This coming season will be one of rebuilding for Washington and Washington State. Graduations, suspensions, and transfers have left both teams picking up the pieces and starting to reconstruct their programs from the ground up. Even though both must rebuild, each will do so in completely different manners. Washington State possesses a solid foundation of upperclassmen, but must find a new leader in wake of DaVonte Lacy's departure while the Huskies must focus on a longterm rebuilding project beginning with their excellent incoming recruiting class.
Departures: Nigel Williams-Goss (Transfer), Robert Upshaw (Dismissed from team/NBA Draft), Shawn Kemp Jr. (Senior), Mike Anderson (Senior), Jernard Jarreau (Transfer), Darin Johnson (Transfer), Jahmel Taylor (Transfer), Gilles Dierickx (Transfer)
Returnees: Andrew Andrews, Donaven Dorsey, Quevyn Winters
Newcomers: Dejounte Murray (ESPN100 #49), Noah Dickerson (ESPN100 #52), Marquese Chriss (ESPN100 #60), Matisse Thybulle (ESPN: 4 Stars), David Crisp (ESPN: 3 Stars), Dominic Green (ESPN: 3 Stars), Devenir Duruisseau (ESPN: 3 Stars), Malik Dime (JUCO Transfer), Matthew Atewe (Auburn Transfer)
The very core of the Washington Huskies was torn apart during the offseason. Between transfers and graduation, the roster currently has a huge hole that must be filled. Thankfully, Washington has the largest and one of the best recruiting classes in the country. UW brings nine new faces to their program, highlighted by three ESPN100 recruits: Dejounte Murray, Noah Dickerson, and Marquese Chriss. All three look to be immediate impact players for the Huskies. Murray has the potential to become on the best point guards in the Pac-12 in the coming years. His court vision and ability to score off the drive will blend nicely with senior Andrew Andrews' game. Dickerson and Chriss will help reinforce a very weak front court. With the dismissal of Robert Upshaw and graduation of Shawn Kemp Jr, UW is in dire need of a big man presence.
If Washington wants any chance to be successful this coming season, Andrew Andrews must take control of his team. Andrews is the lone starter and dominant scorer returning. The next best scorer that remains from last year is Donaven Dorsey, who averaged 3.8 points per game. Andrews must be the man who facilitates the ball on offense and the team's best defender. He has to push the incoming freshman to play to their highest level possible, and must take a personal interest in developing Dejounte Murray. Furthermore, Dickerson and Chriss must be ready on opening night to play at the collegiate level. With little support coming from the Huskies' bench, Dickerson and Chriss have a strong chance to be immediate starters. The rest of the freshman must continue to develop this summer as well, especially the perimeter shooters, such as Dominic Green. An outside threat will open up the middle for the big men and as provide a driving lane for Andrews and Murray.
Best Case Scenario: Andrews steps up to the massive task bestowed upon him and brings out the best in everyone. The freshmen immediately blend and transition seamlessly to the college level. Murray, Dickerson, and Chriss prove to be the core that Washington will build their future upon. The Huskies make a solid run in the Pac-12 and surprise everybody by sneaking in the NCAA Tournament.
Worst Case Scenario: Andrews cannot fully manage his team, despite being one of the best guards in the Pac-12. The freshman struggle to play together, and the bench doesn't develop at all. The Huskies crash, burn, and spend their season fighting out of the basement all season.
Departures: DaVonte Lacy (Senior), Dexter Kernich-Drew (Senior), Jordan Railey (Senior), Aaron Cheatum (Transfer), Trevor Dunbar (Transfer), Jackie Davis (Transfer)
Returnees: Josh Hawkinson, Ike Iroegbu, Que Johnson
Newcomers: Robert Franks (ESPN: 2 Stars), Vionte Daniels (ESPN: 2 Stars), Conor Clifford (JUCO Transfer), Derrien King (JUCO Transfer), Renard Suggs (JUCO Transfer), Charles Callison (JUCO Transfer)
Even with no big names for the 2015 recruiting class, Washington State incoming players will help fill the void from last season's departures. Freshmen Robert Franks and Vionte Daniels both could be diamonds in the rough. Franks is a versatile center who has well rounded post moves and can shoot the three. In coming years, Franks could become a strong big man for the Cougars. Vionte Daniels looks to be the guard WSU needs. He is a lockdown defender, and can accurately shoot the ball from almost anywhere on the floor. Daniels could possibly develop into a replacement for DaVonte Lacy. The four JUCO transfer always provide endless opportunity, as we have seen before in players such as Joe Young or Gary Payton II. Hopefully, they will be able to provide solid minutes for the team.
Like their rival Huskies, Washington State will spend most of the year rebuilding, more specifically learning how to play without their star guard. Still that does not mean all hope is lost for the Cougars this season. They return big man Josh Hawkinson, who will provide a leadership role and dominant presence in the front court. Washington State also brings back third leading scorer Ike Iroegbu, who is always a threat to score off the drive. Also, junior guard Que Johnson should be a solid presence from the three point line, which will help open up the middle for Hawkinson. The rest of the returning players must improve their shooting from deep since Hawkinson will most likely be the Cougars best scoring option. The more room he has to work, the better.
Best Case Scenario: Hawkinson becomes one of the Pac-12's best big men. Iroegbu becomes a consistent second option. The rest of the team improves their overall shooting, and the freshmen turn out to be hidden gems. Washington State spends most of their year in the middle of the Pac-12 and surprises their fans with a CBI bid.
Worst Case Scenario: It is revealed that DaVonte Lacy was the heart and soul of the team. Josh Hawkinson, despite his best efforts, cannot will his team to victory. Iroegbu remains an average player, and so does the rest of team. The freshmen turn out to be busts, and WSU struggles to get 10 wins.
This year may not turn out to be the most successful year in Washington for college basketball. However if the proper foundations are laid, positive effects will be seen in the near future. Both the Huskies and the Cougars will have young teams, but they both have a chance to begin building towards success. The opportunity to make or break their college programs are riding on this season for both UW and WSU. It will be quite interesting to see how each team responds to the pressure.