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.

The Husky Basketball Team Looks Young, Inexperienced, & Totally Dominant

This team can be all things to all people. Right now, they’re 2-0 and ranked 20th in the nation.

I watched every minute of the game in Alaska against Baylor – at the time ranked 16th in the AP poll – and zero minutes of the home game against Mount St. Mary’s last night. So, I’m right about where you would expect me to be in terms of knowledge about this team.

Early on against Baylor, we looked disjointed, overly-excited, and moving as fast as humanly possible without doing any thinking whatsoever. I saw a lot of wild drives down the court and to the hoop, a lot of us dipping our shoulders and charging into someone, and an overall sense of sloppiness. Which is pretty much what should’ve been expected. I feel like at any point that game could’ve gotten out of our grasp and we could’ve lost by 20+ points.

But, the sheer, raw talent by the Huskies is what kept us in it. We were never much more than a stone’s throw away from catching the Bears, but it would take a significant run to get us over the hump.

Things turned around midway through the second half. Baylor took a 57-44 lead with just under 10 minutes to go in the game. That’s when it all started to come together for the Huskies, where talent met execution. Now, it wasn’t easy! Against a lesser team, I’d like to believe the Dawgs would’ve ripped off a huge wad of points. But, against an elite defensive team like the Bears, we just sort of wore them down, bit by bit, for a 67-64 victory.

Junior guard Naz Carter was the star in this one, with his game-leading 23 points on 8/15 shooting (including 4/6 from behind the arc), and Isaiah Stewart was the hero with the go-ahead points in the final minute, but Jaden McDaniels was the glue that brought everything together. He was an absolute revelation. I asked heading into the season who would be the guy who takes over a game when the chips are down, and McDaniels appears to be the one. He can shoot, he can drive, he can pass, he can rebound, he can defend. He’s a complete package and he’s coming in right away ready to take things over.

I loved every single thing we saw from our new Big 3. Time will tell as to how the rotations shake out, but the role players on this team figure to help out quite a bit. Quade Green – who won his appeal and gets to start for us immediately – looks like the first true, elite point guard we’ve had since I.T. His shooting hasn’t quite come around yet, but I highly doubt he’ll be the liability we’ve seen from most of our point guards since Thomas’s final season. Hameir Wright looks like a more natural shooter, with a lot more confidence, and will help immensely in spreading the floor on offense – to afford Stewart more of an opportunity to work down low.

For the most part, we’ve been treated to just a 7-man rotation, with Jamal Bey and Elijah Hardy getting most of the bench minutes, but I feel like that’s bound to change once we get deeper into the season and more guys lower on the depth chart start to assert themselves. I’ll tell you what, if this sees us with fewer Timmins minutes (other than to help out when guys get in early foul trouble), all the better.

The Huskies looked impressive when they went big, with Bey in there for Green. Bey isn’t a natural ball-handler, but we’re MASSIVE on the defensive side of the ball. It’s a nice wrinkle to throw at teams and I’m curious to see how they respond. Against Baylor, we went big for a lot of our late-game comeback, and I could see us doing that a lot as this team grows and needs to change things up to create a spark.

I also found it interesting to see us playing man-to-man. It didn’t happen a lot against Baylor, but there was a brief spell in the first half, and most crucially on the final play of the game, with Baylor down and looking to tie it up. It was a BRILLIANT maneuver that totally caught them off guard; they couldn’t come up with anything close to a reliable shot as time expired.

I wasn’t surprised to see the Huskies struggle in the home-opener last night against the Mountaineers. It sounded like Mt. St. Mary’s really grounded the game to a halt with their long possessions, and they refused to let the Huskies pull away by making some timely shots. It also sounded like the Huskies settled for way too many outside shots and that might be a problem in the non-conference slate.

I didn’t love how selfish a lot of the guys were when I saw them against Baylor. Quade Green is the only one really looking to pass the rock; I saw A LOT of hero ball, particularly on fast break opportunities, where guys were just running into Baylor players looking to get fouled. I mean, we took so many unnecessary blocks in that one; I’m MUCH more concerned about that than the turnovers everyone else is mentioning. Yeah, it’s a young, hungry Husky team, they’re going to commit turnovers. But, let’s work on making the extra pass in transition! Let’s convert these opportunities into points!

This start couldn’t be any better, all things considered though. We have our first legitimate non-conference victory in two years – since we went on the road against #2 Kansas in Hop’s first year – and I think this one is gonna hold up. I think Baylor is for real, and if they stay healthy, they’ll remain in the Top 25 for the duration and figure to secure a high seed in the NCAA Tourney. That’s going to be great for our overall resume.

No time to dine out on that one though, as we head to Toronto for another non-conference showdown, this time against the Tennessee Volunteers, who are currently 30th in AP voting. So, this is far from a gimme, and figures to be another quality opponent for us to tout for our March Madness resume. It’s a lot to ask of a team this young to go out and fight against two superior schools this early in the season, but I’m not ruling anything out at this point. We can sleep when we’re dead (which, in this case, would be the five cupcakes between Tennessee and Gonzaga in early December).

I’m More Excited About Husky Basketball Than I Can Remember Ever Being Before

I mean, there’s seriously no limit to how good this team can be. At the same time, a lack of experience could be their downfall. But, if nothing else, I’m expecting this team to improve as the season goes along, peaking just as we get to the NCAA Tournament.

And, make no mistake, barring a rash of key injuries, this team WILL make the NCAA Tournament, and probably advance pretty far to boot.

It’s really an embarrassment of riches with this squad. We could be up to ten men deep in the regular rotation, and that’s before Quade Green is allowed to start playing in January (hopefully)! While it’s reported we’ll be a little thin at point guard until he shows up, I’m not too worried about that. Mostly because this is the biggest Husky team I can recall in the last two decades.

Sam Timmins and Hameir Wright – two players with pretty extensive starting experience for past Husky teams – are likely to be role players (not for nothing, but if I never saw Timmins again except for garbage minutes, I think I’d be more than fine). Ahead of them on the depth chart, we’ve got 5-star Freshmen in Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels who figure to get the bulk of the play at the 4 & 5 spots. Then, there’s Nate Roberts who can also slide in there as a 3 or 4, if we wanted to go with a jumbo lineup. When you factor in Bryan Penn-Johnson as one of the few true centers on this team, there are almost too many giants to go around!

My hunch is that our primary five will include Stewart & McDaniels up front, with Naz Carter and Jamal Bey in the backcourt, with either RaeQuan Battle in there (for more outside shooting) or Elijah Hardy (for more ball handling). Then, you can bring in Roberts if you need rebounding and defensive help (he’s also someone who can handle the ball a little bit), or bring in the jumbo package to really lean on opposing teams.

You could easily make the argument that the Huskies were undersized heading into the Tourney last year; you won’t be able to say that in March 2020.

The big question I have as we head into the season is: who’s responsible for scoring buckets late in our one-possession games with the clock winding down and it’s essentially 1 on 1 with everything on the line? My hunch is that Naz Carter – the de facto upper classman of the group, all apologies to Timmins – takes on that role. Either that, or we dump it into the big man (likely Stewart) down in the post and let him go to work, to either get in the lane for a score/foul, or kick it out to a shooter.

The other thing I’ll be looking for as the season kicks off on November 8th is: who are our outside shooters? As I noted above, Battle appears to be the best shooter on the team, but do we have anyone else? Can Carter improve from his 31% shooting last year from 3-point range? Bey was 4/10 last year from deep; is that something he’s worked on in the offseason? I remember Wright getting more confident from long distance as last season went on; will he be a sparkplug off the bench to get us going?

I don’t see a lot of holes, is my point. The obvious question everyone has is how roles will be defined. We lost a lot of our production to graduation and/or the NBA over the offseason. Thybulle, Nowell, Dickerson, and Crisp (and Green to a lesser extent) were the whole identity of last year’s squad; hence the reason why the Huskies are 26th in the pre-season Top 25 Rankings (and not a lot higher, like they will be before too long).

But, that’s what I find so thrilling. We have potential Top 10 talent in a team that’s kinda being overlooked at this point. The possibilities are limitless because we really don’t know a whole lot about this team, other than there are a bunch of REALLY good high school players on the roster (including a couple of highly-probable one-and-doners).

Now, of course, the downside of having a couple of one-and-doners is that if they get injured – regardless of severity – we might lose them to preparation for the NBA Draft. Those are the chances you take when you roll those dice, but the upside is you maybe getting to the Final Four, and for as much as I hate the one-and-done rule, I’ll take those chances whenever I can get ’em.

There have been plenty of highly successful NCAA basketball teams with the type of inexperience we have. All you gotta do, really, is get hot at the right time. Because the talent is there! This team is overflowing with talent. They’ve also got the head coach in Mike Hopkins to get the most out of that talent. He’s a rising superstar in college basketball coaching circles, and I for one hope to take advantage of his gifts while he’s still here. It won’t be long before the highest profile college programs come to poach him away. Hopefully, we’ll get to enjoy some unprecedented success before that time comes.

At What Point Should We Start Worrying About Mike Hopkins Leaving The University Of Washington?

It’s pretty remarkable how good the Huskies have had it in recent years. Chris Petersen has taken the job with the football team and exceeded our wildest expectations, culminating with an appearance in the College Football Playoffs in 2016. It makes sense, somewhat, as the football team has always been the pride and joy of the University of Washington for upwards of a hundred years now.

The basketball team has always been the Little Brother in that regard. In the modern era, we always point to the Lorenzo Romar teams as the cream of the crop, but obviously towards the end there, things got REAL bad.

Mike Hopkins was a relative unknown when he was hired prior to the 2017/2018 season. A career assistant with Syracuse, he’d never helmed a program, but he seemed to be one of the coaches most fit for a promotion. When it became apparent that his promotion wouldn’t be coming from his alma mater any time soon, he jumped at Washington’s offer, and it’s been nothing but a joy to behold.

Two years – and two Pac-12 Coach of the Year awards – later, we’re in some serious uncharted waters. The Huskies went from a real nadir of 9-22 (2-16 in conference) during Romar’s final season, and improved to 21-13 in Hop’s rookie year. From there, the Huskies were conference champs at 27-9, winning a game in the NCAA Tournament (breaking an 8-year drought) to boot.

You could be forgiven if you expect a bit of a step back for 2019/2020, what with all the players we’ve lost. Four seniors – plus the Pac-12 Player of the Year in Jaylen Nowell (who is committed to entering the NBA Draft as an underclassman) – are gone, and they comprised such a high majority of our production last year.

But, while I won’t rule out potential disappointment, I’ll also argue that the ceiling has never been higher for a Husky team. Check out these incoming would-be studs:

  • Isaiah Stewart (5-star center)
  • RaeQuan Battle (4-star shooting guard)
  • Marcus Tsohonis (3-star point guard)
  • Jaden McDaniels (5-star power forward)
  • Quade Green (5-star point guard, mid-season transfer from Kentucky)

That’s on top of returning players including:

  • Naz Carter (averaged 8.1 points in 20 minutes per game)
  • Jamal Bey (came on strong late in the season, earning minutes in a stacked rotation)
  • Hameir Wright (averaged 18 minutes and 1.4 blocks per game)
  • Elijah Hardy (3-star point guard, could see extended playing time until Green arrives)
  • Bryan Penn-Johnson (3-star center, figures to see increased playing time in his second year)
  • Nate Roberts (3-star forward, redshirted as a freshman)
  • Sam Timmins (the only senior who has played extensive minutes on this team, should provide valuable depth at the center position off the bench)

Look, it’s not ideal. Obviously, you like to have as many experienced stars as possible. But, for a team that will largely be playing together for the first time, with every starting role up for grabs (presumably around wherever Naz Carter ends up playing, who should be one of the leaders on this team). But, that incoming class is no joke. Almost all of them should be ready to contribute right away, with one or two of them stepping into some hefty roles. If this team improves as we approach Tournament time, the Huskies could be a real monster.

So, let’s dream a little bit. Let’s say the Huskies come from out of nowhere to make an Elite Eight run! I know Coach Hop just signed an extension, and received a well-deserved raise this past offseason, but if that comes to pass, you REALLY have to wonder how much longer he’ll be classing up the joint.

Indeed, the Huskies don’t even have to make the Sweet 16 for this to be the final year with Mike Hopkins in Washington.

It’s a terrifying thought, and one I don’t really want to dwell on too much, as it’s far too depressing.

Given the way he’s recruited in his short time here, I can already tell Hop is going to be one of the greats. Maybe I’m way off base, with my purple-colored lenses, but that’s just a hunch. The hope, whenever you find someone like this, is that he’ll be the next Mark Few: that he’ll stick around forever, plant his flag for your school, and take you to multiple Final Fours over a multi-decade career. This isn’t like having the SEC in football, you can build a winner ANYWHERE in college basketball! So, why not here? Why couldn’t Washington be the next NCAA powerhouse?

I guess that’s up to him. And the school, to be willing to pay him. And the allure (read: money) ponied up by other schools. You’d like to think it’s easy enough to just pay the man and keep him forever, but if he wants to move on to situations that are perceived to be easier to recruit and win in, then there’s no amount of logical money that could keep him here.

I dunno. I’d be SHOCKED if Coach Hop is still here after another five years. I’d say we have maybe 2-3 years and it’s time to start looking for the next coaching phenom.

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.

Holy Shitballs The Huskies Are Still Undefeated!

The Huskies went into Arizona and came away with a hard-fought 67-60 victory. Even though the Wildcats are down – much like the rest of the Pac-12 this year – it’s still never easy to win in their gym, so I’d venture to say this was one of the more impressive Husky victories of the season.

Noah Dickerson did, indeed, return to action, though he was kept out of the starting lineup in favor of Sam Timmins (Hameir Wright didn’t play at all due to illness). I wonder if the Huskies were going to feel this game out and decide as they went whether or not Dickerson would actually see any action. Like, if the Huskies had jumped out to an early 15 point lead or something, would they have kept Dickerson on the shelf? Odds are, not starting him was a way to simply limit his minutes. If he went out in the first half and didn’t have it, then they could’ve rested him the rest of the way and saved him for ASU tomorrow.

Either way, Dickerson was a welcome sight! He only put up 10 points and 3 boards, but he accounted for a bunch of the foul trouble that Arizona found themselves in during the second half, including sending their best big man to the bench with 4 fouls for a long time.

As usual, there were plenty of stars to go around. David Crisp continued his quality play, finishing with 17 points to lead the team. Matisse Thybulle was the straw that stirred the drink, with 15 points, 5 blocks, and 5 steals. One can only wonder what he would’ve finished with if he hadn’t been in so much foul trouble late in the game. Jaylen Nowell had a quiet game with 12 points, 6 boards, and 4 assists, but always came up big when the team needed a boost. And, Naz Carter started off as cold as can be, but finished on fire with 10 points, 4 boards, and 2 steals.

It was a tough back-and-forth game in the first half, as both teams traded turnovers like they were kids in the 50’s trading baseball cards. The Huskies managed a 1-point lead at the break, then got out to a quick start in the second half, managing to keep the Wildcats at arm’s length the rest of the way. None of our typical cold spells; there was always an answer to every Arizona run.

We go on to play Arizona State tomorrow night, which I GUESS is the second-best team in the conference, but holy fucking hell they just lost to the now 2-win Cougars by 21 points in their own arena! I had it in the back of my mind that if the Huskies beat the Sun Devils that might guarantee the Pac-12 is a 1-bid conference, but even if we LOSE that might be a safe assumption!

I’d still like to see the Huskies get to 11-0 in conference. This is our last chance for a quality win in the regular season, and say what you will about the Pac-12 and the Sun Devils, but they were able to beat some good teams in their non-conference slate and the rankings like them accordingly. Not that I’m worried about the Huskies making the Tourney anymore – I feel like that’s a foregone conclusion at this point – but I would like to get as high a seed as possible, to make it interesting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Huskies Went 1-1 In The NIT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!