The Time Has Come for the Huskies To Start Fast


The bus was stuck on the freeway for 45 minutes. The players were forced to change into their uniforms on the bus. They arrived with less than 45 minutes left until game time and not a lot of time to go through their normal pre-game rituals, shoot arounds, and game planning. When tip-off came, Garrett Sim led Oregon to a quick 8-0 lead and the Ducks never looked back. The Ducks cruised to an easy 82-57 victory in a game in which the Huskies never got the lead back under 20 in the 2nd half. They were flat, extremely porous defensively, took too many quick shots, made too many bad passes, and seemed a step behind all game.

We’ve seen this kind of game before from the Washington Huskies. Back in 2011, the Huskies sporting a 15-5 record went over to Pullman and were beaten 87-80, then took the dreaded trip to Oregon and were embarrassed by Oregon State 68-56 and while they played better were beaten by Oregon 81-76. These were two Oregon teams the Huskies had demolished in Seattle one month earlier.

Back in 2010, a 10-2 Husky team was beaten at home by Oregon 90-79 and then proceeded to go on the road and get blown out by Arizona State 68-51 and Arizona 87-70. A couple of losses in Los Angeles two weeks later left the Huskies just 3-5 in the conference.

The Huskies have really struggled in the first half of games all season. They seem to really have trouble figuring out their opponents and getting the ball into the hoop until the 2nd half. But, this trend is not new. I was doing some research and came across a betting website that stated the Huskies were the 2nd worst first half team (against the betting lines anyways) in the country in 2009-2010.

In the last nine Pac-12 games, the Huskies have scored an average if just 27.89 points in the first half of games (26, 29, 35, 29, 21, 32, 25, 25, 29). These slow starts are just not going to get it done. They cannot keep hoping that things will go well enough in the second half to stage a comeback or pull away late. There are games, such as on Thursday night in Eugene, when it just doesn’t happen and a team simply gets too far away to make a comeback.

The Washington Huskies are a maddening team to watch as a fan. When a team is bad, like my local Northern Arizona Lumberjacks are at 5-20 (RPI 330), then there is resignation to the fact. No one is particularly upset about it. You accept the situation, but hope someday they can improve. When a team is very good, then even the occasional upset is something you can get over (as long as it is not in the 1st round of the NCAA tournament). Even when a team is muddling around at .500 there is a feeling of potential optimism or a desire to change directions depending on where they are coming from the past season or two.

But, the Washington Huskies have got to be the most frustrating team to watch in the country because there is probably no other team in the NCAA with so much raw talent that oscillates so dramatically from amazing performances to downright stinkers. From close games against opponents they should blow out to big time comebacks against Top 10 teams.

Yes, they are young. Yes, there are chemistry issues. Yes, the coaching plays a factor. So too does the attitudes, swagger, and heart of the players. But, this is major college basketball. A late bus should not be an excuse for a 20+ point blowout. It is what it is… But, it is still maddening even when you’ve come to expect the unexpected.

So, here we stand on February 10th. The Huskies are 16-8 overall, 9-3 in the Pac-12 (tied for 1st). Their RPI is currently 76, which has to get much better (probably low 50’s) before Selection Sunday if they have a hope of getting an at-large berth. The way I calculate it, the Huskies can afford only one more loss in the regular season to have a realistic chance at an at-large bid. That won’t be an easy task with Arizona and Arizona State coming to town next week and then a 3-game road trip to Washington State, UCLA, and USC to finish the season. There are realistically 3-4 games they could lose in that stretch, but knowing the Huskies and this unpredictable Pac-12 overall, none of them would truly be shocking losses.

The good news is that the Huskies have a weak Pac-12 to play against. If they can shake off this embarrassing loss to Oregon and get back to playing some solid basketball, they certainly have the talent and schedule in place to run the table. It is starting to look like the NIT is the more probably destination for the Huskies based on the mathematical chances. But, we’ve seen this story before the past two seasons, so we all know anything is possible. Want drama? We don’t need to watch Downton Abbey with the wives when there is Husky basketball.

But, it all starts with Oregon State on Sunday. The Beavers are playing for the post-season (probably the NIT) and they have a history of stunning the Dawgs. The Huskies need to come out quick, establish some control on the board and on defense, score more than 30 points in the first half for once, and take care of business in Corvallis. In the grand scheme of things, a road split in Oregon is not such a bad thing. But, in this Pac-12 season, the Huskies cannot afford any more of those.