The University of Washington men’s basketball team is looking ahead to the Pac-12 Tournament, after finishing their regular season this week with a win over Washington State.
But will the Huskies get a chance to experience March Madness this year? KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel is doubtful.
'Mistakes Of Youth'
"It's not very likely at all," Thiel said of the Huskies' chances of making to The Big Dance.
"They would have to win four games in four days in Las Vegas to advance to the Pac-12’s automatic berth in the NCAA tournament, which will pick its field in a couple of weeks.
"The Huskies looked like they were going to make the field with a very fast start in the Pac-12 Conference season but they’ve really spiraled out. They’ve lost seven of their last nine games and it’s been a very difficult second half of the season for them.
"They are so young, so vulnerable to the mistakes of youth. And Lorenzo Romar hasn’t really found a way to make them at all consistent," he said.
Romar In Trouble?
Thiel noted the Huskies are facing a fifth consecutive season of missing the NCAA tournament. But he doesn't think it's enough to make Romar lose his job.
"I’m not sure that there’s another coach in a big-time team that is actually going to survive being five years without a tournament but I think Romar probably will.
"It’s very upsetting to a lot of Huskies fans but I also think that Romar keeps them out of trouble. And he’s got recruits in the pipeline that could make this team successful next year.
"I think he’ll survive, even though this is an instant gratification industry: ‘What have you done for me lately?’
"Romar hasn’t done much in these five years but he did surprise everyone," Thiel continued.
"The Huskies were picked 11th in a 12-team conference at the start of the season. And then they wound up winning five of their first six conference games and got everyone excited that this group of seven freshman and a junior college transfer was actually going to be special. They weren’t.
"It was too much, too soon for these young guys.
"They weren’t ready for the kind of team ball that’s necessary, especially on the defensive end. Even though they led the conference in blocked shots and in steals, they still weren’t very good inside where they needed to be.
"The upshot is that Romar is in peril, at least from the fans’ perspective. But you have to keep in mind that the University of Washington doesn’t have a permanent athletic director right now. Scott Woodward left to go to Texas A&M. And interim director Jen Cohen is probably the biggest Romar fan on campus.
"So, I don’t think I see her firing Romar this year. They’re going to wait until a permanent A-D comes in. And that permanent A-D is probably going to not have any attachment to Romar. It’s going to be all about action," Thiel said.
Who Will Be Back?
Thiel said the "big drama" will be to see who returns next season.
"Clearly, the hero on this team (this season) was Andrew Andrews, who scored 47 points Wednesday night. He came within two points of the Huskies’ all-time, single-game record.
"He was hero to Romar and, I think, all of the fans, because he was the only guy who stayed from last year’s team. And that was a great accomplishment for Romar. But he surrounded him with some real talent.
"Marquese Chriss is a 6’9” forward and Dejounte Murray is a 6’7” swing guy. I think both of them think they’re NBA draft-ready. They’re both freshmen. I don’t think they’re ready but they’re not asking me," Thiel joked.
Andrews, a fifth-year senior this season, will be eligible for the upcoming NBA draft. But Thiel said he's not good enough.
"I think he’s too short and not a great ball distributor to be a point guard. But I think Chriss and Murray are draftable.
"So if they leave, Romar is going to have to count on saving his job with two very good freshmen who are coming in to join the holdovers.
"I think next year could be very, very exciting. And I think Romar is going to get a chance to see if he can finally execute, in his sixth try, at getting back to the tournament."