The first seven games of the season hinted towards what kind of success the Washington basketball team will have this year. The blowout loss to Gonzaga gives more clarity in to how bad the problem is with Romar's team and the diminishing chances the Huskies have to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011.
Despite having the top recruit in the country Washington still has struggled to win games early this season. Markelle Fultz is performing up to expectations and has been one of the top performers in college basketball so far this season. In terms of scoring Fultz is solid putting up 23 points per game which puts him 10th in the country. His assists numbers are lagging with only 5.9 compared to the NCAA leader Lonzo Ball who is averaging 9.3. The rest of the team is scoring with some efficiency and as a team Washington has averaged 86 points per game which puts them 19th in the country. However, only watching a few minutes of any game this season it becomes very obvious there is a problem with this Washington Huskies team. The Washington defense allowed Gonzaga to shoot 65% from the floor the first half last night. Individually, they occasionally make great defensive plays. Malik Dime has 23 blocks on the year with Fultz at 11 and Matisse Thybulle at 10. Fultz has 16 steals and Thybulle has 15. In terms of rebounds too Washington is doing ok, not great, but they are averaging 41 rebounds per game compared to opponents 35. That's about all the good news. The bad news is they allow opponents to score in droves. Fundamentally, the players look confused on the court and flop around trying to make plays instead of working as one unit. There is no communication, not enough hustle and too little heart in the back court. Washington continues to make stupid fouls. They currently rank 334 out of 347 teams in the NCAA in number of fouls per game. Poor decisions across the board are made every game by a multitude of players. They just give away too many points at the free throw line to beat good opponents. When they are not simply giving away the points they still allow easy layups, fast break transition points to opponents due to laziness, and open jump shots and three point attempts that just coast through the net without a hand in the air. If Washington wants any chance of gaining some respect and making the NCAA tournament they will need to learn how to play as a team which they obviously have not learned to do properly yet. Speaking about team play Washington is averaging 13 assists per game ranking in the bottom half of the NCAA. UCLA meanwhile is averaging 24 assists per game. UCLA may not be playing the greatest defense but they play well as a team with an all-star leader and that's why they are 9-0 and the Huskies are 4-4.
So what does this all mean? After the embarrassing loss to Gonzaga critics of Romar were quick to put him on the hot seat chair for possible replacement at the end of this season. It is far too early for that but the critics have legitimate gripes. Romar has proven he can recruit in his tenure at Washington. He landed the #1 player in the country this year with Fultz and has another top ten class lined up for next year with Michael Porter Jr. leading a star studded group. Firing Romar is a risky move considering the NBA talent he continues to pull into the program if only for a year at a time. However, Romar's ability to recruit almost works against him if the team does not win. The in-game coaching question mark is real. Romar had months to prepare this team to surprise everyone and be better than the naysayers have predicted. Unfortunately, the naysayers seem to have the upperhand and this team may be even worse than predicted if things do not change. Though Pac-12 play has not begun, the competition in conference this year will be fierce. There is a good chance at least 5 Pac-12 teams make the NCAA tournament and as many as 8 of the Pac-12 teams this year have a good shot of making the dance. Washington is not one of those teams. Another NIT invitation will just infuriate the Huskies' fan base. So Lorenzo Romar has a few weeks to make a miraculous turnaround or despite his excellent reputation of bringing in top talent he may just find his tenure at Washington come to a sobering end. At a bare minimum, Romar needs to win more basketball games than Chris Petersen wins football games. Anything less than 12 wins will be too embarrassing to justify keeping Lorenzo Romar as head coach.