Husky Basketball Ended In A Microcosm Game Of Their Entire Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Wheels Have Fallen The Fuck Off Of Husky Basketball

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At What Point Should We Start Worrying About Mike Hopkins Leaving The University Of Washington?

It’s pretty remarkable how good the Huskies have had it in recent years. Chris Petersen has taken the job with the football team and exceeded our wildest expectations, culminating with an appearance in the College Football Playoffs in 2016. It makes sense, somewhat, as the football team has always been the pride and joy of the University of Washington for upwards of a hundred years now.

The basketball team has always been the Little Brother in that regard. In the modern era, we always point to the Lorenzo Romar teams as the cream of the crop, but obviously towards the end there, things got REAL bad.

Mike Hopkins was a relative unknown when he was hired prior to the 2017/2018 season. A career assistant with Syracuse, he’d never helmed a program, but he seemed to be one of the coaches most fit for a promotion. When it became apparent that his promotion wouldn’t be coming from his alma mater any time soon, he jumped at Washington’s offer, and it’s been nothing but a joy to behold.

Two years – and two Pac-12 Coach of the Year awards – later, we’re in some serious uncharted waters. The Huskies went from a real nadir of 9-22 (2-16 in conference) during Romar’s final season, and improved to 21-13 in Hop’s rookie year. From there, the Huskies were conference champs at 27-9, winning a game in the NCAA Tournament (breaking an 8-year drought) to boot.

You could be forgiven if you expect a bit of a step back for 2019/2020, what with all the players we’ve lost. Four seniors – plus the Pac-12 Player of the Year in Jaylen Nowell (who is committed to entering the NBA Draft as an underclassman) – are gone, and they comprised such a high majority of our production last year.

But, while I won’t rule out potential disappointment, I’ll also argue that the ceiling has never been higher for a Husky team. Check out these incoming would-be studs:

  • Isaiah Stewart (5-star center)
  • RaeQuan Battle (4-star shooting guard)
  • Marcus Tsohonis (3-star point guard)
  • Jaden McDaniels (5-star power forward)
  • Quade Green (5-star point guard, mid-season transfer from Kentucky)

That’s on top of returning players including:

  • Naz Carter (averaged 8.1 points in 20 minutes per game)
  • Jamal Bey (came on strong late in the season, earning minutes in a stacked rotation)
  • Hameir Wright (averaged 18 minutes and 1.4 blocks per game)
  • Elijah Hardy (3-star point guard, could see extended playing time until Green arrives)
  • Bryan Penn-Johnson (3-star center, figures to see increased playing time in his second year)
  • Nate Roberts (3-star forward, redshirted as a freshman)
  • Sam Timmins (the only senior who has played extensive minutes on this team, should provide valuable depth at the center position off the bench)

Look, it’s not ideal. Obviously, you like to have as many experienced stars as possible. But, for a team that will largely be playing together for the first time, with every starting role up for grabs (presumably around wherever Naz Carter ends up playing, who should be one of the leaders on this team). But, that incoming class is no joke. Almost all of them should be ready to contribute right away, with one or two of them stepping into some hefty roles. If this team improves as we approach Tournament time, the Huskies could be a real monster.

So, let’s dream a little bit. Let’s say the Huskies come from out of nowhere to make an Elite Eight run! I know Coach Hop just signed an extension, and received a well-deserved raise this past offseason, but if that comes to pass, you REALLY have to wonder how much longer he’ll be classing up the joint.

Indeed, the Huskies don’t even have to make the Sweet 16 for this to be the final year with Mike Hopkins in Washington.

It’s a terrifying thought, and one I don’t really want to dwell on too much, as it’s far too depressing.

Given the way he’s recruited in his short time here, I can already tell Hop is going to be one of the greats. Maybe I’m way off base, with my purple-colored lenses, but that’s just a hunch. The hope, whenever you find someone like this, is that he’ll be the next Mark Few: that he’ll stick around forever, plant his flag for your school, and take you to multiple Final Fours over a multi-decade career. This isn’t like having the SEC in football, you can build a winner ANYWHERE in college basketball! So, why not here? Why couldn’t Washington be the next NCAA powerhouse?

I guess that’s up to him. And the school, to be willing to pay him. And the allure (read: money) ponied up by other schools. You’d like to think it’s easy enough to just pay the man and keep him forever, but if he wants to move on to situations that are perceived to be easier to recruit and win in, then there’s no amount of logical money that could keep him here.

I dunno. I’d be SHOCKED if Coach Hop is still here after another five years. I’d say we have maybe 2-3 years and it’s time to start looking for the next coaching phenom.

Jaylen Nowell Is Going Pro

Since we can’t have really, really nice things, Jaylen Nowell announced he’s going to leave the University of Washington to enter the NBA Draft.

In thinking about what might’ve been, having Nowell around for his Junior season would’ve been absolutely amazing. As we all know, Noah Dickerson, David Crisp, Matisse Thybulle, and Dominic Green were all Seniors and will all be gone next season. That leaves just Naz Carter, Hameir Wright, Sam Timmins, and Jamal Bey left over of the players who didn’t redshirt and who played significant minutes.

That’s just a lot of overall production that’s leaving the team. And, yes, there are some holdovers whose roles will naturally expand. You figure Bryan Penn-Johnson will vie for a starting spot at one of the bigs. Nate Roberts could see some time at the wing. And Elijah Hardy should get some time at the point. But, it would’ve been nice to have Nowell around to help with the transition.

There’s also, obviously, some incoming guys who figure to play right away, including RaeQuan Battle and Isaiah Stewart; with Quade Green transferring from Kentucky to run the point when we hit conference play. But, without many real veteran holdovers, there’s going to be a lot of unknown with the 2019/2020 squad.

Without knowing anything about the redshirts or recruits, I figure this becomes Naz Carter’s team. He’s had two years in the system now and has shown steady improvement both years, at both ends of the floor. I’ll also be looking for big things out of Jamal Bey, who was really the only Freshman to see the floor this past season, and appeared to get better as the season went along.

Given the pedigree of the guys on the roster, I would once again expect the Huskies to contend for a Pac-12 championship and make the NCAA Tournament. But, you never know when there’s this much turnover. It would’ve been a much safer bet if Nowell had stayed for one more year.

I’m on the record as highly doubting Nowell will be a first round pick, but what do I know? I’m no scout. I don’t even really watch the NBA anymore. It just seems to me that he had more he could’ve improved in his game had he stayed. On the flipside, he was already Pac-12 Player of the Year, so how much more did he have to prove?

If we base it on the college career of Isaiah Thomas – who was the final pick in the second round the year he went out – then based on probably his size alone I think Nowell at least gets drafted somewhere in the second round. But, I dunno. I respectfully disagree with the decision, but I also don’t know all the facts surrounding his financial situation. For a kid making no money for his talents in college, I can certainly understand the desire to go out and start earning a living.

The 2019 Huskies Burned Bright & Flamed Out In The NCAA Tournament

For starters, I’m calling this season an unequivocal success, so if you came here for anything other than glowing praise, there’s the door.

The goal for this season heading in was to contend for the Pac-12 Championship, and get into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011. While the pre-season was moderately underwhelming (9-4 with no bad losses, but also no quality wins), the conference season started off like gangbusters, winning 10 in a row, including a road win over Oregon. There weren’t many quality wins left to be had the rest of the way, but ultimately the Huskies won the regular season conference title outright, and got to the Pac-12 Tournament Finals before losing to those same Ducks (who as of this writing have made it to the Sweet 16 as a 12-seed).

Rightly, the Huskies were given a 9-seed. If the season ended last Friday against Utah State, I think we all would’ve been disappointed, but ultimately seen it as a worthwhile experience. I was in Reno, as I am every year, for the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, and for the first time in the 7 years we’ve been doing this trip, I’ve gotten to watch my team go at it on a national stage. It was the thrill of my adult life to be able to put money down on my team in a game that actually mattered.

It was even better when we won as underdogs and I got to cash out on a moneyline bet.

The Huskies – against the 28-7 Aggies – got out to a hot start, taking a 40-28 lead. That left me scrambling down to the Silver Legacy sportsbook to see the second half odds, which were Washington +6. I immediately put whatever money I could find on the Huskies to cover that spread, and it paid off, as we actually won the second half as well by 5 points, for an end result of 78-61. It was magical!

Noah Dickerson was thought to have a tough matchup against the Utah State bigs, but he fought hard for his 20 points and 12 boards to lead the way. Jaylen Nowell added 19 points, 5 assists, and 5 boards; Naz Carter brought 13 points and 4 assists off the bench; and David Crisp chipped in with 8 points in his criminally-short game (he fouled out somehow, having played only 24 minutes). Matisse Thybulle did Matisse Thybulle things, with 10 points, 5 steals, 3 blocks, 3 boards, and 2 assists, which we all agreed would’ve made an excellent prop bet if the sportsbooks had any balls.

On the flipside, the Aggies’ leading scorer heading into it – Sam Merrill – had been averaging nearly 21 points per game. There WAS a prop bet on him, that started out at over/under 20 points, but ballooned up to over/under 22 points. Knowing the Huskies excel in stopping the other team’s best player, I talked all my friends into shorting him and taking the under; he finished with 10 points (I believe all in the second half) on 2/9 shooting as we had fun mocking him throughout the game.

That brought us to a matchup against North Carolina on Sunday morning, the 1-seed in the region and a team many have pegged as the best in the country. In my mind, it was a foregone conclusion that our season would end right then and there, but I nevertheless placed a couple of moderate bets on the Dawgs (truth be told, if I were an impartial observer, I would’ve bet the family farm on UNC to cover).

Whereas the Huskies shot 49% from the floor (a whopping 58.8% from three) against Utah State, we were only able to muster 38.3% from the floor (31% from three) against UNC. Those are the only numbers you need to know, as the Tar Heels were SCORCHING hot against our zone defense in beating us 81-59 (50.8% from the field, 42.9% from three). They just fucking destroyed us on the boards, including a 15-8 offensive rebounding advantage, and a 33-16 overall advantage. Part of me did think we could cover whatever the spread was (12 points I think?) but it was looking pretty grim at half, down 41-33. It got a lot worse from there, as they outscored us 40-26 in the second frame.

Even if our defense was its usual stifling self, I couldn’t tell you how many wide open jumpers clanged off the rim, as it just looked like we were exhausted throughout. Nowell led the way with 12 points, while Dickerson and Carter each added 10. Thybulle had the hardest day shooting (1/8 from the field, 0/5 from three for all of 2 points) even though the rest of his line looked like its usual solid self.

In the end, it was a disappointing way to go out (we also lost to UNC the last time we were in the Tourney in 2011), but not entirely unexpected. I still contend the season was a roaring success, and there are much better things in store for the program (not the least of which due to Mike Hopkins, who was extended another 6 years with a raise for winning two Pac-12 Coach of the Year awards in his two seasons with the team).

Next year, let’s run it back with another Pac-12 title, but this time let’s see if we can reach the Sweet 16! Getting Nowell to stay another year would be a big help, but that’s a topic for another time.

I’m proud of these Dawgs. While they’ve been frustrating to watch at times over the last four years, I’m glad their hard work and loyalty to the program was rewarded with actual games in the NCAA Tournament.

The Huskies Advanced In The Pac-12 Tournament For The First Time Ever

That feels accurate; I’m not changing it.

I was – as I noted on Twitter yesterday – extremely nervous about the Huskies’ chances of making the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team (thanks for fucking nothing, Gonzaga) had they lost in the quarterfinals to USC yesterday. It just felt like, with the way things were trending (that would’ve been 3 losses in our final 5 games, all to just awful teams), combined with the many upsets in various conference tournaments across the college basketball landscape, that this would’ve been the second time in school history where the Huskies were regular season conference champs who failed to make the Big Dance.

I mean, how snakebit could one school be?

As it is, I don’t know if we’re QUITE out of the woods just yet, but I do feel like it’s tough to keep a 25-win team out of it, regardless of how terrible their conference is.

The next hurdle is to make sure we’re not one of the four play-in teams. The last thing I want is for the Huskies to play next Tuesday! But, that’s getting ahead of things.

The good news is, the Dawgs beat the University of Spoiled Children (I don’t know how I lived my entire life until yesterday having never heard that phrase before, but I LOVE IT!) Pretty bad week for the Trojans, all things considered, and this was the cherry on top.

Noah Dickerson had as bad of a game as you could have (1/7, 2 points), but he chipped in with 11 boards and I fully expect him to bounce back in a BIG way tonight. The fact that the Huskies were able to score 78 in this one essentially without him is pretty remarkable!

Pac-12 Player of the Year Jaylen Nowell led the way with 24 points and 8 boards, as he showed why he’s our go-to guy. Pac-12 Snub of the Year David Crisp chipped in 18 and 6 assists, as he set the tone with 3/6 from behind the arc (the team hit 13/28 overall, and was particularly hot in the first half).

Across the board, we had guys having big moments. Naz Carter dropped 13 and 4 boards; Dom Green added 9 and 3 assists; and Hameir Wright exploded early with 8 points (including 2/4 from behind the arc to get things going in the opening minutes).

Not to be left out, Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Matisse Thybulle had 5 more steals to take sole possession of the most steals in a season in Pac-12 history! And, if the Internet is correct, that brings him to 320 career steals, which is 1 behind Gary Payton for the most in Pac-12 history, SO WATCH OUT TONIGHT!

This was a game full of streaks, which meant it was tight at the finish. Fortunately, we hit just enough shots and made just enough plays to grab a 3-point victory.

Colorado took care of business against Oregon State, so we dodged one bullet, as we set up to face the Buffaloes at 6pm tonight. On the other side of the bracket, Oregon will take on ASU. The Sun Devils are still on the bubble – many have them playing as an 11-seed in one of those play-in games – so beating the Ducks would be very much in their best interest. Oregon likely needs to win the Pac-12 Tournament to get in, and with the way they’ve been going lately (6 game winning streak), it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest.

To be fair, the Buffaloes are on a 5-game winning streak of their own, but they definitely shouldn’t win tonight. I wouldn’t say I’m confident, but I saw that next up in my rotation were the maroon boxers, and instead of picking a different pair, I’m wearing them right this second. Either we break the curse tonight, or I single-handedly send the Huskies to the N.I.T.

The Huskies Are Somehow The Only Team Not To Sweep The Cal Golden Bears 2019

What if I told you that I owned anywhere from 18-21 pairs of the same brand of boxer shorts by Hanes? And let’s say the vast majority of them were either black or shades of gray, with three of them being this reddish/maroon color. Now, what if I told you that I have this pet theory where whenever I wear the reddish/maroon boxers, the sports team I like loses that day? You’d probably immediately start poking holes in my theory, like so many holes worn into these boxers I’ve had for years and years.

For starters, it’s not like the teams I root for are undefeated when I wear the boxers with shades of black or gray! And, I HAVE to believe there’s been a point where the red boxers have seen victory and I just don’t remember. But, I’ll tell you, lately I’m beginning to wonder. I’ve wondered so much that I’ve kept track throughout the Pac-12 conference season. Can you guess which two days I’ve worn the maroon boxers that coincides with a Husky gameday?

Look, it’s not my fault! If there was ever a day to disprove a theory, it was yesterday! The Cal Bears were 0-15 in conference play! They are the single worst Power 5 basketball team in the entire country! This was my chance to break the curse!

Instead, it appears I’ve only reinforced the bad mojo in these reddish boxers. I can’t bring them with me to Reno in three weeks; I just can’t!

Thankfully, I didn’t bother to stay up and watch. Because who needs that noise? On a night where David Crisp came up huge with 32 points, and a night where Jaylen Nowell did everything he could to pull us out of the fire (22 points, 8 boards, 5 assists), the defense was a God-damned trainwreck. Cal shot 55.6% from the floor and 53.3% from long range. From the sound of things, the Huskies were as lethargic as they’ve ever been, and if Crisp didn’t have the game of his life, this one would’ve been severely ugly.

So, I guess we can forget about 17-1 and running the table through the conference tourney. Not that we can’t achieve 16-2 and still run the table, but this loss is as bad as it gets. If there was ever a glimmer of a hope of landing on the 4-line in the NCAA Tournament, that’s over. I would argue that even the 5-line is off the table, which is probably for the best, because if there was ever a 12-seed to upset a 5-seed, it would be the team that got to face the Huskies. At this point, winning out MIGHT get us a 6-seed, but I won’t be holding my breath. This team still has another loss or two in it; the 8/9 game is on the horizon.

We all probably should’ve seen this coming, right? I mean, maybe not Cal, but also maybe Cal. This is the usual stupid type of game even the best teams in the conference lose from time to time. What’s surprising is that this hasn’t happened more often. The ASU game was a logical defeat on the road against a Tourney-ish team. To have only lost one bad game (so far) is still pretty remarkable.

But, let’s not make this a trend.

The Huskies Swept The Buffaloes 2019

Another game, another sweep of an inferior Pac-12 foe. This time, the Buffaloes met their maker, as the Huskies’ defense was overwhelming in a 64-55 victory.

Matisse Thybulle was once again the catalyst, with 17 points, 6 steals, 5 blocks, and 3 boards. Nowell and Crisp also finished with double-digit points.

In the end, the Huskies forced 19 turnovers and limited the Buffs to 41.5% shooting (only 30.8% from three). Colorado was able to sort of hang around, but the Huskies stretched their lead out heading into halftime, and just after the break. Suspect shooting from the Dawgs ultimately kept this game closer than it needed to be, but in the end it was a comfortable victory never REALLY in doubt.

Final road trip of the regular season, to the Bay Area schools this week. A chance to complete two more season sweeps before the final homestand against the Oregon schools. Then, the fun beings in earnest.