I received an email from in which the writer outlines a few things still concerning him as the Huskies head into the second half of the Pac-10 race.
I thought it was interesting and might also lend to a decent conversation from some of you about any worries you have about the Huskies hanging on over the next nine games.
Here's Sam's email, which I'm putting on the blog with his permission:
I'm so stoked with the way this season is playing out and how this team is playing. The excitement and intensity that this team generates is awesome and really reminds me of the Nate and BRoy days.
Any team has areas of improvement no matter how elite they are, including teams like Duke, UNC, Pitt, etc. UW has weaknesses and areas to improve upon as well. I'm not going to nit-pick every little thing that UW could improve on. Any critic could sit here and say that UW needs to improve FT shooting, improve 3-point shooting, reduce turnovers, blah, blah, and so on.
UW plays tough, they play intense, they play quick, they play together (Zona game was the exception)...The facets of their game that I see potentially biting them in the butt later are:
Coming out slow, a bit lackadaisical and lacking aggressiveness and intensity from the tip-off. If I remember correctly, every one of their conference games have been pretty close (score) at half time, and in most of those games UW started the game a bit groggy. I'm not saying they have to go into half-time with a monster lead, but they don't seem to have the hustle and intensity and focus that they have in the 2nd half. The opposing team seems to really ratchet up their play and have a good game plan to throw off UW's rhythm and energy from the tip-off. UW then makes half time adjustments and plays a very intense, focused, energetic 2nd half, coming out like banshees and really taking it to the other team. The reason this is a concern to me is because on the road, or in post-season play, UW really cannot afford to come out slow at the start of the game. Giving the edge to their opponent or being too cautious or lackadaisical in the beginning could really put them in a hole that's tough to dig out of, especially on the road or against tournament quality opponents.
Playing focused and with energy and intensity towards the end of games. Against Cal, USC, Stanford and UCLA, I believe that towards the end of the game, UW started to lose focus and played a little sloppy, resulting in careless turnovers and/or the opponent closing the gap a bit with the score. This has been addressed by some players and coaches, but I'd definitely like to see this factor shored up. Again, it'll be a concern on the road and/or against post-season type opponents. Can't give the opponent any signs of life or any hint of momentum at the end of games.
These are areas of UW's game I'd love to see shored up more than anything. I'm really not that concerned about FT shooting or turnovers or other little things because I think we have the type of players to keep those things in control. And the potentially good thing is that these are mental factors, not so much physical. It's just an adjustment in mindset more than anything. If it hasn't already been brought up, could you address these things with the coaches and players?
I haven't really noticed UW coming out slow very much. I think some of the reason they may play better in second halves is because they're deeper than a lot of Pac-10 teams and play at a pace a lot of Pac-10 teams aren't used to and cant' match for 40 mintes.
As for free throws and outside shooting, I saw those as problem areas going into the season, but much less now.
Other than injuries, I think the biggest challenge might just be the turn of the schedule. And even that's not much. The Huskies actually play five of the final nine at home, so in that way the schedule turns in their favor. However, four of the next six are on the road. And the flips from the first half don't work in the Huskies favor.
At home, UW went went into triple-overtime against Cal and beat Stanford by a point. So, losing home court seems problematic, even though neither the Bears nor Cardinal has played especially well since their Seattle vists.
Then come the Oregon schools, and since UW swept on the road, there's no way to improve on that.
And then comes the visit to the LA schools, and even a split there would seem pretty ambitious despite sweeping at home.