The Husky Basketball Team Needs To Rebuild In A Hurry

Last I wrote about the Dawgs, I was telling you about how much this team has sucked over the last season and a half. My feelings have not changed since then.

What has changed is the team itself. The Transfer Portal giveth and the Transfer Portal taketh away!

Erik Stevenson was the first domino to drop. We got him just last year as a transfer from Wichita State, so I guess he was another underwhelming One & Done!

Then, the under-used (question mark?) Marcus Tsohonis opted to leave the program. He was an offensive sparkplug in some of the games he played in, but also was total shit offensively in some of the games he played in. Obviously, there were a number of games he either hardly played or didn’t play at all, which ultimately led to his leaving; why he was utilized so is probably due to his defense being lacking. All right.

The Huskies followed this up by getting someone to FINALLY come here, in an international recruit by the name of Samuel Ariyibi. He’s a small forward type with long arms and proficient at defense, with limited offensive abilities. As long as he can do SOMETHING well, I guess I’m okay with it. I’d rather have defense than nothing.

Then, there was the double-whammy of Nate Pryor and J’Raan Brooks leaving the Huskies. I don’t think they did anything, so no big loss there. On the same day, it was announced the Dawgs were bringing in erstwhile highly-touted recruit Terrell Brown, who was a star for Seattle U, then got limited action with Arizona. He could be a centerpiece for the Huskies next season, which is something we’ve sorely needed. As the starting point guard who will almost certainly replace Quade Green, learn all you can about Brown, because we’ll be seeing him a lot.

Finally, RaeQuan Battle opted to leave. I don’t know why this was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Husky fans, but dude, he was terrible! Ostensibly, he’s supposed to be this sharp-shooter from long-range, and we built an offense that allowed guys to shoot the three as often as they liked. He had free-rein to shoot and shoot and shoot, and all he did was lay brick after brick after brick! Fuck that. Good riddance. I’m sure he’ll figure it out for his next team, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if he totally flamed out. If you can’t improve your jumper after two straight years – especially when that’s ALL that you do – then I’m sorry, but this is not a loss. This is addition by subtraction.

Other than Stevenson – who, again, was just okay – I don’t see the big deal here. None of these transfer guys did a damn thing to help the Huskies win last season. The loss of Green will be a minor blow, but also he was the best of a very bad group, so it’s hard to tell how good he really is. I could shit-can the entire roster and not feel one iota of remorse or ill-will towards Mike Hopkins. Hop is our guy, for better or for worse, at least for the time being.

As the winner of back-to-back Pac-12 Coach of the Year awards, I still think he’s earned the right to try to turn this around. The Transfer Portal is bigger and more robust than ever. There are talented guys out there. He just needs to find an offense and stick with it, and then recruit like hell to get guys who FIT that offense (while, obviously, finding guys who will buy-in and execute his defense). There’s a path back to respectability as early as next season. The Pac-12 is suddenly killing it in the NCAA Tournament right now, and Washington is a medium-profile program in that conference.

Offering, I might add, ample minutes to any disgruntled transfer candidates who felt shaded by their previous teams. It’s the wild west out here! Come get your minutes!

I’m excited by the Huskies having their dead weight shed for them. I don’t see this exodus as a problem in the slightest. I see this as an opportunity to immediately turn the program around.

And, if Hop can’t do it, and the Huskies continue to dwell in the cellar, welp! We tried. But, you almost certainly have to cut him loose if it happens again, regardless of how many millions of dollars he’s still owed.

The Husky Basketball Team Fucking Sucked This Year!

The Washington Husky men’s basketball season mercifully came to a close last night, with a loss to the Utes in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament, 98-95. I didn’t watch a single second of the action.

In fact, I couldn’t tell you how much of this team I did manage to watch this season, but it was WELL under a game’s worth of action. This team went 5-21, including 4-16 in conference play. They were TERRIBLE!

As it turns out, there was no salvaging this team. I thought maybe without two supernova stars in the lineup, guys would spread the scoring burden around, and maybe we’d see a team that improved as the season went along. But, those glimpses of competency were few and far between.

Quade Green was easily the best player on the team (further testament to how much we needed him last year, as the Huskies went in the tank once he was academically ineligible), averaging 15.4 points per game. He and Hameir Wright were our only seniors of note, and what a fucking BUST Wright turned out to be in his Husky career! Given his height and wingspan, as well as his middling ability to shoot from outside, he should have been something special by 2021. But, his shooting never got better, and he rarely made an impact on either end of the court. One block and one steal per game? Ooo! What a boost!

Marcus Tsohonis was the second-leading scorer on the Huskies this season, but he was weirdly used sparingly (probably because his defense sucks), and even then his shot was always erratic. Some nights he’d be on fire, some nights he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn.

Jamal Bey finally started to take a step forward in his game, as a junior, but I don’t know what that’s going to mean for next year. Will he even want to stick around after a season like this? Is there any hope whatsoever for the Huskies to get back to the NCAA Tournament? Hell, is there any hope for even an NIT berth?!

Erik Stevenson is the last guy I’ll mention. He’s one of the transfer guys we brought here, who ended up averaging 9.3 points per game. I dunno, he was fine I guess, but I don’t remember hearing about too many times where he really flashed.

Everyone else on the Huskies was straight up trash. I just can’t believe how – on a team this fucking atrocious – that no one but Quade Green stepped up and took the reins. It’s a failure for the players, it’s a failure for the coaching staff, and it’s a HUGE failure on the state of our recruiting.

There are no silver linings. You thought Romar’s last year was the nadir of Husky basketball in the 21st century? Don’t sleep on how pathetic we were this past season. When you factor in the second half of the 2019-2020 season – when we went 5-15 in our final 20 games – Husky basketball is on a run of 10-36 over the last season and a half. Do you know how bad that is? Do you know how bad the Pac-12 is in general, and to suck THAT hard in a conference THIS mediocre is something truly unheard of.

Seattle has basketball talent! That’s what’s so infuriating. Of course, we can’t convince that talent to stay and play for the hometown school, which is obviously even more infuriating.

Let’s all just pretend the last year and a half never happened. Agreed? Okay then.

It’s Been A Very Rough Start To The Husky Basketball Season

Husky basketball has been tough to watch this year! For a couple of reasons, in fact. First of all, the first two games weren’t even on television! Because Larry Scott is terrible at his job, the only deal we could work out was with some random for-pay website I’d never even heard of before that I’m not even going to promote on this little-read blog because who in their right mind would pay a subscription for that nonsense?

It turned out to be money well saved, because the Huskies got summarily crushed against Baylor (the #2 team in the country) 86-52, and also by a probably-not-good UC Riverside team 57-42. Both of these games were on a neutral floor in Las Vegas, and both were scheduled on short notice (which you could argue is a point in Larry Scott’s favor, but don’t forget that we have the Pac-12 Network at our disposal, and also if he had ANY positive relationships with some of the other networks, he would’ve found a way to get these games on something people can actually find).

There really isn’t anything positive to say about these first two games. The Huskies got absolutely murdered on the boards, and couldn’t hit an outside shot to save their lives.

Then, a couple days later, we kicked off our conference schedule at Utah. The Utes were playing their first game of the season, while the Huskies were playing their third game inside of a week. We managed to keep it moderately close in the first half (down five at the break), but went a LONG time in the second half without a bucket, resulting in a 76-62 defeat. Quade Green has stepped up to be the offensive leader so far this season, but no one else through three games was able to do much. The only bright spot was 7’4 center Riley Sorn coming out of nowhere to provide some beef in the middle.

We finally got some much needed rest (and home cooking) over the last week before playing Seattle U last night. In that interim period, though, we all got some terrible news. Remember that Naz Carter suspension? It turns out it was a lot more sinister than we expected, as he was involved with two alleged sexual assault incidents on campus. So, that’s obviously fucked up. I guess all this time he had been appealing his suspension – meaning there had been some hope for him to return to the team – but then he opted to leave the program and seek a pro career overseas, which is definitely for the best. Not for him, of course, as his deal with some league in Australia fell apart as soon as the sexual assault allegations came to light. So, he’s going to have a lot of work to do on himself to find his way onto a professional basketball court again (or, of course, he can decide to play in one of those countries that doesn’t give a shit about women; they need basketball players too).

It turns out, all the Husky basketball team needed was the breath of fresh air that is Seattle University! We dismantled them 73-41. For some reason, Quade Green came off the bench, but still put up 18 points (on 6/7 shooting) in 18 minutes. Nate Pryor started in his place and it sounds like he was a real spark for this team, scoring 13 in 31 minutes. The team shot over 46% from the field, including 8/15 from long range.

It sounds like the Huskies have been built as a shooting team this year, so obviously hitting outside shots will be priority #1. Teams often live and die by the jumper, but it looks like this year will be an extreme example of that. It’ll be important that these shooting guards we’ve got on the roster (I’m looking HARD at RaeQuan Battle, who never met a basketball he didn’t immediately chuck towards the basket) start making baskets more consistently. They get way too cold way too often, and it’s killing this team.

But anyway, it’s probably best not to get your hopes up or get too frustrated with this team. They’re just not good. It’s fine. What I’m hanging my hat on is the hope that they get better over the course of this season. There will be a lot of players likely to return next year, and we want THOSE guys to be in a much better place than they are right now. Hopefully, with experience, we can look forward to more enjoyable basketball in the future.

Naz Carter Was Suspended From Husky Basketball For Reasons Unclear

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

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

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

So. Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

2020/2021 Husky Basketball Starts To Come Into A Little Bit Of Focus

Lots of dribs and drabs coming in lately, so let’s talk about it.

In Least-Shocking News In The Entire Universe … News: Isaiah Stewart has declared he’s leaving college and entering the NBA Draft. Much like the last time we had a big man of his calibre one-and-done it for the Huskies – Spencer Hawes – the team struggled mightily in spite of the tremendous play of the recruit. Here’s to hoping Stewart has a better pro career than Hawes (who I think kept suffering freak injuries?).

Next up on this Leaving For The NBA list: Jaden McDaniels.

In Somewhat-Surprising News: Quade Green is apparently set to return to the Huskies. You’ll remember he became academically ineligible midway through the season. Did that TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY derail our season? Look, I’m not throwing that idea out of bed for drunkenly urinating everywhere in its sleep, but obviously this was a more-flawed team than any of us realized, and I don’t think ANY one player – even someone of Green’s potential – could’ve single-handedly kept this season on track.

This’ll be big, because word just came down that Elijah Hardy is entering the Transfer Portal (which I assume is some alternate dimension where those whom you once wished well disappear from the face of the Earth, never to be seen nor heard from ever again). Not to pile onto an undergrad, but Hardy kind of sucked for the Huskies in his two seasons here. It’s hard (!) to see a significant boost in his production coming; odds are a change of scenery would do everyone some good in this situation.

On the flipside, Nate Pryor is set to transfer TO the Huskies, from Junior College. If the name sounds familiar, it apparently should, as he was originally set to sign here a couple years ago, but didn’t have the grades or something. I don’t know if anyone thought too highly of Pryor when he was originally supposed to be here, but he’s been a nice little shooting guard for North Idaho College, so that’s cool.

Probably the biggest development was the transfer of Erik Stevenson, from Wichita State. He’s another shooting guard, and as a Sophomore last year, had a decent season (for what appears to be a dysfunctional team who gave up on their head coach for reasons I’ve yet to really want to explore). So, if nothing else, the backcourt for the Huskies figures to be a lot better than it was this past season.

It’s obviously WAY too early to speculate on how good or bad the Huskies will be. If nothing else, we just have to hope that the younger guys who got their feet wet in our lost 2019/2020 are able to parlay that into bigger success in the coming years.

Husky Basketball Ended In A Microcosm Game Of Their Entire Season

The Huskies’ first-round defeat to the Arizona Wildcats (77 to 70) in the Pac-12 Tournament was pretty much an exact replica of how their season went as a whole. The Dawgs started off the game pretty hot in the opening minutes, fell COMPLETELY apart during a long, saggy middle portion, tried to make a furious comeback at the end, and even though we all knew there were simply too many points to overcome, we couldn’t help but buy in at least a LITTLE bit that they’d shock the world and move on to the next round.

Also, Quade Green represents the coronavirus, but that’s neither here nor there.

This was a bad, disappointing end to a bad, disappointing season. As a Husky fan, it’s frustrating, because it feels like our timing is ALWAYS just a little bit off. We bring in these incredible Freshmen classes just as a bunch of upper classmen depart for the pros, so there’s no one the young guys can learn from or lean on when games get tight. Like when a game is starting to pull away early in the second half (Arizona had a 5-point lead at the break, only to see it balloon to a 15-point lead less than ten minutes later) and you need someone to stop the bleeding. Or, of course, the Huskies’ biggest Achilles’ heel: at the end of games, when it’s close, and you just need someone to create a shot out of nothing.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this team DESPERATELY needed Jaylen Nowell.

This was a particularly tough one, because it was Isaiah Stewart’s final game, and BOY did he go out with a bang! 29 points were a career high, and obviously led all scorers in this game. He was 9/11 from the field (including 1/1 from long range) and 10/11 from the free throw line, which for a big man is just outstanding. In the first half, I think he scored all but maybe 8 or 10 of our points? Some insane percentage, to single-handedly keep us in the game. Obviously, since he had to do everything, he got into some foul trouble in the second half, but it also looked like the offense went away from him for some reason, even though it was clear everyone else on the Huskies was playing like trash! Stewart didn’t score again in the second half until WAY later than it should’ve been, and that’s ultimately a major reason why we lost.

It’s sad. I said it on Twitter already, but Isaiah Stewart is HANDS DOWN the best one-and-done player the Huskies have ever had since I’ve been following this team. Most likely he’s the best we’ve ever had PERIOD (exclamation point)! He’s a generational talent (for a college program) and we thoroughly squandered his lone season.

The rest of the guys who end up leaving, I won’t mind as much. But, having Stewart and not seeing the NCAA Tournament is a crime against (basketball) humanity!

By the way, I’m writing this assuming there actually WILL BE an NCAA Tournament, but of course who knows at this point?

I’m going to say the goat of this one (not G.O.A.T., but the standard definition of “the guy who sucked the hardest”) was Naz Carter. I wrote about this yesterday: I wasn’t worried about Stewart, he was always going to do his thing; but we needed someone else to step up and hit some big shots. I thought the Huskies had as good a chance as anyone because That Guy could be any number of players. It turns out, That Guy didn’t exist on this team. Naz Carter – bless his heart – tried his best, but he couldn’t get ANYTHING going and it ultimately killed our chances in this one. 1/9 shooting (0/5 from long range) for a whopping 2 points. That’s not what you need from your most prominent upper classman and third-leading scorer.

Jaden McDaniels, closing the season coming off the bench, didn’t provide much of a boost either until it was too late (a microcosm of his season as well), finishing with 10 points in 31 minutes. Again, NOT really enough from your second-leading scorer. Part of me would LOVE for him to come back, rededicate himself, and prove to everyone why he was a consensus one-and-done type of guy; but part of me also never wants to think about him ever again. Call me a squirrel running in my back yard because I’m on the fence!

All the rest of the role players get another year older and hopefully a year less mediocre.

I really can’t wait to flush this season and move on with my life. What a damn waste! I weirdly have more confidence about NEXT year, but maybe that’s totally misguided.

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?

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.

Husky Basketball Heads Into Conference Play In Great Shape

Look, maybe not the BEST shape, but still pretty good shape.

The Huskies went 10-3 in non-conference play, and outside from an annoying loss to Houston in the Diamond Head Classic finals on Christmas Day, things went about as well as can be expected. We beat a top-10 team in Baylor on a neutral site, we narrowly lost to the #1 team in the nation, Gonzaga, and we lost to a very good Tennessee team that should make the NCAA Tournament when all is said and done. And, assuming Houston can get their shit together, there very well shouldn’t be a bad loss in the bunch.

As I write this, Washington has fallen out of the Top 25 for the second time this season, but we’re right there. We’re pretty well-regarded, and more importantly, we’re in a conference that’s pretty well-regarded (especially compared to the last few years). Oregon sits at #4, Arizona is #25, Colorado is #26, and even Stanford is in the “others receiving votes” with all of 1 vote. So, we’re all feeling good about what’s going on here.

In conference play, we get the Arizona schools twice, the Bay Area schools twice, the L.A. schools twice, and the Cougs twice. That means we play the Oregon schools just once (in Seattle, in mid-January) and the mountain schools on the road the following week. Ideally, you’d like to get a couple cracks at taking down Oregon, but you play the games you get. If we can find a way to beat them on our home court, all we have to do is not totally fall apart and I think that’s good enough to get us in the Tourney. Otherwise, we’ll want to hover around the top 3 or 4 teams in the conference and make a good showing in the Pac-12 Tourney. But, that’s getting ahead of ourselves.

I think it’s safe to say that Washington is a program still trying to find itself. Isaiah Stewart was billed as one of the very best players in the nation coming out of high school, and I think he’s very much lived up to the hype. It’s been an absolute joy to watch him hit the ground running, averaging 19/9 with 61% shooting percentage and a very respectable (for a college big man) 73% free throw percentage.

After Stewart, it’s been very up & down for the rest of our crew. Jaden McDaniels is the consensus Biggest Upside prospect, but he’s been probably the biggest wild card of the bunch. He can do it all – shoot, dribble-drive, dish, rebound, block shots, get steals – but he still makes a lot of mistakes (3.5 turnovers per game to lead the team) and in general some of his decision making & shot selection has been a little suspect. If he finds a way to put it all together, this team has no limit to how far it can go. My biggest fear is that he doesn’t put it all together until he gets to the pros, and this will most definitely be his only season in a Husky uniform.

Naz Carter continues to improve with every passing season, averaging 13 points and 6 boards, while being probably our best outside shooter and a capable shot-maker in the paint. He also falls into the trap of poor decision-making and goes a little too much to the Hero Ball type of game for my liking. But, he’s clutch; he’s already nailed some huge outside shots late in the game, and there isn’t anyone else I’d rather have shooting that shot in crunch time.

Hameir Wright also continues to improve, but he shoots almost exclusively from the outside, and at 27.5%, is going to need to keep getting better as the season goes on. I love his length, I love his defensive presence, I love pretty much everything about his game … except for the fact that he bricks WAY too many threes. Fix that, and he’s this team’s X-factor.

Quade Green, after a rough start, has really picked up his game of late. He’s the only solid point guard type on the roster, but his shooting has picked up a great deal, sitting at 46% from long range, which is best on the team. He’s averaging 11 points, 5 assists, and has reduced his turnovers to just a tick over 2 per game, which is excellent. Honestly, no notes! Keep up the great work!

The Huskies have mainly focused on a 6-man rotation (the 7th man being Sam Timmins, who mostly spells Stewart for 8 minutes a game, which is really all you want him in there for) with Jamal Bey being the first man off the bench. Bey is only in his second season, and he’s giving you pretty much what you’d expect a second-year player to give you (particularly one who played sparingly as a Freshman). I love everything about Bey’s game from a defensive standpoint, as I feel he gives us 80-85% of Matisse Thybulle on that side of the ball. I just need him to hit a higher percentage of outside shots (he’s currently at 32% from long range) and he’d be perfect. Considering that was also Thybulle’s biggest weakness as a college player, and you could say he’s 80-85% of Thybulle from every aspect; as such, I look forward to great things in the next two years. Ideally, though, for the 2019/2020 Huskies to make a deep Tourney run, they’ll need to see a bump in production from someone like Bey in conference play.

I’d say the lack of bench production could hurt this team, particularly if we can’t find someone off the bench to hit a respectable number of ourside shots. I’m disappointed -as I think we all are – that RaeQuan Battle isn’t getting more of an opportunity. With his size, I can’t imagine he’d be a liability on defense; and we have enough guys who can bring the ball up court. Seems to me we should be able to find a way to carve out 10 minutes per game to get the sharp-shooter in there on a regular basis to boost this team’s scoring.

As anticipated, the Huskies’ size is giving teams fits down low. But, our lack of rebounding ability is starting to become a problem (it’s the sole reason why we lost that Houston game). Maybe that was just an off night, but if we don’t bring the effort in that area, then what good is having all that length? Especially when we don’t have enough outside shooting to compensate for opposing teams doubling us in second-chance points.

I’m still pretty high on the Huskies. I believe we’ve made a lot of progress from the start of the season to today, and I believe there’s still room for this team to grow in the weeks ahead. The goal all along has been to get back to the NCAA Tournament, and I think we’ve done enough to get in (assuming, of course, that we don’t completely fall apart from here on out). Now, our goal needs to be to get a Top 5 or Top 6 seed. That’s not unreasonable! Good enough to avoid the really BIG heavies until the Sweet 16 or so. Get to the Sweet 16, and let the chips fall where they may from there.

I think we can do it! Gotta keep building up that resume.

Husky Basketball Chugs Along

It might’ve been a little unreasonable to be perfect against the big dogs they’re playing in this non-conference schedule. I could kinda see the loss to Tennessee coming a mile away, even though I knew nothing about them (and still don’t, because I don’t have ESPN+). We earned a little respite with our victory over Baylor. We’re still a young team, still trying to find our footing, figure out our rotations, see what works best, etc.

We dropped to 25th in the nation, which feels about right. Thankfully, last night’s game against Maine was Dunk Central, so hopefully at least those Naz Carter highlights will keep us in a positive light nationally.

I can already tell that 3-point shooting is going to be a talking point with this team for a bit. Right now – as a team – we’re hitting just a tick over 30%. We’ll want that to steadily rise as the season goes along, to where we can reliably hit from long range when the Tournament comes.

Some interesting trends this early in the season. Naz Carter is definitely the unquestioned leader out of the gate. He’s getting the lion’s share of the meat on this carcass. But, nothing works on this team without Isaiah Stewart down low. He’s definitely the best player on this team right now. The true wildcard is Jaden McDaniels, who looks like he has the highest ceiling of anyone on the Huskies, and also looks like the natural floor general in crunch time, when the chips are down and we need a bucket. As far as Big 3’s go, this could be the best trio we’ve had in a long time, especially if Naz Carter can continue hitting outside shots (he’s 6/13 on the season so far).

What’s still to be determined is our production around those guys. Quade Green has had a semi-rough start, but I love the work ethic and the confidence. I think, before too long, we’ll see him settle into a nice groove. Hameir Wright is improving his outside shot pretty consistently since when he first started with the Huskies a couple years ago. I think he’s the perfect role player for this team, and someone fully capable of hitting a big shot if needed.

That more or less comprises our starting five, but will there be a bench to speak of? I’m not gonna lie, I think I expected more of Jamal Bey given how well he played down the stretch last year. Again, it’s incredibly early, but I hope he’s able to continue progressing. Because, when the one-and-doners are gone after this year, we’re going to need him to step in and fill some pretty significant shoes.

I’m pretty happy with this stretch of games we’ve got coming up (starting with last night, really). It was hard coming out of the gate playing Baylor (now 24th, with a 2-1 record) and Tennessee (now 20th, with a 3-0 record) so early, but we got over that hump with the record we NEEDED (at least one victory), and now we can coast for a couple weeks (all at home) against some inferior opponents. Let’s fatten that win/loss record, let’s pad some stats, and let’s give this team the experience they need combined with the success they crave.

Because undefeated Gonzaga is on the horizon. December 8th, Hec Ed; it’s gonna be an absolute blast. I think we’ve all had this game circled since last year’s near-victory in the Bulldogs’ home gym. That’ll be a real signature win in a season that’s starting to go places.