So where do the Huskies go from here?

Washington will certainly look different next season on the basketball floor. Whenever you lose three starters from your team, that is pretty much a given. However the losses that the Huskies are taking will require not only a retooling job, but also replacing the entire engine.

Matthew Bryan-Amaning, although far from consistent, gave the Huskies an inside threat that other teams constantly had to defend against. MBA required defenses to rotate to him and to double him when he got the ball down low. That is now gone, and there isn't really a player on the team that can step in and assume that role. Aziz N'Daiye is not ready to become that player yet, although I would expect Coach Fortier to give him at least one solid post move to go to next year.

Justin Holiday wasn't able to knock down his shot from the outside this year, however he still was able to score. He did his work off the glass and in space. Holiday also provided an extremely long defender that was versatile enough to defend up to three positions on the floor. He also provided a calming presence with his leadership and saw the floor well.

Isaiah Thomas was the guy that made everything go. He wasn't a consistent outside threat but he was solid at getting the ball to where it needed to go, and his on-ball defense improved every year he was in a Husky uniform.

So what will the Huskies look for? I'm not entirely sure they can replace what they are losing, but I am certain that they will find other things that will be emphasized instead.

First of all, I would expect more from senior forward Darnell Gant. Gant is chomping at the bit to assume more of a leadership role and his play late in the season, particularly at the Pac-10 tournament, would indicate that he is ready for the increase in responsibilities. Gant has developed a nice medium range game and will definitely be more of a presence on the boards next year. He already is a proven shot-blocker inside. I see Darnell as a senior co-captain and a guy that can get you 8 to 10 points off of either medium range jumpers, the occasional three-pointer, and off of the offensive glass. I would also expect 5 or 6 rebounds from him. I never thought he was capable of that before this year. Now I'm certain he will get that. And with that will come an increase in minutes.

N'Daiye showed late in the season that he could stay out of foul trouble. He will need to take the next step, and that will be to be even more aggressive on the boards. Probably the biggest area he could improve is catching the ball. Catching passes from teammates when they enter the post, and catching and securing rebounds would go a long ways in providing the Huskies a weapon inside. Aziz has a decent hook shot, now he needs a spin move to go to. He scored mostly on put-backs last year, and more of that is needed.

Gant and N'Daiye won't be all-Pac 12 caliber players, but they should be plenty serviceable, because the Huskies will be a guard dominated team. Between them, they need to grab about 14 rebounds per game. That will be the key metric.

Off the bench, Desmond Simmons has a nice stroke and should provide good rebounding and inside defense. He also appears to have a very solid stroke from the field, but that remains to be seen when the bullets are live. He won't be asked to score a great deal, but rather rebounding and defense will be his calling card.

The Huskies are going to get some minutes from another big man who isn't on the roster just yet. Since we don't know who that will be (although I've got a pretty good idea), it won't do much good to talk about that here. Suffice it to say that they won't have a huge role, but will be asked to help N'Daiye and Gant on the boards and on defense.

Which brings us to the loss of Thomas. Despite him being the leading scorer and point guard on the team, I feel that he may be the guy that the Huskies can make up for the easiest. That isn't to say any negative about Isaiah, it is more a statement of what the Huskies have entering the program and coming off of the bench.

Thomas ran the show last year, and this year that will fall to both junior Abdul Gaddy and incoming freshman Tony Wroten, and I don't think they will miss a thing in that transition. If anything, the team will execute a bit more fluidly in the half court under Gaddy's steadying hand, and they will certainly play more quickly behind Wroten's incredible speed. The Tone is a 6-4 ½ inch blur in the open court and he is quite comfortable playing at break-neck speed. His vision of the court isn't hindered when he's at full speed. He can make no look needle-threading passes either in full gallop or when he looks like he's just standing there looking in the stands to see who's there. It's incredible to watch.

While I think the amount of turnovers will increase when Wroten is in, he will bring so much more to the game that it will be more than overlooked. He is a much more dynamic player than Thomas, and he can jump out of they gym. He won't be a great outside shooter, but neither was Thomas unless he was hot. Wroten will get his points in the paint or on the glass.

Gaddy had improved his outside stroke by leaps and bounds over his freshman year. It will be interesting to see if that is still the case this winter. If it is, it will make the Huskies even more difficult to defend, because Gaddy is probably the third option offensively on this team going into next year. He also is good at finishing at the rim, using his 6-3 frame well, and he should average in low double-figures points per contest next year.

The number one option on offense will be Terrence Ross, the 6-6 athletic phenomenon from Portland, Oregon. Ross can score from anywhere on the floor, and often does. He gave a very good indication of what he will bring to the floor next year when he was named to the all-Pac 10 tournament's first team. With the increase in minutes he will see next year, expect him to average in the mid to upper double-figures, and probably grab 5-6 boards per game. Ross will go for 20-plus probably 10 times next year, and the Huskies should win all of those contests.

Ross will play Justin Holiday's role on defense in that he can move from defending guards and forwards interchangeably. On offense he is a MUCH better shooter than Holiday ever was.

The number two option will be two-guard C. J. Wilcox, perhaps the finest shooter that Romar has ever had. That is saying a lot when you look through the Romar era annuls of Husky basketball and see guys like Tre Simmons, Nate Robinson, and Ryan Appleby there. Wilcox has an unreal stroke and it never wavers. It always comes out of his hand looking the same. But Wilcox can create his own shot and score from medium range as well. He and Ross are similar in that way, although Ross' mindset for scoring is much more aggressive than Wilcox's.

With Gaddy's ability to break down defenses and Wroten's ability to get the ball up the floor faster than anyone (Overton included) on the current roster, Wilcox should get the ball with some great looks at the basket. Expect him to lead the Pac-12 in three-point shooting and to average 12 points per game easily.

Wilcox's defensive prowess gets overlooked. He is a VERY solid defender, and his long arms allow him to grab boards as well.

Scott Suggs can back up both Wilcox and Ross, and might be every bit as good of a shooter as Wilcox. He is a very versatile player which will assure him getting 15 to 20 minutes per contest spread between the shooting guard and swing guard/forward positions. He also grabs rebounds at a much better clip than he did as a sophomore.

That gives a rotation of Gaddy and Wroten at the point, Wilcox and Suggs at the two, Ross with more Suggs at the three, Gant and Simmons at the four, and Gant, N'Daiye, and one other in the post. The rebounds will come from N'Daiye, Gant, Simmons, and Ross, the assists from Gaddy and Wroten, the scoring from Ross, Wilcox, Gaddy, Suggs, and Gant. The stoppers on defense will be Simmons, Ross, and N'Daiye, and the three-point shooters will be Wilcox, Ross, Gant, and Suggs. Gaddy might figure there as well.

While it's harder to find the 15 points per game in the paint from that rotation, it is pretty easy to find more points in transition and from the mid-range spots. Ross and Wilcox are much more of a threat from the elbow and the baseline than Thomas was, so I'd expect IT's field goal attempts to go to them as well as Gant increasing his number of shots.

I think if N'Daiye can grab 7 boards per game and increase his minutes, and if Gant can grab 7 boards in an increased role, the rest will fall into place nicely. Where will this team finish next year in the Pac 12? I don't think you can expect them to finish ahead of either UCLA or Arizona on paper, but I would think a third place finish as a pre-season prediction might be a fair assumption.

Dawgman.com Top Stories