It’s So Weird That The Huskies Are In The Big Ten Now

This time last year, I wasn’t super confident about the future of the Pac-12. We were heading into the last year of the Pac-12 as we knew it (at that time, we were looking at the L.A. schools leaving after the 2023 season), I didn’t have any super high expectations for the Huskies in general (or the conference as a whole) in football, or even basketball, and we were staring down the barrel of a terrible new media rights deal, and the potential addition of a couple of inferior schools to the conference. The only reasonable argument for good would’ve been the fact that the Huskies and the Ducks would’ve been the unquestioned leaders of the pack. But, that’s not saying a whole lot when compared to the greater college football landscape, if we’re generating pennies on the dollar compared to the other elite programs.

Thankfully, a lifeline presented itself, and to our credit, Washington took the Big Ten up on it. Leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten was definitely bittersweet, but it was ultimately the correct decision, for both our immediate future and our long-term goals.

Then, as the season got going, I was so wrapped up in Washington’s championship game run, I sort of forgot about the bigger picture. The Huskies were one of the best teams in the nation, the conference regained its long-lost form, and we really sent off the football portion of the conference with a bang. Even with every “final” moment – the final Apple Cup as a member of the Pac-12, the final conference championship game, the final home game, etc. – my eyes were squarely on the prize of a national championship, that we came oh so close to acquiring.

It hasn’t really hit me until now. Reading this article, wondering when my dad’s cable provider is going to get the Big Ten Network so he can watch the games … this is going to be a huge change!

The Apple Cup is on Saturday, September 14th! We’re now in a conference with 18 teams! Do I even know all 18 schools? And what do I know about them? Let’s see if I can list them all below:

  1. Michigan Wolverines – hated cross-country foes; I think we’ve beaten them a time or two in the Rose Bowl, but they also got one from us, as well as handling us pretty handily in the national championship game last season.
  2. Ohio State Buckeyes – one of the elites in college football, haven’t been able to beat Michigan the last few years. Always at or near the top in national recruiting, always sending huge skill guys to the NFL.
  3. Penn State Nittany Lions – Joe Paterno, diddling kids, and somehow still nationally relevant ever since the whole scandal (though, not quite on the top tier with Michigan and Ohio State).
  4. Wisconsin Badgers – one year of Russell Wilson, always a great O-line and running game. Usually pretty good, but hasn’t been great probably since Russ left.
  5. Michigan State Spartans – little brother to Michigan, yet somehow also not their main rival. Kind of like our Washington State Cougars.
  6. Nebraska Cornhuskers – Great in the 90’s, not so much the last 20 years. They just hired a head coach who’s supposed to be good, and didn’t they take our athletic director who was at Washington for six minutes?
  7. Northwestern Wildcats – Bunch of nerds. Meet the new, inferior Stanford Cardinal.
  8. Maryland Turpins – Actually Terrapins. What’s a Terrapin? Your guess is as good as mine.
  9. Rutgers – Ahh yes, the Scarlet Knights. Didn’t they used to have Greg Schiano? I wonder where he is now. … Oh, he’s at Rutgers again. Cool career path, bro.
  10. Indiana – Oh, of course, the Hoosiers. Used to be a great basketball program; I don’t think was ever even decent at football, but what do I know? I guess they had Penix before he was PENIX.
  11. Illinois Fighting Illini – Got that mascot nailed! I feel like they’ve been somewhat frisky in the last decade or so, but maybe I’m just thinking of that one time they made a New Years Six bowl.
  12. Iowa Hawkeyes – All defense. I think their offense is just punting on first down.
  13. Minnesota Golden Grahams – Gophers actually. If I recall correctly, I think the Huskies played them in the 1920’s, which is probably the last time they were any good. Also, NOT the school featured in the sitcom Coach; that was the Minnesota State Screaming Eagles, which is a fictional program that’s still more relevant than the Golden Gophers.
  14. Pittsburgh Tigers – I had to look it up; it’s actually the Purdue Boilermakers. That’s how memorable Purdue is. We beat them in the Rose Bowl when we had Tui and they had Brees.
  15. UCLA Bruins – Fuck U-C-L-A!
  16. USC Trojans – Pete Carroll, Reggie Bush, and all sizzle/no steak since then.
  17. Washington Huskies – The greatest school in the world.
  18. Oregon Ducks – Turd emoji.

So … I didn’t do great in my Big Ten knowledge. Now, I’ve gotta go into a season getting ready to play against these teams!

It’s bizarre looking at the schedule and not seeing any bay area schools. No Arizona or mountain time zone opponents. No easy pick-me-up against the Beaves. It feels all at once more daunting, as well as kind of the same when you dig into it. We play trash like Northwestern, Indiana, and Rutgers. But, we also get a rematch with Michigan at home, and a tough game in Iowa in October and Penn State in November. Then, in addition to a non-conference Apple Cup, we also face all three of our travelling Pac-12 partners (the L.A. schools at home, and Oregon on the road). Honestly, with all the turnover with Michigan’s roster and coaching staff, I think the toughest part of our schedule is joining us from the west coast!

It’s nice that we get to play all the Pac-12 schools in year one. That’s a cool way to help us transition. It’s a little odd that we face them all in the final month of the season, but it’ll be something to look forward to. Kinda feels like conference play starts in November this year, except not really.

You know what’s going to be fun? Hating on a whole new group of schools. I already have a strong distaste for the Big Ten anyway, but I know we’re going to get some razzing as one of the new kids in town. Which is going to infuriate me even further when we ultimately lose to one or more of these programs.

Really, though, it’s a soft landing of sorts. We don’t face a tough opponent until week 6 vs. Michigan, and again, how good will they be with all their best players going to the NFL? That kicks off a stretch where there’s almost no easy games the rest of the way (except for Indiana, but even that’s on the road).

I also can’t help but feel a little sad knowing there are so many teams we’ll no longer see again. The state of Arizona can fuck right off, and I still have nightmares flashing back on all the crazy Cal games, and all the times Stanford steamrolled us. But, I genuinely liked competing against Utah, and Colorado was the team we beat to win the Pac-12 Championship Game back in 2016, en route to a playoff loss against Alabama. I also feel bad that the Cougars and Beavers have to make due with their weird 2-team conference; they deserve better. They certainly deserve more than Rutgers or Maryland or fucking Minnesota.

I’m going to take solace in the fact that nothing is permanent, especially in college football. Things have changed so much, so quickly, and it’s only going to continue. We know where this thing is headed; it’s eventually going to be a sort of semi-pro league between high school and the pros, loosely affiliated with colleges and universities, but otherwise probably its own standalone thing. Depending on how many programs get scooped up into whatever the new thing will end up being, we might very well return to some semblance of normal. You have to figure there will be divisions of some sort, based off of geographic locations. Maybe that puts us back in line with our former conference foes. Maybe that brings WSU and OSU back into the fold. Maybe we won’t have to suffer the indignities of being in a cross-country conference, and we’ll never have to play Rutgers ever again!

Wouldn’t that be something?

Until then, we just gotta ride it out. What’s happening in college football is above my pay grade. I’m not going to pretend like I understand everything that’s going on. All I know is it has to do with gobs of money.

My job is to root for the Huskies, root against the Ducks, and let the chips fall where they may.

Seattle Sports Has Four New Head Coaches This Year

How will they all do? Who will succeed and who will fail?

Well, on a long-enough timeline, they all fail, don’t they? Except for the very extreme minority who get to go out on their own terms. But, success can be defined any number of ways, so let’s get into it.

The Seahawks, the Kraken, Husky football, and Husky basketball have all had to replace their head coaches for one reason or another. The Seahawks needed to move on from one of those success stories, probably a year or two beyond when was appropriate. The Kraken took a step backwards in their third season of existence, and have never really looked like they were well-coached. Husky football has tried to recover from the potentially-devastating loss of Kalen DeBoer after making a run at the national championship. And Husky basketball will be trying to recover from an extended run of incompetence (thanks to a contract they could ill-afford to get out from under until now). There are all sorts of different reasons teams move on from a coaching staff, but for the most part, the reason is: we want improvement.

The Seahawks had grown stagnant over the last decade, after making back-to-back Super Bowls; they needed a fresh voice and a total reset.

The Kraken never really seemed to get the most out of their players, particularly on offense. Which is funny to say, because in the 2022-2023 season, the offense was more-or-less fine, and we made the playoffs as a result. But, the step-back in 2023-2024 only solidified the fact that this team wasn’t making any progress. The young players weren’t developing, the scheme on offense never really took shape, they never improved in the areas they’ve always struggled (even in their playoff season, they sucked on power plays and in face-offs). This is a team that was built to succeed from within. Yet, the guys we’ve drafted a the top of the first three drafts haven’t done much of anything. That needs to change in the next couple years, or there will be a much bigger housecleaning coming. Getting the most out of the players we have is paramount; it’s less of a total reset, but still very much a fresh voice needed.

Husky basketball has been in need of a total makeover for a while now, but as I mentioned above, they were financially unwilling to take the hit needed to get rid of Mike Hopkins, until now. This is the biggest rebuilding job of the four, and yet it doesn’t feel as dire. Just because things are SO low for this program; there’s nowhere to go but up. We need a coach who knows how to recruit in this new era of college athletics. We need a coach who can take that successful mid-major mentality and carry it over into the power conference we’re joining. We need someone who’s adept at connecting to this relative hotbed of a basketball community, while at the same time able to bring in players from around the country, both developing them and getting them to gel as a unit. If it leads to a return to the Tourney, great. But, I would settle for baby steps. Just be fun to watch again!

Husky football arguably has the toughest rebuilding job of the bunch, because of all the players we lost – both to the NFL and the transfer portal – and because of the way we were left in the lurch by DeBoer. This is a team that can only go DOWN, at least in the short term. But, our new coach is tasked with trying to rebuild on the fly, to at least bring this team up to a competent level, and hopefully get us back to contending for conference titles and national championships sooner rather than later.

Oddly enough, I have the MOST confidence in Jedd Fisch with the Husky football team. It’s not that I necessarily think he’s the best coach or smartest guy or anything. I just think he’s a guy on the rise, we’re getting him at the absolute perfect time in his career, and he’s STARVING to both do well here and move on as quickly as possible to a better program. He’s the best Used Car Salesman we’ve ever had in Seattle; he’ll be able to extract the money we need to buy the players we need to bounce back in a hurry. I give him two glorious, better-than-expected years. If we don’t win it all in that time, I still think he will have done enough to earn a promotion elsewhere. That second year will really be the good one, I think. At the very least, look for the Husky football team to be in the 2025 Big Ten Championship Game, if not winning it and making it back to the playoffs.

I think I have the least amount of confidence in Danny Sprinkle, but that says nothing about him, and everything about the Husky basketball program. By all accounts, Sprinkle is great, and like Fisch, a guy on the rise who we’re getting at the exact right time. If I were to believe in Fisch as much as I do, I have no reason to doubt Sprinkle, who might not be quite the shyster, but is just as motivated to parlay this into bigger and better things. I just don’t think Husky basketball is ever going to be more than an occasional Tournament participant, and a Sweet 16 team once in a blue moon. It’s cool and all that we were able to sign Great Osobor to the highest free agent contract in college basketball history (or whatever the fuck we’re calling it, under the guise of NIL), but I’ve seen tons of elite-looking basketball recruits sign here. Only to accomplish nothing until they left after one season and turned pro.

Dan Bylsma, the new Kraken head coach – after his promotion from our Coachella Valley affiliate – is the biggest wild card to me, mostly because I know very little about hockey, and what makes a good NHL coach. He has prior NHL coaching experience; seems like a good thing. He also has experience coaching a lot of our younger players at Coachella Valley, which I feel like is a great thing. With the success that team has had, and their ability to score the way they have, it seems like he should be a perfect fit here. Someone to actually get the most out of these players. Someone who will hopefully turn Matty Beniers and Shane Wright into monsters. Someone who can jumpstart this offense while still getting the most out of our defense. I’m a fan of the hire, but obviously we’ll know a lot more once the games start this fall.

Potentially the most interesting hire of the bunch is Mike Macdonald. He seems like the one with the most potential for greatness, and obviously the one most likely to stick around the longest. If he’s as smart as advertised – if he’s the defensive version of Sean McVay – then we’re talking about a guy who can take us all the way.

It feels pretty rare to have so much coaching turnover happen in the same offseason. That makes this a really pivotal time in Seattle sports. Our lives could be changing drastically for the better … or it’ll just be a lot of the same mediocre bullshit.

The Seattle Sports 5-Year Trends

If you scroll down the right side of my home page (if you are viewing this on a laptop or PC; otherwise it’s at the very bottom of the home page on a mobile device), you’ll see a list of all the Seattle-based teams I follow, and their most recent five seasons’ worth of records. I started doing that a LONG time ago, intending to refer to that information every so often, to take a global view of the Seattle sports landscape. Which teams are on the rise? Which teams are sinking like a stone? And which teams are helplessly treading water?

It’s funny, when I devised of this concept – and then absolutely failed to follow through, until today – I thought five years in sports terms was an adequate amount of time to figure out where a team is going. But, in reality, it’s both an eternity, and no time at all. Sports teams can turn around their fortunes so fast, you might get whiplash with all the wildly disparate outcomes. One year, you might be on top of the world, then you might be among the worst teams in the game, then you’re able to snap right back into being relevant again, coming from out of nowhere.

I would put the Husky football team in this category. Through 2019, you could argue this was a team on the rise. Then, we had the COVID season, followed by a total bottoming out in 2021, with a housecleaning to follow. From there, they snapped right back into being one of the best teams in college football in 2022, only to make it to the National Championship Game in 2023. We have since been confronted with a different sort of housecleaning, unfortunately, and now this looks like a team that’s going to fall. How could it not? We reached a height we haven’t seen since the early 90’s, and we didn’t replace all that we lost with comparable talent; it’s only natural to see a drop-off.

You can also look at the Kraken and even though we don’t have five seasons’ worth of data, we have almost three. They started off bad, then they made the playoffs in year two, only to hover around .500 in year three. Young players haven’t developed into the superstars we hoped for, and everyone on the roster feels like role players. There’s probably going to be a new head coach to come, and we’ll see where we go from here.

On the flipside, you can look at the Husky basketball team and see a team that’s largely been around .500. Five straight years of stagnation, and counting. Part of that has to do with the coaching staff – which has been replaced this offseason – and part of that is the nature of college basketball nowadays. Unless you’re recruiting the best of the best high school players – who can step in and compete right away – you’re not able to develop younger guys like you used to. You just have to hope you’re poaching enough quality in the transfer portal to find the special mixture that will gel immediately.

The NFL is arguably the most volatile sport of the bunch, with teams going from worst to first all the time! And yet, the Seahawks appear to be on a steady decline. Or, at the very least, a decline followed by a flatline. They were 12-game winners (including playoffs) in 2019 and 2020. Then, we had Russell Wilson’s injury-plagued and inconsistent final year here, followed by two years of Geno Smith and some apathetic .500 ball. I can conceive of a future where this is a team on the rise again, but I think we’re going to have to endure another 9-ish win season in the interim.

The only team you could make an argument that’s a team “on the rise” is the Mariners. But, that entirely hinges on what happens in 2024. It’s a franchise with a clear plan, who underwent an obvious rebuild, and who managed to cobble together a pretty good-looking young core. 2019 was terrible. The COVID-shortened 2020 season was better than expected. The 2021 season was better still. In 2022, we finally broke the playoff drought. And, 2023 could conceivably be excused for missing the playoffs, because teams don’t always follow one straight trajectory from year to year. If we make it back to the playoffs in 2024, I think 2023 can be forgiven. At that point, some of the younger prospects still developing in the minors might be ready to take the next step. The Mariners still feel like they’re a few pieces away, and if we have to get them internally, so be it.

So, the last 5 years have been kind of a mixed bag. That’s Seattle sports for ya. Never too high, rarely too low, with lots of unexpected gut punches in between (that only become expected the longer you root for these teams).

The Husky Basketball Team Fired Mike Hopkins, Hired Danny Sprinkle

After a fifth consecutive season landing outside of the NCAA Tournament, and after a losing conference record in four out of the last five years, it was a foregone conclusion that Mike Hopkins would be fired prior to finishing out the last year of his contract. We were at a point in his tenure where the turnover was pretty massive from year to year, there hasn’t been a viable high school recruit since the Romar era, and there was a complete and utter lack of improvement among those who did end up returning. On top of everything else, Hopkins couldn’t even run his signature zone defense anymore, because of that lack of continuity.

It’s been pretty miserable to be a Husky fan, ever since the last remnants of the Romar era won Hopkins his second consecutive Pac-12 Coach of the Year award, in our last season in the NCAA Tournament in 2019. There’s been equal parts hopelessness and delusion, into thinking that whatever scrubs we were able to bring in via the transfer portal would somehow shake out into a winning basketball club. Ultimately, it’s been a consistent lack of consistency, other than the fact that we couldn’t win any big games against quality opponents, and frequently flubbed things up against lower-quadrant teams.

In the end, we had to very nearly run out the string, thanks to the other big coaching blunder we had to pay out, in the form of Jimmy Lake.

Now that the unpleasantness is behind us, let’s welcome Danny Sprinkle! That name sounding like a My Little Pony notwithstanding, it seems like we did good with this hire. He has a 109-50 record in five seasons, across two teams. He turned around a moribund program in Montana State (after two so-so seasons, he took them to the NCAA Tournament as a 14-seed in back-to-back years), then he flipped a Utah State team that returned zero points from its previous season’s roster into an 8-seed this year that beat TCU in the first round, before succumbing to the juggernaut that is 1-seed Purdue.

That’s three NCAA Tournament appearances in a row, for those keeping track at home. We haven’t had three consecutive Tourney appearances since the 2009-2011 seasons!

This, of course, feels like a Kalen DeBoer situation (or a Jedd Fisch situation, for that matter), where Sprinkle is a head coach on the rise, who will look to jump ship at the first opportunity. But, as is our lot in life, you kind of have to hope that’s the endgame, because it means we’ll actually see some NCAA success in the near future. It won’t be a lot of success, of course. But, just getting there feels like half 99% of the battle.

I don’t know where Sprinkle lands on the list of Best New Hires in men’s basketball this year, but it feels like he’s the best of OUR particular options. The former Coug head coach jumped ship to Stanford of all teams, which seems odd considering it sounded like he could’ve had his pick of any number of open jobs (after taking that team into the Round of 32 this year, when nothing was expected of them heading into this season). It’s even more remarkable that the Huskies were able to hire anyone, considering our Athletic Director left us last week to go to Nebraska of all schools (yes, the same AD who has been here for all of 6 months).

While I agree that the next AD needs to be someone with bona fide Husky ties (and not some dick in the yard from Tulane), I’m not buying that noise about Sprinkle potentially being a long-term fit because his dad played here, and because he was born in Pullman. That’s a tenuous fucking grip AT BEST on the reality of the situation. Washington is a Stepping Stone program (unfortunately for Hopkins, it was a stepping stone into a dark fucking abyss). We haven’t found the next Mark Few, so you can get that out of your heads right now.

I’m excited that we got a young and promising head coach who has had a lot of recent success, but my excitement is most certainly tempered. We’ll see how it goes.

I’m not interested in him doing everything he can to retain the players we have currently on our roster, or our assistant head coaches for that matter. I dunno, maybe I should be; maybe all these players need is just some semblance of competence among its head coach to bring in a winning scheme that works. But, this program has been a stone cold loser for half a decade, and I have no loyalty to ANY of these chumps. Sprinkle should do what’s best for Sprinkle, and if that means totally cleaning house, so be it. I’ll take his opinion over anyone else’s. If it were up to me, the assistants on this staff would be updating their resumes; maybe they can see if Seattle U is hiring.

No, In Fact, The Husky Men’s Basketball Team Is Not Good

I can’t remember the last time I was THIS unexcited about a Husky basketball team. Even in 2020, when we finished 5-21; even in Romar’s last year, when we went 2-16 in conference play, I at least watched a handful of games. I at least followed along, reading box scores and whatnot. All I’ve done this season is – once or twice a week – gone on this website and updated the information for our next game. That’s it! I looked at most of the scores, but I couldn’t even be bothered to click for more information.

When I wrote my previous Husky basketball post, we had just defeated Gonzaga. There was at least some semblance of legitimacy to the question poised in the title of that post. We’ve seen so so-looking teams come around towards the tail-end of the non-conference schedule, to go on a tear in conference play. Sometimes it takes a few weeks to truly gel. Sometimes a big win over a ranked opponent can propel you to new heights.

Or, sometimes, Gonzaga just has a down year – or a down game – and throws everyone off the scent for a little while. But, it’s confirmed. With a sub-.500 record in conference play, and an around-.500 record overall through the regular season, the Huskies are just bad.

You might be able to argue they’re bad, but also fun to watch. I couldn’t argue that, because I haven’t watched more than a few minutes this season; but YOU could, if you want. All I know is that they’re not even interesting-enough for me to make the effort to remember when their games are on. It costs me almost nothing to watch! And yet, nope.

And we all know why. It’s the program dragging Mike Hopkins’ withered carcass across a third straight lame duck year of his inflated contract. By all rights, he should’ve been fired after that 2021 season, yet here we are. We’re technically on the hook for another $3.2 million for the 2024/2025 season, but by all accounts the University of Washington should be fiscally sound-enough to fire him and hire someone else.

That being said, it’ll be interesting to see where we go from here. On the one hand, we’re heading to the Big Ten and it would be nice to make a good first impression. On the other hand, college basketball is so supremely fucked, and the Huskies are in about the worst spot you can imagine. Totally irrelevant, with no holdover from year to year, and I can only imagine fan apathy is at an all-time high. How do you juice up interest? How do you get good players to want to come here? How much do we have left in the coffers after the football program eats its share of the finances?

I don’t know how you fix it, without a total revamp of college football and basketball. Until, quite frankly, the schools get some semblance of control over their situation. I know it’s college and there’s a finite amount of eligibility. But, you can’t have players switching teams every fucking year! That’s no way to drum up interest and keep fans engaged.

And most fans like me aren’t that involved in the recruiting part of the equation. I don’t know these names being thrown around. I don’t know enough of the mid-tier players from other colleges who enter the transfer portal either. It’s all insanity.

The longer it goes like this, the less inclined I’m going to be to stick around and watch anything outside of March Madness. Maybe that’s just the Mike Hopkins-ness of it all talking. Maybe when he goes – and we bring in some fresh blood – it will rejuvenate my interest. We’ll see.

Is The Husky Men’s Basketball Team Good?

I’m legitimately asking. I’ve seen very little of this team so far this year.

It’s been kind of hard to be a Husky basketball fan the last four seasons. We last made the NCAA Tournament in 2019; prior to that it was 2011. That’s one legitimate post-season berth in the last twelve seasons. The Mike Hopkins era started off with a bang, with him winning back-to-back coach of the year awards. Since then? Since Romar’s players moved on and he was left on his own? Diddly.

This has also coincided with a massive shift in how college athletics operates, with players getting NIL money, with the transfer portal making it open season on all players, regardless of whether or not they’re formally committed to or even attending another university. It’s been nothing but a complete shuffling of rosters every year. I don’t know how you build a program that way. I don’t know how you incorporate guys into your scheme or develop chemistry. There has to be a way, other schools seem to manage.

The Huskies have hovered around .500 in three of the last four seasons (with the other one being a total bottom-out job). There have been interesting players who’ve come through, but by and large, it’s a lot of inconsistency. We do okay against the bad teams – for the most part – but can’t buy a victory against a ranked opponent to save our lives.

But, that streak ended this past weekend, when the Huskies hosted 7th-ranked Gonzaga, and beat them 78-73. The Zags were favored by 3.5 points, and indeed had an 11-point lead in the second half. But, the Huskies chipped away and prevailed, shocking the college basketball world.

Gonzaga only fell to #10 in the rankings, which goes to show the respect that everyone has for them. This is interesting to me because it’s the first REALLY great win we’ve had in I don’t know how long. It’s one of those kinds of wins you can point to at the end of the season that actually helps our case for making the Tourney.

Of course, we’ll have to see where Gonzaga goes from here. Maybe they’ll have just an okay year. Their only other defeat so far is to Purdue, who is currently 3rd in the nation, and they still have bigtime matchups against UConn and Kentucky, so there’s plenty of opportunity for them to be in their usual spot near the top of whatever bracket they find themselves in.

As for the Huskies, we’re 6-3, with losses to Nevada, San Diego State (both unranked, but in the Others Receiving Votes pile), and Colorado State (currently 17th in the nation). Before beating the Zags, our best win was over Xavier, who is 5-5 and probably not going anywhere. So, to say we needed this win is a huge understatement.

But, will it make a difference? That’s for the rest of the season to decide. Our non-conference schedule ends next week; we have two games left (against Seattle U and Eastern). The only ranked team in the Pac-12 at the moment is #1 Arizona (who we play only once this year, in February on the road). Colorado is currently the 26th-ranked team, with Utah also receiving some votes. For what it’s worth, Washington just got a couple of votes after beating Gonzaga, so I guess people think we’re the 4th-best team in the conference so far.

Are we, though? Keion Brooks returned this year for (presumably) his final year of eligibility. He’s averaging 19.9 points and 7.9 rebounds to lead the team. Sahvir Wheeler, a transfer from Kentucky, is averaging a career-best 16.1 points, 6.5 assists, and 3.6 boards in spite of shooting well below his Kentucky 3-point percentage (25%, down from 36.6% last year). Moses Wood, a transfer from Portland, is averaging 10.6 points and 4.8 rebounds in spite of also being considerably worse from 3-point range (30.6% compared to 40.3% last year). Paul Mulcahy, a transfer from Rutgers, is chipping in 8.5 points, 5.4 assists, and 4.6 boards in 31 minutes per game to round out the regulars.

As for holdovers, Koren Johnson is averaging 9.9 points in 22 minutes. Franck Kepnang returned from missing most of last year due to injury; he’s averaging 7.9 points in just over 18 minutes per game. Braxton Meah has seen his role decrease, but he’s putting up 4.7 points in just under 10 minutes per game. Looks like we’re rolling with a 9-man rotation through non-conference play, more or less. Wilhelm Breidenbach and Anthony Holland round out the group averaging 10 minutes or more per game. I wonder if those last two guys will see their time diminish over the coming weeks and months. Can’t play everyone.

It’s hard to say what we do exceedingly well. We average 82.2 and give up 72.7, but that’s non-conference play, with a lot of cupcakes sprinkled in. We’re 52nd in assists and 78th in rebounds. We’re shooting 47.4, but only 32.5 from three. It’s my understanding that we’ve largely gone away from the zone defense that was Hop’s trademark coming in, which everyone agrees was for the best. I had written this team off before the season as just another .500 nothing, but at least we know they have this in them. You can’t dismiss beating a team like Gonzaga. For that reason alone, I’ll try to give them some attention, at least for a while.

More Pointless Husky Basketball News

While I refuse to get too “up” for any of these moves I hear about, I certainly believe there’s no limit to how “down” you can be on the Husky basketball program at the moment.

A while back, it was announced that Moses Wood is transferring here from Portland, who is 6’8 and apparently a good 3-point shooter. He’s averaged in the middle teens the last couple years, which is encouraging. But, again, it’s Portland, not exactly a hotbed of high-level basketball play.

This feels like exactly the kind of level of player the Huskies can get at this point, in the transfer portal anyway. I’m assuming he only has one year of eligibility left (which makes sense), and has decided to make the leap to a Power 5 school. The fact that the Huskies are one of the WORST Power 5 schools right now notwithstanding, at least he’s going to a place that desperately needs his game.

We’ll see if he’s any better than these other so-called “good shooters” we’ve brought in. Wood is being touted as a Cole Bajema replacement; couldn’t be worse, right? But, not necessarily the savior we’ve been looking for, to take the program to another level.

Then, it was announced Anthony Holland is coming here; he’s a grad transfer from Fresno State. He’s also supposed to be adept at the long ball, but I’m not holding my breath. He hasn’t even averaged double digits, so what are we supposed to expect from him when he comes to Washington, where we have no offensive gameplan to speak of?

While I was on vacation, it was reported Noah Williams has entered the transfer portal, a year after transferring here from the Cougs. He was hurt most of the season and therefore did jack shit. Since we were counting on him to be one of our main scoring threats and ballhandlers, it was a devastating loss to an already-mediocre squad. Nevertheless, even when he was out there, I never felt much of a positive impact, so I’m not counting this as any sort of big loss.

You’d think Williams would want to stick around, to play a fully healthy season in a place that would be all too happy to feature his talents. But, like I’ve been saying with all the other defectors, how can you blame him for wanting to leave? Either he wants a chance to play for a winner, or he wants to be around a less dysfunctional group/coaching staff.

Hearing about Williams leaving made it all the more surprising when it was announced that Keion Brooks would be coming back. What?! Why?!

Brooks was clearly the best Husky last season. He might not have flashed the potential of a Menifield, but he was a steady scoring leader game-in and game-out. Which, again, makes you wonder why he decided to stick around to play for a lame duck coach who has one viable guard on the team. He’s gotta be getting at least a little money out of the deal, right? Which makes me question why there’s money for Brooks, but not money to fire Hopkins’ ass.

Husky Basketball Is Falling Apart

Now, in all fairness, just because the rats are evacuating this sinking ship that is Husky Men’s Basketball doesn’t mean it’s bad that they’re gone.

Jamal Bey, for instance, is out of eligibility (thank Christ). He was a colossal disappointment for the duration of his Husky career. Langston Wilson has opted to transfer, but he was often foul-prone and never really developed a consistent offensive game. Jackson Grant is also leaving, but he couldn’t crack a weak front court. Tyler Linhardt is apparently a guy who was here, but I know nothing about him since he hardly ever played.

Then, Cole Bajema announced he was leaving, but that feels like addition by subtraction. He’s another supposedly-good three-point shooter who was streaky as all get-out. His good games were SEVERELY outnumbered by the ones where he was anonymous to outright atrocious (you shouldn’t have as many games as he has when he went 0 for 6 or 1 for 7, when you’re supposedly an elite outside shooter). It sounds like P.J. Fuller is also leaving, but with an expanded role, he did exactly zero with the opportunity (after having a solid 2021-2022 season).

And then you’ve got Keion Brooks and Noah Williams, who it sounds like are on the fence. Brooks was easily the best player on last year’s .500 team, but that’s not saying a whole lot. He has one year of eligibility left, and I don’t know why this is even a question. Why on God’s green Earth would he stay at Washington? Why wouldn’t he go somewhere where he actually has a chance to play some Tournament ball? I can sort of see why Williams might stick around; he’s a local kid who spent most of this past season injured. I don’t know if he has any value on the open market right now, unless he wants to go to a smaller school just to play a lot of minutes and fill out his stats. The thing is, if he’s healthy, he’ll have every opportunity to do that here, so why not just stay?

What kills me now, though, is hearing that Keyon Menifield has announced he’s leaving, after recently announcing he was coming back. He was far and away the most promising and exciting player on last year’s squad, and it’s truly devastating that he won’t be back. But, again, I get it. I loved watching him; he was fun as hell on the court. But, he’s never going to win here. He’s not from here. There are no ties whatsoever keeping him a Husky. It’s brutal, but that’s what you get when you refuse to fire a lame duck in Mike Hopkins.

Who does that leave us with? Two okay big men in Braxton Meah and Franck Kepnang (the latter coming off of a serious injury) and Koren Johnson (the other freshman guard who wasn’t quite as good as Menifield, but still looked promising last year). We have a couple of incoming freshman I’m assuming won’t reneg on their committment. And, I guess, we’ll have a whole new slate of underwhelming incoming transfer players no one else in college basketball wanted.

This just sucks. It’s not like I was even remotely excited about Husky basketball next year, but I dunno, at least we would’ve had Menifield. I can only imagine how big of an impact he’ll have in his second full season at the college level. I hope he kills it on his new team. I can totally see him being a star in the Big Dance next year.

Mike Hopkins Will Not Be Fired At This Time

As expected, the Huskies lost in the opener of the Pac-12 tournament. It was the very first game of the set, and I immediately stopped paying attention beyond that moment. *Checks notes ESPN.com* it looks like Arizona defeated UCLA to take the conference crown in a slight upset. Those are easily the best two teams in the Pac though, so don’t be surprised if they go relatively far. I was surprised to see USC as a 10-seed, after their pitiful showing in the conference tourney; I was less surprised to see ASU as an 11-seed play-in team. They’re not great, but they have a great win here and there.

This isn’t about the rest of the conference, though. This is about YOUR 16-16 Washington Huskies. It was announced over the weekend that Mike Hopkins would be returning. Normally, you don’t need to release a statement confirming someone still has his job when he’s got multiple years left on his contract. But, given the discourse of late – and the disappointing results we’ve seen since last making the NCAA Tournament in 2019 – it really felt like the Huskies were set to make a change.

As has been discussed, though, Washington still owes him a combined $6.3 million over the next two seasons. That by itself isn’t enough to dictate inaction, but when you throw in Jimmy Lake’s figure (over $6 million for the next two years), all his fired football assistants (and Hop’s basketball assistants), the cost of a new basketball coaching staff, and all the raises Kalen DeBoer and his staff have received after just one season (not to mention all the NIL money being raised to start paying these players, on the football team especially), there’s only so much a school like Washington can reasonably hope to do.

I wouldn’t call Washington a “mid-major”, but I would say we are a tier between mid-majors and true power five schools. We don’t have the reach of these national programs like Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and the like. We don’t have the fans attending these games, nor do we have the television numbers to even remotely compete. But, we’re not chopped liver either. What we’ve come to terms with is that Washington is a football school. That’s not a knock; it’s not a bad thing. But, we’re NOT a basketball school. We’re not trying to be all things to all sports. We’re (smartly, rightly) putting all of our chips into the football basket. That’s where the bulk of our boosters live, that’s where the bulk of the money in college athletics lives, and that’s where we’ve traditionally made the biggest sporting impact (all apologies to the rowers and whatnot, in the lesser sports who win championships to zero acclaim).

So, the money is going to football. We’re shooting our shot – so to speak – on the football team making a serious run at the playoffs in 2023. And, somewhat as a consequence, we’re letting the basketball program stagnate under Mike Hopkins, either until his contract runs out, or until he becomes cheap enough to be fired without having to eat an unreasonable sum.

I thought the Hopkins debacle was all summed up perfectly over at UW Dawg Pound. I was happy to learn that Jamal Bey is, indeed, done with college basketball. I was a little dismayed to learn that even though he was celebrated on Senior Day, Cole Bajema is planning to return. Also, I find it incredibly interesting to discover we’re looking to convince Keion Brooks to come back.

Langston Wilson entered the transfer portal – to no one’s shock – and there might be others looking to leave. But I really wonder what this team might look like if most-everyone came back. Not that I think we’d be world beaters, or even contenders for the conference title, but it’s been exceedingly rare for a Mike Hopkins team to have any semblance of continuity. He had it in 2019 – again, with mostly holdovers from Romar’s regime – and we actually did something of value for once. Not that I think lightning would strike twice, but you never know.

I want to have strong feelings about the Huskies keeping Mike Hopkins, because I like Husky basketball. I like it when we’re good, when Hec Ed is rocking and rolling, and when we’re making our presence felt on a national stage. Winning that game in the NCAA Tournament in 2019 was a truly magical experience, and I want more of that!

But, I’m just so God damned beaten down. The atrocious Mike Hopkins “offense”. The zone defense that couldn’t catch a cold. His impotent sideline antics. Our piddling assistant coaching staff. Our non-existent local recruiting abilities.

I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve been spoiled as a Husky basketball fan. I jumped on the bandwagon at peak Romar era. Even his most mediocre teams were somewhat interesting. He always had at least one or two interesting guys. And while his offense wasn’t any sort of great shakes, at least he had players with real offensive abilities. Guys who could drive the lane, create for themselves, or kick out to a bevy of three-point shooters.

There’s nothing interesting about the guys Hopkins has brought in, other than Terrell Brown. There’s truly nothing interesting about the transfer portal, now that we know what it really is. It’s just one more way to lose your very best players, while replacing them with lesser rejects who couldn’t hack it on relevant teams.

So, you know, I’ll go through the motions of paying attention to the Huskies when they’re on TV. But, I’m not getting my hopes up. We’ll continue to underwhelm in 2023/2024, and if Hop is still here on a final lame-duck season, that’ll be a disaster of all disasters. This is going to hurt his ability to recruit, his ability to keep our “committed” guys, and probably any chance of putting out a non-embarrassing product on the court. This could get REALLY ugly.

The last thing we wanted after Hopkins won those back-to-back Pac-12 Coach of the Year awards was for him to get poached to a bigger program. Who knew it would’ve been the best possible outcome for all involved? Certainly for us, but also for Hopkins. Ironically, the Syracuse head coaching gig just opened up for next season (for the first time in nearly 50 years). Maybe Hop can one day get hired on to be an assistant again.

This Stupid Husky Basketball Season Is Finally Almost Over

The regular season limped to a close last night, with the Huskies falling 93-84 to the Cougars en route to getting swept in this season’s Apple Cup series. We are 16-15 (8-12 in conference) and it’s now our fourth straight campaign without a post-season berth. We’re currently slotted in as the 8th seed in the Pac-12 Tournament next week, which means at best we could advance to the second round, where we’ll get destroyed by top seeded UCLA. But, I’m expecting we’ll lose in that first round, saving everyone the embarrassment of another double-digit defeat at the hands of the Bruins.

It’s been a VERY discouraging last week or so, as we also had the barn doors blown off of us against Stanford over the weekend. They’re one of the worst teams in the conference, and it’s sad that we couldn’t even put up a fight. There’s no good reason why we should be so mediocre; I find it difficult to pinpoint the reason, that’s for sure. Is it lack of talent? Is it poor coaching/development? Either way, that falls at the feet of Mike Hopkins, in the hottest of seats as he closes out his sixth season. He has two more years left on his deal, earning him $6.3 million.

For those who say, “Easy, fire him and buy him out of his contract,” it’s not exactly so simple. We also just got done paying Jimmy Lake $3.2 million to sit on his ass in 2022. Lake will also earn a combined $6.7 million over the next two years (we’ll see if we get to recoup that in any way, shape, or form as he finds work elsewhere), and that’s not even getting into whatever money we owe his assistants, not to mention the current football coaching staff (who have already gotten raises after one season), nor mentioning the NEW basketball staff that we’ll have to bring in to replace Hopkins.

I understand we’re talking about a university bringing in billions of dollars, and I’m not saying the Huskies should keep Hopkins. But, I would understand if we don’t want to keep compounding bad money decisions.

Here’s the thing, though: Mike Hopkins hasn’t shown he’s capable of doing anything other than win with Romar’s players his first two years here. He hasn’t recruited successfully from the high school ranks (nor does he really seem all that interested in it). He’s largely flopped with the transfer portal, other than lucking into Terrell Brown’s final year of eligibility. He CLEARLY has no idea how to craft a competent offense, other than “let guys shoot jumpers with defenders in their faces” (and, again, he’s failed in actually finding quality shooters to employ this asinine strategy). And his forte – defense, specifically a tricky zone defense – has also largely stunk, other than the two years he had Thybulle running the show (again, a Romar recruit). Here’s a thought: if your zone defense is so difficult to master, that you need multiple seasons of continuity to perfect it, then maybe you shouldn’t get stuck in a swirling toilet bowl of trying to reload the roster via the transfer portal every year.

I’ll say this: the transfer portal is a total disaster. Anyone who’s even remotely worth a damn isn’t IN the transfer portal in the first place. He’s locked himself down on a quality team. These are REJECTS, who couldn’t hack it elsewhere. So, what makes Hopkins think he has the special sauce to gather them all together here and win at a rate necessary to make the NCAA Tournament? We had our best roster in ages in 2021-2022 – with the aforementioned Terrell Brown leading the way – and we still couldn’t win more than 17 games.

The truth of the matter is, on this year’s squad, there was never anyone even close to Brown’s abilities in creating his own shot, leadership, ball handling, or determination to take this team where it needed to go. So, there was no way in hell we were ever going to IMPROVE over last year’s total. It’s, therefore, no surprise we’re at 16 wins and probably done.

Keion Brooks gave it a hell of an effort – averaging a team-high 17.8 points, to go along with 6.9 rebounds, while shooting 43% from the floor – but clearly we needed more around him. Freshman Keyon Menifield was a breath of fresh air, though predictably inconsistent – as you’d expect. Nevertheless, he finished averaging 10 points, 3 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. Koren Johnson was another promising freshman guard, whose playing time increased as the season went on.

But, this team was also beset with injuries. With the margin for error razor thin, this was the worst-case scenario for the Huskies. Big man Franck Kepnang only appeared in 8 games. Prized transfer Noah Williams has only appeared in 14 games. And apparently P.J. Fuller has been dinged up lately (he’s also been wildly disappointing when he’s been out there, which makes me wonder if he’s been dealing with these injury issues all season).

The bad news is that Brooks has no more eligibility left. The good news is, neither does Cole Bajema or Langston Wilson (who have NOT been worth a damn at all). The worst news I could possibly imagine, though, is that somehow Jamal Bey still has (at least) a year of eligibility left. Will he finally get the hint and transfer? God I hope so. Giving him 26+ minutes a game is the dictionary definition of a Waste Of Time.

Considering college basketball is what it is, I refuse to try to project how the Huskies move forward. I’m guessing we’ll bite the bullet and get Hopkins out of here. The tide has turned among Husky fans to the point that there’s really no salvaging things. Not that I believe it’ll matter. We have 1 NCAA Tournament appearance in the last 12 seasons (and counting). This is not a prime destination for coaches or player prospects.

I’m just glad it’s all almost over. Soon enough, we’ll turn our focus to the Mariners, and everything will be right with the world (is a sentence I never thought I’d write in my adult life).