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UW Basketball: It's Still November

There seem to be two camps among Washington Huskies fans after their performance in Maui.

On one side is the people who look at five and seven point losses to now #6 Michigan State and #10/11 Kentucky respectively as a sign that Washington could legitimately end up among the Elite Eight competing for a spot in the Final Four.

Then on the other side, you have people who see Washington's losses in a rather high profile nationally broadcast tournament as a disastrous two game losing streak that caused them to plummet in the national rankings. Not only is repeating their trip to the Sweet Sixteen in jeopardy, according to this line of reasoning, but their early season success was merely due to weak scheduling. And at the most extreme, even Lorenzo Romar's coaching might be called into question.

Let's assume the part about Romar is a rather isolated (or mistaken?) reaction, but the bottom line is that there seems to be rumblings of a crisis sentiment among fans after five games, due to losses against nationally ranked teams in Maui. As one headline reads, coming Long Beach State is coming to Seattle to play a "struggling Washington" team tonight at 8 p.m.

I think we need to back up just a bit.

Let's set aside the fact that end of November rankings really don't have much, if any, bearing on what happens in March - as easy as it is to doubt Connecticut's sudden rise to top ten status, it's quite reasonable to cast doubt on Washington's fall out of the top 20. I will gladly eat crow if they hold even relatively steady in these positions through conference play.

But the more important point is probably that the two losses only made very clear weaknesses that were present even in their prior games against inferior competition, as Romar said in Maui.

Huskies | UW men's basketball team comes up short against Kentucky | Seattle Times Newspaper
"My biggest fear was that we had played three ball games averaging (107.3) points and rarely did we go deep into the shot clock to guard or offensively," coach Lorenzo Romar said. "My biggest fear was that when that finally happened, we wouldn't be able to adjust quick enough.

"We were working on getting everybody to understand that one day this was going to happen. In this tournament, you're going to find all your weaknesses. You're going to see where they are, all of your warts."

The primary challenge for the Huskies right now is rebounding - on both ends of the floor - which was a challenge that could have been predicted prior to the season, was evident if you looked closely enough in their early games, and even more of a struggle than some noted against Virginia in the first round in Maui. It's either a problem they need to correct or live with, but if you had high hopes for them prior to Maui there is nothing in Maui that should have changed those hopes - it just made made a present problem clear.

Perhaps fans and analysts need to see this early season tournaments in a similar way to Romar - we now have a much clearer idea of Washington (and UConn's) strengths and weaknesses...at this moment...in November. I would find it hard to believe that a team as talented, though flawed, as the Huskies will end up performing the same way in March as they are now.

They still have a very strong chance to go deep in the NCAA tournament and I won't call this a "struggling" team by any stretch of the imagination unless they get blown out by Long Beach State at home tonight. And I find it even harder to foresee that occurring that I do to see this as a struggling team right now.