Excitement and anticipation have a way of manipulating time like an Einstein equation. Seems like just yesterday, fans were witnessing the high-flying Washington Huskies in the NCAA tournament. However, as time ticks down to the first "official" game Sunday, the minutes may seem like hours for basketball-hungry fans.
What to expect? The Simon Fraser exhibition was too lopsided to reach any conclusions. But, the schedule is favorable. Washington Coach Lorenzo Romar must have had his tongue-planted-firmly-in-check when, over the summer, he anointed the field at this season's BCA Classic as "strong competition." It would have been bad form to say otherwise. After all, Romar was named winner of the Fritz Pollard Award as the Black Coaches Association Male Coach of the Year for guiding the Huskies to a PAC-10 Tournament Championship and a No.1 seed in the NCAA tournament. And, of course, Washington is hosting the eight-team tournament at Bank of America Arena starting November 13.
Despite competition that suffers by comparison to last season's tough Great Alaska Shootout field, the Classic field is no cakewalk. Six of the eight teams return three or more starters, with UT-Arlington returning all five. Five teams, including the Huskies, had winning records. Two teams boast John Wooden Award candidates. (When it was still named the Wooden Award.)
Perhaps, coach Romar was thinking of how nicely the tournament schedule lines up as a training ground for his fist full of new recruits. The first game of the BCA will be the first counting game on the Husky schedule, and each of the two succeeding games appear to be a step up in degree of difficulty; assuming play goes according to form.
Smells like team spirit
For Washington fans who found a 66-point blowout of Simon Fraser akin to Nirvana without angst, a second chance at escastcy maybe the first-round match up with the undersized and inexperienced Morgan State Bears. Husky rookies are, again, likely see the lots of playing time as Coach Alfred "Butch" Beard's team returns just two starters. Between them, the two returning Bears averaged less than nine points per contest. And, only two experienced players exceed 6-foot-5.
The tournament favorites are probably the ACC's Miami Hurricanes and the host PAC-10 Washington Huskies. They appear in separate brackets and could meet in Tuesday's final. With considerable experience returning, several teams could challenge. Air Force will likely continue with a version of the difficult-to-defend Princeton offense, and UNC-Greensboro brings a winning record and three returning starters, including shot-blocking-machine Kyle Hines.
The Big Sky's Northern Arizona Lumberjacks didn't have a winning record last season, but placed second in their conference. What they do have are four returning players who averaged in double figures, and lots of size. Olympia, Washington's own, Kelly Golob is a three-point specialist who can light it up, and Coach Adras has the option of starting guards of 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-5; forwards each 6-foot-9; and a 7-foot center. They are the darkest of dark horses, but size does matter and with some hot outside shooting?
Players to watch
Washington's Brandon Roy and Miami's Guillermo Diaz are preseason John Wooden Award nominees (Wooden's name is no longer associated with the award.), and possible All-Americans. The most exciting player, however, may be UNC-Greensboro's sophomore Kyle Hines. Hines was Southern Conference freshman-of-the year. Despite being only 6-foot-6, he set a conference record by blocking an amazing 106 shots, also recording 38 steals, shooting 62%, and averaging 13.6 points and 8.6 rebounds. Just wait until he grows up.
Something for everyone
Eight teams, eight conferences, North, South, East and West; the BCA Classic has a geographically-diverse and competitive field with teams of contrasting styles and high aspirations. Beyond the opportunity to see teams that seldom play in the Northwest, it's a chance for Seattle-area Husky fans to check out the exciting and highly-touted new faces of the 2005-06 Dawgs. As many as seven Huskies will be seeing their first D-1 playing time in purple and gold.
Game one: Sunday, November 13, 2005 Air Force vs. Northern Arizona
Air Force Falcons (18-12)
Mountain West Conference, third place
Coach: Jeff Bzdelik, first season
The Falcons are just two seasons removed from 22-7, a Mountain West championship, and an NCAA Tournament berth. It was the Academy's first winning season in 25 years and their first ever in conference play. Not unlike the Falcon football team's option-attack, the cadets "Princeton" offense caught many teams unprepared. Coach Joe Scott was so successful he left Air Force and returned to his alma mater, Princeton.
Former top assistant, Chris Mooney, kept the Princeton system intact and continued to win. The team went 18-12, second best in school history, but didn't draw so much as an NIT bid. Just days after signing a new five-year contract, Mooney deserted for a D-1 head-coaching job at mid-major Richmond.
New coach Jeff Bzdelik's team returns 12 letter winners and three starters, including senior co-captain Antoine Hood. He has indicated the Air Force offense, a variation of the weave, wouldn't change. He'll have to get better defense if the Falcons hope to repeat last season's record. And, the team isn't off to the best start.
Six-foot-eight center Nick Welch (12 ppg, 3.6 rpg), an All-Mountain West selection last season broke his foot July 1, and after a second operation will redshirt this season. Six-foot-four guard Antoine Hood (13 ppg), the team's second All-Mountain West selection returns, as do junior-starters 6-foot-6 forward Jacob Butschi and 6-foot-2 guard Matt McGraw. Both were conference honorable mentions.McGraw led the Mountain West in three-point shooting at .509 percent.
Notable: Air Force was last in scoring, but first defense in its conference and beat champion Utah and its NBA top draft-choice, Andrew Bogut. Legendary coach Dean Smith was a second-lieutenant assistant coach in 1957-58, and the Falcon's leading scorer in 1969-79 was Gregg Popovich. Falcon's coach Jeff Bzdelik is a former coach of the NBA's Denver Nuggets.
Northern Arizona Lumberjacks (11-17)
Big Sky Conference, second
Coach: Mik Adras, sixth season
The Lumberjacks return four of five players who averaged double-figures last season, including leading-scorer, 6-foot-6 guard Steven Sir. Sir, who averaged fourteen points, is joined by three-point-threat, 6-foot-5 Kelly Golob (11.5 ppg.)
Golob, a senior from Olympia, Washington, was the only player to start all 29 games last season. He is already third on the school's all-time list with over 150 three-pointers in his first two seasons.
Six-foot-nine sophomore-forward Ryan McCurdy, 6-foot-9 sophomore-forward Kyle Landry, and 7-foot senior-center Paul Meynen make the Lumberjacks among the tallest team in the tourney.
Game two: Sunday, November 13, 2005 Miami vs. UT-Arlington
Miami Hurricanes (16-13)
Atlantic Coast Conference, tied sixth
Coach: Frank Haith, second year
Four starters return for second-year coach Frank Haith's surprising Hurricanes, including 6-foot-2, All-Atlantic Coast Conference junior-guard Guillermo Diaz whose 18.6 points per game led the team and were second in the ACC. Diaz is a Wooden Award nominee and has been named to the pre-season All-Atlantic Coast Conference first team. Rounding the 'Canes high scoring backcourt are 6-foot-2 senior-guard Robert Hite (17.3 ppg) and six-foot-two junior Anthony Harris (12.4 ppg, 4.6 apg.)
Harris, who started 28 of Miami's 29 games last season, suffered a hairline fracture of his left foot recently and will miss three to six weeks. He will miss the BCA Tournament and is unlikely to return until Miami plays North Carolina State December 19.
The other returning starter, six-foot-nine center/forward Anthony King averaged eight rebounds and six points. He had Miami's first ever triple-double against Florida Atlantic (11 points, 10 rebounds, and 13 blocks.) Should they both reach the finals, a match up between Washington's Jon Brockman and King promises a memorable battle. King has rebounding help from senior-center six-foot-ten Gary Hamilton (6.3 rpg.) who will likely start, and six-foot-eight, 245- pound freshman-forward Jimmy Graham.
Sophomore forward 6-foot-7 Raymond Hicks will likely be the fifth starter. True-point-guard, 6-foot freshman Denis Clemente from Bayamon, Puerto Rico is expected to see lots of playing time.
Notable: In his first season, Coach Haith released 6-foot-11 center CJ Giles from his letter of intent. Giles, from Seattle's Rainer Beach High School, appeared to be ready to sign with the Washington Huskies, but a late change of heart sent him to the Kansas Jayhawks.
University of Texas at Arlington Mavericks (13-15)
Coach: Eddie McCarter, thirteen season
The Mavericks return all five starters, lead by All-Southland Conference senior-forward Steven Thomas. The 6-foot-5, senior-forward averaged 17.1 points and 7.9 rebounds, and is in the school's top 10 in career-scoring and rebounds entering his final season. Thomas scored in double figures in 23 of 28 games and has been named to the pre-season All-Southland Conference first-team
Six-foot-eight, 220-pound sophomore Jermane Griffin led the team in rebounding seven times last season, while averaging 6.4 points per game. With eleven returning letter-winners, the Mavericks are picked fifth in the eleven-team Southland Conference.
Game three: Sunday, November 13, 2005 Washington vs. Morgan State
Washington Huskies (29-6)
Pac-10 Conference, second
Pac-10 Tournament Champions
Coach: Lorenzo Romar, fourth season
The Huskies return four seniors and eight letter-winners from a team that earned a NCAA#1 seed last season. The returning players include three starters. Six-foot-six senior-guard Brandon Roy (12.8 ppg, 5 rpg), is a John Wooden Award nominee and will have a pivotal role in the offense. Roy was injured early last season, but returned to come off the bench to help the Huskies down the stretch. Expect Roy to shoot a bit more from the outside, and distribute the ball a bit more in an offensive system that doesn't depend on a true point guard.
Six-foot-six senior Bobby Jones was selected to the 12-man United States University Games team that is playing in Izmir,Turkey this summer. Jones led the Huskies in rebounding last season (5.6 rpg) while averaging 11.2 points per game and shooting over 50% from the field. Jones has worked on his ball handling and outside shooting and may see more time in a guard rather than forward role.
Senior forwards, 6-foot-5 Jamaal Williams (9.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg) and 6-foot-7 freshman Jon Brockman are probable starters. Williams has an assortment of baby hooks and other shots with a quick release that allows him to score nearly at will over taller defenders. He has worked on his outside shot and early reports are that his rebounding and outside shooting will make him even more valuable this season. Formerly known as "the black hole," Williams has also worked on his passing.
Mike Jensen has been Washington's tallest starter and has been forced defend to battle opposing centers rather than the power forwards his size would normally dictate. He suffered a shoulder injury in summer workouts and subsequent surgery means he may not see action until January. Expect the 245-pound Brockman to see extensive early playing time in Jensen's absence. Brockman is a MacDonald's All-America and candidate for PAC-10 Freshman of the year. He is known for high energy, and a bruising style. He was 7 for 8 in Washington's exhibition win.
The loss of Jensen may also benefit a couple of other new Huskies: Six-foot-8 center/forward Artem Wallace, from Toledo, Washington, is a skilled and nimble big man. Wallace has surprised in practice with his athleticism and aggressive play, and has been having some notable battles with Brockman. He played well against Simon Fraser raising Husky hopes for a couple of bruising bookends.
Seven-foot-one, 240-pound center Joe Wolfinger of Mount Herman School prep has a reputation as an outside shooter, but needs to add weight and strength. He is a likely redshirt. With the signing of 7-foot Spencer Hawes for next season, the Huskies will have one of the most imposing frontlines in all college hoops.
Smooth-shooting, 6-foot-4 guard, sophomore Joel Smith (4.6 ppg) will like get more playing time, while Florida-transfer six-foot-two redshirt, sophomore-guard Ryan Appleby may start at guard, though he is running neck and neck with Justin Dentmon. Appleby was deadly from three in the game. Once he settled down, Dentmon looked good against Simon Fraser.
The high-flying Smith shot over 50% from the field last season and looked very poised in his freshman campaign. Appleby is a tall, lean guard with quickness and a growing reputation as an outside shooter. He finally gets on the floor after sitting out a transfer-year and practicing daily against the likes of Will Conroy and Nate Robinson.
Coach Romar's Huskies boast one of the country's top recruiting classes. In addition to Brockman and Wolfinger, Dentmon (Winchendon School), and Wallace (Toledo High School, Toledo, WA, ) 6-foot-5 Harvey Perry (Brewster Academy) is also expected to provide significant minutes. Perry is a versatile player known for tough defense, but with an outside shot, good "handles," and passing skills. He may slip into a point-guard role if needed.
Notable: The Huskies have 791 wins at Bank of America Arena at Hec Edmunson Pavilion. That more than any other NCCA team in a single arena. Washington is 1503-1001 all time (.600.)
Morgan State Bears (14-16)
Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, sixth
Coach: Alfred "Butch" Beard, second year
Coach Beard's Bears are a team similar in size to last season's edition of the Huskies with the Bear's tallest player 6-foot-8, 220-pound junior-center Timothy Berkley. Unlike Washington, that returns four seniors, the Bear's Berkley and 5-foot-9 sophomore-point-guard Timothy Mathis are the only returning starters from last season's 14-16 team. Gone are the four top scorers, with 6-foot-5 junior Aujla Karanvir (6.0 ppg) the only returning player averaging more than 5 points. Sophomore-guard, six-foot-two Joseph McLean (4.2 ppg) started four games and had a team, season-high 21 points against Virginia Tech.
Joseph McIvar, a six-foot-five forward, is the only senior on a team welcomes six freshmen. McIvar played sparingly last season.
Notable: Coach Alfred "Butch" Beard played professional basketball in Seattle for the NBA's Supersonics. Beard was a college teammate of Wes Unseld at Louisville, and spent ten years in the NBA averaging 9.3 points over 605 games with five teams
Game four: Sunday, November 13, 2005 UW-Green Bay vs. UNC-Greensboro
University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Phoenix (17-11)
Green Bay, Wisconsin
Horizon League, second
Coach: Tod Kowalczyk, third season
The Phoenix lost three valuable starters and 33.5 points per game, but return 6-foot-7, 220-pound, senior-forward Benito Flores. Flores averaged 13.4 points and 6.5 rebounds. Six-foot-two guard Ryan Evanochko (6.2 ppg,) is the other returning starter. In his second season, Coach Kowalczyk's Phoenix improved from sixth to third in the conference, and a repeat 17-11 season placed the team second in the Horizon League.
Six-foot-nine, 250-pound sophomore Tevah Morris gives the Phoenix some bulk down low, as does 6-foot-8, 250-pound forward Tyler Koenig.
While coaching under Tom Crean at Marquette University, Coach Kowalczyk worked with NBA lottery pick, Miami guard Dwayne Wade.
UNC-Greensboro Spartans (18-12)
Greensboro, North Carolina
Southern Conference, third place northern division
Coach: Mike Dement, sixth season, returns after five previous seasons at Greensboro
The Spartans return three starters including Southern Conference freshman-of-the-year Kyle Hines. The 6-foot-6 forward set a conference record with 106 blocks, while averaging 13.6 points and 8.6 rebounds. Hines used his exceptional wingspan to snare 38 steals while shooting 62% from the field. He had a single-game high of 19 rebounds. Junior guard, six-foot-2 Ricky Hickman (14.5 ppg) and 6-foot guard Dwayne Johnson are the other returning starters.
Key returning players include sophomores 6-foot-six Brian Beckford, 6-foot-6 Dustin Everette, and 6-foot-4 Kevin Olesiak.
Six-foot-eleven center Bart Tooms, the Spartans' tallest player, was born in Amsterdam, Holland and is a junior-transfer from Genessee Junior College (NY.)
Coach Dement returns to Greensboro after nine seasons at Southern Methodist. In the 1995-96 season, Dement lead the Spartans to a school record 23 wins.
Notable: Coach Dement first coaching experience was as an assistant to Duke's Mike Kryzewski. The Southern Conference is the 4th oldest.
Sunday, November 13 ?Game 1 -- Air Force vs. Northern Arizona ?Game 2 -- Miami vs. UT-Arlington ?Game 3 -- Morgan State vs. Washington ?Game 4 -- UW-Green Bay vs. UNC Greensboro
Monday, November 14 ?Game 5 -- Loser game 1 vs. Loser game 2 ?Game 6 -- Loser game 3 vs. Loser game 4 ?Game 7 -- Winner Game 1 vs. Winner game 2 ?Game 8 -- Winner Game 3 vs. Winner game 4
Tuesday, November 15 ?Game 9 -- Loser game 5 vs. Loser game 6 ?Game 10 -- Winner game 5 vs. Winner game 6 ?Game 11 -- Loser game 7 vs. Loser game 8 ?Game 12 (Championship) -- Winner game 7 vs. Winner game 8