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November 6, 2013

Setting expectations

Washington's basketball team will once again start the season with lower expectations than it had been accustomed to for most of the past decade.

Playing the role of underdog can be good for a team. But John Wooden was fond of saying he always preferred to be the favorite. There's a certain confidence that being the favorite brings, a sort of validation that others expect you to succeed.

Washington will be trying to reach the Big Dance for the first time in three years this season.

There's reason for hope. Nigel Williams-Goss could play anywhere and there will be games this year where he lifts the Huskies on his own.

But will he have enough help? Are there enough players on this roster good enough to not only compete with the Arizona's and UCLA's of the league, but to take care of business in the games they should win so those "big" games even matter?

It's fair to assume this version of the Huskies will be faster, more athletic and more able to play the kind of basketball that Lorenzo Romar would like.

Defense wasn't the problem last year. The team's defense was good enough to get them into the tournament. It's the offense that has to improve. There are legitimate questions. The offense this year is the same as the offense last year, so is it reasonable to assume the pace will match up to what Romar hopes?

Will Jernard Jarreau start to realize his extremely high upside? How will the rest of the team's pieces mesh around C.J. Wilcox?

Washington should be improved in some respects, but the teams at the top of the league will be tough. Arizona should be a national championship contender.

The media picked these Huskies to finish eighth. The media has been wrong before when it comes to forecasting Pac-12 basketball success, but they actually have a pretty strong track record with their preseason predictions.

Romar can survive another season without an NCAA tournament berth. But the seat will start to get warm and that's something nobody envisioned just a few short years ago.

The expectation should be the postseason in some form or fashion. The Big Dance would be an outstanding accomplishment and would likely put Romar in the running for Pac-12 Coach of the Year. So that is the expectation and, in all likelihood, the absolute ceiling. If you expect March Madness you could well be setting yourself up to be disappointed.

Expect another gritty defensive team but one that needs to make significant strides on offense to win enough games to hear it's name called on Selection Sunday.


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