Guest Post: The Road To Duke


This is a Guest Post by Carl Munson

Lorenzo Romar teams always play with intensity and, considering early schedule relative strength, by the opening tip-off against Marquette, the Huskies should be 11-0. But could they be 13-0 after Duke?

“Speed kills” is frequently repeated in the athletic world. It does not matter what sport. In 2011, team speed will be Washington’s primary strength, with talent not far behind. None of the first 11 teams on the Washington schedule should come close to matching Husky team speed, especially at guard.

Season opener, Seattle Pacific University, loses Jeff Downs but Jeff’s brother, GNA Freshman of the Year, 6’2” point guard David, will be back. David Downs is good and he should enter the contest intent on doing what most believe impossible: hang with Gaddy, Wroten, Wilcox or, perhaps, Andrews for an entire game. The odds are not in Downs’ favor. Ex-Gonzaga center, 6’11” Andy Poling and 6’10” 240 lb. forward Modou Niang from Senegal should make the game interesting but, again, their size will be negated by Husky team speed and talent. Washington senior forward, Brendan Sherrer should get in before the end of the fourth quarter, and SPU assistant coach Grant Leep may wish he were a Husky again.

The BTI Tournament during mid-November will give Washington a chance to further strengthen the team chemistry. After the Tournament, Washington travels to Chaifetz Arena to play Lorenzo Romar’s former team, St. Louis (not to be confused with Louisville), coached by Rick Majerus (Marquette, Utah, NBA). St. Louis will be led by 6’2” 160 lb. point guard Mike McCall and Brian Conklin, a 6’6” 230 lb. forward from Eugene, Oregon. The Billikins’ biggest win last season was 90-52 over Chicago State; the worst defeat was to Duke: 47-84, a game that demonstrated Duke’s defensive acumen. St. Louis has two interesting Bigs in Cody Ellis, 6’8” 240 lb. forward from Australia, and 6’11” 240 lb. center Rob Loe, considered the top New Zealand high school player as a senior two years ago when he played for the national men’s team, at 17 the youngest player ever to do so. Again, however, St. Louis will have neither the speed nor talent to stay with the Dawgs.

After St. Louis, the Dawgs will have a couple more opportunities to prove a Lorenzo Romar team will always play with intensity. Houston Baptist and Nevada.

At this point in the season, Washington should be 7-0. Enter Marquette.

In terms of size, Washington matches up well with Marquette. Like Washington, Marquette has excellent talent and depth at the guard position. And, like the Huskies, they have only one player over 6′ 8”. Chris Otule, a 6′ 11″ 260 lb. role player (similar to Aziz N’Diaye) who stuffs the middle and blocks shots (55 last season), doesn’t shoot much but his shots, mostly put-backs and dunks, usually go down. Again, however, Washington has the edge in talent and speed, and should beat Marquette.

In view of personnel losses from last year’s Washington squad, some may question that last judgment. As always, Washington’s team next fall will be a different one than last fall; not an inferior team, a different team. Washington will miss Venoy’s energy, Isaiah’s confidence, MBA’s versatility, and Justin’s basketball I.Q. but the Huskies will still be a good team. As Coach Romar jokingly said on KJR earlier this week, when Jon Brockman graduated, “there were people who believed we’d never win another game.” Reality is just the opposite, however. The departure of great players clears the way for others with great potential to also become great players.

Out from under the shadows of MBA, IT, VO and JH, Darnell Gant and Scott Suggs have the opportunity and ability to replicate the Brockman/Qpon/MBA senior year syndrome. Gant has been acting like a leader with a sense of urgency during this off-season, and we should expect to see a different Darnell come SPU tip-off. By Marquette, Washington fans may have even forgotten the old Darnell Gant, like they once forgot the old Quincy Pondexter.

Next fall, team chemistry will be different, perhaps better than last season; and since chemistry varies with different personnel combinations, consider Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten individually, then think of them together, Terrence knowing what Tony will do, Tony knowing what Terrence will do. In team ball, Romar ball, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The TRoss/TWroten star (think Stockton/Malone) should be showing some luster by the time Washington plays Marquette.

And people don’t realize it but, on a team with speed, Pac-10 All-Freshman C. J. Wilcox is probably the fastest player. An above-average shooter and a very good defender, without IT on the court, Wilcox has the chance to step up and consistently show the potential that occasionally flashed last season, e.g., six of eight from behind the arc against Long Beach State (before the hip infection) and 24 points against UCLA in March.

Considering speed, talent and timing, when the horn blows at the end of the Marquette game, we should be 8-0.

But then comes the reality check. Duke.

We won’t match up well against Duke. Duke will have seven players between 6’8″ and 7’0″. They lose Kyle Singler but the third Plumlee brother, 7’0″ Marshall Plumlee, joins brothers Mason, 6’10″, and Miles, 6’11″, and, as with anyone on the Duke roster, they’re all good. While Duke guards are great, Washington’s bigger players are a little faster than Duke Bigs. The Huskies’ redemption might be their overall team speed and team chemistry.

Washington won’t wear out Duke – the Duke bench is even deeper than the Dawgs’ – but, applying playoffs intensity, the Huskies might be able to outrun and out-defend Duke – although, again, Duke can play defense too. Washington will need to shoot well, exercise unfailing court awareness, and play defense extraordinarily well. The game will be intense, Bill Russell-in-the-playoffs intense, and a measure of what Washington players are made of.

Will Washington beat Duke? The Huskies beat Arizona twice last season. Duke’s last game was a 77-93 loss to Arizona. It’s possible. But Washington will have to bring it all to be 9-0.