our hopes given this team’s lack luster performances over the past three games.  But while it’s difficult to envision light at the end of this tunnel, let’s gun it to 88 and go back to this same time last year and look at where we were.

On Feb 6, 2010, we were coming off the heels of a four game winning streak going into a loss at Cal. We were 16-8 overall with a 6-5 record in the Pac-1o. Sure, this feels a little different because we are still dealing with the hangover of a three game slump, but given what we have seen from this team in the past, one has to believe that this is not over yet. Remember when UW dropped three in a row last year (one of which was at home to Oregon) and everyone thought that all  hope was lost? We all know what happened after that.

This season is no different. The Huskies are returning home to their sanctuary of Hec Ed where they are 11-0 this year. One has to like our chances this weekend playing at home in efforts to gain our swagger back. And the scarlet letter of being ranked is now gone. The bullseye is temporarily off our backs and all eyes now turn to Arizona and UCLA.

Are we out of it for the Pac-1o title? No, but we need some serious help. And the Huskies can help themselves by going on a run like they did last year to close out the season.

Zona is playing at the top of their game and escaped Cal with a nail biting win in three OT’s to finish the sweep of the Bay Area. They now control their own destiny sitting atop the Pac 10 with a 9-2 record. However, I’m not so sure they run away with this thing without some drama. The Pac 10 parity police are on watch and are looking to ruin their season. Let’s take a look at Zona’s remaining schedule:

  •  2/13 – @ ASU: Sure ASU is the skidmark on the underpants of the Pac-10, but a home game against an in-state rival will surely give the Cats a legit run for their money. ASU played UCLA tough at home last time they were home and pushed them into OT. Sendek’s squad is hungry to return to relevance and what better way to do that than by upsetting their rival?
  • 2/17 – WSU: Despite WSU’s embarrassing loss at Oregon on Thursday, this team is still fighting for a NCAA bid. Bone’s squad is playing well and will surely look to avenge their last loss against Zona.
  • 2/19 – UW: Simply put, this is a must win if the Huskies want any hope of finishing atop the Pac-1o standings by season’s end. And given their recent performance on the road, this does not look promising. But we have seen this team get up for big road games and pull out wins when they absolutely have to. Wouldn’t be surprised if IT leads his squad to victory here.
  • 2/24 – @USC: The Trojans are 3-2 at home during Pac-1o play with impressive victories against WSU and UCLA. One has to believe that they will give Zona all they can handle at home.
  • 2/26 – @UCLA: If the standings hold as they are, this will determine the Pac-1o championship. Are the current standings likely to hold until then? Nope. Escaping Pauley Pavilion with a win is no easy task. UCLA is playing well as of late coming off their win against a tough St. John’s squad. This will be an epic battle.
  • 3/3 – OSU: Circle this game with bright red ink. OSU has owned Arizona the past two years as it is 3-0 in its last three games against the Cats. OSU can definitely give a fast transition team like Zona fits home or away.
  • 3/5 – Oregon: Sure the Ducks have a shot. A legit shot? Not likely. But I love surprises.

Prediction: Zona drops atleast 3 games (UW, @UCLA, OSU). And yes, most will say I am crazy for picking UW winning in Tucson, but most thought we wouldn’t have a chance at sweeping the LA schools either. “So your telling me there’s a chance…” – Lloyd Christmas

In looking at UCLA’s schedule, I am guessing they drop at least three more games as well (@Cal, @UW, @WSU).

Like I said before, parity has a funny way of working out when you are playing from behind. UW will need some luck, but I will not  say they are done for. If they drop a game at home this weekend, then yes we can start talking. But until that happens, UW still has a great shot at making a strong run at the end of the season with five home games left and just two on the road.

So What Needs to Change?

  • Defense, Defense, Defense: What happened to us? We used to be feared as a defensive squad and now, it looks like teams can’t wait to play us. Let’s face it. With no defense, we have no offense. Defense has triggered this team’s transition game from the get-go and is key in getting games in UW’s favor and pace. Romar will need to continue to search and find that defensive scheme that worked for them early in the Pac-10 season. UW is getting beat back door way too much. Cheating and trying to gamble on steals every time has really burned this team and will need to get back to ball and man basics to get their defensive mindset back to where it needs to be. Something tells me Holiday and Overton aren’t 100% as they don’t have the burst or speed to shut down anyone right now.
  • Get Healthy: Gant looks to be hampered with some kind of injury. Holiday and Overton are still nursing their injuries sustained in the early going. Three of our best defenders will need to get right in order to right this ship.
  • Break the Zone: If anything, people are following the blue print of playing zone on UW as a way to beat them. As of late, it has proven successful. Romar can ill afford to rely solely on his three point shooters to carry him through every game. IT can’t bust a zone by himself. Flashing a guy middle like Ross or Holiday may help open up our outside shooters and could open MBA on an easy dump pass once the zone collapses.
  • Continue to feed MBA: Yes, his missed chipped shots had me pulling out my hair all weekend. But the truth of the matter is, he is the key to this offense as he opens up the entire offense if he is productive.
  • IT letting the game come to him: Thomas did look a little bit better on Saturday than he did against Thursday against OSU. But his persistence in splitting the defense got himself into trouble many times this weekend. He was forcing three point shots in transition when we had numbers. He just is not playing like himself. My guess is that Thomas will go back to square one this week and put the extra time in the gym to get himself back to the PG we know he is.
  • Limit TO’s: Definitely goes without saying as the Huskies looked like they were  JV team handling the ball in this last road trip. Fundamentals fellas. 
  •  Make Free Throws: Obvious need for improvement as they are shooting just 65% from the stripe this season.

These are dark times, but let’s not lose all hope just yet. A single win on Thursday will definitely change the conversation. There is a lot of season left and a lot can happen.