BUILDING AN EMPIRE - WASHINGTON BASKETBALLWhat, exactly, is so great about Lorenzo Romar? Nothing he did as a low-talent shooting guard for the Warriors or as a born-again AIA barnstormer suggested that he would grow up to become the hottest head coach in America. And yet here he is, poised to take his Huskies back to the NCAAs behind consecutive top-15 recruiting classes. In the past two years Romar has taken prized recruits away from Duke, Carolina and Connecticut, and he has essentially built a fence around the Pacific Northwest. We wish we could hate him, frankly, and we look forward to his first act of villainous treachery.
Good News: The Huskies have the personnel to play you however you want to play. Don't want to run? OK, here's uber-talents Spencer Hawes and widebody Jon Brockman (right) in the half-court: Enjoy. Prefer the up-tempo game? No one runs harder or better than UW, who ranks with Arizona as the premier fun-and-gun team in the West. In addition to the bigs, UW welcomes frosh Quincy Poindexter (below), who has become the team's go-to threat, scoring 20 points more than three times in the Huskies' first six games. Justin Dentmon returns at the point; his ability to handle pressure against UCLA and Arizona will determine how far the Huskies can go in conference. Ryan Appleby returns to shoot 3s and turn the ball over far too often.
Bad News: They obviously will miss Pac-10 POY Brandon Roy, but other than that there isn't too much to complain about. Youth is the biggest problem; their starting five are underclassmen and it will be interesting to see how they cope with road trips in conference. Freshman Adrian Oliver will be a little shaky at the 2, but he's talented enough to draw the starts so far. Their bigs behind Brockman and Hawes are promising but untested. Brandon Burmeister is a bit of an athletic liability, but backs up Oliver at the 2.
One possible liability for Romar is attrition - the Huskies announced today that RS freshman Harvey Perry quit the team due to a lack of playing time. Romar has more talent than shots to distribute, and team chemistry may become an issue down the road. He does seem to be the type of coach who can deal with those issues, but this is worth watching.
New Faces: In addition to those already mentioned, UW will get immediate help from Phil Nelson, a 6'7" forward with a good inside-outside game.
Prediction: 3rd place. As noted above, the Huskies are athletic and versatile enough to compete with anybody in the conference. They will go as far as their point guard(s) can lead them. If Dentmon/Appleby can limit turnovers and get the ball inside in the half-court (which has been a problem thus far), there's no reason UW couldn't finish 1st or 2nd in the conference and make another deep run into March Madness.