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.

Husky Basketball Looked Slightly Improved

I’m obviously not going to go nuts about one win against a crap team, but I think we all need to adjust our thinking on the Washington Huskies. For starters, as much as the Pac-12 Network wants to push this narrative that their basketball teams are BACK, let’s calm down. They had one good run in the NCAA Tournament last season, but let’s see this take place over multiple years before we make any proclamations.

I’m not going to just take for granted that the Pac-12 is a Power Five conference. I’ll believe it when I see it. I’m also not going to just take it for granted that since Washington is in a so-called Power Five conference, that they automatically deserve the respect normally granted those teams. I see Washington as no better than any of these low-level schools coming in here that no one has heard of. They’re no different than the Northern Illinois Huskies (who they lost to on Tuesday), and they’re no different than the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks (who they defeated last night, 73-62).

It can be easy to get angry at the games we’ve watched this week. As Washington fans, we tend to have high expectations. We expect, for instance, to see our Huskies blow out the types of teams we’ve played this week. So, when we struggle to eke one out, it’s just as aggravating and galling as if we lost to them. You can’t have that mindset with this team, though. They’re not this elite collection of basketball players; they’re mostly transfer guys who couldn’t hack it anywhere else, so they returned home – tails between their legs – to see if they could salvage something of their college careers before they run out of eligibility.

If you see Washington as on the same level as these other teams, then you got to witness two pretty entertaining – if sloppy – games this week! Sure, the shooting is pretty horrendous from the Huskies. But, they’re much more active on defense than they were the last couple years, and they’ve actually got guys who can drive the paint and draw fouls. It beats what we’ve had here recently, where they couldn’t drive AND they couldn’t shoot.

The key last night was not continually digging themselves into a hole. The Huskies mostly kept it close through the first half, before pulling away late in the game.

This one had a slightly different feel, in that it wasn’t so Nate Roberts-centric. He still managed to finish with 8 boards and 2 blocks, and was really active in the second half. The star of this one was Emmitt Matthews, who is quickly becoming my favorite player on this team. He’s always slashing, always deflecting balls, always putting back rebounds, and he even hit a couple outside shots (which doesn’t appear to be his game, but I’ll be happy to be wrong if he continues to hit 50% from long range). Matthews tore up the box score: 21 points and 9 boards. He shot 7/14 from the field, 2/4 from three, and hit 5/7 free throws. Excellent!

Bey, Brown, and Davis all scored in double-figures as well. Jamal Bey had a REALLY frustrating game to watch. He turned down too many wide open jumpers (even though he hit 2/3 from beyond the arc) for reckless drives in the paint that had no chance of going in. Also, he had 3 turnovers, but it felt like he had 8. Everything about this game felt off, but he still had 15 points, 4 boards, and 2 steals. Which goes to show you he’s gifted; it just doesn’t feel like he has the confidence to take charge on this team.

Brown’s game was much more quiet than on Tuesday, but he still finished with 11 points, 4 boards, and 2 steals. I’d like to say he spent more of the game distributing the basketball, but with everyone driving instead of shooting the open shots he was dishing to them, he only finished with 1 assist (and, again, the Huskies as a team had only 5 assists, after having that many on Tuesday). I was encouraged to see Brown start to assert himself late in the game, as the Lumberjacks started to pull the game close (he was 3/3 on free throws, and that seems like it’ll be a good source of points for him in games where the Huskies lead late). Davis was also a big part of this one, finishing with 10 points (on 3/9 shooting), with 5 boards, 2 assists, 2 steals, and a block.

The bench hasn’t been a significant contributor to this team just yet, but I liked what I saw from P.J. Fuller (4 points, 3 steals, and 2 blocks). And I want to shout out freshman Jackson Grant. I didn’t even know we HAD high schoolers coming here anymore; I thought Washington was strictly a transfer program now! It’s nice to see us not only trying to bring in high schoolers, but actually getting them minutes on this team. He’s a forward, which helps, since we’re so thin there. But, he hasn’t looked bad at all! Indeed, in this one, he led the bench in scoring with 7 points, and also had 4 boards. Most importantly, he passed the eye test; he looked like he belonged out there, and he wasn’t just some gangly white guy getting minutes because he’s tall and wide.

It’s not all roses and sunshine, of course. In the old way of thinking, I would say this is a game the Huskies are supposed to win. I’m trying to quit that mindset, because then I’d be upset we didn’t beat them by more. The Huskies can be maddening to watch. Lots and LOTS of unforced errors, on both sides of the court. There were still a distressing number of wide-open threes attempted by the Lumberjacks; fortunately they weren’t nearly as hot as Northern Illinois (hitting just 4/12). I don’t know if the perimeter defense is something that’s going to get better. I think it is what it is, and sometimes teams will be hot, and sometimes they’ll be cold. Some teams will look to make that a focus, and some teams will try to get their points inside.

I’m more concerned with the Huskies offensively. I like that the drive into the paint is still a thing; I like that we’re still getting to the free throw line (hitting 24/35 in this one; slight improvement over Tuesday). I think those are sustainable modes of scoring that we can count on for the entire season. The outside shooting gets an Incomplete grade from me, though it’s not looking good. It would be nice if ONE guy could step up and not only be aggressive shooting the ball, but hit a relatively high percentage of those shots.

How long of a leash are we giving Cole Bajema, by the way? He’s supposedly the team’s best 3-point shooter, yet he’s attempted exactly one of them in two games (over 37 combined minutes off the bench). What are we doing here? He’s looked lost in all the time I’ve watched him this week. It doesn’t look like he knows how to shoot, how to pass, how to defend; he fails the eye test. If he’s playing because of his perimeter jumper, then he needs to start busting it out in a big way, otherwise I can’t justify giving him these extended minutes in games.

Next game’s on Monday. I’ll be watching. This is fun! It’s a crappy team, but it’s an entertaining kind of crap that I can get behind!

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.

Husky Basketball Is Going Down The Shitter

On New Year’s Eve, I wrote about how the Huskies were in great shape heading into conference play. Then, six games and a Quade Green suspension (for lack of a better word) later, here we are, 2-4 in Pac-12 play, coming off of our best remaining chance for a real signature victory.

The Baylor game feels like a million years ago.

Earlier, I was harping on offensive rebounds, and they’re still a problem, but not as glaring as before. It’s just a lot of little things. Slow starts, an inability to get the ball to Isaiah Stewart in the post, an inability to shoot from behind the arc, turnovers, poor free throw shooting, lack of a true point guard.

The loss at home to Oregon on Saturday was a bitter pill. Of course, ANY loss to Oregon is a bitter pill, but this one really hurt our chances of making the NCAA Tournament. A win there, and it’s not hard to imagine that – combined with a victory over Baylor (still their only loss of the season, as they’ve risen to #1 in the AP Poll) – would’ve been enough for a .500 Husky team to sneak into an 11 or 10 seed. But, now we REALLY need to rip off a lot of wins the rest of the way, as well as make a good showing in the Pac-12 Tourney.

The loss to the Ducks is even worse considering how much we dominated that game, up as many as 16 points with under 14 minutes to play.

One big issue the Huskies need to rectify in a hurry is figuring out our rotation. We pulled Marcus Tsohonis’ red shirt with the Quade Green fiasco, as it doesn’t look like Elijah Hardy is ready to take on a starter’s load. Tsohonis looked great against the Beavers, and that continued through the first half against the Ducks. But, there was some sloppy ball-handling down the stretch, as well as his BRUTAL 0 for 4 at the free throw line that ultimately cost us any chance at winning that one.

He was not alone in the blame.

It’s hard to watch Jaden McDaniels right now, because he looks absolutely dreadful. He might go on to greatness in the NBA – he might even turn things around this season in a likely one-and-done college career – but he’s fucking awful and has been this team’s biggest disappointment (yes, even bigger than a 5-star point guard ruled academically ineligible for a quarter). He’s a mediocre 3-point shooter; he shoots WAY too many long 2-pointers. He thinks he’s a better passer and ball-handler than he actually is; he turns it over way too much. In general, he seems like a bad decision-maker and has a bad overall attitude (if he’s not getting baited into making angry, reactionary fouls, then he just looks like a sulking, pissy baby). I think it’s clear he has zero interest in the game of college basketball and is counting down the days until he can go pro and forget all of this ever happened. Of course, as this is happening, his stock is clearly falling, because what has he brought to the table? How has he progressed since his high school days? I’m sure he’ll still get picked in the first round based on potential, but he could’ve gone in the Top 10 or Top 5 if he decided to actually give a shit.

Most of all, the Huskies just don’t have anyone who can create late in games when we absolutely need a bucket. The last ten minutes of regulation against Oregon were the most excruciating moments of my life, and I’ve had a catheter tube ripped from my pee-hole! The book is out on Washington: double or triple-team Isaiah Stewart and force literally anyone else (mostly Hameir Wright and his 28.6% field goal percentage) to try to beat you. If the Huskies go cold from long range, there’s no one who can dribble drive and create in the paint. There’s no Jaylen Nowell or Isaiah Thomas; hell, I’d settle for Game Overton at this point!

That play-maker was supposed to be McDaniels, but clearly he’s got his own thing going and that’s cool. It’s weird that the Huskies played their best, most complete game of the season against Oregon State last Thursday (a 64-56 victory that only got THAT close in garbage time) when McDaniels was out with an ankle injury.

I wonder if the biggest problem for this team isn’t the fact that we have TOO MANY good players. There just aren’t enough minutes – or enough shots – to go around. It feels like Naz Carter has gotten lost in the shuffle a little bit when he’s this team’s only quality upper classman. Also, I feel like this would be the perfect team for someone like RaeQuan Battle – who got serious minutes against the Beavers and scored 11 points, though he did struggle against the Ducks – to be a role player off the bench that brings a little spark. But, for defensive purposes, you’ve gotta give Wright and Bey significant minutes, you’re not going to sit Carter or Stewart, and every team needs a point guard. With McDaniels as the wild card (apparently), there are some solid role players who are totally buried this year. Nate Roberts should be playing more! Sam Timmins isn’t anything special, but he deserves more than garbage-time minutes!

Oddly enough, the Huskies might actually be better next year. It sounds crazy, when you know we’ll lose Stewart – who is the best player in the Pac-12 and one of the best players in the nation – but with everyone else we’re bringing back, plus a year’s experience, maybe we were a year too early on projecting great things for the Huskies.

It’s tough to be consistent when you’re playing so many Freshmen and Sophomores. We knew that all along. But, I was hoping by mid-January, this thing would’ve clicked, and we’d gel into a true contender. Instead, we’re gonna be scrambling just to make the N.I.T.

I never thought I’d actually finding myself looking forward to baseball season, but here we are.

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.

Jaylen Nowell Is Going Pro

Since we can’t have really, really nice things, Jaylen Nowell announced he’s going to leave the University of Washington to enter the NBA Draft.

In thinking about what might’ve been, having Nowell around for his Junior season would’ve been absolutely amazing. As we all know, Noah Dickerson, David Crisp, Matisse Thybulle, and Dominic Green were all Seniors and will all be gone next season. That leaves just Naz Carter, Hameir Wright, Sam Timmins, and Jamal Bey left over of the players who didn’t redshirt and who played significant minutes.

That’s just a lot of overall production that’s leaving the team. And, yes, there are some holdovers whose roles will naturally expand. You figure Bryan Penn-Johnson will vie for a starting spot at one of the bigs. Nate Roberts could see some time at the wing. And Elijah Hardy should get some time at the point. But, it would’ve been nice to have Nowell around to help with the transition.

There’s also, obviously, some incoming guys who figure to play right away, including RaeQuan Battle and Isaiah Stewart; with Quade Green transferring from Kentucky to run the point when we hit conference play. But, without many real veteran holdovers, there’s going to be a lot of unknown with the 2019/2020 squad.

Without knowing anything about the redshirts or recruits, I figure this becomes Naz Carter’s team. He’s had two years in the system now and has shown steady improvement both years, at both ends of the floor. I’ll also be looking for big things out of Jamal Bey, who was really the only Freshman to see the floor this past season, and appeared to get better as the season went along.

Given the pedigree of the guys on the roster, I would once again expect the Huskies to contend for a Pac-12 championship and make the NCAA Tournament. But, you never know when there’s this much turnover. It would’ve been a much safer bet if Nowell had stayed for one more year.

I’m on the record as highly doubting Nowell will be a first round pick, but what do I know? I’m no scout. I don’t even really watch the NBA anymore. It just seems to me that he had more he could’ve improved in his game had he stayed. On the flipside, he was already Pac-12 Player of the Year, so how much more did he have to prove?

If we base it on the college career of Isaiah Thomas – who was the final pick in the second round the year he went out – then based on probably his size alone I think Nowell at least gets drafted somewhere in the second round. But, I dunno. I respectfully disagree with the decision, but I also don’t know all the facts surrounding his financial situation. For a kid making no money for his talents in college, I can certainly understand the desire to go out and start earning a living.

The Husky Basketball Team Won On A Dominant Half Of Play

The 25th-ranked Washington Huskies kicked off their season with a 73-55 win at home over the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.

It featured everything you come to expect from a Husky basketball team playing against an over-matched opponent:  struggling early, long stretches of scorelessness, sloppy play, lots of foul trouble, poor 3-point shooting, and about 20 minutes of competent (and sometimes dominant) basketball.  The fact that we were down 36-27 at halftime, only to come back and win by 18 is pretty impressive.  But, a lot of it wasn’t anything to write home about.

Given our early foul trouble, you would’ve thought that we’d see a bigger swath of involvement, but other than 3 minutes of mop-up duty by Bryan Penn-Johnson, it was the 8-man rotation we all expected heading into this season.  Obviously, we’ll see more from our deep bench as the season goes along (though, apparently not from Nate Roberts, who will be redshirting this year).

Dickerson led the way with 18 points, 6 boards and 3 blocks.  Jaylen Nowell had 17 points on 7/15 shooting.  Mr. Statsheet, Matisse Thybulle, had 9 points (on a woeful 3/10 shooting, including 1/6 from 3-point), with 6 boards, 6 blocks, and a steal.  David Crisp had 13 points on 4/12 (2/6 from three), with 7 assists, 3 boards and 2 steals.  Our bench crew (led by Dominic Green’s 6 points and 4 boards) chipped in with 12 points total; they will see better days ahead.

All in all, nothing to get too worked up about one way or the other.  The Huskies won, let’s leave it at that.

Next up on Friday is the game in Auburn.  Between the football and the basketball team flying across the country … is there ever a time the Tigers are gonna come up here?  I know the SEC rules the roost in football, but they’re pretty average in basketball, so maybe let’s not suck their dicks in every single sport.  On top of which, the game is being televised on the SEC Network, which I don’t get.  So, for a game I actually have an opportunity to watch live (because I don’t have to work the next day or otherwise get up super early), I’m gonna have to listen to the radio.  What a crock of shit.