As much satisfaction as Huskies fans had in seeing Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten have the dream of their lives by being draft into the NBA Thursday, was I the only one wondering whether it was some sort of a record to have two first-rounders from a team that didnt make the NCAA tourney?
Unsurprisingly, Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar was a little touchy on the matter.
I think we should have made it, he said on a conference call from New York, where he attended the draft. The (tourney selection committee) criteria said we didnt have the numbers, but I think we were better than a lot of the teams in the tourney.
We were a young team that started slowly and won 24 games, finished the conference 14-4. We were young and inconsistent. Other young, inconsistent teams have been able to slip into the tourney.
Thats probably true, but the counter-argument is that most every team in the era of one-and-done is young and inconsistent. Program churn is a fact of life in big-time college ball.
Its also true Washingtons tourney chances were hurt by being part of the Pac-12, the worst conference since the North Korea Rocket-Science Society. Romar would never acknowledge that publicly, either.
Those two factors helped combine for the biggest demerit on the Washington tourney resume: Lack of a signature win.
The Huskies did, however, have several signature losses, including their last two: the first-round loss in the Pac-12 postseason tourney to Oregon State, and the season closer, a 68-67 overtime loss to Minnesota in the semifinals of the NIT.
In both games, Wroten was not much help. In fact, for the start of the second half in New York, in which the Huskies trailed 38-26, Romar benched the Pac-12 freshman of the year, who finished with nine points, missing 12 of 16 shots and absent a single assist.
Washington nearly pulled off an improbable comeback. Romar made a telling point afterward.
“In the second half, he said, I thought we were a team.”
So 35 games after they began, the Huskies finally were a team. As much as anything, that disjointed development was why they werent tourney-worthy. While its unfair to lay blame on a single player for UWs inability to coalesce, it is reasonable to say that the more Wroten came to dominate a game, the less effective Washington was as a team.
Which is why, privately, Romar is glad to see Wroten move on. Not because hes a bad guy or wont be a solid pro. But because for Romars purposes at Washington, less of Wroten will be more.
Of course, Romar will never say anything like that publicly. But a lot of others around the program would speak to the point for him. Including me. In watching the TV highlights that followed Wrotens selection by the Memphis Grizzlies with the 25th pick, I was reminded again of my game-action tell-tale for the me-first ballplayer: The artificial no-look pass.
Hate it. The ballhandler comes down on a fast break, passes to a teammate and an instant later snaps his head away to feign the no-look. Fans think its cool, but its all for show.
That kind of no-look pass is really a look-at-me pass. It has been a Wroten trademark. The pro game may well beat it out of him, along with other aspects of his immaturity. If that happens, look out. Wroten could become the best 25th pick in NBA history.
Isnt showboating really a small thing? Sure. But the Huskies wouldnt have needed more than a couple of small things to go their way to get into the NCAA field. Like maybe a couple of more free throws from a 58 percenter, or one more threes from a guy who made 9 of 56 for the season. Or a completed pass to a teammate instead of a mustard-covered turnover. Small things.
When asked about Wrotens selection, Romar said, Tony took a lot of criticism this year, and he was a first-round raft pick. It was a difficult decision (to turn pro) and Im really happy for him.
Far as I know, those four statements are true, true, true and true. But the truth is, Wroten made a good decision for himself, his college coach and teammates in ways that wont be spoken.