The Huskies Went 1-1 In The NIT

I was a little distracted by my trip to Reno for the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, so I didn’t really get to see any of the Huskies in the NIT.  Scheduling issues, you know how it is.

Last Wednesday, while I was in an airplane, the Huskies hosted the Boise State Broncos and beat them 77-74 in double-overtime.  Nowell and Thybulle really dominated the show, as the team hit nearly 50% from behind the arc.  Sounded like quite the impressive game that I would’ve enjoyed a lot.

Then, last night, the Huskies went on the road to play top-seeded Saint Mary’s.  We put up a valiant effort, but fell short, 85-81.  Noah Dickerson was a monster, with 22 points and 9 boards, and Nahziah Carter went 4 for 4 from behind the arc in netting 14 total points off the bench.

This was a really fun season for Husky basketball; something I don’t think any of us really anticipated.  With Romar getting fired, a bunch of our recruits jumping ship, and Mike Hopkins coming across the country to try to bring this team together in a few short months, it would’ve been more reasonable to expect another bottoming-out type season.  Or, at best, hovering around .500 in non-conference play before falling off against the Pac-12 teams.  Thankfully, the Huskies gelled, were able to get some signature victories against the likes of Kansas and Arizona, and were helped by the Pac-12 being pretty fucking terrible as a whole.

Nevertheless, there’s a lot of hope for next year and beyond.  I don’t think anyone is really in a position to leave for the NBA, which means we’re set to have one of the more veteran teams in the conference.  That hasn’t been the case in I don’t know how long.  Probably not since the LAST time the Huskies made the NCAA Tournament, in 2011.

Crisp, Thybulle, Dickerson, and Green will all be Seniors (assuming none of them go pro or transfer).  Timmins and Carlos Johnson will be Juniors (assuming they stick around).  And, Nowell, Wright, and Nahz Carter will all be Sophomores.  Aside from Johnson (who I have to believe will go to another school, as he’s getting buried on the depth chart), these are all players who contributed quite a bit to making this Husky season a success.

And that’s not even counting the incoming recruits.  The Huskies just secured a 4-star center, Bryan Penn-Johnson, to go along with 4-star guard Jamal Bey, and three other 3-star players who will look to compete for minutes next season.  Things are looking UP for the Washington Huskies for the first time in a long time.  I’m proud of these kids.  I hope they work really hard and are rewarded with a berth in the NCAA Tournament next year.

The Huskies Made The N.I.T.

Well, I guess my previous concerns were unfounded.  Probably should’ve locked them into the N.I.T. regardless of what happened in the Pac-12 Tournament; obviously we’re one of the top 90-something teams in college basketball, so this feels like a no-brainer in hindsight.

The Huskies are a 5-seed, who will play 4-seed Boise State on Wednesday at 7pm.  Unfortunately, due to my cockamamie flight into Reno (with a layover in Oakland that I didn’t realize I didn’t want until it was too late), I won’t land until the game is nearly over.  Then again, maybe that’s a good thing.  I’ve already lost $40 on this fucking team in tournament play, do I really want to lose any more?  Besides, if we win, there’s a chance we’ll play our second round game on Friday or Saturday (with a shot at playing on Sunday, when I fly home, which would be disappointing all around).

I’m happy for the Huskies.  This is very deserving.  We get some extra practice time, we get another do-or-die game, it’s all good preparation for next year, when hopefully this team will take the next step and finally return to the NCAA Tournament.  And, while the Huskies haven’t been great over the last month, they’re just as good as anyone else in the N.I.T., and if we play our best ball, we can really make a dent in this thing.  Ultimately, tournament play is tournament play, and it’s cool that the Huskies get to continue playing basketball.  N.I.T. games are just harder to find on the TV dial, that’s all.

The Huskies Lost In The First Round Of The Pac-12 Tournament

Well, it was a nice dream we had once.  Saturday, February 3rd, the Huskies were riding high off of a last-second victory over the Top 10 Arizona Wildcats (pre-scandal).  We were 17-6 (7-3), very nearly cracking into the Top 25, with a couple of creampuff games on the road against the Oregon schools to keep the momentum going.  Obviously, the high-point of our season.

Since that night, the Huskies have gone 3-6, including a whopping 1-4 against those same fucking Oregon schools.  Those Oregon schools that aren’t worth a shit, yet somehow have our fucking number every time.  Even the lone win, against the Beavs, last week, was a nail-biter to the bitter end!

I caught a lot of the game last night at Buffalo Wild Wings in Downtown Seattle, before the Anthony Jeselnik show at The Moore, but I gotta be honest, I was a good 1 and a half sheets to the wind.  So, you know, I remember bits and pieces.  I remember both teams were fucking atrocious in the first half, offensively.  I remember the Beavs kicking it up a notch in the second half.  I remember the Huskies having the ball, tied, with a little over 30 seconds to go.  I remember Jaylen Nowell driving, pulling up in the lane, and missing a difficult shot in traffic.  I remember the Beavs going the other way and getting up a legitimate shot to win it that clanged off.  I remember the game going into overtime and I remember needing to leave right that second as the comedy show was about to start.  I remember my friend checking his phone for score updates, I remember seeing the Beavs with a 3-point lead, and I remember the score not changing as ostensibly the Huskies would’ve missed their final shot(s).

I also remember losing 40 fucking dollars on the God damned Huskies!  WHAT A START TO MY LONG GAMBLING WEEKEND IN RENO NEXT WEEK!

I mean, what can you say that hasn’t already been said?  David Crisp:  2/7 from the three-point line, with only 1 free throw attempt in 41 fucking minutes of game play.  Jaylen Nowell:  4/12 from the field, with only 3 free throw attempts in 31 minutes of game play.  Noah Dickerson, bless his heart, had 15 points and 10 rebounds while in constant foul trouble.  But, one of the keys here was the 3-man bench of Dominic Green, Naz Carter, and Hameir Wright.  They combined for 8 points, were 1/6 from beyond the arc, and ultimately made pretty much no impact in a game that was close from start to finish.  That’ll change next year, as guys are more experienced, and get used to playing with one another, but damn did it hurt the Huskies this year.

The book is out on this Husky team.  Double team Noah Dickerson (or do whatever you can to deny him the ball in the post), let David Crisp shoot all the fucking threes he wants, get physical with Jaylen Nowell, and you’ll live with the other guys trying to beat you, because the other guys are ultimately too unselfish or otherwise not good enough to beat you on most nights.

Mike Hopkins was a very deserving Coach of the Year winner in the Pac-12, considering where this team was a year ago, but he won that award the day this team beat Arizona.  I think it’s more than a little alarming the way this team finished its season.  I still have very high hopes for next year, but I’m also going to be a little cautious.

As for the rest of this year, I guess you could make an argument that the Huskies should be in the N.I.T., but I dunno.  This team has been dreadful over the last month, and there are a ton of teams just in the Pac-12 alone that have been playing MUCH better than us.  So, this might be the end of the line, which is a collosal bummer.  Fingers crossed, I guess.

The Huskies Head Into The Pac-12 Tournament Needing To Win It All

On Thursday, the Huskies took care of business against the Beavers, and everything lined up perfectly for Saturday’s home finale against Oregon.  Beat the Ducks, win a game or two in the Pac-12 Tourney, and you’re probably in the NCAA Tournament.  We hung in there pretty good in the first half, fell apart early in the second half, made a furious late-game comeback to get to within 4 points with less than a minute to go, but couldn’t hit a shot to close that gap.

So, here’s where we are:  20-11 overall.  10-8 in conference.  7th seed in the Pac-12 Tourney, playing 10-seed Oregon State for a rubber match this Wednesday at 6pm.  The top four seeds are, predictably, Arizona, USC, Utah, and UCLA.  If we win on Wednesday, we’d go on to play USC on Thursday.  Thankfully, we’ve beaten them before, so odds are we could do it again if we play a good game.  But, if we somehow get past the Trojans, that leaves us with either Utah or Oregon in the semifinals (Oregon plays WSU, and the Cougs have zero shot).  Both the Utes and Ducks have beaten us twice, pretty handily at that, so it’s impossible for me to imagine a scenario where the Huskies get into the Pac-12 Tournament finals.

If we did, though, that leaves us with a matchup of Arizona or UCLA (or, ASU or Colorado, if the other side of the bracket mucks it up).  At which point, we should probably root for chaos on that side of the bracket, as the worse the team that makes the finals (in a hypothetical scenario where the Huskies get that far), the better our chances of winning the whole fuckin’ thing.  I feel like that’s better for all of us than a close loss to an elite team in the finals.  Just go get the automatic bid!

Because, quite frankly, the more I think about it – now that I know the Pac-12 Tournament seeding – the more I think winning it all is the ONLY way the Huskies make the NCAA’s.  USC would be a great win.  Utah might be an okay win.  Oregon really isn’t.  The marquee name in the conference is Arizona, and we wouldn’t play them until the finals.  At that point, beating the Beavers, Trojans, and Utes is probably less impressive to the committee than just beating the Buffaloes and Wildcats.

I think it would’ve been much better for the Dawgs if we fell to the 8-seed, played either ASU or Colorado, then beaten Arizona in the second round.  At that point, we’d go up against Stanford or UCLA in the semis, and winning that would be a mortal lock for the NCAA Tournament, regardless of how we played in the Pac-12 finals.

So, that’s that.  It’s all decided this week.  I’m gearing up for the N.I.T., but I’m willing to get my hopes up if the Huskies win a couple games.

The Huskies Are Up Against It After Another Series Split

Well, the Huskies were run out of the gym against the Cardinal, then took care of business against the inferior Golden Bears.  So, it was a lot like the Utah/Colorado series the week before.

I don’t really have anything to add that I haven’t said about this team countless times before.  This team is what it is.  On its best nights, they play savage defense and make enough shots to get the job done.  On most nights, the defense comes and goes, and the offense goes in the tank for long stretches.  On its worst nights, the offense never shows up and there are too many turnovers for comfort.

With two games to go in the regular season, the Huskies are 19-10, 9-7 in conference.  They’re tied for 7th in the conference with Oregon – who we play on Saturday.  Arizona and USC are solidly in the top two spots, with Stanford, UCLA, and Utah all within striking distance.  Stanford goes to the Arizona schools; UCLA goes to USC; Utah is home against Colorado.  Top 4 seeds get a first round BYE in the Pac-12 tournament, so the Huskies are going to have to win out and get some help.  However, considering how we’re on the bubble, it might not be beneficial to skip any games, as we’ll need all the wins we can get.

I think the Huskies need to win both games this weekend, finish at the 5th seed in the conference Tourney, win a cheap game against a bad team, and win a second game against a good team.  I think Arizona and USC are locks for the NCAA Tournament (which is good for us, because we beat both of those teams this year), I think one of either Utah or UCLA will get in as a low seed, meaning we need to somehow distinguish ourselves from the other, as well as likely Stanford and ASU.  I can’t imagine more than four Pac-12 teams making the NCAA Tournament, so a school like Stanford winning it all would be very, VERY bad for the Huskies.  If we can work it out to where we play either Utah or UCLA in the second round and BEAT them, I think that might be enough to leapfrog us into the tournament.  Short of that, I think we’re a lock for the NIT.

Gotta take care of business this weekend, though.  Another home loss, and we’re looking at needing to win the entire Pac-12 Tournament just to get in.  That isn’t to say we’re not capable of that, but considering how off we are most games – particularly on offense – that doesn’t seem very likely.

The Huskies Have A Lot Of Work To Do After A Home Split With The Mountain Schools

The Thursday defeat to Utah was all kinds of bad.  That brought us to a season sweep, which is frustrating, because I seem to remember Utah being a poor matchup for us for the last few years now.  Upon further review, that makes 6 losses in a row, and 9 of 12 since Utah joined the conference, a lot of those defeats being pretty ugly for the Dawgs.  So, yeah, they continue to be our kryptonite.  The less said about that game, the better.

That brought Washington’s losing steak to 3 games, and put all the pressure on the remaining regular season schedule, as well as a moderate amount of pressure on the Pac-12 Tournament (pressure that will only continue to grow with every regular season loss).  As it stands right now, the Huskies are among the First Four Out in most prominent Bracketology editions this morning, and that’s only because we were able to take care of business against Colorado.

The Huskies decided to change things up and share a group outing to see the Black Panther movie that came out over the weekend.  Emboldened, with an opportunity to forget all their problems of the last two weeks, the Dawgs came out on fire against the Buffaloes, beating them 82-59 on the night UW retired Isaiah Thomas’ jersey.  It was a perfect night.

Thybulle had a monster offensive night, Crisp continued to suck balls from beyond the arc (hitting his first shot, then missing his next 4; the worst thing in the world is a bad shooter hitting his first shot, leading him to believe he’s got something going that night).  After a string of poor performances, Dominic Green got the start over Jaylen Nowell; Nowell still had 31 minutes off the bench and had a solid game.  Green, on the other hand, hit 3/4 from long distance and continues to be our best sharp-shooting threat; very deserving of starter’s minutes.  Naz Carter continues to make strides, and should compete to be this team’s starting point guard next year (hopefully supplanting Crisp and his poor shooting).  And Dickerson had a nice game after being plagued by fouls and missed shots against Utah.

As always, there’s a lot to already be happy about with this season of Husky basketball.  We’ve officially doubled our win total from a year ago, and quadrupled our conference win total.  That’s Coach of the Year material right there, no doubt about it.  But, there’s still more to get.  We go on the road to play the Bay Area schools this week, and we NEED to avenge our previous loss to Stanford.  Cal is terrible, so it would be a huge upset to drop that one on Saturday, but the real concern is the Cardinal.  They looked to be a very poor matchup for us a month ago, and I can’t imagine they’ve gotten a whole lot worse in the subsequent month.  The Huskies need to dig deep, avoid careless turnovers, and rebound like their lives depend on it.  After this, we’ve just got the two home games against the Oregon schools, then it’s Pac-12 Tourney time.  Every game is vitally important from here on out.  Going 4-0 would put us in a great position to make life a lot easier.

Good God: The Huskies Lost In Double-Overtime To The Beavers

I’m still absolutely dumbfounded.  The Oregon game, I could sort of understand, but Oregon State?  Come on, man!

I don’t care that it was on the road, it’s absolutely inexcusable that the Huskies would lose to this team.  I mean, they’re only the third-worst team in the conference because Wazzu and Cal are a couple of the worst teams of this generation.  Also, to lose while scoring 94 points?  Double overtime or not, what the hell???

Dickerson, Nowell, Thybulle, and Naz Carter all had pretty good offensive games, but no one played well defensively, and that’s this team’s bread and butter.  Ultimately, this team will only go as far as David Crisp can take them; he’s the straw that stirs the drink, and all too often, when he takes it upon himself to be the focus offensively, this team struggles.  It’s fucking absurd, with his inability in shooting the long ball, that he’s jacking up 6 fucking 3-pointers (making only 1, naturally, because he’s a fucking terrible shooter).  It’s even more absurd that he only attempted 3 free throws, when his game is much more tailored to using his speed and ball-handling ability to get in the paint and draw contact.

I mean, I just don’t understand him.  I can’t stop harping on it, because he’s so integral to everything the Huskies do offensively!  He thinks he’s something he’s not, when if he just played within the flow of the game, and stopped forcing his own shot, the Huskies would be winning games like these!

It sucks, because the Huskies are so close.  Unlike some people, I don’t think they’re out of NCAA Tournament contention, not by a long shot, but with every loss to inferior opponents, they cut their margin for error razor thin.  As it is, they can’t afford to drop a single home game the rest of the way, and would be well served in finishing the regular season 5-1, while still probably needing a win or two in the Pac-12 Tournament.

Big picture, obviously this has been a dream season, compared to pre-season expectations.  But, after that Arizona win, everything changed.  Expectations always change on the fly, and this season it’s no different.  Now, failing to make the Tourney would be a huge disappointment, whereas if you told me before the season that the Huskies would have one of the higher seeds in the N.I.T., I would’ve been ecstatic!

The saving grace is that I have pretty high expectations for the 2018/2019 season.  I’m heading into the next month’s worth of games under the impression that everyone will be back.  Yes, Jaylen Nowell has been a fantastic Freshman, but I absolutely don’t believe he’s a first round pick in the NBA right now, and as such it would be foolish for him to declare.  With him back, with a more-experienced point guard (either on our bench now, or among the incoming Freshman class), we won’t have to rely so much on David Crisp (who hopefully will finally mature as a Senior, and modify his offensive game accordingly) and the sky is the limit for the future.

But, for the here and now, it’s time to hold onto our butts.  Couple of must-win home games against the Mountain schools this week.  Let’s go!

The Huskies Got Blasted By The Ducks

In hindsight, we probably should’ve seen this one coming.  The Let-Down Game.  The Huskies just won 4 in a row, including a couple monster games against the Arizona schools to get back in the NCAA Tournament conversation.  Last night was a late, road, Thursday game against the Oregon Ducks.  The Ducks aren’t as good as they’ve been in recent years, but they’re still okay, and they’re pretty tough to beat at home.  On top of all of that, the Huskies were overdue for a really bad offensive game.  They always go through these 5-minute stretches of inept offensive output every game, it was about time they had a full 40 minutes like that.

And so it came to be:  Ducks 65, Huskies 40.  Puke.

Noah Dickerson was the lone bright spot, if you can even call it that.  14 points and 11 boards is nothing to sneeze at, but obviously he wasn’t able to do enough.  Honestly, the point output is a little disappointing considering it didn’t look like he was in much foul trouble in the second half.  You’d like to see him pick up more of the slack in games like this.

Everyone else totally dropped the ball, though.  No one else scored in double digits (Nowell came the closest with 9 points, but that was on 4/15 shooting, including 1/5 from beyond the arc).  When you tack on his 5 turnovers, he was truly the Least Valuable Player in this one.  Maybe co-LVP with David Crisp and his 2/10 shooting (1/6 from beyond the arc, shooting a fucking MISERABLE 27% on the season, 36/132).  I mean, holy fucking hell, STOP SHOOTING THREES, YOU’RE FUCKING TERRIBLE AT IT!

Anyway, as I alluded to up top, I’m not gonna get too bent out of shape about this one.  However, it’ll be another story entirely if we lose to the God-awful Beavers on Saturday.  Gotta find a way to gut that one out anyway you can.  An ugly win is still a win, and that better be what we see tomorrow night.

The Huskies Swept The Arizona Schools, Still Somehow Aren’t In The Top 25

I’m telling you, that game on Saturday was a sight to behold!

I’m still bouncing off the walls after Washington’s 78-75 victory over the Arizona Wildcats.  It had everything:  a sellout crowd on a blackout night, great taunts from the Dawg Pack, a touching, lowkey tribute to the return of Lorenzo Romar (an assistant coach on the Wildcats), a fast start by the Huskies (building a 7-point lead at halftime, and increasing to 14 early in the third quarter), and a terrific finish.

As expected, the Huskies ran into a bit of a cold stretch in the second half, as Arizona walked down that 14-point lead, to take a 3-point lead of their own, but for most of the later part of the second half it was a back-and-forth affair.  In the end, Dominic Green hit a huge three ball to tie it up, and moments later – game tied at 75 – he hit the game-winning three-pointer to win it at the buzzer.  Jaylen Nowell held for the final shot, drove the lane, had his shot swatted on a double-team, and fortunately the ball bounced right to Green on the right wing, with just enough time for him to raise up and shoot before pandemonium.

Green, the hero of the night, had 14 points on 4/5 shooting from beyond the arc.  Noah Dickerson made his presence felt from the opening possession, netting a game-high 25 points to go with his 7 rebounds.  David Crisp had one of his better games, with 16 points and 4 rebounds.  Jaylen Nowell added 14 points, including a couple of big 3-pointers.  All told, the Huskies were 8/14 from long distance, while holding Arizona to a lowly 2/12 (they’re the best 3-point shooting team from a percentage standpoint in the conference), making this a real Husky Special.

This was, without question, the best Husky basketball game since the Cold Blooded game in the Pac-10 Tournament (which, incidentally, they showed a replay of immediately following this game).  I had completely forgotten anything before that Isaiah Thomas game-winner, like the fact that we had to hit a number of huge shots to get that game into overtime in the first place!

Anyway, it’s a banner moment for the Huskies.  It’s just unfortunate that the Associated Press didn’t see it that way.

Arizona dropped from 9 to 13; Arizona State dropped from 25 to out of the poll; and the Huskies were responsible for all of that.  The Huskies, now 17-6, and 7-3 in conference, with wins over 3 ranked opponents (including Kansas on the road), as well as a road win over USC, and it’s STILL not enough to get us into the Top 25.  We’re technically 27th, which is a huge slap in the face to the Pac-12 as well as common decency.

NEVERTHELESS, the Huskies – as far as Bracketology is concerned – are IN!  10-seed on ESPN, 7-seed on CBS.  35th in RPI.  After three straight home games, we go on the road to face the lowly Oregon schools this weekend.  The Ducks are middle-of-the-road in conference – so that one might be a trap game – and the Beavers are considerably worse.  We SHOULD win both of these games, to get ever-so-much closer to that critical 21-win mark.  But, I guess don’t be shocked – especially if we have some off-shooting nights – if the Huskies lose at least 1 of these.  Remember, this team isn’t suddenly perfect; we’re going to see a loss or two the rest of the way that wasn’t expected.

Still, lots of room for optimism going forward!  We know now that we’re not the very worst team in the Pac-12 (that would be the Cougs, who we’ve beaten twice), and we also know we can play with – and BEAT – the very best team in the Pac-12 (that will always be Arizona, barring injury).  This IS a Tournament team, barring a total collapse, which should make the next month and change pretty damn fun.

The Huskies Are On Top Of The World Of Third Place 2018!

So far this week, everything is going swimmingly.  Arizona went into Pullman and beat the Cougs handily; they advanced to 9-1 in conference play and since they played on Wednesday, they even get an extra day off to relax and enjoy the Seattle sights!  (or they get to fly home, then fly right back to Seattle sometime today, which seems a little cruel).  Regardless, the Wildcats will be overflowing with confidence as they face what has turned into an unlikely bigtime conference showdown against the Washington Huskies.

The very same Huskies who just squeaked by the Sun Devils last night, 68-64.  In spite of how much I wanted to watch this game, an 8pm start time was too rich for my blood.  But, I woke up bright and early to read the highlights, and boy did that game sound like it lived up to the billing!

Noah Dickerson – on his birthday no less! – had 21 points and a whopping 16 rebounds to lead the way.  Jaylen Nowell had 15 points, 9 boards, and 3 assists in an otherwise quiet night for him.  David Crisp had 12 points, including a couple clutch baskets towards the end to seal the deal.  And Matisse Thybulle chipped in 9 points and 6 steals, becoming the all-time single-season Husky steals leader, which is outstanding considering we have at least 10 more games to go.  He might put the record out of reach when it’s all said and done!

The Husky defense, again, was on top of it, particularly from long distance, holding the Sun Devils to 26% shooting from beyond the arc, on 5/19.  We weren’t all that much better, on the offensive side of the ledger, but we outrebounded them, dominated in steals, and hit 15/18 of our free throws (they only hit 11/17).  All told, it was a tough, gritty win for an up-and-coming ballclub.

Now, we need a couple things.  We need the Sun Devils to go on a nice little winning streak the rest of the way, to ensure they make the Tourney and to ensure this remains a quality win on our resume.  And we, of course, need to go on a nice little winning streak of our own the rest of the way.

I seem to have a knack for getting super-excited right before the rug is pulled out from under the team I’m rooting for, so this post couldn’t be more perfectly timed as Arizona comes to town tomorrow night.  If I were a betting man, I’d say that by writing this post at all – when I normally reserve my Husky basketball posts for Mondays, so I can cover the whole weekend’s worth of games – I am jinxing the Huskies to the moon and back, and I’d bet the Taylor Family Farm on the Wildcats winning tomorrow night.  So, let’s hope for once I’m not the fucking Bad Luck Guy!

We’re at a really critical point in this Husky season:  beat Arizona, and we pretty much write our ticket to the Big Dance.  Lose, and quite frankly we’re still in pretty good shape.  This isn’t a MUST win, but it would be a HUGE win.

There’s another big game on Saturday as well, as UCLA hosts USC.  The winner of that game will do a lot of good for their cause, and as a Husky fan, I’m rooting for USC, because I want that win over the Trojans to keep looking better and better.

Who knows?  Maybe by Monday morning we’ll be talking about a nationally ranked Husky basketball team!  Wouldn’t that be something?