Overrated or Underachieving?

The enigma that is the 2009-2010 Washington Huskies men's basketball team seems all too easy to dismiss as one of those Jekyll-and-Hyde tales. While's it's a fair assumption to make, it is also a far too convenient take. What has to be asked is, WHY? Why the teeming schizophrenia, especially on the road?

It isn't so much that they don't know how to win on the road. Lots of teams have road troubles, lots of good teams. It is said that if you take care of business at home and go .500 on the road, it's a cakewalk to March Madness. Splitting the travel spoils is a good thing for most teams as long as they keep the cheez-whiz stocked at home. What it means is that most seasons you're going to lose at least half of your conference road games, unless you're John Wooden's Bruins.

8-1 at home and 4-6 on the road makes for a 12-7 conference season. Going 10-2 in a non-conference schedule softened by some home-cooking and you're looking at 22-9 – in most years, an invite to The Dance.

With that in mind, I contend that it's not so much that the Huskies don't know how to win on the road. It's that they don't know how to lose. That's the enigma.

Case in point: Texas Tech. A couple of missed free throws late in a tough OT loss – UW's first loss of the season - and Washington comes up flat against CS-Northridge and lays an egg on national TV against Georgetown. One loss compounded to two.

Case in point: Oregon. Granted that the Huskies didn't play their best defense, but it has to be said that the Ducks played by far their best basketball of the season in a 90-79 upset win – UW's first conference loss and the end of a nice home winning streak. Things like that will happen to every team in the country. So what does Washington do? They follow it up by dispensing two more avian embryos in Arizona. One loss compounded to three.

Case in point: UCLA. Here, Washington isn't playing their best ball, a bit desperate in wanting to end the road losing streak, but they're playing hard and hanging in with an angry UCLA. Venoy Overton finishes a clutch, highlight drive with three seconds left to put the Huskies in front, and then they fall to their collective knees as Mustafa Abdul-Hamid hits a softly-defended jumper for the Bruins at the last nanosecond. Does Washington rally up and take it out on USC the next game? Nope. They start out playing their brand of trapping, hurry-up basketball for about three minutes, which was heartening; and then just as disheartening back down readily when USC threw the first punch during a 13-point spurt. Pop goes another chicken ovulation.

You get the picture.

It looks as if this year's Husky team set some really lofty goals for themselves in November, and has reacted despairingly to every pothole they've hit. Instead of simply kwik-creteing the damage and moving on, they stare forlornly from the pit mourning the goal that just went by the boards. They exacerbate a defeat instead of forgetting it.

Some say that Washington is overrated this year, but I disagree - it's clear from some of performances we've seen at home that this team is VERY good when it wants to be. The games against Portland, Texas A&M and California prove that they've got talent and athleticism that exceeds pretty much everyone in the PAC-10, and would make them highly rated if they did it week-in and week-out.

In those games, the Huskies were out there having FUN and playing with abandon – a subject that Overton hinted might be missing after the Trojan debacle.

This team needs to stop being so worried about the long-term. They have to stop putting themselves under a microscope with every mishap. They can't be looking at the scoreboard, or at the standings, or even who they're playing when they step on the floor. Forget what's happened yesterday, forget what's happened so far this season – none of it can be changed now.

Simply put, the Washington Huskies have to start having FUN again. Move, trap, transition, score, make the floor sing. Step off the floor after and see if the endeavor was a success. Then go out and do it all again. Each and every practice, each and every game, each and every day. Short-term memories, fellas.

For the more fun and abandon this band of Washington Huskies returns to on the court, the more this band of Washington Huskies can still achieve.

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