With the Washington men's basketball team beginning Pac-12 play -- and with football season in the books -- our coverage on this blog will include a lot more basketball stuff going forward. We'll still pass along any pertinent football news or notes, but it's time to switch gears as January is upon us.
UW coach Lorenzo Romar met with reporters today to preview the Huskies' trip to Arizona State and Arizona this weekend. Here's what he had to say ...
(Challenges that Arizona State presents are what?) "Kind of the big and the small of it, and everything else in between. Obviously, Jahii Carson is a dynamite point guard. He scored 34 in this building last year so we know what he's capable of doing. The thing that impressed me last year about Jahii is that he came in last year with a reputation as a scoring point guard and he is certainly capable of it, but he does a good job of distributing the ball as well. He's averaging close to six assists a game, and he's just not coming down and shooting the ball every time it touches his hands. It's in his hands the whole game. So he's really impressive. When you have someone who can score the ball and distribute like he does and is so quick to get in the lane and create havoc, he's a tough cover.
“And then (Jordan) Bachynski down low, there's a reason they are doing a good job defensively. He really protects the rim. He really protects it. This year -- you could see it coming the last couple of years -- but I think this year he's gotten to a point where they throw him the ball, and he's going to get something positive out of it. He's averaging close to 13 points a game and with those guys they have other players that are really good at shooting and scoring. (Jermaine) Marshall is a good scorer. (Jonathan) Gilling has torched us from three. Shaq (McKissic), who is from here, is playing a lot better right now."
(Can you take away something and live with giving them something else?) "Yeah, I think every team has said something about what they are going to take away, probably starting with Jahii, but it doesn't work out very well for most. We have some things that we're talking about as a team to try and limit their productivity offensively."
(Will new defensive schemes help?) "We certainly hope so. We'll find out, that's for sure. Again, mainly Jahii and a couple of other guys really get in there and pose problems for you."
(When the Pac-12 schedule came out, what was your first impression?) "I didn't see it as much as the great games as much as a 'wow, we have a similar situation as last year.'" If I remember, we were five of seven on the road last year in the beginning and we're four of six on the road this year. So, that's the first thing that hit me when I saw the schedule."
(Immediate measure?) "I think ArizonaState is comparable to teams we've played on our schedule, but I don't think we've played anyone that's at the level of Arizona. So those two games, we're not playing anybody worse than what we've played. ArizonaState is just as good or better. ArizonaState, we're really impressed with Arizona State. They just have so many weapons out there, but in terms of a measuring stick I don't know. I don't know if I see it that way. When conference hits to me all that stuff is out the window. It's trying to win games. Trying to be your best at that point."
(Scouting?) "You can see how teams go out and play. The way Arizona State is playing right now, you look at their games, you look at their schedule, you look at their scores, the way they're going about their business, they're a good basketball team. It's plain and simple. There's just no way around it. I don't think their preseason schedule was fool's good. I think it was legit. The games they won, 10-2 or something like that, it's legit. They're good."
(Most difficult trip in the conference?) "I don't know. I was just talking to another Pac-12 coach about that. Boy, there are some doozies out there. You can't discount Utah and Colorado. Just both of those places are hard to play. You cannot discount the Bay Area. I don't know. There are some tough trips out there."
(Fortunate to not have to deal with Arizona and ASU not outside the official trip?) "I don't know. I hadn't really looked into it that way. Again, the thing that I did notice is the first few games was how many we were playing on the road right of the bat."
(Does that set up well?) "It could. We'll find out. Last year, we handled it pretty good. We started out 4-0. We won our first three on the road, then not so good after that. This is a new year, though."
(Thoughts on unbalanced schedule?) "Everybody has to do it. Who can predict what year, just say you had the number one and number two teams in the country are on one trip and that year, you only have to go there once. Well obviously you caught a break there. But next year the two worst teams would be the ones you play twice. I think all that evens out."
(Question about Wednesday, Sunday games) "Some of them. Last year it didn't hit me until we went through a string of those. Like, 'wow we're playing another one at 8:30? Then we're playing another one at five in the morning? In Berlin? That's the fifth week in a row that we've done that.' It caught me as we were going through it. This year I haven't noticed it as much so far. And I looked across the schedule. I didn't see as much, but maybe it hits us later depending on how the season goes.”
(Is Desmond going to play more?) "I think Desmond at this point, here's another week, each week is huge when you're coming back from arthroscopic surgery. I think we're probably there. As the game presents itself, he could get more minutes. It's one of those if Desmond doesn't play in that game, I don't know what the outcome might have been. He helped us. He helped us on defense. He helped us on the boards. He hit a couple of big shots. He was seven of eight from the free throw line. He helped us.”
(Thoughts on guarding big guys?) "When you say a guy like Bachynski, it depends. When a guy his size and effective around the basket, you just have to fight tooth and nail to not let him get as close to the basket as he would like. Try to make him a little uncomfortable some kind of way. Some others would opt to double him, double team him. The thing with them is they shoot the ball so well everywhere you have to kind of pick your poison on that one."
(Do you look back at how you guarded bigger players to prepare for ASU?) “That has been a little bit of an issue for us so far when we’ve played the taller opponents. But again, I do think our defense is a little different now than before. Hopefully we can have more success.”
(Evaluate the defense the past couple games?) “UConn, when we were dialed in and we were all on the same page, I thought our defense was really good. I thought it was exceptional. As we began to lose focus a little bit, now instead of being here on defense, we’re kind of here as the game goes on, which is what we have to get better at. Our defense wasn’t as good. In the Hartford game, some of the same things. The Hartford game was interesting. They come out, they hit a 3, legitimate 3, we were kind of scrambling around the basket, guy drove, lost the ball a little bit, hit a guy for a 3. they ran a play with their two bigs where they screened for the other big. Bigs aren’t used to switching. We covered that but we didn’t react quick enough, they hit one. It was more … I don’t want to say negligence. That would be too strong of a word. But just at times we were a little off. In the second half they drove us. Sikma did a good job of driving to the basket. I still think when we’re focused and we’re down, our defense is a whole lot better than it was. … All in all I just think we’re better. We’re doing a better job.”
(Who has stepped up defensively?) “I think there are a number of guys that have stepped up because we’re able to help them. I think Mike Anderson was already playing pretty good defense. C.J. Wilcox has been better. Nigel. Andrew. There have been several guys. We wouldn’t be better defensively if just one guy had stepped up. There have been multiple guys that have stepped up and done a better job on the defensive end.”
(Advantages and disadvantages of four-guard lineup?) “The disadvantages are two – one is protecting the rim, people are driving. And when someone has size, sometimes you can do all you want, they throw over the top, you can’t reach up there. But then offensively, either totally that fourth guard has to play the big spot, either totally him getting it, him playing one spot, because it’s hard to master both, or we change how we play offensively when we go in a four-guard lineup. Just we do something entirely different when we spread the floor. That’s probably the disadvantage to it. The advantage is your quickness. We remember playing against UCLA last year when Kyle Anderson was playing the four spot, and we had to go over and over again in practice, how are we going to defend when he’s bringing the ball in transition, because that doesn’t happen a lot where a big guy brings the ball in transition, and Mike Anderson gives us that luxury when he’s in and we have four guards, because he’s bringing it in transition a lot of times and it’s just a lot of space and room for him to operate.”
(Any thought to Desmond Simmons starting?) “That could be a possibility as we move on, as we progress. That could be a possibility.”
(What did you see from Mike Anderson that you liked in JC?) “Just he does a little bit of everything. He can shoot the ball from the outside. He can drive the ball. You come up on him, he can pass the ball to his teammates. He guards four different positions. He just is pretty competent at a lot of different things on that floor. That’s what we knew when we were getting him. That’s what he’s been doing. The one thing with Mike is he’s so unselfish and I think sometimes he’s thinking out there so much that he forgets he’s a pretty good offensive player, too, and he doesn’t take advantage of some of his opportunities. I think once he gets that, he’ll help us even more.”
(Will Nigel guard Carson or is that too much for a freshman?) “I think it’s quite a bit for anybody. 25, 30-year-old man, whoever. I think it’s a little bit on anyone. We usually change throughout the game, have multiple guys on different players.”
(How far has the conference come since last year?) “Wow. Murderer’s row this year. We’ve got a lot … you start talking earlier about those road trips, those are some killers out there. Just not a whole lot of weak links in the conference. Much improved, I think. Our league is much improved.”
(On the tough road trips being good for the team) “I know San DiegoState’s pretty good. Top 20 … And we went on the road and I thought our guys were focused. I thought we played good. UConn’s a really good team and they came in here. It was at home, but I thought our guys played good. I feel like our team, in spite of being 8-5, kind of still has an inner confidence about itself. So going on the road, playing top teams, whomever, I just feel like we’re excited that we’re getting ready to play Pac-12 play.”
(How has C.J. Wilcox been so consistent?) “He had made a comment earlier that the game has slowed down for him, which is a good thing. He can just see the whole thing developing. He’s playing with a lot of confidence. He’s playing kind of with a been-there, done-that, I know how this thing works attitude. His numbers are up in terms of his percentages. And he is healthy and practicing every day. The thing that I think affected him the last two years is he’d go weeks and didn’t practice. Just play in the games. I don’t care who it is, that’s hard. Especially when you’re talking about a guy that’s playing with precision with his ball handling and his shooting. That’s just hard to do. And he’s practicing every day. And I think this year there are other players, we have three or four in double figures, and that helps take a little of the load off of C.J. He scores 18 or something like that in the second half the last game, and we weren’t just out of it because he wasn’t scoring. We didn’t knock shots down, but at the same time we weren’t just totally out of it. He has a little more help. So I think all of that has helped him. His ability to get to the foul line a little more and get to the basket a little more is helping him score and have a better year, also, because he’s not … just if his shot’s not going, he’s been able to score other ways.”