Overview | Optimism is high for young squad
Coming off a season that began with high expectations that weren't met — Washington finished 19-12 and out of postseason play ...
Coming off a season that began with high expectations that weren't met — Washington finished 19-12 and out of postseason play — the Huskies are once again underdawgs, generally picked to finish from sixth to eighth in the Pac-10. But while Spencer Hawes is a big loss, every other key contributor returns, and some other help has arrived. Huskies coaches are confident this team will overachieve.
The one sure thing UW has is junior power forward Jon Brockman, the team's lone All-Pac-10 player last season. He averaged 14.2 points and 9.6 rebounds and has worked on becoming more adept on the perimeter to add more versatility to his game. Still, his bread and butter is inside.
Hawes departed for the NBA after averaging a team-high 14.9 points in his lone season, leaving behind a scoring void. The Huskies hope sophomore forward Quincy Pondexter (10.7 a year ago) will embrace the return to a faster-paced offense and pick up some of the scoring slack.
Tim Morris, a transfer from Stanford, will have just one season to create a legacy at Washington. But he has already won over teammates, who elected him one of the team's three captains, and the 6-foot-4 guard will be a key part of the new emphasis on defense.
Point guard Justin Dentmon bore much of the burden for last year's struggles. But he has slimmed down and improved his speed and quickness heading into his junior season, with the coaches hoping improved decision-making and ballhandling follow suit.
Reason for doubt
Washington is a young team (guards Morris and Ryan Appleby are the only seniors) that has yet to show it can win on the road. Other than Brockman, there is little experience in the frontcourt. And the newfound emphasis on defense sounds good, but the Huskies have to prove it on the floor.
Last season's struggles and the subsequent loss of Hawes have taken some of the spotlight off this team. But optimism reigns on Montlake, with the feeling this will be a tougher, more cohesive unit that is willing to play defense. It also plans to return to more of a pressure defense, and a fast-breaking offense style that the players enjoy.
But the Huskies might also be a year away.
The guess here is they fall just short of the NCAA tournament, but won't get shut out by the NIT this time.
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company