As the hours and minutes tick down to the Purdue-UConn tipoff at 4:07 p.m., it’s hard not to think how easily that could have been a UW-UConn tipoff instead.
In retrospect, the UW regular season — a first-ever Pac-10 title — demands that the overall season be considered a success.
But that post-season: A loss to Mississippi State would have been greeted by most folks as a pure disappointment. A loss in the Sweet 16 against UConn would have been seen as the team going about as far as they could have been reasonably expected to go.
But that second-round loss to Purdue … that’s feels like the party got cut a little short.
That’s no slam on Purdue, which is a good team and perhaps even underseeded as a No. 5. The issue is that UW didn’t go out playing their best basketball — not just on the day they were eliminated, but over the last two or three weeks of the season.
Despite playing some very good games down the stretch, I think the Huskies peaked a little earlier — more like mid-February when the outside shots were dropping and the starting guards were still playing at the statistical tops of their games.
Teams that take long runs in the tournament are teams that peak at just the right time. And in that final losing locker room, coach Lorenzo Romar seemed to generally agree when I asked if this team maybe peaked a little too soon.
“I don’t think we ever got over the hump where we were totally clicking down the stretch,” he said. “But I thought in terms of defending and competing and playing hard, I thought we were doing that as well at the end of the year as we had all year. We wouldn’t have won the Pac-10 if we would not have done that.”