2010 Q and A, Part One

With basketball looming on the horizon, Dawgman.com's Head of Hoops - Aaron Beach - took some time to answer questions about this year's Husky team, as well as the Pac-10, the upcoming schedule and the Hoop Dawgs' chances for more success in the post-season. This is Part One in the series.

Is the Pac-10 really as down as people are saying?

Yes and no. Anytime you don't have Arizona or UCLA projected amongst the top teams in the conference, the national media aren't going to give the Pac-10 much respect. UW and Cal are legitimate top-25 teams, but after that things get murky, with both UCLA and Arizona fielding extremely young squads. Until last season, the conference had been on an prolonged run of success, often with three or four top-10 worthy squads. A downturn was inevitable, especially with the sheer amount of NBA talent defecting from Pac-10 rosters. It's probably not going to be as bad as people think, but there's no doubt the conference is in for a down year.

Do you think the overall schedule seems a little soft?

It isn't great. There aren't a lot of creampuffs on their non-conference schedule, but there aren't many glamorous opponents either, and a weak Pac-10 doesn't help much. The late addition of Georgetown to the schedule adds some needed name recognition, but there still doesn't appear to be a top-25 team other than Cal on the docket. That's going to hurt come seeding time.

Where do you see the Huskies being ranked at the end of the season?

They should be up there. Their non-conference schedule leaves a lot to be desired, especially after getting the shaft in the Pac-10/Big-12 challenge draw. The Pac-10 slate isn't much better. The Huskies could be in a position similar to that of Memphis last season. The Tigers ended the season with a fabulous regular season record and a lofty ranking, but were untested heading into the tourney. Cal is in a similar predicament. That's not to say UW wouldn't be deserving of a high ranking – only that their schedule could artificially inflate the perception of them nationally before they've had an opportunity to prove themselves.

Are the Huskies good enough to get beyond the Sweet Sixteen?

They've certainly got the guards for it, but for Washington to have a shot at a deep tournament run, Mathew Bryan-Amaning or Tyreese Breshers is going to have to emerge as an impact player – probably both. At present, the Huskies don't appear to have the bulk to match up with the massive front courts of teams like Kansas, Kentucky, Texas and North Carolina. How they handle Georgetown sophomore center Greg Monroe in December should give some indication of how they might match up against those marquee programs down the road, if they get that chance.

When Will Tyreese Breshers be available to play? How does he look?

Tyrese played his first full week of pick-up ball last week. He's still not 100 percent, and there isn't any way of knowing when he'll be back to full strength, but he's healthy enough to play in games. He is admittedly rusty - two years of healing on the bench will have that effect, and he isn't accustomed to the up and down nature of Washington's system. Head Coach Lorenzo Romar was unabashed in his praise of Tyreese on media day, and made it fairly clear he expects big things from Breshers this season.

Has Darnell Gant really put on as much weight as people are saying? Will the additional weight slow him down? Have his offensive skills improved?

Without the benefit of weighing him in person, he definitely looks more muscular. He wasn't noticeably slower during the open gym sessions, though a minor groin injury slowed him during the first half of the off-season. The added muscle clearly had an effect on his ability to bang down low, and it should pay major dividends defensively. Coach Romar emphasized that he isn't a typical back-to-the-basket post and that he's much more of a face-up, jump-shooting forward offensively. We saw him begin to hit his mid-range jumper halfway though last season, and I expect we'll see him hit it with more consistency this year.

With all of the publicity that Isaiah Thomas, Venoy Overton and Abdul Gaddy have received, where does Elston Turner fit? It seems like he's being forgotten.

If fans are sleeping on Elston, the coaching staff certainly isn't. Elston averaged 21 minutes per game for the Huskies in the NCAA tournament. That's six more minutes per game than Overton earned and a pretty good indication of how highly Elston is thought of. Had he not endured an ankle injury before the start of conference play, we may have been talking about Turner as a member of the Pac-10 All Freshman team. During the offseason, his offensive skills have become more well rounded: He's putting the ball on the floor and has developed a nasty pump fake to accompany his deadly 3-point shooting. He'll play a major role this season as one of the first players off the bench.

How Good is CJ Wilcox? Is he going to redshirt?

He's pretty darn good. I've raved about his shooting skills since the day he arrived. Truth be told, he's easily the best shooter I've seen enter the program in my four years covering the team, and it isn't really close. Despite the "shooter" label, he's actually a very well-rounded basketball player. He's an excellent athlete, and at 6-foot-6 he possesses a high skill level and sees the floor very well. He's proven nothing yet though, but from everything I've seen he's going to be a special player

As for redshirting, he's planning on evaluating his situation over the next month of practice, and will make his decision shortly before the start of the season.


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