Markelle Fultz has been stellar, so why isn't Washington a better team?
There is reason to think the Huskies are better than people think, but when will we see it?
Just seven games into the season, it's already feeling like we're going to be robbed of watching Markelle Fultz as much as we deserve to.
The latest evidence of this came Wednesday night, as the Huskies fell on the road to TCU, dropping UW to 4-3 and actually giving the squad its second loss to TCU in four days. (Bizarre schedule situation there, but yeah, TCU is now 7-0 and really flourishing under Jamie Dixon, who left a long tenure with Pitt to coach his alma mater. Expect to hear more about that team in the coming weeks if the Frogs are able to continue this pace.)
Fultz is the interesting story for now, with regard to his tremendous play and how Washington is failing around him. The concern can and should be real as we turn to December. We're nearly 25 percent through the regular season. Washington's four wins have come against the four easiest teams it's played, with three of those wins at home. Its three losses have come against TCU and Yale, with that Yale loss happening at home on opening night.
It's the way Washington fell on Wednesday that should raise eyebrows. Fultz was pretty fantastic again. He had 21 points, 14 rebounds (he's a combo guard, and that's a tremendous number of rebounds) and six dimes. But he also had six turnovers. As a team, Washington committed a horrendous 25 turnovers. The Huskies opened the game with a 22-5 lead, then completely cratered, and this despite hitting a remarkable 10 of their 12 3-point attempts (Fultz was 3-of-4).
The game finished 86-71, Frogs. On Saturday on a neutral floor in Vegas, it was 93-80, Frogs.
A lot of this is youth. The team ranks 341st out of 351 teams in experience, per KenPom.com. They play fast, but they play loose. Turnovers will end you in a hurry. TCU fans, somewhat hilariously, got so puffy-chested that they started to chant lies at Fultz once the Horned Frogs' lead was safe.
TCU student section apparently chanting "overrated" at Markelle Fultz, who's only got 14 points and 10 boards midway through second half.— Kevin Pelton (@kpelton) December 1, 2016
Fultz being "overrated" couldn't be further from the truth. He's still in the mix -- with a handful of talented freshmen -- to be the No. 1 pick in June's NBA Draft. His stat line on the season -- 23.0 points, 6.7 assists, 5.5 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 55.3-percent shooting -- is simply outstanding.
But have you seen much of Fultz? Did you even realize he did this over the weekend? Check the video. There are only a handful of players in college basketball capable of pulling off a sequence like this. Automatic lottery material with both-end-of-the-floor ability here.
But you probably didn't see that, just as you didn't see Fultz and Washington lose to TCU on Wednesday, just as you might not get to see too much of him for most of this season. It's a West Coast team with a weak non-conference schedule that will play its games late. Fultz's talent is worth staying up for, but will Washington warrant the publicity?
That answer hasn't been determined yet. What has been: Fultz's abilities matching the preseason hype. Now UW coach Lorenzo Romar needs to find a way to get the guys around Fultz to D up and play better on the run, because this team can be fun to watch, but far too few will care to check in if Fultz can't get help to push this team into the top half of the Pac-12.
The biggest opportunity yet comes next Wednesday night. A road game against ranked Gonzaga. A showcase game not for Fultz, but Washington in general. Prove-it time has already arrived.
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