Hello, NIT

Hello, Nit.

Should I be surprised? As I wrote a few weeks ago, the Huskies are agonizing to root for. This gut-wrenching loss may knock the Huskies out of the tournament (“King” Lunardi has been strangely generous to the Pac-12 this year. 2 teams? How can you justify this now, especially after a Beavers loss. Pac-12 is a one-bid league this year). Yet watching this game was strangely predictable. I did not cry like I did after their loss to UNC in the Second Round last year, because the Huskies did not play well enough to win, and I did not believe in this team at all. Their loss may put us out of our misery of supporting this group of players.

Where do I begin. Do I start with the end of the game, where Ross inexplicably became as oblivious to the game of basketball as Venoy Overton, and Tony missed four free throws in a row? Or, do I start with the beginning of the game, with one of the worst first-halfs since the South Dakota State game?

Neither.

I want to start with Aziz fouling out. At this point, UW was up 77-71 with 3:22 to play. A 6 point lead is still comfortable, but after this point, UW begins to implode. Signs of this impending loss were already present though. Ross and Wilcox had gone a combined 1-5 from the line in their previous trips, Oregon State was able to get open lay-ups and Starks was given an open 3-pointer (How did they allow Starks to get open this often? He is their best shooter, but he cannot drive, so this shows the Dawgs have no defensive discipline. Starks nailed four huge 3’s today). Although I believe Aziz to be a sub-par defender, his fifth foul meant Oregon State had no fear when entering the lane. Cunningham drove in with ease to put Oregon State up 84-83 with 31 seconds left, while Gaddy took a terrible blocking foul and Gant looked on in awe. Awesome. Thanks Aziz, for getting in foul trouble for the second straight game (He has only played 44 minutes in the past 2 games, both losses. He has a combined nine fouls and zero blocks in those two contests. Exactly what you want from your 7-footer).

The post defense was awful all game because of this foul trouble. Eric Moreland scored 13 points, grabbed 6 boards and made key defensive stops. Joe Burton put up a 14-10-6. Burton normally averages 8.3 points and 5.8 boards. He had an excellent game, and his passing and touch around the rim were fantastic. Unfortunately, it is still Joe Burton. He has no business having a stellar performance in a game the Huskies need to win. Cunningham was a man in this game too, falling two assists short of a triple-double, but the Huskies have no lock-down perimeter defenders, so this was not a surprise.

But you have to give Burton and Cunningham and Starks some credit for stepping up to help their team, something that Ross refused to do. His two missed free throws and his terrible charge with 40 seconds to play showed that he still has a lot to learn. His lack of knowledge about the ball needing to touch the rim on an intentional missed free throw proved that this UW team has a basketball IQ of Javale Mcgee  levels. That, my friend, is a low basketball IQ. With his play down the stretch, Ross legitimized Gutierrez’ player of the year status. Say what you want about Gutierrez (he is one of the most annoying players to play against, but if I had him on my team I would be happy), but I guarantee he knows the free throw rule.

Interestingly enough, I do not want to lambast Tony for his awful free throws at the end of the game. Tony was the only one who could do anything against the Beavers zone all game, and if I had not jinxed him , he probably would have continued to nail his free throws. Alas, he had no follow-through at the line in the end, and he was near tears as the buzzer sounded. The fact that he showed his care for winning was great to see. If this somehow parlays into him returning next year, maybe this game will be a blessing in disguise.

What do I say about the first half of this game though? The team has to know that they cannot lose this game. Everyone who follows college basketball is aware of this. How can a team come out flat, throw ten turnovers and look like they do not care? Because of this, they were down 13 at halftime. The first half was despicable. The first half sucked all of my belief in this team out. My belief was as empty as the Staples Center seats. The loss was strangely reminiscent of the entire season. Half of the game was a UW talent exhibition, and the other half of the game was a choke-job, but the talent aspect never outweighed the garbage aspect, and for this, I am sad.

This is the worst part about watching the Huskies this year. It is not that they lost the game, it is the fact that I was not surprised by their loss. I should never feel this way about a team I support. Oh wait, I support the Mariners. Never mind. Let me rephrase: I should never feel this way about the UW basketball team under Lorenzo Romar. Maybe I am being too harsh. They are a very young team, and young teams go through endless growing pains every year. But with Ross and Tony likely to leave, shouldn’t they back up their talent with victories? If not, shouldn’t they stay one more year so that we can believe in the Huskies again? Whatever happens, I have a bad feeling that I will be saying two words on Sunday that will kill me inside:

Hello, NIT.

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