Hoop hopes are high for the Huskies, but the Sonics seem like goners

The University of Washington men's team is showing promising signs of turning around the season. The Sonics seem to have promised to perform as poorly as possible to hasten an exit to Oklahoma.
The University of Washington men's team is showing promising signs of turning around the season. The Sonics seem to have promised to perform as poorly as possible to hasten an exit to Oklahoma.

Readers thumbing through their local newspapers to check the numbers and assess their two main Seattle basketball teams may have gotten distracted by all the stats in other sections. The business pages, for example, carry a lot of statistical content, as does the main section, what with an opinion-poll-driven political-campaign season that seems to have begun about two TV sub-prime-mortgage commercials after the 2006 elections.

I figured there might be a way to apply political information as a means of divining the fortunes of the Seattle SuperSonics and the University of Washington Huskies men's team. It led to the following formula: Subtract Fred Thompson's age from that of John McCain (Roman numerals are optional), add Rudy Giuliani's delegate count and divide by the number of constitutional amendments Mike Huckabee would like to replace with Commandments.

Remarkably, the result of the equation was that the Sonics lost their 10th straight game Saturday, Jan. 19, and team chairman Clay Bennett couldn't be happier.

As for the Huskies, something like the inverse proved true. The Dawgs won their second straight conference game Saturday, but fans aren't particularly pleased. That's because it still leaves the club just 2-3 in league, which would be fine were it not the Pac 10, where at least six teams have a better claim on an NCAA tournament bid than does UW. Moreover, the Huskies still need to play away games against some of their better nemeses: Arizona and Arizona State (next weekend), Oregon, Washington State, Stanford, and California. A road win against any of the above would be a surprise; several would give the Huskies at least a fighting chance to make it to March Madness.

The Husky comeback toward conference respectability started with a nearly wire-to-wire 78-70 home upset of Oregon on Jan. 17. Many fans hadn't even found their way to Hec Edmundson Pavilion for the 6 p.m. start by the time the aggressive Husky defensive effort helped fix a first-half lead. Workhorse junior Jon Brockman had 16 rebounds, but it actually appeared as though he had twice as many. His teammates also stayed out of foul trouble and hit timely shots from the outside.

Oregon State came in two days later, and the Huskies struggled against what may be the league's least-talented team. The lead seemed to change with every possession of the second half, but the Beavs led by five with as many minutes left to play. The Huskies then in effect climbed onto that horse named Brockman (Bronc-Man?). The bulky forward (and fantasy answer to the Seahawks tight-end needs) got the ball under the bucket for repeated field goals as the Huskies hit their final nine shots (and seven of nine free throws) to win 83-74 – the widest margin of the game. Brockman followed his 21-point, 16-rebound effort against Oregon with 26 and 14, seeming to clinch the Pac 10 Player of the Week award.

Whether the Huskies keep improving and wind up in the NCAA tournament, better days eventually are ahead. After the season they lose just two players (off-and-on long-ball artist Ryan Appleby, mostly off against OSU, and improved guard Tim Morris) but it looks as though they gain plenty. Freshman Venoy Overton is a talented and league-tested guard from Seattle's Franklin High; Matthew Bryan-Amaning, nearly a foot taller, is another deft frosh making an impact, or at least he did against Oregon State. The stylish forward showed the poise his team needed during the second half, keeping the Huskies in the game and assuring playing time, as coach Lorenzo Romar pledged with his favorable comments after the victory.

As for the Sonics, aside from a surprisingly competitive loss to the Lakers Jan. 14, they keep finding new ways to define "lose ugly." Consequences could include so much alienation of their remaining fans that Seattleites will help Bennett pack the team and drive players to the airport for their one-way trip to Oklahoma City, where locals apparently dream of paying to see what is now a 9-31 team. An ongoing court case is intended to decide whether Bennett can buy out his team's lease and move A.S.A.P. rather that wait until the end of the 2009-10 season. If the latter is the case, potential buyers from greater Seattle could emerge and buy back the Soops from Snidely Bennett.

Bennett seems to have done whatever he could to assure a disastrous season. Some of us wondered at the time how long it would take "fans" to pick up on the idea that wuss coach P.J. Carlesimo may have been hired by the Bennett group to assure ongoing loss streaks such as the one extended to 10 by Saturday's inevitable lay-down, 115-96, at Dallas. Carlesimo is 192-253 as an NBA mentor, and if he stays with the Sonics the record will only get worse, kind of like the numbers you find in the biz section of the newspaper these days.


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