The curtain rises today on another University of Washington men's basketball season.
And even though the cast is largely familiar, coach Lorenzo Romar said he feels the usual jitters heading into his ninth season.
“It’s maybe like opening night of a play,” he said. “You haven’t had that first performance, and you’ve worked really hard at it, but you’re not sure how it’s going to go until you get out there and see.”
The Huskies’ first opponent comes from off-Broadway – way off. The McNeese State Cowboys of Lake Charles, La., have played Washington once before, crossing paths in the 1985 First Bank Tulsa Classic. However, this is the first time UW has invited the Southland Conference school to its campus.
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The reason the Cowboys appear now is to provide a trip home – or near home – for senior Diego Kapelan of Vancouver, B.C.
That’s an increasingly common trend. Romar said the Huskies “probably will” do something similar over the next few years by scheduling a Louisiana opponent as a sort of homecoming for Jernard Jarreau of New Orleans, the only non-Northwesterner among the four-man recruiting class UW announced Wednesday.
Also announced was the new scheduling format the conference will use starting next season when Colorado and Utah join.
The Pacific-12 Conference will retain the current 18-game conference schedule and will not break into divisions. Each school will retain home-and-away games each season with its traditional rival (in this case, Washington-Washington State) and with six other opponents that will rotate in two-year cycles, while playing the other four league members once – two of them at home only, two away only.
“Given the circumstances, I thought they did about as good a job as they can do,” Romar said. “I wasn’t a fan of the divisions and all that.”
However, those are distant issues for a one-game-at-a-time coach such as Romar. Regardless of how and why the Cowboys left southwest Louisiana, they will be at Hec Edmundson Pavilion this afternoon.
“They have a lot of experience (and) some shooters on the perimeter,” Romar said. Like McNeese, Washington returns four starters. However, that’s where the similarities end.
UW went 26-10 last season and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. The Huskies open this season ranked 18th nationally and are the media favorites to win the Pac-10.
They debuted last week with a 97-76 exhibition win against Saint Martin’s. But despite the scoreboard margin, there were concerns because the Division II school outrebounded the home team, 42-32.
“We’ve just got to play harder,” said junior guard Isaiah Thomas. “That’s the main focus: playing hard for 40 minutes. ... We’ve got the talent – we know that – and we’ve got the tools to be a great defensive team, a great rebounding team, a good offensive team. We’ve just got to put it together.”