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.

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.

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 Are Going Dancing As I’ve Completely Given Up On Trying To Think Of An Interesting Title For This Post

Hi. I’m 38 years old today.

Well, it was kind of a strange Pac-12 Tournament, but in the end the Huskies did just enough. After narrowly edging out USC, we struggled in the first half against Colorado before turning on the jets in the second half and coming away with a 5-point victory. That set the stage for – who else? – the Oregon Ducks in the championship game, because of course. There was no way ASU was going to beat them, not with the way they’ve been playing of late. The Dawgs were able to keep it close in the first half, down only 2 at the break, but we had our doors blown out the rest of the way in what ended up being a 20-point drubbing.

What does it all mean? Well, the Pac-12 gets three teams in the NCAA Tourney (when no one would’ve been shocked if it was just one for most of the season), as the Sun Devils are an 11-seeded play-in team, the Ducks are a 12-seed looking to upset 5-seeded Wisconsin, and the Huskies land in that 8/9 game against 8-seeded Utah State.

We’re early underdogs (opened at +3, now at +2.5), but if we somehow succeed on Friday afternoon, North Carolina will be our reward. Considering the Tar Heels are my pick to win it all, that feels like a bad sign. My hope – at least heading into Saturday – was that the Huskies could reach the Sweet 16, but that’s looking impossible now. We’ll never know, but I wonder how high our seed would’ve been had we beaten the Ducks. Could we have climbed to a 7? Or, could we have at least gotten a better draw in the 8/9 game? Maybe earned a chance to play Gonzaga in the second round?

I’m also curious to know what would’ve happened if we’d lost to Colorado or USC. Could we have dropped down to 10 or 11 like I was hoping? Or, would that have been one loss too many and dropped us into the N.I.T? That feels unlikely, but you never know.

I guess no one but Duke is really happy with their draw; you just gotta go out there and play the games.

Without knowing a whole lot about Utah State, my initial reaction is to wonder what the big fuckin’ deal is. Looks like they score a lot, but Sam Merrill accounts for 21.2 of those points. Seems to me if you can find a way to shut him down, the rest of the team will topple. The Huskies have a lot of flaws, but one of their strengths is being able to take out the other team’s best player and forcing them to beat us in other ways. I have to imagine this whole week is going to be devoted to stopping Merrill, and as long as we can do so while staying out of foul trouble (looking at you, Thybulle), we should be in good shape.

Regardless, I think the game will be close, but I also think it could be a lot uglier than expected. My initial thought was to pound the under on this game, but they set the line at a reasonable 135. That feels VERY attainable. 70-65? You’re telling me we can’t get over that hump?

I fully expect Utah State to have most of the love heading into this one, but I think there’s a better-than-50% chance the Huskies pull the upset. This has been years and years in the making; we’ve put up with a lot of bullshit to get to this point. With the veterans on this team, we should be able to find a way to pull it out in the end. And, while we’re not going to be a Sweet 16 team this year, getting to the Round of 32 is a nice consolation prize.

Bigger and better days are ahead of us!

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 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.

The Huskies Swept The Utes 2019

It was a little bit of a slow start for the Huskies, followed by a long bit of a slow finish for the Utes. The Huskies took a 33-27 halftime lead, but just destroyed them in the second half, en route to a 62-45 finish.

Again, thanks to the 8pm start time, I missed this one. I was asleep before this game even STARTED, so let’s take a breeze through the box score.

Five double digit scorers, with Naz Carter leading the way with 12 points. Dickerson had 11 points in 25 minutes, and Thybulle, Crisp, and Nowell each had 10 points. The Huskies also limited themselves to 9 turnovers, while forcing 18 on the Utes.

I don’t think Utah is very good. Sure, they swept the L.A. schools on the road, as well as taking down ASU in their own arena, but they’re an 8-6 team in the Pac-12 that’s going nowhere. Winning this game is what’s to be expected. Losing this game would’ve been a disaster (though, you could make that same argument for all the rest of our games).

Holy Shitballs The Huskies Are Still Undefeated!

The Huskies went into Arizona and came away with a hard-fought 67-60 victory. Even though the Wildcats are down – much like the rest of the Pac-12 this year – it’s still never easy to win in their gym, so I’d venture to say this was one of the more impressive Husky victories of the season.

Noah Dickerson did, indeed, return to action, though he was kept out of the starting lineup in favor of Sam Timmins (Hameir Wright didn’t play at all due to illness). I wonder if the Huskies were going to feel this game out and decide as they went whether or not Dickerson would actually see any action. Like, if the Huskies had jumped out to an early 15 point lead or something, would they have kept Dickerson on the shelf? Odds are, not starting him was a way to simply limit his minutes. If he went out in the first half and didn’t have it, then they could’ve rested him the rest of the way and saved him for ASU tomorrow.

Either way, Dickerson was a welcome sight! He only put up 10 points and 3 boards, but he accounted for a bunch of the foul trouble that Arizona found themselves in during the second half, including sending their best big man to the bench with 4 fouls for a long time.

As usual, there were plenty of stars to go around. David Crisp continued his quality play, finishing with 17 points to lead the team. Matisse Thybulle was the straw that stirred the drink, with 15 points, 5 blocks, and 5 steals. One can only wonder what he would’ve finished with if he hadn’t been in so much foul trouble late in the game. Jaylen Nowell had a quiet game with 12 points, 6 boards, and 4 assists, but always came up big when the team needed a boost. And, Naz Carter started off as cold as can be, but finished on fire with 10 points, 4 boards, and 2 steals.

It was a tough back-and-forth game in the first half, as both teams traded turnovers like they were kids in the 50’s trading baseball cards. The Huskies managed a 1-point lead at the break, then got out to a quick start in the second half, managing to keep the Wildcats at arm’s length the rest of the way. None of our typical cold spells; there was always an answer to every Arizona run.

We go on to play Arizona State tomorrow night, which I GUESS is the second-best team in the conference, but holy fucking hell they just lost to the now 2-win Cougars by 21 points in their own arena! I had it in the back of my mind that if the Huskies beat the Sun Devils that might guarantee the Pac-12 is a 1-bid conference, but even if we LOSE that might be a safe assumption!

I’d still like to see the Huskies get to 11-0 in conference. This is our last chance for a quality win in the regular season, and say what you will about the Pac-12 and the Sun Devils, but they were able to beat some good teams in their non-conference slate and the rankings like them accordingly. Not that I’m worried about the Huskies making the Tourney anymore – I feel like that’s a foregone conclusion at this point – but I would like to get as high a seed as possible, to make it interesting.

The Huskies Swept The First Half Of Conference Play

Things couldn’t be going much better for the Husky basketball team. We’re 9-0 in Pac-12 play, we’re on an 11-game winning streak, we’re as close as we’ve been since the pre-season from being ranked in the AP Top 25, and if the season ended today, there are various Bracketologists who would have us as a 7-seed!

These are truly uncharted waters. I’ve been following Husky basketball pretty steadily since the turn of the century, and nothing about this team resembles any previous Husky team I’ve ever seen. The Huskies have been notorious slow starters, both in games and in conference play. A 9-game winning streak to CLOSE conference play would be more in line with my experience, but never to open!

And, the way the Huskies are jumping out to huge leads in individual games is unprecedented! Take a look at the last nine games:

  • 29-16 lead over the Cougs (43-38 at half)
  • 38-30 halftime lead at the Utes
  • 12-0 start at the Buffs (48-35 at half)
  • 25-12 lead over the Cardinal (37-24 at half)
  • 29-28 halftime lead over the Golden Bears
  • 17-5 start at the Ducks (27-19 at half)
  • 22-7 start at the Beavs (40-27 at half)
  • 15-4 lead over the Trojans (36-25 at half)
  • 31-23 halftime lead over the Bruins

The only games where the Huskies somewhat struggled in the first half were against Cal and UCLA, but both times we were able to pull away eventually.

I’ll be the first to admit, I didn’t think the Huskies would beat both of the L.A. schools, but here we are after yet another sweep. We’re now 12-0 at home, which is big. We’re 6-4 on the road or on a neutral court, which might be even bigger. Especially if we can push that out to 8-4 against the Arizona schools this week.

Nowell, Crisp, and Thybulle led the way against UCLA on Saturday, scoring 15, 15, and 14 points respectively. They combined to go 14/32 (8/14 from long distance) and really kept this game on track, when it could’ve gone off the rails at any point. Getting 22 points from our bench really helped as well, considering what Noah Dickerson had to endure.

Normally, when you see Dickerson being held to 14 minutes, that means he’s in foul trouble from the opening tip. But, he finished with 0 fouls, and two pretty serious-looking injuries. He had to leave the game early with what appeared to be a shoulder issue. After returning to the game, he landed awkwardly on another player’s foot, rolling his ankle in the process. When they had to help him off the court – not to return – things appeared to be pretty dire. Sam Timmins came in there and settled things down, especially defensively (finishing with 6 boards, 3 blocks, and a whopping 9 points – including 3/3 from the free throw line!), but I was speculating the worst case scenario. The good thing was that it didn’t appear to be a high-ankle sprain, which can land you on the shelf for weeks and weeks. Regardless, it didn’t look very likely that he’d make the trip to Arizona this week; however, after listening to Coach Hop on the Mitch Unfiltered podcast, he made it sound like Dickerson will be a game-time decision.

The fact that he actually has a CHANCE to play is great news! I still don’t know if I’d expect him in there on Thursday, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed for the Sun Devils on Saturday morning.

The schedule gets considerably easier after this week. The Huskies should be able to coast from here on out. Just need to bring their lunch pails for two more games before gorging on dessert.