With every year that goes by, Husky basketball gets less and less fun, mostly because it’s the same God damn thing every God damn time. On THIS side, you’ve got Romar On The Hot Seat, because it’s been X number of years since the Dawgs have made the NCAA Tournament, and really, what the fuck? On THAT side, you’ve got another great recruiting class for 2017, with an even BETTER one on tap for 2018. So, you know, what do you do? Do you shitcan Romar – because he’s obviously not getting it done, to what’s becoming an embarrassing degree – or do you keep him around to see what he can do with what’s looking like a Top 2 or 3 class in the NATION for next year?
This year, the Huskies are down their three best players from last season: Andrew Andrews, Marquese Chriss, and Dejounte Murray. In their place, we’ve brought in someone being bandied about as a potential #1 overall draft pick next year in Markelle Fultz, along with impressive big man Sam Timmins from New Zealand. To round it out, we’ve got holdovers in David Crisp, Matisse Thybulle, Malik Dime, Noah Dickerson, and Dominic Green who appears to be that 7th man in the early going. All of them have their talents, all of them have their drawbacks, but more importantly, all of them have a year’s worth of experience at the Pac-12 level of college basketball.
The question on everyone’s minds is: is that enough? Is that enough to break the string and get back into the NCAA Tournament? Is having potentially the best fucking player in all of college basketball, plus four other guys, enough to do this fucking thing?
Welp, if Sunday afternoon’s season-opening game at home against Yale has anything to say about it, the answer to that question is: probably not. We lost 98-90, and it was – as I alluded to at the beginning of the post – the same fucking shit. The Huskies will win the games where they have a clear athletic advantage over their opponents, because they do have quite a bit of talent on this team. But, they’re going to lose against smart teams who limit mistakes, pass the ball well, and take advantage of our frequent over-aggressiveness.
Yale, as you might imagine, is a pretty intelligent basketball team. They committed 22 personal fouls to our 28, and 7 turnovers to our 13. They got to the free throw line more often (34 to 26) and made a higher percentage (70.6 to 61.5). Oh, and in spite of our height advantage, we were out-rebounded 42-29, including a 21-4 edge on the offensive glass. Considering they also doubled us on assists (20-10), I’m hard-pressed to find any reason why the Huskies should have been anywhere CLOSE to the Bulldogs in this one. Except, there it is, a 15-0 edge in blocked shots. Between that and having the clear best player on the court (Fultz put up 30 points on 11-17 shooting, with 7 rebounds, 6 assists, a block, and only 3 turnovers in his first college regular season action), we ONLY lost to the pride of the Ivy League by 8 points. God fucking dammit.
So, you tell me. You tell me how this season is supposed to be any different. Because, I’m all out of ideas. Make no mistake, I’ve been one of Romar’s staunchest defenders, but I’m even having a hard time with all of this. I have all the respect for him in the world as a person, as a teacher, as a recruiter … as pretty much anything except an actual X’s & O’s basketball coach. We’ve got no offense to speak of, except for guys to just run around and make a play; we’ve got no identity whatsoever on defense. I mean, at least last year we had a philosophy! Switch everything. Done. Sure, there were plenty of breakdowns, but at least it was a plan! Now that we’ve gone away from that, where exactly did we go TO? Just kind of stand around and hope the other team makes more mistakes than we do?
I mean, WHAT THE HELL AM I WATCHING OUT THERE!?
This is supposed to be something I want to go witness in person? This is something to be jazzed about?
I guess, if I had to try to think about something positive, I could point to the fact that Yale was a Tournament team last year, who beat 5-seeded Baylor in the first round, with a great up-and-coming head coach who figures to bolt to a bigtime school in the next year or two. When all is said and done, and we look back at our wins and losses come Tournament time, a loss to Yale might not look as bad as it looks now. But, again, I watch this Husky basketball team and I see the same shit over and over.
Aside from Fultz – and the class of 2018 – the only player I find myself getting excited about is Thybulle, who looks like he’s taken a BIG step forward in his game from last season to this one. They should be a nice one-two punch; but beyond that, I just don’t know. Crisp looks like the same guy as last year: takes WAY too many threes, with no business doing so, since he only makes about 20% of them. Dime is a good blocker, but is so skinny he doesn’t bring much in the rebounding department, and he brings next-to-nothing offensively. Dickerson is still the foul machine he was last year, with a marginal post game and an okay jump shot from the free throw line.
I sure hope Fultz comes in with a readymade outside shot, because if that’s something he needs to develop, then it’s already too late, because I don’t see a consistent 3-point shooter on this team (unless Thybulle has returned even better than I thought; he’s off to a good start in his first game, having made 3 of 4). None of that really matters though, because the way this team plays defense, we’d have to average 100 points per game, and that’s just not going to happen when you’ve only got two scorers you can count upon, on a team filled with wild cards.
And so, like I said up top, here we go again. What’s my prediction for this team? Oh, I dunno, let’s see what they did last season: 8-4 in non-conference, 9-9 in conference, 1-1 in the Pac-12 Tournament, 1-1 in the N.I.T. Yeah, sure, I guess that feels right. Why the hell not? The Huskies are Groundhog Day, and we’re all Bill Fucking Murray. Except I don’t think there’s any Andie MacDowell at the end of our rainbow.
Taking a look at the schedule, it actually shapes up to be a reasonable one. Aside from Yale, and the usual cupcake schools, we go on the road to Gonzaga in December; they’re already ranked in the Top 15 and figure to be a player come Tournament time. A win against them seems unlikely, but would be pretty huge. We also play TCU on the road, which doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it is a road game. Then, I guess maybe Nevada would be the third-toughest game of the non-conference slate? Not knowing who we play in one of these non-conference weekend tournaments, I suppose.
In conference, Oregon’s coming into the season ranked 5th in the nation; we play them once all year, at home, in early January. Arizona’s ranked 10th and we play them twice; UCLA’s 16th and we play them twice as well. Colorado always seems like they’re good; we play them twice. Cal and Stanford, who knows, but we only play them once each, on the road. We kickoff the new year (and our conference season) on January 1st (against the Cougs), with three straight home games; we end our regular season with three straight road games, finishing on the road against the L.A. schools. So, yeah, there’s that.
I usually end these Husky basketball preview posts with something along the lines of “they won’t be great, but at least they’ll be entertaining,” but I’m starting to come off of that stance. Reruns are only entertaining for so long. Teams that are usually pretty good on offense, but terrible on defense can only get my boner throbbing so hard. Husky basketball is the cotton candy of the food world. It’s light and colorful and fun, but it lacks substance, and if you eat too much you get sick. I’m tired of cotton candy; at this point I just want a fucking steak.
Win games, Huskies. Not just against the dregs; win against the elites. You’re not going to draw me into caring about this team if you keep playing the same songs over and over again.