Thoughts from Staples

So Washington will play for the Pac-10 automatic berth to the NCAA tournament tomorrow afternoon against #1 seed Arizona. Isaiah Thomas couldn't contain his smile when thinking about that.

"Those guys got us last time. We really wanted another shot at them. Now we get it."

Tonight was an amazing effort by the Huskies on defense. Darnell Gant had 10 huge rebounds and some early big points, Isaiah Thomas didn't score a lot but was in total control of the offense, and Aziz N'Daiye followed Romar's directions to a tee in running the middle of the effective Husky zone defense.

"He really makes the entire thing go," said Romar of N'Daiye, whose contributions don't really show up in the score sheet but are appreciated by Romar nonetheless.

"Aziz really is effective for us when we zone, and that helps us remain fresh as well as give different looks. Tonight we really executed it well."
Washington rolled out the same starting line up as last night, with Thomas, Bryan-Amaning, Wilcox, Holiday, and Terrence Ross. Early on the Huskies did nothing but fling three-balls up, missing their first three. Their fourth field goal attempt, yet another three, was drained by C.J. Wilcox. It surprised me that MBA wasn't given more touches inside with a smaller defender on him, but that was the first four minutes, when Suggs and Gant made their planned entrances into the game.

To that point Washington had seven field goal attempts, five of them three-point attempts. They made but one of those, and made one of two two-point attempts.

I would've liked to have seen more looks inside to MBA to start the game just to get him used to catching the ball, but the Huskies held a 5-4 lead so it's hard to complain.
Who was it that said Darnell Gant wasn't a good rebounder? Well, truth be told, that was me. Tonight he grabbed five rebounds in a four minute stretch, and all five were contested, hard fought ones. Perhaps he can be the rebounding force that Romar will need next year after MBA graduates?

I know, I know. It was a four-minute stretch of basketball against shorter guys, but I'm telling you Darnell had a look in his eyes that I'd never seen before. He WANTED contact. He SEEKED out the ball. It was good to see.

Until Aziz N'Daiye's hands become more coordinated and consistent at catching the ball, Gant will really be needed in that role.
Scott Suggs may not be the leading scorer on next year's team, but I'll bet you dollars to danishes that he averages double-figures. He has the ability to create his shot better than almost anyone on the team, he has a sweet stroke with range from about anywhere north of half-court, his ball handling has steadily become more consistent, and his free throw shooting is money.

I can easily see him slipping into the two or three, or sometimes even the four and playing a lot more minutes next year. He just looks so much more mature than he was, and his calmness on the floor rubs off on the more frenetic Ross and Wilcox. It is a nice mix.
This team sure would look different if the three guys on the end of the bench weren't in street clothes. Tyreece Brashers has a HUGE frame that was built for rebounding and banging inside, while Venoy Overton could've speeded the game up when needed and Abdul Gaddy could've provided more minutes of rest for Isaiah Thomas, who is piling them up. Next year, Gaddy will return to the rotation hopefully at full strength. That would make the Huskies so strong at guard next year. Ross is growing into a fine rebounder from the three spot, so it is a perfect fit.

A rotation of Gaddy and Thomas at point, Wilcox and Suggs at the two, Wroten at the one, two, or three, Ross at the three….that is one sick guard mix. I like Ross at the three full time, and then you have Gant and Simmons at the four with Aziz in the post. The depth on the front line isn't what you'd like, but it is what it is. Washington is going to win or lose based on how they shoot from the outside next year.

But oh, how they can shoot. Suggs, Wilcox, and Ross can all three fill it up at any time from anywhere.
One note for next year to keep an eye on….Oregon is well coached. Dana Altman made some nice changes to the Duck defense in the second half and it resulted in much better rebounding. Of course, Washington went cold but Oregon was able to keep Washington off the glass more in the second half because the Ducks kept their wings in tighter and defended the top of the key area much better.
Gary Payton was in the locker room after the game. Coach Jim Shaw is good friends with him so he invited him back. He addressed the Huskies after the game tonight. It was really fun to see.

Lorenzo Romar was very proud of his charges in the post game press conference. He lauded Isaiah Thomas for being so fresh after playing 78 minutes in two games and looking fresh doing it. He got physically beat up tonight so it will be interesting to see how he responds after being banged around for 38 minutes.
The best laugh of the press conference came when Terrence Ross was asked a question at the press conference and he looked somewhat disinterested. It was difficult to tell whether or not he heard the question at all. Then he suddenly turned to the question-asker and laughed…..the question was, "How does it feel when Isaiah gives you those marvelous passes….Ross then finally replied, "Sorry. The TV behind you is on ESPN and I was JUST watching myself after getting an Isaiah pass………To answer you, yeah. It feels good."

That kid is special.
Staples Arena Scoreboard has one of the coolest scoreboards I've ever seen. When you are sitting at courtside, the scoreboard is so high up that it is difficult to see. So what do they do? They have four video screens actually INSIDE the scoreboard, underneath the big circle attached to the bottom. So all you have to do is look up inside the cylinder and you have a terrific view of replays and the live feed of the game if you need it.

The lighting at Staples is something to behold. I have never seen an arena whose lights came up from zero to full bore in two seconds like this place. When they introduce the starting lineups, the lights go off except for the colored ones mounted underneath the scoreboard. It is a great effect, and creates an eerie blue, almost PURPLE vision as the players are introduced. Then when the intros are complete, the lights come up almost IMMEDIATELY. It makes me miss my high school days when the lights at RHS would go off for lineups and then take a minute to come back, along with a very loud buzz….

The best fans in the Pac-10 when it comes to basketball are Arizona fans, hands down. They are loud, they are EXTREMELY knowledgeable, and they let you know they are there the entire game. The USC fans outnumbered the Wildcat fans but the UA fans were louder and had a bigger impact on the game. They were constant in their support of their team, and they had extremely clever cheers.

A lot of the fan bases here only yelled when they perceived (incorrectly most of the time) that their team was getting nailed by bad officiating. Not Arizona fans. They cheered on EVERY possession, not just the ones when something went bad.

They have always traveled well, and this tournament was no exception. Not only are they large in number, but they really know their basketball. It is fun to engage them in conversation, they aren't just shills. Sure, they are Arizona homers, but they also know their basketball. And they seem to know a lot about teams other than Arizona.

Kudos to the Arizona fans I met on this trip. You guys are great.

And while the Arizona pep band is a quality one with great and unique selections of music, the best band of the tournament was USC. That band is awesome.
They are turning the lights out at Staples….good night until tomorrow. GO DAWGS!!!! Top Stories