The Washington Huskies (11-4, 0-3) have struggled as the college basketball season has moved into conference play. Washington has particularly struggled against teams that are able to open up the floor with outside shooting, and it’s cost them moving into Pac-12 play.
Stony Brook put an end to the Huskies’ 11 game winning streak, that had Washington ranked as the 13th best team in the country, with a 62-57 victory at Alaska Airlines Arena. The Seawolves hit 50% (9-18) of their three points shots against UW in that game, and the Huskies were unable to keep up from beyond the arc (3-10). It was an ugly loss for the Huskies as the team was rolling at that point, and people in the Seattle area were starting to buy in again. But then the Huskies lost this game, then three more, and Washington fans are starting to get irritated with the program’s lack of progress.
The four straight losses have been even more frustrating to Washington fans when you take a look at their 11 game winning streak to start the season. Many fans felt like the Huskies had returned to prominence in basketball, that the team was bound to be head back to the NCAA tournament. What many of these fans didn’t really think about was the fact that Washington played no body during that 11 game winning streak. In fact, the highest rated opponent the Huskies played during their non-conference schedule was Oklahoma (currently ranked at No. 32 by NCAA’s RPI).
As a result of its weak non-conference schedule, the Huskies were unprepared for conference play to start. And that’s shown up in their three conference losses in the early going.
Washington State Cougars: After an awful start to their season — the Cougars went 4-6 in their first 10 games, which included losses to Idaho, Santa Clara, UTEP, and UC Santa Barbara — Washington State has won their last two road games, against Cal and Washington, and are currently sitting at 2-1 in conference play. The Cougars have received outstanding play from sophomore forward Josh Hawkinson down in the paint, and it has been the difference for WSU in conference play.
Oregon State Beavers: The Beavers are coming off of a surprising upset victory over No. 7 Arizona at home, and are currently 2-1 in conference play. Despite the Beavers relatively soft non-conference schedule, they have been one of the better teams in Pac-12 play. It’s got to be good for OSU fans to see head coach Wayne Tinkle getting the most out of the talent he has on the roster (a roster that has been loaded with talent for a couple of seasons now).
Utah Utes: None of the three conference teams No. 8 Utah has played have been able to keep up with the Utes. The average margin of victory in those three games is 27 points, and none of those games were even that close. It’ll be interesting to see if Utah can keep it up throughout the entire 18 game schedule. But one thing is for sure, Utah is really good this season.
Stanford Cardinal: Stanford has been surprisingly good in Pac-12 play, with their only conference loss coming a against an inconsistent UCLA squad. The Cardinal have been okay on the defensive end of the court as they are allowing 63.9 points per game (8th best in the conference), and is forcing 12.8 turnovers per game. But the real difference maker for Stanford is the offense, which is scoring 73.1 points per game (fifth best in the conference).
Washington Huskies: Three straight conference losses are tough for any team to deal with, especially a team that had hopes of returning to the NCAA tournament. Romar better get the team’s offensive woes figured out…or he could be gone at the end of the season.
California Golden Bears: The Golden Bears are struggling on both ends of the court, and were outplayed by the Cardinal on Wednesday. For first year head coach Cuozo Martin, the lack of depth on Cal’s bench has been absolutely crippling early on in conference play. Especially since Tyrone Wallace has been struggling with injuries throughout the season — Wallace is averaging 14.8 points per game.
Arizona State Sun Devils: Arizona State is the other team that has yet to notch a win in conference play. The Sun Devils have been mediocre on both end of the court all year, and awful on the offensive end. It’s going to be a tough season down in the desert as head coach Herb Sendek tries to figure out how to keep the program from falling even further.