The rise of the Washington Huskies
Behind Thomas and Bryan-Amaning, this could be the best offensive team in America
For a while now the conventional wisdom on the Pac-10 has been that it is "down."
Whether it's because the NBA keeps raiding the conference and taking away its most talented freshmen and sophomores, the fact that the league's seen an unusual amount of coaching turnover in recent years, bad luck, or all of the above, the Pac-10 received just two NCAA tournament bids last year. That's not how major conferences are supposed to operate.
True, one of those bids last year went to Washington, and the Huskies did make it to the Sweet 16 before falling to eventual Final Four participant West Virginia. But with the loss of their best player, Quincy Pondexter, and near-misses on two nearby McDonald's All-Americans (Portland product Terrence Jones chose to play for John Calipari at Kentucky; Kent, Wash., native Joshua Smith took his act down the coast to UCLA), expectations were relatively modest for Lorenzo Romar's team coming into 2010-11. Washington was ranked No. 17 in the preseason ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll.
It may be time to revisit those expectations. It's still early, of course, but at the moment the 12-3 Huskies are treating the Pac-10 like their plaything, outscoring league opponents by a dominant 0.23 points per possession. (Quick comparison: Duke last year outscored the ACC by 0.18 points per trip on their way to an eventual national title.) At 4-0, Washington is already the only unbeaten team in Pac-10 play. And while Duke's loss at Florida State this week amply demonstrates that no team is invincible, you shouldn't hold your breath waiting for the Huskies to fall out of first place in the Pac-10. They might be there a while. Here's why:
This may be the best offense in the country.
Ordinarily, turnovers and offensive rebounds are a "pick your poison" duo. Teams that are great at taking care of the ball (Wisconsin, BYU) tend to be not very good on the offensive glass. Conversely, teams that are great at rebounding their own misses (Kansas State, Texas A&M) tend to be not very good at holding onto the rock.
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John Gasaway's 'Poll Position'
John Gasaway has written for Basketball Prospectus since its inception in 2007. His college hoops commentary appears weekly on ESPN Insider. John's writing has also appeared at SportsIllustrated.com, as well as in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Playboy.