Speaking to media Tuesday ahead of a potential flurry of four games in four days at the Pac-12 men’s basketball tournament in Las Vegas, an air of calm was felt from head coach Lorenzo Romar and senior captain Andrew Andrews about the team’s readiness for Stanford Wednesday (noon., Pac-12 Networks).
“With a week’s rest and then playing back-to-back, we wanted to give them a little bit of a break,” said Romar, whose Huskies last played March 2 in a 99-91 win over Washington State. “We also wanted to make sure we got a little better maintaining our conditioning, so (today’s) practice will probably be a really good one.”
The tournament annually is a fresh beast for Pac-12 teams, a ritz-and-glitz quadruple barrage of win-or-go-home games after a grueling three-month journey. Rest and decompression, according to Andrews, is key.
“That’s what we did with the (annual team) banquet,” said Andrews. “We took our minds off ourselves and had a chance to reflect on our regular season and get our minds away from how big this Stanford game is. Going in to practice this week, just being in the atmosphere helps us adjust.”
There was plenty upon which to reflect, including four players awarded conference honors Tuesday. Andrews, the conference’s leading scorer, was named to the All-Conference first team. Guard Dejounte Murray made the second team in addition to the All-Freshman team. Marquese Chriss and Malik Dime received honorable mentions for the All-Freshman team and All-Defensive team, respectively. The exclusion of Dime, second in the conference in blocked shots with 82, from the All-Defensive team seemed to chagrin Romar, though he didn’t admit it in so many words.
Also of note was Andrews’ snub for a third Pac-12 player of the week award, despite scoring 47 points — most by any player in college basketball this season — against Washington State. The honor instead went to Arizona’s Gabe York, who hit the game-winner to cap off a late comeback against Cal Thursday.
“(Andrews) had a great week,” said Romar. “Gabe York, he had a great week too. Andrews’ performance was the best performance I’ve ever seen in this league in the time that I’ve been here (15 years). That includes (Washington State’s) Klay Thompson’s 43 against us in the tournament.”
Now, on the eve of the tournament, rest and reflection will come to a screeching halt. Washington has mountains to climb to make the NCAA tournament, a feat that in Romar’s estimation will necessitate making the tournament’s championship game.
Perhaps the snubs will provide motivation, but there will be no easy road. All Romar can do is try to keep his squad fresh.
“I think if you look at our teams over the years, a lot of times our teams get better and stronger as the year goes on,” said Romar. “The wins didn’t show it, but I thought that we were pretty fresh down the stretch. At the end of games we were still able to hit shots, we were still able to run.
“You can (keep people sharp) through walk-throughs, you can do that through film. But if you’re using their legs all the time, people get worn down.”
If they can handle one more dunk into the pool of high pressure and scrutiny, they may yet extend their season.