This week we’re going to hear all about strength of schedule, quality wins, and conversations about who beat whom and by how much. Many conversations about resumes, upset scenarios (and I know all of them), and the human element. Debate. Baylor has hired a PR firm to help bolster the conversation surrounding them. All of which will lead to a Selection Sunday – and we love those.
So while college football is headed to its first playoff, a tournament, for which no one can explicitly prepare, college basketball teams have been playing tournaments all over the world and in front of no one. From Maui to New York to the Bahamas, preseason tourneys (otherwise known as non-exempt events) have filled our November-into-December plates. They are crowded events preparing teams for the sport’s biggest stage.
On this past Sunday night, Washington won the Wooden Legacy tournament!
It maybe wasn’t the biggest tournament (that was Maui with 12) or the sexiest (that was the Battle for Atlantis with 63% of the field holding a national title) but they won. Previous Wooden Legacy winners include:
- 2013 SDSU (Sweet 16)
- 2012 Cal (Second round)
- 2011 St. Louis (Second round)
- 2010 UNLV (First round)
- 2009 West Virginia (Final Four)
- 2008 Wake Forest (Second round)
…and so on. Now winning this tournament most certainly does not guarantee an NCAA invitation. But it seems there is a precedence. Further, and of obvious importance, Washington has been playing improved basketball to win themselves a tournament crown.
A season ago was the worst defensive team Lorenzo Romar has put on a basketball court. By a long shot (or rather by a lot of shots that went in). Thus far, and I know we’re early, but the Huskies are yielding just 94.5 points per 100 possessions which is 10 points fewer than last season. That ranks a relatively pedestrian 62nd in the country, but it’s 10 points per 100 possessions fewer than last season (worth noting: a 94.5 DRtg would’ve ranked 14th last season). All we can ask is that they improve. Through six games, they’ve won a tournament and they’ve improved! The Huskies rank 15th in the country in defensive eFG% (39.4%). The Dawgs are defending!
Individually, I’d like to highlight Shawn Kemp Jr. Last year he was committing 7.2 fouls per forty minutes. That’s comically bad. It’s fouling out nearly two-and-a-half times per contest. This season, however, he’s dropped that number to 3.5 fouls per forty minutes. Consequently he has nearly doubled his minutes played per game and has led the Huskies in scoring three times. He’s averaging 10.3 points and 4.3 boards each night. Needless to say, these are career highs. If we thought the Huskies were missing a low post presence it seems they needn’t look far. They maybe just needed a way to keep him on the floor.
Adding further depth to the front court is big man – and former question mark – Robert Upshaw. He’s working his way into the lineup but when in there, he’s wildly effective. His usage is at 23%, he’s blocking shots at the highest rate in the nation, and he’s absorbing missed shots like Kemp used to absorb illegal contact. I presume he’s working into improved playing shape as he’s seeing minimal court time (just 16.5 mpg) but his high usage and maximal efficiency (119 ORtg) suggest that his presence will soon be more regular.
I could probably go on but so too must the season. We’re early in this thing and we’ve got a Selection Sunday to prepare for. Furthermore, you don’t need me to regurgitate statistics. Just tune into a UW game and you can see for yourself – they look like a much improved team. Nigel Williams-Goss can create; Jernard Jarreau is a healthy weapon; Andrew Andrews has the same name twice; and Donaven Dorsey is in a nice situation by which to develop and contribute.
So let’s be clear: There’s reason for optimism in Seattle and not just because of recruiting. These Dawgs are tournament champions.