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).

My Least-Favorite Seattle-Based Athletes, Part 1

I’ve been writing about my favorite athletes this week, which naturally led me down a path of thinking about my least-favorite athletes. It’s not as simple of an exercise, though!

For starters, I’m ostensibly a fan of these teams, so I’m not predisposed to hate these players. With my favorites, I had a deep pool of reserves with which to select five guys from each team; but I couldn’t even get to five with Husky football, for instance (and the four I’ve got I’m lukewarm on at best). It also feels weird to say you hate a college athlete. Maybe not as weird anymore, since they’re effectively semi-pro players with salaries and no contracts, who can transfer on the slightest whim. But, more broadly, most of the players I hate – or are otherwise my “least-favorite” – are on other teams. John Stockton, John Elway, Paul O’Neill, Mike Trout, literally anyone who’s ever donned an Oregon Ducks uniform.

I’ll be honest, people in general who wear green and yellow kinda piss me off.

To limit this list to people who’ve played for Seattle sports teams usually means one of two things: either they were high draft picks who faltered spectacularly, or they were high-priced free agents we brought in from an outside organization … who faltered spectacularly. But, here’s where I struggle with this. Because, as I just said, I’m not predisposed to hate these guys, usually my deepest ire is focused on those in power who brought these players here. The GM’s, the college coaches; I dislike Tyrone Willingham more than I dislike any individual college player.

But, I did my best to replicate what I did before. Let’s see if we can wrap it up in two days’ worth of posts.

Husky Football

  • Dylan Morris
  • Jacob Eason
  • Ronnie Fouch
  • Casey (don’t call me Corey) Paus

I’m getting this out of the way, because I’m telling you right now, none of these guys come close to cracking my Top 10. Paus and Fouch were from the dark days of Husky football and they just flat-out stunk. Eason was a hired gun returning home from Georgia and was supposed to lead our last great Husky team under Coach Pete to the playoffs; instead, he had zero touch on his deep ball and led us to a mediocre finish (while Jacob Haener who – by all accounts – actually outplayed him in training camp, was left to transfer to Fresno State, where he was awesome). And Dylan Morris was a recent whipping boy under Jimmy Lake who really had no business starting.

Husky Basketball

  • Jamal Bey
  • Markelle Fultz
  • Abdul Gaddy
  • Ryan Appleby
  • Spencer Hawes

Bey just never developed like he was supposed to. That might be Mike Hopkins’ fault more than anyone. But, he’s also been here for-fucking-ever and seemingly will never leave, which is my nightmare in this era of college athletics where guys transfer to new schools all the time. Why couldn’t we shake this kid? Fultz was a five-star phenom who never lived up to the hype. Gaddy never developed a consistent offensive game, for someone who was the number 2 point guard in the country. Appleby never saw a wild jacked-up three he didn’t automatically shoot (and brick). And Hawes was another one-and-done whose one year was pretty pathetic.

Supersonics

  • Kendall Gill
  • Jim McIlvaine
  • Sarunas Marciulionis
  • Vin Baker
  • Calvin Booth

We’ll get more into Gill and McIlvaine tomorrow. Marciulionis was a shooting guard we brought in for the ill-fated 1994-1995 season. I don’t know if he’s actually as bad as I remember, but I sure didn’t like him at the time. He catches a good portion of the blame for our first round exit that year (with Gill infamously getting the lion’s share). The thing was, he was supposed to be this veteran hot-shot to get us over the hump (after the disaster that was being the first #1 seed to lose in the first round the previous season). Instead, we finished even worse and still lost in the first round. Vin Baker’s a tough case because when we first traded for him, he was awesome. Then, we signed him to a big-money extension, and he went in the tank. We would go on to find out he was an alcoholic with depression issues, so now it feels bad to shit on him. But, those were dark days for us all. Booth was just another in a long line of shitty centers we VASTLY overpaid; you could put nine guys in this spot and I’d loathe them all the same.

Seahawks

  • Jerramy Stevens
  • Kelly Jennings
  • Rick Mirer
  • Germain Ifedi
  • Jimmy Graham

We’ll save Stevens and Jennings for tomorrow. I’ve gone to great lengths to bemoan our fate for being saddled with Mirer, when just one pick earlier we could’ve gotten Drew Bledsoe. But, having the second quarterback in a draft – at the number 2 pick, to boot – should come with a reasonable amount of success! Maybe in another time, we could’ve crafted an offense to properly utilize his running ability. But, the damn guy just couldn’t throw the football, and he set us back for years to come. Ifedi was a mediocre guard we tried to shoehorn into the right tackle spot, to predictably terrible results. And, again, I hate the idea of trading for Jimmy Graham – giving away our elite center in the process – more than I hate the actual player. Of course, his “blocking” style left a lot to be desired, and by the time he got here, he wasn’t the same athlete that he was in New Orleans. Consider it the opening salvo of catering to Russell Wilson’s desires, which torpedoed this franchise for the duration of his tenure here.

Mariners

  • Richie Sexson
  • Chone Figgins
  • Jesus Montero
  • Carlos Silva
  • Justin Smoak

You wanna know where the vast majority of my discontent resides? Look no further! Spoiler alert, we’re going to talk about my Top 10 least-favorite Seattle-based athletes tomorrow, and all five of these Mariners are on the list! This doesn’t even get into Hector Noesi (who might be the worst pitcher of all time), Bobby Ayala (crushed us on the regular out of the bullpen in the mid-to-late 90’s), Eric Byrnes (absolutely worthless), Jarrod Washburn (an overpaid dud), Erik Bedard (we traded a king’s ransom for a Five-And-Diver), Jeff Weaver (got crushed in 2007), Dustin Ackley (“best hitter in the draft” who couldn’t actually hit Major League pitching), Heathcliff Slocumb (cost us two great baseball players and didn’t even improve our bullpen one iota), or the countless other pieces of garbage who we’ve been saddled with over the years for this underachieving organization. It’s taking a lot out of me to not make the entire Top 10 exclusively Seattle Mariners.

Tomorrow, we’ll take a deeper look at those guys and rank them accordingly.

Husky Basketball Is Bumming Me Out Again

I was legitimately surprised I haven’t written about the Husky basketball team so far this season. I would’ve figured at some point I would’ve snuck a blog post in there about the early part of the season, but for whatever reason, life got in the way.

I haven’t totally ignored the Huskies – like I can do when they’re as mediocre as they are – but I also haven’t had a chance to follow along as religiously as I did last year. Moving into a new house and not paying for cable TV will do that to you. But, even if I did have all the sports channels necessary, I don’t know if I’d go out of my way very often. Last year’s Husky basketball team wasn’t great, but it was fun! Terrell Brown was Must See TV; he was easily my favorite Husky in YEARS. The fact that he was only a one and done (for us, as a late-career transfer) was a travesty, to be sure, but you can’t play college basketball forever.

We don’t have a Terrell Brown this year. I guess the closest we’ve got is Keion Brooks (another late-career transfer), but he doesn’t play the same. He doesn’t have that adeptness at the dribble-drive. He struggles to create his own shot in the paint. This Husky team more closely resembles earlier Mike Hopkins teams (from 2017-2020), minus some very key ingredients from those two seasons where we were contending for NCAA berths.

I kinda feel beaten down, as a fan. It’s pretty clear the majority of hardcore Husky fans jumped off the Mike Hopkins bandwagon with that 2020/2021 season. For good reason; we were God-awful at 5-21 that year! I don’t know if it’s smart to EVER give a head coach another season after a performance like that. But, a lot of those same Husky haters were down on him from the season prior, which was just one year removed from our most recent NCAA berth (the only one of the Hopkins era), which I didn’t understand at all. Hopkins won back-to-back Pac-12 coach of the year awards in 2018 and 2019. He follows that up with a 15-17 campaign – following lots of graduations of key players – and you’re right at his throat? It made no sense.

Sure, NOW you can look back and say, “See, I was right! We should’ve dumped his ass then and there!” But, then don’t you just get stuck in this cycle of churning through coaches every two years? Is that smart? Odds are good that you could call for the head of any coach at any point and most of the time you could look back and say you were right. I guess, if it’s not working, it’s not working. But, it seems like if you’re high on a guy enough to hire him away from a nationally-prominent program like Syracuse, and you’re high enough on a guy to give him a raise after back-to-back coach of the year awards, you should have enough trust in him to see if he can actually build a program.

I like to think I’m more restrained in my Husky fandom. I’m a realist. I see this thing for what it is. The Huskies are – at best – a mid-tier program. They shouldn’t be terrible forever; they should contend for (and reach) the NCAA Tournament every few years or so. But, they also aren’t among the elites, and shouldn’t be trying to recruit like one.

We can also do that thing that I hate, which is look back at the players Hopkins had for his 2018 and 2019 runs – seeing all the Lorenzo Romar recruits – and confirm that he wasn’t seeing his biggest success with his own guys, but rather the previous regime’s talent. Which automatically makes you wonder: should we have just stuck with Romar?

I say no, as much as I loved Romar and called for him to stay around probably a year or two longer than he should’ve. It was time to move on. I think Hopkins did more with Romar’s final classes than Romar ever would’ve done. But, that leads me to my next point.

If you’re going to be a mid-tier college basketball program, you need a hook. You need a gimmick. You need a scheme or something that helps you stand out. That tips the scales a little bit. In college football, you’d point to the Air Raid as a prime example. You can do more with lesser talent in the Air Raid system, which will help you compete with the bigger schools. Doesn’t mean you’ll always win. But, Wazzu under Mike Leach was always much more competitive than they would’ve been under any other coach, running a more conventional offense.

I hoped that a zone-heavy defense might be that gimmick for the Huskies. Not a lot of schools run a zone like we do. And, for a couple years, it looked pretty formidable! We were holding down high-scoring teams and winning lots of games. But, as it turns out, you need really special players to succeed in that system. You need a Matisse Thybulle. Failing that, you’ve seen what’s happened the last couple years; the Huskies have largely gone away from the zone defense. What’s our hook now? Mediocrity across the board.

It also doesn’t help that the transfer portal – and the nature of the game in general – makes it nearly impossible to keep that type of defensive scheme alive. It works best when you can practice it over and over, and when you’ve got quality players willing to stick around for mutiple seasons. But, if you’re only going to be here for one year anyway, and your best shot at getting noticed – so you can play professionally one day – is by being great on offense, what’s your incentive to actually try on defense?

And that’s the rub, because the Huskies have been consistently underperforming on offense throughout Hop’s run here. He has the right idea; the game of basketball in today’s day and age is all about spreading the offense and shooting three pointers. But, all of his shooters have been FUCKING MISERABLE. It’s just unbelievable how bad they’ve been. If you’re a basketball player and you’re good enough to be recruited by multiple Power 5 schools, why is it that you come to Washington and become the world’s most brick-heavy shooters? It shouldn’t be this difficult! Make a fucking basket, you’ve been shooting for well over a decade at this point in your lives!

Without a Terrell Brown type, it feels more like a fluke when the Huskies are actually competitive. A fluke in that they have a rare good shooting night (like they did for much of last night’s game at #5 Arizona, before ultimately losing 70-67), or a fluke in that the other team has an uncharacteristically poor shooting night. As such, we’re 9-7, but a downright atrocious 1-4 in conference play.

What do you do at this point? I don’t know if there’s anything you can do. We have zero quality wins and plenty of embarrassing defeats. Kiss goodbye any notion of an At Large bid or a conference title. You can wish for a Pac-12 Tournament title in one hand and shit in the other, and I’ll tell you which will fill up first. And it’s pointless to speculate on next year, because we have no clue what this roster will look like. Between the COVID year, it seems like the mediocre players (Jamal Bey) are sticking around for-fucking-ever, while guys with any semblance of talent blow this fucking popsicle stand as soon as humanly possible (along with the guys with absolutely no talent, making you wonder why they were invited to be Huskies in the first place). Every year, it’s a mostly all-new roster, with a smattering of crappy holdovers we couldn’t shake if our lives depended on it (Cole Bajema).

What’s even more infuriating is the fact that Hop isn’t even free to “look to the future” with actual high school recruits we’re able to convince to come here, because he’s constantly on the hot seat thanks to transfers who aren’t talented enough to get the job done. Combined with a scheme that isn’t able to take advantage of whatever offensive skills they’ve got.

So, yeah, it’s probably time to say goodbye to Mike Hopkins. He’s under contract through 2024/2025, which is two more seasons. That’s a total of $6.3 million though, so you can see why we might balk at such a bitter resolution. Paying him over $3 million per year to NOT coach for us, combined with whatever we’d have to pay his replacement, all for a program that’s not likely to contend for a conference title anyway.

I’m without hope on this whole deal. Ever since that 5-win nadir season, all I’ve been looking for out of the Huskies is to be entertaining. And last year, they very much were. This year? Not so much.

It’s not likely that this program ever makes the turn to greatness. For that to happen, I still believe you have to “build it the right way” and not rely on cast-aways from other schools in the transfer portal. The transfer portal should be a means to supplement an already-solid roster with an influx at a very specific area of need; it shouldn’t be your entire fucking plan for trying to fill out a majority of your roster. You shouldn’t have to go into every single year with an all-new squad, trying to teach them the rudimentary elements of your scheme. It’d be nice to start over fresh. New coach, new scheme, and all new crop of players. No hold-overs who over-achieve and give you a false sense of success.

But, even that doesn’t seem like it’s bound to happen anytime soon.

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 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.