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.

The Huskies Lost In The First Round Of The Pac-12 Tournament

Well, it was a nice dream we had once.  Saturday, February 3rd, the Huskies were riding high off of a last-second victory over the Top 10 Arizona Wildcats (pre-scandal).  We were 17-6 (7-3), very nearly cracking into the Top 25, with a couple of creampuff games on the road against the Oregon schools to keep the momentum going.  Obviously, the high-point of our season.

Since that night, the Huskies have gone 3-6, including a whopping 1-4 against those same fucking Oregon schools.  Those Oregon schools that aren’t worth a shit, yet somehow have our fucking number every time.  Even the lone win, against the Beavs, last week, was a nail-biter to the bitter end!

I caught a lot of the game last night at Buffalo Wild Wings in Downtown Seattle, before the Anthony Jeselnik show at The Moore, but I gotta be honest, I was a good 1 and a half sheets to the wind.  So, you know, I remember bits and pieces.  I remember both teams were fucking atrocious in the first half, offensively.  I remember the Beavs kicking it up a notch in the second half.  I remember the Huskies having the ball, tied, with a little over 30 seconds to go.  I remember Jaylen Nowell driving, pulling up in the lane, and missing a difficult shot in traffic.  I remember the Beavs going the other way and getting up a legitimate shot to win it that clanged off.  I remember the game going into overtime and I remember needing to leave right that second as the comedy show was about to start.  I remember my friend checking his phone for score updates, I remember seeing the Beavs with a 3-point lead, and I remember the score not changing as ostensibly the Huskies would’ve missed their final shot(s).

I also remember losing 40 fucking dollars on the God damned Huskies!  WHAT A START TO MY LONG GAMBLING WEEKEND IN RENO NEXT WEEK!

I mean, what can you say that hasn’t already been said?  David Crisp:  2/7 from the three-point line, with only 1 free throw attempt in 41 fucking minutes of game play.  Jaylen Nowell:  4/12 from the field, with only 3 free throw attempts in 31 minutes of game play.  Noah Dickerson, bless his heart, had 15 points and 10 rebounds while in constant foul trouble.  But, one of the keys here was the 3-man bench of Dominic Green, Naz Carter, and Hameir Wright.  They combined for 8 points, were 1/6 from beyond the arc, and ultimately made pretty much no impact in a game that was close from start to finish.  That’ll change next year, as guys are more experienced, and get used to playing with one another, but damn did it hurt the Huskies this year.

The book is out on this Husky team.  Double team Noah Dickerson (or do whatever you can to deny him the ball in the post), let David Crisp shoot all the fucking threes he wants, get physical with Jaylen Nowell, and you’ll live with the other guys trying to beat you, because the other guys are ultimately too unselfish or otherwise not good enough to beat you on most nights.

Mike Hopkins was a very deserving Coach of the Year winner in the Pac-12, considering where this team was a year ago, but he won that award the day this team beat Arizona.  I think it’s more than a little alarming the way this team finished its season.  I still have very high hopes for next year, but I’m also going to be a little cautious.

As for the rest of this year, I guess you could make an argument that the Huskies should be in the N.I.T., but I dunno.  This team has been dreadful over the last month, and there are a ton of teams just in the Pac-12 alone that have been playing MUCH better than us.  So, this might be the end of the line, which is a collosal bummer.  Fingers crossed, I guess.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Huskies Got Blasted By The Ducks

In hindsight, we probably should’ve seen this one coming.  The Let-Down Game.  The Huskies just won 4 in a row, including a couple monster games against the Arizona schools to get back in the NCAA Tournament conversation.  Last night was a late, road, Thursday game against the Oregon Ducks.  The Ducks aren’t as good as they’ve been in recent years, but they’re still okay, and they’re pretty tough to beat at home.  On top of all of that, the Huskies were overdue for a really bad offensive game.  They always go through these 5-minute stretches of inept offensive output every game, it was about time they had a full 40 minutes like that.

And so it came to be:  Ducks 65, Huskies 40.  Puke.

Noah Dickerson was the lone bright spot, if you can even call it that.  14 points and 11 boards is nothing to sneeze at, but obviously he wasn’t able to do enough.  Honestly, the point output is a little disappointing considering it didn’t look like he was in much foul trouble in the second half.  You’d like to see him pick up more of the slack in games like this.

Everyone else totally dropped the ball, though.  No one else scored in double digits (Nowell came the closest with 9 points, but that was on 4/15 shooting, including 1/5 from beyond the arc).  When you tack on his 5 turnovers, he was truly the Least Valuable Player in this one.  Maybe co-LVP with David Crisp and his 2/10 shooting (1/6 from beyond the arc, shooting a fucking MISERABLE 27% on the season, 36/132).  I mean, holy fucking hell, STOP SHOOTING THREES, YOU’RE FUCKING TERRIBLE AT IT!

Anyway, as I alluded to up top, I’m not gonna get too bent out of shape about this one.  However, it’ll be another story entirely if we lose to the God-awful Beavers on Saturday.  Gotta find a way to gut that one out anyway you can.  An ugly win is still a win, and that better be what we see tomorrow night.

The Huskies Swept The Arizona Schools, Still Somehow Aren’t In The Top 25

I’m telling you, that game on Saturday was a sight to behold!

I’m still bouncing off the walls after Washington’s 78-75 victory over the Arizona Wildcats.  It had everything:  a sellout crowd on a blackout night, great taunts from the Dawg Pack, a touching, lowkey tribute to the return of Lorenzo Romar (an assistant coach on the Wildcats), a fast start by the Huskies (building a 7-point lead at halftime, and increasing to 14 early in the third quarter), and a terrific finish.

As expected, the Huskies ran into a bit of a cold stretch in the second half, as Arizona walked down that 14-point lead, to take a 3-point lead of their own, but for most of the later part of the second half it was a back-and-forth affair.  In the end, Dominic Green hit a huge three ball to tie it up, and moments later – game tied at 75 – he hit the game-winning three-pointer to win it at the buzzer.  Jaylen Nowell held for the final shot, drove the lane, had his shot swatted on a double-team, and fortunately the ball bounced right to Green on the right wing, with just enough time for him to raise up and shoot before pandemonium.

Green, the hero of the night, had 14 points on 4/5 shooting from beyond the arc.  Noah Dickerson made his presence felt from the opening possession, netting a game-high 25 points to go with his 7 rebounds.  David Crisp had one of his better games, with 16 points and 4 rebounds.  Jaylen Nowell added 14 points, including a couple of big 3-pointers.  All told, the Huskies were 8/14 from long distance, while holding Arizona to a lowly 2/12 (they’re the best 3-point shooting team from a percentage standpoint in the conference), making this a real Husky Special.

This was, without question, the best Husky basketball game since the Cold Blooded game in the Pac-10 Tournament (which, incidentally, they showed a replay of immediately following this game).  I had completely forgotten anything before that Isaiah Thomas game-winner, like the fact that we had to hit a number of huge shots to get that game into overtime in the first place!

Anyway, it’s a banner moment for the Huskies.  It’s just unfortunate that the Associated Press didn’t see it that way.

Arizona dropped from 9 to 13; Arizona State dropped from 25 to out of the poll; and the Huskies were responsible for all of that.  The Huskies, now 17-6, and 7-3 in conference, with wins over 3 ranked opponents (including Kansas on the road), as well as a road win over USC, and it’s STILL not enough to get us into the Top 25.  We’re technically 27th, which is a huge slap in the face to the Pac-12 as well as common decency.

NEVERTHELESS, the Huskies – as far as Bracketology is concerned – are IN!  10-seed on ESPN, 7-seed on CBS.  35th in RPI.  After three straight home games, we go on the road to face the lowly Oregon schools this weekend.  The Ducks are middle-of-the-road in conference – so that one might be a trap game – and the Beavers are considerably worse.  We SHOULD win both of these games, to get ever-so-much closer to that critical 21-win mark.  But, I guess don’t be shocked – especially if we have some off-shooting nights – if the Huskies lose at least 1 of these.  Remember, this team isn’t suddenly perfect; we’re going to see a loss or two the rest of the way that wasn’t expected.

Still, lots of room for optimism going forward!  We know now that we’re not the very worst team in the Pac-12 (that would be the Cougs, who we’ve beaten twice), and we also know we can play with – and BEAT – the very best team in the Pac-12 (that will always be Arizona, barring injury).  This IS a Tournament team, barring a total collapse, which should make the next month and change pretty damn fun.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Huskies Swept The Cougs 2018!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Huskies Went On The Road And Beat #2 Kansas

This.  Was.  Incredible.

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

This is the biggest win since dot dot dot:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Think about THAT!  Wouldn’t that be something?

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