The Huskies Have A Lot Of Work To Do After A Home Split With The Mountain Schools

The Thursday defeat to Utah was all kinds of bad.  That brought us to a season sweep, which is frustrating, because I seem to remember Utah being a poor matchup for us for the last few years now.  Upon further review, that makes 6 losses in a row, and 9 of 12 since Utah joined the conference, a lot of those defeats being pretty ugly for the Dawgs.  So, yeah, they continue to be our kryptonite.  The less said about that game, the better.

That brought Washington’s losing steak to 3 games, and put all the pressure on the remaining regular season schedule, as well as a moderate amount of pressure on the Pac-12 Tournament (pressure that will only continue to grow with every regular season loss).  As it stands right now, the Huskies are among the First Four Out in most prominent Bracketology editions this morning, and that’s only because we were able to take care of business against Colorado.

The Huskies decided to change things up and share a group outing to see the Black Panther movie that came out over the weekend.  Emboldened, with an opportunity to forget all their problems of the last two weeks, the Dawgs came out on fire against the Buffaloes, beating them 82-59 on the night UW retired Isaiah Thomas’ jersey.  It was a perfect night.

Thybulle had a monster offensive night, Crisp continued to suck balls from beyond the arc (hitting his first shot, then missing his next 4; the worst thing in the world is a bad shooter hitting his first shot, leading him to believe he’s got something going that night).  After a string of poor performances, Dominic Green got the start over Jaylen Nowell; Nowell still had 31 minutes off the bench and had a solid game.  Green, on the other hand, hit 3/4 from long distance and continues to be our best sharp-shooting threat; very deserving of starter’s minutes.  Naz Carter continues to make strides, and should compete to be this team’s starting point guard next year (hopefully supplanting Crisp and his poor shooting).  And Dickerson had a nice game after being plagued by fouls and missed shots against Utah.

As always, there’s a lot to already be happy about with this season of Husky basketball.  We’ve officially doubled our win total from a year ago, and quadrupled our conference win total.  That’s Coach of the Year material right there, no doubt about it.  But, there’s still more to get.  We go on the road to play the Bay Area schools this week, and we NEED to avenge our previous loss to Stanford.  Cal is terrible, so it would be a huge upset to drop that one on Saturday, but the real concern is the Cardinal.  They looked to be a very poor matchup for us a month ago, and I can’t imagine they’ve gotten a whole lot worse in the subsequent month.  The Huskies need to dig deep, avoid careless turnovers, and rebound like their lives depend on it.  After this, we’ve just got the two home games against the Oregon schools, then it’s Pac-12 Tourney time.  Every game is vitally important from here on out.  Going 4-0 would put us in a great position to make life a lot easier.

Good God: The Huskies Lost In Double-Overtime To The Beavers

I’m still absolutely dumbfounded.  The Oregon game, I could sort of understand, but Oregon State?  Come on, man!

I don’t care that it was on the road, it’s absolutely inexcusable that the Huskies would lose to this team.  I mean, they’re only the third-worst team in the conference because Wazzu and Cal are a couple of the worst teams of this generation.  Also, to lose while scoring 94 points?  Double overtime or not, what the hell???

Dickerson, Nowell, Thybulle, and Naz Carter all had pretty good offensive games, but no one played well defensively, and that’s this team’s bread and butter.  Ultimately, this team will only go as far as David Crisp can take them; he’s the straw that stirs the drink, and all too often, when he takes it upon himself to be the focus offensively, this team struggles.  It’s fucking absurd, with his inability in shooting the long ball, that he’s jacking up 6 fucking 3-pointers (making only 1, naturally, because he’s a fucking terrible shooter).  It’s even more absurd that he only attempted 3 free throws, when his game is much more tailored to using his speed and ball-handling ability to get in the paint and draw contact.

I mean, I just don’t understand him.  I can’t stop harping on it, because he’s so integral to everything the Huskies do offensively!  He thinks he’s something he’s not, when if he just played within the flow of the game, and stopped forcing his own shot, the Huskies would be winning games like these!

It sucks, because the Huskies are so close.  Unlike some people, I don’t think they’re out of NCAA Tournament contention, not by a long shot, but with every loss to inferior opponents, they cut their margin for error razor thin.  As it is, they can’t afford to drop a single home game the rest of the way, and would be well served in finishing the regular season 5-1, while still probably needing a win or two in the Pac-12 Tournament.

Big picture, obviously this has been a dream season, compared to pre-season expectations.  But, after that Arizona win, everything changed.  Expectations always change on the fly, and this season it’s no different.  Now, failing to make the Tourney would be a huge disappointment, whereas if you told me before the season that the Huskies would have one of the higher seeds in the N.I.T., I would’ve been ecstatic!

The saving grace is that I have pretty high expectations for the 2018/2019 season.  I’m heading into the next month’s worth of games under the impression that everyone will be back.  Yes, Jaylen Nowell has been a fantastic Freshman, but I absolutely don’t believe he’s a first round pick in the NBA right now, and as such it would be foolish for him to declare.  With him back, with a more-experienced point guard (either on our bench now, or among the incoming Freshman class), we won’t have to rely so much on David Crisp (who hopefully will finally mature as a Senior, and modify his offensive game accordingly) and the sky is the limit for the future.

But, for the here and now, it’s time to hold onto our butts.  Couple of must-win home games against the Mountain schools this week.  Let’s go!

The Huskies Are On Top Of The World Of Third Place 2018!

So far this week, everything is going swimmingly.  Arizona went into Pullman and beat the Cougs handily; they advanced to 9-1 in conference play and since they played on Wednesday, they even get an extra day off to relax and enjoy the Seattle sights!  (or they get to fly home, then fly right back to Seattle sometime today, which seems a little cruel).  Regardless, the Wildcats will be overflowing with confidence as they face what has turned into an unlikely bigtime conference showdown against the Washington Huskies.

The very same Huskies who just squeaked by the Sun Devils last night, 68-64.  In spite of how much I wanted to watch this game, an 8pm start time was too rich for my blood.  But, I woke up bright and early to read the highlights, and boy did that game sound like it lived up to the billing!

Noah Dickerson – on his birthday no less! – had 21 points and a whopping 16 rebounds to lead the way.  Jaylen Nowell had 15 points, 9 boards, and 3 assists in an otherwise quiet night for him.  David Crisp had 12 points, including a couple clutch baskets towards the end to seal the deal.  And Matisse Thybulle chipped in 9 points and 6 steals, becoming the all-time single-season Husky steals leader, which is outstanding considering we have at least 10 more games to go.  He might put the record out of reach when it’s all said and done!

The Husky defense, again, was on top of it, particularly from long distance, holding the Sun Devils to 26% shooting from beyond the arc, on 5/19.  We weren’t all that much better, on the offensive side of the ledger, but we outrebounded them, dominated in steals, and hit 15/18 of our free throws (they only hit 11/17).  All told, it was a tough, gritty win for an up-and-coming ballclub.

Now, we need a couple things.  We need the Sun Devils to go on a nice little winning streak the rest of the way, to ensure they make the Tourney and to ensure this remains a quality win on our resume.  And we, of course, need to go on a nice little winning streak of our own the rest of the way.

I seem to have a knack for getting super-excited right before the rug is pulled out from under the team I’m rooting for, so this post couldn’t be more perfectly timed as Arizona comes to town tomorrow night.  If I were a betting man, I’d say that by writing this post at all – when I normally reserve my Husky basketball posts for Mondays, so I can cover the whole weekend’s worth of games – I am jinxing the Huskies to the moon and back, and I’d bet the Taylor Family Farm on the Wildcats winning tomorrow night.  So, let’s hope for once I’m not the fucking Bad Luck Guy!

We’re at a really critical point in this Husky season:  beat Arizona, and we pretty much write our ticket to the Big Dance.  Lose, and quite frankly we’re still in pretty good shape.  This isn’t a MUST win, but it would be a HUGE win.

There’s another big game on Saturday as well, as UCLA hosts USC.  The winner of that game will do a lot of good for their cause, and as a Husky fan, I’m rooting for USC, because I want that win over the Trojans to keep looking better and better.

Who knows?  Maybe by Monday morning we’ll be talking about a nationally ranked Husky basketball team!  Wouldn’t that be something?

The Huskies Swept The Cougs 2018!

And we’re back!  Bloody pirates boarded the good ship Seattle Sports Hell and wreaked havoc, but we had our top man on the case to clean out the riffraff.  I am eternally grateful!

There isn’t much going on between now and the start of Spring Training in a couple weeks, so posting might be a little light in the meantime.  Also, I’m super busy in my everyday life, so don’t be afraid if there aren’t timely updates for the next couple/few weeks.

Over the weekend, the Husky basketball team beat the Cougars.  The game was on ESPNU, which my cable package does not have, and it also doesn’t have a way to log on and watch over the Internet (it’s a very small cable company), so I missed this game.  But, I heard the Huskies looked great, better than they have all season!

Thybulle led the way with 18 points, 6 assists, 4 steals, 3 rebounds, and a block.  Nowell, Dickerson, and Crisp all had very efficient games.  Green hit a few threes and Nahziah Carter had 11 points off the bench.  The Cougs were limited to 25% on threes, and that was that.  The Huskies coasted to an 80-62 victory.

The Huskies currently sit third in the Pac-12 at 5-3, behind Arizona at 8-1 and USC (that win over the Trojans looking better and better by the week) at 8-2.  We head into the biggest weekend of the regular season, as the Huskies host #25-ranked ASU on Thursday and #9-ranked Arizona on Saturday.  It would be season-altering if the Huskies found a way to win both of these games (or, at least, beat Zona); if you put a win over Arizona on top of their road wins against USC and Kansas, I don’t see how the NCAA Tournament could keep us out, barring a total collapse the rest of the way.  That’s three HUGE wins on our resume; but, of course, we have to get there first.

For the record, beating Arizona feels like a huge longshot.  The Wildcats were destroyed in three straight games in the Battle 4 Atlantis, but their only other defeat this entire season was a 3-point loss on the road to Colorado back in early January.  If you’re a believer in fate, you could say the Wildcats are due for another slip up (and the odds of them losing at WSU is the longest of longshots), so here’s hoping they settle for a bunch of jump shots that clang off the rim.

It’s much more likely that the Huskies end up taking out ASU, who was perfect coming into conference play, but have lost 5 of their last 9 games against the Pac-12.  Given their non-conference schedule – with wins over Kansas and Xavier – a win against ASU is still bound to look pretty impressive in the eyes of the committee.  We have to hope, of course, that the Sun Devils – immediately after losing to the Huskies – go on a nice little winning streak the rest of the way and actually make the tournament.  But, either way, if we only beat the Sun Devils this weekend, I’ll take it.

I don’t want to say it’ll be a disaster if we lose both, but it’ll be a huge disappointment.  After these games, there really aren’t any more opportunities to make an impact on our NCAA Tournament standing.  Maybe the game at Stanford, but they’ve been a very up-and-down team this year, so probably not.

Furthermore, if we lose both games, that’s pretty much it for our margin of error.  That would drop us to 5-5 in conference play, with 8 games to go (4 against the Oregon schools, 2 at home against the Mountain schools, 2 on the road in the Bay Area).  To even have a shot at the Tourney, the Huskies would have to go at least 6-2 in those games, and probably still have to win at least 2 games in the Pac-12 Tournament.  The Huskies, as presently constructed, COULD achieve that, but given their occasional offensive woes, it doesn’t seem entirely likely.

So, win 1 of 2 and live to fight another day.  Or, win 2 of 2 and punch your ticket to the NCAA Tournament right now!  Let’s go Dawgs!!!

Husky Basketball Salvages A Split On The Road Against The Mountain Schools

To me, I’m not seeing a whole lot of difference between Utah and Colorado from a talent perspective.  The Utes like the long ball a little more than the Buffaloes, and are a little less guard-heavy, but other than that, these two teams are pretty close.  Yet, against Utah, the Huskies lost by 8, and against Colorado, the Huskies won by 10.

The Huskies, with their zone, and their aggressive style of defense when it comes to steals and blocks, are able to mitigate a lot of talent disparities in Pac-12 play.  When they’re on, they can beat any team; when they’re off, they can lose to any team.  Now, obviously when you compare them to Gonzaga, or some of the other elite schools, the Huskies don’t have the talent to hang for very long.  But, against the Pac-12 so far, it’s fine.  The Huskies are probably in the upper half of the middle of the road.

But, offensively, the Huskies have a real problem.  As has been noted by anyone who has eyeballs, the Huskies tend to go silent on the offensive end for long stretches of game.  Against Utah, it was pretty much the entire first half, as the Utes ran out to a 35-24 halftime lead.  The Huskies were able to make a little bit of a run in the second half – getting as close as 64-60 with 2 minutes to go in the game – but ultimately didn’t have enough in the tank to close it out.

The Huskies shot just under 40% for the game, which is pretty normal for them, but they were a truly abysmal 2 of 18 from the 3-point line.  David Crisp was a mind-boggling 0 for 7, and Thybulle & Nowell combined to go 0 for 5.  Personally, I’d love it if Crisp just stopped shooting threes altogether, because he’s fucking terrible at it.  I mean, you KNOW he practices it all the fucking time, because it’s what he loves to do more than anything else on Earth!  How he can do that and still be so awful is one of those unsolvable mysteries I’ll never understand.  You can’t even call him streaky anymore, because Crisp is just on one season-long bad streak of jump-shooting.

Then, a couple days later, it was more of the same in the early going against Colorado, as poor shooting allowed the Buffs to jump out to a 7-0 lead, and later an 18-9 lead before the Husky Timeout Heard ‘Round The World.  There was around 8 minutes left in the first half, and from that point the Huskies went on a 27-9 run to get to halftime with a 9-point lead.  The improved shooting continued in the second half, and the Huskies pulled out a crucial win.

It was huge to avoid a 3-game losing streak, it helped leapfrog us back into 4th place in the conference, and it was yet another road victory to throw onto the pile.  We’re among the last four out on ESPN’s Bracketology, which is very impressive for this team.

The Huskies shot a whopping 50% from 3-point against the Buffs (8 of 19) and killed ’em on the boards.  Crisp kept it to 1 for 3, which is fine, but Thybulle, Nowell, and Dominic Green all crushed it (3/5, 2/5 and 2/5 respectively).  The Huskies need those guys to keep up the quality shooting to be a Tourney team, so keep those fingers crossed.

14-6 overall, 4-3 in conference, with 11 more games to go.  That’s one game against the Cougs (this Sunday), two more against the Mountain schools at home, and a whopping 4 games against the pretty mediocre Oregon schools.  Ideally, the Huskies will find a way to win 6/7 of those games, but that’s me being greedy.  If we take down 4/7 conservatively, that puts us at 18-9 (8-6) with 4 important games left over (two at home against the Arizona schools; two on the road in the Bay Area).  Win 2/4 of those (with one of the two coming against the Cardinal or Wildcats, that puts us at 20-11 (10-8) with impressive wins over at least two Tourney schools (maybe 3 if USC makes it; maybe more if some of those non-conference mid-major schools play well).  20-11 would put the Huskies firmly on the bubble, with the Pac-12 Tournament to go.  They’d definitely have to win their first game, and probably have to win 2 games to assure themselves a seat at the Dance.

Can’t let up against the Cougs this weekend.  Maybe more important than anything else is winning the games you’re supposed to win.  Padding out that record and getting into the top 3 or 4 in the conference regular season would be my preferred option.

Husky Basketball Split A Weekend Home Series Against The Bay Area Schools

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see a second of the Thursday night game against the California Golden Bears, because 8pm starts are a thing for the Pac-12, and with my schedule being what it is, I’m in bed by that time.

The Huskies did their thing, though, in beating Cal 66-56.  Cal was held to just under 36% shooting from beyond the arc, and missed more free throws than they hit to seal the deal.  The Huskies were pretty sloppy in their own right, but did just enough down the stretch, led by Jaylen Nowell’s 20 points and 5 boards.  Thybulle filled up the stat sheet as usual, Crisp hit a couple huge shots and didn’t force things offensively, and the Dawgs got double-digit scoring out of Dickerson and Nahziah Carter to round things out.

I was able to catch the Stanford game on Saturday night, which unfortunately never really went the Huskies’ way.  We found ourselves down 21-12 midway through the first half before a Husky run made it just a 2-point deficit at halftime.  Then, after trading some leads early in the second half, the Cardinal went on another run to go up 13 a little past the midway point.  The Huskies would go on another run to get to within 2 points at the under-4 time out, but we ultimately couldn’t sustain it and Stanford ended up winning by 9.

This was a tough one.  Stanford was 9-8 heading into this game, but only had 1 conference loss, and played a seriously difficult non-conference scheduled.  In other words, this team is MUCH better than their overall record, and I expect them to be a Tournament team (barring injury) come March.  The Huskies were able to keep them in check from the 3-point line, for the most part.  But, they just KILLED us on the boards, grabbing 48 to our 28 (and 14 on the offensive glass to our 3).  The Huskies did their damnedest, winning the turnover battle 18-10, out-blocking them by a whopping 12-3 margin, and beating them 10-4 in steals.  Ultimately, though, this game came down to poor Husky shooting.  5/22 from long distance, 37.5% overall, and only 17/26 from the charity stripe.  With foul trouble being pretty equal on both sides, the shooting thing was ultimately too big to overcome.

I think it’s encouraging that the Huskies can hang with a team like Stanford.  We play them again in late February, and it wouldn’t shock me if we somehow prevailed.

It’s unfortunate to drop a home game, but remember how far this team has come since last season.  It’s also important to note that the Huskies have been just as good on the road as they’ve been at home, and their style of play can work regardless of location.  This is fundamentally important, especially when you consider this team wants to get back to the NCAA Tournament, and ALL of those games are away from your home arena.

The Huskies look to limit this to a 1-game losing streak as they head to the Mountain schools this week.  Utah doesn’t appear to be particularly strong this year, and Colorado appears to be better than anyone expected.  I wouldn’t expect either of those things to matter, as it wouldn’t shock me if the Huskies won both games, lost both games, or split them either direction.

The Huskies Went On The Road And Beat #2 Kansas

This.  Was.  Incredible.

If this game happened in Hec Ed, you would’ve seen 5,000-some-odd people storming the court, but it feels so much bigger because it took place in the Sprint Center in Kansas City, so not only was this a road game, but it was a road game where they could manage to cram in MORE Jayhawks fans than if they’d played the game on campus.  And to not only win, but win COMFORTABLY, by a score of 74-65, I just don’t have the brain capacity to comprehend this.

This is the biggest win since dot dot dot:

Well, last year, the Huskies won all of 9 games (they’ve already won 7 this year, but shhh, don’t tell anyone), and they lost handily to every ranked opponent they played.

The year before, we had an NIT team, and the only ranked team we beat was a #25-ranked UCLA squad who wasn’t even good enough to crack the NIT.

The year before that, we were nothing, and somehow beat a #13-ranked Utah team at home (who would go on to the Sweet 16).  We also beat a #15-ranked Oklahoma team on a neutral floor that would also go on to the Sweet 16 and a #13-ranked San Diego State team at home that would go on to the Round of 32.  How that Husky team did nothing whatsoever in conference play is a testament to underachieving.

I could keep going, but the point is it’s been a long time since we’ve seen the Huskies win a game that huge.  I don’t remember them EVER winning against such a highly ranked team on the road; the last time they beat a Top 2 team was in 2004 when they hosted the #1-ranked Stanford Cardinal at the end of the season.

Obviously, we don’t know where Kansas will end up this season, but they’re definitely well-regarded at the moment (they were undefeated heading into the game, with wins over Kentucky and Syracuse), they’re a perennial powerhouse school in college basketball, and barring a total collapse or a rash of injuries, they should be a lock to play in the NCAA Tournament come March.  Are they REALLY a Top 10 team?  Time will tell.  But, right now they’re ranked #2 in the nation, and the Huskies handled them like I’ve never seen!

It was a thing of beauty.  For starters, that defense.  They essentially locked down the perimeter, did a good job staying with the big man down low, and dared the guy in the middle – a Junior guard by the name of Lagerald Vick – to single-handedly win the game on the offensive end.  True to form, he finished with 28 points, 7 assists, and 5 boards, but he was only 12/23 from the floor, and the next-highest scorer only had 10 points.  When you consider this is a Kansas team that lives for the 3-point shot, and has a couple of quality post players, Coach Hop came up with a stroke of genius in shutting them down.  Let’s just hope more teams don’t take this strategy; it would be really cool if Kansas finished the season in the Top 10, so at the very least we can hang our hat on this game being very important.

As impressed as I was about the Husky defense (and it shouldn’t be glossed over; these guys have bought in, and the zone defense really suits this team like a glove!  I think my favorite thing I’ve seen out of this team, from a defensive perspective, is a drastic reduction in ticky-tack fouls.  Sure, the zone will get beaten from time to time, but you don’t really see the Huskies compounding that by giving the opposing team an And One opportunity as often as you’d see under Romar.  I think that’s huge; not getting into early and frequent foul trouble.  I mean, let’s face it, most college players – particularly the One & Done types – don’t want to play defense.  That’s not what gets you into The League.  That’s where the zone comes in.  Sure, there are tons of zone-busting plays out there; it’s not a cure-all.  But, for one, to beat the zone you have to shoot well, and if you have an off night, you can lose to just about anyone deploying it.  Secondly, more often than not it’ll at least keep you in the game, so if YOU shoot well, you can still overcome the other team busting your zone.  It may not be as macho or whatever as playing man-to-man, but as we’ve seen under the last few years with Romar, if you don’t have the drive, the ability, and the mindset to be a good defender, then you’re essentially useless when you play man-to-man.  Also, don’t get me started on that abomination where they’d switch on every single pick play; what the shit was that???), I think I was even more impressed by the Husky offense!

I’ve seen Husky teams in the recent past hang in there against superior competition.  For a quarter, or a half, and once in a blue moon all the way to the last 4-5 minutes of the game!  But, inevitably, the Huskies – ever since Isaiah Thomas went to the Pros – lacked that one guy who could make a big shot in crunch time.  Last night, the Huskies didn’t really need anyone to play that role, but that’s only because the entire team stayed composed and made shots the whole game!

Things were a little dicey early, as Kansas jumped out to a 10-5 lead, and I wondered if we could stay within the 22-point spread.  But, as I just said, guys kept making shots and by halftime, the Huskies had worked their way to a 2-point lead, 36-34.

That lead ballooned to 52-44 early in the second half before Kansas went on a nice little run to pull the game to 53-52, with just under 10 minutes left in the game.  That was a real gut check time, as you could hear the crowd start to get into it, and it looked like the better team would finally take over.

Instead, not even three minutes later, the Husky lead was back to 10, 64-54, and it was just a matter of trading buckets to the finish line.

Don’t get me wrong, there were some daggers thrown in there.  That David Crisp three-ball with just over two minutes to go in the game felt like a real back-breaker, to put the Huskies up by 14.  With a good-shooting team like Kansas, you feel like no lead is safe.  Sure, they hit a couple garbage-time threes in the final minute, but they finished the game 5/20 from beyond the arc, and more importantly, were only 4/8 from the free throw line.  No three balls AND no free throws?  I’ll take that every single game!

Getting back, though, the Huskies shot 48.3% from the floor, and 42.9% from long range.  We also got to the line 15 times (only hitting 7).  Hell, we even out-rebounded them!

There wasn’t one star, or one guy carrying the entire team, which is what the Huskies are going to need to do if they want to keep this thing going.  Matisse Thybulle led the way with 19 points (hitting 5/8 from downtown), 4 boards, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block.  Jaylen Nowell had 17 points; Noah Dickerson had 13 points, 14 boards, and 5 assists.  David Crisp chipped in 10 points and 7 assists; Sam Timmins had 8 points and 3 boards in 18 minutes; and forward Hameir Wright came off the bench for 27 minutes, scoring 5 to go along with 6 boards and 3 blocks.

I just couldn’t be happier or more proud of this team.  The young guys are producing, the holdovers are buying in, and you can already see some steady improvement from where we were just one month ago when the season started.  Remember, the media predicted Washington would finish 10th in the conference!  Ahead of only Cal (who looks like a disaster) and Wazzu (who got off to a hot start, before losing their last two, including a 27-point drubbing to Idaho last night).  If the Huskies can continue to play this type of Team ball, who knows where we’ll end up?

I know this, a win on the road against #2 Kansas would look MIGHTY good on a team’s resume, if – for instance – that team happened to be on the bubble.

I’ll be the first to admit, I had zero expectations for that game last night, or this season in general.  The only reason I had the game on at all was to see just how close – or how far away – this team was compared to the best in the nation.  Now that they’ve won, and won handily, my interest has definitely perked up.  If they can go on the road to win in Kansas, what’s stopping this team from coming back home on Sunday and taking down #12 Gonzaga?

I’m not ready to predict a win just yet – after all, the Zags just lost to Villanova and are sure to be pretty salty about it – but before the game last night, there was NO QUESTION the Huskies would lose both of these games.  After the game last night, it’s not off the table that we might win both and find ourselves in the Top 25 next week.

Think about THAT!  Wouldn’t that be something?

I texted it to my friends last night, and I plan on keeping my promise:  every year, we go to the Reno/Tahoe area for the first weekend of March Madness to gamble on sports and drink our livers black for three straight days; the first thing I’m going to do when I land and get checked in is I’m going to place $100 on the Huskies against whoever they’re playing in the Tournament.  Because we’re fucking going!  That’s all there is to it!

The Husky Basketball Team Is Winning The Games They’re Supposed To Win

Since I last wrote about the Husky basketball team, they finished out the 2K Classic by getting blown out against Virginia Tech.  You could argue that both Providence and Virginia Tech are simply better basketball teams than the Washington Huskies, and you’d most likely be right.  They’re probably on par with most of the teams the Huskies will face in conference play, which is a scary proposition, but it makes sense.  They’re still gelling into a unit; they’re not ready to face the likes of major conference teams, or even the better Mid-Majors for that matter.  It’s going to take time; it might even take the whole season.  I guess we’ll find out.

Since then, the Huskies have ripped off three wins in a row against inferior competition:  Seattle U, UC Davis, and Kennesaw State.  In those games, we’ve learned a little more about the make up of this Husky basketball team.

Jaylen Nowell, at times, looks like the best player on the floor.  Other times, he looks like a Freshman, tentative and passive.  But, he’s clearly the most talented ball-handler on the Huskies, and over time should be the guy we turn to in crunch time to get the tough baskets.  He had 25 against Seattle and 21 against UC Davis, before a clunker of a game against K-State.  When he’s consistently leading this team in points, I think we’ll start to see something magical.

Noah Dickerson is our rock.  He won’t always be on fire, and sometimes he’s going to get into foul trouble, but whenever we get him going down low, it’s just going to open up so many things for our outside shooters.

Matisse Thybulle does it all.  He truly looks like he was made to play in this style of defense, as he’s 3rd in the nation in steals at 3.6 per game.  I think what we’re looking for is more consistency at the offensive end.  What he needs is improved confidence.  If he can just get a higher percentage of his shots to fall, he’s going to be a real weapon for this team as a 3rd/4th option.  With his defensive abilities, that’ll be a lethal combination.

David Crisp is a lot of things, but lacking in confidence isn’t one of them.  The Huskies will always be at their best when he’s hitting his shots, but at this point it doesn’t appear that he’s taken a great leap forward in his efficiency in that area.  So far, he’s actually averaging fewer shots per game, which is probably appropriate.  I don’t think you want to count on him to be your leading scorer game-in and game-out.  He’s at his best when he’s getting to the foul line, but if we’ve already got Nowell for that, I’d really like to see him bone up on his 3-point shot.  Those daggers he hits at the end of games are vital!  Let’s try to work on that form and have that be your game.

Finally, I’ll say that I’m pretty impressed with what I’ve seen out of Sam Timmins so far.  He didn’t look like he belonged anywhere NEAR a basketball court last year, and I’ll admit I was more than a little concerned with the prospect of him seeing more playing time this year due to the team’s lack of depth at the 4 and 5 spots.  But, he’s actually looked competent in the middle!  You don’t expect a lot out of him, but he’s a big man who can clean up the boards, hit some put-backs, and block a shot now and again.  Considering the talent around him, that’s all I really want from my starting center!  He’s not integral to the team’s success, so you don’t have to have him out on the floor to run the offense; they can easily drop him to go Small Ball on an opposing team.  But, if Dickerson gets into foul trouble, it’s nice to know we have Timmins in there to keep things running semi-smoothly.  Maybe in a year or two, he can develop more of an offensive game, but for now, he’s exactly what this team needs.

There’s one more candycane tune up against Omaha this weekend before the gauntlet of Kansas and Gonzaga.  I’m not expecting much out of either of those games, but it’ll be interesting nevertheless to see where we stand against some of the greats.

My Completely-Uninformed UW Men’s Basketball Preview 2017-2018

The first game of the non-conference slate starts on Friday.  But, with the Seahawks going through a Thursday game this week, I’m bumping this up to Wednesday to even out the week.

As the title alludes to, I don’t know much about this Husky basketball team.  None of us really do, though you’ll find more informed previews elsewhere.  We have a new head coach, obviously, in Mike Hopkins.  This is the first season since 2001 where we’re going into it without Lorenzo Romar, so that’s going to be different.

The hope is that Coach Hop can coach these guys up.  At the very least, I’d like to see some intensity on the defensive side of the floor, but if that exhibition game last week was any indication, we’re going to be in for a bit of a wait in that regard.  Part of that, quite frankly, will have to do with this transition period, and the players who are carrying over from one regime to the next.

This team is going to have to rely on the likes of Junior guard David Crisp, Junior forward Noah Dickerson, and Junior swingman Matisse Thybulle.  Those guys – along with incoming Freshman Jaylen Nowell – are going to carry this team, for good and for ill.  The holdovers haven’t been asked to play much defense thus far in their careers.  So, the question becomes:  do they buy in?  Or, do they go through the motions because they know this team can ill afford to bench them for any great length of time.  Without those three guys, this team might go winless this year, or damn near close to it.

Then again, even WITH those guys, the team likely won’t be very good.  That’s what happens when you’ve only got two Seniors on your roster, one who has 46 career minutes at the college level, and the other who is Dan Kingma.  And, after the big three, the other two Juniors on the squad are Dominic Green and Devenir Duruisseau.

So, yeah, young this team is.  Young and inexperienced and mediocre.  And, on top of that, lacking in quality big men!  There are four players who are 6’8 or taller.  One is Noah Dickerson, who will start, but who is also prone to foul trouble.  One is the aforementioned Duruisseau, who hasn’t done much of anything in his first two seasons, other than emergency fill-in duty when one (or, more likely, more than one) of our other big men got in foul trouble.  Then, there’s Sam Timmins, the center from New Zealand, who averaged 14.6 minutes last year, but never really made much of an impact.  And then there’s a Freshman by the name of Hameir Wright, who I don’t even know if he’s going to play this year or not.

I think, what’s going to end up happening, is you’re going to see a lot of small ball out of this team.  I think you’re going to see Dickerson at the 5, and some of our taller swingmen like Thybulle or Green playing at the 4.  But, essentially it’s going to be a 4-Guard situation, and oh by the way, can’t forget the fact that this team doesn’t really have a true quality point guard either.  Crisp will most certainly be the primary ball-handler, but he’s not a guy who can really create off the dribble.  I guess we’ll see about Nowell or the two Carter boys, hopefully that works itself out before we start conference play.

It doesn’t look like we’ll have Nate Pryor, who apparently isn’t academically eligible I guess?  That’s a bummer, I guess, but what can you do?

I don’t totally know where to peg this team as far as how it will rank in the Pac-12, but they were 11th last year, and that feels about right for this year too.  What I worry about, more than anything, is that there really isn’t one of those Take Charge type of players.  That guy you turn to when you need a big bucket at the end of the game.  The closest thing to that is probably David Crisp, and I’ve seen him clang more rushed jumpers off the rim to last a lifetime.  If that’s the guy we have to turn to when we’re tied, or down by 1-3 points inside a minute, we’re going to lose A LOT of games.  Prove me wrong!

It’s actually too bad this team won’t be good, because the schedule is pretty enticing.  We kick off the season this Friday against Belmont, who is a perennial Tournament darling.  Next week, we have the 2K Classic in Madison Square Garden against the likes of Providence, Saint Louis, and Virginia Tech.  We go to Kansas City in early December to face the Jayhawks in the Sprint Center; then on the 10th we come home to take on Gonzaga at Hec Ed.  Oh sure, THIS team will get killed by all those teams; but a GOOD team might be a lot of fun to watch against such robust competition.

As it stands, remember how the 2008 Husky football team had one of the toughest schedules in the entire league, with a non-conference slate against #3 Oklahoma, #15 BYU, and Notre Dame?  Remember how Oregon and USC were both really great that year and we ended up going 0-12?  Well, it’s damn near impossible for a basketball team to do something like that, and aside from Arizona, I’m not really sure how great the rest of the Pac-12 is in basketball this season, but a non-conference slate that features Kansas and Gonzaga, among those other teams, is a doozy for a rebuilding program like Washington.

It’s almost as if that non-conference schedule was built for a certain Lorenzo Romar-coached team, featuring a certain future #1 overall draft pick who now plays for Missouri.  But, I guess that’s not important.

You want something to root for?  Root for steady progress.  Root for this team building a real identity.  Root for the Huskies to pick up the intensity on defense.  Ultimately, root for this team to be better in March than it is right now.  So that maybe NEXT year we can dream a little bigger.  Dream about a spot in the NCAA Tournament in 2019 or 2020.  That’s not too much to ask.

It is too much to ask this team to be good right now.  So, don’t get your panties in a wad when they look awful.

Coach Hop Is Rounding Out His 2017 Class

After all the defections and transfers, we’re finally at a point where a team is starting to take shape for the 2017/2018 season.  First, there were a couple of lower-level pick-ups in Michael Carter III and Nate Pryor, both guards.  Then, they were able to hang onto erstwhile Romar recruit Jaylen Nowell, who is also a guard.  In lieu of going after some JuCo transfers (who are notoriously difficult for the Huskies to bring in, due to our stupid high academic standards), Coach Hop has opted to poach from his old New York stomping grounds, in picking up shooting guard Nahziah Carter (who just so happens to be Jay-Z’s nephew), and 6’8 small forward Hameir Wright (who was thought to be a 2018 recruit, but is planning to reclassify to this year).

What this continues to emphasize is the Huskies’ considerable lack of big men.  Dickerson is the only real true power forward on the roster, and our two centers are a couple of nobodies in Sam Timmins and Devenir Duruisseau.  Which means that we’re either going to be playing A LOT of small ball, or we’re going to be giving considerable playing time to a couple of ineffective centers just to play defense and hopefully not get in anyone’s way.

Ideally, the Huskies would find a way to make quasi-small ball work, with Dickerson at center and Wright at power forward, but that’s going to hinge on those two not getting into constant foul trouble.  If they can manage that, this isn’t as crazy as it sounds.  Mostly because the Huskies have a lot of good height among their swingmen.  Nahziah Carter is 6’5, Nowell is 6’4, Thybulle is 6’5, Green is 6’6, Carlos Johnson is 6’4, Carter III is 6’4.  The only guy who really figures to get a lot of playing time who’s under 6’4 is David Crisp.  As long as we defend well and give a lot of effort in the rebounding department, we shouldn’t get too killed for being undersized (except when we play the Arizonas of the world, which is what it is).

I’m keeping my expectations pretty low in his first season, understanding that these types of transitions take time to really make an impact.  At this point, I’d settle for a team that’s fun to watch and maybe wins a few games it shouldn’t, but ultimately loses too many games it should, and finds itself in the N.I.T. range.  With the way the NBA is turning into a long-range shooting league, you’d think that sort of strategy would be ideal for a small-ish team like the Huskies, to just spread everyone out, drive the lane, and pass the ball well.  Ultimately, where size might kill us is defensively, if teams continuously decide to go after the likes of Dickerson to get him into foul trouble.  Hopefully, the coaching staff is working on making up for this deficiency somehow.