The Huskies wrap up the nonconference season at 7-5, but are they ready for Pac-12 play that starts Jan. 1 against Washington State?

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Aside from the 19 turnovers, Washington’s 94-72 win over Seattle University is exactly the type of game Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar envisioned his team was capable of playing.

Even when they were throttled at Gonzaga 98-71, he never lost faith. And when UW dropped its fourth straight game – an upset at home 87-85 against Nevada – Romar said afterward the Huskies had made progress.

He’s been using that word “progress” a lot lately, which coincides with Washington’s three-game winning streak that’s improved its record to 7-5 heading into Pac-12 play.

Here are three observations after Thursday’s 22-point victory.

THIS DEFENSE CAN TRAVEL: The concern this season with the Huskies had always been with their shoddy defense, which ranked at low as 333rd in the nation not so long ago while giving up nearly 83 points per game. In their past two outings, the Huskies have allowed 61 and 72 points. In those games, their opponents shot 32.2 percent and 38.6 percent from the field. Washington also won the rebounding battle 39-31 against Cal Poly and 44-31 against Seattle University. Despite losing its top three scorers from last season, there was never much doubt UW would be able to generate points. The Huskies average 86.2 points and rank 17th nationally. However, their defense early in the season spelled trouble against Pac-12 teams – particularly on the road in the Bay Area, Arizona, Los Angeles and against Utah and Colorado. But if Washington can play the type of defense its shown in the past two games against conference opponents – and that’s still a big IF – then the Huskies have a chance at finishing in the top half of the league in the regular-season race. UW was picked to finish sixth in a Pac-12 preseason media poll.

OFFENSIVE VERSATILITY IS NICE, BUT IT’S OVERRATED: The Huskies have five players averaging at least 10 points, which sounds great and looks good in a box score. But the last time Washington had five players average at least 10 points was during the 2006-07 season when the Huskies finished 19-13 and 8-10 in the Pac-10. That team was led by Spencer Hawes (14.9 points), Jon Brockman (14.2), Quincy Pondexter (10.7), Ryan Appleby (10.5) and Justin Dentmon (10.1). They averaged just 76.5 points per game. UW is much more prolific offensively this season while averaging 85.6 points thanks in large part to Markelle Fultz (22.0), David Crisp (14.3), Noah Dickerson (12.0), Matisse Thybulle (10.4) and Dominic Green (9.6). The quintet gives Washington options. Fultz has been a steady contributor, who tallied fewer than 14 points in just one game. Crisp and Dickerson have had shining moments recently. Meanwhile, Thybulle and Green have each produced 20-point outings, but each has been held to fewer than 10 points in at least six games.

IT’S TIME TO PLAY THE WHAT-IF GAME: An annual exercise for UW fans after the nonconference season is looking back and examining the losses that ultimately haunt the Huskies in March. Last season, the defeats at home against Oakland and UC Santa Barbara would have helped the Huskies, which finished 19-15 after a second-round loss in the NIT. Most notably in 2011-12, a home loss versus South Dakota State and an overtime defeat at Nevada likely kept Pac-12 regular-season champion Washington (24-11) out of the NCAA tournament. Unless the Huskies upset a few teams this season, UW fans will lament head-scratching home defeats to Yale (98-90) and Nevada (87-85). Those losses will loom large especially if the Huskies make a run for a postseason berth. At the very least, heading into Pac-12 play at 9-3 would have looked a whole lot better than 7-5. UW’s RPI rank is 135th and the Huskies are ranked 89th according to Ken Pomeroy’s advanced metrics. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi projects only four Pac-12 teams (No. 2 seed UCLA, No. 5 Arizona, No. 6 Oregon and No. 7 USC) will make the NCAA tournament. Colorado (10-3) and California (9-3) will likely figure into the NCAA tournament discussions. According to, Washington is projected to finish 15-15 during the regular season. That’s a lot of fancy stats, but the bottom line is wins is the most important metric and Washington lost two – maybe three if you consider one of the TCU setbacks – that cast a shadow over whatever progress they’ve made recently.