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.
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?