SEATTLE -- The Arizona Wildcats have reason to feel better about themselves even before they enter Hec Edmundson Pavilion this evening.
Todd Dybas of the Tacoma News Tribune swapped questions with me about the teams we cover. Here are his answers to my questions about the Huskies:
Q: Are there any trends in UW’s three straight losses, and particularly what happened against Utah?
A: There were trends confined to the Utah and Oregon State losses: slow starts and poor defense. Each were a byproduct of Washington overlooking those two teams. Lorenzo Romar warned his team over and over not to do so, but they did anyway. Each game Washington was asleep at the start. The first half at Oregon State was the worst I've seen the Huskies play this season, which is a damning statement for a team that lost to Albany and Nevada at home (though, it was depleted by injury at the time). Utah's small guards and ball screens gave Washington problems. Backup guard Brandon Taylor having the game of his life helped the Utes, too. Against Oregon, Washington was beaten by a good team that was won 20 consecutive home games.
Q: Why is Washington scoring fewer points and is the pace a better fit for its personnel?
A: The Huskies are scoring fewer points because of pace, which is a result of an offensive shift and poor defense. As of Wednesday night, according to Kenpom.com, Washington is 201st in adjusted tempo. Last year it was 30th. Three years ago it was 10th. Since 2003, the lowest Washington had been in tempo is 57th. It has been as high as third and 10th or better three times. This year, it's like the Huskies are drinking cement for a pregame meal. However, it is a better fit for this group, which is long but not swift. It's also an extension of Washington's modification of defensive philosophy and, often, its inability to defend. The Huskies of old forced turnovers. This group does not, partly because of personnel, partly because they know with a slower group they have to sag some to keep up.
(Dybas has a more in-depth look at the Huskies' pace in this post.)
Q: Has C.J. Wilcox improved noticeably, or is he just taking the shots that Ross and Wroten left behind?
A: Wilcox has gotten better, for sure. He's also getting more shots this year, many of which he should have received last year when Tony Wroten dominated the ball like no other Husky under Lorenzo Romar (even Brandon Roy or Isaiah Thomas). He's curling more since teams are desperate to run him off the 3-point line. He's getting into the lane more -- not all the way to the rim, but into the lane -- where he has a solid runner he can shoot with either hand. Oddly, he likes to use his off-hand around the rim.
Q: Sean Miller calls Hec Ed the toughest place in the Pac-12 he has to go to. Has it been tough for other games so far this year?
A: It has not. I've been covering Washington since 2008 and this is easily the poorest year for home crowds in terms of numbers or noise. Washington is essentially admitting as much by running promotions for discounted student tickets to the Arizona game. The student section is holding a pep rally. The school even has a headline on a story by its in-house writer that reads, "Romar Challenges Dawg Fans To Bring It For Arizona". Back to the tempo. That's another factor with putting behinds in the seats. Wilcox is very skilled. Ross and Wroten were explosive. There's a difference and fans have noticed.
Q: This team appears on the outside to have a quieter personality than before. Is that true, and who are the leaders? Is Gaddy taking ownership?
A: That is true. The older guys -- Gaddy, Wilcox and fifth-year senior Scott Suggs -- are all reserved. If they, and us reporters, had a dime for every "one game at a time" quote, both sides would be rich. Whereas Wroten on occasion and Thomas on almost every occasion were demonstrative, if anyone from that trio shows emotion it's very noticeable. Redshirt freshman Andrew Andrews, who has been playing very well of late, probably has the most swagger on the team. Romar contends they have leaders behind the scenes.
Some advance coverage of today's UA-Washington game:
Washington is entering a stretch that could define its season.
The Huskies are trying to drum up support with a pep rally.
Washington has beaten the last four ranked teams to enter Hec Ed, and have recent history on its side.
Lorenzo Romar says the Pac-12's television-induced scheduling is affecting attendance at Hec Ed.
The Wildcats will be playing in front of Washington's creative student fans.
Jio Fontan said the Trojans made "history" with their win at the renovated Pauley Pavilion.
Stanford's Andy Brown found a way to neutralize E.J. Singler.
Craig Robinson is aware the Beavers have "got to put together some wins" as they head to the Bay area this weekend.
A Cal victory over the Beavers tonight would give Mike Montgomery his 100th win as the Bears' coach. He had 393 at Stanford.
The other tip times tonight in the Pac-12:
OSU at Cal, 8 p.m. (ESPNU).
ASU at WSU, 9 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)