The bandwagon is growing for Gonzaga as Washington Husky basketball fans have little solace in the potential #1 draft pick Markelle Fultz leading a team that is a flame short of a dumpster fire this season.
As Gonzaga leads the pack in potential NCAA tournament champions at the moment more Husky fans are tuning in to Gonzaga games as the cross-state juggernaut continues to remain undefeated in impressive fashion.
I conducted an unscientific poll on Facebook to determine how Husky fans feel about their team, Romar, the impact of Williams-Goss and Fultz as well as their interest in Gonzaga. Here are the results of 82 Washington Husky respondents.
“Should Romar be Fired?”
- Yes. Immediately. 15.0%
- Yes but at end of season. 32.5%
- Wait one more year to see how Porter does next season and then fire him if he does not make it to NCAA tournament. 50.0%
- No. Romar is a great recruiter and he will turn things around soon. 2.5%
“Which college basketball team is your favorite team to watch this year?”
- Washington 45.0%
- Gonzaga 25.0%
- Other 30.0%
“Which college basketball team was your favorite to watch ten years ago?”
- Washington 90.0%
- Gonzaga 5.0%
- Other 5.0%
“ Did you expect Washington to make NCAA tournament this year with Fultz as the lead player before the season started?”
- Yes absolutely. 12.5%
- No I still thought they would be average. 37.5%
- No I thought they would be terrible. 15.0%
- Maybe. I thought they could be a bubble team. 35.0%
“If Nigel Williams Goss had stayed would Washington had made the NCAA tournament this year?”
- Yes Nigel Williams-Goss alone would have made the difference. 10.0%
- Yes. Romar would have found a way to use both Fultz and Williams-Goss despite both being point guards. 30.0%
- No. Fultz would never have signed and we would be in the same situation as right now. 22.5%
- No even with Fultz and Williams-Goss on roster Romar would still lose. 37.5%
As you can see from the voting one can draw a few conclusions regarding fan sentiment about the current state of the program. Regarding Romar being fired nearly half (48%) of fans want him fired immediately or by end of season. 50% want to wait to see what Porter will bring to the program next year and then maybe fire him. Only 2% have complete confidence in Romar. Based on anecdotal evidence from conversations about the program this seems to be an accurate sentiment as of this moment.
Now let's analyze the bandwagon effect this year and over the past decade of Washington fans cheering for Gonzaga. Ten years ago only 5% of Washington fans were more interested in Gonzaga. This was the real beginning of the emergence of Gonzaga's program and in the prime years of Washington basketball right after Brandon Roy lead a talented squad to the Sweet 16 only to lose to UConn in overtime. Spencer Hawes and Quincy Pondexter were on the next squad in 2007 and lead the team to a decent winning season. Gonzaga also made the Sweet 16 in 2006 losing to UCLA the eventual runner-up that season. Fast forward ten years and Gonzaga has had a dominant streak all 10 years making it to the NCAA tournament. In fact, their streak is now up to 18 straight with an almost guaranteed 19th appearance coming up. If Michigan State fails to make the tournament this year the Spartans streak will end at 19 and Gonzaga will tie them for 5th all-time consecutive NCAA appearances with the Zags’ going streak back to 1999. Meanwhile, Washington has only been to 3 NCAA tournaments in the last 10 years all in 2009-2011. The five year drought is about to become 6 with an almost impossible chance of winning the Pac-12 tournament. So it is no wonder why 5% of Washington fans favored Gonzaga 10 years ago while 25% favor them now. The favored team to watch for 90% of Husky fans was Washington ten years ago but now only half that (45%) favor watching the Huskies and 30% favor a team other than Washington or Gonzaga.
Expectations were muted this year for most fans though some seemed to be cautiously optimistic with the arrival of the phenom Fultz. Over a third of fans thought Washington could make it to the NCAA tournament as a bubble team. That's not inspired confidence but nearly half of fans believed this year the Huskies would make it to the NCAA tournament one way or another. The other half of fans believed we would be mediocre or worse and those fans were correct in their assumptions (assuming these fans are honest in their disbelief of the team from the beginning as hindsight is 20/20).
Finally, let’s get to the impact of Nigel Wiliams-Goss, the common thread for both Washington and Gonzaga's teams. Williams-Goss was ineffectual leading the Huskies. Our good friend and contributor here at Pacific Takes, Eli Boetteger, has a fantastic metric called Individual Efficiency Margin (I.E.M.) to measure a players contribution to a teams stats. For Williams-Goss in his first year at UW he mustered a sad -4.9 I.E.M. basically dragging the team down the win column despite his talent. The next year he was still in the negative range at -.9 in the 2015 season. Fast forward two years as he skipped a year due to his transfer at Gonzaga and Williams-Goss now has a plus 5.0 I.E.M. on a talented team and leading the team in scoring with the most minutes played, points, rebounds, assists, steals and highest free throw percentage at an impressive 90%. His field goal percentage, three point percentage and free throw percentage have all gone significantly up since playing at Washington. These type of stats showing how much better Williams-Goss is under Mark Few's tutelage are the type of evidence that may get Romar fired within the next month.
Despite Nigel-Williams Goss' amazing talent and growth many Washington fans feel that even if Williams-Goss and Fultz were both on the team right now they would still lose. Almost 38% of Washington fans feel even if they had both players on this years squad the Huskies would still have a losing record. This type of pessimism is indicative of the overall frustration with the lack of program success in recent years. Believing a team can not win with all-star talent is an indictment of the coaching staff more than the players themselves. Confidence in Romar's ability to coach and form a team that is passionate about winning is at an all-time low.
Even with Romar's ability to recruit NBA level talent especially keeping local players to stay in-state, the fans have had enough. Gonzaga is their new eye candy as Washington continues to falter. How long Washington fans continue to bleed into the Gonzaga fan base is likely to be determined by the future of Lorenzo Romar's firing or turning the program around by next year. Otherwise, Washington basketball may return to the days of old where the school would try to give away tickets to games and students would reject them in favor of doing anything else but watch a sad performing team lose again.