Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE
The Washington Huskies enter the 2012-13 season with high expectations after failing to qualify for the NCAA tournament last season. Abdul Gaddy, C.J. Wilcox, and Scott Suggs form a potent backcourt, but who will step up and become the team's go-to scorer?
Last season, the Huskies won the Pac-12 regular season title, sent two players to the NBA and won at least 20 games for the fourth straight season.
Yet, 2011-12 can be marked as a huge failure because the team failed to secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament. A weak Pac-12 conference and a lackluster non-conference schedule, along with an opening round loss in the Pac-12 tournament landed Head Coach Lorenzo Romar's squad in the NIT.
Can this year's team avoid a repeat of last year's disappointment?
Here's a look at the 2012-13 Husky personnel:
This success of this Husky team depends wholly upon the play of senior point guard Abdul Gaddy. As the team's starting point guard, he will need to create scoring opportunities for C.J. Wilcox and Scott Suggs. Gaddy also needs to improve upon his 33% shooting percentage from three-point land -- by being a consistent shooter from the perimeter, he'll better keep defending point guards honest. The Huskies no longer have the luxury of giving the basketball to Tony Wroten and Terrence Ross and watching them create scoring opportunities for themselves.
Another key to the Huskies' success will be how effective C.J. Wilcox can be in isolation situations. Can he be effective on offense in other ways besides catching and shooting? The same question can be posed towards Scott Suggs. Wilcox and Suggs arguably make up the best perimeter-shooting duo in the Pac-12, but that means nothing if opposing teams can easily plan against the predictability of the pair settling for outside shots.
On offense and defense, the jobs of Desmond Simmons and Aziz N'Diaye are simple: rebound. N'Diaye's rebounding average increased from 5.7 to 7.3 from his sophomore to junior season, making the jump to 9 to 10 rebounds a game is not out of the question. N'Diaye will be in prime position for offensive rebounding within the high-post offense.
The most significant contributor off the bench will be Andrew Andrews. The redshirt point guard will be a pleasant surprise for Husky fans. Andrews' redshirting last season had more to do with the amount of point guards on the roster than his Andrews' actual ability. A year of experience going against a physically superior player like Wroten will have Andrews more than prepared to be a solid contributor off the bench for the Huskies.
Martin Breunig and Shawn Kemp Jr. will be battling for the backup forward spot, a consistent 15-20 minutes off the bench to relieve Simmons and N'Diaye. Guards Hikeem Stewart and Jernard Jarreau will also battling for a spot in the rotation; Stewart saw limited action at the end of game last season, while Jarreau redshirted his season.
New walk-on additions Dion Overstreet and Quinn Sterling will likely not see any significant minutes, and I suspect Austin Seferian-Jenkins will choose not to play basketball this season. The roster has 15 players, including Seferian-Jenkins, with an abundance of forwards. Considering this depth at the forward position and Seferian-Jenkins' focus on football, it is unlikely we'll see him playing this coming season.
Romar and his staff will have to wait a year for transfers Perris Blackwell and Giles Dierichx to play, but Blackwell could have easily battled for a starting spot in the rotation this season.
Losing Wroten and Ross initially seems like a huge blow to this team, but a glance at the projected starting lineup reveals five players who are proven contributors. The starting lineup has experience with Desmond Simmons being the sole underclassmen. As a result of the experience of this team's upperclassman, playing elite defense from the beginning of the season is a possibility.
The Huskies match up well in the post. When Aziz N'Diaye stays out of foul trouble, he is a force in disrupting and blocking shots. Desmond Simmons is a player that will give you 110% on both ends of the court in the unheralded stat categories.
Without a go-to scorer, the offense will be moving the ball from side to side more often than last season. Expect to see C.J. Wilcox and Scott Suggs taking the majority of the shots for the Huskies. When both are hitting shots from the outside, this team will be difficult to defend. The Huskies also have arguably the top point guard in the Pac-12. Abdul Gaddy's size, skill and decision-making will be the driving force of this team's offense.
While not having a player like Tony Wroten dominate the ball may lead to a more team-oriented offense, it signals one fundamental problem with this year's Husky team: a lack of talent. C.J. Wilcox and Abdul Gaddy are borderline NBA prospects and the Huskies lose close to half of their point production in the departures of Darnell Gant, Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten. Neither Simmons nor N'Diaye are a threat on offense. Furthermore, if the starting forwards get into foul trouble, there is an abundance of inexperience behind them on the roster.
History tells us the Huskies will likely finish the season in the top half of the Pac-12 standings. In Romar's ten seasons, he's only finished in the bottom half on two occasions: 2006-07 and 2007-08. In 2006-07, the Huskies suffered from a lack of experience, starting four underclassmen. In 2007-08, the Huskies lacked a go-to player on the perimeter and played in a super competitive Pac-10 with five teams making it into the NCAA tournament that season. The experience on this year's squad will serve it well, but not having a go-to scorer will hurt this squad in close games.
If this team makes the tournament, they will not be making it in with a high seed. With this said, I'm predicting a third place finish in the Pac-12 and an NCAA tournament berth for this year's Huskies.