Where do we go now? Husky basketball fans were asking themselves that question ad nauseam much like Axl Rose in the coda of Sweet Child O' Mine after falling to Minnesota in the semifinals of the NIT last week. The overtime heartbreaker marked the end of a rather frustrating season for the Huskies where much like Guns N' Roses, the young Huskies seemed to have an appetite for (self) destruction.
The picture has become a little more clear now that Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten have declared for the NBA Draft, and despite what would usually be expected from losing two underclassmen to the NBA, their departure might not be a terrible thing based on how the 11-12 Huskies performed with them leading the way. Romar has seemed to struggle to succeed with the type of players that will declare early in their career as the Huskies also failed to make the NCAA Tournament when one-and-done lottery pick Spencer Hawes was on the team in 06-07.
Sometimes having elite talent that is already NBA ready by the time they show up for the first day of practice doesn't really work. It's like working with someone who is overqualified for their job, it's too easy for them too not take it serious because they know that there are bigger and better things out there, and they don't care as much about the overall success of the team. There will sometimes be teams like Kentucky where it all seems to come together, but for the most part the teams that have the most success in this era of college basketball are those that can blend talented (but not first round draft pick talented) upperclassmen with young players who have potential, but haven't fully realized it yet (think Ross as a freshman). The Huskies simply didn't have the upperclassmen this year to reign in Ross and Wroten and bring heart and hustle each game this season.
Because of this, the 2011-12 Huskies never seemed to play well together from the very beginning. The pieces were there, but there was never a true go-to scorer with Ross and Wroten trading off who was the top dog nor a clear and steady point guard with Wroten sometimes filling the role and sometimes Abdul Gaddy.
Also, the Romar lead Huskies have been known for turning "it" off and on, but never to the extent that they did this season. The Minnesota game might be the best example of this behavior, with the team looking like they literally did not care at all in the first half against the Golden Gophers and then playing defense and actually chasing after loose balls in the second half which surprise, surprise, led to them almost pulling out the game.
Honestly, I'm not really sure what to think about this season. So I think it would be easier to just simply break down the good and the bad.
- Despite pre-season predictions placing them around 4th in the conference, the Huskies won the conference outright
- The team didn't succumb to a very disappointing out of conference showing and bounced back despite a bleak initial outlook
- The team took the NIT serious enough to make it to the final four of the tournament and gave fans a few more fun games to watch
- Fighting through a tough injury, C.J. Wilcox showed that he is one of the elite shooters in the country
- Abdul Gaddy was able to bounce back from an ACL injury and at times look liked the pressing and distributing point guard he was supposed to be coming out of high school
- Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten provided some entertaining moments and flashed why they both will likely be first round draft picks come June
- Getting knocked out in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament by Oregon State because of missed free throws and sleeping through the first half of the game
- Being the first major conference team to miss the NCAA Tournament despite winning their regular season conference title
- Embarrassing blow outs to a number of teams with comparable or lesser talent in Saint Louis, South Dakota State, Colorado and Oregon
- Perpetual unforced turnovers and shots missed from point blank
- An injury to Wilcox that knocked him out of some crucial games and limited him as the year went on
- Fans frustration leading to questioning of Lorenzo Romar despite him taking home the Coach of the Year award for the Pac-12
- A complete lack of any kind of scoring threat inside
It is almost hard to believe that with an outright regular season title, a Coach of the Year award, a Freshman of the Year Award and two players selected for the All-Conference team, the 2011-12 season will be looked back on as a complete disappointment. Much like the Huskies roster, the 2011-12 season looks a lot better on paper than it does in real life.