We know it won’t stay that way, but it’s pretty good right now!
The Huskies are 4-0 in the Pac-12, with a game against the 0-5 Cal team tomorrow. So, things are trending in the right direction, it would seem.
The last time I wrote about the Huskies, it was over a month ago and the season wasn’t looking great. Indeed, we finished the non-conference part of the schedule with 4 losses against the 4 best teams we played. There isn’t a quality win in the bunch! But, to date – including conference play – there also isn’t really a bad loss either.
So, yeah, it’s gonna be one of THOSE years.
True to form, the Pac-12 has been a dumpster fire. The Huskies at 4-0 lead the pack. Arizona State – who had been so great early in the year – is 3-2 with losses to Utah and Stanford, a couple of mediocre programs right now. Arizona just lost its first game of the conference slate, at home to Oregon; time will tell if that’s forgivable or not, as the Ducks have already lost home games to the surprising Beavers and Bruins. Those same Bruins are 3-1, having lost to the Beavs, while the Beavs are 3-1, having lost to ASU.
Also true to form, the Pac-12 has been eating itself alive.
It’s cool that the Huskies are perfect, but it’s also only a matter of time. Sure, the Huskies could keep beating the teams they’re “supposed to beat”, but at this point I’m pretty sure they’re “supposed to beat” everyone in the Pac-12, because everyone in the Pac-12 stinks!
I guess the best part of this 4-0 start is that we’re not just eking out these games like we were for most of the non-conference schedule. We beat the Cougs at home by 18; we beat Utah on the road by 16; we beat Colorado on the road by 7; and yesterday we beat the Cardinal at home by 16. There have also been some interesting trends in these last couple weeks.
For starters, we’re not just riding Noah Dickerson into the ground like I thought we’d have to. He’s been under 10 points in 3/4, and under 5 points in 2/4. The fact that we’re averaging almost 80 points in those games means we’re getting help from a lot of different sources.
Jaylen Nowell had one dud in the bunch, but he otherwise looks like he’s taken a considerable step forward over his Freshman season. Much more assertive and willing to take over the game when it needs taking over. For far too often, the Huskies go in the tank offensively for long stretches of game. Lately, Nowell seems to have filled in those gaps a little bit, which is encouraging to see, because we’re going to need this when it’s do-or-die.
I have to admit, David Crisp has emerged of late. Yesterday was a poor shooting night, but the other three games he was on FIRE! Time will tell if that was just a streaky shooter on a rare hot streak, but if he ever figures out his jump shot, the Huskies could be truly dangerous.
Naz Carter has REALLY started to pick his game up as this team’s de facto sixth man off the bench. Sure, Dominic Green is another spark with his deep shooting, but Carter really does a lot of the dirty work, so it’s not all put on Nowell’s shoulders. Once these upperclassmen start clearing out, this is going to be Carter’s team, and he looks like he’ll be a sight to behold!
Hameir Wright hasn’t quite clicked with his shooting since being inserted into the starting lineup – to say nothing of the foul trouble he tends to find himself in – but I hope he keeps at it, because once those shots start dropping, he could be another difference-maker come Tourney-time.
After falling all over myself with the Mariners last year – locking them in as a playoff team in June – I won’t do the same here with the Huskies. But, it’s looking good so far. It’s still VERY early, and we’ve yet to even start the meat of the schedule. There’s a real murderer’s row coming up the next three weeks: at the Oregon schools, home for the L.A. schools, and at the Arizona schools. To be considered for an at large bid, we probably have to go no worse than 3-3 in those games.
Following that stretch, it eases up the rest of the way: the mountain schools at home, at the lousy Bay Area schools, then home for the Oregon schools again. Probably can’t be any worse than 5-1 in those games.
BUT, if we do exactly that – win tomorrow, go 3-3 in the tough part, and 5-1 down the stretch – well, there’s your 14-4 that everyone was talking about heading into Pac-12 play! Of course, at that point, with the way the conference is looking, will that even be enough wins?
I’ve said it all along: don’t discount the Pac-12 Tournament. Ideally, to really lock in our NCAA Tournament spot, we’d want to find ourself in the championship game at worst.