SAN FRANCISCO – Considering the players who graduated, the questions with the newcomers and the uncertainty surrounding senior star C.J. Wilcox, coach Lorenzo Romar understands the low expectations surrounding the Washington men’s basketball team.
The Huskies were picked eighth in the Pac-12’s preseason media poll, which was the lowest they’ve been in a decade.
“When you look at our team and you lose Aziz N’Diaye, who was a two-year, possibly three-year starter, and you lose Abdul Gaddy, who was a four-year starter, and you lose Scott Suggs, who was a captain and one of our leading scorers, then people are going to have questions about your team,” Romar said Thursday at Pac-12 media day. “And you have a mediocre year last season. And you don’t know who Perris Blackwell is, or our other guys are. So I can see how someone would pick us eighth.”
Romar stopped short of saying he’d pick the Huskies so low, but he agreed with the media poll that tabbed Arizona as the overwhelming favorite to win the conference. The Wildcats received 21 of 23 first-place votes.
Defending regular-season champion UCLA, which was picked second, and third-place Colorado received one first-place vote each.
Oregon, which won the Pac-12 tournament last season, was picked fourth, followed by California and Stanford in the top half of the conference.
Arizona State was seventh, ahead of UW, Utah, Oregon State, USC and Washington State.
“It’s not always an exact science,” Romar said. “It’s fun to speculate and compete, but you have to go out, play the games and see what happens.”
The last time the Huskies were picked eighth in the preseason media poll, they finished second in the 2003-04 conference race and advanced to the NCAA tournament during Romar’s second year.
If the Huskies are going to compete for a league title and an NCAA tournament berth, they’ll need to overcome the modest projections.
“It is a little upsetting what people think about us,” Wilcox said. “But it’s more motivation than anything.”
Wilcox, who underwent offseason foot surgery, missed the first two weeks of workouts. He practiced fully for the first time Wednesday and expects to play sparingly in Friday’s intrasquad scrimmage.
“It’s nice to be back out there,” he said. “Now I need to get my timing back being with the team.”
Romar said a few players have suffered injuries that he described as “typical preseason stuff, but nothing longterm that you’d worry about.”
He’s pleased at the pace the newcomers are learning the playbook. However, the injuries have thinned the roster, curbing some of the enthusiasm surrounding the team.
“Someone like C.J., who is that much of an impact player, if he’s not around you take a step back and you’re not the same team,” Romar said. “Your best player is not there, you’re going to be a different team.”