(Jason McCleary of leftcoastrecruiting.com contributed to this post)

The Huskies sit on top of the Pac-12 at 9-2 in league play, after relatively difficult home wins over UCLA and USC. The Dawgs needed an inspired performance from sophomore guard Terrence Ross on Thursday to overcome a 65-55 Bruin lead with
less than six minutes to play to steal a 71-69 win. Always knowledgeable when it comes to hoops, Kevin Calabro did a great job of breaking the game down on Friday for 710-ESPN Seattle.

On Saturday UW ground out an ugly win over a disciplined but clearly out-manned USC team that outplayed them effort wise, but did not have the firepower to make it a closer game. The Huskies won 69-41 by playing well on defense and just having more and better talent than a Trojan team down to six scholarship players. Gohuskies.com did a nice wrap-up on the game including video of the press conference and an intelligent summary podcast from Gregg Bell. You can always hear my summary, as to what happened over the weekend with the Dawgs and what to look forward to every Monday night at 8 p.m. (PST) on "Talkin' Hoops" and if you miss the show live it is always available by podcast. Griffin Bennett of Montlake Madness thought that USC was just a really bad team, if not the worst in memory.

"I’m not sure if I’ve seen a worse Pac-12/10 team in the last decade than that Trojans team I witnessed last night. The Huskies kept roughly a 10 point lead for most of the game and that seemed like an insurmountable deficit for a USC team
that almost looked as if they didn’t want to be."

I saw it differently. I thought that USC played great, considering their lack of material, but in the end UW's wealth of talent, depth and size comparatively wore them down, much like a horrible NBA team would do eventually to the best college team. UW committed 17 turnovers, as 'SC did what they could to compete with maybe one player that would make UW's 8-man rotation in sophomore guard Maurice Jones or perhaps sophomore wing Garrett Jackson and I mean maybe. UW clearly played down to the Trojans for much of the game, despite the lopsided final score. I'm not the only one that was critical of UW's effort. Husky Haul talked about the Dawgs "playing down" to USC on Saturday after the game.

The UW Daily ran a piece on Saturday before the game hoping that the Dawgs would improve on a sloppy outing against UCLA, where UW had 10 assists to 16 To's. Against 'SC they answered that call with 17 assists (though against a much easier opponent), but couldn't improve on the TO's. Washington now controls it's own destiny with seven games in league play, plus the Pac-12 Tournament. The Dawgs stand one game ahead of Cal and Colorado at 8-3 and two games ahead of Oregon and Arizona at 7-4. The one caveat there is that the Ducks play 4-7 at home to close out and the 'Cats (who swept the Bay Area schools on the road this weekend) play 5-7.

Additionally, Oregon were much impressive on the road at Boulder CO and Salt Lake City UT this past weekend than UW was in their road split earlier this year. It was in that Utah game though, that the Dawgs started winning 8-9, including three straight league road games. UW appears to be bringing it's talented, but to then unkempt group together, as it is the tendency of a Lorenzo Romar led team to do this time of year. On Thursday after the game, Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times talked about how this 2nd half season surge is as common to UW under Romar as it is becoming to Ross' 2nd half heroics in games this year.

The Dawgs are in good shape, but even if they continue to play well, winning in Eugene OR at 8 p.m. (PST) Thursday and in Corvallis at 2:30 p.m. (PST) Saturday will not necessarily happen. Both the Ducks and Beavs are solid and talented teams. UW will certainly have to take better care of the ball in both games than they did against USC on Saturday and expecting a run in the last 5-minutes like Thursday's to bail them out is not likely to happen. I think that it is very possible that the Dawgs could be swept this weekend, as they were last year with a much more experienced team and against weaker opponents. That misspent weekend, along with the trip to Pullman WA the week before was the fatal difference in UW's 2010-11 season. Turn those three losses into wins and UW wins the then Pac-10 and more importantly gets a much easier seeding in the NCAA tournament. UW likely makes it into the Sweet-16 or better, instead of being blocked out by what was literally a home court advantage (including refereeing) against North Carolina in Charlotte.

Now a much less experienced, but arguably higher pedigree group of Dawgs, must face a much more experienced and also more talented Oregon team to start this stretch run which will put the Huskies on the road for 5-7 to close league play. In
order for UW to win the conference they will have to stay ahead of the Bears and the Buffs, who also play 5-7 road games. That sounds good for UW, but after being swept this weekend, it will not be. A road split that puts UW back in the pack, but not that far, would be a very big success. A sweep over the Oregon schools would probably put the Dawgs in front to stay. Anything can happen and probably will in one of the more crazy years in this league ever.

Why is there so much Pac-12 parity? Doug Haller of azcentral.com on Wednesday talked about all of the attrition, not just from early entry into the NBA draft, but since the beginning of this year from season ending injuries and transfers. Doug
didn't even include UCLA wing De'End Parker, who I thought could have helped them this year and will transfer. When you think about early entry last spring and off-season transfers, you really get a sobering picture. UCLA guards Malcolm Lee and Tyler Honeycutt went pro along with USC post and could have been Pac-10 Player of the Year Nikola Vucevic. 'Zona lost post and actual Pac-10 POY Derrick Williams, plus family hardship transfer guard Lamont "Momo" Jones. Stanford lost guard Jeremy Green to the pros, Buff guard Alec Burks went early, UW likely all-time leader in scoring, assists and steals had he stayed in guard Isaiah Thomas declared and WSU wing Klay Thompson did too. You get the picture.

Oregon also lost senior guard Malcolm Armstead, ASU again lost a couple of transfers in guard Corey Hawkins and Brandon Dunson as well, while wholesale transfers with the coaching changeover left Utah in shambles. A lot has gone wrong in the Pac-12, but there are still some very good teams, much better than what the national media will try to sell it as. Nine games through league play there are five teams separated by two games, with the teams two games out playing a home heavy schedule here on out. Additionally the teams that are three games out in Stanford and UCLA are no slouches and capable of playing their way into the race. Additionally the Bruins play 5-7 at home. It's anyone's race and UW cannot afford to feel like favorites at all, despite their tenuous one game lead. Myron Metcalf of ESPN talked about the conference race on Monday and pointed out how it is at least entertaining.

"The Pac-12 might end up with the most captivating finish in the country simply because so many teams possess questionable NCAA tourney rsums."

Oregon is one of, if not the best example, of a team in the conference that even though they've had their weak moments, still has enough (even after suffering heavy attrition) to pack a punch. The Ducks have a solid and seasoned front court
in seniors Olu Ashaolu, Jeremy Jacob and Tyrone Nared and juniors Tony Woods and Carlos Emory. The Ducks have one of the top wings in junior E.J. Singler, plus a strong veteran back court in seniors Garrett Sim and Devoe Joseph and sophomore
guard Jon Loyd. Beating an angry group of Ducks in their house after the controversial 72-71 loss in Boulder frankly does not look likely for UW. Neither though did the Dawgs amazing 69-67 win at 'Zona weekend before last. The 2011-12 UW team (like the entire conference) is not dull and seems like they have it in them, but looked like they took a step back in the games this past weekend against the LA Schools. We'll really see what they are made of on Thursday. On Monday all of the national pundits weighed in and I think that UW fans should hope that their team doesn't read their clippings. In ESPN, Joe Lunardi elevated the Dawgs from a play-in game 12 seed to an 11 seed, while Eammon Brennan put the Dawgs on top of his Pac-12 power rankings.

Andy Katz showed his factory school favoritism by picking Arizona his national "team of the week", after barely mentioning the Dawgs after sweeping the Arizona schools on the road last week. This could work in the Huskies favor, if they focus on that type of publicity, rather than their being heralded as frontrunners. UW (fittingly) always does better as a dog. Jeff Taylor of Husky Haul may also be a good read for over zealous Dawgs, as he points out that though UW leads Cal, the Bears are "more disciplined and did better in the non-conference". Not only will UW have to play more disciplined than they did against the LA schools, they will have to do it again like they did in Tucson. It would be a huge mistake for the Dawgs to feel too confident that they can summon that kind of effort and the fact that UW beat Oregon at home by 16 on New Year's Eve should also not make the Huskies feel comfortable. Looking backwards though, UCLA continued their losing streak at UW to eight losses and four straight. In a game where the Dawgs didn’t seem like they would pull it out, the UW team came together late in the game and won. There had to be a wide scope of feelings for UW fans, but in the end the Huskies came away with a huge win behind Ross. Romar talked about the star of the game on Thursday after the game to the media.

"Terrence got that gleam in his eye, that look that forces you to make sure he gets the ball without him saying a word."

The night started out with junior post Aziz N'Diaye in foul trouble. The big man came to play, but with Romar’s two foul rule before the half, Aziz had to sit the bench. That gave big man Josh Smith time to go to work. Smith was heavily sought by Romar and showed why he was a McDonald’s All-American. The big man finished with 22 points in 26 minutes. UW couldn’t stop him until the last three minutes of the game. If Smith was in better shape, there is little question that UCLA would have won this contest, despite the heroics of Ross.

With Aziz out, the Dawgs got a little spark from freshman post Shawn Kemp Jr. Kemp showed signs of what the future could hold for UW fans. With two strong moves to the bucket and nice block, Kemp had the Dawg Pack hyped. The Wear twins (David and Travis) got it going for UCLA in the first half but the junior posts looked out of synch in the second. Kemp did enough to make the locals take notice, as Husky Haul ran a hopeful piece on Monday about what they saw out of him over the weekend. As I can't help but reiterate, the Huskies were sloppy with the ball the majority of the UCLA game, as junior guard Abdul Gaddy and freshman guard Tony Wroten combined for nine of the teams 16 turnovers. There was little team ball being played at all and this wasn’t the same Husky team that went into Arizona and won both games. The second half came around and the Huskies looked like they just didn’t have any heart, but somehow they stayed close. Big Josh was pounding it in the paint all game long and senior guard Lazeric Jones hit some three point shots to extend the Bruin lead. Senior guard Jerime Anderson added a couple of big shots as well.

Everything was looking like the Bruins would finally break their losing streak, but when Romar took Wroten out for the majority of the second half and put veteran soph guard C.J. Wilcox in the game, things seemed to turn. Some would say Wroten was taken out due to his five turnovers or it could’ve been his 4-11 shooting night, but I doubt those were the reasons. At one point in the second half it also looked like Tony hurt himself. Wroten got hit in the thigh and it was noticeable as the freshman wasn’t as explosive as he normally was the next couple of plays. After a timeout was called, Wroten was out of the game for most of the rest of the way. I wouldn't read much into this, as Tony came back to lead the Dawgs in scoring on Saturday. Wroten was just slowed by what was obviously a debilitating injury. He and Ross are one of the top one-two punches in the college game nationally, as Bleacher Report stated on Wednesday. On Wednesday Bleacher Report also named Tony as one of "10 Current (college) Players Who Will Be Legitimate NBA Stars".

On Wednesday Jay Bilas of ESPN went on 710-ESPN and talked about how Tony has really improved his decision making and is one of the top 5-10 freshman in the nation. I think Bilas didn't go far enough. I don't know of a player that can do much
of what Tony does and with time Wroten could become not only an NBA point guard, but the next UW NBA All-Star, Brandon Roy and Detlef Schrempf being the last two. Wroten was also the subject of a very well written profile by Todd Dybas on Thursday for theclassical.org in which the freshman's unique nature makes you wonder if he will do the obvious and go straight to the NBA as most expect. Doug Haller of azcentral.com on Tuesday named his All-Conference team midway through
the schedule and named Tony 1st team all-conference, 1st team all-defense and freshman of the year. I think that Wroten stands an excellent chance of being named Player of the Year, if UW stays on top.

But even with Wilcox back in the game the team seemed to still struggle, but they gradually thawed out. C.J. finished with six points and wasn’t much of a threat on offense, but it was when he was on the floor that the UW team saw the light With about six minutes left in the game and down ten points. The Dawgs came together as a team, even though it was Ross that did much of the actual scoring, as they fought back. The defense that the team is capable of playing bothered the Bruins. Romar switched the team to the 2-3 zone in order to stop Smith and it made the Bruins cough up turnovers. The Huskies pressed the Bruins as well and the defensive success set the tone for Terrance to take over the game. There is something special about Ross taking over games in the second half and he didn’t disappoint. Terrence only had four points at halftime but finished with 22. Those 18 points Ross were not only the key to the win, but incredible drama. He took over the game and had the eye of the tiger.

Husky Haul on Friday went down the list of a number of big games in which Terrence has had a big 2nd half and it certainly seems like more than a coincidence. It is getting obvious on why NBA scouts see Ross as a first round draft pick. There are some things on the court Terrence does that will leave you amazed. The Huskies took the lead with 2:35 to play and the Bruins never again tied or led. UCLA still had one more chance to win the game but missed their last shot by frosh wing Norman Powell who missed a two from the baseline. In front of a sold out crowd, the Huskies took sole possession of first place and full control of their destiny due to 'Zona beating Cal in Berkeley. If the Huskies could play like the last six minutes for a full 40, there is no telling what this UW team could do, but this was a gutsy win for the Dawgs that they could have easily lost. That is the mark of a champion to win the close ones, but also a troubling sign that they cannot seem to continue to improve, rather than back slide.

Wroten did it all against ASU, but against the 'Cats a strong team effort had to materialize or there would be no pay day and Wroten did what he needed to do to enable that happen as well. Arizona and Washington have become the new rivalry in the Pac-12.

Since Romar has been coaching the Dawgs, the games against the Wildcats have been intense. The last time these teams matched up, former Husky Isaiah Thomas hit the game winner in overtime against Arizona during the Pac-12 conference
championship game. To this day Husky fans get chills when they hear the saying "cold blooded", the expression used by play-by-play announcer Gus Johnson to describe the moment.

Washington's three headed monster, consisting of Wilcox, Wroten, and Ross didn't disappoint. The three guards combined for 48 of the Huskies 69 points in a gutsy win, 69-67. Don't think this game wasn't personal between the coaches. Arizona
has been winning lately in the recruiting war against Washington, landing many of the recruits Washington has been recruiting. Romar soft pedaled that factor when he talked about it on his weekly call-in show.

"We go against ('Zona) in recruiting all the time and not once have I heard them negative recruit us. Every time they recruit, they recruit in a way that's positive. They believe in their program and that's what they talk about. When we get out on the floor, they go at us and we go at them. So I think it's been a really good healthy rivalry."

Romar is all class, but you can bet that there was a lot on the line on many levels on Saturday for both teams, who are in competition for recruits as we speak. In a game that went back and forth, the player of the game was Arizona junior forward Solomon Hill. Hill finished with 28 points and 11 rebounds. Almost 100% in every category Hill was 9-10 from the field, 2-2 from the three point line, and 8-9 from the free throw line.

When it came down to defense, this was one of Washington's best defensive games this year to get a road win in the face of this type of performance. The Huskies forced 15 TO's, but what you don't see in the stat line, is that the Huskies had 'Zona rattled at times. UA was forced to use most of their shot clock to get a shot off quite a few times.

There is no question Ross, Wroten, and Wilcox could possibly be one of the best backcourts in the nation. When you have those three on the court together, anything can happen. All three have length and size and bring something different to the court.

With Ross, you have a player who lets the game come to him, which he displays night in and night out. Against the 'Cats in the second half, he came up huge. Terrence had a huge one handed rebound that, after Wroten's block was the play of the game.

He also had the most crucial shot of the game. With about 30 seconds left in the game and the Huskies only up 2 points, Ross knocked down a huge jump shot to extend the game to 4 points. Terrence finished with a stat stuffer that despite
Wilcox's return and Tony's continued heroics, probably qualified him for player of the game. Ross had 16 points, seven rebounds, three steals, three blocks, and two assists.

Even with Wilcox not 100% he still looks good on the court. Wilcox has progressed and now teams can't just defend him as a shooter. He has come a long way and now is reliable to put the ball on the ground. At one point, Wilcox went cross court through the whole Arizona team for a layup. Without C.J.'s 15 points, UW certainly would have had a much tougher time. Ross may have been MVP and Tony the guy that casual observers would most remember, but Hill would have been the story in an Arizona win, were it not for Wilcox.

Wroten is just getting better every game and it's hard not to see him leaving for the NBA. Although UW fans would want him to stay, Wroten is living up to the hype. Not too many people with his mentality and will to win have walked through
the Hec-Ed doors. On Tuesday Husky Haul looked at what NBA team's might be the destination for Wroten and Ross, should they both go to the draft this season. They project Ross at 13th to the Lakers and Wroten at 20th to the Mavs, though it is unknown where those teams will pick at this time.

I feel that though both of these players could get drafted in June, I doubt that both will chose to go. Everything depends on how they perform from here on out this season, which is a win/win for UW fans. If they continue to "blow up", they could move up in the draft so high that they cannot refuse the opportunity to jump. That means that UW will be the beneficiary.

If they don't then UW could get one or both back next year where they could each have seasons that may rank among the best in UW history. Tony is close to having one of those already, getting to the rim whenever he feels like it. He has improved his free throw shooting in small ways every week and seems to step up against the better competition, as he did against 'Zona going 5-7.

Wroten didn't have a good shooting night but was big at the free throw line when it counted. The talented freshman also had a huge block to end the game, but junior post Aziz N'Diaye worked hard around the rim all game long. Although still
raw, the big man had 12 points and grabbed a team high eight rebounds.

The game was tight on the boards, as UW won 36-35 on the glass. Those rebs by Aziz played a huge role in the win. Senior post Darnell Gant also played a key supportive role against both Arizona schools. He scored eight points in the low
scoring ASU game with five boards.

Against 'Zona Gant was less effective with two points and four boards in 24-minutes, plus four fouls. what Darnell was able to do however was execute the offense and the defense well, setting good picks, rotating well and being in the right place on the floor. Those are things that add up and are often more important than big scoring totals, because they allow your team to score and prevent the other team. It's like the old adage, 'It's not what you say, it's what you don't say'.
Freshman post Desmond Simmons performed well in a similar role.

This was a game that had either team's fan pulling their hair out when it was all said and done. Arizona is a good team and will be even better next year with their big-time recruiting class. UW has won the last two games against the Wildcats, but UW shot 7-16 from the free throw line, including a number of opportunities down the stretch which more than anything allowed 'Zona to have a chance to win it in the last second. It was a magnificent battle and produced a number of memorable (YouTube) highlights.

With UW sharing first place with the Bears (who win the tie breaker because of their win in Seattle), they almost hold their own destiny for the rest of the season. The Huskies are playing how most teams have played under Coach Romar. It isn't how you start but how you finish. With that being said, the Huskies are at their best late in the season.

The Dawgs have played 21 games, with nine remaining in the regular season, with only one guaranteed to happen in the post season. Regardless to that fact, the mid-way point in conference play does feel like the half-way point in a number of
important ways. While the first half of the season had more games, every game seems much more important from here out.

On Tuesday Percy Allen of the Seattle Times gave his choices for the Pac-12 mid-season awards and chose Wroten as Frosh of the year and Romar as Coach of the Year, to this point. Allen said of Lorenzo, "Romar has taken a team that lost three
starters and four prominent players and guided them to a first-place tie in the conference race". I agree with Percy.

Wroten and Ross were named to the 5-man first team, while N'Diaye was named to the All-Defensive team. UCLA senior guard Lazeric Jones and junior post Travis Wear were mentioned on the third team, which brings me to an interesting question. Do the Dawgs and their fans underestimate UCLA? The Huskies beat the Bruins, based almost solely on a lights out effort from Wilcox last year at Hec-Ed and beat the Bruins more soundly at Pauley in what ended up being the last game from Gaddy before his knee injury.

The truth is that UCLA has turned it around and are really becoming the team that most, myself included, picked to win the league this season. They have two senior PG's in Jones and Jerime Anderson. They have underrated talent on the wing in sophomore Tyler Lamb and up and coming frosh Norman Powell. They still have the most fearsome front court in the Pac-12 with sophomore Josh Smith, sophomore Anthony Stover and juniors Travis and David Wear.

They lost a tremendous talent in Reeves Nelson, but the news that he has been released by the pro team in Europe that signed him after his dismissal, adds fuel to the fire of the notion that coach Ben Howland is fighting the good fight. A major effort will be necessary for UW to beat a UCLA team that has won five of their last seven in conference play.

All of those wins were at home except over struggling USC across town, but their last outing produced a 17 point win over Colorado, a team that beat the Dawgs like a drum by 18 in Boulder. The Bruins have turned a corner, and although UW has
too, one wonders if the Dawgs recent success against UCLA, including every home match-up since 2004, will make UW take this brutally physical and talented team less seriously.

Romar seemed appropriately reverent to the strength of UCLA, when he spoke to the media on Tuesday, but when I asked him if the success last season affects his team, he denied that it played into it. I did not like the way that UW played in the loss to Cal, who they dominated last season. UW fans have to hope that Lorenzo is able to properly motivate his team for this huge challenge.

Also against Cal, Romar faced a milestone in getting his 300th college head coaching win and failed. UW fans must hope that the fact that against the Bruins he will be coaching in his 500th college game provides a similar result. Romar and
the Dawgs fate may come down to something other than what most feel is far superior guard play to the Bruins.

UW's fate may come down to freshman post Austin Seferian-Jenkins ability to help Aziz deal with big Josh and the bullish Bruin front line that drove Andre Roberson and the Buffs off the Santa Monica Pier. "ASJ" must help UW hold their footing in the paint and Austin has shown signs of backing down to no one. The way he made scrappy 'Zona senior post Jesse Perry bounce off him like a high school kid was a telling highlight of the Dawgs win over 'Zona.

Austin is a guy that any team needs to win games in this league and especially against the Bruins. Like Artem Wallace in 2008 when he kept Kevin Love out of the middle, "ASJ" is the man who wears the black hat. The bad guy that the Dawgs need to take the heat off N'Diaye. On Friday Husky Haul ran a piece on Austin that talked about how important his contributions have been.

The Dawgs may have a "bad guy", but this UW team (with the guidance of their coach) are in truth good guys. On Wednesday gohuskies.com ran a piece on homeless man Manin Dubois, whom the Dawgs connected with in September when they served meals at Seattle's Union Gospel Mission. It is very uplifting to hear that the UW team went so far out of their way to make a struggling person feel special and important.

Former Dawgs Doing Well

Isaiah Thomas was also special and important for three years at UW, in all of them achieving a Pac-10 title (one regular season and two tournament championships). To think of what this year's UW team would be with both Thomas and Wroten
drawing fouls and attacking the rim is mind boggling.

Last Tuesday Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times wrote a column which stated that Isaiah is "proving he belongs in the NBA" and I agree with Kelley. Thomas has been a productive fit for Sacramento, but with the weak draft this year for PG's he would have not only been drafted much higher this season, but broken every record at UW that a guard is likely to, plus a number of conference marks.

Add to that, the fact that he would have been the favorite for Pac-12 POY and a certain All-American candidate, I still feel that he would have done best to stay for his senior year. The good news is that he is doing well, so at least it's a win/win and no tragedy either way.

Another Dawg who has had a rougher road, but seems to have the meddle to survive in the pro game is Justin Dentmon. Though the NBA has eluded him thus far (he did get a tryout this fall with New Orleans), "JD" is on fire so far this season in the NBDL. Dentmon is averaging 24 PPG, five RPG and five APG. With numbers like that, Justin should get another call up.

Maybe Dentmon will never make the NBA, but he should be able to make a lot of money overseas regardless. It's a long road to success in hoops for most that achieve it, but in the end it's the journey that is the reward. Few if any former Dawgs have had the journey that former coach Tippy Dye has.

Dye led the Dawgs to their last Final Four appearance in 1953, back when the event had a consolation game, which UW won to grab 3rd place. Behind All-American Bob Houbregs, the '53 Huskies went further than any other Husky team since. In a feature on Tuesday in sportspressnw.com Dye's life was profiled. Still with us at 97, his accomplishments were much more than just his storied tenure at Washington. Definitely a worthwhile read.

(Jason McCleary of leftcoastrecruiting.com contributed to this post)

(Jason McCleary of leftcoastrecruiting.com contributed to this post)

The Dawgs quieted their critics with a gutty sweep of the Arizona schools over the weekend. On Thursday UW beat a stubborn ASU team in Tempe 60-54. They then far exceeded that accomplishment by taking down the powerful 'Cats in Tucson
69-67 on Saturday.

On Thursday it was an astounding performance by freshman guard Tony Wroten with 22 points on 9-12 from the field. Sophomore guard Terrence Ross followed with 12 points on a miserable 4-13 from the floor, but the story here was the
Dawgs composure in the face of a determined and valiant effort by the undermanned and inspired home team.

The Sun Devils went on to beat WSU on Saturday and really looked like a team that has turned a corner themselves. Frosh wing Jonathan Gilling had a whale of a game shooting the ball like a three point specialist as a pure freshman and at
6-foot-8 and around 215 lbs. Gilling was also no shrinking violet when it came to competition, hanging 20 points on UW and talking tough to the media after the game.

“I don’t think they’re any better than us. They’re maybe more athletic, but I don’t think player for player they’re better than us. I really thought we could beat these guys.”

The Dawgs succeeded in standing tall in the face of a legitimate threat in ASU. They didn't dominate the Sun Devil;s, but in the end they got the W. UW coach Lorenzo Romar also talked last Tuesday about his team's new found resolve in playing on the road.

"Our understanding of what we need to do on the road to be successful is better than it was the last time we hit the road."

The coach knew something, because the Huskies are really starting to look like teams from the last three seasons. It is way too early to announce fait accompli, but at least from the standpoint of poise, the Dawgs looked like a team that is
able to stay focused enough to win on the road.

The Huskies have some real weaknesses, especially in a lack of inside scoring and overall depth, but to me there was a corner turned in the desert when it came to the team's ability to play consistently and to utilize what strengths they do have.

Gregg Bell of Gohuskies.com travels with the team and is the voice of the UW Athletic Department to the media to a great degree, so he he has arguably better access to the team than the media at large. Bell wrote a nice story on the ASU game on Thursday, which included some great anecdotes.

Against 'Zona, Tony again led UW in scoring with 17, but on terrible 5-18 shooting. What Wroten did well was come to the party when the team needed a boost. Tony made the plays that were required to win on both ends. It was a Wroten block of
'Zona frosh guard Josiah Turner that determined the game at the buzzer. It was a shot clock buzzer beater with 9:03 to play that put UW back up nine and provided a psychological edge.

That is what the great ones do. Guys like Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and last years stars of this match-up and this league Derrick Williams and Isaiah Thomas who both had their own clutch plays at the finish to win it. I found it weak sauce that Tony was not given the Pac-12 Player of the Week on Monday, as Oregon State junior guard Jared Cunningham won the award.

Cunningham was great in one road game, but Tony was great in two and a lot further away from home (Eugene OR is 45-minutes away from Corvallis). Jared leads Tony this season by one point per game, but the way Wroten is improving and because of the fact that the Husky is only a freshman, bodes well for the 2nd half of conference play in the race for Player of the Year, which includes Jorge Gutierrez and others. A lot of that award depends on how the team does, more often than not.

Though the conference didn't recognize him fairly this week, a number of national media types are starting to watch Tony closely. On Friday after the ASU game Yahoo led off the "who's hot, who's not" segment of their weekly look at the Pac-12 focusing on his eye-popping stats over the past few games.

"Wroten is the Huskies’ leading scorer and continues to play steady basketball. He is averaging 19.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists and shooting 59.5 percent from the field in his past three games. He continues to struggle from the line,
though; he is at just 54.6 percent from the charity stripe for the season."

Dick Vitale proved that he watches the games that are featured on his network and vaulted Tony to near the top of his "diaper dandies" list on Monday. Tony was the first guard mentioned which speaks volumes, as Vitale always seems to
recognize the west coast guys last if at all.

"My vote goes to Anthony Davis of Kentucky. He has such an impact on a game with his defensive presence in the lane. There have been a lot of impact diaper dandies this season, like Cody Zeller of Indiana, Tony Wroten at Washington, Brad Beal of Florida, Moe Harkless of St. John's, B.J. Young of Arkansas, Trey Burke of Michigan, Austin Rivers of Duke and Davis' teammate, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. There have been lots of others, and it is great to know there is so much young talent in college basketball."

Wroten was the buzz in Seattle on 710-ESPN on Monday, as Brock and Salk talked about him becoming UW's undisputed go-to guy this season. Tony may be the Player of the Year in the Pac-12, but without solid contributions from Wilcox and
Ross, Aziz providing an inside presence on both ends, the award will likely not be given to him

I believe that Tony is going to put on quite a show the rest of the way for UW, as he has really become the go-to-guy on a team with three such players. Wroten, Ross and sophomore guard C.J. Wilcox are all in the top-7 in scoring in the Pac-12 and the argument can be made that UW has the best back-court in the nation with that trio plus junior Abdul Gaddy.

Gaddy, who is 3rd in assists in the conference, had a rough weekend in the desert, but in usual form didn't do much to hurt his team in the process. Against the Sun Devils 'Dul scored only five points in 40-minutes, with four turnovers and one board, but he balanced those dismal numbers with five assists, three steals and a block.

Against the 'Cats Gaddy was saddled with foul trouble, finishing with two points in 29-minutes, but he delivered another five assists and only one TO. It did look however that UW played with more urgency in the spurt where Tony was forced to run the point on his own and when Gaddy returned, that seemed to be the time when UW's dominance seemed to wane.

I doubt that you can make that assertion, based on such a small time frame to judge him by, but Gaddy needs to step it up. He doesn't hurt the UW team, in fact he is efficient in running them in general, but the fire that Tony, Terrence and
C.J. bring and the multiple threats that they pose collectively is also hard to argue with.

Because Wilcox is still recovering from a stress fracture in his femur, it may work out best anyway to rest Wilcox when UW can, using him only when needed. This way Abdul keeps his starting spot, while continuing to work on getting his game
untracked. Gaddy needs to play more aggressively on offense, but at least on defense and away from the ball he seems to be at worst a solid puzzle piece.

What is puzzling though is the way that Abdul has taken so long to become a prime time player at this level. Some feel he never will and that he will be one of the bigger disappointments in Husky history, after being chosen by most analysts as
the #2 PG in the class of 2009 after NBA star John Wall. Others, like me, feel that he will start kicking it into gear.

Gaddy's progress is curiously like that of Quincy Pondexter, who really didn't start showing himself to be the dominant player that most felt he would until half way through his junior year. We are at that point now for Abdul and I feel that his time is coming soon.

If Gaddy can get his show on the road and Wilcox can stay healthy, this UW team which lost to Cal with C.J. on the bench and lost on the road to Colorado in a game where they showed very weak conviction, could be the best in the conference. Cal and UW and now tied for 1st place, after the Bears beat Stanford at home on Sunday, but the tie-breaker goes to Cal because of their win last Thursday in Seattle.

The road to the Pac-12 regular season title is a tough one for the Bears though. Cal must play a now angry group of 'Cats this Thursday, with a renewed ASU on Saturday. Those two are at home, but the Bears must travel to LA for USC and UCLA on the following weekend. Then Cal must host the surging Oregon schools, followed by a trip to the Rockies where Colorado is undefeated in conference play. Then they must travel to Palo Alto CA to meet the rival Cardinal.

That is at least six out of nine games that are serious tests. UW must also play UCLA twice, travel to the Oregon schools, host the Arizonans and travel to WSU, but to me that seems like an easier road. Either way it'll be the old cliche, take them one game at a time, but the way UW seems to be maturing, the signs are good for Dawg fans.

After the sweep, UW is now getting the "bubble" mentions, which in this year's Pac-12 is remarkable in and of itself. Though UW lost five non-conference games against Nevada, Saint Louis, Marquette, Duke and South Dakota State, those teams are wearing well as the year moves on.

Nevada is the favorite to win the WAC and are two games up in 1st place at the moment. The Billikens were tied for 1st with UMass in the A-10. SLU were beaten by the Minutemen on Saturday and are only one game out with a favorable schedule (including a home date with UMass) here on out. Marquette is 15th ranked and in 2nd place in the Big East which should yield a slew of at-large bids.

Duke is ranked #5 and tied for 1st in the ACC. Even SDSU has been impressive in 2nd place in the Summit league with 1st place Oral Roberts coming to their place after beating the Jackrabbits at ORU. SDSU is also scoring 80 PPG (12th nationally). The SDSU game was a poor showing for UW, as were the games at Nevada and SLU, but none can really be considered a truly "bad loss".

On Monday Husky Haul came out with a piece that talked about the Dawgs being "firmly on the bubble", Eamonn Brennan of ESPN ranked UW 2nd in his weekly Pac-12 power rankings, ESPN's Joe Lunardi brought the Dawgs into his "Bracketology" to a 12 seed in a play-in game and Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times pointed out that UW's normal late-season surge is now under way.

"Wroten's block was the kind of last-second magic that seems to happen often to Washington at about this point in the season. It felt like a turnaround play in a season on the brink. It was a reminder of the resilience of Romar-coached teams. A statement that there is a lot of life left in these Huskies."

Brennan provided a little perspective on Tuesday when he chose no Pac-12 teams to be in with at-large bids, based on the leagues 1-31 record against non-conference opponents with RPI's of 50 or better. Eamonn chose UW to win the conference preseason, but it appears that the reality to him and most observers now is that even if the UW team realizes it's high level of potential, their poor bob-con record puts their NCAA resume on shaky ground.

ESPN's Jason King only mentioned UW though in the context of bubble teams Oregon and Arizona, not even recognizing the Dawgs as in the picture.

Whether UW fans agree or not, it could all come tumbling down with a loss to UCLA on Thursday at 6 p.m. (PST) or (gasp) last place USC on Saturday at 8 p.m. (PST). This young UW team has the challenge of playing every game like it's last or
at least like it is very fearful of the consequences. They must realize that they need to do what they are capable of doing or they are very capable of getting beat by anyone on their schedule.

I saw that ability and cognizance against ASU and 'Zona, so UW fans should have hope that their team is at the point of "getting it". Whether they keep it or not is the challenge. Some games like the trip to the Oregon schools and possibly the game at UCLA they could lose, even if they play well.

The key is just playing well, letting the rest take care of itself and most importantly not lose the games that they should be able to win, as they did last season with the three straight road losses at WSU, OSU and Oregon that ruined their season.

The ASU game had the look of a game that could have done just that, but Wroten literally willed the Dawgs to the win. UW ground out a win with a team effort down the stretch, but when ASU threatened to wrestle control away at every turn, it
was Tony more often than not who answered the bell. Tony went face first into the best that ASU could muster and left it for his mates to pick up the pieces afterward. Romar marveled at Wroten's effort after the game to the media.

"I’d be willing to wager you’ve not seen what just happened. Against a team that plays not just a regular zone, but really good zone for 40 minutes. I don’t think he took one outside shot and scored 22 points. That’s pretty impressive to be able to do that.”

One terrific Wroten dunk was chosen as the #1 play on Sportscenter's "Plays of the Night", but the game was filled with eyebrow raisers, as you can see in the YouTube highlight reel. Like a prize fighter Wroten delivered key blows all night.
Whether it was an "and one" with a minute to play to bring the UW up seven, to acrobatic back-to-back-to-back lay-ins to put the Dawgs up eight with 16 minutes to play.

It was also Tony's consistency with nine points in the 1st half to keep the Dawgs only down 22-24 at the break when ASU's defense was suffocating the rest of the UW squad. Wilcox quietly came back into action, which in itself was almost as
important as Wroten's unflappable will. C.J. is very close to Tony in his importance to UW's hopes.

Washington will need more than the three starting guards to put itself in position to gain an NCAA at large-bid or win another Pac-12 Tournament, requiring three grueling wins in three days. Romar had the good fortune and vision to add "ASJ" to a team that sorely needed toughness in the paint. Now Lorenzo needs to have the vision and recognize his good fortune in having the option to bring in Andrews. Unfortunately Romar needed 'Drew on Thursday, as Cal were able to grind out a win over a UW team that really could have used a boost, especially early. The Huskies fought back admirably in the 2nd half, but came up a little short against a
tough well balanced Bears team 69-66. The YouTube highlight reel also told the story of an exciting come back that just fell short. After coming off a huge win against Washington State, the Dawgs started off ice cold against Cal. Ross talked about it to the media after the game.

"We came out really lethargic, dead and slow. Everything that could go wrong in the first half, kind of did.”

The Huskies came into the weekend in a three way tie in the loss column for first place in the Pac-12 conference with the Bears and Cardinal, but the loss put them back in a pack of teams with two losses going into Saturdays games. The most
surprising stat of the game was Cal junior walk-on post Robert Thurman scoring a game high and career high 16 points and grabbing seven rebounds. It was the obvious comparison of Gant's game to Thurman's that was the clear difference, though to be fair junior post Aziz N'Diaye was assigned to Thurman more than Darnell. Cal's thin two man bench was just better than UW's duo of Gant and Stewart, as the Bears were also down a man, losing sophomore post Richard Solomon to grades issues earlier in the week. It may be that Cal coach Mike Montgomery won the game of wits with Romar, as Lorenzo failed to devise a scheme to take greater advantage of the weakened front court of Cal. Not using Austin while also choosing to not use Andrews on Thursday may have been the reasons that UW ultimately missed out on a great opportunity to put itself into 1st place, going into this weeks games. We'll see what the read is on Wilcox and whether Andrews is utilized, but I find it very hard to believe that we have seen the last of "ASJ".

The Dawgs really looked like a team that needed new blood and in the first half on Thursday there were only a couple of Huskies who seemed like they wanted to play. Gaddy and N'Diaye played well throughout the game, with Aziz notching one of his best with with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Gaddy was aggressive getting to the rim and finished with 12 points, but two missed lay-ins late cost UW dearly. Other than those two in the 1st half though, there was little heart shown from the rest of the UW team. Senior Cal guard Jorge Gutierrez is one of the best defenders in the country and was giving Wroten fits throughout the game. Gutierrez is also crafty with the ball and knows how to get to certain spots on the court and get his teammates involved. You could say Gutierrez is a poor man's Steve Nash, but Tony still managed to score 14 points with an encouraging 5-5 from the free throw line, though another five turnover game for Wroten really hurt UW's chance to win.

Ross actually led the Dawgs with 15 points, as he caught fire in the last 15-minutes, coinciding with UW's furious com back. Terrence was mediocre though early, which caused the double digit deficit to exist to begin with and ended up only 6-15 from the field, even with his hot streak. The real goat for the Huskies though was Darnell, who shot 0-9 from the field with two boards in 28-minutes. It was Gant who bricked the final attempt that would have tied the game. Gant must also take some of the blame, along with Aziz and to an extent Dez, for what Thurman was able to do. The walk-on, who quietly had his way with Huskies in the paint most of the game was able to score and board against UW in a sneaky fashion and made it look easy. It seemed as if it was tough for Gant to keep his head in the game. Darnell gave the worst shooting performance of his UW career going 0-9 from the field.

With Gutierrez defending the league's 2nd leading scorer in Wroten, it was hard for the freshman to get anything going and a lack of options for Tony to pass out of trouble to with Gant bricking like he did really hurt. Most of Tony's TO's were caused by the defensive pressure Cal displayed on the young man, but Wroten did find a way to get to the rim anyway, which was impressive. After a huge game against WSU Ross couldn't find his rhythm in the first half, but With the Dawgs down 13 with less than 15-minutes to play, things would change. Ross came alive and UW were a much different team. Terrence was hitting shots that he was hitting against WSU and Wroten was getting to the rim and finding his teammates. Gant unfortunately continued to struggle, bogging down the effort, leaving Aziz on his own as UW's only scoring option down low. Mostly everyone who was hot in the first half for California cooled down in the second half as well. Gaddy showed great composure on the court and Cal sophomore Allen Crabbe wasn't getting his way on the wing like he had earlier in the game.

The Huskies continued to battle back but never made it over the hump. Collectively at times the UW team showed what they can do if they are all on the same page though, but Gant's continued jinx and Gaddy's inability to finish what could have been a break out game for him did the Dawgs in. On the final possession of the game the Dawgs had a chance to tie it with a three and had 8-seconds to play. Coach Romar drew up a perfect play for Gant who hadn't hit a shot all night. There was no way Montgomery wanted Ross with the ball in his hands and the Bears did a good job defending him on the play. Gant was wide an open from three, but like the rest of his night(mare) and missed another wide open shot. I don't fault Romar for calling the play to Darnell, who is usually a good shooter when open from three, but I do feel that he could have brought in Austin in the game to begin with, just to see if he was more effective than Darnell or Simmons, who did not have his best night with eight points and three boards in 19 minutes.

How much it was due to the "ASJ" factor or not, remains to be seen, but UW bounced back in a double digit 76-63 victory over Stanford on Saturday. The UW fans got to see their first a glimpse of the football standout on the court and Austin delivered. In the first half though, the game started out as a defensive struggle, as the Huskies only shot 36% and Stanford shot 26% from the floor. The YouTube highlights reel showed much of the big moments, as well as some of the
"little things" that Dez and "ASJ" did away from the ball. It wasn't a pretty first half for UW fans but some good things did come out of it. Aziz again looked very strong on the boards before the break and was a force in the paint. 'Ziz finished with six boards and five points though, as he was slowed by foul trouble later on. Gaddy was attacking the rim like he did against Cal early against Stanford, but much more aggressively. Wroten was back in the high post, looking comfortable on the court. In the first half the Huskies showed heart and hustle but the shooting wasn't great.

In the second half however UW turned up the heat, in the midst of a cold and snowy weekend in the Puget Sound area. After a mediocre game on Thursday for Ross and arguably Gant's worst ever, they both stepped up and combined for 35 points with 30 of those points coming in the second half. Wroten finished with a game high 21 and looked as if a large weight was removed from his back, dealing with the likes of Stanford sophomore Aaron Bright instead of Gutierrez. Memories of Gant's ice cold night against Cal melted away, like the ice and snow on the streets of Seattle, as Darnell found his shot against Stanford. The Cardinals are a good rebounding team with Aziz was in foul trouble most of the game, things could have been difficult but that's where "ASJ" stepped in. Austin is just still learning the Huskies system and didn't score on the offense but the big man showed Husky fans how hard it will be for opposing teams to rebound or go in the lane against him.

The second half was very intense and the Huskies withstood the physicality of Stanford. Wroten took it to the rim at ease anytime he wanted from the high post. With Wroten at the high post it opens things for the team on the wings. The whole
team hustled the whole game and was probably the best team defensive effort the Huskies have had this season. With the new addition of the big guy, it gives the Huskies four legit bigs, with Austin probably the one that you'd pick first to take to a back alley brawl. In the second half the heart and hustle had the Husky lead all the way to the 20 point mark, but Stanford started chipping away at it to cut the lead to 12 with 3:02 remaining to play. UW fans have seen big leads get blown to shreds this season, but the Huskies held their composure and hit the shots they needed to down the stretch to fend off the Cardinal run. The crowd was loud in an almost sold out Alaska Airlines arena. Fans got to see Coach Lorenzo Romar's 300th victory and 100th in conference play and Romar was his usual modest self after the game, when he spoke to the media.

"The key to getting 300 wins is not getting fired"

It will be a lot tougher on the road, as any casual fan knows and at least Tony admitted as much when he spoke to the media after the game Saturday.

"If that happens on the road, we’ve gotta be able to put our foot on their throat. Because they will get some calls, and some baskets and be right back into it."

The Huskies are now a half game out of first place but they will now take their talents on the road to meet Arizona State on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. (PST), followed by Arizona on Saturday at 4 p.m. (PST). Blogger Eamann Brennan of ESPN called UW "Insanely frustrating" in his column on Thursday and though this UW team is really fun to watch, it's an apt description. If UW can win both games AND Stanford can beat Cal AND OSU can beat the Ducks, the Dawgs will be all alone in 1st place. To get a split in the desert would at least keep UW within range for one more week. To lose to ASU would be a disaster. UW fans should hope that Romar can put a team out on the floor that is ready to win a game in Tempe AZ. To beat the 'Cats on Saturday it is going to take a unique effort and if Wilcox is not available, I feel that Romar should consider using Andrews as of this weekend. Romar shut that down, but intimated that though he is always weighing his options, but the thought of losing Andrews senior season with 12-13 games to play is hard to pull the trigger on.

"This is the conversation I have with myself, that's all I'm telling you"

Former Dawgs Doing Well

The Sacramento Bee called for Isaiah Thomas to play a "bigger role" for the NBA Kings on Friday. All things continue to point to Thomas finding a home in the NBA and nothing could be better for Dawg fans if he does. Thomas is just they type of gym rat that will hang out in Seattle during the summer and live down at Hec Ed like former Dawg Spencer Hawes. Hawes and Thomas sat together at a number of UW games during the lock-out and I'm sure that UW fans will see them at events in
the future.

Elston Turner came into UW the same year as Thomas, in the class of 2008, but his career has led him to the Big-12. Elston told ESPN on Friday that he left UW because, "It was a chance to showcase everything I can do besides just shooting the ball". Turner also added that, "My family being down here (in Texas) was a plus". Elston has been one of the few bright spots for Texas A+M in a year in which their head coach has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and things have not gone well on the court to boot. Elston is a really talented player and I would expect him to turn a lot of heads before he's through with college basketball at the end of next season. UW could sure use him now, with Wilcox and Suggs down, but I can see why he would want to move on with that type of depth and Ross on board as well.

On Wednesday the UW Athletic Department announced that Romar is participating in the "Infiniti Coaches' Charity Challenge" with the NCAA and ESPN. The coach and former UW guard also is involved in the lorenzoromarfoundation.org, whose board of directors include his wife Leona, former star player Brandon Roy and the great Lenny Wilken's who I caught referring to UW as "we" on a number of occasions over the past week, as color commentator for the Cal and Stanford games. Gohuskies.com also reported on Tuesday that former Dawg legends Detlef Schrempf and Bob Houbregs will be honored as part of the 77th Annual Sports Star of the Year, presented by ROOT Sports. On January 25, 2012 at Benaroya Hall. Detlef will receive the Sports Citizen of the Year award and Bob the Royal Brougham Legend Award.

(Jason McCleary of leftcoastrecruiting.com contributed to this post)

(Jason McCleary of leftcoastrecruiting.com contributed to this post)

Washington's depth was a real concern going into this past weeks games with Cal and Stanford. The loss of sophomore guard C.J. Wilcox, severely hurt both UW's already thin depth picture and the UW teams ability to hit outside shots. Last Tuesday Percy Allen of the Seattle Times talked about a Husky depth chart that showed senior Darnell Gant and freshman Hikeem Stewart to be it's only functional depth.

In last week's column I argued that it was time to burn Andrew Andrews' red-shirt. I made the case that if Wilcox's femur stress fracture is as bad as is represented to be normally by a sports injury web site, that UW cannot wait the seven or so weeks that it would take to get him back. Using up senior red-shirt Scott Sugg's one remaining season to me was too big a price. From my assessment of the pro potential of freshman guard Tony Wroten, having a player of Scott's level of preparedness and preparing Andrews that much better to help with the guard picture next year seemed to me to be the answer. To further accent that point from another angle, Keegan Hamilton of the Seattle Weekly last Tuesday ran an interesting piece which talked about how good of a player "Tonerrence Wross" would be, if Tony and sophomore guard Terrence Ross could combine their best attributes into one player. Hamilton made the point that Tony needs to improve his free throws and his TO's, while Terrence needs to be more aggressive with the ball and get to the line where he is solid.

I like the logic here and UW fans would be delighted if the two both stayed another year. I just don't see it happening though. Tony is just too good and his FT's this past weekend were actually respectable at 8-12. I think that when Tony gets up to a consistent 75% from the stripe, he is just no less than an NBA All-Star candidate, let alone lottery pick. At this point, he is being strongly considered by many for Pac-12 Player of the Year, as in hoopspeak.com on Wedneesday Tony was chosen by two of five panelists as their early choice for the award. Also on Wednesday gohuskies.com pointed out that Wroten's stats, if you don't include FT's and TO's are solidly better than all of the highly thought of PG's in his class. The TO's will actually be less of a problem in the spread the floor and let 'em play NBA, where more players would "get" his high tech, no-look passing. If Wroten does stay another year and gives the UW a player that can shoot better FT's and
adapts his passing to the college game, it would be a great gift for the purple and gold, but I do not expect it.

He's just too good, but in truth if he did stay another year and did improve his game, he may actually make up for the money he lost for that year of pro ball, by being one of the top-3 picked and receiving a huge rookie contract, plus the ridiculous endorsement dollars that come attached. The other problem is that this year is a weak one for PG's, which slants the decision that Wroten must make even more towards leaving. Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins put it well when he said of Tony after the game on Saturday, "He was a great player tonight, and that usually helps". Tony just has that huge advantage in being able to force the action with anyone and if he fine tunes his FT's, look out. Ross on the other hand is not as ready, nor as in demand of a commodity, based on his current performance. Terrence could definitely use another year. He has immense potential, but the 2nd round and the D-League are littered with 6-foot-6 shooting guards that were supposed to be "lottery picks". Not so much with 6-foot-5 point guards with Wroten's skills.

Tony is a freak, a once in a lifetime prospect, while Terrence is just a guy with a very likely pro career that should work his way up the draft boards while getting his degree. I would not criticize Tony for leaving this June, but I believe that Ross, N'Diaye, Wilcox, Gaddy and any other U-Dubbers that may feel that they are ready to test the waters, would do best by staying at Montlake. On January 5th swishscout.com did a draft profile on Ross and Wroten, that recommended that both players stick around college. Though I see their logic, I think that in Wroten's case I would probably not argue with him if he left, but in Ross' case I think that I agree with them. If C.J.'s injury is a mild and somehow manageable version of the injury and he can in fact play soon, then all bets are off, but with a trip to the desert to face the Arizona schools coming up this week, I still feel that though this is no easy choice, the decision to bring out Andrews would be the right one if Wilcox's injury were to be closer to what the web site states. On Wednesday C.J. told heraldnet.com in a video interview last Tuesday, that the concern about coming back too soon is the main concern.

"Right now I feel fine, but I worry about potentially breaking it and not being able to play again. So it's really more of a safety thing."

Romar added to that when he spoke to the media on Tuesday that C.J. would be back, "Before the end of the year". Why push Wilcox back or risk worsening his condition by aggravating such a dangerous injury with a risky call, when there are other options. Why take a chance with a player as valuable as Wilcox? The guy is just about as good as it gets for UW. He has the look of a future pro shooting guard and even if UW loses Tony this season, a back court of senior Abdul Gaddy, Andrews, Suggs, Wilcox, Ross and Stewart is pretty daunting. I think that Andrews would have an impact this season, just in allowing UW better production from the bench, Starters need a break now and again and though Abdul, Tony and Terrence are a heck of a line-up, coach Lorenzo Romar needs to be able to bring in something more than just Stewart off the bench or Desmond Simmons from the front court. Hikeem is a good fit defensively and has shown himself able to play team offense, but his ability to score or shoot open shots has been atrocious. I have a lot of faith that the intelligent and hard working Hikeem will improve his offensive game over the off-season and do a better job in a similar role next season, but UW will need production now.

Stewart is lucid though as to what his role is now and what he needs to do over time to play at this level. I would expect Hikeem to be a great guard for UW like Justin Dentmon (who is now arguably the best PG in the NBDL) became. Hikeem
did a nice interview with Percy Allen last Tuesday that brought out his clear headed attitude about the situation. Wilcox though may have been covering for another problem that is now more obvious in the absence of his consistent pro level shooting nights. Lawrence Mitchells of Husky Haul did a feature on Saturday before the Stanford game about a lack of fire or passion on this year's UW team, pointing to freshman post Desmond Simmons as the lone consistent exception. Jeff Taylor of Husky Haul also weighed into the conversation, with a piece very critical of Romar's recruiting choices on Tuesday.

"In Lorenzo Romar’s quest to nationalize his recruiting and all-but-ignore the traditional recruiting base in California, he has missed out on opportunities to have veteran players on this roster right now who could have stopped this team from
collapsing under the weight of its own inexperience and lack of cohesion."

I see both points of view. I do agree that Romar has passed on a lot of good bigs over the years and seems to load up too much on guards, wings and "Gazelles" or bigs that tend to act more like wings, Gant, Joe Wolfinger and current freshman
Jernard Jarreau being cases in point. As far as Mitchells' point that this UW team lacked that killer instinct or heart (as it is commonly referred to), that is also true to a great extent. Both of those issues may have been addressed (for the time being) though with the addition of freshman walk-on post Austin Seferian-Jenkins. I had mentioned also last week and in the previous week since it was announced that "ASJ" would walk-on, that this may serve to ignite the UW team, at least in practices. As it turns out, not only did "ASJ" serve up some fireworks in practices (last Tuesday Romar called it "impressive"), but on Saturday he effectively did so in prime time against Stanford with seven rebounds in 16 minutes. Romar was impressed and happy with the result after the game and alluded to Austin doing more on offense potentially.

"He didn’t score a point, but with what he does, I think he can be effective in most games. He’s an energy guy who’s strong and physical. As he learns more and more about what we’re doing I think you’ll see him go to the foul line a lot more. Usually physical, aggressive guys do that."

Though Austin also fouled out with no points, he filled a huge need for UW, as a "weight room" guy. Every team needs that tough guy that it can count on to not back down in a physical confrontation and Austin did a great job of that against a
very talented Cardinal front court, negating what could have been a very severe challenge on the glass. It may be that now UW has another post, along with Simmons, who can bring that "junk yard Dawg" credo to the table and hopefully up the ante of the efforts of the team at large. Austin said after the game, "Yeah, every screen I intend to hit someone really hard". That type of passion is big for Romar in putting together a rotation that can win on the road in the Pac-12. Romar also talked after the game about Simmons moving outside more, with "ASJ" able to do more of the dirty work up front. That actually makes more sense to me than substituting Stewart. A seven man look of Gaddy, Wroten, Ross, Simmons, "ASJ", Gant and Aziz is a bit tighter to me than with Stewart who is kind of on loose footing at the present.

"The thing we did differently was we played Desmond (Simmons) more on the perimeter to attempt to give (other wing players) more rest. We got to rest Tony a little more, just a minute or two here or there. And Desmond on the perimeter allowed us to do that and with Austin, Desmond didn’t get worn down."

Controlling the paint, penetrating to the hoop and getting easy buckets via put-backs and drop-offs are what UW has to do to win those road games where the threes are not falling, something that seems to happen more often than not on the road. I still feel that bringing in one more weapon like Andrews is a great idea. Even if Tony does stay another year (not likely), a solid back-up for Gaddy and Wroten would be highly positive in 2012-13. Andrews makes this team a much more filled out 8-man set. Getting a win over ASU in the first of the two games this week becomes the biggest game of the year for the Dawgs and UW fans should not think that it will be easy. The Sun Devils are coming off a humiliating loss at Utah 64-43, plus the boost that the team should gain from a ceremony to honor former NBA star Lafayette "Fat" Lever by retiring his #12 jersey during the game.

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Jim Basnight

Jim Basnight has been following Basketball with an emphasis on the Washington Huskies for 40 years. He was the publisher of the Rivals/Yahoo.com Husky Sports site from May 2005 through August 2008 and has continued to cover Husky Basketball, as well as the Cougars, Seattle U and all of the other NW teams. His basketball coverage and analysis pieces have been published in Scout, Realdawg and many other internet outlets. Jim also helped launch the Seattle Times Husky Basketball Blog in 2005.

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