My Two Cents On The Transfer Portal & NIL

I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I understand the ins and outs of these two huge, significant issues in college athletics (presumably just college football and basketball), but I don’t know if a lot of people really take the time to research these topics before spouting off about them either. So, why not me?!

I think one thing is pretty clear: college athletics is broken. It’s always been broken, though. Put me in the camp of the kids have been exploited for generations, earning billions upon billions of dollars for schools and the NCAA, while the benefits of a college scholarship don’t outweigh how these kids have been chewed up and churned through over the years.

So, at the very least, the NIL has been a long time coming. Let a kid make money off of his name, image, and likeness; what the fuck does the NCAA care? I don’t have the problem with it that a lot of people do.

I know one of the arguments against it has to do with certain schools – and certain conferences – having an unfair advantage, by having boosters who are willing to over-spend to bring in the best talent. But, those unfair advantages have been around since the beginning. Now, instead of money being slid under tables, it’s out in the open (to a bigger degree; I don’t think it’ll ever be truly transparent). The NIL thing isn’t a perfect system, and I can’t even say with any certainty that it’s better than what we had before, but it’s arguably on the right track.

My concern is that we’ll never get college athletics to the point where it should be, where it’s just a semipro league for football and basketball, with contracts and salary caps and actual fucking oversight into where all the money is coming from and where it’s going. College athletics before was the wild west, and instead of becoming more civilized, NIL has made things more out of control than ever.

What bums me out is the transfer portal. I’m not against it in theory, but in practice it just sucks the joy out of being a fan.

It’s one thing to sign with a school, then that coach moves on, and you decide to opt out because you never agreed to play for whoever is coming in. And I get the frustration from a kid who’s riding the pine and wants to go somewhere where he can actually see some action. But, now it’s morphed into this yearly excuse for players to leave on a whim. And worse, it’s morphed into coaches needing to not only recruit newcomers, but to recruit their own guys (while coaches also recruit other school’s players to get them to flip).

There was too hard a line before: where, if you left a school, you had to sit out a full year. But, now it’s too soft, and literally everyone is up for grabs.

As a Husky basketball fan, I’ve experienced the highs and lows of this new system. In the 2020/2021 season, the Huskies were as bad as I’ve ever seen them. Following that lost year, a bunch of players departed, and it was absolutely for the best: they all stunk. This was addition by subtraction to the perfect degree. Mike Hopkins was able to bring in a bunch of players through the transfer portal, and the 2021/2022 season was far more enjoyable as a result. I mean, granted, it’s not like we made any sort of post-season tournament. But, we were far more competitive and fun during the regular season, and sometimes that’s enough.

What’s more, it sort of felt like we were on the right track. Maybe, with a few key additions, we COULD parlay that into a return to the Big Dance. Sure, it was always going to be something of a longshot, but it wasn’t crazy to dream that dream.

Then, recently, word came down that Emmitt Matthews was departing. He was one of those transfer portal guys we brought back home last season; after the one year, he’s returning to West Virginia, for reasons that I don’t fully understand. He was a starter and a key player for the Huskies. He was set to continue being a starter, as we really didn’t bring in anyone to vie for his minutes. He was great in our system and had room to grow.

Probably, from his perspective, if his goal is to win – and to get more eyeballs on his game – he has a better chance on the Mountaineers. I guess I get that. But, this isn’t a fucking Baskin Robbins where you stand there tasting all of the 31 flavors! Fucking pick a school and stick with it! Clearly there was a reason why you left West Virginia in the first place; what makes you think it’s going to be good now?

I’m just sad and pissed off. The difference between an NCAA Tourney berth or not isn’t Emmitt Matthews; he’s a role player. But, he was one of my favorite Huskies to root for last year, and I’m annoyed that he opted to leave. If the NCAA had proper contracts for players, you wouldn’t see this as often, and you wouldn’t see other schools sniffing around trying to poach your guys.

I’m not mad at anyone in particular. The players have the right, the coaches are only doing their jobs by enabling boosters or whoever to go and recruit players from other teams; this is the system that’s in place and everyone who can take advantage WILL take advantage. I’m just mad at the system, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

And, the thing is, it’s only going to get worse. I don’t think I’ll ever see a day where the Washington Huskies are national champions in football or men’s basketball. That’s kind of a bummer. That’s not just because of the transfer portal or NIL, but those things certainly play a part. It’s just hard to adjust your expectations. You look at the professional sports leagues and can see a reasonable path to a championship one day. Hell, if the Cincinnati Bengals can make a Super Bowl, then ANYONE in ANY pro league can do it. Even the lousy, fakakta Mariners.

But, not the Huskies. The best we can possibly hope for is a conference championship. Yet, who’s confident we’re going to get there with Mike Hopkins, or this new coaching staff for the football team? You mean the guy from Fresno, and before that some Dakota school? Oh yeah, I’m sure he’s the next Nick Saban just waiting to happen.

Husky Basketball Came To A Close In The Second Round Of The Pac-12 Tournament

I didn’t love the Huskies’ first round matchup against the Utes on Wednesday. Of all the bottom-feeding teams in the Pac-12, Utah had given us the most fits this season (in spite of our perfect record against them). We had to endure a tough first half where we went into halftime only up by 3, but were able to pull away in the second half thanks to some superb defense.

It turned out to be the last hurrah for the Dawgs on a very up-and-down season. Terrell Brown got his 22 points, but he had plenty of help. Cole Bajema had 16 off the bench, Jamal Bey chipped in 19, Emmitt Matthews had 10, and Daejon Davis finished with 8. This was a VERY short rotation for the Huskies, seemingly by design. Only seven guys played, and P.J. Fuller was only in there for 6 minutes in the first half.

I think we all expected the Huskies to lose to the Trojans last night, but they nevertheless treated us to one more entertaining game on what proved to be an underrated season.

Like most of our big games against quality opponents, Terrell Brown took on the scoring burden early. He put up 21 first half points as the Huskies went into halftime up 39-36. Clearly, that would be unsustainable – both for him, and if the team actually wanted to win this game – but it was a thrill to behold in the moment.

Unfortunately, Brown couldn’t get anything going after that, scoring only 2 points the rest of the way. However, even though the rest of the team was pretty inept offensively, the Huskies kept it close and had a chance at the end to tie it or take the lead.

The defense was insane in this one! The Huskies forced 23 turnovers from the Trojans (a season high for what will be an NCAA Tournament team), which is the only way you can stay close in a game where you shoot 30.8% from the field (27.3% from long range). I can’t say enough good things about the way this team battled throughout; the Huskies had no business hanging around, with the length USC has on their roster.

The Husky rotation expanded to eight players, with Fuller getting significantly more minutes off the bench, and with Langston Wilson spelling Nate Roberts (who fouled out with lots of time left). Strategically, I think that could’ve paid dividends had we stolen this one, but alas it wasn’t to be.

Mathews and Bey had 12 and 10 points, respectively. But, Davis was ice cold (0 for 6), Fuller missed both of his 3-point shots, and for some reason Bajema only attempted three shots all game, a night after lighting the Utes on fire. I don’t totally get that one.

Nevertheless, it was exciting to the bitter end. The Huskies were down 5 with a minute left in the game, but we were able to turn it on defensively with a full-court press to make it interesting. After a Bajema free throw, Fuller stole the inbound pass and drove for a lay-up to make it a 2-point game. Then, Matthews forced an offensive foul to give us the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead.

That’s when Brown drove for a hopeless missed lay-in. He tried so many times in the second half to drive into the lane for fouls, but the Trojans – to their credit – were stout, and the refs weren’t biting (even though they were very whistle-happy in the first half). Even with the miss, we got the ball back with 11 seconds remaining. We inbounded to Matthews, who drove the lane, but his shot was wildly off-target and that was that.

I know this wasn’t an ideal team, but I really liked these Huskies. I obviously didn’t watch every single game, but I watched a good amount, and they were almost always entertaining. Offensively, we could be challenged at times, but the defense was usually there game-in and game-out.

What I don’t know is how this shapes up for next season. We definitely lose Terrell Brown and Daejon Davis (who have no eligibility remaining). I think the graphic on the game last night said Brown accounted for 31% of our points this season, which is an insanely-high number. And Davis might’ve been our best defender on the entire team (with Brown no slouch in that department either). So, that’s A LOT to make up for in one offseason.

Then, there’s any transfers we’ll lose, which is commonplace nowadays. You can’t look at your roster of guys and just expect them all to be back. Someone, or multiple someones, will decide they have a better path to playing time elsewhere.

Regardless, the Huskies will need to work the transfer portal like everyone else, to find a scorer to come in here and replace Brown. Then, ideally, the shooters who remain will work on their jump shots, because we need more consistent scoring next year if we hope to get back to the Tourney.

I still think Mike Hopkins is the guy to take us there. I thought he did a remarkable job, all things considered. The 2020-2021 Huskies were maybe the worst team I’ve ever seen. The fact that we replaced almost everyone with transfers – and had a record above .500 – is pretty special. This year’s team did what you’d hope: they got better as the season progressed and they gelled into a cohesive unit. Unfortunately, they just weren’t adept enough at scoring to hang with the really great teams.

We’re on the right track, though. This is a system that can win games. We just need to find the right collection of players.

The Huskies Swept The Oregon Schools To Close The Regular Season

It would’ve been a shame to see this entire season come and go and not witness a quality victory by the Washington Huskies basketball team. Finally, in the last week of the season, we got just that in our penultimate regular season game against the Oregon Ducks.

I should qualify that; it’s not like the Ducks are in the Top 25 or anything. They’re a fringe Tournament team (I think) who we happily knocked down a peg in defeating them. Their loss dropped them to 5th in the Pac-12, meaning they DON’T get a first round bye in the conference tournament. It’s not winning a championship, but I’ll take it.

Terrell Brown and Emmitt Matthews both had monster games, each scoring 25 points to lead the way. And Nate Roberts had a career day, scoring 18 points and grabbing 16 rebounds. That’s really all we needed, as the Dawgs defeated the Ducks 78-67.

I had a tiny bit of concern that the Huskies would let us down over the weekend, but they controlled the game against the last place Beavers pretty much from the onset. Enough that we were able to cruise on Senior Day with an identical score as the Ducks game, 78-67.

Four of our five starters hit double digit scoring, with Brown leading the way (of course) with his 24 points. Once again, Roberts had a monster game with 13 points and 16 boards.

And here we are, the week of the Pac-12 Tournament. As mentioned, the top four seeds get a BYE (Arizona, UCLA, USC, Colorado). Not surprisingly, the Huskies are a combined 1-6 against those schools this year (15-8 against everyone else, but that’s neither here nor there). The Huskies finished 6th in the Pac-12, but in a tie for fifth in conference record with the Ducks and Cougs.

As the 6th seed, we play the 11th seed in the Tourney, starting Wednesday. The Beavers were far and away the worst team in the conference, so they face the Ducks. We catch the Utes, while Cal plays the Cougs (the 8/9 game is ASU vs. Stanford). We are 2-0 against the Utes this year, though both were pretty hard-fought affairs (I would’ve rather faced Cal, who we dominated in two games).

It wouldn’t shock me if we lost to the Utes on Wednesday night. But, it would be an upset, for sure. The Huskies are better than the Utes. That doesn’t mean we can’t lose on a particularly poor shooting or defensive night. But, I’m heading into this game expecting the Huskies to prevail. And, if that’s the case, we have USC waiting for us on Thursday night at the same time. Should we somehow prevail there, then UCLA awaits before presumably we’d get to Arizona in the finals.

So, in other words, barring any number of upsets, it’s the full murderer’s row of talent atop the Pac-12, going in order of least-most difficult to most-most difficult. I don’t love our chances here.

But, that shouldn’t take away from what has been a pretty fun little season. The only two players who are moving on for sure are Terrell Brown and Daejon Davis. There are untold players who could opt to graduate or transfer, but for now we know that we’re losing our top two guards, including our top overall player. I don’t know how in the hell we’re going to replace Brown’s heart, production, and leadership, but it’s going to be monumentally difficult.

For now, I’ll sit back and enjoy the final game(s) of these hired guns, and appreciate them as the one-season Husky legends that they are. It’s been real!

The Husky Basketball Team Is Collapsing Down The Stretch

It’s a shame, because I really have enjoyed this team this season.

The month of February wasn’t kind to the Washington Huskies men’s basketball team. Granted, it’s not totally fair when your schedule gets all its most difficult games clustered in a three-week stretch, but you play them in the order they’re laid out, and you do it without complaints. There was always two ways this could have gone: the Huskies could’ve taken this as an opportunity, to parlay a better-than-expected season into perhaps a final push towards post-season basketball … or fall on their faces. They opted for the latter. Or, rather, had the latter thrust upon them.

Our very best all-around performance happened at home, on February 10th, against the Arizona State Sun Devils, a game we won by 23. We’ve since lost 5 of our last 6 games, often by staggering amounts. We lost by 24 to Arizona, 10 at USC, 26 at UCLA, 8 at Wazzu, (before beating Wazzu at home by the same exact score), and 11 last night at home to UCLA. This Thursday, we host the Ducks, a team we previously lost to by 28, in probably our worst performance of the season. Our record after that ASU victory was 13-9 (8-4); we are now an even 14-14 (9-9). I would expect we’ll split our last two games to keep things even Steven heading into the Pac-12 Tournament.

It’s no secret why the Huskies are struggling. They’ve got Terrell Brown doing his thing game-in and game-out, but without secondary scoring, it just doesn’t work. In the loss to Arizona, Brown scored 29 of our 68 points (if memory serves, most of that was in the first half, when we kept things reasonably close); the next-highest scorers were Roberts and Matthews with 10 points each. As a team, we shot 3 for 17 from long range.

In the loss to USC, Brown had 23, Matthews had a whopping 20, but Cole Bajema had the next-highest scoring total with 8 (five of them on free throws; he shot 1/7 from the field). In the first loss to UCLA, Brown only had 13 (still leading the way), Bey had 12, Fuller had 10. In our loss to the Cougs, Fuller led the way with 23, but Brown and Bajema only had 11 each. Finally, last night, Brown had 20, Bey had 14, but once again we were sub-standard in our shooting, hitting under 30% from long range.

It’s a bummer, but not entirely unexpected. The Huskies feel like a .500 team, so it shouldn’t surprise me to see them play like one. What’s more intriguing is the fact that the Pac-12 might actually be good at basketball again, and make some noise in the Tourney like they did last year. That’s not as fun for my wallet – betting against the Pac-12 has been a big money-maker in recent years – but better for the overall strength of the conference. We might not be worth much of a damn in football, but there’s no excuse for us to be inept at basketball too. Baby steps!

Husky Basketball Can Beat The Bad Teams

There’s no doubt about it: the Husky basketball team is vastly improved over where it was at the beginning of the season. That’s one of those encouraging things you like to see in college basketball, because it shows the coaching staff knows what it’s doing. It shows they can get the best out of their guys and mold them into better players. It’s unfortunate when you start in such a huge hole – like the Huskies were in this season – because you know no matter how good things are going at the end, the damage has already been done.

Just based on eye test, I don’t know if the Huskies have a single impressive victory, at least in the eyes of the NCAA Tournament Committee. That could change as over the next couple weeks we play four games against ranked opponents, but even showing up in those games and maybe winning one or two won’t be enough. We’re in a situation where the Huskies will need to win the Pac-12 Tournament to make the NCAA Tournament, even if we won out in the regular season.

The Huskies won’t do that, of course, because this is still a flawed team. But, that doesn’t mean this team isn’t fun or entertaining to watch.

The Huskies beat up on the Arizona State Sun Devils last night, 87-64. That was one of those games where pretty much everything went right. We shot 48% from the field (43% from 3-point range), we dished out 16 assists (a byproduct of making so many shots), we had 10 steals and 3 blocks as a team, forcing 14 turnovers, and we held them to under 40% from the field (under 23% from 3-point range). We even managed to out-rebound them!

Brown, Fuller, and Matthews all got into the action with great scoring games, but Bey, Roberts, and even Riley Sorn contributed. I don’t want to get into all the stat lines, go check out the box score.

That might be the best we’ve ever seen the Huskies play this year. It’s unfortunate that kind of performance was wasted on a Sun Devils team having a very down year. They’re not good; how that team beat a Top 10 UCLA team is mystifying to me.

The real challenge comes tomorrow when we play the Arizona Wildcats. They’re 21-2 and their two losses were against a couple of very good ranked teams on the road. The Wildcats might be one of the most complete teams in all of college basketball, and not for nothing, but they previously beat our asses by 16, just before we were able to turn our season around.

The story of the conference portion of our schedule has had to do with the fact that – by and large – we’ve beaten the bad teams we’re supposed to beat, but haven’t gotten over the hump against the good ones. Our four Pac-12 losses came against Arizona, Colorado (always a tough team to play on the road), Oregon (in probably our worst game of the year), and Stanford (where our defense failed us, also on the road).

Conversely, probably the best team we’ve beaten is Stanford, who are right on the edge of good/bad with a .500 conference record. On the one hand, I guess it’s better to play all the good teams at the end – since that’s when we’re playing our best ball – but on the other hand, it could be a grim finish to the season, which might wipe away all the good vibes that have been built up in this turn-around.

We’ll see how it goes. HUGE game tomorrow, though. I hope the team shows up and plays well.

The Husky Basketball Team Has Won Four Of Their Last Five

I’m telling you, this is a fun team to watch! I still don’t know if they’re any good – they’ve certainly got their flaws, particularly on offense – but more often than not, they’ll give you an entertaining couple of hours when they’re playing.

The problem with that is, if you lean towards the Huskies being a good basketball team, then you have to admit they’ve been playing down to the level of their opponents consistently. Last night, for instance, they were on the road playing the Oregon State Beavers. The Huskies improved to 4-2 in conference with their 82-72 victory, while the Beavs fell to 1-6. A 10-point victory on the road is nothing to sneeze at, but the game was super close throughout; it was still a 5-point game with two minutes to go, before a Husky three-pointer with 80 seconds remaining shut the door. If he would’ve missed that shot, there’s a good chance the Beavers could’ve completed the comeback.

The point is, the Beavers aren’t good. The Stanford Cardinal – who we beat at home last week – is 3-3, and we won that game by only 3 points. The Cal Bears are 2-5 (we beat them last week as well). And the Utes – who we beat on the road – are the worst team in the conference at 1-8. The team we lost to in that span – Colorado Buffaloes – are 4-3, and look to be pretty solid. We weren’t even competitive in that loss.

I don’t want to be too down on the Dawgs, because there’s a lot of good about this team. The defense has been flat-out dominant at times, and is regularly pretty good. If we had any consistent offense besides Terrell Brown (who continues to crush it at both ends of the court), we’d be among the best teams in the conference.

But, I’ll say this about the offense: it’s getting better. Little by little. Guys are starting to hit a higher percentage of 3-point shots, they’re VASTLY improved at moving without the basketball and generating assists, and they’ve always been pretty consistent at initiating fast breaks, drawing fouls, and getting to the free throw line.

It’s what you want to see. You want to see a team get better as the season goes along. As it stands now, the Huskies’ resume very definitively lacks any impressive victories that might propel them into the March Madness discussion. But, there are still enough conference games left on the schedule to make some noise. I ultimately don’t believe we’ll be good enough to go on the kind of run that would be required of us to make it to the Big Dance, but if we keep chipping away and winning the games we’re supposed to win, and finish inside the top five or six in the Pac-12, that should be good enough to get us into the N.I.T. It’s nothing spectacular, but I’ll take it after the last couple of underwhelming seasons.

Getting back to last night’s game, what a blast! Brown led the way with 27 points. Emmitt Matthews had 16, Jamal Bey had 10, P.J. Fuller had 11 off the bench. Daejon Davis had a limited scoring night, but added 7 assists, 2 steals, and a block to fill up the stat sheet. Most everyone you’d expect contributed, which is the way this team is going to succeed. They need guys to continue stepping up around the stars on this team; it HAS to be a full team effort if we’re going to win enough to get where we want to go.

The game on Sunday against Oregon will be pretty huge. Road victories are as hard as they come, but they’re going to be necessary given the hole we’re in. A 9-7 overall record is pretty sorry. But, everything is still in front of us when it comes to the Pac-12 slate. We control our destiny; that’s all you can really ask for at this point in the season.

Husky Basketball Came Back In Thrilling Fashion To Beat The Utes On The Road

It’s been a weird period for the Husky basketball team since the Crossover Classic. At that point, I was watching them – rain or shine – pretty much every game. They returned home and lost in miserable fashion to Winthrop (who is pretty mediocre and almost certainly not a Tournament team). Then, COVID cost us three high-profile games (against Arizona, UCLA, and Gonzaga, the latter destined to not be rescheduled). We beat an undermanned Seattle U team, then bafflingly lost to Utah Valley of all teams. Our game against Wazzu was postponed due to COVID (this time it wasn’t our fault), before our makeup game on the road against the Wildcats saw us soundly defeated (though I hear we covered the spread, which is pretty good against a Top 10 team in the nation).

I’ll be honest, I didn’t see any of those games, but given our 1-3 record since the Crossover Classic, I figured we’d just reverted to the Same Ol’ Huskies. I decided to jump back in last night – after my workout at the gym, because of course a public gym wouldn’t have the Pac-12 Network, that would require people actually giving enough of a shit to have it on their cable package – with about 14 minutes left in the game.

When I jumped in, the Huskies were down 14. I didn’t realize in the moment that most of that run happened just before I turned the game on (we were only down 4 at halftime). I was resigned to suffer through another dull, double-digit defeat, but then – as if a treat just for me – the Huskies started turning it on! The defense picked up, the outside shooting caught fire, and the Dawgs ran away with it in the second half, ultimately winning 74-68.

This had all the elements of the Huskies at their absolute best. They hit 10/22 on threes. They racked up a whopping 17 assists (considering how shitty we’ve been on that stat alone, this must’ve been a season high). They forced 19 turnovers, getting 13 steals and 3 blocks. They lost the rebounding advantage pretty soundly, but I didn’t see that as a super major issue in the second half portion that I witnessed; they were able to tighten up and get to balls as needed. They even hit 10/14 free throws, which isn’t terrible!

Most importantly, they found alternatives to Terrell Brown. As great as Brown is – he’s indeed my favorite Husky we’ve had in ages – he can’t do it by himself. Sure, hero ball-ism is a big reason why we don’t have many assists this year, but also our terrible outside shooting has cost us COUNTLESS dimes!

What’s disappointing is that we all know this is the exception and not the rule. Cole Bajema had 15 points off the bench, on 5/8 shooting from behind the arc. That’s not happening too many more times, if ever again. Daejon Davis had 16 points and played the best I’ve ever seen from him; he hit 7/12 overall and 2/4 from behind the arc. That’s not real. Jamal Bey stepped up with 14; he’s hard to trust. Even Emmitt Matthews hit two huge threes in the second half.

It was fun to see, and it’s easy to get your hopes up for the rest of the way, but you know as early as this weekend, the Huskies are going to turn back into a pumpkin. There’s only one way to unlock the potential of this Husky basketball team and that’s by making shots. The defense has shown up on a regular basis – especially when we continually switch it up from zone to press to man and back around again – but if we’re not hitting threes, we’re not winning games. Anecdotally, this might only be the second or third time we’ve hit threes at a high percentage; not surprisingly we’ve won those games.

But, you know, if there was ever a game to incite a season-ending run, this might be it. On the road, down 14, and to win as decisively as we did, can only flood this team with the confidence they need to parlay that into better shooting down the stretch. I hope it catches on. I like this team, even though it’s not a March Madness team. I’d still like to see them play some NIT games or something.

The Husky Basketball Team Acquitted Itself Well At The Crossover Classic

I understand the impulse to mock a pre-season college basketball tournament in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, but if I’m being honest, I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t make it a priority to go! I always talk a good game about wanting to go to one of these little tournaments, whenever it’s some place fun or exotic, like Las Vegas, Hawaii, New York, or the Bahamas. But, how cool would it be to go to some small midwest town with nothing to do, and just immerse yourself in basketball for three straight days? You’re not worried about your tan, or where you’re going to go rage later that night. You’re just there for the purity of the game (and maybe finding a grungy dive bar to hole up in at the end of the night).

Also, Falls Park is pretty awesome. Kill me, I like South Dakota!

Time will tell how good the competition was in this little 4-team round robin. Everyone remembers George Mason for something they did 15 years ago, making them the Uncle Rico of college basketball (Uncle Rico being a 17 year old reference, making it the Uncle Rico of references). My eye test – from our game on Monday, as well as seeing how they fared against the other two teams – tells me they’re probably not Tournament-bound.

That isn’t to say they didn’t give the Huskies fits all night, in a 77-74 victory for the Dawgs. The Huskies struggled from long range again, but made up for it by hitting 21/28 at the free throw line, and hitting nearly 50% of their total shots (WELL over 50% from 2-point range).

P.J. Fuller had the hot hand off the bench, scoring 21 points, including 3/8 from three. That was a nice little boost considering Matthews struggled and Bey was pretty quiet.

Of course, Terrell Brown led the Huskies with 23 points, absolutely taking over in the second half. This game looked like it was going to get away from us, and he would not be denied! He hit 7/13 shots overall, and a whopping 8/9 from the free throw line to help salt it away. He also had 8 boards, 4 assists, 4 steals, and a block. Simply outstanding!

Our 87-76 victory over South Dakota on Tuesday is probably the best win of the year so far, since it was a de facto home game for the Jackrabbits, and since they DO look like a potential Tournament team.

The Dawgs came out on fire in this one, going on to shoot 10/22 from long range, and 58.3% overall! It was needed, since the Jackrabbits were probably the best shooting team in the Crossover Classic. This game featured a more even split of scoring; Fuller had 14 off the bench, Matthews had 13, and Bey had 12. But, once again, when things started to get a little tight in the second half, it was Brown Time (oof, I gotta come up with a better name for it than that). Brown finished with a career-high 32 points on 13/18 shooting (!) with 5 boards, 2 assists, and a steal.

Unfortunately, the Huskies ran out of gas in the second half of Wednesday’s game against Nevada and couldn’t complete the sweep. We were down only two at halftime – 29-27 – but would go on to lose the game 81-62. Once again, we were plagued by poor long range shooting (9/25) and this time not even Terrell Brown could bail us out, though he did lead the Huskies with 19 points. Sadly, no one else could even get to double figures.

We’ll see about Nevada. Taking a look at their schedule so far – and their 3-4 record – they don’t strike me as a Tournament team either. Though, the same could be said of the Huskies and our 4-3 record. We would need to get supremely hot in conference play to get there.

This was a fun little tournament though, until the very end. Every week, I’m more and more encouraged by what I’m seeing from this Husky basketball team. Terrell Brown is my favorite player by a thousand miles, and maybe my favorite Husky since Isaiah Thomas! He’s that good and that productive; I can’t wait to see where he’s able to take us. I just hope he gets more help on the regular from his supporting cast. We CAN’T keep shooting as poorly as we have been, I refuse to believe it.

Husky Basketball Is In Desperate Need For A Shooter To Emerge

There’s an argument to be made that if the Washington Huskies had even one quality outside shooter, they’d be 4-0 right now and among the front-runners in the Pac-12. I think they definitely would’ve beaten Wyoming last night in this scenario, and a good chance they also would’ve taken out Northern Illinois in the opener (a game where we hit only 3/18 from behind the arc). But, literally every Husky shooter has struggled from long range. Even Jamal Bey’s numbers are deceiving because he doesn’t shoot enough to be taken seriously; he’s aggressive when the defense is all over him, but he’s weirdly passive when he’s wide open. It’s infuriating to watch Jamal Bey, and I can’t stand him as a basketball player.

Last night’s 77-72 overtime loss to the Cowboys was a heartbreaker. I’m not even that mad, really, because as I’ve said before, I have no expectations for this Husky team. But, I’m sad for the guys who really played their asses off in a tough matchup. What’s worse is that WE HAD IT! Terrell Brown had the ball in his hands, score tied, clock winding down in regulation; he even had a free lane to the hoop with just one man to beat, and his game-winning runner BARELY missed its mark, over the outstretched arms of Graham Ike.

It hurts all the more because I freaking love Brown, he has been everything I’ve ever wanted out of a Husky point guard and then some. Once again, with the offense scuffling, Brown took it upon himself to pick up the slack and single-handedly keep us in that game. He finished with a game-high 30 points on 10/29 shooting, while hitting 9/10 at the free throw line. It’s obviously not the greatest shooting percentage – especially when he only shot 1/4 from beyond the arc – but I’m not going to fault him when every other Husky struggled.

The Huskies didn’t deserve to lose this one. Obviously, they didn’t deserve to win it either, but they didn’t just have a poor percentage from three (5/26), they also missed a lot of runners and lay-ups in the paint, which under most other circumstances will fall in the future. It was one of those games! Compound that with a whistle-happy referee crew (thanks #Pac12Refs) that clearly got sloppier with their calls as the game went on, and there was a lot karmically going against the Huskies they just couldn’t overcome.

Nevertheless, if Brown had help from literally anyone else, I think the Huskies would’ve easily won this in regulation.

I mean, you could literally say if just Daejon Davis was better from long range (he’s currently hit 25% – 4/16 – on the season), the Huskies would be 4-0. Or, if Emmitt Matthews was better (21.4%, 3/14 on the season), or P.J. Fuller (28.6%, 4/14 on the season), or supposed sharp-shooter Cole Bajema (16.7%, 1/6 on the season). But, no one has been able to consistently step up and stretch the defense this year.

That’s going to be a problem eventually, because teams are going to scout us and realize our only offensive weapon is Terrell Brown drives into the paint, and the ensuing chaos on the offensive glass with put-backs and whatnot. Teams will, in turn, start to clog the paint and give us wide open looks on the outside. If we’re not hitting those outside shots, it’s going to be another LONG season.

I mean, just look at the last few minutes of regulation last night. The Huskies had a relatively comfortable 62-55 lead with about five minutes left. That’s right around when the Cowboys switched to a zone defense, which utterly befuddled the Huskies. Isn’t that Mike Hopkins’ thing? Doesn’t he feature the zone defense as his core philosophy? Wouldn’t that mean, in turn, that the Husky offense regularly goes up against other Huskies playing a zone defense in practice? How are we not prepared to score against this?! Don’t we watch the teams we go up against, and how they have no trouble whatsoever scoring against us in these situations?!

Anyway, that 62-55 lead turned into a 64-62 deficit before Brown scored a miraculous 3-point play the old fashioned way to momentarily give us the lead, before Ike hit one of two free throws to tie it.

Graham Ike, by the way, was phenomenal. I don’t usually spend a lot of time writing about guys on other teams, but he was an animal out there. If he wasn’t in foul trouble for almost the entire second half, he might’ve put up 40 points. He abused everyone who guarded him with his low post moves, and the Huskies adamantly refused to double-team him until it was too late (he finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds)

The Cowboys overall look like they’re a Tournament team this year. They’re tall across the board, and with point-forward Hunter Maldonado leading the way (he had 24 points and 10 rebounds, shooting 50% from the field, with a wicked low post game of his own), I look forward to betting on them getting a first round upset when I’m in Reno for March Madness.

Overtime didn’t go our way, because Brown literally can’t do it all himself. Nate Roberts and Emmitt Matthews fouled out, which set us back quite a bit in our defense. And after Davis got his fourth foul relatively early in the second half, we didn’t see him again, which was odd. Bajema has, for whatever reason, earned an insane amount of playing time, even though he doesn’t appear to do anything well. Practice Darlings are nice, but I’m going to need to see him step up in an actual game – and SOON – or I am going to start getting upset that he’s hogging minutes that should go elsewhere.

I was encouraged by Langston Wilson in this one, who was sort of the last big man standing at the end. He finished with 8 points and 12 boards off the bench (7 of those boards coming on the offensive glass). For someone as raw and inexperienced, I think he could blossom into a special player over the next two years.

Anyway, that’s it for a relatively disappointing 2-2 homestand. Now the Huskies go off to play in some weird tournament in South Dakota next week. I’m glad most of our non-conference schedule – except for Gonzaga, of course – is made up of lower-tier teams. Wyoming was a nice little test, but clearly we have some things to work on before we get to Pac-12 play. I don’t think we’re TOO far away from stepping up and surprising some teams, but a shooter WILL have to emerge. Otherwise … yikes.

Husky Basketball Looked Slightly Improved

I’m obviously not going to go nuts about one win against a crap team, but I think we all need to adjust our thinking on the Washington Huskies. For starters, as much as the Pac-12 Network wants to push this narrative that their basketball teams are BACK, let’s calm down. They had one good run in the NCAA Tournament last season, but let’s see this take place over multiple years before we make any proclamations.

I’m not going to just take for granted that the Pac-12 is a Power Five conference. I’ll believe it when I see it. I’m also not going to just take it for granted that since Washington is in a so-called Power Five conference, that they automatically deserve the respect normally granted those teams. I see Washington as no better than any of these low-level schools coming in here that no one has heard of. They’re no different than the Northern Illinois Huskies (who they lost to on Tuesday), and they’re no different than the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks (who they defeated last night, 73-62).

It can be easy to get angry at the games we’ve watched this week. As Washington fans, we tend to have high expectations. We expect, for instance, to see our Huskies blow out the types of teams we’ve played this week. So, when we struggle to eke one out, it’s just as aggravating and galling as if we lost to them. You can’t have that mindset with this team, though. They’re not this elite collection of basketball players; they’re mostly transfer guys who couldn’t hack it anywhere else, so they returned home – tails between their legs – to see if they could salvage something of their college careers before they run out of eligibility.

If you see Washington as on the same level as these other teams, then you got to witness two pretty entertaining – if sloppy – games this week! Sure, the shooting is pretty horrendous from the Huskies. But, they’re much more active on defense than they were the last couple years, and they’ve actually got guys who can drive the paint and draw fouls. It beats what we’ve had here recently, where they couldn’t drive AND they couldn’t shoot.

The key last night was not continually digging themselves into a hole. The Huskies mostly kept it close through the first half, before pulling away late in the game.

This one had a slightly different feel, in that it wasn’t so Nate Roberts-centric. He still managed to finish with 8 boards and 2 blocks, and was really active in the second half. The star of this one was Emmitt Matthews, who is quickly becoming my favorite player on this team. He’s always slashing, always deflecting balls, always putting back rebounds, and he even hit a couple outside shots (which doesn’t appear to be his game, but I’ll be happy to be wrong if he continues to hit 50% from long range). Matthews tore up the box score: 21 points and 9 boards. He shot 7/14 from the field, 2/4 from three, and hit 5/7 free throws. Excellent!

Bey, Brown, and Davis all scored in double-figures as well. Jamal Bey had a REALLY frustrating game to watch. He turned down too many wide open jumpers (even though he hit 2/3 from beyond the arc) for reckless drives in the paint that had no chance of going in. Also, he had 3 turnovers, but it felt like he had 8. Everything about this game felt off, but he still had 15 points, 4 boards, and 2 steals. Which goes to show you he’s gifted; it just doesn’t feel like he has the confidence to take charge on this team.

Brown’s game was much more quiet than on Tuesday, but he still finished with 11 points, 4 boards, and 2 steals. I’d like to say he spent more of the game distributing the basketball, but with everyone driving instead of shooting the open shots he was dishing to them, he only finished with 1 assist (and, again, the Huskies as a team had only 5 assists, after having that many on Tuesday). I was encouraged to see Brown start to assert himself late in the game, as the Lumberjacks started to pull the game close (he was 3/3 on free throws, and that seems like it’ll be a good source of points for him in games where the Huskies lead late). Davis was also a big part of this one, finishing with 10 points (on 3/9 shooting), with 5 boards, 2 assists, 2 steals, and a block.

The bench hasn’t been a significant contributor to this team just yet, but I liked what I saw from P.J. Fuller (4 points, 3 steals, and 2 blocks). And I want to shout out freshman Jackson Grant. I didn’t even know we HAD high schoolers coming here anymore; I thought Washington was strictly a transfer program now! It’s nice to see us not only trying to bring in high schoolers, but actually getting them minutes on this team. He’s a forward, which helps, since we’re so thin there. But, he hasn’t looked bad at all! Indeed, in this one, he led the bench in scoring with 7 points, and also had 4 boards. Most importantly, he passed the eye test; he looked like he belonged out there, and he wasn’t just some gangly white guy getting minutes because he’s tall and wide.

It’s not all roses and sunshine, of course. In the old way of thinking, I would say this is a game the Huskies are supposed to win. I’m trying to quit that mindset, because then I’d be upset we didn’t beat them by more. The Huskies can be maddening to watch. Lots and LOTS of unforced errors, on both sides of the court. There were still a distressing number of wide-open threes attempted by the Lumberjacks; fortunately they weren’t nearly as hot as Northern Illinois (hitting just 4/12). I don’t know if the perimeter defense is something that’s going to get better. I think it is what it is, and sometimes teams will be hot, and sometimes they’ll be cold. Some teams will look to make that a focus, and some teams will try to get their points inside.

I’m more concerned with the Huskies offensively. I like that the drive into the paint is still a thing; I like that we’re still getting to the free throw line (hitting 24/35 in this one; slight improvement over Tuesday). I think those are sustainable modes of scoring that we can count on for the entire season. The outside shooting gets an Incomplete grade from me, though it’s not looking good. It would be nice if ONE guy could step up and not only be aggressive shooting the ball, but hit a relatively high percentage of those shots.

How long of a leash are we giving Cole Bajema, by the way? He’s supposedly the team’s best 3-point shooter, yet he’s attempted exactly one of them in two games (over 37 combined minutes off the bench). What are we doing here? He’s looked lost in all the time I’ve watched him this week. It doesn’t look like he knows how to shoot, how to pass, how to defend; he fails the eye test. If he’s playing because of his perimeter jumper, then he needs to start busting it out in a big way, otherwise I can’t justify giving him these extended minutes in games.

Next game’s on Monday. I’ll be watching. This is fun! It’s a crappy team, but it’s an entertaining kind of crap that I can get behind!