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.

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.

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.

Coach Hop Is Rounding Out His 2017 Class

After all the defections and transfers, we’re finally at a point where a team is starting to take shape for the 2017/2018 season.  First, there were a couple of lower-level pick-ups in Michael Carter III and Nate Pryor, both guards.  Then, they were able to hang onto erstwhile Romar recruit Jaylen Nowell, who is also a guard.  In lieu of going after some JuCo transfers (who are notoriously difficult for the Huskies to bring in, due to our stupid high academic standards), Coach Hop has opted to poach from his old New York stomping grounds, in picking up shooting guard Nahziah Carter (who just so happens to be Jay-Z’s nephew), and 6’8 small forward Hameir Wright (who was thought to be a 2018 recruit, but is planning to reclassify to this year).

What this continues to emphasize is the Huskies’ considerable lack of big men.  Dickerson is the only real true power forward on the roster, and our two centers are a couple of nobodies in Sam Timmins and Devenir Duruisseau.  Which means that we’re either going to be playing A LOT of small ball, or we’re going to be giving considerable playing time to a couple of ineffective centers just to play defense and hopefully not get in anyone’s way.

Ideally, the Huskies would find a way to make quasi-small ball work, with Dickerson at center and Wright at power forward, but that’s going to hinge on those two not getting into constant foul trouble.  If they can manage that, this isn’t as crazy as it sounds.  Mostly because the Huskies have a lot of good height among their swingmen.  Nahziah Carter is 6’5, Nowell is 6’4, Thybulle is 6’5, Green is 6’6, Carlos Johnson is 6’4, Carter III is 6’4.  The only guy who really figures to get a lot of playing time who’s under 6’4 is David Crisp.  As long as we defend well and give a lot of effort in the rebounding department, we shouldn’t get too killed for being undersized (except when we play the Arizonas of the world, which is what it is).

I’m keeping my expectations pretty low in his first season, understanding that these types of transitions take time to really make an impact.  At this point, I’d settle for a team that’s fun to watch and maybe wins a few games it shouldn’t, but ultimately loses too many games it should, and finds itself in the N.I.T. range.  With the way the NBA is turning into a long-range shooting league, you’d think that sort of strategy would be ideal for a small-ish team like the Huskies, to just spread everyone out, drive the lane, and pass the ball well.  Ultimately, where size might kill us is defensively, if teams continuously decide to go after the likes of Dickerson to get him into foul trouble.  Hopefully, the coaching staff is working on making up for this deficiency somehow.

Noah Dickerson Is Staying With The Huskies

By crikey, it’s been nothing but reasonably good news for the Washington Huskies men’s basketball program since its nadir about a month ago!  I mean, honestly, how could it get much worse?  The Dawgs just finished the season 9-22 (including only a whopping 2 wins in conference play).  They fired longtime head coach (and one of the best-ever in program history) Lorenzo Romar.  They lost out on 4/5 of their top-notch recruiting class (and one of the best two or three in the entire nation).  And, they were looking at a bevy of potential defections from last year’s team, including the aforementioned Noah Dickerson.

Well, after testing the waters as it were, including a trip to the University of Virginia (where I’m certain the chances of playing for a winning program and an NCAA Tournament berth were paramount among the coaching staff’s sales pitch), Noah Dickerson has indeed decided to stay with the University of Washington.

WHEW!

I know that looked sarcastic, but it actually is a relief that Dickerson is staying.  Obviously, Husky basketball has been on a downward spiral for a while now, but Dickerson is still a capable and productive big man at the Pac-12 level.  Among returning players, he’s second in scoring and first in rebounds from last season.  He also – as has been pointed out in various articles and blog posts – really came on late in the season, particularly in the last four games where he averaged 21 points and 10 boards in the absence of Markelle Fultz.  Now, obviously, you could look at that and say, “Of COURSE his numbers went up with Fultz going out!  Who else was going to pick up the slack on that team?”  And, obviously, the answer is no one.  The Huskies had no one else last year.  Not a God damned person.  But, you know, from the eye test, if nothing else, it looked like Dickerson really made some strides in his game.  Now, we’re going to pair that with a fresh set of coaching eyes in Mike Hopkins, who will hopefully be able to bring out even more in a talented ball of clay like Dickerson.

So, looking at the 2017/2018 Huskies now, we have an even clearer picture.  Returning, we have:  Crisp, Thybulle, Dickerson, and Carlos Johnson.  We’ve also got Dominic Green, who from what I’ve read, appears to be some sort of special project for Coach Hop.  He was quoted as saying something to the effect of how fans won’t even recognize Green next season, with all the improvements to his game.  If that’s the case, color me intrigued.  Also, for what it’s worth, Sam Timmins returns as another big man to throw onto the pile.  As has been noted pretty much everywhere, the Huskies have room to recruit more big men – almost certainly from the JuCo Transfer scrap heap – so stay tuned there.

On top of those returning players, we have Jaylen Nowell, who most certainly has the talent to step in and start right away.  You can pair him with Crisp at guard, with Johnson as a spark off the bench, with Thybulle and Green as your swing men, and Dickerson as your forward (or center, if you want to play small ball), on top of whatever we’re able to get out of our two other recruits – Michael Carter and Nate Pryor (who I still contend will be bench guys who hopefully see more playing time as the season progresses) – and I’m still not going to go overboard on this team’s potential, but I could be talked into the Huskies being something of a “surprise” team.  One that’s projected to be among the dregs, but out-plays its projections to be middle-of-the-road.

Obviously, without seeing these guys in action, I’m making some HUGE assumptions here.  I think a lot of it depends on what we’re able to get out of Timmins in his second season.  I highly doubt Romar ever wanted him to be our starter, but with the Dime injury in the middle of the season, Timmins got a lot more minutes than he probably deserved.  And, quite frankly, he didn’t look good at all.  You’re certainly not counting on him to be a heavy scorer, or even get a lot of looks down in the post, but you need Timmins to play good defense and clean up on the boards.  If you can just get that, and something similar from the JuCo ranks, and you can get the rest of this team to really buy in to the whole “playing defense” thing, I think that’s really your best bet for a fun and exciting Husky basketball season.

Somewhere out there, there’s an alternate universe that’s almost exactly the same as this one, except in that universe Lorenzo Romar didn’t get fired, and we’re looking at a team with his recruiting class coming in.  I feel like the alternate universe version of myself would be about as jacked up as can be about the prospects of that team; either it would be fantastic, and we’d ride that wave into the Tourney, or it would be a disaster, and we’d be out of our minds with fear and loathing.

In this universe, I’m still pretty jacked up for the upcoming season, but for very different reasons.  I can’t wait to see Coach Hop in action, I can’t wait to see how the players respond, and I really can’t wait to see the Huskies start winning some games they’re supposed to lose.  It’s been a while since I can remember the last honest-to-goodness upset go in our favor; usually it’s the other way around and it’s the Yale’s of the world upsetting us on our home court.  Any way you slice it, there’s going to be a lot to discuss about the Washington Husky basketball season later this year, and when was the last time you could say that?

Huskies Were Able To Keep Jaylen Nowell

Big news on the recruiting trail, as Jaylen Nowell decided to maintain his committment to the University of Washington.  He’s a 4-star guard out of Garfield High who is the only one out of Romar’s final (5-man) recruiting class before he was fired.

I’ll admit, I had my doubts on this one.  I thought it bode pretty poorly that A) his high school coach was recently hired by Wazzu to bolster their assistant coaching staff, and B) Lorenzo Romar himself was hired to be an assistant with the University of Arizona.  Oh yeah!  Did I bury the lede on this one?  Lorenzo Romar is with the Wildcats, as the rich get richer (side note:  his contract apparently pays him $400K per year).

To be fair, with the prior stories coming out that even after Romar had been fired, he was still encouraging players to stick with the University of Washington, in the ultimate Good Guy move to end all Good Guy moves, it seemed unlikely that he would subsequently try to poach Nowell.  And, also to be fair, we have no idea Arizona’s level of interest in a player like Nowell.  Maybe they’re stuffed to the gills with 4-star guards!  I have no idea and I refuse to do any research on the topic.  Nevertheless, there was always the outside chance that Nowell would’ve been so smitten with Romar that he would’ve followed him wherever he went.  It’s just nice to see the University of Washington and Coach Hop have at least a little sway in the community.

I find it terribly interesting how this Romar to Arizona thing plays out.  He is, if nothing else, a boss recruiter, and I’m sure all those relationships he’s built with future recruits will MORE than translate.  I mean, if he was close to getting some brilliant 2018-and-beyond recruits to come to Washington, imagine how much easier it’ll be for him to convince them to go to a place like Arizona!  As a Husky fan, it’s gut-wrenching, because I think this sets up the Wildcats to be even better than they already would’ve been (as it stands, they were always going to be at or near the top of the conference).  I think this puts them in the conversation to make the Final Four and be a HUGE juggernaut in the years to come.

I also wonder just how long he is for a place like Arizona.  You’re talking about a guy with significant head coaching experience.  If he’s this quick to stay in the game he loves, that tells me he’s still got the hunger in him.  In which case, I’m sure he’s itching to get back in the hotseat somewhere, to control a program his way.  What an opportunity like this affords him is that he’ll be able to write his own check, so to speak.  Say what you will about his last few years at Washington, there’s no denying he was able to get some very high-profile recruits to play here.  Now, imagine you’re a higher profile school like Texas or UConn or Florida or something.  I’m just picking names out of a hat here, but imagine you’re a bigtime university who wants to be a bigtime basketball program (or you’re a recent basketball power who fell on some hard times).  If you hire Romar, it’s going to be MUCH easier for him to recruit those 4-star & 5-star guys than it was for him at Washington.  He won’t need to make deals with the Porter’s Fathers of the world to get incredible talent.  When you tack on a successful short-term stint at Arizona, where he can point to bigtime players he’ll be able to help bring in, it’s going to be all that much easier for him to get a very high profile coaching gig.  And that’s saying nothing of the man’s character, which is his obvious primary selling point.  So, watch out for bigtime programs going through some NCAA troubles in the coming seasons.

The obvious ultimate destination for Romar is UCLA.  He was an assistant coach there in the early 90s, and while their current head coach, Steve Alford, has taken them to the Sweet 16 in three out of four years, the Bruins obviously have higher asperations.  Can you imagine Romar’s recruiting power if you gave him that job in Los Angeles, California?  I’m telling you, it will be a sight to behold.

As for Nowell, this really softens the blow after the exodus following Romar’s dismissal.  Pair him with Crisp and Thybulle in the backcourt and you’ve got something there.  Again, this doesn’t diminish the fact that the Huskies have little-to-no depth – particularly in the front court – but for now I’m just going for them to not be collosal embarrassments.  Anything resembling the Huskies being a fun team to watch in Year One I’m going to consider a success.  Anything beyond that is something out of my wildest dreams.  Baby steps with the new regime.  They get a hearty KUDOS from me in getting a very important local player to stay local.  Add him to the other two guards we brought in, and it looks like we’re more than set in that end of the court.  Now, bring in a big man or two, and convince Noah Dickerson to stick around, and I might even allow myself to dare to dream!

Shit Is Hitting The God Damned Fan In The Husky Basketball Program

It’s incredibly difficult to keep up with all of this, but I’m going to try my damnedest to give a recap.

So, remember all that excitement when the Huskies hired Mike Hopkins away from Syracuse and we thought we were getting someone with the potential to be special?  Well, I hope there’s some magic in that old silk hat he found, because the Huskies are hemorrhaging players, prospects, and even prospective assistant coaching candidates, with no relief in sight!  Where do I even begin?

Jason Hart, an assistant at USC many believed would be coming over with Hopkins, decided to stay in Southern California (probably with a hefty raise attached to his contract), so there goes our California recruiting connection.  Instead, the Huskies were able to hire unemployed Cameron Dollar – fresh off being fired by Seattle U for 8 years of head coaching mediocrity – so I guess that gives us maybe an “In” with the Seattle-area high schools.  You know, in case Will Conroy wasn’t enough.

Know that I’m writing this tight-lipped and a little bit annoyed:  we fired Romar … then we hired one of his top assistants from back in the Romar glory days?  If the idea is We Need To Make A Change, how exactly is Dollar bringing about this change?

It’s obviously not helping us keep the players we have on roster, nor the recruits we tabbed coming in our 2017 class!  The Huskies have officially lost 4 of the 5 recruits from our best-ever recruiting class, as Michael Porter Jr., Daejon Davis, Blake Harris, and Mamoudou Diarra have all de-committed/asked to be released from their LOI.  On top of that, reserve big man Matthew Atewe and starting big man Noah Dickerson have both decided they’re going to transfer, which ultimately leaves the Husky program in shambles heading into the 2017/2018 season.

On the bright side, we’ve got re-commits from the likes of David Crisp, Dominic Green, Carlos Johnson, and Matisse Thybulle, which I guess is better than nothing.  No word yet from Sam Timmins, Dan Kingma, or Devenir Duruisseau, but if you’re like me, you forgot Devenir Duruisseau was even on the roster (I thought he transferred ages ago!).  And, also, no word on potential incoming recruit Jaylen Nowell, but it fucking feels like only a matter of time before he asks for his release as well.

There might be a couple of other guys on the roster, walk-ons or whatnot, but they’re not important.  By my count, that’s 7 guys returning and 1 guy from our incoming Freshman class (for now).  Considering how late it is in the recruiting period, and considering the coaching staff isn’t even fully formed yet, I don’t know what we’re supposed to expect out of the Huskies come this fall, but get ready for an overwhelmingly last place finish!

Even if we were able to keep Dickerson, Atewe, and just the two local recruits, next season would’ve been a struggle.  But this is insanity times!  I hate to say I told you so, but this is what happens when you fire a head coach that’s this beloved.  When you sign on to join a university – particularly in basketball, because they’re such a close-knit unit – you sign because of a coach, not the school.  These guys signed on to play for Lorenzo Romar, not the University of Washington, for better or for worse.

I shudder to think of what this will mean for the program going forward.  I mean, if you thought last year was bad, get a load of 2018!  If you thought we bottomed out before, you ain’t seen nothing yet!  So, on top of having the stink of being the worst Pac-12 basketball team next year, we’ve got the stink of a school that fired a beloved, long-term head coach.  So, you know, not for nothing but we all better hope Mike Hopkins can coach his ass off, or this year of “growing pains” or whatever could build into an entire tenure of utter humiliation.

Fancy that, it’s like Washington ISN’T a destination program for college basketball or something!  Weird!

We’re Locked In: Worst Husky Basketball Team Of The Lorenzo Romar Era

Previously, Romar led a couple of 5-13 teams in conference, but this one can finish no better than 4-14.  With UCLA and USC road games coming up, I’d bet the farm on this year’s Husky team finishing 2-16.  And, while there haven’t been any Husky teams dead last in conference under Romar’s watch, this will be the third team that’s finished next-to-last, with a lucky win against a banged-up Colorado team the difference between us and the 1-win Beavers right now.

I’ve avoided talking about this team, because what more can you say?  It’s terrible.  At best, they can sort of hang around in most games, but ultimately they give almost all of them away.  I never thought it could get this bad, but then again I’ve generally been a supporter of Lorenzo Romar throughout the years.  I always thought, if nothing else, he was a good motivator, able to get the most out of even the weakest rosters.  But, this season is truly eye-opening.

Markelle Fultz is the obvious lone bright spot on this team, but even he’s cashing it in.  A “sore knee” has dogged him for much of the last couple weeks, and I for one can’t blame him.  Legit injury or not, I wouldn’t want to play on this team or for this coach either.  Not when there’s so much at stake in the NBA draft.

Beyond that, I dunno.  I GUESS you could argue the team is still really young.  I know no one wants to hear about excuses for this program anymore, but we’re just a year removed from a team that only had 1 Senior player in Andrew Andrews.  This year also only has 1 Senior player in Malik Dime, but he’s only in his second year in the program as a transfer student.  Indeed, most of the players getting the bulk of the minutes – Crisp, Thybulle, Dickerson, Fultz, Johnson, Green, and Timmins – are Sophomores or Freshmen.

Then, when you look at what this program lost from last year – Andrews to graduation, Dejounte Murray and Marquese Chriss to the NBA draft – it’s probably silly that we didn’t see this bottoming-out coming.  We lost three studs and replaced them with just the one in Fultz.  Regardless of how good Fultz is or might become – as a possible #1 overall draft pick in this year’s draft – no one man is enough to lift a terrible basketball team to the NCAA Tournament.  Is it concerning that we’ve fallen all the way to 11th in the Pac-12, just ahead of a truly atrocious Oregon State team?  Of course.  But, it was foolish to think we’d get enough of a boost from our holdovers to even maintain our .500 status of a season ago, let alone somehow improve upon that.

The fact of the matter is:  there has been SOME improvement among the holdovers.  Though, obviously not enough to satisfy anyone (and, honestly, it’s probably attributed to the fact that there are more minutes to go around).  Here are some numbers to review:

  • David Crisp – 7.2 ppg, 1.6 apg, 2.4 rpg in 2016; 14.3 ppg, 2.9 apg, 3.1 rpg in 2017
  • Noah Dickerson – 7.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg in 2016; 11.5 ppg, 8.0 rpg in 2017
  • Matisse Thybulle – 6.2 ppg in 2016; 9.9 ppg in 2017
  • Dominic Green – 2.7 ppg in 2016; 5.9 ppg in 2017

Like I said, we’re not talking about amazing, awe-inspiring increases here, but there are SOME improvements.  An argument could be made that by the time all of these Sophomores are Seniors in a couple years, if those numbers continue to improve, we could be looking at a successful unit.  And, when you factor in Freshman Carlos Johnson’s rapid rise from an also-ran earlier this year, to a regular contributor over the last few weeks, on top of all the upcoming recruits we get to look forward to, there IS reason for optimism, even if this season feels like rock bottom.

Look, I hate getting myself sucked back into this team just like you do.  I’m sure the vast majority of Husky basketball fans have abandoned all hope, and I wouldn’t blame you.  The economics of the thing (it would be super-costly to buy out Romar’s contract after this season), on top of the world-class recruiting class coming in next season, means that it makes too much sense to give Romar one more year.  I think most of us are pretty resigned to that fact, anyway.  And, I bet most Husky basketball fans believe it won’t make one iota of a difference; we’ll get all these great new guys and the team will still stink, because Romar isn’t a good basketball coach so much as he is a good recruiter (and, given the 2016/2017 apocalypse, that “good recruiter” label is even in serious question; let’s face it, really good recruiters don’t have these types of 11th place years, let alone two of them in the last three seasons).

But, if you figure we’ve got at least four players who belong on the basketball court in Crisp, Dickerson, Thybulle, and Johnson, on top of the four stud incoming Freshmen we’re bringing in, I don’t see how that team fails.  If it does, that’s a damning indictment on Romar’s abilities and really brings into question his legacy at the University of Washington.

For now, three games remain.  Two regular season losses down in Los Angeles, and one more in Las Vegas in the Pac-12 Tourney.  Then, the dead horse can be put to bed until next fall.

What The Fuck, Husky Basketball?!?!

This is just a God damn embarrassment.  And it starts at the top.

What happened to you, Lorenzo Romar?  You used to have convictions.  You used to be as much of a coach as you are a mentor.  Your teams were built around DEFENSE!  Your depth guys, as well as your studs, would blossom and grow during their time here!  They’d improve from year to year, and from the start of the season to the end.

You’ve sold your soul, Lorenzo Romar.  And, for what?  Some Blue Chippers?  Some 5-star, 1-and-done recruits?  You’re going to lose your job over a bunch of players who don’t give two shits about college basketball or the University of Washington?

I get that you can’t compete at a national level if you’re not recruiting at a national level, but you can’t do this half-way and expect to have success!  You can’t sign one guy here, two guys there, and surround them with fucking scrubs and expect to win at this level!  You need balance!  You need talent up and down your lineup!  Markelle Fultz can’t fucking do it all!  I don’t care if he ends up being the #1 draft pick; I don’t care if he ends up in the Hall of Fame one day!  He can’t drag this bloated corpse of a team into the NCAA Tournament, because every single teammate is fucking worthless.

David Crisp:  Crap.

Noah Dickerson:  Crap.

Matisse Thybulle:  Crap.

Sam Timmins:  Crap.

Malik Dime:  Crap Who Can Block Shots.

Dominic Green:  Crap.

I mean, you tell me.  You tell me where the help is coming from.  Not a damn one of these guys can play defense!  Not a damn one of these guys can consistently shoot from the perimeter!  Not a damn one of these guys can take over when Fultz has the occasional off-night (and, let’s face it, the more other teams realize that and clamp down even harder on Fultz, the more off-nights he’s going to have with this team).

We’ve been in this rut since Isaiah Thomas left, and it’s never been the same.  You’ll recall we brought in Tony Wroten, and thus began our love affair with the one-and-done-ers.  Instead of being a coach, being a leader, Lorenzo Romar has just handed the keys to these Freshmen and let them do whatever the fuck they want.  Playing defense?  That’s not going to get you into The League!  Fuck that, just work on your offense and get drafted in the first round!

Lorenzo Romar’s legacy is going to be:  got a lot of guys into the NBA, at the expense of the University of Washington.  Which, you know, good for the kids, I guess.  It’s not like they get paid to play in college anyway, so they might as well get theirs.  But, it sucks as a college basketball fan and particularly a fan of the University of Washington.

One of the worst, least-fun Husky basketball teams I’ve ever seen was in 2006-2007, the year after Brandon Roy and the rest of the first-wave of great Romar players left for the NBA.  That was the Spencer Hawes year.  Hawes did okay for himself, ended up getting drafted in the first round, but the Huskies missed the NCAA Tournament after making it the previous three years.  The year after that, the Huskies bottomed out, and it wasn’t until the 2008-2009 season – and the second-wave of great Romar players, led by I.T. – when we finally recovered.  Once that wave petered out, we’ve been chasing nothing BUT the Spencer Hawes’ of the world, and we haven’t sniffed a legit post-season berth ever since.

I thought we’d learned our lesson, but I guess not.  Hawes is my least-favorite Husky basketball player, tied with every other one-and-done asshole who’s given us false hope only to drag us down into obscurity once again.  Fultz is just another in a long line of nobodies.  Sure, he’ll make a name for himself in the NBA probably, but he ain’t mean shit to me.

As for Romar, what can you say?  I’d really like to see what the 2017-2018 Huskies look like with our incoming class next year, but will it ever happen?  And, if it does, is Romar coach-enough to whip these numb-nuts into shape?

I doubt it.  I don’t think he has the fire anymore.  I don’t think he has the will to enforce any kind of defensive ideology.  I think he’s just out there, collecting a paycheck, letting these kids do whatever the fuck they want.

And, I think it’s fucking sad.  Early-days Romar wouldn’t have settled for this bullshit we’re watching now.  Early-days Romar actually gave a fuck.