The Washington Huskies have been on top of the Pac-12 Conference for the past four years, and have been predicted to finished first or second over that time period – except for the upcoming 2012-13 season. After finishing the 2008-2009 and 2011-2012 seasons with the best record in the Conference, and back-to-back Conference Tournament Championships in 2010 and 2011, the Dawgs are entering this season with a new title: Under-Dawgs.
Those past teams have produced several NBA players including Jon Brockman, Quincy Pondexter, Isaiah Thomas, and most recently Terrence Ross and Troy Wroten. The departure of such high-caliber players has the media prognosticating a dismal future for the Huskies, but according to the university website, head coach Lorenzo Romar says his team is embracing the new-found mentality.
“We’re kind of under the radar and this is the first time since I’ve been here that we have been like that,” senior point guard and co-captain Abdul Gaddy said just before the season’s first practice last Friday. “Every year I’ve been here we’ve been (picked) first or second to win the Pac-12. This year (some) are picking us to finish fifth, sixth or seventh.” Guilty as charged, I selected the Huskies to finish seventh behind in my Pac-12 prediction – Who Will Be the Leader of the Pac?
What is it that the media have against the Huskies? Although they finished last year with a 24-11 record and a conference best record of 14-4, the Dawgs were snubbed by the NCAA Tournament Committee and made the Final Four of the NIT, where they lost a heartbreaking one-point game in overtime to Minnesota. Prior to last year’s “snub”, the Huskies have been invited to “The Big Dance” six of the past ten years, with three Sweet Sixteen appearances.
Those numbers from an ACC or Big East team would be impressive, but because they are part of the most under-rated conference in College Basketball, Washington’s past has been nothing more than a fluke to many in the media. The lack of respect is what fuels Gaddy and the other Husky players, who made a pact to give more and redeem themselves in the eyes of their coach, their fans and the country by returning to the NCAA Tournament.
Gaddy will no longer have Thomas, Pondexter, Ross or Wroten to play with, but he believes the new crew of Huskies to be as talented as the aforementioned Conference champions. Joining Gaddy this year will be co-captain Scott Suggs, long-range shooter C.J. Wilcox and big man, seven-footer Aziz N’Diaye. Having three returning seniors and one junior who have played together for the past three seasons means that there is a lot of cohesion and teamwork that has already taken place.
“That brings a unique quality to this team,” Romar said. “This is a special team in that regard.” They also have two new freshmen that are coming off redshirt seasons, 6-2 guard Andrew Andrews and 6-10 forward Jernard Jarreau. Add to the the mix current UW football tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and sophomore Shawn Kemp, Jr., who led the team his freshman year in field goal percentage at 55.2%, you can see why there is hope for these under-dawgs.
With the high-post offense being implemented by Romar this year, it will be interesting to see where the Huskies land in the Pac-12 Conference. Their non-conference schedule is light, other than the Tip-Off Hall of Fame Classic bringing strong competition from teams like the Ohio State Buckeyes and Seton Hall Pirates. I am looking with intrigue into the Washington Huskies season and into the future with signees Nigel Williams-Gross and heavily-recruited Darin Johnson.
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