Sophomore Venoy Overton won the starting job from senior Justin Dentmon last season. Overton is a solid defender and distributor, but often a liability when shooting the ball. He made just 33.8 percent (46 of 136) of his field goals in 2007-08. Dentmon, who was a starter as a freshman, has the most experience of the group. His strength is attacking the basket.
Freshman Isaiah Thomas gives coach Lorenzo Romar another option. A four-star recruit, the 5-foot-8 Thomas is a shoot-first type who was a big-time scorer on the AAU level.
Overton, Dentmon and Thomas need to learn how to play together and do so quickly. With the departure of three shooting guards (starters Ryan Appleby and Tim Morris used up their eligibility, and reserve Joel Smith transferred to Division II Chaminade), Romar will frequently play two point guards at the same time and use a steady rotation of all three.
The return of senior big man Jon Brockman, a sort of Tyler Hansbrough of the West Coast, stands as the main reason the Huskies can turn things around and make a run at an NCAA Tournament bid.
The powerfully built Brockman (6-7/245) was one of the most productive and dependable players in the nation last season, racking up 22 double-doubles and scoring in double-figures in every game last season. Brockman's best asset is pounding the glass. His 11.6 rebounds per game are the most of any returning player in the nation.?
The Huskies are counting on junior small forward Quincy Pondexter to emerge as a steady scoring threat. Pondexter struggled to improve on his promising freshman campaign last season, but did finish strong, averaging 15.2 points over the Huskies' last five games.
There also is reason to believe sophomore power forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning, a native of England, will have a breakthrough season. Bryan-Amaning, a former four-star recruit, was one of the top players at the U-20 Euro Championships this summer.
Interior depth should be a strength thanks to senior center Artem Wallace, 7-footer Joe Wolfinger and redshirt freshman power forward Darnell Gant. Romar previously said Gant, who voluntarily took a redshirt last season, had developed enough to where he could have contributed near the end of last season.
With so many point guards and a number of big men who run well, the Huskies will look to score more in transition. The lack of a reliable 3-point shooter means they probably will face a lot of zone.
Outside of lowly Oregon State, the Huskies were probably the worst defensive team in the Pac-10 last season. They ranked next-to-last in opponents' field-goal percentage (45.1 percent) and eighth in scoring defense (70.8 ppg).
The Huskies should have been better last season. Brockman was one of the nation's premier big men and they had a deep group of experienced guards. What held them back is easy to identify. The Huskies shot 58.6 percent from the free-throw line, which ranks among the nation's worst. The good news is they can improve. Brockman went from a 66 percent free-throw shooter to 52 percent. Dentmon dropped from 80 to 70 percent and Pondexter from 78 to 68. If those guys start shooting like they can from the line, the Huskies won't have to consider whether to accept another invitation to the College Basketball Invitational. A favorable schedule is loaded with home games, and because of several early departures to the NBA, the Pac-10 won't be nearly as strong as last season. We expect the Huskies to battle for an NCAA Tournament berth and do no worse than an NIT appearance.
Don't expect those numbers to improve dramatically. The Huskies, who normally employ a man-to-man look, lack a shot-blocking threat. Brockman has blocked just 15 shots in three seasons. Playing undersized point guards will make them susceptible to bigger guards as well.
SHOES TO FILL
Appleby. This 3-point specialist will be missed, largely because of the lack of good outside shooters on the roster. Appleby's 77 3-pointers last season were nearly three times the next-highest total (Dentmon made 27) on the team.
MUST STEP UP
Pondexter. The lack of progress last season from Pondexter, who was pegged as the Huskies' next star, puzzled those within the program and around the Pac-10. An inside-outside scoring threat with good size and athleticism, Pondexter has all the physical tools to be a star in the league. The Huskies need him to start playing like one.
Thomas. A Washington commitment for more than 2? years, Thomas is the Huskies' point guard of the future. Quick and crafty, Thomas has the ability to finish in the lane despite his lack of size. He has been impressive in summer pickup games with the team.
Andrew Skwara is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.