Suggs' return can't come too soon

Scott Suggs is returning, and for the Washington Huskies, that's a good thing. The Nevada game pretty much demonstrated everything you love and hate about this year's squad. Chalk it up to inexperience, new roles or any other rationale you can think of to explain their early struggles, but this isn't a team with a high collective basketball IQ.

Abdul Gaddy and Tony Wroten have yet to mesh when they're on the floor together and the offense just seems…off.

Not that there's any reason to throw in the towel, because they still have time to get it together. But the clock is ticking. The chances of the Pac-12 sending more than three teams to the NCAA tournament are slim to none. It's now or never, and they need a lift.

Enter Scott Suggs.

The Dawgs are suffering from a leadership void, to which Suggs could be the tonic. Simply put, this team hasn't clicked offensively, and at times, the lack of synchronization is painful to watch.

Heading into their two games this week in New York, Washington is averaging an unacceptable 16 turnovers a game. What's worse is that they tend to be glaring, obvious errors, silly forced passes and generally way too much flash with not nearly enough substance.

That's not going to get it done against Marquette and Duke, nor will it fly in what promises to be an extremely competitive conference race. That's where the presence of Suggs should immediately give the team a lift. Washington's only other senior is Darnell Gant – a player who rarely has the ball in his hands.

Watching the UW guards wheel the ball around the perimeter as they did against Nevada seems to have struck a nerve with Husky fans. The Huskies have two of the most highly touted point guards in the country – and both are afraid to attack the paint in the half court offense. They need a leader on the perimeter. Is Suggs that guy?

A typical Husky team will average 12-13 turnovers a game – 11 or less is desirable. Tony Wroten has been the biggest culprit by far, averaging 4.6 miscues in 24 minutes a game, but he isn't the only one coughing up the ball. Abdul Gaddy and Terrence Ross have had their struggles as well. Suggs will dramatically eat into the guard rotation minutes. Last season he averaged 17.6 minutes per game. When he's back at full speed, expect him to exceed 20 minutes per game, and maybe more. Those minutes have to come from somewhere, and Abdul Gaddy and Tony Wroten seem the most likely to have their minutes curtailed the way they are currently playing.

Don't expect that to be Tuesday, however – as Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar told media during a Monday teleconference that Suggs' return against Marquette would be ‘doubtful'. "One of the things that Scott as a senior will provide is the scout," Romar said. "He's not going to make mistakes on the scout, he's not going to make mistakes offensively. He's going to help you run offense, he's going to help get people in the right place defensively, and Scott is a guy that would hit big shots for us. He's also another defender with size which would help us. So there's a lot of intangible things that Scott brings to the table."

The good news is that the Huskies should mature before our eyes when Suggs returns. The 6-foot-6 senior should slide easily into the rotation, even if his season debut will most likely be against Duke. As the Dawgs' top returning shooter, Suggs brings instant firepower to a a unit that badly needs offensive leadership. The Huskies haven't used four guards sets much early on, but that should change as Romar gets creative finding ways to keep his best players on the floor. Suggs is one of those players.

Assuming Romar sticks with the same starting lineup he has all season, the bench rotation will look markedly different with Suggs' return. So far this season, Romar has subbed Wroten in for Ross just two-and-a-half minutes into the game. It has allowed at least one of either Ross or Wilcox to be on the floor at all times, but it also pulls Ross while he's just starting to get into the flow of the game. Suggs' return allows for much greater lineup flexibility. It also allows Romar to have at least two of his trio of gunners on the floor at all times - which is a good thing for a team that has misfired the way they have.

Marquette is built similarly to the Huskies. Good size, excellent athletes and a deep, backcourt, but they're also more experienced than the still-gelling Dawgs. "They are bigger than when we played them a couple years ago," Romar said. "You couple that with the way they come out fighting and they are very physical and they play very, very good defense and take care of the basketball - really good guard play. They are a very good basketball team."

What they don't possess is a dominating big man, which should play to the Huskies' strengths.

We knew going into the season that post scoring was going to be a problem, and it has been - maybe more so than anyone imagined. Simply put, Washington doesn't have a viable post scoring threat. Aziz N'Diaye, for all of the tangible benefits he brings to the floor, isn't ready to be a primary, or even secondary scoring threat. He's averaging 8.2 points and 8.7 rebounds a game, but his points are generated via put backs and hustle plays. Darnell Gant is a superb athlete, but he's primarily a jump shooter, and the same story goes for rugged freshmen Desmond Simmons.

So the message is this; the 2011-2012 Huskies are all about the wings. Accept it, embrace it and set the roof ablaze from beyond the arc. The good news is that the Huskies aren't losing because of their defense. They've had their share of mistakes, but this is a strong defensive squad for Washington overall. Thing is, if the Huskies continue to mature at their present rate, this squad has the potential to be one of the finest defensive squads in the program's history.

The bottom line is that any illusions of this team being a finished product are more like delusions: Too many role players shifting into the spotlight; too many freshmen playing key roles. Supplanting a freshmen with a senior is almost always desirable, especially when the senior is a player the caliber of Scott Suggs, a player on the verge of a breakout season despite being dealt a bad hand. We haven't seen the real Huskies yet, but they're nearly back to full strength now.

They have a golden opportunity to turn the season around on one of the biggest basketball stages on the planet - just like Maui last season. A shiny performance in New York – the biggest sports hub on earth – will do wonders for their-post season chances.

We'll see.




Lorenzo Romar Quotes:
On what he learned from the Nevada game - "The thing that has been a challenge for us is to continue to try and stay together and stick with what we're doing offensively and remember what we're doing offensively. When I say that I don't mean we necessarily forget all the time, but when there's a lot of pressure and someone gets physical with us, we tend to get away from what we're supposed to be doing offensively. So that will be a big challenge. We have to get back in transition, because they are a very, very good…explosive offensive team, and they push the ball up the floor very well."

On if he thought they were better against Nevada than St. Louis - "I thought our effort was better. I thought we did some good things. The bottom line is - you can point to a lot of things, but we didn't play very smart down the stretch. In the second half we were up 10 at one time, we're up 9, we're up 8, and I thought that was a pivotal time in the game where we should have done a better job of extending that lead and distancing ourselves from Nevada. But we didn't. We couldn't get the shot to go down for us at times, and they hit some big shots - they hit some big shots to get them back into that game, and they did what they had to do to win that game."

On hitting teams in the mouth first instead of getting punched - "That's something we talk about. And in both games on the road so far…St. Louis came out and did the same thing…once we got our bearings we punched back and did a much better job. Kind of the same thing with Nevada - once we got our bearings we punched back and we were fine. We can't wait so long for that to happen."

On defending Darius Johnson-Odom - "It's a tall task. No one has defended him yet in the other games they've played. His shooting is so much better. He wasn't as good a shooter, in my opinion when we played against him a couple of years ago. Now he knocks down all those open shots. He's so quick with the basketball, so durable and so aggressive - he's a tough, tough cover. So several guys will attempt to slow him down, but it won't be an easy job at all."

On the schedule and wondering what they'v done - "As I look at our schedule and I look at what's taken place thus far - if my glass is half-empty, then we'll say wow! What are we doing? All these road games away from home. If my glass is half-full, which it always is, I look at it as great, great preparation for going into our conference. I already feel ilke we made progress from the first road game to the second, and we'll see what happens against Marquette tomorrow. But I feel like with this team it'll help us down the road."

On the team and going to Ground Zero - "I thought they really enjoyed going to see the memorial for 911. All of them had their cameras out and took pictures and took notes and asked a lot of questions. They were really into it. So far after being here a day, I think our guys have really enjoyed their time here."

On defending Marquette - "They do a good job of creating space to allow drives. Their post players get the ball to keep you honest. They really space you. They've got players that space you, yet at the same time they can put the ball on the floor and drive you. We've talked to our team quite a bit about containing the dribble and keeping people in front of you. If we can get our defense set, meaning they don't run out on transition and get easy looks and uncontested shots…if we can set our defense and make them run their offense - then we have to keep them in front of us. If we do that, our potential for being successful will go way up."

On the health of the team - "Everyone is fine. Right now, Scott Suggs is still out, but hopeful. We would think this week sometime he would be ready to go. The game against Marquette he's probably doubtful."

On Wroten tweeting that he has a good feeling about the NYC games - "If he says he has a good feeling, I take that as a positive. I would hope the rest of the team feels the same way that he does."

On getting Wroten so that he's not turning the ball over as much - "Tony Wroten has pretty much had his way on the basketball court his entire life. I think the last couple of road games, he's played against defenses he's never played against before. I don't care who it is, there's an adjustment period when that happens. He's an ambitious, proud young man and I think we'll continue to see him make adjustments and realize what he can and cannot do on the floor. The thing with Tony is - when that happens it's hard not to concentrate on the turnovers, but then again, as a freshman he's our third leading scorer, I think he leads us in steals and he's third or fourth in rebounding…he just does a lot out there on the basketball floor. You put him out there knowing he'll get the other part right and then he's really, really going to impact the positive side."

On defending Jae Crowder - "I think he's the most difficult matchup that we've faced up to this point in the season. Someone with that size and that versatility is a difficult cover. He does a lot of things defensively. He's kind of out there like a linebacker…he's pressing sometimes, he switches on ball screens, he plays ball screens several different ways…just very, very versatile. He's a hard guy to deal with."

On if he got a chance to watch Marquette's win at Wisconsin - "If you play Wisconsin anywhere, it's a difficult to win. If you play then on their home floor, it's almost impossible to win. But Marquette went in there and I thought controlled the game. It was really impressive without their starting point guard. It was as impressive a win as I've seen this year."

On the honor of playing in the Jimmy V Classic - "Not everyone gets to play in it. I think you have to have some kind of a positive resume to be able to participate in this game, so that's great on that end to be complimented to play…but for what it represents, who Jimmy V was and what he stood for when he passed and how much money has been raised for cancer…and how everyone has had someone really close to them that they know be affected by this wicked disease. And here we are, being a big part of that, trying to help the whole fight against cancer situation. So it's an honor to be able to play in this, to try and help find a cure, but also with Jimmy V's name on it."




Marquette Head Coach Buzz Williams Quotes:

On Washington - "They are really good. They are really, really, really good. They are the tenth-fastest team in the county; they have six guys that average nine points or more; they have four future NBA draft picks…unbelievably talented. They are playing for coach Romar's 200th win. Statistically they do some astonishing things offensively. They've been in New York two days…we're the matinee game before their game against Duke, it was planned that way. They'll be chomping at the bit, I assume, to play us."

On playing in the Jimmy V Classic - "We're humbled - not because it's on TV or anything like that…we're humbled that the Jimmy V Foundation would even ask us to do it. I've gotten to know some of those people within that organization…coach Valvano's brother, and Dick Vitale is very involved with the things that he does to support that…so we're thankful just to be a part of it. Relative to the media and all the things that cover it, that's secondary relative to the importance of what the actual event is for."

On defending Washington - "Washington plays really fast. They play a lot faster than we do…played the slowest team in the country on Sunday on the road, and we'll play the tenth-fastest team in the country at the world's most famous arena 72 hours later. So it's definitely a distinct change. I think that the key…you know so much is talked about pace, and I think that's important. Maybe what should be talked about just as much is the discipline required to be successful at executing regardless of the pace involved. Wisconsin was averaging 56 possessions a game going into the game, and they played a 72-possession game against us - by far the fastest they had ever played this year. So pace is definitely a factor, but I think it's the discipline involved to execute regardless of pace that you have to have to be a really good team."


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