Top 64 Countdown: No. 31 Washington

Head coach: Lorenzo Romar
Last season: 19-13, 8-10 in Pac-10.
Postseason: None.
2007-08 breakdown: Probable starters | Backcourt | Frontcourt | Offense | Defense | Outlook

Backcourt

The Huskies feature a deep and experienced group of guards. Junior Justin Dentmon has started 59 games and fifth-year senior Ryan Appleby has been a major part of the rotation for the last two seasons. Tim Morris, another fifth-year senior, was a part-time starter at Stanford before transferring. Adrian Oliver started 13 games as a freshman. Junior Joel Smith logged steady minutes as a reserve before missing all of last season with a foot injury.

WASHINGTON HUSKIES
Jon Brockman takes the lead as Washington hopes to experience success.

Probable Starting Five
G Justin Dentmon (10.1 ppg, 3.6 apg)
G Tim Morris (transfer)
F Quincy Pondexter (10.7 ppg)
F Jon Brockman (14.2 ppg, 9.6 rpg)
C Artem Wallace (2.4 ppg)
Top Reserves
G Ryan Appleby (10.5 ppg)
G Adrian Oliver (4.7 ppg)
G Joel Smith (injured last season
C Joe Wolfinger (injured last season)
F Matthew Bryan-Amaning
Dentmon's decision-making will be critical. The versatile point guard averaged 3.0 turnovers a game last season. He also needs to improve his outside shooting after making 31 percent (23 of 73) of his 3-point attempts.

Morris, a 6-foot-4 slasher, will make the Huskies more potent offensively. He was the second-leading scorer (12.8 ppg) during the team's five-game exhibition tour of Greece earlier this month. Appleby, a 3-point specialist, will fall back into the sixth-man role he played in 2005-06. He gives the Huskies a proven scoring weapon off the bench. Eighty-four of his 107 field goals (78 percent) came from beyond the arc last season.

Frontcourt

The Huskies would have had one of the nation's top inside duos, but 7-footer Spencer Hawes (14.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg) chose to leave school early and was taken with the 10th pick in the NBA Draft.

Junior power forward Jon Brockman is actually a better rebounder than Hawes. Brockman's 9.4 rebounds a game last season were the most of anyone in a league which is loaded with high-quality big men. A bruising type of player, he'll create an interior presence.

Small forward Quincy Pondexter gives the Huskies an inside-outside scoring threat. Pondexter is expected to become a bigger part of the offense after an impressive freshman campaign. He averaged 15.9 ppg in the Huskies' first 10 games last season.

The problem may be finding someone to guard the Pac-10's other top post players, something Hawes took care of last season. Brockman has blocked only seven shots in two seasons, and at 6-7 he doesn't have the size to match up with many centers.

The coaches are hoping that junior Artem Wallace (6-8, 240), sophomore Joe Wolfinger (7-0, 240) or freshman Matthew Bryan-Amaning (6-9, 220) or a combination of the three can fill that role. Wolfinger, who redshirted his first season and then missed 2006-07 with a broken foot, showed some promise in Greece. He averaged 8.2 ppg on the trip. Bryan-Amaning, who was the No. 47-ranked prospect in the class of 2007, runs the court well for a big man and will immediately help on the glass.

Offense

With Hawes gone, coach Lorenzo Romar plans to turn to a more up-tempo offense. That's scary news for the rest of the Pac-10, considering the Huskies were second in the league in scoring last season at 76.5 points a game.

With the return of three double-digit scorers and the addition of Morris, the Huskies could match that number or even exceed it.

Defense

There's no question defense (or lack thereof) is the Huskies' main weakness. They gave up 73 points per game last season, the most in the league. Opponents shot 45.1 percent from the field. Only California (46.4 percent) and Oregon State (46.5) were worse.

Finding good post defenders will be a key to improving those stats. But more importantly, the entire team must start playing with more effort and determination on the defensive end.

Outlook with postseason forecast
On paper, the Huskies look dangerous. They have a veteran point guard (Dentmon), a great outside shooter (Appleby) and a big man who can control the boards (Brockman). Then, there's Pondexter, who can do a little bit of everything. They may have to play with an undersized lineup in perhaps the nation's toughest conference, but Romar - who led the Huskies to three consecutive second-place finishes in the Pac-10 before last season - will find a way to win. We expect the Huskies to be part of the field of 65.

Shoes to Fill

C Spencer Hawes. This throwback-style center was able to score on a variety of old-school post moves, opening up space for the guards to get open looks and maneuver on the perimeter.

Must Step Up

G Quincy Pondexter. This talented wing looked like one of the nation's top freshmen in November and December. Then came the Pac-10 schedule. After averaging 15.9 ppg in the first 10 games, he dropped to 8.3 ppg over the last 22 contests. With Hawes gone, the Huskies can't afford another tailspin like that.

Impact Newcomer

F Matthew Bryan-Amaning. The four-star recruit will earn a spot in the rotation quickly. He can beat many other big men down the floor and is very active around the basket.

Andrew Skwara is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at askwara@rivals.com.

Rivals.com is counting down our Preseason Top 64. Coming tomorrow: No. 30.


 

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