I feel sick. Anyone who cares about the University of Washington men's basketball program should feel sick. This was Albany's first victory over a BCS conference team since they moved to D-1 in 2000. I'm going to attempt to write something coherent, but it is extremely difficult to describe my frustration and put all of UW's struggles into words.
Alaska Airlines Arena was flat tonight. Sub-par student section. Sub-par non-student section. Within five minutes of the game Scott Suggs went down. Hard. Suggs took an elbow to the side of the head while running back on defense (I see absolutely zero reason why the elbow went up in the air and am still baffled as to why nobody seems to be talking about this action) and, while falling, took a knee straight to the back of the head. Suggs laid motionless for around ten seconds before attempting to get up. He almost lost his balance while standing up and proceeded to take two steps in completely opposite directions before being helped off the floor. If there was anyone interested in being especially loud before the injury, they certainly were no longer interested following the blows to the head. I would like to say that UW should be viewed as a team that protects its' home court. A home court is not a home court when the crowd provides minimal momentum to a game. The fans in Alaska Airlines Arena seem to wait for the players to do something before getting excited, whereas fans are loud and proud from the get-go at schools such as Gonzaga and New Mexico. On to the game itself.
The Huskies' offense had absolutely zero flow in the first half. As did the game in general. There were 38 fouls when all was said and done. The offense seemed completely lost in the half-court and it did not help that C.J. Wilcox was not hitting any bail-out jumpers, as he missed his first six shots. The offense looked like the offense last year. Let me remind you, the offense last year was horrific. Wroten and Ross are no longer here to attempt to disguise UW's half-court set, which essentially consists of two guys moving around, one or two guys setting pathetic screens and the rest of the team just standing around. I can genuinely say that I have no idea what Romar wants this offense to look like in a half-court set. The Dawgs are still viewed as being somewhat decent on offense and that is because of their ability to play at a high tempo. Having the ability to play at a high tempo and playing a high tempo are two completely different things. UW allowed a poor mid-major team to come on their home floor and dictate the pace. Disgusting.
Disgusting also does a great job of describing how the Huskies' defense played tonight. Whether it was Mike Black having a free-for-all off of screens or Jacob Iati actually moving without the ball and freeing himself up for catch and shoot opportunities, UW could not stop the Great Danes' offense. This stems from the issue I brought up following the Loyola game: Washington struggles to defend off the dribble. This was my single biggest issue with the game: UW guards had a hard time blowing by defenders, while Albany guards seemed to regularly get into the lane and produce easy shots.
There was nothing positive about this game. Perhaps it will be a wake up call and a learning experience, but it seems like this team had enough motivation as the defending conference champ and still being picked to finish in the middle of the conference.
Abdul Gaddy aka The X-Factor
Gaddy finished with 16 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 6 turnovers. A senior starting point guard cannot be posting a negative A:T ratio, let alone turn the ball over six times in one game. Turnovers aside, it is clear that Abdul is beginning to recognize that he has to be a scorer for this team. Gaddy's shot looks noticeably better, as he went 2-5 from beyond the arc. It is time for Abdul to find a balance between being aggressive when looking to score and being aggressive when looking to be a playmaker.
Interesting Point Guard Note: Andrew Andrews went 7-9 from the line. He now has 19 FT attempts in two games. More importantly, he actually knocks them down. I will not allow a "Woof" for this game, but this is certainly not a bad thing.
Romar's Game Plan: "I take full responsibility for what just happened" – Romar. Damn straight he should. Did the coaching staff even make an attempt to scout Albany? Even I could have created a better game plan simply from twenty minutes of researching the Grey Hounds for a game preview. It's simply baffling that Wilcox and Gaddy did not post up more than twice when Washington's starting guards had a combined ten inches on the opposing guards. Wilcox found himself with a post up opportunity once in the first half and got a very easy, three foot turnaround. C.J. missed the bank, but it was clear that he would able to get that shot off on every possession. I did not see him on the block for the rest of the game. We should also note that Aziz N'Diaye was not on the floor for Albany's final offensive possession. A first team all Pac-12 defensive player was not on the floor when defensive was at an absolute premium. Yes, UW decided to switch on all screens during that possession. Why not hedge with N'Diaye? An outside shot is a much better way to lose than a layup. These are just a few blatantly obvious examples of the poor coaching. It is clear that Romar is not a decent Xs and Os guy, but tonight's display was very far below your average D-1 coach. It is also clear that Albany actually gave a damn about scouting its' opponent, while the UW coaching staff must have been looking forward to facing Seton Hall on Saturday.
Defense: Up-tempo offense starts on the defensive end. UW has a history of high ball-pressure and jumping the passing lanes. It's difficult to have high ball-pressure when the defenders are getting beat off the dribble and Romar is afraid to hedge and trap screens when he needs to most (see: Albany's last possession). Not being able to get out in transition means that a basketball team must have a decent half-court offense in order to be successful. Washington is far from having a decent half-court offense. This is a very serious problem that will plague the Huskies if it is not addressed.
Free Throw Shooting: Aziz went back to his old self, going 3-10 from the line and missing consecutive free throws with the Dawgs down one in the final minute. N'Diaye should not be touching the ball in that situation in the first place, but that is beside the point. The Huskies went 15-26 from the line, meaning they went 12-16 when N'Diaye is not factored into the equation. A glaring name was omitted from the free throw statistic. That name is C.J. Wilcox. He has not had a free throw attempt this season. Let's hope that this is not Terrence Ross 2.0, as Wilcox will most likely be leading this team in scoring.
Assist/Turnover Ratio: 10:15. It's pretty hard to win when your starting point guard has six turnovers. It's even harder when your starting unit had just five assists to thirteen turnovers. What's shocking is that this is the least of UW's worries.
Everyone involved with the basketball program should be embarrassed. This was Albany's first victory over a BCS team since joining D-1 hoops and the worst part about it is that Washington genuinely deserved to lose this game. Albany got easier shots, resulting from a more successful offensive game plan and a better disciplined defense. The Huskies travel to Connecticut to face Seton Hall on Saturday and they will get run out of the gym if their play is even remotely similar to how it was tonight. Final thought: this is the kind of loss that will kill a team's resume come tournament time, assuming UW will make any sort of run throughout this season.
UW vs Seton Hall. Saturday, November 17th. 4:30 P.M. PST. Mohegan Sun Arena