March 11, 2011
LOS ANGELES - Check back throughout the day for updates from Los Angeles as Washington prepares to play in the Pac-10 Tournament. The No. 3 Huskies take on No. 7 seed Oregon at 8:30 p.m. tonight.
Friday, 2:30 p.m. - The Huskies are working on their scout for tonight's game against a hungry and desperate Oregon Ducks team. They need to win the Pac-10 Tournament to make the post-season, so expect them to give the Huskies their best shot tonight at the Staples Center.
Gregg Bell recorded a quick video snippet for GoHuskies.com, plus he answers some frequently asked questions under the video:
Answering Your Huskies Hoops Questions
Why don't the Huskies press all the time?
Why do they shoot so many 3s?
Why did it take until the Pac-10 tournament for Terrence Ross to start?
I hear you. I hear all your howls, your curiosity. I can almost see you, the 2,500 of you across the world who joined our live game chat Thursday night, pulling your hair out through the internet.
That's the thing about talent: It's marvelous when it's working - as it did for Washington in the second half of Thursday night's 89-87 comeback win over Washington State in the quarterfinals of the Pac-10 tournament. It's maddening when it's not - as in February's loss to Oregon (16-16), the Dawgs' opponent Friday night at 8:30 p.m. in the Pac-10 semifinals at Staples Center.
Thursday's thriller was too wild, too frantic at the end, to answer all of those questions. Besides, it was well past most bedtimes when we all finally had a chance to breathe, after UW rallied from 13 down in the first half and seven down in the second half to overcome 43 points by WSU's Klay Thompson.
So now that we've all exhaled, here are some behind-the-scenes answers to the questions you've asked, based on the time I spend with the team in the locker room, at practice, at the team hotel and right behind the timeout huddles.
Consider this your own, all-access pass to Huskies' March Madness:
1. The Huskies looked the wondrous Dawgs of old when they went into the full-court press coming out of halftime Thursday, going on a 10-0 run to take their first lead. So why in the name of Bobby Jones doesn't coach Lorenzo Romar put on the press more?
A: Sure, Romar would love to press teams from tipoff to time expired. But the suspension of Venoy Overton, the loss of Abdul Gaddy for the season to knee surgery in January and Justin Holiday's battered body have depleted UW's guard depth. And it takes waves of guards and substitutions to sustain 94 feet of trapping, pressure defense for 40 minutes - or even 15. Lacking that depth, Romar is forced to pick his spots to use the press. That's how Isaiah Thomas was able to play all 40 minutes for the first time in his career Thursday. He could not have done that while pressing the entire time. Equally important, it takes made baskets to set up the press, to get each defender in the right place while the opponent inbounds the ball. Until the second half Thursday, the Huskies had been plagued by cold shooting for most of the last month. It's tough to press off missed shots.
2. Why do the Huskies shoot so many 3-point shots? It's not like they have Pete Maravich.
A. As point guard Isaiah Thomas told me late Thursday night after he had 21 points and 11 assists, the plan against WSU was to spread the floor to stretch the Cougars out of their packed-in zone defense. That's likely to be the plan again tonight against Oregon, which exclusively played zone in the Ducks' win over UW last month. In fact, the book on playing the Huskies right now is to pack in a zone, deny Thomas' drives and Bryan-Amaning's looks and slow UW into a half-court game. So two and sometimes three Huskies stand on or near the 3-point line as Thomas attempts to drive into the teeth of that zone. Thomas then either feeds Matthew Bryan-Amaning down low, finds his own chances or kicks the ball out to the wings for often open shots. Romar doesn't mind such open shots. This is partly why Ross started for the first time Thursday, and is likely to against Oregon - to get his shooting on the wing early. When teams play man-to-man against UW, such as UCLA, the Huskies come off the 3-point line, run their offense through the lane, and it all looks smooth and fluid. When the 3s don't fall, as they haven't for the last month, it looks ugly. Washington's rally forced WSU out of their zone, then Thomas and Bryan-Amaning (16 points, 7 rebounds) scorched the Cougars in the lane -- and UW had its huge win.
3. Ross is so explosive offensively, such a potentially prolific scorer, yet he played zero minutes last weekend against USC and just 4 against UCLA the game before. Why doesn't he play more?
A. Ross, by the way, told me late Thursday night that he was "shocked" when Romar told him Monday he was starting. Ninety-two percent of you who responded to my chat poll during the game loved the change. Why did it take so long? One word: Defense. As amazing as Ross can be and sometimes is on offense - 17 points against WSU, makes on five of his first seven shots and an amazing crossover move in the open floor for a score that had the Staples Center crowd gasping - he won't play consistent, front-line minutes until he plays consistent Romar-style, man-to-man D. That means moving his feet more, being in the right place at the right time and boxing out his man on rebounding. He was lax in all three of those areas at different times Thursday night, especially in the first half. But he is showing flashes of improvement - his help side blocked shot on DeAngelo Casto in the WSU game was highlight stuff. Romar has said Ross could go from typical freshman inconsistency to an all-Pac-10 player as a sophomore, that he's the most physically gifted player on the team. Look for him to start again tonight, as Romar tries to keep his hot shooting going.
4. Is Overton here? And will he play in the NCAA tournament?
A. I know this is older news, but I got a ton of questions on this last night. Yes, Venoy is with the team. He is sitting on the bench in team street clothes - a purple UW polo shirt Thursday night. And Coach Romar has already said his senior point guard will return for the NCAA tournament.
5. Speaking of, are the Huskies in?
A. I thought they were in the NCAA tournament before Thursday night. That wildly entertaining, one-point loss at conference regular-season champion Arizona on national television a couple weeks ago, to me, cemented their place in the tournament. But the players - who always rally around the us-versus-the-world mentality - are choosing to turn the Pac-10 tournament into a quest to eliminate all doubt by winning the conference's automatic bid. "We are trying to get in the NCAA tournament, but we want to win a championship," Thomas said. At the risk of sounding like a beggar being a chooser, the trick now for UW is to play its way into a seed higher than eight or nine. An eight or nine seed would mean a second-round matchup with a region's top seed, perhaps a Kansas, Ohio State, Pittsburgh or Duke. A 10 seed, or even the 11 the dissed Huskies got as the Pac-10 tournament champions last March, is better than an eight or a nine.
6. What do these guys do down here?
A. We are in sunny, downtown Los Angeles, in a fancy hotel attached the new, hip L.A. Live entertainment complex built around Staples Center. But honestly, the Huskies could be anywhere In Anytown USA. They get up around 9 - or Friday, at 10, after the game ended at 11 p.m. Thursday - have a team breakfast in a hotel meeting room, then a 60- to 90-minute study hall led by a member of UW's academic support staff who made the trip. This is the last week of classes before exams for the winter quarter next week, and many players have term papers due. Many also have tests on Monday when we get back. After studying, the team boards a bus for afternoon shootaround practices at local gyms. Thursday is was Price High School in South Central L.A., the private school sophomore forward Tyreese Breshers attended. Friday it was the Galen Center at USC a few blocks south of the hotel. They work the scouting report on the opponent for about an hour in the light workout, then came back to the hotel for some film work, rest and a team meal four hours before tipoff. Then, more rest, watching hoops in their rooms, and a short walk in full uniform an hour before the game across a fan plaza and under the Nokia Theater into Staples Center for the game.
7. Why was Big Dawg Jake Locker sitting in a corner section cheering on his Huskies Thursday, instead of at center court? After all, he is about to become a multimillion NFL quarterback - if there still is an NFL after this week(!)
A. The Pac-10 explained to us that member schools are assigned tickets for the tournament in rotating sections around Staples Center. Last year, UW's seats were at center court. This year, the Huskies' allotments are in a corner opposite the benches (on the same side as the TV cameras that are providing your view at home). Next year, UW's fans will be behind one of the benches, more in the middle. The reason the Huskies will be on the bench to your left as you watch on TV Friday night, opposite the bench they were on last night, is because Oregon's fans are behind that other bench so the Ducks get that one versus Washington. If you wondered or cared.
Thanks for asking, and for joining the chat. It's fun. I will be there tonight, right behind the Huskies' bench, and we will again have a video report before the game here on GoHuskies.com.
Friday, 11:45 a.m. - Wow! What a game last night! That said, there is no time to celebrate.
The Huskies piled out of the Staples Center as quickly as they could following last night's thrilling -- and rejuvenating -- 89-87 win over Washington State. They were greeted by Brad McDavid and the Husky Band in the underbelly of the Staples Center by whooping cheers and applause as they exited the building.
The group wolfed down a quick postgame snack at the hotel and then headed to their rooms for some much needed rest.
Wakeup call today was at 10:00 a.m. and breakfast was at 10:30. Oregon, Washington State and Arizona were all around in their assigned rooms eating breakfast at the same time.
While Isaiah Thomas conducted a phone interview with a Seattle radio station in a back hallway, Reggie Moore yelled from a distance, 'Zeke, I just saw Lane Kiffin in the elevator!' Thomas momentarily forgot what he was doing and starting walking to the elevator to get a glimpse, but recovered his thoughts and continued on with his interview.
After breakfast, the team hit the books. Finals week is right around the corner and despite the importance of the games over the next 10 days, school still comes first.
The team has film at 1:00 p.m. and then heads to shoot around at the Galen Center. Check back later for a "FAQ-session" that Gregg Bell has gathered from his live chats during games.
Thursday, 3:45 p.m. - The team just returned from shootaround at Price HS in Los Angeles, the alma mater of Tyreese Breshers. Numerous visitors popped their head in to say hi to the retired Husky and he seemed to definitely be in his element.
The Huskies got down to business and worked on some plays and the scout for Washington State. A familiar face was back in the fold for the Huskies -- senior Justin Holiday. He participated in the entire 60 minute session and looked sharp throughout.
The Huskies were loose during their practice, but seem focused and ready to try to exact revenge for two earlier losses vs. Washington State. They'll relax in their rooms for an hour or so before meeting up again for team dinner.
Below is a video of Gregg Bell prior to the Huskies' shootaround.
Thursday, 11:45 a.m. - Good morning Husky fans!
The team arrived at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in downtown at L.A. Live and immediately gathered for a team dinner. They then spend 30 minutes in film study and from there, headed to their rooms for lights out.
It is an interesting dynamic at the hotel as all 10 teams are staying at the J.W. Marriott. Each team is assisgned a floor where their block of rooms are, but all 10 teams have their meetings and meals on the same floor -- just in different rooms. So, you can hop on an elevator at any given time with players, coaches and staff members from multiple schools. For the most part, it's a quiet ride!
Today, the players were given a 9:30 a.m. wake up call and breakfast was at 10:00 a.m. From what I observed, OSU, Oregon, Arizona and UCLA were all on a similar schedule and having their breakfasts at the same time.
Immediately following breakfast, the Husky players headed back to their rooms and grabbed their backpacks and books and headed back to their meeting room for study tables. Next week is finals week at Washington, so the guys were hard at work.
The next activity for the Huskies is shoot around at 2 p.m. at Price High School, where Tyreese Breshers matriculated. The Dawgs went to the same gym last season, so hopefully it proves to be the good luck charm again.
For those curious, the shootaround will also be where Justin Holiday will give it a go and see if he can play tonight against Washington State.
We'll report back later and tell you how things are going.