The Husky Basketball Team Acquitted Itself Well At The Crossover Classic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Husky Basketball Is In Desperate Need For A Shooter To Emerge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Huskies Found A Way To Take Care Of Business Against Texas Southern

Watching this No Expectations Husky Basketball Team is, I have to admit, pretty entertaining! Don’t get me wrong, this team isn’t good. It’s deeply flawed for any number of reasons – many of them, we saw examples of in this very game – but they play hard and they play a brand of basketball I can get behind.

I think I’m a fan of the full-court press defense! Who knew that’s what I’ve been missing all this time?! It’s exciting, it pressures the other team for the full amount of shot clock, and if done properly it can force them into turning the ball over. This has been a HUGE development for this Husky team that otherwise has been just okay in man-to-man, but has been truly God-awful at the zone.

The zone, at its best, is supposed to limit three-point opportunities. When we were running it at its best – with Matisse Thybulle dominating everyone in his path – we still weren’t perfect, but for the most part we could shut down an outside game and funnel shots to the mid-range. That has decidedly NOT been the case since Thybulle went pro; teams have been doing whatever they want against our zone.

Thankfully, Mike Hopkins has recognized that he doesn’t necessarily have the guys to properly enforce the zone. He also recognized that if he has another season like the last two, he’s probably out on his ass, so it’s time to adapt to the personnel he has. The man-to-man has been a breath of fresh air; we’re at least able to stop the bleeding caused by the zone leaving guys with wide-open looks all over the court. But, the full-court press has been a jolt of caffeine straight to the heart! Teams aren’t expecting it, and at least in the early going, it’s almost single-handedly kept us in ballgames.

The Texas Southern Tigers came out absolutely on fire in the early going last night. They were making shot after shot, but luckily so were we. They didn’t necessarily have the long-range game going – not for lack of opportunity, as they were 2 of 18 on the night, many of them wide open – but everything else was on the table.

That was, in large part, thanks to their offensive rebounding. They didn’t have any one huge behemoth out there dominating us; it was a true team effort. I can’t remember the last time I saw a team so pesky on the offensive glass. They CONSTANTLY had guys crashing after balls, and we were fundamentally incapable of boxing them out. I do recall games in the last couple years where giving up offensive rebounds was an issue, but not like this! They had 29! They had more offensive rebounds (29) than defensive rebounds (23). I was absolutely blown away. As a result, they were able to put up 72 shots to our 57. But, they only hit 36.1% of them to our 40.4%.

We also, as indicated above, made ample use of the press to help force 21 Tigers turnovers. We had 7 blocks and 8 steals as a team, and we made 20/28 from the free throw line (we’re getting better!). While our three-point shooting wasn’t terrific (6/22), it was just good enough. All told, it amounted to a 72-65 victory for the Huskies.

Terrell Brown led the way with 20 points and 9 assists. It was a steady, quiet performance that nevertheless showed up in a big way late, as he finished the game making 6 of 7 free throws. Daejon Davis stood out to me, having his best game as a Husky so far. He had 15 points, hitting 2 of 5 threes (4 of 7 overall) and 5 of 7 free throws (tack on 2 steals and a block to his line). Jamal Bey had 10 points, 7 boards, 2 blocks, and a steal. P.J. Fuller had 11 points, 3 boards, 2 steals, and 2 blocks in 23 minutes off the bench. And Langston Wilson had 7 points and 7 boards in 22 minutes off the bench.

This was a really well-rounded Husky victory, with lots of people contributing. And if you shield your eyes from who the opponent was, and how they were able to push us to the last minute of the game, this was a nice little victory.

Right now, the Huskies just need to learn how to play together and learn how to win some ballgames again. Get a little confidence as we head into conference play. It’s probably going to be a long year, but I still don’t see why we can’t at least improve upon expectations and be a Top 10 team in the Pac-12.

Husky Basketball Looked Slightly Improved

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Husky Basketball Is Back! Oh, Yeah … Husky Basketball Is Back

Excitement is a VERY strong word when it comes to the new season of Husky basketball starting last night. Even something like “interest” needs a qualifier, but I’ll give you that I had mild interest in taking a look at what this team has morphed into. I knew what time the game started last night, I made plans ahead of time that I would sit in front of my television at that set time, and indeed I watched the entirety of said game (up until the final 90 seconds or so, when the outcome was fully decided).

The interest – mild as it was – came about because of all the transfers that took place in this past offseason. The broadcast said eight Huskies from last year went elsewhere, and that we brought in seven new players to replace them. I don’t know where all those guys went, but considering they made up the vast majority of a TERRIBLE basketball team, that’s a case of 100% addition-by-subtraction.

So, the newness of this squad alone piqued my curiosity. It’s hard to imagine a basketball team being much worse than the Huskies were last year; maybe this team would be better? At the very least, it’s different, and that’s enough for me. For now, anyway.

I’ll also say that the Huskies not looking like total dogshit in their exhibition game last week was at least somewhat encouraging. So many times the last couple seasons, the Huskies have played down to vastly inferior opponents (or not-so-inferior opponents, as it turned out). Teams from major conferences shouldn’t lose to teams you’ve never heard of in their non-conference slates.

The Northern Illinois Huskies are a team I’ve never heard of. Last night, Washington lost to them 71-64.

In large part, it looked like the Same Old Huskies, by which I mean the bad teams of the last two seasons, not the two good ones where Mike Hopkins was the Pac-12 Coach of the Year. The defense was slightly improved over last season (mostly thanks to the incorporation of more man-schemes over zone), but they still managed to give up too many WIDE open looks from beyond the arc. Northern Illinois took advantage, hitting 12 of 23.

When a team is that red-hot shooting the ball, holding them to 71 points isn’t the worst thing in the world for a defense. Washington also introduced more of a full-court press-style defense that forced a lot of Northern Illinois turnovers; I loved this! There were 20 Northern Illinois turnovers, plus another 12 steals for the Huskies. The defense was NOT the problem (though, it could always be better).

The story of this game was the Washington offense, and more specifically, the Washington free throw shooting.

21 of 36. In a game we lost by 7. Make HALF of the free throws we missed, and this is a different ballgame. That includes at least two front-ends of one-and-ones in the first half that were bricked. And don’t think I’m putting this on Nate Roberts and his 4 for 9 effort (I’ll say more on him in a bit); I don’t expect big men to hit more than 50% of their FTs. These were misses by bona fide shooters! Jamal Bey was 3 for 7! Terrell Brown was 4 for 8! These are guards who are supposed to be BETTER than this.

The thing is, I loved how aggressive Washington was in driving the paint. Northern Illinois was in foul trouble early in both halves, with two guys fouling out completely. We had SO MANY chances to take control of this game at the line, and we failed miserably.

Shooting in general has been a problem for Washington for a couple years now; last night, we hit only 3 of 18 from behind the arc. That’s going to happen. I would hope there are MORE games than in years past when we can approach 45-50% from three (those have been a rare luxury of late), but we were also straight-up God-awful with our overall shooting percentage (20 for 75).

Northern Illinois did a pretty good job of slowing our fast break opportunities and forcing us into half-court sets. I was not encourged by what I saw from the offense in this capacity, other than our ability to get to the free throw line. Jamal Bey still hasn’t taken that next step in his aggressiveness; Emmitt Matthews was very active, but off-the-mark all night; and Daejon Davis was an offensive nightmare for Washington, hitting only 1 of 10 shots.

Terrell Brown was encouraging, leading the way with 22 points on 9/24 shooting. He was driving the lane with regularity and making things happen for this team; I look forward to seeing more of him as the season progresses (ideally with a better shooting percentage on drives in the paint).

The player of the game for Washington, though, was Nate Roberts. I’ll admit, my hopes were awfully low for him heading into the year. He’s always struck me as a lumbering oaf who is a foul machine and incompetent at both ends of the court. But, last night was a revelation! For starters, he’s really worked on his body; dude is jacked up. And that seems to have translated into improved play on both ends of the court, and maybe more importantly, improved confidence. He finished the game with 10 points and 19 rebounds! 12 of those boards were on the offensive glass! He was single-handedly keeping us in this game during the vast middle stretch; it was unfortunate he ended up fouling out the way he did (on a loose ball dive where the other guy ran into him), but the game was already getting out of hand by this point and I don’t think there was anything he could’ve done once Northern Illinois started hitting those daggers late in the second half.

I’ll tell ya, Nate Roberts impressed the hell out of me! I don’t know if he can keep it up, but it’s clear he’ll be no pushover. It is fair to wonder if Roberts will find himself in foul trouble more often than not, but if he starts getting the benefit of the doubt, he could be among the best big men in the Pac-12 this season. Given our lack of depth along the front, this was the most pleasant surprise I could’ve been given.

All that being said, I’m still annoyed Washington lost this one. I don’t think Northern Illinois is very good at all. I do think they had one guy – Trendon Hankerson – who was absolutely amazing, and on fire (hitting 9 of 15 shots, including 6/11 from three, for 28 points to lead the way). He might be that good, or he might’ve just had an abnormally-hot shooting night, which makes the defeat all the more unfortunate, because Northern Illinois didn’t have anyone else who could beat us. The thing is, Hankerson was setting up for shots SO FAR beyond the arc that I’m not sure how you defend that with our zone. He cooled off considerably when we went man-to-man, but as soon as we went back to zone late in the game, he started ripping off wide open threes again, and that was that.

Thankfully, there’s another home game tomorrow against another directional school I’ve never heard of (Northern Arizona Lumberjacks). We’ll see really quickly whether or not this was an unlucky first game, or if this was an omen of more bad games to come.

The media picked Washington to be eleventh out of the twelve Pac-12 teams. So far, I’d say that feels about right. BUT, I’m more encouraged by this team’s potential than I was about last year’s squad. I think it’s far likelier that Washington out-performs expectations than living down to them. I’m not saying we’ll make the NCAA Tournament or anything; I’d say the chances of that are remote-at-best. But, we could make some noise and score some upsets, for sure. The NIT might even be in play, if we manage to come together.

The Husky Basketball Team Fucking Sucked This Year!

The Washington Husky men’s basketball season mercifully came to a close last night, with a loss to the Utes in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament, 98-95. I didn’t watch a single second of the action.

In fact, I couldn’t tell you how much of this team I did manage to watch this season, but it was WELL under a game’s worth of action. This team went 5-21, including 4-16 in conference play. They were TERRIBLE!

As it turns out, there was no salvaging this team. I thought maybe without two supernova stars in the lineup, guys would spread the scoring burden around, and maybe we’d see a team that improved as the season went along. But, those glimpses of competency were few and far between.

Quade Green was easily the best player on the team (further testament to how much we needed him last year, as the Huskies went in the tank once he was academically ineligible), averaging 15.4 points per game. He and Hameir Wright were our only seniors of note, and what a fucking BUST Wright turned out to be in his Husky career! Given his height and wingspan, as well as his middling ability to shoot from outside, he should have been something special by 2021. But, his shooting never got better, and he rarely made an impact on either end of the court. One block and one steal per game? Ooo! What a boost!

Marcus Tsohonis was the second-leading scorer on the Huskies this season, but he was weirdly used sparingly (probably because his defense sucks), and even then his shot was always erratic. Some nights he’d be on fire, some nights he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn.

Jamal Bey finally started to take a step forward in his game, as a junior, but I don’t know what that’s going to mean for next year. Will he even want to stick around after a season like this? Is there any hope whatsoever for the Huskies to get back to the NCAA Tournament? Hell, is there any hope for even an NIT berth?!

Erik Stevenson is the last guy I’ll mention. He’s one of the transfer guys we brought here, who ended up averaging 9.3 points per game. I dunno, he was fine I guess, but I don’t remember hearing about too many times where he really flashed.

Everyone else on the Huskies was straight up trash. I just can’t believe how – on a team this fucking atrocious – that no one but Quade Green stepped up and took the reins. It’s a failure for the players, it’s a failure for the coaching staff, and it’s a HUGE failure on the state of our recruiting.

There are no silver linings. You thought Romar’s last year was the nadir of Husky basketball in the 21st century? Don’t sleep on how pathetic we were this past season. When you factor in the second half of the 2019-2020 season – when we went 5-15 in our final 20 games – Husky basketball is on a run of 10-36 over the last season and a half. Do you know how bad that is? Do you know how bad the Pac-12 is in general, and to suck THAT hard in a conference THIS mediocre is something truly unheard of.

Seattle has basketball talent! That’s what’s so infuriating. Of course, we can’t convince that talent to stay and play for the hometown school, which is obviously even more infuriating.

Let’s all just pretend the last year and a half never happened. Agreed? Okay then.

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 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).