Will Time Off Propel Huskies To Overdue, March Push?
March 2, 2013
SEATTLE - No need to remind these Huskies of "Bracketology."
No need to detail for the Dawgs (15-13, 7-8 Pac-12) how they will have to win four games in four days at the Pac-12 tournament beginning March 13 in Las Vegas in order to make the NCAA tournament with the automatic bid as conference tourney champions.
"I think we understand," coach Lorenzo Romar said as he prepared for Sunday afternoon's game against Washington State (11-17, 2-13) at Alaska Airlines Arena.
"The most important thing we've been talking about is, can we be playing our best basketball here down the stretch? That's what we are trying to do."
The Huskies last played last Saturday, Feb. 23. It was one of their most complete wins of the season, 68-59 at 20-win Arizona State. This is the longest break between games this season for UW, which is seeking its first winning streak since mid-January when it was 4-0 to begin league play for the fourth time in 35 years.
"This week, I think, helps us with (playing our best down the stretch)," Romar said, "as opposed to playing games and games and not getting to really break down things that are important to us, for us to be successful.
"I know it's only a couple of weeks but we can get better in this time, this short time."
California's 11th league win on Thursday over Utah ensures the Huskies can finish no higher than fifth and no lower than ninth in the conference standings.
The top four in the league get a bye in the conference tournament. So UW knows it will play on the first day of the league's extravaganza in Las Vegas. To finish fifth - and oppose the last-place team in the opening round -- the Huskies need to beat WSU, USC (14-15, 9-7) and UCLA (21-7, 11-4 entering Saturday) all at home to end the regular season. Plus USC, Colorado (19-8, 9-6 entering Saturday) and Arizona State (20-10, 9-8) would have to finish with 10 or fewer league wins.
The Huskies would own tie-breakers with Colorado and ASU by virtue of beating both each time they've met. Whether Washington would own the tie-breaker with the Trojans would depend on which teams finish atop the conference next weekend. USC's win over Arizona could ultimately give them the tie-breaker over UW.
All of this, of course, presumes the Huskies play like they did last weekend at Arizona State.
Senior point guard Abdul Gaddy had perhaps his finest game as a Husky. In 32 commanding minutes, the co-captain made six of nine shots for 13 points. He had seven assists. He had five rebounds. He had zero turnovers. And he was the primary defender on Jahii Carson, holding the Sun Devils' freshman sensation to 10 points - 22 fewer than Carson had dropped on UW last month in Seattle.
Gaddy's cool efficiency plus the long-dormant shooting of Scott Suggs (16 points at ASU, after 12 total in the previous four games) offset the ongoing misfires of C.J. Wilcox. Washington's leading scorer at 17.1 points per game - down from almost 20 per game at the start of last month - was 1 for 11 at ASU.
Wilcox is shooting just 32 percent (32 for 100) in his last eight games.
Romar says a large reason for the rust has been the preservation approach the Huskies' medical staff has taken for the last month with Wilcox's left foot. The outside near the fourth and smallest toes has shown the potential beginnings of a stress fracture, so Wilcox has been limited in practices while continuing to play among the most minutes in the league.
This week, Romar was excited that Wilcox was expected to practice more. More shots between games can only help his stroke when the points count. And better shooting from Wilcox can only help UW be at its desired best over these final weeks of the season.
"I still think the first shot he takes the next game is going to go in," Romar said, emphasizing that because of a three-year track record of smooth shooting from the redshirt junior his light remains green to fire away regardless of his cold spell.
"If you prove it time and time and time and time again, then you get a little grace, a little more latitude."