Lorenzo Romar might not be well-respected by a lot of people who watch basketball. His Washington Huskies are undisciplined, often lackadaisical on defense, can't hit their free throws, and have a point guard who commits more turnovers than assists. It's a joy to watch, I know.
Yet here they are, first in the Pac-12. How fitting.
Keep in mind this is the same Washington team that lost to South Dakota State at home by 19, blew a winnable contest against Nevada, nearly lost to Utah and Arizona State. On the other hand, UW has pulled out two crucial victories, one on the road against Arizona and another on a huge comeback against UCLA Thursday night. That's been more than enough to take control at 9-2, a game ahead of Cal and Colorado to win the Pac-12.
Nothing has really changed for Washington. They've been the most talented team in the conference for awhile, but seem to always underachieve. Two of Romar's best teams in 2009-10 and 2010-11 went a combined 22-14 in two of the most uninspiring Pac-12 slates you'll ever seen, and you have to figure this team's success in 2011-12 has a lot to do with how poor their competition is.
Terrence Ross is the most talented player in the conference, period. When he's on, he's hard for any other team to stop. Unfortunately, he's often dependent on the playmaking of his guards to get him loose, and Tony Wroten and Abdul Gaddy are not the most consistent guys around. Gaddy can't shoot from the inside, Wroten can't shoot from the outside, and both are below-average ball-handlers. Too bad, because C.J. Wilcox and Darnell Gant have proven they can spot up and shoot just as well as Ross; if those two guards could run the offense better, Washington might be off and roaring. Such is the torture of watching a Romar-coached team, but Ross has been able to steer them right.
Not that the Huskies can sleep easy yet. Washington is a loss away from falling back into a tie with California, who own the head-to-head tiebreaker. UW has the Oregon road trip coming up, and both teams are much harder to beat at home than in Seattle. They must hold off an Arizona team that's probably angry at losing their head-to-head matchup in Tucson, then they have to win their Apple Cup rematch in Pullman, and then they finish the season with UCLA. It's not an easy stretch to finish, and there are plenty of losses that could await if the Huskies don't maintain their focus.
It seems almost inconceivable that the Huskies can win this conference. Then again, wouldn't there be no more fitting result than this awkward team winning this painfully awkward Pac-12?