December 23, 2006

Mailbag: Hawes officially arrives as a Husky

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Anybody who stayed up late to watch Washington's 88-72 win over LSU on Wednesday night wasn't upset about losing a couple hours of sleep, outside of Tigers fans of course.

Spencer Hawes put on a performance that captivated hoops fans. The highly touted freshman outplayed LSU star Glen Davis, scoring 23 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Davis was held to a season-low eight points and went 3-of-11 from the field.

Should we expect more of the same from Hawes? We explore that topic, along with questions about Nebraska and Wisconsin, in this weekly mailbag:

Andrew Skwara's Mailbag
Did we see the emergence of Spencer Hawes as a dominant big man against LSU?
From: Bocephus from Walla Walla, Wash.
Fan of: Washington

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I hate to make judgments based on one game, but in this case I think the answer to your question is, "Yes."

Hawes put together a remarkable performance, flashing an array of old-school post moves that I haven't seen from college or pro big men in years.

Hawes was hitting hook shots from 12 feet out - with defenders in his face. The freshman used the glass to hit a 15-foot jumper from what seemed to be an impossible angle. He also pivoted around the wide-bodied Davis to get a layup.

More important than the actual moves was the newfound confidence with which Hawes was playing. The five-star recruit got off to a bit of a slow start this season. He didn't look comfortable on the offensive end the first few games, but he clearly wanted the ball - and the pressure that comes along with it - against the Tigers.

In the preseason, I thought the young Washington team was a year away from doing some damage in the NCAA Tournament. But after watching Hawes' performance, it's clear they are more than capable of doing it this season. They have plenty of talent and balance. Now it appears they have a player in Hawes who can score consistently in the post against a variety of defenders. He can be a big interior presence on the defensive end as well.

Do you think the Nebraska men's basketball team will make the NCAA tournament this year?
From: Bryce Stoddard, Springfield, Neb.
Fan of: Nebraska

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The forecast is tilting more toward the NIT.

Nebraska is certainly better than projected, but there are at least five other teams in the Big 12 that are better right now: Kansas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Texas and Missouri. It's tough to believe there will be room for a sixth in the Big Dance.

Nebraska's non-conference résumé isn't NCAA Tournament-worthy either. Their best win came against in-state rival Creighton, who is looking a bit overrated after losing to Dayton and Fresno State. The Cornhuskers also lost to Oregon, the only top 25 team they faced, and fell to a .500 Rutgers team.

But, don't get your spirits dampened if the Huskers wind up in the NIT again. New coach Doc Sadler has infused this program with a lot of hope for the future.

Junior center Aleks Maricis playing like one of the nation's top big men, averaging 19.8 points and 7.8 rebounds a game. Guard Ryan Anderson looks like one of the top freshman, averaging 13.6 points a game.

The team is relatively young with just two seniors on the roster. If Sadler can convince Maric to return for his senior year and land some solid recruits this summer, he'll have a team that could not only make the NCAA Tournament next season but make some noise once there.

How strong are the Badgers in the top five? In the past, each time they got a good ranking they got beat. Are they for real this time?
From: Ray from Milwaukee, Wis.
Fan of: Wisconsin

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If Wisconsin isn't for real than nobody is. You can make an argument that the Badgers have been the most impressive team in the nation. They went on the road and knocked off a very dangerous Marquette team and put together double-digit wins over Pittsburgh - which was ranked No. 2 at the time - and Florida State at home. Their only loss came on a neutral court to Missouri State, one of the top mid-major programs.

Few teams have played that tough of a stretch, and few would get through it with those results.

Beyond the wins and losses is more proof of an elite team.

Nobody is playing better than Alando Tucker right now. The veteran looked unstoppable against Marquette and Pitt. As long as he stays healthy, the Badgers will have a chance to win every game - regardless of the opponent.

The emergence of junior forward Brian Butch might provide more optimism. Butch played the game of his life against Pitt, scoring a career-high 27 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.

The Badgers have a go-to scorer, good ballhandlers, shooters and plenty of size. However, Butch is the real key to going deep in the postseason. When the former McDonald's All-American is putting up numbers anywhere close to what he did against the Panthers, opponents can't double team Tucker.

Rivals.com college basketball writer Andrew Skwara answers your questions every week in The Mailbag. Click here to send him a question.




 

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