A Few “Early In The Season” Observations

The Washington Huskies Men’s Basketball team’s season is officially underway and by first looks, it will be a promising year ahead.

Just yesterday, longtime basketball analyst Jeff Goodman picked Washington as one of his teams to make it all the way to the Final Four.

Last week, the Huskies played in an exhibition contest against the in-state Western Washington Vikings, on Halloween night and won 87-63.

Today, Washington head coach Mike Hopkins and his team travel to Anchorage, Alaska to take on the Baylor Bears, in the Armed Forces Classic.

The game will take place this Friday, November 8th and will officially mark the “true” beginning to the regular season for the Huskies.

While the Huskies showed glimpses of what they could become this season, during their exhibition game, we must temper our expectations a bit.

“We are young and inexperienced and we have a lot to prove,” Hopkins said.

The Huskies will face a stiff test this week and Hopkins will know more about his team after facing tougher competition in the Bears.

Here are some observations that stood out during the Huskies exhibition game last week…..

The Huskies Are Long And Athletic

One thing is for sure..the Huskies pass the eye test this season.  The length they possess, especially on the defensive end, is impressive.  Hopkins definitely recruited the type of athlete he needs to successfully run his 2-3 zone defense.  With the amount of size and length that the Huskies have on the roster, they will be able to wear teams down defensively and contest shots.  Another glaring observation is the athleticism that is on the roster this year.  These guys have fast and athletic players who can get up and down the floor and push the tempo in transition.  This versatility will allow Hopkins to play multiple lineups this season and go deep into his bench on any given night.  This is by far one of the most athletic teams that has dawned on Montlake in quite some time.

Tinkering With The Defense

During his beginning of the season press conference, Hopkins eluded to the fact that he would be flirting with playing some man-to-man defense this season.  Hopkins has realized that he has the versatility to play both man-to-man and zone defense this season  with the roster he has assembled.  He mentioned this week that every opponent is different, and it’s nice to be able to have another defense they can go to when need be.  Last week against Western Washington, he started out the game in man-to-man for the first five minutes, before switching to his aggressive 2-3 zone defense.  Hopkins seems to see the whole picture, not only with his talented roster this season, but with getting the Huskies to the next level as a program.  Adding another defensive tool to the bag can’t hurt.

Jamal Bey Is A Completely Different Player

A real positive sign and performance last week was turned in by sophomore guard Jamal Bey.  As a matter of fact, Bey looked like an entirely different player than what he showed last season.  He was playing without hesitation and at a fast pace, which signifies a confident player.  Bey came in off the bench and provided a huge spark for the Huskies, with his sharpshooting from behind the arc.  He knocked down 3 three-pointers for the Huskies and showed that he will be a viable option as an outside shooting threat this year. Hopkins used his much improved sophomore guard at the point guard position as well, where Bey showed an expanded game from last season.  If the opener is any sign of Bey’s potential this season, then Hopkins may have found his spark plug!

Jaden McDaniels Is An Excellent Passer

In one of the most awaited debuts in quite some time for Husky Basketball, true freshman Jaden McDaniels didn’t disappoint!  He is known for his silky smooth full court game and his ability to put the ball in the basket, but McDaniels showed us more than that.  What was impressive was his ability to pass the basketball and make the right read on several occasions.  McDaniels has an uncanny ability to make passes on the interior once he gets into the paint.  Often times, the recipient of those interior passes was true freshman forward Isaiah Stewart, as they were establishing a nice “two-man” game together.  With his ability to break you down off the dribble, McDaniels will most certainly command double teams on a nightly basis, and his passing skills will prove to be defenseless.

The Huskies Need Improvement On Defending The “Three”

After the game last week, Hopkins emphatically said he wasn’t happy with how they played in the second half.  Most of that frustration had to do with the Huskies inability to defend the three-ball.  In the second half, the Huskies gave up eight three-pointers to the Vikings, which kept them somewhat in the contest.  This season, the Huskies don’t have the luxury of relying upon the defensive services of Matisse Thybulle.  Even though it was only one game, the Huskies showed that they will have to work on their defensive rotations and “close-outs” to the ball.  Being one step too slow is not going to cut it once they face an elite shooting team.  It all starts as a mindset as Hopkins always preaches and defensively, the Huskies will need to “clean up” their lack of defending the three ball.


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