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.

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 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.

All Things Considered, This Season Couldn’t Have Started Worse For Husky Basketball

The Huskies are 5-2 after a tougher-than-it-had-to-be victory over Eastern Washington last night.  I’m still pretty sure I haven’t seen a minute of this team play this season, but let’s get real.  These are the same guys we’ve seen for 4 years.  They’ve progressed a nominal amount.  So, in that sense, it’s like I’ve seen EVERY game.

Now, part of why I haven’t seen the Huskies play this season has to do with the Pac-12 conference and our inept commissioner, Larry Scott, who is this disease that just won’t go away.  The exposure-level for this conference is non-existent.  These games against some relatively good schools are being televised NOT on the Pac-12 Network – because no one HAS the fucking Pac-12 Network – but rather the SEC Network (at Auburn) or the Big 10 Network (Minnesota).  It’s 2018 and I live in Tacoma, Washington.  I shouldn’t have to listen to the radio in 2018 to know what my basketball team is doing, because I don’t subscribe to the most elite sports cable package in existence!  These games should be on NORMAL cable sports networks, and they’re not, and that’s a failing that goes right to the top.

Also, I mean, what’s with these 8pm starts?  Are you fucking kidding me?  Who on the East Coast is going to be able to stay up until an 11pm start time to watch our product?  We have ZERO national presence in a day and age where sports are more popular than ever and they’re more in demand than ever!  If ESPN wants to shunt us off to the middle of the night, then maybe we don’t do a deal with ESPN anymore.  Maybe we jump to FOX or maybe we take our product to Amazon, and we get some reasonable fucking start times for these games!

But, I digress.  Our worthless commissioner isn’t the only reason why this season is going down the shitter.  The conference itself is in the worst shape I’ve ever seen it in.  Oregon is the only team in the Top 25.  ASU and UCLA are receiving votes, but come on.  I read somewhere that the Pac-12 has the worst record against Quadrant 1 and Quadrant 2 teams among all the power conferences, and it’s not even close!  Time’s running out in the non-conference season, and there’s no reason for that to get any better over the next month.  We’re going to head into conference play – where we always cannibalize ourselves into oblivion – as the consensus worst power conference in basketball and when it comes to Tournament time, we’d be LUCKY to get 3 teams in.  Odds are, it’ll be 2.  Non-power conferences are going to start lapping us!

How is it that an entire 12-team conference can be so bad at bringing in basketball talent?  And how can we be so bad at developing the talent we do have?!

The longer this goes on, the more ingrained in the rest of the nation this perception (reality) is going to be.  We’re ALREADY an afterthought in any national college basketball column, at what point are we ignored entirely?  At what point do we become the Sun Belt Conference?

So, we’ve got that going for us.  Then, there’s our actual record.  2 losses against the only 2 quality opponents we’ve faced this season.  Auburn’s a top 10 team, and the game was played down there, so that’s understandable.  But, losing that game to Minnesota on a last second shot – where we essentially threw the game away on a Jaylen Nowell turnover with an opportunity to extend our lead and at least push it into overtime – is a crisis-level event.

Looking forward, the odds of going to Gonzaga and beating the #1 team in the nation is 0.00%.  Even if that game wasn’t starting at 8pm, there’s no fucking way in hell I’d watch that massacre!  That puts us at 0-3 against the big teams.  All that’s left is a neutral-floor game against a highly-ranked Virginia Tech team.  Where is that “neutral-floor”?  Atlantic City.  2,836 miles away from Seattle, and only 446 miles from Blacksburg, VA.  You tell me, who’s more likely to win that one?

Ultimately, it’s probably going to come down to whether or not the Huskies can win the Pac-12 Tournament.  Given the state of the conference, I like our chances as much as anyone.  It would help if we could get into the Top 4 and have a BYE for that first round.  But, I mean, I’ve watched this team.  I’ve watched it for four years.  It’s the same team that can’t shoot, that goes LOOOOONG stretches without scoring, and while it has some nice defensive pieces, it still gets into foul trouble at the drop of a hat.  I would NEVER trust this team to win 3 consecutive conference games with our season on the line!

The fact of the matter is, this team just isn’t getting any better.  It is what it is.  When we shoot well – like we did, for the most part, last night against the Eagles – we’ll most likely win.  When we don’t, and we’re stuck playing a close game down to the final possession, we just don’t have the talent to win in crunch time.

We’re in our second season post-Romar, but being stuck with all of his guys makes it feel like nothing’s changed.  I can’t wait until we’re able to cycle through these duds and see what Coach Hopkins can do with his own players.

The 25th-Ranked Husky Men’s Basketball Team Is Going To Make The NCAA Tournament In 2019

All the cool sports shit in Seattle right now is happening at the University of Washington.

Last year, the Husky Men’s Basketball team won 20 games in the regular season, went 10-8 in conference play, lost in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament to the Oregon State Beavers, and went 1-1 in the NIT, ultimately losing to Boise State.  It was a better first season for new head coach Mike Hopkins than anyone had any right to expect considering the circumstances, and ultimately it’s a nice jumping-off point for a team that should finally get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011.

First of all, it’s crazy how long it’s been.  It’ll be 8 years this March; that is far FAR too long between appearances.  Even if the Huskies literally have no chance of ever winning the national championship – because we’re not one of those elite teams and we never will be – it’s still nice to be tricked once in a while into believing.  It beats a constant stream of mediocrity and underperforming.

This year should be fun, even if the Pac-12 is as down as it always is.  We’ve got a road game against Auburn, a neutral-court game against Texas A&M, we continue our series against Gonzaga by playing them in their zoo of an arena, and for good measure we face another ranked team in Virginia Tech in a neutral location.  If nothing else, our strength of (non-conference) schedule looks to be one of the better ones in all of college basketball.  We’ll see how it all shakes out by the end of the season, but right now you can’t say the Huskies are loaded with cupcakes and only cupcakes!

I would also argue that it takes a team this laden with veteran talent to handle a schedule like that.  It’s the perfect storm, really, because we’ve got 4 Seniors who figure to play significant minutes, on top of stud Sophomore Jaylen Nowell, all of whom are in their second year in Hop’s program.  I don’t think a team loaded with youngsters could withstand this schedule, not if you’re teaching a bunch of new kids a brand new scheme.

Barring a slew of injuries, this team – led by Nowell, Noah Dickerson, Matisse Thybulle, David Crisp, and Dominic Green – should have no trouble handling the pressure that comes with increased expectations.  All of those guys can score (in a variety of ways) and defend with the best of ’em.  On top of which, we’ve got a number of quality role players to jump in there.  Sam Timmins, Junior Center, had a lot of important minutes last year and should only be more comfortable with his job as a starter playing reserve duty.  Hameir Wright and Nahziah Carter both flashed as Freshmen last year and figure to see increased time and responsibilities.  Already we’re talking about a team that’s 8-deep, and we haven’t even gotten to the rest of the guys on this team.

The fact of the matter is, I don’t know how reasonable it is to expect too much from the rest.  The roster does look like it’s in pretty good shape, both for this year and going forward.  There aren’t any glaring holes or weaknesses.  We’re 3-4 deep at big man, with Dickerson, Timmins, and Wright leading the way.  We’ve also got incoming Freshman Bryan Penn-Johnson who’s got a college-ready body right now; he’ll likely get his feet wet depending on matchups and foul issues with the other guys ahead of him on the depth chart.  We’ve got a team full of ‘tweeners with long arms, a team full of shooters; you could say we’re a little thin at point guard, but I’d argue any number of guys from Nowell to Thybulle to maybe even Green or Carter could handle the rock in a pinch.  The other Freshman I’d be looking at is Elijah Hardy, a 6’2 point guard who could very well push Crisp for minutes.

As always, I think this team goes as far as Crisp takes them.  The good news is, I thought he started to make some strides last year in transitioning from a shoot-first deep threat to a guy more comfortable driving in the paint and looking to make plays.  I thought his game against Nevada the other day was telling.  The Huskies went on the road and beat a consensus Top 10 team in a meaningless exhibition game, but we didn’t treat it as such.  Noah Dickerson sat out with an injury, but the other main guys all played over 30 minutes.  Sure, Crisp was 2 for 6 from long range (not a great percentage, but honestly an improvement over what he’s averaged so far in his college career), but he was 6 for 9 from inside the arc, which hopefully means he’s not just looking to jack crazy bombs all year long.

I’ll be most interested in seeing how the rotations are set up and how minutes are divided.  Assuming everyone’s healthy, you figure Dickerson, Thybulle, Nowell, and Crisp will all be starters and play starters’ minutes.  Timmins figures to be a starting center, with Wright coming in off the bench and besting him in total minutes.  You figure Green will be the 6th man – with occasional spot starts, depending on matchups – to give us a scoring boost off the bench.  And, Carter and the other youngsters will be wild cards.  These things are always fluid over the course of a long season, but assuming everything goes according to plan, it’s pretty easy to see how this team shakes out.

The big variable is how the Pac-12 looks.  It’s weird seeing a pre-season Top 25 rankings without Arizona listed.  I can’t imagine they’ll ever be bad, but they are young and all the legal allegations swirling around the program can’t be good for their focus.  UCLA and Oregon are both ranked, which feels right.  Figure the Bruins will be disappointing and the Ducks will be pretty solid.  Nevertheless, not having a huge Top 10 program in the Pac-12 would appear to be a benefit to a team like Washington, whose non-conference schedule figures to do the heavy lifting.  Being as veteran as we are, I wouldn’t anticipate this team needs a lot of time to gel, so we should come out of the gate pretty strong and ready to upset some of these better teams.

We play all the Pac-12 North teams twice each, so if Oregon remains good, that’s two more opportunities for important wins.  We also play the mountain schools twice; while never really all that impressive, they’re usually decent enough that if they rip off a bunch of wins, they could always sneak into the Top 25.  We play the Arizona schools on the road and the L.A. schools at home (in back-to-back weeks, no less) so take that for what it’s worth.

I’ll be massively upset and disappointed if the Huskies don’t make the NCAA Tournament this year.  Mike Hopkins is getting more out of these players than Romar ever did.  While that’s not necessarily enough to be concerned about losing Hop to bigger and better programs, it’s enough to put him on notice around the rest of college basketball.  The real test of how good of a coach he is will come after all these Seniors graduate and he’s starting from scratch with his own guys.  Luckily, we’re still a year away from that headache.  For now, we get to enjoy the fun new feeling of being relevant in Men’s Basketball again.  I missed this.

The Huskies Went 1-1 In The NIT

I was a little distracted by my trip to Reno for the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, so I didn’t really get to see any of the Huskies in the NIT.  Scheduling issues, you know how it is.

Last Wednesday, while I was in an airplane, the Huskies hosted the Boise State Broncos and beat them 77-74 in double-overtime.  Nowell and Thybulle really dominated the show, as the team hit nearly 50% from behind the arc.  Sounded like quite the impressive game that I would’ve enjoyed a lot.

Then, last night, the Huskies went on the road to play top-seeded Saint Mary’s.  We put up a valiant effort, but fell short, 85-81.  Noah Dickerson was a monster, with 22 points and 9 boards, and Nahziah Carter went 4 for 4 from behind the arc in netting 14 total points off the bench.

This was a really fun season for Husky basketball; something I don’t think any of us really anticipated.  With Romar getting fired, a bunch of our recruits jumping ship, and Mike Hopkins coming across the country to try to bring this team together in a few short months, it would’ve been more reasonable to expect another bottoming-out type season.  Or, at best, hovering around .500 in non-conference play before falling off against the Pac-12 teams.  Thankfully, the Huskies gelled, were able to get some signature victories against the likes of Kansas and Arizona, and were helped by the Pac-12 being pretty fucking terrible as a whole.

Nevertheless, there’s a lot of hope for next year and beyond.  I don’t think anyone is really in a position to leave for the NBA, which means we’re set to have one of the more veteran teams in the conference.  That hasn’t been the case in I don’t know how long.  Probably not since the LAST time the Huskies made the NCAA Tournament, in 2011.

Crisp, Thybulle, Dickerson, and Green will all be Seniors (assuming none of them go pro or transfer).  Timmins and Carlos Johnson will be Juniors (assuming they stick around).  And, Nowell, Wright, and Nahz Carter will all be Sophomores.  Aside from Johnson (who I have to believe will go to another school, as he’s getting buried on the depth chart), these are all players who contributed quite a bit to making this Husky season a success.

And that’s not even counting the incoming recruits.  The Huskies just secured a 4-star center, Bryan Penn-Johnson, to go along with 4-star guard Jamal Bey, and three other 3-star players who will look to compete for minutes next season.  Things are looking UP for the Washington Huskies for the first time in a long time.  I’m proud of these kids.  I hope they work really hard and are rewarded with a berth in the NCAA Tournament next year.