Husky Basketball Salvages A Split On The Road Against The Mountain Schools

To me, I’m not seeing a whole lot of difference between Utah and Colorado from a talent perspective.  The Utes like the long ball a little more than the Buffaloes, and are a little less guard-heavy, but other than that, these two teams are pretty close.  Yet, against Utah, the Huskies lost by 8, and against Colorado, the Huskies won by 10.

The Huskies, with their zone, and their aggressive style of defense when it comes to steals and blocks, are able to mitigate a lot of talent disparities in Pac-12 play.  When they’re on, they can beat any team; when they’re off, they can lose to any team.  Now, obviously when you compare them to Gonzaga, or some of the other elite schools, the Huskies don’t have the talent to hang for very long.  But, against the Pac-12 so far, it’s fine.  The Huskies are probably in the upper half of the middle of the road.

But, offensively, the Huskies have a real problem.  As has been noted by anyone who has eyeballs, the Huskies tend to go silent on the offensive end for long stretches of game.  Against Utah, it was pretty much the entire first half, as the Utes ran out to a 35-24 halftime lead.  The Huskies were able to make a little bit of a run in the second half – getting as close as 64-60 with 2 minutes to go in the game – but ultimately didn’t have enough in the tank to close it out.

The Huskies shot just under 40% for the game, which is pretty normal for them, but they were a truly abysmal 2 of 18 from the 3-point line.  David Crisp was a mind-boggling 0 for 7, and Thybulle & Nowell combined to go 0 for 5.  Personally, I’d love it if Crisp just stopped shooting threes altogether, because he’s fucking terrible at it.  I mean, you KNOW he practices it all the fucking time, because it’s what he loves to do more than anything else on Earth!  How he can do that and still be so awful is one of those unsolvable mysteries I’ll never understand.  You can’t even call him streaky anymore, because Crisp is just on one season-long bad streak of jump-shooting.

Then, a couple days later, it was more of the same in the early going against Colorado, as poor shooting allowed the Buffs to jump out to a 7-0 lead, and later an 18-9 lead before the Husky Timeout Heard ‘Round The World.  There was around 8 minutes left in the first half, and from that point the Huskies went on a 27-9 run to get to halftime with a 9-point lead.  The improved shooting continued in the second half, and the Huskies pulled out a crucial win.

It was huge to avoid a 3-game losing streak, it helped leapfrog us back into 4th place in the conference, and it was yet another road victory to throw onto the pile.  We’re among the last four out on ESPN’s Bracketology, which is very impressive for this team.

The Huskies shot a whopping 50% from 3-point against the Buffs (8 of 19) and killed ’em on the boards.  Crisp kept it to 1 for 3, which is fine, but Thybulle, Nowell, and Dominic Green all crushed it (3/5, 2/5 and 2/5 respectively).  The Huskies need those guys to keep up the quality shooting to be a Tourney team, so keep those fingers crossed.

14-6 overall, 4-3 in conference, with 11 more games to go.  That’s one game against the Cougs (this Sunday), two more against the Mountain schools at home, and a whopping 4 games against the pretty mediocre Oregon schools.  Ideally, the Huskies will find a way to win 6/7 of those games, but that’s me being greedy.  If we take down 4/7 conservatively, that puts us at 18-9 (8-6) with 4 important games left over (two at home against the Arizona schools; two on the road in the Bay Area).  Win 2/4 of those (with one of the two coming against the Cardinal or Wildcats, that puts us at 20-11 (10-8) with impressive wins over at least two Tourney schools (maybe 3 if USC makes it; maybe more if some of those non-conference mid-major schools play well).  20-11 would put the Huskies firmly on the bubble, with the Pac-12 Tournament to go.  They’d definitely have to win their first game, and probably have to win 2 games to assure themselves a seat at the Dance.

Can’t let up against the Cougs this weekend.  Maybe more important than anything else is winning the games you’re supposed to win.  Padding out that record and getting into the top 3 or 4 in the conference regular season would be my preferred option.

Husky Basketball Split A Weekend Home Series Against The Bay Area Schools

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see a second of the Thursday night game against the California Golden Bears, because 8pm starts are a thing for the Pac-12, and with my schedule being what it is, I’m in bed by that time.

The Huskies did their thing, though, in beating Cal 66-56.  Cal was held to just under 36% shooting from beyond the arc, and missed more free throws than they hit to seal the deal.  The Huskies were pretty sloppy in their own right, but did just enough down the stretch, led by Jaylen Nowell’s 20 points and 5 boards.  Thybulle filled up the stat sheet as usual, Crisp hit a couple huge shots and didn’t force things offensively, and the Dawgs got double-digit scoring out of Dickerson and Nahziah Carter to round things out.

I was able to catch the Stanford game on Saturday night, which unfortunately never really went the Huskies’ way.  We found ourselves down 21-12 midway through the first half before a Husky run made it just a 2-point deficit at halftime.  Then, after trading some leads early in the second half, the Cardinal went on another run to go up 13 a little past the midway point.  The Huskies would go on another run to get to within 2 points at the under-4 time out, but we ultimately couldn’t sustain it and Stanford ended up winning by 9.

This was a tough one.  Stanford was 9-8 heading into this game, but only had 1 conference loss, and played a seriously difficult non-conference scheduled.  In other words, this team is MUCH better than their overall record, and I expect them to be a Tournament team (barring injury) come March.  The Huskies were able to keep them in check from the 3-point line, for the most part.  But, they just KILLED us on the boards, grabbing 48 to our 28 (and 14 on the offensive glass to our 3).  The Huskies did their damnedest, winning the turnover battle 18-10, out-blocking them by a whopping 12-3 margin, and beating them 10-4 in steals.  Ultimately, though, this game came down to poor Husky shooting.  5/22 from long distance, 37.5% overall, and only 17/26 from the charity stripe.  With foul trouble being pretty equal on both sides, the shooting thing was ultimately too big to overcome.

I think it’s encouraging that the Huskies can hang with a team like Stanford.  We play them again in late February, and it wouldn’t shock me if we somehow prevailed.

It’s unfortunate to drop a home game, but remember how far this team has come since last season.  It’s also important to note that the Huskies have been just as good on the road as they’ve been at home, and their style of play can work regardless of location.  This is fundamentally important, especially when you consider this team wants to get back to the NCAA Tournament, and ALL of those games are away from your home arena.

The Huskies look to limit this to a 1-game losing streak as they head to the Mountain schools this week.  Utah doesn’t appear to be particularly strong this year, and Colorado appears to be better than anyone expected.  I wouldn’t expect either of those things to matter, as it wouldn’t shock me if the Huskies won both games, lost both games, or split them either direction.

Husky Basketball Starts Out 2-1 In Pac-12 Play

It’s been a pretty cool first couple weeks of conference play for the Huskies.  As the title states, we’re 2-1 so far through three games, all on the road.  We kicked things off with a win over what I’m told is a pretty good USC team.  We ran out to a big lead at halftime, withstood an early second half USC run, and took home a victory that featured USC shooting 3/20 from beyond the arc.  Only time will tell if USC ends up being a quality team in the Pac-12, but I’ll say this:  any road win against a conference opponent is a huge win.

The only blemish to what could’ve been an insanely great first two weeks of the conference season was a loss a couple days later against UCLA.  In hindsight, it’s all the tougher because we had an 8-point halftime lead and just totally collapsed in the second half, as the Bruins outscored us 46-17.  UCLA didn’t totally go off, hitting just 5 of 14 from deep, but they made their share of two’s, and hit 25/30 free throws to salt it away.  The Huskies, meanwhile, somehow managed to hit only 2/27 from beyond the arc, which if it wasn’t a school record for futility, has to be close to it.  Unfortunately, that’s just going to be the case with this team sometimes.  As it is, we’re not the best 3-point shooting team even when we’re hitting our usual percentage of shots (David Crisp almost always does his part to drag down our average), but there are going to be times where we dip way below, and we – as fans – just have to hope that isn’t a regular occurrence, or else this thing could go south pretty quick.

We topped off our road trip by knocking off the Cougars 70-65 over the weekend.  The Cougs are primarily a 3-point shooting team, and were held to 7/27 from deep.  That’s exactly the type of team that plays into our hands, as the Husky zone is designed to limit shots from deep (or at least make them harder to hit).

I’ve finally seen a pattern start to develop when it comes to the Huskies.  With the zone, outside shooting teams are going to be kept in check for the most part (though, I anticipate we’ll run into a game here and there where opposing shooting teams have a hot night and put us to bed early).  Our zone needs to be working effectively, because we’re not the greatest offensive team, particularly from 3-point land.  As long as it does, we should be in most games.  As I noted, there will be times other teams just destroy our zone and shoot out of their minds, and there will be times where the Huskies hit a crazy percentage of shots and run the other team out of the gym.  I feel like those games will cancel each other out, and the rest of the time it’s going to be close and it’s going to depend on how the Huskies close out games.

And, quite frankly, I’m encouraged by how the Huskies are closing things out!  USC put a lot of pressure on the Dawgs in the second half of that game, and we hit enough shots and free throws to put things away.  The UCLA game got away from us early in the second half, and that was just a flukey bad-shooting night, so write that one off.  The Coug game, though, was pretty close all along, with lots of lead changes, and the Huskies did just enough late – with a particularly huge shot in the lane by Nowell, and a ton of breathtaking drives to the basket by Crisp – to get the W they deserved.

Now, I think we ratchet up expectations just a little bit.  At 2-1, the Huskies are tied for second (with a lot of other teams) in the Pac-12.  At 12-4, with a number of quality wins (and already 2 conference road wins), the NCAA Tournament is definitely in the conversation.  Who expected that when the season started?

God bless Mike Hopkins.  Let’s keep it going!

Not Quite There Yet: The Huskies Lost To Gonzaga

Win or lose, I was going to write about this game this week, as it’s the last premiere matchup for the Huskies before conference play.

The Huskies got stomped by Gonzaga 97-70, and I stopped watching before halftime.  To my untrained eye, no one really stood out in a positive way, particularly on the defensive end, as the Zags did pretty much whatever they wanted.  I was particularly disappointed in Washington’s foul situation, as it had looked like – entering this game – that we’d cleaned up a lot of that ticky-tack bullshit.  It’s a good reminder, though, of where the Huskies actually stand, among the elites of college basketball.

Also, not for nothing, but Kansas apparently followed up their Wake-Up Call defeat to the Huskies by losing at home to the Arizona State Sun Devils.  So, I guess the Jayhawks suck (they fell from #2 to #13), which is a collosal bummer (either that, or the Pac-12 is insanely good, in which case that also probably doesn’t bode well for UW).

Washington has three more non-conference tune-ups against inferior opponents, so rolling into conference play with 10 wins is still on the table.  It would give us one more victory than we had all of last season, which is impressive in its own right.

So, let’s take care of business and I’ll get back to writing about this team in the New Year!

The Huskies Went On The Road And Beat #2 Kansas

This.  Was.  Incredible.

If this game happened in Hec Ed, you would’ve seen 5,000-some-odd people storming the court, but it feels so much bigger because it took place in the Sprint Center in Kansas City, so not only was this a road game, but it was a road game where they could manage to cram in MORE Jayhawks fans than if they’d played the game on campus.  And to not only win, but win COMFORTABLY, by a score of 74-65, I just don’t have the brain capacity to comprehend this.

This is the biggest win since dot dot dot:

Well, last year, the Huskies won all of 9 games (they’ve already won 7 this year, but shhh, don’t tell anyone), and they lost handily to every ranked opponent they played.

The year before, we had an NIT team, and the only ranked team we beat was a #25-ranked UCLA squad who wasn’t even good enough to crack the NIT.

The year before that, we were nothing, and somehow beat a #13-ranked Utah team at home (who would go on to the Sweet 16).  We also beat a #15-ranked Oklahoma team on a neutral floor that would also go on to the Sweet 16 and a #13-ranked San Diego State team at home that would go on to the Round of 32.  How that Husky team did nothing whatsoever in conference play is a testament to underachieving.

I could keep going, but the point is it’s been a long time since we’ve seen the Huskies win a game that huge.  I don’t remember them EVER winning against such a highly ranked team on the road; the last time they beat a Top 2 team was in 2004 when they hosted the #1-ranked Stanford Cardinal at the end of the season.

Obviously, we don’t know where Kansas will end up this season, but they’re definitely well-regarded at the moment (they were undefeated heading into the game, with wins over Kentucky and Syracuse), they’re a perennial powerhouse school in college basketball, and barring a total collapse or a rash of injuries, they should be a lock to play in the NCAA Tournament come March.  Are they REALLY a Top 10 team?  Time will tell.  But, right now they’re ranked #2 in the nation, and the Huskies handled them like I’ve never seen!

It was a thing of beauty.  For starters, that defense.  They essentially locked down the perimeter, did a good job staying with the big man down low, and dared the guy in the middle – a Junior guard by the name of Lagerald Vick – to single-handedly win the game on the offensive end.  True to form, he finished with 28 points, 7 assists, and 5 boards, but he was only 12/23 from the floor, and the next-highest scorer only had 10 points.  When you consider this is a Kansas team that lives for the 3-point shot, and has a couple of quality post players, Coach Hop came up with a stroke of genius in shutting them down.  Let’s just hope more teams don’t take this strategy; it would be really cool if Kansas finished the season in the Top 10, so at the very least we can hang our hat on this game being very important.

As impressed as I was about the Husky defense (and it shouldn’t be glossed over; these guys have bought in, and the zone defense really suits this team like a glove!  I think my favorite thing I’ve seen out of this team, from a defensive perspective, is a drastic reduction in ticky-tack fouls.  Sure, the zone will get beaten from time to time, but you don’t really see the Huskies compounding that by giving the opposing team an And One opportunity as often as you’d see under Romar.  I think that’s huge; not getting into early and frequent foul trouble.  I mean, let’s face it, most college players – particularly the One & Done types – don’t want to play defense.  That’s not what gets you into The League.  That’s where the zone comes in.  Sure, there are tons of zone-busting plays out there; it’s not a cure-all.  But, for one, to beat the zone you have to shoot well, and if you have an off night, you can lose to just about anyone deploying it.  Secondly, more often than not it’ll at least keep you in the game, so if YOU shoot well, you can still overcome the other team busting your zone.  It may not be as macho or whatever as playing man-to-man, but as we’ve seen under the last few years with Romar, if you don’t have the drive, the ability, and the mindset to be a good defender, then you’re essentially useless when you play man-to-man.  Also, don’t get me started on that abomination where they’d switch on every single pick play; what the shit was that???), I think I was even more impressed by the Husky offense!

I’ve seen Husky teams in the recent past hang in there against superior competition.  For a quarter, or a half, and once in a blue moon all the way to the last 4-5 minutes of the game!  But, inevitably, the Huskies – ever since Isaiah Thomas went to the Pros – lacked that one guy who could make a big shot in crunch time.  Last night, the Huskies didn’t really need anyone to play that role, but that’s only because the entire team stayed composed and made shots the whole game!

Things were a little dicey early, as Kansas jumped out to a 10-5 lead, and I wondered if we could stay within the 22-point spread.  But, as I just said, guys kept making shots and by halftime, the Huskies had worked their way to a 2-point lead, 36-34.

That lead ballooned to 52-44 early in the second half before Kansas went on a nice little run to pull the game to 53-52, with just under 10 minutes left in the game.  That was a real gut check time, as you could hear the crowd start to get into it, and it looked like the better team would finally take over.

Instead, not even three minutes later, the Husky lead was back to 10, 64-54, and it was just a matter of trading buckets to the finish line.

Don’t get me wrong, there were some daggers thrown in there.  That David Crisp three-ball with just over two minutes to go in the game felt like a real back-breaker, to put the Huskies up by 14.  With a good-shooting team like Kansas, you feel like no lead is safe.  Sure, they hit a couple garbage-time threes in the final minute, but they finished the game 5/20 from beyond the arc, and more importantly, were only 4/8 from the free throw line.  No three balls AND no free throws?  I’ll take that every single game!

Getting back, though, the Huskies shot 48.3% from the floor, and 42.9% from long range.  We also got to the line 15 times (only hitting 7).  Hell, we even out-rebounded them!

There wasn’t one star, or one guy carrying the entire team, which is what the Huskies are going to need to do if they want to keep this thing going.  Matisse Thybulle led the way with 19 points (hitting 5/8 from downtown), 4 boards, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block.  Jaylen Nowell had 17 points; Noah Dickerson had 13 points, 14 boards, and 5 assists.  David Crisp chipped in 10 points and 7 assists; Sam Timmins had 8 points and 3 boards in 18 minutes; and forward Hameir Wright came off the bench for 27 minutes, scoring 5 to go along with 6 boards and 3 blocks.

I just couldn’t be happier or more proud of this team.  The young guys are producing, the holdovers are buying in, and you can already see some steady improvement from where we were just one month ago when the season started.  Remember, the media predicted Washington would finish 10th in the conference!  Ahead of only Cal (who looks like a disaster) and Wazzu (who got off to a hot start, before losing their last two, including a 27-point drubbing to Idaho last night).  If the Huskies can continue to play this type of Team ball, who knows where we’ll end up?

I know this, a win on the road against #2 Kansas would look MIGHTY good on a team’s resume, if – for instance – that team happened to be on the bubble.

I’ll be the first to admit, I had zero expectations for that game last night, or this season in general.  The only reason I had the game on at all was to see just how close – or how far away – this team was compared to the best in the nation.  Now that they’ve won, and won handily, my interest has definitely perked up.  If they can go on the road to win in Kansas, what’s stopping this team from coming back home on Sunday and taking down #12 Gonzaga?

I’m not ready to predict a win just yet – after all, the Zags just lost to Villanova and are sure to be pretty salty about it – but before the game last night, there was NO QUESTION the Huskies would lose both of these games.  After the game last night, it’s not off the table that we might win both and find ourselves in the Top 25 next week.

Think about THAT!  Wouldn’t that be something?

I texted it to my friends last night, and I plan on keeping my promise:  every year, we go to the Reno/Tahoe area for the first weekend of March Madness to gamble on sports and drink our livers black for three straight days; the first thing I’m going to do when I land and get checked in is I’m going to place $100 on the Huskies against whoever they’re playing in the Tournament.  Because we’re fucking going!  That’s all there is to it!

The Husky Basketball Team Is Winning The Games They’re Supposed To Win

Since I last wrote about the Husky basketball team, they finished out the 2K Classic by getting blown out against Virginia Tech.  You could argue that both Providence and Virginia Tech are simply better basketball teams than the Washington Huskies, and you’d most likely be right.  They’re probably on par with most of the teams the Huskies will face in conference play, which is a scary proposition, but it makes sense.  They’re still gelling into a unit; they’re not ready to face the likes of major conference teams, or even the better Mid-Majors for that matter.  It’s going to take time; it might even take the whole season.  I guess we’ll find out.

Since then, the Huskies have ripped off three wins in a row against inferior competition:  Seattle U, UC Davis, and Kennesaw State.  In those games, we’ve learned a little more about the make up of this Husky basketball team.

Jaylen Nowell, at times, looks like the best player on the floor.  Other times, he looks like a Freshman, tentative and passive.  But, he’s clearly the most talented ball-handler on the Huskies, and over time should be the guy we turn to in crunch time to get the tough baskets.  He had 25 against Seattle and 21 against UC Davis, before a clunker of a game against K-State.  When he’s consistently leading this team in points, I think we’ll start to see something magical.

Noah Dickerson is our rock.  He won’t always be on fire, and sometimes he’s going to get into foul trouble, but whenever we get him going down low, it’s just going to open up so many things for our outside shooters.

Matisse Thybulle does it all.  He truly looks like he was made to play in this style of defense, as he’s 3rd in the nation in steals at 3.6 per game.  I think what we’re looking for is more consistency at the offensive end.  What he needs is improved confidence.  If he can just get a higher percentage of his shots to fall, he’s going to be a real weapon for this team as a 3rd/4th option.  With his defensive abilities, that’ll be a lethal combination.

David Crisp is a lot of things, but lacking in confidence isn’t one of them.  The Huskies will always be at their best when he’s hitting his shots, but at this point it doesn’t appear that he’s taken a great leap forward in his efficiency in that area.  So far, he’s actually averaging fewer shots per game, which is probably appropriate.  I don’t think you want to count on him to be your leading scorer game-in and game-out.  He’s at his best when he’s getting to the foul line, but if we’ve already got Nowell for that, I’d really like to see him bone up on his 3-point shot.  Those daggers he hits at the end of games are vital!  Let’s try to work on that form and have that be your game.

Finally, I’ll say that I’m pretty impressed with what I’ve seen out of Sam Timmins so far.  He didn’t look like he belonged anywhere NEAR a basketball court last year, and I’ll admit I was more than a little concerned with the prospect of him seeing more playing time this year due to the team’s lack of depth at the 4 and 5 spots.  But, he’s actually looked competent in the middle!  You don’t expect a lot out of him, but he’s a big man who can clean up the boards, hit some put-backs, and block a shot now and again.  Considering the talent around him, that’s all I really want from my starting center!  He’s not integral to the team’s success, so you don’t have to have him out on the floor to run the offense; they can easily drop him to go Small Ball on an opposing team.  But, if Dickerson gets into foul trouble, it’s nice to know we have Timmins in there to keep things running semi-smoothly.  Maybe in a year or two, he can develop more of an offensive game, but for now, he’s exactly what this team needs.

There’s one more candycane tune up against Omaha this weekend before the gauntlet of Kansas and Gonzaga.  I’m not expecting much out of either of those games, but it’ll be interesting nevertheless to see where we stand against some of the greats.

Noah Dickerson Is Playing Like A Boss

The Husky basketball team, in the very early going, already looks more impressive than it has in many years.  They took out a good Belmont team in the opener, and handled a pretty good Eastern Washington team before heading off to New York for the 2K Classic at Madison Square Garden.  In the opener last night, the Huskies squared off against another good team in Providence, in what was a glorified road game with how many Friars fans there were in attendance.

And the Dawgs held their own!  They didn’t win, as Providence’s superior shooting at all three levels took over at the end of the game, but the Huskies were down by 3 points with the ball in hand with less than a minute to go.  In that kind of environment, I think that’s all you can really ask for out of a team like Washington.

This isn’t a superiorly talented Washington team; they’re going to have to scrap and claw in all their games to get W’s.  The margin of error is razor thin.  How thin?  Last night, with 31 seconds left in the game, Jaylen Nowell made a terrific play to score a bucket to pull the game back to within 3 points, AND he was fouled on the play to make things really interesting.  Make that free throw, and you can really muck up the last half minute of that game.  Get Providence to miss just ONE free throw, and you’ve got a chance to tie it with a three ball.  But, he bricked it, and the Friars won by 7.

Didn’t help that the Huskies were 9 of 27 from behind the arc.  David Crisp had a particularly brutal game, hitting 4 of 14 from the field, of which two of those shots were inside the three-point line (both missed).  And, as such, arguably the best free throw shooter on the team finished the night 0 for 1 at the charity stripe.  That is, without question, a terrible night of basketball.  And it’s not like he just had an off night!  Crisp for his career is a 34% shooter from three-point land, and yet he’s out there jacking them up like he’s Ray Allen or some shit!

The Huskies were forced to go to that style, unfortunately, because Noah Dickerson fouled out (on just a HORRIBLE call by the refs) with a little under 3 minutes to go in the game.  Up to that point, Dickerson was holding this team together with his massive wingspan and some duct tape.  He finished with 19 points and 6 boards (including 7 of 10 from the free throw line) just four days after he dropped 28 & 22 on Eastern.  I don’t know what happened with Belmont, but considering he fouled out and only played 19 minutes, my hunch is he spent the majority of that game in foul trouble.  Either way, Noah Dickerson has proven – in the very early going, mind you – to be far and away the best player on this team, and the guy this offense needs to run through.

We’ve seen this out of Dickerson in spurts before.  Against inferior opponents, he’ll bust out with a nice game here and there.  But, rarely consistently, until late last season, when he really balled out in the last couple months (often taking on the load with Markelle Fultz battling his injuries).  It’s a breath of fresh air to see that carry over into this season, when we’ve got a new coach and a whole mess of new players.

Jaylen Nowell really caught all the headlines when he dropped 32 in the opener against Belmont, but he’s been a lot quieter these last two games, taking a backseat to the vets on this team.  As we move along, I’d like to see him assert himself more, with less of Crisp jacking up crazy threes left and right.

But, this team is only going to go as far as Dickerson is able to take them.  He’s got the type of talent and production you can count on from game to game.  Even if he’s not shooting well, he should be able to dominate the paint and boost his numbers at the free throw line with regularity.  We haven’t had someone this good at the 4 since Jon Brockman, but I would argue Dickerson has more raw talent, particularly in the post.  It’s scary to think he could be even BETTER than what we’ve seen from him thus far.

The Huskies wrap up the 2K Classic tonight this afternoon in the loser’s game against Virginia Tech; hopefully we can rebound and steal a W.  Then, we come back for an easy slate of games the rest of this month, as those early December showdowns loom against Kansas and Gonzaga.

My Completely-Uninformed UW Men’s Basketball Preview 2017-2018

The first game of the non-conference slate starts on Friday.  But, with the Seahawks going through a Thursday game this week, I’m bumping this up to Wednesday to even out the week.

As the title alludes to, I don’t know much about this Husky basketball team.  None of us really do, though you’ll find more informed previews elsewhere.  We have a new head coach, obviously, in Mike Hopkins.  This is the first season since 2001 where we’re going into it without Lorenzo Romar, so that’s going to be different.

The hope is that Coach Hop can coach these guys up.  At the very least, I’d like to see some intensity on the defensive side of the floor, but if that exhibition game last week was any indication, we’re going to be in for a bit of a wait in that regard.  Part of that, quite frankly, will have to do with this transition period, and the players who are carrying over from one regime to the next.

This team is going to have to rely on the likes of Junior guard David Crisp, Junior forward Noah Dickerson, and Junior swingman Matisse Thybulle.  Those guys – along with incoming Freshman Jaylen Nowell – are going to carry this team, for good and for ill.  The holdovers haven’t been asked to play much defense thus far in their careers.  So, the question becomes:  do they buy in?  Or, do they go through the motions because they know this team can ill afford to bench them for any great length of time.  Without those three guys, this team might go winless this year, or damn near close to it.

Then again, even WITH those guys, the team likely won’t be very good.  That’s what happens when you’ve only got two Seniors on your roster, one who has 46 career minutes at the college level, and the other who is Dan Kingma.  And, after the big three, the other two Juniors on the squad are Dominic Green and Devenir Duruisseau.

So, yeah, young this team is.  Young and inexperienced and mediocre.  And, on top of that, lacking in quality big men!  There are four players who are 6’8 or taller.  One is Noah Dickerson, who will start, but who is also prone to foul trouble.  One is the aforementioned Duruisseau, who hasn’t done much of anything in his first two seasons, other than emergency fill-in duty when one (or, more likely, more than one) of our other big men got in foul trouble.  Then, there’s Sam Timmins, the center from New Zealand, who averaged 14.6 minutes last year, but never really made much of an impact.  And then there’s a Freshman by the name of Hameir Wright, who I don’t even know if he’s going to play this year or not.

I think, what’s going to end up happening, is you’re going to see a lot of small ball out of this team.  I think you’re going to see Dickerson at the 5, and some of our taller swingmen like Thybulle or Green playing at the 4.  But, essentially it’s going to be a 4-Guard situation, and oh by the way, can’t forget the fact that this team doesn’t really have a true quality point guard either.  Crisp will most certainly be the primary ball-handler, but he’s not a guy who can really create off the dribble.  I guess we’ll see about Nowell or the two Carter boys, hopefully that works itself out before we start conference play.

It doesn’t look like we’ll have Nate Pryor, who apparently isn’t academically eligible I guess?  That’s a bummer, I guess, but what can you do?

I don’t totally know where to peg this team as far as how it will rank in the Pac-12, but they were 11th last year, and that feels about right for this year too.  What I worry about, more than anything, is that there really isn’t one of those Take Charge type of players.  That guy you turn to when you need a big bucket at the end of the game.  The closest thing to that is probably David Crisp, and I’ve seen him clang more rushed jumpers off the rim to last a lifetime.  If that’s the guy we have to turn to when we’re tied, or down by 1-3 points inside a minute, we’re going to lose A LOT of games.  Prove me wrong!

It’s actually too bad this team won’t be good, because the schedule is pretty enticing.  We kick off the season this Friday against Belmont, who is a perennial Tournament darling.  Next week, we have the 2K Classic in Madison Square Garden against the likes of Providence, Saint Louis, and Virginia Tech.  We go to Kansas City in early December to face the Jayhawks in the Sprint Center; then on the 10th we come home to take on Gonzaga at Hec Ed.  Oh sure, THIS team will get killed by all those teams; but a GOOD team might be a lot of fun to watch against such robust competition.

As it stands, remember how the 2008 Husky football team had one of the toughest schedules in the entire league, with a non-conference slate against #3 Oklahoma, #15 BYU, and Notre Dame?  Remember how Oregon and USC were both really great that year and we ended up going 0-12?  Well, it’s damn near impossible for a basketball team to do something like that, and aside from Arizona, I’m not really sure how great the rest of the Pac-12 is in basketball this season, but a non-conference slate that features Kansas and Gonzaga, among those other teams, is a doozy for a rebuilding program like Washington.

It’s almost as if that non-conference schedule was built for a certain Lorenzo Romar-coached team, featuring a certain future #1 overall draft pick who now plays for Missouri.  But, I guess that’s not important.

You want something to root for?  Root for steady progress.  Root for this team building a real identity.  Root for the Huskies to pick up the intensity on defense.  Ultimately, root for this team to be better in March than it is right now.  So that maybe NEXT year we can dream a little bigger.  Dream about a spot in the NCAA Tournament in 2019 or 2020.  That’s not too much to ask.

It is too much to ask this team to be good right now.  So, don’t get your panties in a wad when they look awful.

Mount Rushmore: Seattle Head Coaches/Managers

Yesterday:  Seattle Sports Announcers

It’s All Star Week in Major League Baseball, which means it’s pretty much a dead week in sports.  I’m not 12 years old, so the All Star Game doesn’t mean anything to me; I’m not 62 years old, so golf doesn’t mean anything to me.  But, a blogger’s job is never done!  Or, I dunno, maybe it’s been done ad nauseam.  Either way, I’ve got nothing timely to write about, and I’ve got nothing else better to do, so I’m doing this.

We’re celebrating some of the local Mount Rushmores in a series of posts this week, because that’s something people do, right?  Sports radio and the like; what’s your Mount Rushmore of Stand-Up Comedians?  Off the top of my head, I’d have to say Dave Attell, Chris Rock, Tig Notaro, and Dave Chappelle, but ask me another day and I might give you four completely different names.

Today, I’m going to delve into the head coaches and managers of the various local sports teams.

In spite of the fact that Seattle is far from Titletown, U.S.A., this was actually a pretty difficult exercise.  Ironically, because there were TOO MANY good coaches to choose from!  I’ll tell you right now, this one is bound to be my most controversial Mount Rushmore of the week, but IDGAF.  Come at me, broseph!

For starters, right or wrong, I’ve put OVERWHELMING emphasis on those head coaches who led their respective teams to championships.  I mean, it’s obscene, which is why I’m going to start this post with my Honorable Mentions, and I’m going to lead off those Honorable Mentions with probably the most glaring omission (but hear me out):  Lou Piniella.

Look, I love Sweet Lou as much as the next guy, and if I were simply ranking managers of the Seattle Mariners, he’s obviously at the top of the list.  And, while much of this isn’t his fault, I would argue he’s not entirely blameless for the fact that the Mariners only made it to the playoffs 4 times in his 10-year career.  And in those 4 years, they failed to get past the American League Championship Series (often never really making it much of a challenge).  Those teams were absolutely LOADED with talent!  Are you kidding me?  Not even a single World Series appearance in the bunch?  I know, the organizational management of those teams was severely lacking; they bungled a bunch of trades, mishandled two of our greatest players (Griffey and Randy) to the point that both wanted out of the organization, and refused to pony up the cash to keep the best player on the planet – Alex Rodriguez – when he became a free agent.  That having been said, I’ve never really had much respect for baseball managers; what do they do besides write a lineup and make bullpen decisions?  Manage player egos?  Ooo!  Big whup!  Head coaches in other sports do that too, and they do a lot of other stuff that has more of an impact.  Naw, I’m not buying baseball and I’m not buying Lou Piniella.  If Mount Rushmore had 5 people on it, I probably STILL wouldn’t have him on it!

Because that leads me to my next omission:  Mike Holmgren.

At least he took the Seahawks to a Super Bowl!  I would argue both he and Piniella have to be credited with changing the culture of losing for their respective Seattle-based teams, but they JUST didn’t quite get it done when it mattered most.  There were some extenuating circumstances with Super Bowl XL and the officiating that I won’t get into here, but alas, Holmgren just misses the cut.

Some other Honorable Mentions include, in no particular order:  Chuck Knox (very underrated as the leader of the Seahawks in the 80s); Nate McMillan (doing a lot with a little in a mis-managed Sonics organization, particularly in the Howard Schultz years); Gil Dobie, Enoch Bagshaw, Hec Edmundson, Tippy Dye, Marv Harshman, and some of those other old-timer Husky football and basketball coaches (who are obviously WAY before my time); Jim Lambright (who somehow held the Huskies together after sanctions and an acrimonious split with Don James); and Lorenzo Romar (whose ignominious end to his tenure should do nothing to tarnish what was a tremendous achievement for Husky basketball).

So, without further ado, I present my Mount Rushmore of Seattle-based head coaches.

At the top of the list was the easiest pick of them all:  Don James.

The Dawgfather.  Head coach of the University of Washington football team, from 1975-1992.  He’s the closest thing we had to a Bobby Bowden, Bear Bryant, Steve Spurrier, or Joe Paterno (without all the child rape).  He led the Huskies to a National Championship in 1991 and was poised to continue to do so for years to come if not for the Lack of Institutional Control scandal that ultimately led to him resigning in protest for the unfair sanctions on the team.  Also, not for nothing, but the Huskies were robbed of a second National Championship in 1984 (to a bum BYU team who played a cupcake of a schedule), but that’s another post for another time.

Don James was the G.O.A.T.  We can only hope and pray Chris Petersen someday ascends to that level.

Next on my list, I’ve gone with Pete Carroll.

Like I said, championships are a premium to me when it comes to my Mount Rushmore of Head Coaches, and Big Balls Pete has one, with another Super Bowl appearance to boot.  He’s 17 wins away from being the winningest Seahawks coach of all time, which should go down in 2 years, tops.  After a couple of 7-9 rebuilding seasons, he’s won no less than 11 games every year (including playoffs).  Overall, he has 4 division titles in 7 years, 6 playoff appearances in 7 years, at least 1 playoff victory every time they’ve made the post-season, and with John Schneider (who certainly belongs on the Mount Rushmore of local GMs) built one of the best rosters in the history of the NFL, in the 2013 Seahawks.  He could retire right now and I don’t think there will be another local head coach that will bump him off my Mount Rushmore in my lifetime.

Third on my list:  Lenny Wilkens.

Oh yeah, here it comes.  I told you, titles baby!  Lenny took over as a player-coach for the Sonics in 1969 before being fired in 1972.  When he returned to the Sonics as just a head coach in 1977, he took a good team and led it to greatness.  Those Sonics teams went to back-to-back NBA Finals against the Washington Bullets in 1978 and 1979, winning it all the second time around.  The Sonics ultimately went another direction starting in the 1985/1986 season, but he still sits at #2 all time in franchise history winning percentage (keeping in mind, of course, that the Sonics died in 2008, and whatever record the head coaches of that team in OKC may have amassed has no bearing on the Seattle Supersonics).

Finally, the fourth name on my Mount Rushmore:  George Karl.

You may take umbrage with Lenny Wilkens’ inclusion on my list, and that’s fine, I understand.  You may take umbrage with the fact that I have George Karl over the likes of Piniella and Holmgren, and again, that’s your right.  But, you know what?  George Karl won a shitload of games in Seattle!  He has the best winning percentage of a head coach by a million miles over the other professional teams’ coaches at .719.  He took the Sonics to the playoffs every year of his tenure, won 4 division titles in 7 seasons, had the Sonics in the 1-seed twice (best regular season record in the entire league once); led the franchise to two Western Conference Finals, and led the franchise to the NBA Finals once (against the best team of all time, the 95/96 Chicago Bulls).  AND, not for nothing, but took the Bulls to 6 games when they probably had no business getting past Game 4.

I could go on and on.  Maybe only the Pete Carroll Seahawks have had more talent than the George Karl Sonics, but for all his greatness, there was a lot of failing.  George Karl led the first #1 seed to lose in the first round in NBA history.  His Sonics teams squandered two Michael Jordan-less years when they were ripe for back-to-back championships (the Houston Rockets, instead, took advantage of that glitch in the matrix).  And, ultimately, George Karl was destined to be run out of here by poor personnel management by Wally Walker (featuring the obscene signing of Jim McIlvaine and the trading of Shawn Kemp for Vin Baker).

Nevertheless, those Sonics teams were beautiful and exciting and ultimately tragic.  They ignited a love affair with sports within me that burns like a thousand suns to this very day.  At a time when the Seahawks were mediocre, and before the Mariners were relevant, we had the Supersonics and nothing else mattered.  There may have been better teams out there in the 90s, but no team was as thrilling to watch on a nightly basis.  When they were on, they were unbeatable!  When they were off, they were combustable; that’s just the way it goes sometimes.  But, George Karl had his hands all over that team, and was the main reason why we were able to take the next step to elite status.  Ultimately, the biggest tragedy of all is that George Karl doesn’t have an NBA title to his credit; he might be the best head coach in NBA history not to have one.

Okay, there you have it.  Agree?  Disagree?  Feel free to let me hear about it.

Mount Rushmore: Seattle Sports Announcers

It’s All Star Week in Major League Baseball, which means it’s pretty much a dead week in sports.  I’m not 12 years old, so the All Star Game doesn’t mean anything to me; I’m not 62 years old, so golf doesn’t mean anything to me.  But, a blogger’s job is never done!  Or, I dunno, maybe it’s been done ad nauseam.  Either way, I’ve got nothing timely to write about, and I’ve got nothing else better to do, so I’m doing this.

We’re celebrating some of the local Mount Rushmores in a series of posts this week, because that’s something people do, right?  Sports radio and the like; what’s your Mount Rushmore of Women You Jerked Off To When You Were 14?  Off the top of my head, I’d have to say Christina Applegate, Tiffani Amber Thiessen, Jennifer Aniston, and Madonna, but that’s neither here nor there.

Today, I’m going a little bit outside the box – maybe just right next to the box – and I’m gonna talk about some of the local sports announcers.

The Greats …

Maybe every major city with a bunch of bigtime sports teams feels this way, but I think Seattle has been particularly blessed to have some of the best play-by-play guys in the history of the business.  Obviously, because they worked in Seattle, they get overshadowed by more nationally renown guys like Vin Scully, Marv Albert, Harry Caray, Chick Hearn, Pat Summerall, Keith Jackson, and so on and so forth.  But, I would argue that some of the guys I’ve got on my Mount Rushmore are equally as talented as those hall of famers, and would’ve flourished on a national stage had they gotten the opportunity.

At the top of the heap, I don’t think there’s any question about it:  Dave Niehaus.

He worked for the California Angels from 1969-1976 with Dick Enberg, before the Seattle Mariners poached him for their inaugural season in 1977.  He headed up Mariners broadcasts through the 2010 season before his untimely death that offseason.

Dave was the absolute greatest.  Oftentimes, he was the main reason to even tune in to a Mariners broadcast!  The way he painted a picture over the radio enlightened as it entertained.  If you’re even a casual fan of the M’s, you’re aware of his iconic calls and catchphrases; he’s second to none.  And, deservedly, he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008.  Ultimately, he called over 5,000 Mariners games, and each one was a delight for his involvement if nothing else.

Next on the Mountain, we’ve got Kevin Calabro.

While Dave is the best, KC is probably my personal favorite.  He voiced the Supersonics broadcasts from 1987 through their demise in 2008.

I think KC’s greatest attribute is that he could always match the action on the court, which for many of those Sonics teams in the early-to-mid 90s, was as action-packed as you could get!  The games themselves were exciting, but KC’s calls brought them to another level.  You were nothing if not entertained every time you turned on the game.  When the Sonics were on a national station like TNT or NBC, I’d frequently listen to the radio broadcast because who was going to top the duo of Kevin Calabro and Marques Johnson (who, not for nothing, make up the greatest play-by-play/color commentator team in the history of sports broadcasting)?

Third on my list is actually the whole reason for wanting to write this blog post:  Bob Rondeau.

We got some bittersweet news this year, that the Washington Huskies are going to lose Mr. Rondeau to retirement.  Obviously, he’s been with the school for 37 years, broadcasting both football and men’s basketball games as long as I’ve been a fan, so he deserves to go out on his terms and enjoy his life, but we’re all going to lose a true titan of the industry, and someone who could’ve EASILY gone another 10-15 years or more if he so desired.

As I’ve gotten older, and as I generally take things like this for granted, I haven’t had a chance to listen to games on the radio as much as I used to.  But, whenever I do, I find myself not really missing the fact that I’m not watching it on television.  As a fan, I don’t think there’s a higher compliment you can pay a play-by-play man than to say I feel a tremendous comfort level whenever I listen to Rondeau call a game.  For me, he’s probably my most trusted personality in sports journalism.  Yes, he’s employed by the Huskies, but he’s also going to tell you how it is, even if it’s not in the most flattering light for the program.  And it’s never in a way that makes you feel like he’s bashing the school or the players; it’s more like someone who expects better and wants better, but when something goes wrong, he’s just a disappointed parent or something.  I dunno, it’s hard to explain.  Obviously, there’s no greater phrase to the human ear than when Rondeau says deeply and richly into the microphone:  “Touchdown Washington!”

Finally, I know I’m going to catch some Hell for the final choice in my local sports announcer Mount Rushmore, but I should remind you that it’s MY mountain and not yours.  Anyway, I’m going with Steve Raible.

Here’s the deal, I’m no spring chicken, but I’m also too young to remember the likes of the Sonics’ Bob Blackburn or the Seahawks’ Pete Gross.  Obviously, if you ask someone who got to listen to those guys, I’m sure they’d put them in here over a couple of my choices, but what can you do?  I don’t have that attachment.

For me, this final spot came down to Steve Raible and Rick Rizzs, and indeed it was a tough call.  Unlike a lot of Mariners fans/haters out there, I very much enjoy what Rizzs brings to the table.  Is he a Mariners homer?  You betcha!  But, you know what?  He’s also, like, the world’s nicest guy, so it’s not like he’s some phony over there shilling for a paycheck.  He’s just a genuine, happy individual, and I can’t think of a better match for him than to work for the Mariners, a team so frustrating and loathesome at times it’s too much to stomach.  Rizzs helps the medicine go down, and I’ll be honest, he’s been remarkable in the wake of Dave’s passing in 2010.  If we didn’t have Rizzs to soften that transition – aka, if we went straight from Niehaus to Sims with no buffer or alternative – I don’t know where I’d be as a fan right now.

Anyway, getting back to Raible, he was an original Seahawks player, drafted in the 2nd round in 1976, and played 6 seasons for the team.  He joined the broadcast team with the aforementioned Pete Gross in 1982 and has been a local institution ever since (also as a news anchor for KIRO 7).  Raible’s stock has obviously risen heavily since he took over play-by-play duties, as the fortunes of the Seahawks themselves have skyrocketed.  It’s always a joy to go back and listen to his highlight calls after a game, as he brings tons of energy and enthusiasm to the game.  His pairing with Warren Moon is the best broadcast pairing we’ve got going in the Seattle market right now.

So, that’s it.  Agree?  Disagree?  Throw out your Mount Rushmores and your rankings in the comments.