Pretty, or pretty ugly?

Washington hoops fans, I have to pose a question: Has there ever been a Husky team more entertaining, yet so excruciatingly frustrating to watch? So obviously talented, yet painfully flawed? With just a month remaining for this season, are we any closer to figuring this team out than we were after opening weekend?

When the Huskies are hot, they're scorching. They are dynamite in a bottle, TNT capable of rattling off a 10-point scoring swing in the blink of an eye. Few teams in the country are more enjoyable to watch than Washington when everything is clicking, every bit Lorenzo Romar's vision of an athletically versatile lineup creating havoc on the defensive end, blazing up and down the floor leaving opponents in their wake.

And when that's happening, there isn't a fan in the building left unsatisfied. We saw it against Cal and Stanford, and more recently against Seattle University and the second half of the Washington State game, when the Huskies turned a four-point halftime deficit into a 28 point rout.

On the right night, Hec Ed becomes a frenzied sea of controlled chaos, equaled by only a handful of basketball arenas on earth. Husky players talk about feeding off the fans' energy. It isn't lip service. Dawg fans can legitimately claim influence on the outcome on the floor. The ringing in your ears after the game should tell you everything you want to know, but if you need more convincing, look at their home/road record. The disparity between the two is all the evidence you'll need.

This may come as a news flash to the more casual fans, but Washington is a team that only has one gear. Flashing up and down the court at breakneck speed, they are nearly unstoppable. Forced to slow it down, or manage a late lead? Well, that's another matter entirely and potentially a deal-breaker with regard to their NCAA tournament chances, if the first half of Pac-10 play is any indication.

So the flip side is this: When they don't have it, they really don't have it. There are penguins in the arctic that wouldn't trade places with some Husky players on an off night, or even an off half. You've heard of the imaginary lid on the bucket? It isn't imaginary with this team. Not on some nights, anyway. Amazingly, it isn't limited to field goal attempts either, often carrying over to the free throw line.

And it can be infectious. Between UW and Arizona Thursday night, they were 17-32 from the stripe, with one team making nine and the other eight. No team with post-season ambitions is going to live long doing that.

But just like they did against the 'Cats, as well as WSU, the energy level soars, the fog lifts, the lights come on, and a first half deficit is erased in what feels like seconds. Nobody catches fire like these Huskies. And they're the most dangerous team in the conference because of it. It isn't close. It's actually possible to observe opposing players wilt in sheer frustration when the Huskies are defending to their capability. But that only happens in their house, which again causes UW fans to want to yank their hair out. Watching a Huskies game can be brilliant and maddening at the same time, in equal parts.

With all that said, they're just a heartbeat out of first place in a wide open Pac-10. And there's no doubt they've got the talent to bring a second conference title in a row back to Seattle, and to do it convincingly.

The real question is - which UW team will show up during this nightly reproduction of Jekyll and Hyde?

Watching this team rise and fall is like watching a broker on the floor of the NYSE. It's become exhausting work covering these guys; at times bewildering and confounding, yet totally engrossing. The fans are feeling it too, if the message boards are any indication. Yes Dawg fans, we're all confused together. There's no point trying to predict how the second half is going to go. The way they've played on the road so far, they could finish under .500 for all I know.

But they could also win every single game.


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