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.