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.