What is wrong with the Washington Huskies?
That's the question on the minds of most every U-dub basketball fan as the Huskies have lost three games in a row, moving them from first to third in the Pacific-10 Conference and out of the Top 25 polls.
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar believes that the criticism is to be expected.
"When you lose three in a row people are going to ask, 'What's wrong with the Huskies?'" said Romar, whose Huskies have dropped to 15-7 overall and 7-4 in the conference "It's a fair question to ask."
Romar boils down the Huskies' issues to a lack of concentration on defense.
After the Huskies' loss to Oregon State last Thursday, Romar pointed to team defense as the main problem. Then the Huskies followed that up with a loss against Oregon when they gave up 81 points.
"We're not giving our full effort," Huskies point guard Isaiah Thomas said. "We've seen it on tape and it's embarrassing."
The Huskies have been going back and forth between man-to-man and zone defense. In certain situations, Romar said he believes the zone is best for the team.
"We're not a zone team, but at times it allows us to separate, but we prefer to play man," Romar said.
Some have second-guessed the Huskies' use of a zone defense. But the Huskies have been using it for the majority of the season and usually have had success.
"If your winning, whatever you're doing is a great idea," Romar said. "If you're losing, the same thing is a terrible idea."
The defense hasn't been the only problem for the Huskies. They like to play up-tempo games, allowing them to get fastbreak and transition points, but lately they haven't been able to do so. Romar does not think the zone defense is forcing the Huskies to play slower.
"When you are in zone, you are already in position to break out and fast break," Romar said. "It's a lot easier."
According to Romar, the Huskies have not been aggressive enough on defense to get fast-break points. They haven't forced enough turnovers, resulting in a slower tempo.
Until the loss to Washington State, the Huskies were still able to have success even when forced into a half-court offense. Much of that was because Thomas' superior all-around play. But the Huskies might be relying on Thomas too much, according to Matthew Bryan-Amaning.
"He needs help from the whole team," Bryan-Amaning said. "We can't put all the weight on Isaiah."
"Our wings are just waiting around for the pass from Isaiah," Romar said. "When they get the pass, they look to shoot, but if it's not there they give it back to Isaiah. We need others to create and not rely on just Isaiah."
Thomas wants to carry the team on his back, but not by putting up huge numbers. Rather in leadership.
"Just make sure guys are playing like a team," Thomas said.
Thomas' recent struggles are partly because opposing defenses are packing more players down low, cutting off entry to the basket on drives. Opposing coaches are building their game plans for Thomas, but Romar said Thomas is used to making adjustments.
"When you have a great player, coaches devise schemes to limit their productivity, that's been happening to Isaiah all of his life," Romar said. "He makes adjustments to counter their game plan."
The Huskies are happy to have five of their final seven conference games at home, where they are 11-0 this season. Still, Romar knows things need to improve quickly for the Huskies.
"If this unravels anymore, we can be in deep trouble." Romar said.
Bryan-Amaning said he doesn't look much at the standing. He said he knows the Huskies can only control themselves, not what others do.
"Our focus is in doing whatever we can control," Bryan-Amaning said. "We can't really look later in the season unless we focus on the next game first."
The Huskies no longer control their own destiny in the Pac-10. Even if they win their remaining five conference games, they would need Arizona (20-4, 9-2) to lose at least one game to another conference opponent for Washington to be conference champions.
Washington has not lost four games in a row since 2008. The Huskies look to avoid that Thursday night when they host California at 6 p.m. Pacific time at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
Washington defeated California, 92-71, in Berkeley on Jan. 16.