The Husky Basketball Team Needs To Rebuild In A Hurry

Last I wrote about the Dawgs, I was telling you about how much this team has sucked over the last season and a half. My feelings have not changed since then.

What has changed is the team itself. The Transfer Portal giveth and the Transfer Portal taketh away!

Erik Stevenson was the first domino to drop. We got him just last year as a transfer from Wichita State, so I guess he was another underwhelming One & Done!

Then, the under-used (question mark?) Marcus Tsohonis opted to leave the program. He was an offensive sparkplug in some of the games he played in, but also was total shit offensively in some of the games he played in. Obviously, there were a number of games he either hardly played or didn’t play at all, which ultimately led to his leaving; why he was utilized so is probably due to his defense being lacking. All right.

The Huskies followed this up by getting someone to FINALLY come here, in an international recruit by the name of Samuel Ariyibi. He’s a small forward type with long arms and proficient at defense, with limited offensive abilities. As long as he can do SOMETHING well, I guess I’m okay with it. I’d rather have defense than nothing.

Then, there was the double-whammy of Nate Pryor and J’Raan Brooks leaving the Huskies. I don’t think they did anything, so no big loss there. On the same day, it was announced the Dawgs were bringing in erstwhile highly-touted recruit Terrell Brown, who was a star for Seattle U, then got limited action with Arizona. He could be a centerpiece for the Huskies next season, which is something we’ve sorely needed. As the starting point guard who will almost certainly replace Quade Green, learn all you can about Brown, because we’ll be seeing him a lot.

Finally, RaeQuan Battle opted to leave. I don’t know why this was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Husky fans, but dude, he was terrible! Ostensibly, he’s supposed to be this sharp-shooter from long-range, and we built an offense that allowed guys to shoot the three as often as they liked. He had free-rein to shoot and shoot and shoot, and all he did was lay brick after brick after brick! Fuck that. Good riddance. I’m sure he’ll figure it out for his next team, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if he totally flamed out. If you can’t improve your jumper after two straight years – especially when that’s ALL that you do – then I’m sorry, but this is not a loss. This is addition by subtraction.

Other than Stevenson – who, again, was just okay – I don’t see the big deal here. None of these transfer guys did a damn thing to help the Huskies win last season. The loss of Green will be a minor blow, but also he was the best of a very bad group, so it’s hard to tell how good he really is. I could shit-can the entire roster and not feel one iota of remorse or ill-will towards Mike Hopkins. Hop is our guy, for better or for worse, at least for the time being.

As the winner of back-to-back Pac-12 Coach of the Year awards, I still think he’s earned the right to try to turn this around. The Transfer Portal is bigger and more robust than ever. There are talented guys out there. He just needs to find an offense and stick with it, and then recruit like hell to get guys who FIT that offense (while, obviously, finding guys who will buy-in and execute his defense). There’s a path back to respectability as early as next season. The Pac-12 is suddenly killing it in the NCAA Tournament right now, and Washington is a medium-profile program in that conference.

Offering, I might add, ample minutes to any disgruntled transfer candidates who felt shaded by their previous teams. It’s the wild west out here! Come get your minutes!

I’m excited by the Huskies having their dead weight shed for them. I don’t see this exodus as a problem in the slightest. I see this as an opportunity to immediately turn the program around.

And, if Hop can’t do it, and the Huskies continue to dwell in the cellar, welp! We tried. But, you almost certainly have to cut him loose if it happens again, regardless of how many millions of dollars he’s still owed.

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.

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.

The Future Looks Bright For Husky Basketball

Of course, where do you put the emphasis in that sentence? “The Future LOOKS Bright” vs. “The Future Looks BRIGHT” can make all the difference.

The Huskies took care of business against a bad Cal team on Saturday. After a sluggish start – where the Huskies started off shooting 1/14 – we managed to take a 1-point lead at half, as our shooting woes reversed. That lead ballooned out to an eventual 19-point victory, which was just what this team needed as we embark on a tough trip to Oregon this week.

The victory makes us 5-0 in conference, half a game ahead of Arizona, and 14-4 overall. As I wrote about on Friday, if we break up the season into 6-game chunks, the Huskies need to go 3-3, then 5-1, to properly align themselves for an At Large bid. I would honestly settle for going 1-1 the next three weeks, if it’s all the same to you. Anything above and beyond that would be all the better.

But, that’s not the only reason why the future looks bright. Over the weekend, the Huskies got a verbal committment from a 5-star big man (Isaiah Stewart), a guy rated 6th in the country heading into 2019. There’s a lot of good information here, so go read all about it! The Huskies now have a Top 20 recruiting class for next year, and that could very well jump up, depending on where the local kid decides to go. As it is, we’ve got three guys coming in, two in the Top 100 (Stewart and RaeQuan Battle) and another guy in the Top 300 (Marcus Tsohonis). That’s on top of transfer Quade Green, who will be eligible to start halfway into next season (I don’t get how that works; why can’t he just sit out the rest of this year and play from the start next season?).

That’s A LOT of talent coming into the program! Sure, the Big Three (Crisp, Dickerson, Thybulle) will be leaving after this season (maybe the Big Four if Nowell decides to leave early), but could we be talking about a team that might actually improve over whatever this 2018/2019 team does? That’s certainly on the table, if the new guys can gel quickly.

Of course, what’s also on the table is something akin to what we saw out of a lot of those later Romar seasons: Freshman studs playing hero ball, en route to an N.I.T. finish, with our NBA hopefuls sitting out late in the season to preserve their bodies for the Draft.

Look, I just don’t trust 5-star guys around these parts. We’re not Duke, we’re not Kentucky. We generally don’t have sufficient depth to pair with those highly-rated guys to make deep runs in the NCAA Tournament. One & Done players look out for themselves and that’s it. Washington is as good a place as any to showcase one stud’s amazing talent – Markelle Fultz is a testament to that – but we don’t matter on the national scene like those other programs.

I hope I’m proven wrong, and this is the beginning of something huge. I’d like to believe Washington can be a powerhouse, but I’ve been burned so many times before. At this point, I’ll believe it when I actually see it.