This will become a weekly look at UW basketball that we'll run in the Monday paper. Here's an early look:
The Huskies (9-5 overall, 0-1 Pacific-10 Conference) split, routing Idaho State, 82-50, before opening Pac-10 play with a competitive but painful loss to Washington State, 56-52. The Huskies ended nonconference play with a five-game winning streak, but it is more significant that they have started conference play with a home loss.
SOMETHING TO BUILD ON
The Huskies seem to have successfully transformed themselves into a solid defensive team. That was coach Lorenzo Romar's plan after an embarrassing loss Dec. 1 at Oklahoma State, and it says something that Washington almost beat the Cougs at their own game. Senior guard Tim Morris has become a key contributor on both ends.
SOMETHING TO WORK ON
The Huskies are shooting only .595 from the free-throw line, and key misses cost them more than they could afford against the Cougars. Ryan Appleby is deadly when open, but he had trouble getting an open look Saturday. Opponents are blocking almost twice as many UW shots as vice versa. Freshman contributions are negligible.
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THE WEEK AHEAD
Things don't get any easier as the Huskies hit the road to face UCLA on Thursday and Southern California on Saturday. The Huskies were swept on this trip last season, and if that happens again it will put them in a quick 0-3 hole in conference play. However, UW won its last road game – at Louisiana State ¬– which could add confidence.
The Huskies' RPI is estimated at around 115, which likely isn't good enough for any postseason tournament, and certainly not the NCAA. Washington's best chance for the big dance is to finish in the top half of the Pac-10 standings, and the Huskies can give themselves a nice start by managing at least one win on their coming road trip.