1. You're statistically in the middle of pack offensively despite an impressive collection of athletes. What are the principles of Romar's offense and what's holding you back from being elite?
BK: Right now, the principles of his offense are really unclear. The first principle used to be to get out in transition and let the athletes win, but the team hasn't quite done that this season for whatever reason despite having some athletes and having a very small lineup.
The average pace has led to more half-court sets that mold the high post offense and the motion. Within those sets, the two main principles have been get the ball down low and get C.J. Wilcox his shots. It might be the reason that Andrew Andrews (UW fans are more frustrated with him than Gaddy, or at least I am) takes so many early-in-the-clock bad shots; he doesn't see himself as a priority so he forces himself to get shot attempts.
EE: Romar has gone to a high-post offense, attempting to emulate the great UCLA teams of the Wooden era. Unfortunately, the Huskies don't have the best posts to run a high post offense. While are guards have been solid, the big men haven't been able to step up and provide consistent scoring, which is keeping the Huskies from being "elite."
2. Your program is slightly down in the last two years. Is it mostly recruiting driven or is something else at play?
BK: Recruiting, more than anything. Romar went after highly-touted recruits like Aaron Gordon and lost, and it has led to settling for lesser players. UW has done well developing talent (despite the false idea that Romar just throws athletes out there) and losing players to develop over the several seasons that he pursued top talent really hurt. Misses in the form of Hikeem Stewart, Martin Breunig and, to this point, Gilles Dierickx have hurt. That could be recruiting or scouting, depending on how you want to put it.
EE: I would say it has a lot to do with recruiting. Some high-profile players showed interest in the UW and Romar put all his efforts into them. When guys like Aaron Gordon, Jabari Parker, or Jabari Bird say they have a high interest in UW, you have to recruit them hard, but unfortunately they all decided to go different ways. Romar has said he has changed his recruiting process and I think it will pay off in the long run.
3. You've especially struggled of late, losing 3 in a row (including a blowout at CU). What's changed over the past 3 games, and is UW ready to snap out of this funk?
BK: The Huskies played on the road for one, which is something UW has had issues with the past few seasons. Second, the defense has just been bad. Washington seems to really be struggling with the new rule changes. Husky Defenders are left in the dust way too often. Without any rim protection, there is nothing that stops opponents from racking up the baskets inside. This was always a problem, but it has been exacerbated late, as has the lack of options offensively outside of Wilcox.
EE: UW struggled on both ends of the court during their losing streak. Defensively, the Huskies looked a step slow. They failed to keep players out of the lane, were slow to loose balls and rebounds, and could never put together a complete effort. Offensively no one was able to complement Wilcox or Williams-Goss. It's hard to win games when only two players are consistently scoring.
4. What's the key to slowing down C.J. Wilcox? Does UW have enough firepower to pick up the slack if he's off his game?
BK: The key to slowing down Wilcox is to not let him get the ball. He has a hair trigger and needs very little space. Also, in addition to his shooting, he has developed a nice handle and can get into the lane decently well. Deny, deny, deny, and if he does get the ball, already be in his face. If he is off, then the only hope for the Huskies would be that Nigel Williams-Goss had a strong night of Andrews decided to make good decisions.
EE: I think the key to stopping Wilcox is to make sure you have a hand in his face on every shot. When Wilcox has been able to get hot, it usually starts with him getting a few wide open looks or some free throws. Once he gets going he is extremely hard to stop so Cal will have to make every shot difficult and not let him get on any streaks.
11/14/2013 UC Irvine vs Washington Men's Basketball Highlights (via XOSSports)
5. Last time these teams met, UW really struggled defensively, especially finding shooters. Do you see this game playing out differently - and if so, why?
BK: I really don't know if this game will play out differently. I don't think that Cal will make over half of their threes again. Washington just tends to play better at home, which will make a difference on its own. That game was the absolute worst that the defense had played. Against Colorado, the team as a whole was at its worst, but the defensive effort against the Bears was the worst defense that the Huskies have played this year. The D will be better by the fact that it couldn't be worse.
EE: I think this game will be played out differently because the Huskies are at home, and they always play with a higher energy at home. Cal has a lot of players who can score so the Huskies will have their hands full, but the home town crowd always brings out their best. Cal is easily the more talented team and while I think they will win, it will be a lot closer than last their last matchup in Berkeley.
6. Who's the most disruptive defender that Cal should be aware of?
BK: Last time I raved about Mike Anderson, but now I have to talk about Desmond Simmons. He doesn't help the offense much aside from being able to occasionally hit completely wide-open threes. Defensively, he is a good pick-dodger, the best help-defender on the team and his hustle for loose balls is better than even Anderson's.
EE: I wouldn't necessarily call him disruptive but I think Cal fans should watch for Desmond Simmons on defense. He plays with a junkyard dog mentality that has been a staple of Romar teams in the past. He doesn't jump out of the gym or have hulk strength but he seems to always be in the right spot at the right time, as we saw against Stanford, when he took the game winning charge. Unlike some of the players for UW, Simmons just gets it at the defensive end.
7. Who's 1 under the radar player that could hurt Cal if we're not careful?
BK: You guys know about NWG and Wilcox. Andrews has the ability to get hot but you will probably end up liking how he plays because he will end up benefiting Cal with piss-poor defense and questionable shot selection. Still, if the defense isn't careful, he could end up slashing through the lane and pushing the ball in transition to get easy baskets.
EE: I think if Cal is not careful then Mike Anderson could really hurt them. Anderson started the year as a defensive stopper but his offensive game has been evolving more and more as the season goes on. Obviously the Bears focus will be on Wilcox and Williams-Goss so Anderson should have plenty of opportunities, it's just whether he will be able to take advantage.
8. If Washington is going to win, what 3 things have to go right?
BK: C.J. Wilcox needs to hit some shots. The defense needs to not be a turnstile on the perimeter and one of Andrew Andrews and Nigel Williams-Goss will need to have a 15-point, 4-assist night.
EE: If Washington wins they will have to win the turnover battle, hold Cal to one shot per possession, and knock down some 3-pointers. The Huskies have gotten stronger in the front court but they will need to keep Soloman and Kravish from second chance opportunities. Especially if Cal is able to knock down shots from the outside they can give up extra looks for easy buckets. Offensively the Huskies will need to make some outside shots, which they failed to do much of during their losing streak.
9. Is there any discontent in the fanbase about Romar's performance? Any risk he doesn't make it past this year?
BK: While there are some grumblings, he is completely safe for this year. Unless things totally blow up in his face in the coming seasons, he could be safe for life at UW.
EE: There may be discontent about Romar but I don't think it's necessary. While we have struggled the last few years, he has built a solid young nucleus, and with a new recruiting approach will have the UW back in the tournament before you know it. I would say there is a 99.9% chance he is back next season.
10. I'm traveling to Seattle every week for work and I'm hoping to check out the UW campus. What do I absolutely have to check out if I make it up there?
BK: Don't ask me, I don't attend nor did I attend. Just leave this one out for me.
EE: I can only pick one thing? Wow, there is a lot to see at the UW but if I can only pick one I would say the Suzzalo Library. Suzzalo makes you feel like you're in Harry Potter, its such a sight to see and easily the coolest library you will ever go to. If you're limited to just one thing to see at UW definitely check it out.