For the second straight year, the Washington Huskies underachieved a bit in the regular season even though they finished third in the Pac-10. Lorenzo Romar has to replace four starters but has some extremely talented youngsters who should help Washington figure into the Pac-12 title race.
After a disappointing freshman season, Abdul Gaddy was finding his groove until he suffered a torn ACL that sidelined him for all but two conference games. Gaddy's return combined with the addition of Tony Wroten gives Romar a pair of versatile guards capable of running the point and avoid a major letdown due to the losses of Isaiah Thomas and Venoy Overton.
Wroten might be the most gifted passer of all freshmen point guards. He has outstanding handles, court vision, athleticism, and great size at 6-5. If Wroten can buy into the team concept, he will find a way into the starting lineup and should be a special player for the Huskies. Fellow freshmen Hikeem Stewart and Andrew Andrews will try to work themselves into the rotation.
Justin Holliday is gone, but Washington returns a few lengthy wing players who can light it up from downtown. Many are pegging Terrence Ross to have a breakout sophomore campaign based on the way he ended last season, being named to the Pac-10 All-Tournament Team. Scott Suggs and C.J. Wilcox each shot above 40% from distance a year ago and could really benefit from Wroten's ability to drive and kick. Suggs will be out until at least December due to a stress fracture in his foot, but it will be a challenge for Romar to keep all three guys happy with their playing time and make sure there are enough shots to go around when Suggs does return.
Aziz N'Diaye returns to provide a defensive presence in the middle. He is fairly limited on the offensive end but uses his size and athleticism to be a force on the glass and as a shot blocker. N'Diaye should wreak havoc in the paint this season since he will likely see more minutes due to the loss of Matthew Bryan-Amaning.
Darnell Gant started 11 games last season and will likely replace Bryan-Amaning in the starting lineup. Gant is more of a face-up four who has range out to the three-point line. Redshirt freshman Desmond Simmons will compete for minutes off the bench along with true freshmen Shawn Kemp Jr., Jernard Jarreau, and Martin Breunig.
Scoring will not be a problem for the Huskies who finished third in the nation in points per game last season. If they can tighten up their defensive efforts, Washington could cause a lot of problems out west. I think "experts" are sleeping on this team a bit. If Wroten is as good as advertised and Ross makes the jump many expect him to, the Huskies will be a tough team to stop.
Player to Watch: Terrence Ross, SG
As his freshman season progressed, Ross became a more integral part of Washington's attack. He can score from the outside with a sweet stroke but also effective attacking the basket. The Portland native is already a lottery prospect on most NBA Draft boards and could solidify those projections with a breakout year.