If only the Huskies had Ted St. Martin in his prime. The University of Washington men might in that case be headed to the NCAA Big Dance instead of consigned to something more like a dance academy: the NIT, which many believe stands for “not in tournament.
All the Dawgs probably needed to do to join the 68 teams announced Sunday (March 11) for the national-championship race was sink a few more free throws against Oregon State Thursday, when the UW lost 86-84. It’s hard to see how they could’ve made fewer.
In any case, the Huskies starting Tuesday will play at home as first seed in the National Invitational Tournament. The 7 p.m. tiff is against Texas-Arlington, known to many in and around Seattle as “Texas Arlington?” If the Dawgs wind up first among the 32 collegiate also-rans at the NIT, it will give them fair claim to being 69th-best in the land.
Tony Wroten is a much better player than Ted St. Martin ever was. But Wroten, in missing his final four (to borrow a college-basketball phrase) tries from the stripe, is being blamed by some for being the bum of the Huskies’ season.
The freshman from Garfield High, in fact, was nine for 11 from the line before inexplicably missing his last four attempts. He also was 10 for 19 from the floor, leading UW with 29 points. His teammates were three for 11 shooting foul shots, with “foul,” then, taking on an unintended meaning. Twelve for 26 means the Dawgs shot just 46 percent against OSU from the free-throw line.
“Teams that make their free throws win,” wrote Joe Hamilton of Shoreline in a letter published in Sunday’s Seattle Times. “Teams that miss their free throws lose. [Husky Coach] Lorenzo Romar recruits too many who want to be flashy scorers instead of complete players. That attitude makes your team one and done.”
Actually, this season the Dawgs for the first time since 2008 will be none and done. It would be good to have a quote about this from Ted St. Martin but none is available just now. Nor can those of us who weren’t there that day in 1996 vouch for the validity of the (highly) improbable feat in which, according to some sources, Steady Teddy during a seven-hour stretch sank — you’re ready for this? — 5,221 consecutive free throws .
Let’s just say someone with the alleged skill of Ted “St. Marksman” might’ve been able to help the Huskies not just slide by Oregon State but also engender an environment in which making “frees” is as valued as sinking “threes.”
Such hasn’t seemed to be the case at Huskyland, as Hamilton supposed in his Times missive. Indeed, during much of the otherwise admirable Romar era some of us have repeatedly alluded to his teams’ struggles with free throws.
But the clanging continues. During the Pac-12’s first basketball season, the Dawgs hit just .612 from the line, bad enough for second to last. USC, something of a JV team this season, shot .610. California and Colorado, both of which will play in the NCAA tourney, were first and fifth, respectively, in charity shots.
Did the Dawgs deserve a place at the NCAAs? No matter how arcane the statistical number crunching that added up to denial of a spot for UW, winning the regular season of the Pac-12 should’ve counted for inclusion, even though four of the league’s teams had better overall records.
Perhaps after the snub Romar will try harder to see to it that his minions get the point, one free throw at a time.