Husky Basketball: Round Table

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UW plays Nevada tonight in Reno at 8pm PT on ESPNU/ESPN3 and you can see the game preview here. The Q&A with Nevada writer Chris Murray here.

The Huskies are 4-1 on the season and are due to get senior guard Scott Suggs back this week. So, I have complied thoughts from some of the top writers for Husky Basketball on this post for our first (of hopefully many) round tables.

Today’s featured writers are:

  • Griffin Bennett is the owner/operator of MontlakeMadness.com. If you don’t know who he is or what that site is, I pity you.
  • Mitchell Larsen covered Husky Men’s Basketball all last season for Rivals.com and is now a marketing analyst in Seattle. He will continue to cover the team for theHuskyHaul.com
  • Mark Knight the guy that makes this site run.

1. What are your thoughts on the season thus far?

Griffin: I think it’s gone just about as expected. I don’t think we knew how good of a team Saint Louis really was before we played them but they look like a legit tournament team. We new the youth would be an issue, leadership would be an issue, and learning the defensive scheme would be an issue. All of those have presented themselves.

On the positive side, the team’s explosiveness and shooting prowess is also there. I’m still optimistic on how the season will end up.

Mitchell: They lost the one game I circled as their first test of the season. The talent is clearly there, but I am reluctant to call this team much more than average. The Huskies have looked sloppy more often than not, they’ve lacked intensity more often than not, and against better teams, they will get beat. 

Mark: St. Louis was a team I heard a ton of talk about before the season. How fundamental they were, how they were underrated and that they have a legitimate shot to win the A-10 conference. Thus, I knew as their first road game it would present the biggest challenge. It exposed a lot of holes that many speculated this young team would have-the holes were exposed not only to fans but to the players and that is a big thing. They now understand and can buy-in even more into what Romar and company have been telling them day in and day out. 

2. When it comes to the Nevada Wolfpack, what do you know about them?

Griffin: Burton and Story are the key players on the team. Both guards are excellent players and Burton, especially, can light you up if you’re not careful. Their front line is weak and should prompt a big game from Aziz as well as in the post from our forwards/guards. They were picked to win the WAC, so there’s that.

Mitchell: They’re ranked 136 in the KenPom rankings, a system that I trust quite a bit, other than that, not a whole lot.

Mark: They can be careless with the ball. They rank pretty high in turnovers per game but they also have the ability to be explosive. They are out looking for revenge from last season’s embarrassment the Huskies gave them. They haven’t forgotten and they are using that as motivation for this game. 

3. UW is listed as a 2pt favorite going into this game. Do you see that as a fair line?

Griffin: I guess… I really don’t like lines in basketball games because they’re so unpredictable. We should probably be favored but our history of road woes would make it low. I like it.

Mitchell: At this point in the season, why not? The Huskies have proven nothing to me. If they had at least kept the game close against St. Louis I might feel better about predicting a solid win, but they got crushed. Even against Houston Baptist, a team the Huskies were expected to beat by as much as 50, they had struggles against. So against a Nevada team that I don’t know a lot about, I can’t just assume the Huskies will win.

Mark: I am a little surprised. I thought it would be closer to 6 or 8 but the Huskies haven’t proven anything, especially to the country. 

4. Why do you think UW has a significant problem with road games?

Griffin: I think UW and Hec Ed is a huge home court advantage and not having that is huge. Honestly, I think it’s a coaching issue. Maybe it’s the pre-game schedule or lack of preparation but it’s not random anymore, it’s a trend with Romar teams.

Mitchell: Because they are from Seattle? No really, the Seahawks seem to always stink on the road, Husky football isn’t much better, and the Mariners, well they just stink period. Anyways, I don’t think it’s that the Huskies struggle on the road as much as they dominate at home. It’s been years since the Huskies lost a non-conference game at home, their home court advantage is huge. They play way above their skills when at home, but on the road, maybe that’s who they truly are.

Mark: There has to be a reason. Romar’s teams have struggled year after year on the road. They need to look into their travel, pre-game schedule, preparation, etc. and compare it to teams that do great on the road. Find out what can be adapted and changed to fix this, it’s a mental thing. 

5. What will it take for UW to win this game?

Griffin: The defensive effort that we’ve seen at home this year. Play hard on that side of the ball and the offense follows. Aziz needs to stay out of foul trouble and getting 10 rebounds and 2+ blocks would be a huge help.

Mitchell: For the Huskies to win this game, they have to bring their intensity for all 40 minutes. They have yet to bring it for even a full half this season. They’ve played good halves so far, and have looked incredible at times, but they haven’t played a complete game yet. This is a great chance to go away from home and prove they can bring their A-game no matter where they play.

Mark: Turnovers. They need to force them, and control them. They need to win the turnover battle, this sounds like a football thing, but for this game it is really important. Nevada struggles in this area and UW needs to pounce on them and force their hand. At the same time they need to make sure they don’t just give it right back with their own turnover issues. 

6. What is your prediction for the game?

Griffin: I don’t have a final score yet but I think that UW was embarrassed in Saint Louis and they are going to make Nevada pay. I have a good feeling about this one. Let’s hope they’re not looking forward to the New York trip yet. 

Mitchell: 85-74, Huskies win, but it’s not as pretty as the final score might indicate. I think that it will take a lot of guts and a strong shooting performance from C.J. Wilcox for Washington to win this game. That paired with a low turnover game from Tony Wroten Jr. and the Huskies should walk away with a win. I see this game being close at half, but Washington pulls away in the opening moments of the second, and Nevada doesn’t have enough in them to stay close.

Mark: I doubt it is the 30 point thrashing they gave Nevada last year. This one will be closer and tighter. 88-79 UW. 

7. Who on this team is identifying themselves as a go-to-guy?

Griffin: Terrence Ross or C.J. Wilcox. I want it to be Ross but he hasn’t showed us his killer instinct yet. I want to see him take the ball when the offense gets clogged up and make something happen. Until then, I think the team trusts Wilcox to make anything that he puts up.

Mitchell: I’m going to go outside the box on this one and say Desmond Simmons. Before the season, Lorenzo Romar said Simmons would be the fire starter, and at points this season I have seen why. He reminds me of Justin Holiday, but with offensive skills and a three-point shot. He brings intensity on defense and seems to bring the team to a different level. I think he’s the one who the Huskies need to get on the court when things are going wrong. Romar prides himself on having a solid defense, for that to happen, Simmons will have to continue to play the way he has been playing.

Mark: Abdul Gaddy is the guy you want to see with the ball in his hands. He makes things happen, he may not be as flashy as a Tony Wroten or as deadly from 3 like a CJ Wilcox but he is what holds this team together. However, my definition of a “go-to-guy” is not a gets the final shot, but a guy you want to have the ball when it’s tough and tight. 

8. Many have said that Gant is struggling early in this season. Fair?

Griffin: It depends what your expectations of Gant were. Was he going to be in the top 4 of scoring this year? I certainly didn’t think so. He’s never been a stat stuffer but he’s a great role player who can do a little bit of everything. If you were expecting a Pondexter-like rise, then your hopes were too high.

Mitchell: To say Gant is struggling is an understatement. He is not only not producing on the court, but his body language is telling me he’s quitting on the team. When he struggled early against Houston Baptist, he was benched and it looked like he wanted no part of the team. He’s supposed to be a senior leader, but I would rather see Simmons on the court.

Mark: I think his expectations of himself are too high. He is trying too hard to be everything to everyone and that is causing him to struggle. He then will get frustrated at himself and in turn “quit on the team”. He just needs to focus on what he does best and continue to do what he has done for his whole career at UW. Play where they need him, do the little things, and go hard for every minute. 

9. If it came down to a last second shot, who do you want to have the ball in their hands?

Griffin: Oh man… One shot? It’s gotta be Wilcox. The guy is a stone cold killer.

Mitchell: No doubt about who I want taking the shot, C.J. Wilcox, but as far as who gets him the ball, that might be a better question. Some might say Wroten, but I would go to Abdul Gaddy every day of the week. He’s so cool and calm that I think he would flourish in the moment to create a big game winning play. He has the ability to find open shots for his teammates, and I think he would have no problem finding Wilcox for an open three.

Mark: CJ Wilcox. He is deadly. 

10. Any surprises on the season so far?

Griffin: Not really. I thought Ross would be scoring a bit more but other than that it’s been right about what I thought. I think Kemp has been the biggest surprise as a player. He was an unknown coming in and he has helped this team in the post when Aziz needs rest.

Mitchell: The season has gone as I expected up to this point, the biggest surprise up to this point is how good Tony Wroten has been. I am the first to jump on him and call him out for mistakes, because he has made plenty; but he’s also proven he belongs on the floor. He makes big plays and his passes are jaw-dropping at times. As soon as he develops and fully matures I see him being one of the best guards in the country, but even at this point I’m impressed at what he can do. 

Mark: As far as the season record goes, I was thinking about 4-1 up to this point with the loss either from St. Louis or Nevada. I just had a feeling one of the early road games would get to UW. The team overall has been as expected. But there have been individual surprises. Martin Breunig is a lot better and a lot different than I thought he would be coming in. He is exceptional as a true freshman. Terrence Ross isn’t running away with the Pac-12 player of the year like many thought, but he isn’t playing bad either. Tony Wroten is flat out amazing but still needs to remember to “make the simple play” at times. Shawn Kemp is ready to go and the more he plays the better he gets. Desmond Simmons seems to be the glue on defense and Abdul Gaddy seems to be the glue on offense. All and all- about where I expected this team to be.