Husky Basketball Is In Desperate Need For A Shooter To Emerge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Husky Basketball Team 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.

Naz Carter Was Suspended From Husky Basketball For Reasons Unclear

In huge news for the Husky men’s basketball team, Naz Carter has been suspended for a violation of the “Intercollegiate Athletics Code of Conduct”. We have been given no further specifics and apparently the school isn’t saying anything more on the matter. Presumably, this means his career at the University of Washington is over, but again, we have no idea.

Given what he tweeted out (as noted HERE), I’ll go ahead and speculate by saying he likely received a gift of some kind – maybe from a famous/rich uncle/hip hop superstar – that was determined to be beyond the bounds of college athletics decency. But, you know, I’m willing to be wrong here.

This obviously has a pretty huge impact on the 2020/2021 Huskies (whenever their season starts), because Naz Carter was the third-leading scorer last year, and the TOP returning scorer (with Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels leaving to go pro). Behind Carter, we have Quade Green (who was suspended for the back-half of last season for academic reasons, but should be back in good standing going forward) who averaged 11.6 points per game. Everyone else averaged less than 10 points.

So. Yeah.

This will be an interesting year! Considering the Huskies finished dead last a season ago, I’ll be curious to see who steps up. There are a lot of holdovers who got their feet wet, which is a plus. But, there appears to be a void in leadership. Who will step up in crunch time? That man likely would’ve been Carter, and I would’ve loved to have seen if he was up to the task. Now? I think it’s probably Quade Green, which is fine. But, I also think we’re going to have to rely on him to do A LOT to make this team function.

Before this suspension, I liked our chances to be a team that shares the burden pretty evenly (rather than relying on 5-star one-and-doners). I think that’s still a possibility – at least, that’s the best-case scenario for this season – but at some point you also need talented basketball players. And, I just don’t know.

It’s more important than ever for the Huskies to get their transfers up to speed (and for the NCAA to allow them to play right away, vs. having to wait a year), so fingers crossed on that end. Really, this has the potential to be a fun and exciting group! We have no idea how it’s going to look, so at least at first the newness will be a bonus.

But, there’s a legitimate likelihood that the Huskies will stink, which is a shame. I think we all have a high opinion of the job Coach Hop has done in his short time here. Well, he’s really going to earn his stripes with this group. He’s proven himself to be a pretty adept recruiter. His zone defensive scheme has worked wonders. But, as a head coach, how good is he? Is he able to get the most out of his players? Out of an inferior (on paper) squad? That’ll really tell the tale and set the stage for the rest of his career. Is he one of the greats? If so, then he should be able to make some chicken salad come 2021.

If we’re stuck with chicken shit, that doesn’t mean he’s necessarily a BAD head coach. But, it’ll be disappointing nevertheless.

The Wheels Have Fallen The Fuck Off Of Husky Basketball

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m Bummed By Chris Petersen Leaving The Washington Huskies

We got some pretty disasterous news this week that last Friday will be the last time Coach Pete whups up on the Cougs in the Apple Cup, as he’s planning on leaving the University of Washington following our bowl game later this month. Okay, technically he’s staying on in an “advisory role” but that’s effectively meaningless. He won’t be coaching, he won’t be recruiting, so to quote the Bobs from Office Space, “what would you say … you do here?”

I mean, this just sucks so damn hard. Now, I’ve not only got to worry about guys from our great recruiting classes leaving, I’ve got to worry about current players transferring, AND I’ve got to worry about the future of the program? Even if we keep the majority (which, I have no reason to believe we wouldn’t be able to keep most of ’em, since there will be a lot of continuity among the coaching staff, I’m sure) you’re talking about a HUGE step down in reputation from one of the all-time greats to a guy just getting his first-ever head coaching gig.

The concept of winning a national championship is pretty far out there. If you’re not Clemson, Ohio State, Bama, or one of the other SEC schools, I mean let’s face it, a lot has to go right. Even when you look at Washington as one of those lower-tiered schools, you’re still talking about having to compete with the likes of USC, Oregon, Stanford, Utah, and usually Oklahoma or whatever school wins the Big-12 just to get that fourth and final playoff spot (one goes to Clemson, one goes to the Big 10 winner, and 1-2 goes to the SEC depending on the year). The point is: it’s really fucking hard, if not impossible; but with Chris Petersen I always felt like we had a CHANCE. And, that means everything as a college football fan. Even in an era where the very best teams keep getting better and better (and the distance between the top 3 or 4 programs and everyone else grows farther and farther), you always had to like Washington as a destination, and the biggest reason for that was Coach Pete.

Not to shit all over Jimmy Lake – indeed if there are no sinister reasons behind this and Petersen is just burned out by the whole recruiting process – you getting Lake to stay is a pretty significant “get” to keep some continuity in the program, but he’s an unknown from a head coaching standpoint. He certainly could’ve gotten his own job by now with the way he’s recruited and the way he’s coached up our defense, but Coach Pete was always the ultimate draw. Sure, Jimmy Lake worked his ass off, but those players were coming here because of Petersen’s integrity and his reputation as a winner.

It sucks all the more because Chris Petersen is only 55 years old. He could’ve EASILY coached another 20 years and really set this program up to be something special for decades to come! I’m not saying Jimmy Lake CAN’T do that, but there’s that uncertainty. We had only 6 years with Coach Pete. He somehow got here AFTER Pete Carroll came to the Seahawks, and is leaving BEFORE the very oldest coach in the NFL today. It just feels like we were robbed of some true stability.

I mean, maybe Jimmy Lake can be that guy. Maybe HE can be here for 20+ years and really build a legacy. I hope so. The last thing I want for Washington is to do this New Coach Dance every 5-6 years, where we hire someone, he does okay, then he moves on to a bigger and better program and we have to start all over again. I thought I’d be getting a nice long break from that; now I’m right back down in the mental shit.

Hell, I’m two years into Mike Hopkins’ tenure with the basketball program and I’m already obsessed with where he’ll be next! I don’t need this right now!

The Husky Basketball Team Looks Young, Inexperienced, & Totally Dominant

This team can be all things to all people. Right now, they’re 2-0 and ranked 20th in the nation.

I watched every minute of the game in Alaska against Baylor – at the time ranked 16th in the AP poll – and zero minutes of the home game against Mount St. Mary’s last night. So, I’m right about where you would expect me to be in terms of knowledge about this team.

Early on against Baylor, we looked disjointed, overly-excited, and moving as fast as humanly possible without doing any thinking whatsoever. I saw a lot of wild drives down the court and to the hoop, a lot of us dipping our shoulders and charging into someone, and an overall sense of sloppiness. Which is pretty much what should’ve been expected. I feel like at any point that game could’ve gotten out of our grasp and we could’ve lost by 20+ points.

But, the sheer, raw talent by the Huskies is what kept us in it. We were never much more than a stone’s throw away from catching the Bears, but it would take a significant run to get us over the hump.

Things turned around midway through the second half. Baylor took a 57-44 lead with just under 10 minutes to go in the game. That’s when it all started to come together for the Huskies, where talent met execution. Now, it wasn’t easy! Against a lesser team, I’d like to believe the Dawgs would’ve ripped off a huge wad of points. But, against an elite defensive team like the Bears, we just sort of wore them down, bit by bit, for a 67-64 victory.

Junior guard Naz Carter was the star in this one, with his game-leading 23 points on 8/15 shooting (including 4/6 from behind the arc), and Isaiah Stewart was the hero with the go-ahead points in the final minute, but Jaden McDaniels was the glue that brought everything together. He was an absolute revelation. I asked heading into the season who would be the guy who takes over a game when the chips are down, and McDaniels appears to be the one. He can shoot, he can drive, he can pass, he can rebound, he can defend. He’s a complete package and he’s coming in right away ready to take things over.

I loved every single thing we saw from our new Big 3. Time will tell as to how the rotations shake out, but the role players on this team figure to help out quite a bit. Quade Green – who won his appeal and gets to start for us immediately – looks like the first true, elite point guard we’ve had since I.T. His shooting hasn’t quite come around yet, but I highly doubt he’ll be the liability we’ve seen from most of our point guards since Thomas’s final season. Hameir Wright looks like a more natural shooter, with a lot more confidence, and will help immensely in spreading the floor on offense – to afford Stewart more of an opportunity to work down low.

For the most part, we’ve been treated to just a 7-man rotation, with Jamal Bey and Elijah Hardy getting most of the bench minutes, but I feel like that’s bound to change once we get deeper into the season and more guys lower on the depth chart start to assert themselves. I’ll tell you what, if this sees us with fewer Timmins minutes (other than to help out when guys get in early foul trouble), all the better.

The Huskies looked impressive when they went big, with Bey in there for Green. Bey isn’t a natural ball-handler, but we’re MASSIVE on the defensive side of the ball. It’s a nice wrinkle to throw at teams and I’m curious to see how they respond. Against Baylor, we went big for a lot of our late-game comeback, and I could see us doing that a lot as this team grows and needs to change things up to create a spark.

I also found it interesting to see us playing man-to-man. It didn’t happen a lot against Baylor, but there was a brief spell in the first half, and most crucially on the final play of the game, with Baylor down and looking to tie it up. It was a BRILLIANT maneuver that totally caught them off guard; they couldn’t come up with anything close to a reliable shot as time expired.

I wasn’t surprised to see the Huskies struggle in the home-opener last night against the Mountaineers. It sounded like Mt. St. Mary’s really grounded the game to a halt with their long possessions, and they refused to let the Huskies pull away by making some timely shots. It also sounded like the Huskies settled for way too many outside shots and that might be a problem in the non-conference slate.

I didn’t love how selfish a lot of the guys were when I saw them against Baylor. Quade Green is the only one really looking to pass the rock; I saw A LOT of hero ball, particularly on fast break opportunities, where guys were just running into Baylor players looking to get fouled. I mean, we took so many unnecessary blocks in that one; I’m MUCH more concerned about that than the turnovers everyone else is mentioning. Yeah, it’s a young, hungry Husky team, they’re going to commit turnovers. But, let’s work on making the extra pass in transition! Let’s convert these opportunities into points!

This start couldn’t be any better, all things considered though. We have our first legitimate non-conference victory in two years – since we went on the road against #2 Kansas in Hop’s first year – and I think this one is gonna hold up. I think Baylor is for real, and if they stay healthy, they’ll remain in the Top 25 for the duration and figure to secure a high seed in the NCAA Tourney. That’s going to be great for our overall resume.

No time to dine out on that one though, as we head to Toronto for another non-conference showdown, this time against the Tennessee Volunteers, who are currently 30th in AP voting. So, this is far from a gimme, and figures to be another quality opponent for us to tout for our March Madness resume. It’s a lot to ask of a team this young to go out and fight against two superior schools this early in the season, but I’m not ruling anything out at this point. We can sleep when we’re dead (which, in this case, would be the five cupcakes between Tennessee and Gonzaga in early December).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s on top of returning players including:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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