2020/2021 Husky Basketball Starts To Come Into A Little Bit Of Focus

Lots of dribs and drabs coming in lately, so let’s talk about it.

In Least-Shocking News In The Entire Universe … News: Isaiah Stewart has declared he’s leaving college and entering the NBA Draft. Much like the last time we had a big man of his calibre one-and-done it for the Huskies – Spencer Hawes – the team struggled mightily in spite of the tremendous play of the recruit. Here’s to hoping Stewart has a better pro career than Hawes (who I think kept suffering freak injuries?).

Next up on this Leaving For The NBA list: Jaden McDaniels.

In Somewhat-Surprising News: Quade Green is apparently set to return to the Huskies. You’ll remember he became academically ineligible midway through the season. Did that TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY derail our season? Look, I’m not throwing that idea out of bed for drunkenly urinating everywhere in its sleep, but obviously this was a more-flawed team than any of us realized, and I don’t think ANY one player – even someone of Green’s potential – could’ve single-handedly kept this season on track.

This’ll be big, because word just came down that Elijah Hardy is entering the Transfer Portal (which I assume is some alternate dimension where those whom you once wished well disappear from the face of the Earth, never to be seen nor heard from ever again). Not to pile onto an undergrad, but Hardy kind of sucked for the Huskies in his two seasons here. It’s hard (!) to see a significant boost in his production coming; odds are a change of scenery would do everyone some good in this situation.

On the flipside, Nate Pryor is set to transfer TO the Huskies, from Junior College. If the name sounds familiar, it apparently should, as he was originally set to sign here a couple years ago, but didn’t have the grades or something. I don’t know if anyone thought too highly of Pryor when he was originally supposed to be here, but he’s been a nice little shooting guard for North Idaho College, so that’s cool.

Probably the biggest development was the transfer of Erik Stevenson, from Wichita State. He’s another shooting guard, and as a Sophomore last year, had a decent season (for what appears to be a dysfunctional team who gave up on their head coach for reasons I’ve yet to really want to explore). So, if nothing else, the backcourt for the Huskies figures to be a lot better than it was this past season.

It’s obviously WAY too early to speculate on how good or bad the Huskies will be. If nothing else, we just have to hope that the younger guys who got their feet wet in our lost 2019/2020 are able to parlay that into bigger success in the coming years.

Husky Basketball Ended In A Microcosm Game Of Their Entire Season

The Huskies’ first-round defeat to the Arizona Wildcats (77 to 70) in the Pac-12 Tournament was pretty much an exact replica of how their season went as a whole. The Dawgs started off the game pretty hot in the opening minutes, fell COMPLETELY apart during a long, saggy middle portion, tried to make a furious comeback at the end, and even though we all knew there were simply too many points to overcome, we couldn’t help but buy in at least a LITTLE bit that they’d shock the world and move on to the next round.

Also, Quade Green represents the coronavirus, but that’s neither here nor there.

This was a bad, disappointing end to a bad, disappointing season. As a Husky fan, it’s frustrating, because it feels like our timing is ALWAYS just a little bit off. We bring in these incredible Freshmen classes just as a bunch of upper classmen depart for the pros, so there’s no one the young guys can learn from or lean on when games get tight. Like when a game is starting to pull away early in the second half (Arizona had a 5-point lead at the break, only to see it balloon to a 15-point lead less than ten minutes later) and you need someone to stop the bleeding. Or, of course, the Huskies’ biggest Achilles’ heel: at the end of games, when it’s close, and you just need someone to create a shot out of nothing.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this team DESPERATELY needed Jaylen Nowell.

This was a particularly tough one, because it was Isaiah Stewart’s final game, and BOY did he go out with a bang! 29 points were a career high, and obviously led all scorers in this game. He was 9/11 from the field (including 1/1 from long range) and 10/11 from the free throw line, which for a big man is just outstanding. In the first half, I think he scored all but maybe 8 or 10 of our points? Some insane percentage, to single-handedly keep us in the game. Obviously, since he had to do everything, he got into some foul trouble in the second half, but it also looked like the offense went away from him for some reason, even though it was clear everyone else on the Huskies was playing like trash! Stewart didn’t score again in the second half until WAY later than it should’ve been, and that’s ultimately a major reason why we lost.

It’s sad. I said it on Twitter already, but Isaiah Stewart is HANDS DOWN the best one-and-done player the Huskies have ever had since I’ve been following this team. Most likely he’s the best we’ve ever had PERIOD (exclamation point)! He’s a generational talent (for a college program) and we thoroughly squandered his lone season.

The rest of the guys who end up leaving, I won’t mind as much. But, having Stewart and not seeing the NCAA Tournament is a crime against (basketball) humanity!

By the way, I’m writing this assuming there actually WILL BE an NCAA Tournament, but of course who knows at this point?

I’m going to say the goat of this one (not G.O.A.T., but the standard definition of “the guy who sucked the hardest”) was Naz Carter. I wrote about this yesterday: I wasn’t worried about Stewart, he was always going to do his thing; but we needed someone else to step up and hit some big shots. I thought the Huskies had as good a chance as anyone because That Guy could be any number of players. It turns out, That Guy didn’t exist on this team. Naz Carter – bless his heart – tried his best, but he couldn’t get ANYTHING going and it ultimately killed our chances in this one. 1/9 shooting (0/5 from long range) for a whopping 2 points. That’s not what you need from your most prominent upper classman and third-leading scorer.

Jaden McDaniels, closing the season coming off the bench, didn’t provide much of a boost either until it was too late (a microcosm of his season as well), finishing with 10 points in 31 minutes. Again, NOT really enough from your second-leading scorer. Part of me would LOVE for him to come back, rededicate himself, and prove to everyone why he was a consensus one-and-done type of guy; but part of me also never wants to think about him ever again. Call me a squirrel running in my back yard because I’m on the fence!

All the rest of the role players get another year older and hopefully a year less mediocre.

I really can’t wait to flush this season and move on with my life. What a damn waste! I weirdly have more confidence about NEXT year, but maybe that’s totally misguided.

The Wheels Have Fallen The Fuck Off Of Husky Basketball

They’ve fallen off, gone careening down the road behind them, causing a multiple-car pile-up complete with Michael Bay-esque demolition derby-style flips, numerous Wilhelm screams, and panoramic explosions. Body parts are strewn about the massacre site; a man with one arm and no legs is dragging his half-dead corpse to his beloved wife whose torso was sliced by the shattered windshield as she was propelled forward fifty feet, yet another casualty of someone too good to wear her seatbelt …

You see it every damn day. WHEN WILL THESE PEOPLE LEARN?!?!

At one point this season, the Huskies were in the Top 20 in all of college basketball. At one point, they were 10-2 and not only a lock for the NCAA Tournament, but looking to maybe get a slot in one of the top 4 seeds. Their head coach, Mike Hopkins, was 2 for 2 in Pac-12 Coach of the Year awards, and by all rights was a frontrunner to go 3 for 3.

The Huskies are now 12-13 (2-10 in conference play, EASILY last place) and are on a 7-game losing streak. And I know that each game is different, but pretty much you can tie all of this to Quade Green being deemed academically ineligible, which would’ve sounded FUCKING INSANE if you’d broached it at the time. But, it’s truly undeniable!

This team is following the same pattern with each and every loss: play streaky through the first 3/4 of the game, but ultimately hang in there; then completely fucking fall apart at the end. Shooting goes in the tank. They can’t get the ball consistently into the post for Isaiah Stewart to do his thing, and every time someone has found a way to step up and completely shit the bed. Jaden McDaniels was a longtime whipping boy, but he certainly played well last night off the bench. But, it’s everyone. The guards either aren’t good enough or aren’t ready for this much responsibility – Hopkins’ early-season rotations and red shirt decisions are making more and more sense in retrospect – and the team collectively just looks defeated. The most damning thing is no one can really create a shot for himself when it’s crunch time; there’s no leader to take control.

The Huskies are desperately in need of Jaylen Nowell right about now.

And yet, I mean shit, there’s SO MUCH TALENT on this team. I know it’s crazy, and we’ll all be lamenting the fact that they couldn’t even crack the N.I.T. when it’s all said and done, but through all the fucking travesties that have piled up for this team, I could STILL see a scenario where – even if they lose out in the regular season – they find a way to get hot in the Pac-12 Tournament and manage to steal one of the most improbable NCAA berths of all time.

Has a last place regular season conference team ever made the NCAA Tournament?

A quick Google search pulled this up, and it’s everything I expected. The Huskies would almost certainly be the first last place team from a major conference to do it. Which is just the most Pac-12 thing ever imagined.

Look, the chances are slim to none and slim was decapitated by that massacre I wrote about at the top. But a guy can dream, can’t he?

There Isn’t Enough Time To Save This Husky Basketball Season

With our loss to the last-place Utes last night – another total meltdown late in the game, fuelled (with a fucking Hefty bag full of gasoline) by Jaden McDaniels’ total fucking shitshow of a performance as he fouled out in spectacular fashion – the Huskies now find themselves in last place in the Pac-12, seven games into our conference season.

Here are the facts: we could win the rest of our regular season games, and there still wouldn’t be an At Large bid in our future. Of course, that’s a ridiculous statement, because what have you seen from this team this year that would lead you to believe we could win more than ONE game in a row in conference play?

The Huskies started the season 1-0 with a win over Baylor, and it’s been all downhill from there.

Even though I wrote it earlier in the week, my last Husky Basketball post pretty much explains to a T how the Huskies lost to the Utes last night. Same shit, different day, as it were. I can’t remember the last time my expectations coming into a season were SO MASSIVELY power-fucked by reality.

The only hope I can possibly cling to is the fact that we still have the Pac-12 Tournament. And, here’s the thing, the Huskies have only been TRULY blown out in one game this year, against Tennessee on a neutral floor. Particularly in conference play, we’ve hung tough, either rallying hard at the end, or totally gagging these games away. But, we’re talking about losses by 2, 6, 3, 3, and 1 point(s) respectively. We’re TALENTED enough to play with anyone, we just can’t put it all together, and we can’t get a clutch bucket at the end of games when we need them the most.

Now, the odds are as stacked against us as can be, but it doesn’t mean things can’t change. It’s a safe assumption that we won’t be in a Top 4 seed in the conference tourney, so that means all we need to do is win 4 games in 4 days. It doesn’t really even matter at this point where we’re seeded, because we have the capability to beat all of these teams; we’ve just got to get hot at the right time.

So, I’m not going to worry about trying to bolster our resume or any of that nonsense. Throw that shit out of the window. Just stay healthy, try to figure out how to hit a shot in the final seconds of a game, and get as hot as can be from March 11th through the 14th. Bingo, bango, bongo.

Husky Basketball Is Going Down The Shitter

On New Year’s Eve, I wrote about how the Huskies were in great shape heading into conference play. Then, six games and a Quade Green suspension (for lack of a better word) later, here we are, 2-4 in Pac-12 play, coming off of our best remaining chance for a real signature victory.

The Baylor game feels like a million years ago.

Earlier, I was harping on offensive rebounds, and they’re still a problem, but not as glaring as before. It’s just a lot of little things. Slow starts, an inability to get the ball to Isaiah Stewart in the post, an inability to shoot from behind the arc, turnovers, poor free throw shooting, lack of a true point guard.

The loss at home to Oregon on Saturday was a bitter pill. Of course, ANY loss to Oregon is a bitter pill, but this one really hurt our chances of making the NCAA Tournament. A win there, and it’s not hard to imagine that – combined with a victory over Baylor (still their only loss of the season, as they’ve risen to #1 in the AP Poll) – would’ve been enough for a .500 Husky team to sneak into an 11 or 10 seed. But, now we REALLY need to rip off a lot of wins the rest of the way, as well as make a good showing in the Pac-12 Tourney.

The loss to the Ducks is even worse considering how much we dominated that game, up as many as 16 points with under 14 minutes to play.

One big issue the Huskies need to rectify in a hurry is figuring out our rotation. We pulled Marcus Tsohonis’ red shirt with the Quade Green fiasco, as it doesn’t look like Elijah Hardy is ready to take on a starter’s load. Tsohonis looked great against the Beavers, and that continued through the first half against the Ducks. But, there was some sloppy ball-handling down the stretch, as well as his BRUTAL 0 for 4 at the free throw line that ultimately cost us any chance at winning that one.

He was not alone in the blame.

It’s hard to watch Jaden McDaniels right now, because he looks absolutely dreadful. He might go on to greatness in the NBA – he might even turn things around this season in a likely one-and-done college career – but he’s fucking awful and has been this team’s biggest disappointment (yes, even bigger than a 5-star point guard ruled academically ineligible for a quarter). He’s a mediocre 3-point shooter; he shoots WAY too many long 2-pointers. He thinks he’s a better passer and ball-handler than he actually is; he turns it over way too much. In general, he seems like a bad decision-maker and has a bad overall attitude (if he’s not getting baited into making angry, reactionary fouls, then he just looks like a sulking, pissy baby). I think it’s clear he has zero interest in the game of college basketball and is counting down the days until he can go pro and forget all of this ever happened. Of course, as this is happening, his stock is clearly falling, because what has he brought to the table? How has he progressed since his high school days? I’m sure he’ll still get picked in the first round based on potential, but he could’ve gone in the Top 10 or Top 5 if he decided to actually give a shit.

Most of all, the Huskies just don’t have anyone who can create late in games when we absolutely need a bucket. The last ten minutes of regulation against Oregon were the most excruciating moments of my life, and I’ve had a catheter tube ripped from my pee-hole! The book is out on Washington: double or triple-team Isaiah Stewart and force literally anyone else (mostly Hameir Wright and his 28.6% field goal percentage) to try to beat you. If the Huskies go cold from long range, there’s no one who can dribble drive and create in the paint. There’s no Jaylen Nowell or Isaiah Thomas; hell, I’d settle for Game Overton at this point!

That play-maker was supposed to be McDaniels, but clearly he’s got his own thing going and that’s cool. It’s weird that the Huskies played their best, most complete game of the season against Oregon State last Thursday (a 64-56 victory that only got THAT close in garbage time) when McDaniels was out with an ankle injury.

I wonder if the biggest problem for this team isn’t the fact that we have TOO MANY good players. There just aren’t enough minutes – or enough shots – to go around. It feels like Naz Carter has gotten lost in the shuffle a little bit when he’s this team’s only quality upper classman. Also, I feel like this would be the perfect team for someone like RaeQuan Battle – who got serious minutes against the Beavers and scored 11 points, though he did struggle against the Ducks – to be a role player off the bench that brings a little spark. But, for defensive purposes, you’ve gotta give Wright and Bey significant minutes, you’re not going to sit Carter or Stewart, and every team needs a point guard. With McDaniels as the wild card (apparently), there are some solid role players who are totally buried this year. Nate Roberts should be playing more! Sam Timmins isn’t anything special, but he deserves more than garbage-time minutes!

Oddly enough, the Huskies might actually be better next year. It sounds crazy, when you know we’ll lose Stewart – who is the best player in the Pac-12 and one of the best players in the nation – but with everyone else we’re bringing back, plus a year’s experience, maybe we were a year too early on projecting great things for the Huskies.

It’s tough to be consistent when you’re playing so many Freshmen and Sophomores. We knew that all along. But, I was hoping by mid-January, this thing would’ve clicked, and we’d gel into a true contender. Instead, we’re gonna be scrambling just to make the N.I.T.

I never thought I’d actually finding myself looking forward to baseball season, but here we are.

Husky Basketball Somehow Split Against The Mediocre L.A. Schools

Not really the start you wanted to see for the Huskies as we embark upon Pac-12 conference play. UCLA ranks among the very worst teams in all of college basketball, not just among the Power Five conferences. So, being down 10 points at halftime and ultimately losing by 2 at home to the Bruins is about as bad as it gets.

Jaden McDaniels continues to be a hothead, I guess? He fouled out after 14 minutes – not long after halftime – and we were never able to overcome the loss. Isaiah Stewart continues to be the very best-case scenario of what we imagined heading into the season (24 points, 11 boards, 5 blocks), and Naz Carter had a quality all around game (16 points, 4 boards, 2 steals, 2 blocks), but everyone else pretty much laid an egg. Once again, rebounding (particularly offensive rebounding) was our downfall, in spite of the fact that we had a 32-15 edge in free throw attempts (they shot 53%, we shot 72%). Making a couple more freebies, I’m sure, wouldn’t have hurt our chances, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.

Thankfully, the Huskies were able to turn it on and pound USC into dust, 72-40. The Trojans were held to 20% shooting (13% from long range) which more than made up for the fact that – once again – we were out-rebounded on the offensive glass 24-11. Here’s a quick breakdown of some offensive rebounding numbers this season:

  • USC – 24 to 11
  • UCLA – 22 to 11
  • Houston – 16 to 9
  • Ball State – 10 to 5
  • Seattle U – 11 to 5
  • Gonzaga – 11 to 2
  • Eastern Washington – 15 to 11
  • South Dakota – 9 to 6
  • San Diego – 9 to 8
  • Montana – 9 to 8
  • Tennessee – 15 to 6
  • Mt. St. Mary’s – 13 to 10

The only schools we’ve out-rebounded on the offensive glass this season have been Hawaii, Maine, and Baylor somehow. Mind you, this is a Husky basketball team whose biggest strength is supposed to be our front court! And look at all those tiny schools that are beating us in this area!

That’s nothing more than a lack of hustle. Lack of pride. Lack of floor awareness. Lack of HEART.

I refuse to put this entirely on the fact that we play so much zone defense. These numbers are totally out of whack from where they should be for a team with this level of talent. And, if it continues unabated, I can’t envision a scenario where this team does much of anything the rest of the way.

We’ve got three more warm-up games before the biggest showdown of the regular season: home against Oregon. This week, we go to the Bay Area. It would be nice to start piling up some W’s against inferior opponents to bolster our overall win/loss record heading towards the Tourney.

Husky Basketball Heads Into Conference Play In Great Shape

Look, maybe not the BEST shape, but still pretty good shape.

The Huskies went 10-3 in non-conference play, and outside from an annoying loss to Houston in the Diamond Head Classic finals on Christmas Day, things went about as well as can be expected. We beat a top-10 team in Baylor on a neutral site, we narrowly lost to the #1 team in the nation, Gonzaga, and we lost to a very good Tennessee team that should make the NCAA Tournament when all is said and done. And, assuming Houston can get their shit together, there very well shouldn’t be a bad loss in the bunch.

As I write this, Washington has fallen out of the Top 25 for the second time this season, but we’re right there. We’re pretty well-regarded, and more importantly, we’re in a conference that’s pretty well-regarded (especially compared to the last few years). Oregon sits at #4, Arizona is #25, Colorado is #26, and even Stanford is in the “others receiving votes” with all of 1 vote. So, we’re all feeling good about what’s going on here.

In conference play, we get the Arizona schools twice, the Bay Area schools twice, the L.A. schools twice, and the Cougs twice. That means we play the Oregon schools just once (in Seattle, in mid-January) and the mountain schools on the road the following week. Ideally, you’d like to get a couple cracks at taking down Oregon, but you play the games you get. If we can find a way to beat them on our home court, all we have to do is not totally fall apart and I think that’s good enough to get us in the Tourney. Otherwise, we’ll want to hover around the top 3 or 4 teams in the conference and make a good showing in the Pac-12 Tourney. But, that’s getting ahead of ourselves.

I think it’s safe to say that Washington is a program still trying to find itself. Isaiah Stewart was billed as one of the very best players in the nation coming out of high school, and I think he’s very much lived up to the hype. It’s been an absolute joy to watch him hit the ground running, averaging 19/9 with 61% shooting percentage and a very respectable (for a college big man) 73% free throw percentage.

After Stewart, it’s been very up & down for the rest of our crew. Jaden McDaniels is the consensus Biggest Upside prospect, but he’s been probably the biggest wild card of the bunch. He can do it all – shoot, dribble-drive, dish, rebound, block shots, get steals – but he still makes a lot of mistakes (3.5 turnovers per game to lead the team) and in general some of his decision making & shot selection has been a little suspect. If he finds a way to put it all together, this team has no limit to how far it can go. My biggest fear is that he doesn’t put it all together until he gets to the pros, and this will most definitely be his only season in a Husky uniform.

Naz Carter continues to improve with every passing season, averaging 13 points and 6 boards, while being probably our best outside shooter and a capable shot-maker in the paint. He also falls into the trap of poor decision-making and goes a little too much to the Hero Ball type of game for my liking. But, he’s clutch; he’s already nailed some huge outside shots late in the game, and there isn’t anyone else I’d rather have shooting that shot in crunch time.

Hameir Wright also continues to improve, but he shoots almost exclusively from the outside, and at 27.5%, is going to need to keep getting better as the season goes on. I love his length, I love his defensive presence, I love pretty much everything about his game … except for the fact that he bricks WAY too many threes. Fix that, and he’s this team’s X-factor.

Quade Green, after a rough start, has really picked up his game of late. He’s the only solid point guard type on the roster, but his shooting has picked up a great deal, sitting at 46% from long range, which is best on the team. He’s averaging 11 points, 5 assists, and has reduced his turnovers to just a tick over 2 per game, which is excellent. Honestly, no notes! Keep up the great work!

The Huskies have mainly focused on a 6-man rotation (the 7th man being Sam Timmins, who mostly spells Stewart for 8 minutes a game, which is really all you want him in there for) with Jamal Bey being the first man off the bench. Bey is only in his second season, and he’s giving you pretty much what you’d expect a second-year player to give you (particularly one who played sparingly as a Freshman). I love everything about Bey’s game from a defensive standpoint, as I feel he gives us 80-85% of Matisse Thybulle on that side of the ball. I just need him to hit a higher percentage of outside shots (he’s currently at 32% from long range) and he’d be perfect. Considering that was also Thybulle’s biggest weakness as a college player, and you could say he’s 80-85% of Thybulle from every aspect; as such, I look forward to great things in the next two years. Ideally, though, for the 2019/2020 Huskies to make a deep Tourney run, they’ll need to see a bump in production from someone like Bey in conference play.

I’d say the lack of bench production could hurt this team, particularly if we can’t find someone off the bench to hit a respectable number of ourside shots. I’m disappointed -as I think we all are – that RaeQuan Battle isn’t getting more of an opportunity. With his size, I can’t imagine he’d be a liability on defense; and we have enough guys who can bring the ball up court. Seems to me we should be able to find a way to carve out 10 minutes per game to get the sharp-shooter in there on a regular basis to boost this team’s scoring.

As anticipated, the Huskies’ size is giving teams fits down low. But, our lack of rebounding ability is starting to become a problem (it’s the sole reason why we lost that Houston game). Maybe that was just an off night, but if we don’t bring the effort in that area, then what good is having all that length? Especially when we don’t have enough outside shooting to compensate for opposing teams doubling us in second-chance points.

I’m still pretty high on the Huskies. I believe we’ve made a lot of progress from the start of the season to today, and I believe there’s still room for this team to grow in the weeks ahead. The goal all along has been to get back to the NCAA Tournament, and I think we’ve done enough to get in (assuming, of course, that we don’t completely fall apart from here on out). Now, our goal needs to be to get a Top 5 or Top 6 seed. That’s not unreasonable! Good enough to avoid the really BIG heavies until the Sweet 16 or so. Get to the Sweet 16, and let the chips fall where they may from there.

I think we can do it! Gotta keep building up that resume.

Husky Basketball Chugs Along

It might’ve been a little unreasonable to be perfect against the big dogs they’re playing in this non-conference schedule. I could kinda see the loss to Tennessee coming a mile away, even though I knew nothing about them (and still don’t, because I don’t have ESPN+). We earned a little respite with our victory over Baylor. We’re still a young team, still trying to find our footing, figure out our rotations, see what works best, etc.

We dropped to 25th in the nation, which feels about right. Thankfully, last night’s game against Maine was Dunk Central, so hopefully at least those Naz Carter highlights will keep us in a positive light nationally.

I can already tell that 3-point shooting is going to be a talking point with this team for a bit. Right now – as a team – we’re hitting just a tick over 30%. We’ll want that to steadily rise as the season goes along, to where we can reliably hit from long range when the Tournament comes.

Some interesting trends this early in the season. Naz Carter is definitely the unquestioned leader out of the gate. He’s getting the lion’s share of the meat on this carcass. But, nothing works on this team without Isaiah Stewart down low. He’s definitely the best player on this team right now. The true wildcard is Jaden McDaniels, who looks like he has the highest ceiling of anyone on the Huskies, and also looks like the natural floor general in crunch time, when the chips are down and we need a bucket. As far as Big 3’s go, this could be the best trio we’ve had in a long time, especially if Naz Carter can continue hitting outside shots (he’s 6/13 on the season so far).

What’s still to be determined is our production around those guys. Quade Green has had a semi-rough start, but I love the work ethic and the confidence. I think, before too long, we’ll see him settle into a nice groove. Hameir Wright is improving his outside shot pretty consistently since when he first started with the Huskies a couple years ago. I think he’s the perfect role player for this team, and someone fully capable of hitting a big shot if needed.

That more or less comprises our starting five, but will there be a bench to speak of? I’m not gonna lie, I think I expected more of Jamal Bey given how well he played down the stretch last year. Again, it’s incredibly early, but I hope he’s able to continue progressing. Because, when the one-and-doners are gone after this year, we’re going to need him to step in and fill some pretty significant shoes.

I’m pretty happy with this stretch of games we’ve got coming up (starting with last night, really). It was hard coming out of the gate playing Baylor (now 24th, with a 2-1 record) and Tennessee (now 20th, with a 3-0 record) so early, but we got over that hump with the record we NEEDED (at least one victory), and now we can coast for a couple weeks (all at home) against some inferior opponents. Let’s fatten that win/loss record, let’s pad some stats, and let’s give this team the experience they need combined with the success they crave.

Because undefeated Gonzaga is on the horizon. December 8th, Hec Ed; it’s gonna be an absolute blast. I think we’ve all had this game circled since last year’s near-victory in the Bulldogs’ home gym. That’ll be a real signature win in a season that’s starting to go places.

The Husky Basketball Team Looks Young, Inexperienced, & Totally Dominant

This team can be all things to all people. Right now, they’re 2-0 and ranked 20th in the nation.

I watched every minute of the game in Alaska against Baylor – at the time ranked 16th in the AP poll – and zero minutes of the home game against Mount St. Mary’s last night. So, I’m right about where you would expect me to be in terms of knowledge about this team.

Early on against Baylor, we looked disjointed, overly-excited, and moving as fast as humanly possible without doing any thinking whatsoever. I saw a lot of wild drives down the court and to the hoop, a lot of us dipping our shoulders and charging into someone, and an overall sense of sloppiness. Which is pretty much what should’ve been expected. I feel like at any point that game could’ve gotten out of our grasp and we could’ve lost by 20+ points.

But, the sheer, raw talent by the Huskies is what kept us in it. We were never much more than a stone’s throw away from catching the Bears, but it would take a significant run to get us over the hump.

Things turned around midway through the second half. Baylor took a 57-44 lead with just under 10 minutes to go in the game. That’s when it all started to come together for the Huskies, where talent met execution. Now, it wasn’t easy! Against a lesser team, I’d like to believe the Dawgs would’ve ripped off a huge wad of points. But, against an elite defensive team like the Bears, we just sort of wore them down, bit by bit, for a 67-64 victory.

Junior guard Naz Carter was the star in this one, with his game-leading 23 points on 8/15 shooting (including 4/6 from behind the arc), and Isaiah Stewart was the hero with the go-ahead points in the final minute, but Jaden McDaniels was the glue that brought everything together. He was an absolute revelation. I asked heading into the season who would be the guy who takes over a game when the chips are down, and McDaniels appears to be the one. He can shoot, he can drive, he can pass, he can rebound, he can defend. He’s a complete package and he’s coming in right away ready to take things over.

I loved every single thing we saw from our new Big 3. Time will tell as to how the rotations shake out, but the role players on this team figure to help out quite a bit. Quade Green – who won his appeal and gets to start for us immediately – looks like the first true, elite point guard we’ve had since I.T. His shooting hasn’t quite come around yet, but I highly doubt he’ll be the liability we’ve seen from most of our point guards since Thomas’s final season. Hameir Wright looks like a more natural shooter, with a lot more confidence, and will help immensely in spreading the floor on offense – to afford Stewart more of an opportunity to work down low.

For the most part, we’ve been treated to just a 7-man rotation, with Jamal Bey and Elijah Hardy getting most of the bench minutes, but I feel like that’s bound to change once we get deeper into the season and more guys lower on the depth chart start to assert themselves. I’ll tell you what, if this sees us with fewer Timmins minutes (other than to help out when guys get in early foul trouble), all the better.

The Huskies looked impressive when they went big, with Bey in there for Green. Bey isn’t a natural ball-handler, but we’re MASSIVE on the defensive side of the ball. It’s a nice wrinkle to throw at teams and I’m curious to see how they respond. Against Baylor, we went big for a lot of our late-game comeback, and I could see us doing that a lot as this team grows and needs to change things up to create a spark.

I also found it interesting to see us playing man-to-man. It didn’t happen a lot against Baylor, but there was a brief spell in the first half, and most crucially on the final play of the game, with Baylor down and looking to tie it up. It was a BRILLIANT maneuver that totally caught them off guard; they couldn’t come up with anything close to a reliable shot as time expired.

I wasn’t surprised to see the Huskies struggle in the home-opener last night against the Mountaineers. It sounded like Mt. St. Mary’s really grounded the game to a halt with their long possessions, and they refused to let the Huskies pull away by making some timely shots. It also sounded like the Huskies settled for way too many outside shots and that might be a problem in the non-conference slate.

I didn’t love how selfish a lot of the guys were when I saw them against Baylor. Quade Green is the only one really looking to pass the rock; I saw A LOT of hero ball, particularly on fast break opportunities, where guys were just running into Baylor players looking to get fouled. I mean, we took so many unnecessary blocks in that one; I’m MUCH more concerned about that than the turnovers everyone else is mentioning. Yeah, it’s a young, hungry Husky team, they’re going to commit turnovers. But, let’s work on making the extra pass in transition! Let’s convert these opportunities into points!

This start couldn’t be any better, all things considered though. We have our first legitimate non-conference victory in two years – since we went on the road against #2 Kansas in Hop’s first year – and I think this one is gonna hold up. I think Baylor is for real, and if they stay healthy, they’ll remain in the Top 25 for the duration and figure to secure a high seed in the NCAA Tourney. That’s going to be great for our overall resume.

No time to dine out on that one though, as we head to Toronto for another non-conference showdown, this time against the Tennessee Volunteers, who are currently 30th in AP voting. So, this is far from a gimme, and figures to be another quality opponent for us to tout for our March Madness resume. It’s a lot to ask of a team this young to go out and fight against two superior schools this early in the season, but I’m not ruling anything out at this point. We can sleep when we’re dead (which, in this case, would be the five cupcakes between Tennessee and Gonzaga in early December).

I’m More Excited About Husky Basketball Than I Can Remember Ever Being Before

I mean, there’s seriously no limit to how good this team can be. At the same time, a lack of experience could be their downfall. But, if nothing else, I’m expecting this team to improve as the season goes along, peaking just as we get to the NCAA Tournament.

And, make no mistake, barring a rash of key injuries, this team WILL make the NCAA Tournament, and probably advance pretty far to boot.

It’s really an embarrassment of riches with this squad. We could be up to ten men deep in the regular rotation, and that’s before Quade Green is allowed to start playing in January (hopefully)! While it’s reported we’ll be a little thin at point guard until he shows up, I’m not too worried about that. Mostly because this is the biggest Husky team I can recall in the last two decades.

Sam Timmins and Hameir Wright – two players with pretty extensive starting experience for past Husky teams – are likely to be role players (not for nothing, but if I never saw Timmins again except for garbage minutes, I think I’d be more than fine). Ahead of them on the depth chart, we’ve got 5-star Freshmen in Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels who figure to get the bulk of the play at the 4 & 5 spots. Then, there’s Nate Roberts who can also slide in there as a 3 or 4, if we wanted to go with a jumbo lineup. When you factor in Bryan Penn-Johnson as one of the few true centers on this team, there are almost too many giants to go around!

My hunch is that our primary five will include Stewart & McDaniels up front, with Naz Carter and Jamal Bey in the backcourt, with either RaeQuan Battle in there (for more outside shooting) or Elijah Hardy (for more ball handling). Then, you can bring in Roberts if you need rebounding and defensive help (he’s also someone who can handle the ball a little bit), or bring in the jumbo package to really lean on opposing teams.

You could easily make the argument that the Huskies were undersized heading into the Tourney last year; you won’t be able to say that in March 2020.

The big question I have as we head into the season is: who’s responsible for scoring buckets late in our one-possession games with the clock winding down and it’s essentially 1 on 1 with everything on the line? My hunch is that Naz Carter – the de facto upper classman of the group, all apologies to Timmins – takes on that role. Either that, or we dump it into the big man (likely Stewart) down in the post and let him go to work, to either get in the lane for a score/foul, or kick it out to a shooter.

The other thing I’ll be looking for as the season kicks off on November 8th is: who are our outside shooters? As I noted above, Battle appears to be the best shooter on the team, but do we have anyone else? Can Carter improve from his 31% shooting last year from 3-point range? Bey was 4/10 last year from deep; is that something he’s worked on in the offseason? I remember Wright getting more confident from long distance as last season went on; will he be a sparkplug off the bench to get us going?

I don’t see a lot of holes, is my point. The obvious question everyone has is how roles will be defined. We lost a lot of our production to graduation and/or the NBA over the offseason. Thybulle, Nowell, Dickerson, and Crisp (and Green to a lesser extent) were the whole identity of last year’s squad; hence the reason why the Huskies are 26th in the pre-season Top 25 Rankings (and not a lot higher, like they will be before too long).

But, that’s what I find so thrilling. We have potential Top 10 talent in a team that’s kinda being overlooked at this point. The possibilities are limitless because we really don’t know a whole lot about this team, other than there are a bunch of REALLY good high school players on the roster (including a couple of highly-probable one-and-doners).

Now, of course, the downside of having a couple of one-and-doners is that if they get injured – regardless of severity – we might lose them to preparation for the NBA Draft. Those are the chances you take when you roll those dice, but the upside is you maybe getting to the Final Four, and for as much as I hate the one-and-done rule, I’ll take those chances whenever I can get ’em.

There have been plenty of highly successful NCAA basketball teams with the type of inexperience we have. All you gotta do, really, is get hot at the right time. Because the talent is there! This team is overflowing with talent. They’ve also got the head coach in Mike Hopkins to get the most out of that talent. He’s a rising superstar in college basketball coaching circles, and I for one hope to take advantage of his gifts while he’s still here. It won’t be long before the highest profile college programs come to poach him away. Hopefully, we’ll get to enjoy some unprecedented success before that time comes.