Good wins: Oklahoma State, UCLA, at Arizona State, Arizona State, Arizona
Bad Losses: at Portland
1. Post Presence. Jon Brockman simply does not get enough nationwide publicity. The senior is UW’s heart-and-soul, averaging a double-double per game at 15 points and 11 rebounds. While most Pac-10 coaches have done a nice job with second-half adjustments over the course of the season, coaches and big men around the nation are simply not going to have enough experience against him to contain his ability on the boards. I often joke that Washington’s best offensive set is a missed shot that Brockman cleans up. Off the bench, Matthew Bryan-Amaning provides solid fill-in minutes, though does not get as physical as Brockman.
2. Backcourt Athleticism. Isiah Thomas, Justin Dentmon, and Venoy Overton make up the Pac-10′s most athletic backcourt, a statement I do not make lightly with Jerome Randle/Patrick Christopher and Daniel Hackett/Dwight Lewis in the same league. Thomas and Dentmon have an uncanny ability to get into the lane and either dish to a wing player or get to the line. When they don’t settle for contested jump shots, Washington is tough to beat. Overton is one of the best on-ball defenders in the country, particularly given his traditional role as a 6th-man.
1. Decision-Making. Speaking of settling for contested jump shots, it’s something that Thomas, and in particular Dentmon, do just that far too often. In transition, they’ve recently made much better decisions to pull back when they don’t have numbers. To some extent, turnovers are to be expected with a team that plays an up-tempo style like Washington, but it’s more about moving the ball around in order to set up Brockman in the post or the able Quincy Pondexter on the wing.
2. Size. Washington is definitely undersized. None of the aforementioned backcourt is even 6’0. For all his rebounding prowess, Brockman is only 6’7. Pondexeter is a tough matchup on the wing at 6’6, but is rail-thin. Athetic teams such as Wake Forest, Memphis, and Florida State who are a little bit longer than the Huskies will probably present problems for Washington.
Bench: Washington is not crazy-deep, but their traditional eight- or nine-man rotation is definitely one of their strengths. As mentioned earlier, Overton and Bryan-Amaning are crucial contributors off the pine, and Elston Turner provides some nice outside shooting. Justin Holliday, the larger brother of UCLA’s Jrue, fills in for Pondexter on the wing.
The Departing: Brockman has had one of the most celebrated careers in Husky history, and Dentmon has had a solid senior season. Both will be missed, but the cupboard is not exactly bare in Seattle. Brockman and Dentmon willed their team to a late-season victory over Arizona State, and urgency would seem to be on the Huskies’ side this year as the entire team wants to send its leaders out on a high note.
The Huskies have nearly locked up Portland as a first and second round site, and are sure to have plenty of fans in the Northwest. Other than a bizarre early-season loss to the Portland Pilots, UW has beaten who it’s been expected to beat, and it’s hard to see them losing before the Sweet 16. Beyond that, matchups are definitely going to determine how far this team can go, but an Elite Eight appearance is by no means farfetched.